Charlotte Rea. Photo credit: All Pain, No Gain
Charlotte Rea. Photo credit: All Pain, No Gain

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline wants to inspect land along a proposed 550-mile route. Legal challenges from landowners could re-write a 2004 law governing property rights in utility surveys.

by James A. Bacon

Charlotte Rea decided when she retired that she wanted to live near where she grew up near Charlottesville. She found “a little piece of heaven” in Nelson County: a 29-acre spread on the north fork of the Rockfish River. With her retirement savings, she purchased the land with the idea of keeping it undeveloped if things worked out but selling two lots if she needed the cash. “All of my money is in the land,” Rea says. “It’s my long-term care insurance.”

She never imagined that someone would want her land for industrial purposes. But her homestead, as it turns out, came to be situated on the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) linking the natural gas fields of West Virginia with markets in Virginia and North Carolina. The 125-foot pipeline right-of-way would cut a swath across the river and through forested wetlands on her property that host a species of rare orchid. An ag-forestal district designation restricts development and prohibits industrial uses, she says. “Except it appears Dominion can industrialize it by running a pipeline through it. My property  will become an underground natural gas storage site.”

Since announcing its original plans, ACP has redrawn its proposed route, leaving her property untouched. But Rea doesn’t consider the new route to be definitive, and she is little reassured. “My future is totally blown up, not knowing what’s happening to my property. No one wants to buy land with a natural gas pipeline going through the middle of the view shed. I stand to lose $50,000 in property value. I couldn’t sleep at night worrying about the darn thing coming through.” 

The 63-year-old career Air Force veteran decided to fight back, signing up as co-chair of the “All Pain No Gain” group opposing the pipeline. Not only does Rea not want to see the pipeline built, she objects to ACP or its contractors even coming onto private property to survey the land. And she is just one of dozens of landowners who view the pipeline the same way.

Dominion Transmission, ACP’s managing partner, filed suit this spring in local courts against more than 100 property in order to gain access to their land. Many, like Rea, were clustered near the Blue Ridge mountains in Augusta and Nelson Counties. A local judge ruled that the notice letters had been improperly issued by Dominion Transmission, so the pipeline company withdrew the pending cases and started re-filing lawsuits as ACP. As of early July, says Rea, she knew of 27 re-filed lawsuits. Meanwhile, pipeline foes have filed two of their own lawsuits in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the state law.

The lawsuits are shaping up as the Old Dominon’s biggest battle over property rights in years. The courts will be called upon to define the balance between landowners like Rea who wish to be left alone and utilities like the four corporate partners of the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline — including Virginia energy giant Dominion, Duke Energy, AGL Resources and Piedmont Natural Gas — who argue that there is a compelling public need to build more gas pipelines as electric utilities replace coal with gas in their fuel mix. The legal outcome could influence other pipeline projects as well. Three groups besides ACP have expressed possible interest in building pipelines from the West Virginia shale fields to markets in Virginia and points south.

Pipeline foes make two overarching arguments. First, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has not yet issued a certificate declaring the ACP project to be in the public interest, says Joe Lovett, an attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Because ACP cannot yet argue that the pipeline is for “public use,” it has no right to survey land without the consent of property owners.

Second, pipeline foes say, landowners deserve compensation for survey crews tramping over their property. The right to exclude others from entering your property “is one of the most important rights in the bundle of property rights,” says Josh Baker, an attorney with Waldo & Lyle, one of the preeminent landowner rights firms in Virginia. When multiple survey teams — ACP lists five different categories of crews — enter the property, they can cause considerable inconvenience. While the Virginia code allows for “actual damages” resulting from a survey, it allows nothing for inconvenience.

Dominion asserts that it is fully within its rights to conduct the surveys as long as it complies with requirements to request permission in writing to inspect the land and then provide a notice of intent to enter. Obtaining a certificate of public convenience and necessity from FERC is necessary to acquire land through eminent domain authority but not to survey land, says Jim Norvelle, director media relations for Dominion Energy. Surveys are governed by state law.

