Atlantic Coast Pipeline protests at FERC

A protestor holds up a sign in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offices.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC is once again serving lawsuits to landowners along the proposed path of the pipeline slated to run from West Virginia through Nelson County and into North Carolina.

This time, the ACP has filed legal actions against 22 landowners in Nelson who have refused to give permission to survey along the proposed route of the pipeline.

All together, the ACP filed lawsuits against 27 landowners in Virginia, along with those in Nelson; three were in Augusta and two in Buckingham.

This is the first time ACP has filed legal action against these 27 landowners.

Frank Mack, spokesman for Dominion Resources, said the ACP expects to file lawsuits against more than 100 landowners who have refused to give permission to survey along the 550-mile route running from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Mack said some of the landowners may choose to grant ACP survey permission before any hearings occur, which the company would welcome. For those who have not given access to survey, he said the legal process should take several months.

Most of the landowners are along the recently adopted alternate routes in Virginia, he said, especially on the Appalachian Trail South route, which crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail and Wintergreen Resort.

“Both the AT South and previously proposed route remain under consideration,” Mack said. “Surveys are needed to gather environmental, historical and cultural information about the study corridor so that the ACP can choose which route would have the least impact.”

Joanna Salidis, president of Friends of Nelson, said the latest round of lawsuits expose the truth about Dominion’s use of eminent domain.

“Obviously, people who have refused survey, such as the majority of landowners in Nelson, are not interested in negotiating an easement price,” she said. “These are clearly not isolated individuals holding out so they can jack up the price but rather people who have made the personal determination that they would be harmed by the ACP on their property.  Period.  Yet, Dominion arrogantly pursues a route through Nelson relentlessly.”

In May, Dominion confirmed the AT South, along with the East of Lovingston Connector and the East of Lovingston alternate to be the new proposed route through Nelson.

By law, the ACP is required to send landowners two letters requesting to survey, at least 15 days apart, Mack said.

After completing that process, he said, “We then did follow-up telephone calls to see if they would reconsider and allow surveying. We notified them that if they did not grant us permission, we would file legal actions and ask the court to affirm the law.”

The ACP has requested hearing dates with the state circuit court, and the lawsuits will be heard in the county in which they were filed, Mack said.

Mack said landowners who have been served lawsuits have been “steadfast” in telling ACP that they will not grant permission even though Virginia Code 56-49.01 allows natural gas companies to survey private property. The code also requires notice be received by landowners a minimum of 15 days beforehand.

Helen Kimble, an Afton resident, said through its actions and statements, Dominion had demonstrated that its definition of the “best route” is the route that is best for Dominion.

“Despite saying they are surveying to determine ‘environmental, historical and cultural information about the study corridor so that the ACP can choose which route would have the least impact,’ they are determined to come through terrain and ecosystems that are well-documented as sensitive, where the building and the operation of a pipeline would cause permanent and long lasting damage,” she said. “If they were serious about choosing the least impactful route, they would be pursuing existing utility corridors.”

Afton resident Heidi Cochran offered her support to the newly sued landowners, telling them to “stay strong and know you are not alone.”

“There are many people who support you and are continuing to fight to protect all our properties and families,” she said.

In April, due to a technical issue, Dominion announced that some of the initial letters sent to landowners along the pipeline requesting permission to survey were addressed from Dominion Transmission Inc. instead of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Because of that, Dominion said it planned to withdraw a total of 116 lawsuits, including 68 in Nelson and 35 in Augusta, and start the survey process anew.

Contact Rachael Smith at (434) 385-5482 or rsmith@newsadvance.com.

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