Dominion sues landowners for pipeline survey access

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could run through these Nelson County mountains. Photo: Jack Looney The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could run through these Nelson County mountains. Photo: Jack Looney

Dominion has filed suit against holdout landowners in Nelson and Augusta counties who since May have refused to let the energy company survey their land for its proposed 550-mile natural gas pipeline.

According to Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle, the company filed 20 suits in Nelson County and 27 more in Augusta County last Thursday and Friday. The legal action cites a Virginia statute that allows gas companies to conduct surveys without landowner permission in order to satisfy regulatory requirements.

“We anticipate the courts notifying the affected landowners during the first week of the year,” Norvelle said in an e-mail Wednesday. “They then will have 21 days to respond. Court dates, if necessary, will be set later. We would welcome any of the landowners who will be notified to grant us permission and forego the court date.”

There are more lawsuits to come in both counties. Norvelle confirmed that the company intends to file suit against a total of 122 people in Nelson and 56 in Augusta.

“This is a lot of paperwork to process; hence, the stages,” Norvelle said.

Dominion intends to sue a total of 245 landowners for access along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, which stretches from fracked shale fields in West Virginia to southern North Carolina. There are no planned suits in West Virginia and only five in North Carolina, said Norvelle. That means more than 70 percent of the total number of lawsuits Dominion is filing will involve landowners in Nelson and Augusta.

“In other words, the vast majority of landowners along the route understand the importance of meeting with us and allowing us to survey so that we can understand their property,” Norvelle said. “The only person who knows the property the best is the landowner who can help us plan the best route with the least impact to the environment, historic and cultural resources.”