As for land surveys constituting a “taking,” there is plenty of legal precedent to support ACP’s position, Norvelle says. “We do not expect to damage anyone’s property when surveying. In the unlikely event there is some damage, we will reimburse the landowner.”

A half century ago, pipelines in Virginia were either intrastate pipelines under State Corporation Commission jurisdiction or they were segments of interstate pipelines built and “stitched together over time,” says Jim Kibler, who was active in eminent domain litigation in Virginia before joining Atlanta-based AGL Resources as senior vice president-external affairs. Local public utility commissions, including Virginia’s SCC, provided most regulatory oversight.

In 1977 Congress reorganized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to expand its authority over interstate pipelines. That move coincided with the expansion of environmental laws and regulations. Staff from a slew of government agencies — the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local offices of historic preservation — got involved in the environmental impact analyses.

A key challenge in building a pipeline is determining the optimum route. To do that, the pipeline company needs to know what environmental or cultural obstacles might stand in the way. That information cannot be gleaned from a topographical map on a computer, Kibler says. Many significant features are not mapped, nor can they be identified by aerial surveys or satellite imaging. The only practical way to identify them — wells, springs, septic systems, family cemeteries, archaeological sites and the like — is to put boots on the ground and survey the land.

“The whole idea is to find out from the landowner if there’s a reason not to put a pipeline on the land,” says Kibler. “We want to find the flaw early in the game.”

At the turn of the 21st century, Virginia law did a poor job of spelling out the rights of both pipelines and landowners when surveys were needed. At the same time, says Kibler, there was a spreading concern, as embodied in the official state energy plan, that Virginia needed more pipeline capacity. Industry groups also worried that there were impediments to building new pipelines in the state.

In 2004 Kibler approached Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, about submitting a bill to clarify the rules. The legislative process brought the Farm Bureau and property-rights attorneys, among others, into the negotiations. The resulting law, says Kibler, put into the state code Virginia’s first limitations on the right to survey a property owner’s land.

Any natural gas pipeline, reads state law, “may make such examinations, tests, hand auger borings, appraisals, and surveys for its proposed line or location of its works … and for such purposes … may enter upon the property without the written permission of the owner” as long as it had first requested permission and had given the owner notice of intent to enter. Such notices must be by certified mail and made no less than 15 days prior to the inspection.

Common law and federal law already gave utilities the right to survey, but without protections for landowners, says Trey Davis, assistant director of government relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which represents some 40,000 farm families. By requiring utilities to notify landowners, the 2004 law “represented an improvement” over past practice, he says.

But not all property rights advocates are  enamored with the 2004 statute and amendments, which they say give unconstitutional powers to members of the “condemnor’s lobby” such as utilities, local governments and the Virginia Department of Transportation. “It allows a third party operating under the cover of government action to enter your property, which violates your right to exclude … and constitutes an uncompensated taking,” says Baker. “That’s what the bedrock of our argument will be.”

Joseph T. Waldo, a partner in Waldo & Lyle, says the intrusion can go beyond mere inconvenience and constitute a financial damage. He cites the example of a private school in Suffolk that has undergone two years of surveying. In each of 17 instances in which survey parties entered school property, school employees had to attend to the surveyors as they signed in and, to ensure the safety of the children, accompanied them as they did their work. The cost in diverted labor amounted to an estimated $3,000. “Is it fair to put a burden on a private school or private homeowner that will cost them $3,000? Shouldn’t [the pipeline company] have to pay for that?”

“We recognize that we live in the modern age, we need the power, and natural gas is what’s hot right now. We get it,” says Baker, the eminent domain attorney. But landowners deserve protection. “The other side says it’s minimally invasive. That might be for some folks. But that’s not what the statute allows.”

Note: This article has been updated to incorporate the perspective of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation on the 2004 survey-rights law.

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  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Ok, ok. A fair job this time.

