Surveying and Access

“Request to Survey” and “Intent to Enter” Notices
May 16, 2016 Update (after Judge Garrett’s May 2016 decision)

We’ve heard that some Nelson landowners are starting to receive survey notices from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for the first time, and we expect that in the wake of Judge Garrett’s recent decision, landowners who had previously received survey notices may start getting new ones.

Getting multiple notices like this can be confusing and Friends of Nelson is here to help you understand what they mean and what your rights are.

 

WHO IS GETTING LETTERS?

If you have received a notice, it may mean that your property is located along the currently proposed route of the pipeline.  OR it may mean that proposed access roads are on or adjacent to your property. OR that ACP/Dominion wants to put work staging areas, water impoundment or discharge sites, etc. on your land.

Some people will be getting letters for the first time.  Some who had received letters prior to Judge Garrett’s May 2016 decision may be getting new letters in order to comply with that ruling.

Looking at these “screen shot” maps may help you figure out what ACP/Dominion hopes to eventually do with your property.   The red and blue lines show the two most recent proposed routes for the pipeline (blue lines are changes announced 4/15/16).  Yellow lines are access roads, some of which are on existing roads, and some of which would be newly constructed.  The grey lines are the borders of individual properties.

We realize that the maps are incomplete and that route may be changed further and other access roads or staging areas may be added in the future.

Unfortunately, the access road maps do not yet have the workspaces and staging areas on them, but those are shown in green on the Nelson route maps on pages 50-57 of the ACP/Dominion Resource Report 1, Appendix 1A (filed by Dominion with FERC on April 15, 2016):

If you want to see in more detail please check out the excellent interactive maps that our anti-pipeline ally, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (pipelineupdate.org) maintains on the web at:  https://dpmc-gis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=86d265defe5543c095cc5b8c5ff9dbe6

If you don’t know how to use that kind of interactive map, they have also posted a user’s guide here:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/21393847/DPMC WEBSITE/ACP-EMS/QUICK GUIDE- ACP-EMS 20160310.pdf

DPMC’s maps have the option to include a LOT more information than the ones that ACP /Dominion typically includes in their communications.  Click on the “layers” icon to overlay things like Virginia parcel boundaries, proposed access roads, pipeline survey corridor, blast zones, etc.

Even if you haven’t received a notice yet, we suggest you still look at the maps to see how close the proposed impacts are to your land and to the land of your friends and neighbors.  Then, please reach out to them and let them know.   Some of the access roads are quite long and will affect people who are actually a mile or more from the pipeline itself.  And not everyone in the County has been staying up to date on the most recent pipeline developments.

 

IF YOU RECEIVED A “REQUEST TO SURVEY” OR “INTENT TO ENTER” NOTICE:

Although we recognize that ACP/Dominion may eventually succeed in their efforts to survey many of the properties in Nelson, Friends of Nelson still believes that it is in our collective best interests to continue refusing survey.

  1. The “Request to Survey” letter.

This is the first step ACP must take to comply with VA 56-49.01, the “survey without permission” statute.  (To read the text of the statute click here.)  This letter asks for your permission to come onto your land and it sets forth a proposed date for the first of possibly several surveys.

SAYING “NO” TO THIS REQUEST DOES NOT LIMIT YOUR FUTURE RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW.

We have seen some letters that imply that you must agree to the survey if you want ACP/Dominion or their land agents (Doyle Land Services or other subcontractors) to communicate with you about the dates they plan to come in the future.  This is not the way the law works!  Even if they can legally enter your property over your objections, Judge Garrett’s ruling reinforces that they MUST tell you when they are coming.

We have also seen letters where ACP/Dominion claims that saying “yes” to survey is not the same as saying “yes” to the pipeline.  Yet over and over again we have seen them use the number of “surveys completed” to imply to the FERC, to elected officials and the press the extent of support they have for this project.

