At a hearing on September 11, 2017, Franklin County Circuit Court Judge William Alexander granted the injunction sought by Mountain Valley to prohibit interference with their surveying of Four Corners Farm in Franklin County. The family that owns and operates the farm, David and Betty Werner, their daughter, Carolyn Reilly, and her husband, Ian Reilly, have been repelling surveyors since May of 2016.
The judge said, “I think this whole statute is a legislative failure, frankly,” but that he felt compelled to enforce it.
Surveying will likely be over three days next week.
“The bottom line for me is that money talks,” Carolyn Reilly said. “It’s another win for money.”
Read the full Roanoke Times article about the hearing.
On August 22, 2017, the Virginia Supreme Court agreed without argument to hear on appeal the survey suit against Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC brought on behalf of six Nelson residents by Lollar Law.
Chuck Lollar says, “We believe the Virginia Supreme Court granted our Petition for Appeal without oral argument from us (replying to the opponent’s brief in opposition) because they feel that a significant issue of first impression under Virginia law has been presented, which the full court needs to address. The survey statute has been directly challenged as authorizing an unconstitutional taking, along with its interpretation by the trial court reading ‘and’ as ‘or’. The granting of our petition without argument when less than 10% of cases argued have writs granted by the Virginia Supreme Court is very encouraging. The ultimate decision by the full Court on the unconstitutional taking issue presented by the survey statute will have a major impact upon Virginia private property rights, which the appeals in two recent Supreme Court opinions failed to address.”
Briefings will take place in autumn 2017, and the oral arguments before the full seven-justice court will take place in late 2017 or early 2018.
The Washington Post reported on July 13, 2017, that “The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled … on two cases related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, handing opponents a minor victory but otherwise leaving the huge project unscathed. The court found in favor of a small group of landowners in Buckingham County who said pipeline surveyors had not provided adequate notice before entering their property. Survey crews have since changed their practice, though, to give more specific information about timing.
“The other case was potentially far more sweeping, as a landowner [Hazel Palmer] challenged whether an out-of-state utility has the right to enter property for surveys or to seize property under eminent domain. Although the natural gas pipeline project is largely controlled by Richmond-based Dominion Energy, the partnership that is building it is registered in Delaware.
“The court ruled that state law permits the survey work but said the plaintiffs had waited too late in the legal process to raise the issue of eminent domain, or property seizure. One expert said that could leave the door open for someone to pursue the eminent domain question, because the state constitution contains language prohibiting any outside company from exercising ‘the powers or functions of a public service enterprise.'”
Read the full article here.
End of the Line podcasts cover conflicts over pipeline construction in Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states. In Episode 2: “Home,” the we hear stories from Bent Mountain residents resisting surveyor trespass against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. And from Nelson County, neighbors uniting in the face of controversial routes over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Here’s Episode 1: “Done Deal?” in case you missed it.
The Supreme Court of Virginia heard two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). For details about the cases, see the Friends of Nelson Media Advisory released April 18, 2017. No decisions have yet been issued. News coverage of the hearings appeared in many places, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and NBC TV.
More than 50 Democratic candidates running for Virginia House seats have pledged not to take contributions from Dominion. In the mean time, Dominion is betting big on two candidates for Governor, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.
News just in: In a letter dated April 17, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners (ETK) reported to FERC the spill of over 2 million gallons of drilling fluid onto wetlands in northern Ohio as part of a high density drilling (HDD) operation during constructing the Rover Pipeline. HDD is the process Dominion proposes to use for drilling under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Reeds Gap. (See our story below on HDD at Reeds Gap.) Construction on the Rover project began only a month ago, as it received its FERC certificate as one of the final actions before Commissioner Norman Bay resigned, denying FERC a quorum. Not an auspicious start! See here for Ohio news coverage of the spill.
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.