    1. Thank you! (You read fast!)

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Yes.. good article.. a human aspect to it.. but this still revolves around Dominions belief that they are entitled to use Eminent Domain and the suspect 2004 law that stinks a little since Dominion “employees” have given substantial donations to the General Assembly guy that sponsored that law.

    want to point something else out:

    Headline: Pipeline turnabout: Gas could be sent India

    ” A partner in the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline confirmed this week that natural gas transported by the pipeline could be one supply source for liquefied natural gas bound for India.

    The news comes after Paul Friedman, a project manager for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, repeatedly — and publicly — dismissed concerns last month from pipeline opponents that natural gas transported through the pipeline would be exported.

    WGL Midstream has a 7 percent ownership interest in the Mountain Valley project, a joint venture that also includes EQT Corp., NextEra Energy and Vega Midstream MVP. In December, WGL announced it has a sales agreement to export natural gas to India via Dominion’s Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Maryland. ”

    now I thought this was a competitor pipeline but they plan on using a Dominion facility… interesting…

    and .. they want to use Eminent Domain even though they plan to export.

    I don’t think FERC should grant a certificate of public convenience to this or the Atlantic Coast pipeline unless they agree not to export it.

    I’ve pointed out before – The Rockies Express Pipeline – a 1600 mile natural gas pipeline whose right of way was 99% acquired through voluntary agreements with land owners.

    Where is the SCC on this? I would think that this would be a bright line – if the gas is not going to be exported then a certificate of public convenience and need and Eminent Domain are acceptable.

    But if there is any plan to export any of the gas – then the acquisition of the right-of-way – should be purely through willing seller-willing buyer agreements – and the opponents should go after this. Dominion should not be allowed on any land – even to survey – until it is known if their plans are to export or not.

    1. Rowinguy Avatar

      These are interstate gas lines subject to the exclusive authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Eminent domain rights for these projects is governed by the federal Natural Gas Act. The SCC has no regulatory oversight over the siting or construction of interstate natural gas pipelines.

      1. I’m no legal expert, I’m just repeating what people tell me. Nobody says that the right to survey is connected to SCC regulation, which, as you point out, has no regulatory oversight in this case. The question is whether state law (not SCC regulation) applies the surveying of land in Virginia. I guess the courts will decide.

  3. There are two issues here.

    First, a survey is not a taking! Forbidding the surveyor to come onto your land is simply a way to harass the utility, although all it accomplishes is to drive up utility costs. The bit about the GA restricting entry upon private land to conduct a survey is, well, that’s the law, but this “property rights” thing is absolute BS. Like the gun lobby, these nutsos are all caught up in exercising a right that is counter to the necessities of civilized life in a crowded semi-urban environment, and absolutely pointless in rural areas; what are people afraid of unless doing something illegal on land, which used to be moonshine and nowadays could be any modern equivalent? Surveys may become increasingly obsolete due to drone aerial surveys anyway, are we going to ban them also? How about Google Streetscape? It’s getting so the postman needs a warrant to deliver the mail onto my front porch, let alone UPS and FedEx.

    Second, I have real sympathy for the people that bought retirement homesites in Nelson County and may see a slice of their trees cut. But this is one of the things that’s changed since these laws on condemnation were written. A pipeline under a field doesn’t bother the farmer; and in fact some farmers used to like to have the pipes put there because the construction company would build useful access roads, and would pay the farmer to go read the flow meters occasionally. But, slice through that pretty view from the cabin porch and you devastate the suburbanite who bought that little piece of heaven because of the beautiful old trees! Yet the law compensates for loss of USE of the land, not for harm to the view!

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Given the uncertainty as to whether the chief purpose of this pipeline is to export gas (which is clearly a non-utility purpose for which there should be no right of condemnation), I think a landowner should be able to keep out surveyors. If it is impossible for Dominion or anyone else to use the pipeline, at any time, for transporting gas for export, I’d feel differently.

