Unprepared: Judge Faults MVP, Highland Planning Comm. Faults ACP

The February 1, 2018, Roanoke Times reports, “With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project. Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels. Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties. But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. At a hearing earlier this month, Mountain Valley presented appraisals for just nine of the nearly 300 properties, which Dillon said was insufficient information on which to base an appropriate bond amount. ‘Until MVP can provide a more fulsome basis on which the court can assure that just compensation will be paid, the court cannot allow immediate possession at this time to nearly all of the properties,’ Dillon wrote in a 52-page decision released shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday.”

Read Judge Dillon’s Opinion here and her Order here.

As reported by the February 1, 2018, Highlander, the Highland County Planning Commission at their January 25, 2018, meeting based their decisions on the many mistakes and unanswered questions in Dominion’s presentation requesting local permits for lay-down yards and crossing easements. This is the first time county planners have been given an opportunity to see what Dominion proposes – including heavy truck traffic for 10 hour/day on 6 and perhaps 7 days a week over steep, narrow, and winding roads, giant equipment traveling more than 10 miles on those roads, permanent access roads on steep mountain slope (with more mileage than the pipeline itself), unsecured construction yards, lack of reliable water sources for dust control, lack of a traffic study requested by Virginia’s Dept. of Transportation. “It was no surprise to anyone, except county staff, that the applications submitted were full of holes and mistakes. Landowners all along the pipeline’s proposed path in three states have found hundreds of errors made by the company over the last few years, from egregious omissions to simple math mistakes.”

“Citing numerous errors and inadequacies, the Highland County Planning Commission on Jan. 25 voted to set one public hearing, but tabled two other land-use applications for Dominion to establish proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction lay-down material storage yards.”