On Wednesday March 14, 2018, Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s motion asking a federal judge in US District Court in Elizabeth City NC to force Marvin Winstead Jr., Ronald Locke, and 11 other hold-outs to allow contractors to immediately begin tree-cutting on their land. Standard practice for eminent domain is to pay up front, but since they had been unable to reach any agreement with landowners, ACP asked to use “quick-take,” agreeing to a bond that supposedly guarantees landowners will be paid after a jury determines an appropriate amount.
ACP argued that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they couldn’t proceed. According to NC Policy Watch, “the landowners will suffer no such harm from allowing construction to begin now, ACP lawyers claim. ‘What is the harm in giving us access now or later?’ Richard D. Holzheimer, Jr., an attorney with McGuireWoods, the firm representing the ACP, asked the court. He acknowledged the project would inflict ‘irreparable harm’ but ‘not from early access.'” [Note the admission by the ACP lawyer that the pipeline would cause “irreparable harm” to landowners.]
On Friday March 16, 2018, US District Court Judge Terrance Boyle ruled that Winstead and Locke do not have to allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractors on their property to begin tree-cutting – at least for now – because neither had been given a reasonable opportunity to negotiate with ACP, LLC. Although Winstead received an offer from the ACP in January 2016, a surveyor later told him his property was not on the route. Locke tried to communicate with ACP LLC, but they never responded.
However, Boyle ruled in favor of the ACP in the cases of the other 11 landowners, saying the ACP may invoke eminent domain on their properties. As a security, the ACP must deposit with a federal district court clerk an amount three times the appraised value of each parcel it plans to condemn, and must also obtain a bond twice the appraised value of the parcels.