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Property Values Drop on Properties with Easements

Press Release from BREDL: February 20, 2018.  Contact: Sharon Ponton, 434 420-1874,

Property Values Plunge for Some Landowners Who Signed Easements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland and Nelson Counties

Lovingston, VA—A property records search conducted in Highland and Nelson Counties by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League reveals property values plunged on parcels whose owners sought relief through the reassessment hearing process. Three properties in Nelson County with signed easement agreements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for pipeline construction and/or roads to access the pipeline route, received reductions in property values averaging 32.5%.

“The construction of the proposed pipeline and resultant losses in property value are devastating for directly affected landowners,” stated Sharon Ponton, a Nelson resident and the Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “It is also important for every property owner to understand these reductions will affect them, too. The governing bodies of these localities will be forced to increase real estate tax rates for every property owner to offset the difference in lost values caused by the proposed ACP. Lower property values will cause higher tax rates for all,” Ponton stated.

The three Nelson property assessments, which indicated current fair market value totaling $459,000, were adjusted downward by $148,900 to a market value of $311,000. The properties were reduced by percentages as high as 39% to a low of 15%. “The assessors for Nelson only considered pipeline easements in their computations if a landowner came forward during the hearing process. Property owners with signed easement agreements who did not come forward were unknown to county assessors. Therefore, pipeline easements have not been considered for those properties,” Ponton explained.

In Highland County, while some properties with signed easements increased in value, many were devalued, from a high of 75% to a low of 2%. The average overall loss on those properties with signed easements was 8%. Interestingly, in Highland, consideration paid by the ACP to landowners was approximately $1.3 million for 172 acres. In Nelson, the ACP has paid just $1.8 million for easements covering 316 acres. The acreage figures include permanent and temporary rights-of-way, as well as extra work space and access roads.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed the concerns of affected landowners, citizens, and grassroots groups regarding lower property values along the path of the proposed ACP in its Final Environmental Impact Statement. ”Plainly, FERC was wrong. Property values are affected,” stated Ponton. “Blowing off our mountain tops and cutting millions of trees which can never be replaced while building a pipeline affects property values. We implore all landowners who have signed easement agreements with ACP and who did not seek relief during the reassessment hearing process, to present their cases before the Boards of Equalization in their specific counties. These directly affected landowners shouldn’t be abused twice–once by having their land taken by ACP and then a second time by being required to pay taxes on inflated property values,” Ponton concluded.

News You May Have Missed

There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed:

Oil Change International Responds to FERC Approvals

Lorne Stockman, Senior Analyst with Oil Change International, released the following statement:

“In spite of FERC’s irresponsible action, these fracked gas pipelines still face massive opposition in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. FERC cannot sneak these mega-projects past the hundreds of communities in their path in the dead of night.

“Oil Change International and the many groups fighting these pipelines have documented the extensive damage these projects will do. Both projects are bad deals for ratepayers, and huge threats to our mountains, rivers, farms, and local economies. They threaten our climate and disproportionately impact our low-income and minority communities. FERC has ignored all the evidence and certified these destructive projects as ‘convenient and necessary’ – when in fact they are neither.

“There is no public convenience or necessity associated with either of these pipelines, and the only people they serve is shareholders. No assessment of actual need has been conducted for either of them, as noted by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur in her rarely-seen dissent opposing today’s approvals. Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley will cause irreparable harm to our climate, and to the communities and environment along their routes.

“Despite the certificates granted today, these fights are far from over. The responsibility to protect the climate, ratepayer interests, and the precious water in these states now rests squarely on the shoulders of Governors Terry McAuliffe, Roy Cooper, and Jim Justice. We will join our partners and communities in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia to increase pressure for the rejection of 401 water permits in these states and stop these reckless pipelines.”

Legal Objections to FERC Process

Carolyn Elefant, an attorney representing the Bold Alliance, is also an intervenor in the certificate proceedings for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On September 22, 2017, she filed a letter with FERC pointing out that the environmental review process for both pipelines closed without any meaningful opportunity for intervenors to raise comments on issues not related to the environment. She states that because the deadline for intervention in both MVP and ACP was 30 days after the original applications were filed, the parties were unable to raise all of their objections at the time because the details of the project were not known, and noting that since each application was filed in 2015, both MVP and ACP have “submitted thousands of pages of additional information in response to (FERC) requests. Thus, it was not until late in the process that the parties have had access to sufficient information to raise all of these issues.”

She continues, “The Alliance has already raised statutory and constitutional challenges in federal district court challenging the commission’s delegation of eminent domain and other issues and believes that the federal district court remains the appropriate forum for resolving the issues raised in the complaint. Nevertheless, in the interest of creating a complete record, the Alliance now submits comments in the two proceedings.”

Her letter states:

  • Certificates for export and conditioned and blanket certificates are not authorized by the Natural Gas Act and are not constitutional.
  • The commission’s failure to require bond or to prohibit companies from exercising eminent domain prior to issuance of all necessary permits is unconstitutional.

She then provides a lengthy list of “the particular legal objections that my clients have to the commission’s process in reviewing and granting applications, including to MVP and ACP.”

Read her letter to FERC here (FERC-generated pdf). Her letter was also published in full in the Highland Recorder (subscription required).

NC Delays Decision on ACP

Southeast Energy News reports on September 15, 2017, that North Carolina has delayed by three months its decision on certification of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. This follows West Virginia’s September 7 announcement that the state was vacating its water quality certification for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality had received 9,000+ written public comments, 85% of which urged rejection. On September 14, without fanfare or press release, the NC DEQ sent a four-page “request for additional information” to the ACP. The NC DEQ had a deadline of Monday September 18, 2017, for their decision on certification, a decision now delayed until mid-December 2017.

Time for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to heed the examples of North Carolina and West Virginia!

Read the full Southeast Energy News story, and read the NC DEQ letter requesting additional information.

Lawsuit Filed Against FERC and MVP

On July 27, 2017, attorneys of the Virginia law firm Gentry Locke filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division, challenging the constitutionality of actions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (“MVP”). A Motion for a Preliminary Injunction has been filed along with the Complaint. The Motion seeks assistance from the Court in preventing FERC from granting MVP the power of eminent domain, and seeks to prevent MVP from attempting to exercise any power of eminent domain in its quest to build a 303-mile-long, 42-inch natural gas pipeline that will traverse across Virginia and West Virginia.

This has obvious implications for the ACP!

Read the full press release from Gentry Lock here.

Read news coverage from the Roanoke Times here.