Dominion withdraws some suits, but forges ahead with pipeline plans

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Pat Durrer (second from right) of Lovingston looks on with her husband and granddaughter at an open house last week as a Dominion representative points out their property on a map of the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline. Photo: Graelyn Brashear Pat Durrer (second from right) of Lovingston looks on with her husband and granddaughter at an open house last week as a Dominion representative points out their property on a map of the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline. Photo: Graelyn Brashear

Dominion Resources has dropped 14 lawsuits against Nelson County landowners it says it sued in error, but dozens more suits over the company’s right to survey land for its proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline are going ahead as many residents continue to voice their opposition.

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said Friday, January 16, that the 14 landowners’ properties had been removed from the proposed natural gas pipeline path by a reroute in October, but the maps used by the company’s lawyers “had not been updated in a timely fashion.” Among those who were sued in error was Nelson County Sheriff David Brooks.

Norvelle said the company was apologizing to the landowners, noting that while the suits had been filed in circuit court, the property owners had not yet been served.

“We are working to understand how that happened so it won’t happen again,” he said of the error.

That still leaves 45 landowners in Nelson and another 31 in Augusta who have been named in suits by Dominion. The company said in December it plans to file suit against a total of 122 property owners in Nelson and 56 in Augusta.

Anger over Dominion’s exercise of its right to sue for survey access was on display at a project open house held by the company at Nelson County High School in Lovingston last Wednesday. Dozens of Dominion employees and contractors manned information tables in the school’s cafeteria, while long lines of locals waited to share their opinions with representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has the final say in whether the project can go forward.

The prevailing opinion was touted on buttons and T-shirts worn by most of the crowd: No pipeline. Opponents at one point stood in the middle of the room and sang a few verses of Augusta folk duo Robin and Linda Williams’ anti-Dominion ditty “We Don’t Want Your Pipeline.”

“Our main concern is we want the property to be the best place it can be for the rest of our years on it,” said Pat Durrer, a retiree whose property outside Lovingston lies in the path of the pipeline. “The view from there—it’s priceless,” she said. “You can’t put a dollar amount on the land.”

Rachel Shephard shares her fears. The 20-year-old’s grandfather owns land that lies in the project’s path, and she’s angry that eminent domain laws would allow Dominion to seize the family’s property.

“I don’t think people realize what we have in Nelson County,” she said at the open house. “I think we should have the ability to say no.”

Not everybody thinks the pipeline would be all bad. Shephard’s boyfriend Charles Brown, 24, said he, too, is concerned about property rights, but the project would undeniably boost Virginia’s economy.

“It’s going to create jobs in the state, permanent jobs,” he said, which earned him a glowering look from Shephard.

“He agrees with me most of the time,” she said. She added she felt like there was little she’d be able to do to stop the pipeline, but showing up at events like the open house is important.

“We’re a bunch of angry people getting together to say no,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of say. I don’t own land. But I’m standing here for Nelson County.”

Pat Durrer (second from right) of Lovingston looks on with her husband and granddaughter at an open house last week as a Dominion representative points out their property on a map of the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline.