Eminent Domain

Nearly six hundred Nelson residents heard Dominion representative Emmett Toms use the threat of eminent domain in August 2014 at the public meeting with the Nelson County Board of Supervisors and Dominion personnel. His remark was something along these lines: “We don’t like to use eminent domain, but we will if we have to.”

On October 27, 2017, the Roanoke Times reported that, “Mountain Valley sues landowners to gain pipeline easements and access through eminent domain.” The story described how “Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday [October 24, 2017] in Roanoke against hundreds of landowners in Virginia to initiate acquiring easements for the project across private properties through eminent domain.” The lawsuit includes landowners in both Virginia and West Virginia, and, according to coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “The Virginia complaint lists more than 300 separate pieces of property — with the property descriptions taking up 192 pages of a 196-page complaint — and the West Virginia filing lists more than 140 separate property parcels. ‘Condemnation is necessary because MVP has been unable to negotiate mutually agreeable easement agreements with the landowners,’ the MVP lawyers said in both of their complaints.”

In anticipation of possible court proceedings by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline against property owners on the proposed ACP route, we offer information based on suggestions originally prepared by Preserve Montgomery County for landowners on the proposed MVP route.

  • If you are an impacted landowner and have not yet hired an expert eminent domain attorney, we urge you to do so ASAP. Impacted landowners include those whose property the ACP proposes to cross as well as those on whose property the ACP wants to build access roads or staging areas.
  • To hire eminent domain counsel does NOT mean you’re “giving up the fight” – rather, it means you’re getting help to navigate it – you’re preparing for the time you may need to either negotiate or go to trial.
  • If you hire an eminent domain lawyer:
    • You don’t have to pay anything up front
    • If it never comes to eminent domain, you will never pay them
    • All of them charge a similar percentage of an eventual settlement (33% of the DIFFERENCE between the original written offer and the final written offer), so you never need to pay them out of pocket

Among the consequences of negotiating without experienced representation is the risk of being grossly under-compensated in an eventual settlement.

Eminent domain experts say that under federal court rules, landowners have 21 days from the date of service of papers on the landowner to file an “answer/response,” which is a reply in court challenging the ACP’s assertions of their right to take your property. This filing can be basic, but it must be done correctly and in timely fashion. Eminent domain lawyer Chuck Lollar, quoted in the Roanoke Times article, said, “a year could pass before all condemnation cases filed by Mountain Valley go to trial,” but landowners must still file their responses within 21 days.

OPPOSE “early entries.” Many landowners, through their attorneys, will object to “early entry” by the pipeline company or its subcontractors for ANY reason, including tree cutting. Don’t allow anyone associated with or hired by MVP/ACP to take your trees down or do any other “pre-construction activity.” Your attorney will make motions to stop ALL pre-construction activity including tree cutting. If you encounter tree cutters on your property or have questions about their presence on your neighbor’s land and their right to be there, call your attorney, your police or sheriff’s office, or simply call 911 and ask for law enforcement assistance.

Please refer to our Eminent Domain page for additional information on eminent domain and on eminent domain lawyers.