      Utility employees regularly enter upon my property to mark the location of utility lines. But they have an easement and a reasonable right of entry to use and protect their facilities. That’s fine with me. I also readily allow companies doing work for my neighbors to step on my property. But if my neighbors were, instead, selling their property to be combined into a large lot to build condos, I would not allow a footprint or a chunk of dirt on my lot.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Great post, Acbar.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m probably as far as one can be from the anti-govt torch and pitchfork folks… but something feels wrong about having to let someone onto your property in advance of a potential condemnation… I know VDOT has this issue also.

    I still don’t think it’s Dominion’s call for the route. If they’re claiming a public necessity and need – then an independent govt agency should be taking the lead and it should be looking at all pipeline routes… , rights-of-ways, etc because, in essence, it’s the power of the state that grants the use of ED. it’s not a power of the company.

    If it is a private pipeline then it IS their call but it also means they cannot use eminent domain and instead will be negotiating willing seller/willing buyer… on a per parcel basis, which means permission to come on the property even for surveying.

  5. Joanna Avatar

    “The resulting law, says Kibler, put into the state code Virginia’s first limitations on the right to survey a property owner’s land.”
    This statement really distorts reality –it makes it sound like property owners benefited in some way by 56-49.01. Prior to 56-49.01, the fact is that if an owner said No to the survey for interstate gas pipelines, the company would not have access to survey until after FERC issued the Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity. This is how it is in other states that don’t have laws similar to 56-49.01. The inability to survey in a timely fashion, and the potential for delays by being forced to survey at the end of the regulatory process, would have provided a real incentive to companies to actually avoid using eminent domain, instead of the farce we have today. 56-49.01 as good as hands private property to transmission companies. They have no incentive to sweeten the deal, for example by offering royalties on profits or offering to purchase the entire property, or hey! even offering to compensate for the devaluation of the part of the property that doesn’t literally have the pipeline on it — let alone any incentive to re-route around people and communities with serious objections. The ability to refuse survey evens the ground – a tiny bit – between property owners and companies — and is an ESSENTIAL protection for property rights.

    1. Rowinguy Avatar

      Well put, Joanna. The law was enacted, in my view, to tip the negotiating balance between the interstate pipeline and the landowner ever further toward the pipeline.

      1. Again, just saying what people tell me: According to the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, survey rights for landowners had never been spilled out before in Virginia. The Farm Bureau sees the 2004 law as a step forward compared to the situation that had been existed before. Now, you can make the argument that the landowner protections are still not strong enough. But that’s a different argument.

        1. Joanna Avatar

          This is a half-truth – right, for interstate gas transmission lines, prior to 56-49.01 – there was nothing in the VA code about property owner’s rights for surveys. As I said, if a property owner refused survey, a company would not have access until/unless the company was granted the use of eminent domain by FERC. At that point, assuming the property owner still refused, a judge would determine the terms of access, and the terms of the easement, including compensation. However, of course, the property owner would/should have the benefit of an attorney advocating for them at that point. (As a side note, anyone who thinks eminent domain is applied in a just manner in our proud property rights state should know that Virginians are unable to recoup the cost of using an attorney to represent them in these situations).
          When I and many other property owners threatened by Dominion’s surveys went to the General Assembly in February to argue for a repeal of 56-49.01, an oil and gas lobbyist stood up and said to the committee – you all enacted this in 2004 for the property owners! to give them more protections! In my view, it is an example of absolutely shameless pandering that the majority of the Senators at that point began nodding their heads in agreement – Oh, yes, for their own good! In light of the fact that there was a ROOM full of property owners there, speaking eloquently and passionately one after the other for the right to refuse survey! This is certainly the kind of “for our own good” we can do without.
          Also, if the goal of 56-49.01 were to protect property owners from ruthless, careless, or otherwise burdensome surveying – the limitations on surveying, such as not using motorized vehicles unless the property owner consents, could be retained in a bill that did not allow access without permission. If the goal were to protect property rights and give property owners facing eminent domain the tiniest bit of leverage to reduce the use of eminent domain, this is what the GA would do – and would have done in February when we asked them to.

      2. Again, just saying what people tell me: According to the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, survey rights for landowners had never been spelled out before in Virginia. The Farm Bureau sees the 2004 law as a step forward compared to the situation that had been existed before. Now, you can make the argument that the landowner protections are still not strong enough. But that’s a different argument.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Here is a link to a 2005 article in the American Surveyor magazine on the topic of trespass. While it’s not the be-all-end-all discussion, it does provide some insight.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    There is no master plan for pipeline rights-of-ways in Va.

    there should not be separate paths for each venture.

    every right-of-way should be designed to accommodate multiple lines and highways and powerlines used for merging and diverging movements.

    The current FERC pipeline framework is a throwback to the days when the govt would offer rights-of-ways in hope of attracting the railroads and then later pipeline companies to provide needed infrastructure.

    If a pipeline is truly needed for the public – then the public should play a significant role in it’s path.

    If it is not and is a private venture – then that should require those companies deal on a willing-seller, willing-buyer basis for the path they choose.

    It’s inappropriate and wrong for ANY pipeline company that is building a for-profit pipeline to be able to use eminent domain.

    Any pipeline proposal to use Eminent Domain should START with a required binding – legal statement that the pipeline will NOT, NEVER be used as a for-profit venture.

    It’s totally ridiculous that any for-profit venture is using Eminent Domain. All this talk about crony capitalism and rent-seeking pales in comparison to granting any company the right to take other people’s property – for their own profitable purposes.

    I’m shocked.. SHOCKED that Jim Bacon is taking the side of ANY law that allows one property owner to take another’s property for the economic benefit of the first property owner.

    this could not be more wrong.

    1. Rowinguy Avatar

      “It’s inappropriate and wrong for ANY pipeline company that is building a for-profit pipeline to be able to use eminent domain.”

      These facilities are all built by for-profit entities; that’s how they get built in a capitalist economy. They are in the public interest when there is sufficient demand for natural gas service from the public or utilities that serve the public to support their construction. No one builds an interstate pipeline “on spec.” They have to demonstrate the demand by selling transportation rights through subscription. They are akin to railroads, which carry all manner of goods for the public’s benefit, but have to make a profit to keep in business.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Thanks for putting light on subject.

        Eminent domain is no fun but critically necessary and based on this article alone it would appear serious steps have already been taken to reduce that pain.

        Fair compensation, I suspect is a critical issue here. Its likely more complex than most people and most courts have typically recognized in the past, given how we live today and value things.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Using your definition – why can’t Walmart condemn property for a store?

        what is the difference between a common carrier and a private carrier?

        how about reading this:

        Rockies Express – The King of Right of Way Pipeline Projects

        especially this part on page 23

        ” The results speak for themselves. Acquisition of all rights of
        way was accomplished within the project timeline allowed
        for construction to take place with no land-related delays.
        The project was accomplished within budget and with
        nearly 100% voluntary acquisition. For REX West, voluntary
        acquisition was 99.7% successful. While REX East proved to
        be a more difficult area to acquire and the acquisition costs
        were somewhat higher, CLS still accomplished voluntary
        acquisition at the rate of 99.2%. The use of condemnation
        was extraordinarily low for a project of this size traversing
        such a large and difficult area.”

        if they could build it without voluntary agreement – why would they not?

        1. For sure, voluntary agreement is vastly preferable. Perhaps a game theory theorist could weigh in. Say you’ve got 99.9% of the pipeline all lined up and there’s one hold-out. And that hold-out knows he could queer the deal for everyone, so he demands a king’s ransom. How do you deal with that? I’m just guessing, but perhaps there are strategies for coping — negotiating alternate routes, using options that can be exercised or not exercised as needed. It would be interesting to know how REX East pulled it off.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            My view is if the pipeline is solely for Dominion to use in providing electricity to Virginia then they’re fully justified in using eminent domain but with restrictions as to route and compensation to property owners.

            But if Dominion is intending to export gas – that’s not in the public interest (any more than a WalMart is) – that’s a private for-profit venture that should work similarly to any willing-seller, willing-buyer transaction.

            the 99% ?

            if a company demonstrates that they largely have acquired the right of way without opposition then at the end – they can get help from the state.

            but it should not start that way with the threat of ED used for every property owner – from the get go.