SAYING “NO” HELPS US CONTINUE TO SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE THAT WE ARE OPPOSED TO HAVING THE PIPELINE ON OUR LANDS.

  1. The “Intent to Enter” letter/notice.

This is the second step required by VA 56-49.01.  Even if you denied ACP/Dominion permission to enter, the law currently says they can still come survey…as long as they give you proper notice about when they intend to come.  This notice MUST be mailed to you at least 15 days before they intend to come on your land and the notice must specify WHEN they are coming.

Dominion’s inadequate compliance with this part of the statute was the subject of Judge Garret’s recent ruling.  In it, he affirmed our interpretation that telling a landowner that the surveyors were coming “on or after” a particular date was not adequate for landowners to plan around, and therefore did not meet the intent of the law.  So, we expect that the new “intent to enter” notices will include a specific date, or possibly a range of dates.  (What size “range” is “adequate” under the statute is something that may still need to be decided in future court cases…)

 

SO, WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?

Friends of Nelson still believes that, given our goal of fighting against the ACP, it is in our collective interest to continue to refuse to grant Dominion permission to survey our lands.

 That said, WE CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.  There may be reasons why it makes sense for an individual landowner to consent to survey, so we strongly encourage you to seek your own legal counsel. 

Here are several eminent domain or environmental attorneys currently engaged by local landowners:

Here is a link to the Eminent Domain amendment in the VA Constitution:  https://ballotpedia.org/Virginia_Eminent_Domain_Amendment,_Question_1_(2012)

Here is a link to a FAQ from law firm Waldo & Lyle about Eminent Domain:  http://friendsofnelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FAQ-Eminent-Domain-VA.pdf

For additional information on eminent domain see our Eminent Domain page.

Here are our general recommendations:

  • Start a file in which you keep everything they send you. Including the envelopes.  If possible, keep dated written notes on all your conversations with ACP, Dominion or Doyle personnel.  Even audio record them if you can.
  • If you choose to refuse survey, write that clearly on the form they have sent you. It is sufficient to say: “Survey Access DENIED” and sign and date it, but if you want to write an actual letter, that is fine too.  Send your refusal to them by registered mail, return receipt requested to the address on the return envelope they included with the letter they sent you.  Keep copies of all your correspondences and postal certificates.
  • We strongly encourage all landowners who have received certified letters from ACP/Dominion or Doyle to let us know. This will help us identify patterns and figure out what they are doing so that we can better keep you and other landowners informed.
  • If you have already granted permission and now want to rescind it, or if you ignored the original letter and now want to refuse survey you can do that! We recommend that write a letter saying that you do not grant ACP, Dominion or any of its agents permission to enter for any reason.    Send it certified mail, registered, return-receipt requested.  If you no longer have the original return envelope send it to:  Jamie Burton c/o Doyle Land Services, 99 Edmiston Way, Suite 112, Buckhannon, WV    To make certain your change gets recorded you may also want to send a copy to Ramona Kanouff, Manager – Land, Lease and Right of Way, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, 701 E. Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
  • We recommend posting “No Trespassing” signs on your property boundaries with your name and phone number. There should be “No Trespassing” signs highly visible from the roadway.
  • Always stay calm and polite.
  • Share your information from phone conversations, visits, etc. with others, including Friends of Nelson (friendsofnelson@gmail.com) or on the Friends of Nelson Facebook page.
  • Beware: Please know that if you remove survey stakes from “government authorized work” — and if Dominion can prove they have the legal right to be on your property or on the property with the survey stakes — Dominion could press charges against you.   You could be fined three times the cost of the original work if the work has to be done over because of your actions.

 

FINALLY:

Thank you and KEEP IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS OF NELSON!

You can sign up for regular e-mail alerts on the Friends of Nelson Website www.friendsofnelson.com   We can best help you and you can best help others if we stay connected in our efforts to STOP THE ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE!


Information on survey and access published on our Web page in 2014 and 2015 may be found on our archived page.