VA Supreme Court Upholds Survey Law with Dissent

On Thursday July 5, 2018, the Virginia Supreme Court delivered a 6-1 decision in Atlantic Coast Pipeline v. William Barr, et al, upholding, for the third time, a much-debated state law allowing natural gas companies to enter private property without landowner permission to survey possible routes for new pipelines. The case, brought by Barr and five other landowners in Nelson County, opposed the ACP’s use of the law to survey for the proposed pipeline route across their properties.

Writing for the majority, Justice Cleo E. Powell said the General Assembly clearly intended “to grant natural gas companies access to private property for the purpose of conducting certain activities related to the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline.” Justice Arthur Kelsey’s strong dissent challenged the 2004 law’s central premise, saying the ruling turns private property rights upside down. “It subordinates the ancient common-law rights of private property owners to the commercial interests of a pipeline company that is under no legal requirement to enter onto another’s land.”

Read the full Virginia Supreme Court opinion here.  Judge Kelsey’s dissent begins at the bottom of page 17.

Press coverage of the ruling in the Charlottesville Daily Progress is here.