            I think that’s how the Rocky Express worked.

          2. Eminent domain is one issue. The right to survey land is a very different one. It’s easy to confuse the two. The pipeline guys will have to demonstrate public necessity to FERC. But Dominion isn’t trying to acquire land right now. It’s trying to plot a pipeline route, part of which entails figuring out what kind of environmental, cultural and archaeological obstacles lie in the pipeline path.

            I have heard speculation that Dominion wants to export gas. I haven’t had a chance to dig to the bottom of that yet.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    if they do not have the right of eminent domain. .. how would they have the right to go on your property?

    something interesting to read :

    ” As to oil and gas pipeline development, eminent domain rights can attach generally only in the following circumstances:

    With interstate transmission mains governed by the Federal Energy
    Regulatory Commission (FERC), like the Rockies Express Pipeline.

    With pipelines that provide natural gas service connected directly to homes and businesses under the authority and jurisdiction of a public utility authority (in Ohio, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission). Such providers have service tariffs approved by the utilities commission, as well as certificates that authorize utility services in a specified geographical area.

    The types of gathering pipelines (“midstream development”) currently being rapidly constructed in northeast Ohio generally do not fall within these categories.
    Pipelines being built to gather and move products from wells to processing plants or to transmission mains are not qualified for eminent domain takings. Companies constructing those lines must negotiate easements.
    Property owners have no legal obligation to grant these easements. There may be good business and economic reasons for doing so, but there is no legal compulsion involved.

    Should any landman issue a threat of eminent domain, we suggest you ask him/her the following:

    Name, address, telephone and email, and identity of employer.

    Copy of Federal or state governmental order, certificate or permit under which he/she claims authority for eminent domain taking.”

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    the claim: any business that serves the public is entitled to use Eminent Domain

    defined as : – one property owner is able to take another property owners property if the purpose is to build a business that will serve the public.

    ” Kelo v. City of New London,was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development. In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”

    The voter approval of an amendment to the Constitution of Va with regard to the use of Eminent Domain primarily centered on the concept of loss of potential profits, and future potential use and value of the land – in terms of the amount of compensation – not in terms of the ability to take the land which went unchanged.

    In Fredericksburg – (and I’m sure other places) – it centered around VDOT’s practice of taking of commercial land or land in areas with potential to be developed as commercial for an appraisal that did not address future potential – especially in developing corridors.

  9. LandLover Avatar

    Some great, valid points have been made above, but has no one noticed that ACP, LLC is taking a multi-faceted, “one from column A, one from column B” approach? They are relying on VA Code Sec. 56-49.01 to enforce their right to survey, but are not in compliance with VA Code Sec. 56-265.1 which obligates them to meet certain criteria to be considered a “utility” versus a transmission company in VA. Instead, they are defining themselves as such by using the definitions in the Natural Gas Act. In addition, ACP, LLC has not met the requirements under VA Code to be considered as “doing business” in VA. In spite of this “shaky ground”, they expect to move against private landowners using this constitutionally questionable VA statute.

    Just as mind-boggling, it’s looking like certain critical steps required by Virginia regarding site specific soil erosion and sediment reports will be waived, relying again on an exemption under the Natural Gas Act.

    ACP, LLC has a route which as it stands now, will be comprised of 88% private property through rural counties that will give them a class 1 location status with PHMSA which translates as little to no regulation.

    The “icing on this disastrous cake”? Virginia has an existing interstate pipeline system that can be “beefed up” at a significantly lower cost that can more than handle this product. There would be no additional taking of private property involved. The ACP, LLC is about nothing more than making Dominion King of the Hill! And when damage occurs, it will be very difficult to find them and any judgments awarded will be limited to just the ACP’s assets, not Dominion’s.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    Apparently it matters if Dominion is claiming to be a regulated utility verses a non-regulated utility pursuing a for-profit venture.. to move product from point A to point B – then sell it.

