According to news reports in the Charlottesville Daily Progress and the Nelson County Times, Dominion has completed the surveying work for the proposed ACP on all but seven properties in Nelson, and expects those last few to be finished within several weeks. Dominion must still complete several weather-restricted environmental surveys, looking for certain kinds of wildlife and vegetation that cannot be found in the colder months, and expects to conduct those surveys in June or July.
Several Nelson County Landowners have decided to appeal the decision of a Nelson County judge regarding their survey cases against Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The landowners filed a joint Notice of Appeal this week and intend to take their cases to the Virginia state Court of Appeals.
In February, Judge Michael Garrett of the Nelson County Circuit Court ruled that Dominion could have access to survey for the proposed ACP on the property of landowners who had steadfastly denied access. The judge’s ruling was based on his interpretation of the word “and” in the section of Virginia Code regarding surveying by natural gas companies. You can read more about the Nelson County Circuit Court ruling for these cases at the Nelson County Times.
Judge Michael T. Garrett ruled in Nelson County Circuit Court on February 6, 2017, that Dominion may have access to survey for the proposed ACP on the property of landowners who had steadfastly denied access.
Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby said surveys will begin in the next two weeks.
Protests against the proposed pipeline are ongoing – including outside the court prior to the hearing. [Thanks to Kathy Versluys for the photo.]
Contact: Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647
A community rally in support of Nelson County property owners who have been sued by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) will be held on Monday, February 6, at 12 noon on the steps of the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. The rally will precede the 1:30 hearing in Nelson Circuit Court on ACP’s request for a declaratory judgment that would allow them to enter private property in order to survey for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline without the consent of affected Nelson County property owners.
In the evidentiary hearing on the petition, both ACP and the defendants will likely call witnesses to testify, including experts on the matter in dispute. According to the Circuit Court schedule, this hearing will be for 39 different property owners being sued by Dominion, and they will be represented by several different attorneys.
A previous hearing in Buckingham County Circuit Court resulted in the awarding of a declaratory judgment against 7 Buckingham citizens. That ruling is not applicable to Nelson County defendants.
The defendants claim 1) that Atlantic Coat Pipeline LLC does not have the authority to enter these properties and that 2) ACP has failed to give proper notice of entry as required by the Virginia Code.
“We’re hoping Judge Garrett will hear the evidence and conclude, as we do, that the ACP cannot satisfy the requirements of the statute in order to be exempt from common law trespass,” said attorney Chuck Lollar, who is representing many of the defendants.
“Pipelines can be built using fair practices that respect landowners and property rights,” said Richard Averitt, one of the defendants. “Virginia citizens are being victimized by a corrupt system where Dominion, in this case being treated as a public utility, has biased our system of checks and balances.”
“A bully is an opportunist, using intimidation and manipulation to prey upon isolated, weaker victims for their own self-gratification,” said Barbara Fuhrman, who is also being sued. “Dominion has tried to get individual property owners to allow surveyors on their land, telling the landowner that this was Dominion’s legal right. Some property owners were also asked to sign easement agreements prior to FERC’s issuing a certification of approval for the pipeline, implying that if they didn’t agree now, they might not receive settlement money.”
“We will continue to use the courts over and over again to protect our rights!” Ms. Fuhrman concluded. “ We will never give in! We will never give up!”
The rally is being organized by Friends of Nelson. Additional affected property owners will be available for comment.
Chuck Lollar has provided the full transcript of the evidentiary hearing in Buckingham County Circuit Court before Judge Blessing on April 13, 2016 as a preparation for the survey suit trial in Nelson County Circuit Court on Monday February 6, 2017. He says, “If you find the time to read it, you’ll have a better idea of the testimony and documents which ACP’s attorneys plan to offer into evidence this Monday. We’re hoping Judge Garrett will view things differently than Judge Blessing did ten month ago.”
On December 7, 2016, ACP filed in court a second amended petition asking for a declaratory judgement allowing them to enter private property in order to survey for the proposed pipeline.
The evidentiary hearing on the petition, where both ACP and the owners will likely call witnesses, including experts, will be held in Nelson Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. on Monday February 6, 2017. According to the Circuit Court schedule, this hearing will be for 39 different property owners being sued by Dominion; the property owners will be represented by several different attorneys.
Protest at the Rally outside the courthouse at 12 noon, prior to the hearing at 1:30pm. Bring signs emphasizing property rights concerns – we want to be sure the media recognizes the scale of Dominion’s bullying! We also need support at the Court hearing itself, but please do not bring signs, shirts or buttons into the court house.