    I’m not at all convinced that just because a company “serves the public” that that entitles them to take property from others to benefit their own economic value.

    But I’ve said way back at the beginning of this – that a lot of this has to do with how Dominion conducts itself in the first place – and they started off wrong – throwing their weight around – and then when opposition arose – instead of backing off and trying to meet the property-owners on a less aggressive basis – they were perceived as doubling down.. going to court…. etc.

    THe idea that another person can come on one’s own property and survey it for possible condemnation – – no matter what – is not accepted – especially in this day and time of people not happy with being “forced” to do things by govt – they equate this to govt-like behavior.

    I’d bet before this is over with- that:

    1. – there will be delay
    2. – there may be a Supreme Court case and it might be adverse
    3. – there might be legislation in the Va GA – also adverse

  11. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I do not have the detailed knowledge to assess the merits of this above legal arguments. Perhaps they are dispositive. But I doubt it.

    At best, these issues strike me as narrow technical issues, small ball stuff, that are hardly “mind-boggling” or the makings of a “disastrous cake.”

    Come on, pipelines need surveys. You don’t properly plan to locate pipelines or anything else of consequence on land, much less built it on land, whether private, public or otherwise, without a survey.

    Surely, too Dominion and partners can find a way to legally “Do Business in Virginia.” Have not they and their various companies and affiliates been doing business in Virginia since 1795?

    And whatever a Va. statute waives by exemption it waives by exemption, unless a court finds such right of waiver inapplicable in which case the remedy is for Dominion et. al. to the work. So go of it and if you win they have to do the extra work.

    Like I said, perhaps these issue are despositive of this case. But I suspect what we are seeing here the usual tactics too often employed by some to delay for the sake of delay or over hype for PR and public hysteria purposes which raise public costs without a positive public result. We will see.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    how can you use eminent domain on someone else’s property without a property survey?

    How about this. You enter into an agreement with the property owner. You agree on a price for the survey?

    Dominion has been doing business in Va since 1795? good lord.. I’m ignorant!

    I’ll say this – I do not buy the “we must survey” argument. You can do an awful lot with maps and helicopters these days.. you might need a final survey on some properties for some things but …

    …. the property owners believe that Dominion is using the survey as a form of intimidation to demonstrate that they CAN take that persons property… just like they can walk right onto it if they want.

    Let me make clear. I have no sympathy for nimby’s especially the ones who oppose powerlines bcause they mess up their “views”. And I don’t have a problem with pipelines – they are safer than roads and trains to move bulk liquid/gas products.

    Just about everyone who reads this blog – gets the fuel in their gas tank from a pipeline. Others who use natural gas or propane – they likely get their fuel from a pipeline.

    And let me point out further – that the vast majority of pipelines have been built with little controversy including the one I’ve referenced called the Rockies Express. That’s because most of the builders of these pipelines don’t start off acting belligerent and throwing their weight around towards property owners along the prospective route – and don’t rely on a questionable custom law created to allow them to force their way onto someone’s property against their will.

    The are actually three pipeline proposals right now. take a look:

    and there are already existing pipeline rights-of-ways along much of the proposed routes – in Virginia – //

    do we need two separate pipeline rights-of-ways for the same purpose that are not using existing rights-of-ways ?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      While I’m generally in Larry’s camp to the extent the pipeline is not for utility services, there is one good reason not to put all pipelines in the same corridor – avoiding the creation of a single point of failure. Three pipelines right next to each other could be put out of commission with a single terrorist attack. If one pipeline is destroyed, another located elsewhere could be used in an emergency.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    I sorta see TMT’s point but everywhere one pipeline crosses another like the existing ones from Texas.. would be just a vulnerable… and of all the likely targets for terrorists… it’s generally not to cripple our infrastructure but to do things that threaten large groups of people directly…

    I think we’re taking this terrorism deal too far these days especially when we got our own folks going around knocking off folks in mass killings.

    I’ll change my view when I see ISIS take out a pipeline or railroad bridge or the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, etc.

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