Judge sides with pipeline surveyors over landowners

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

Five Nelson County landowners filed a suit against Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC to block members of the company from entering and surveying their properties without written permission. A federal judge dismissed the suit September 30.

Together, landowners Peter and Karen Osborne, James and Joan Klemic and Charlotte Rea own almost 330 acres in Nelson County.

A Virginia code allows natural gas companies to enter private property to survey without a landowner’s written permission, according to the memorandum opinion by the judge. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon ruled in favor of motions to dismiss the suits because she says the code does not deprive a landowner of constitutionally protected property rights.

In May 2014, Dominion sent a letter to the landowners to notify them of their intention to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline and that their properties were located within the proposed route.

Dominion asked them for written permission to survey their properties and, according to the suit, the landowners did not comply.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC has notified them that it could enter their properties to survey for a pipeline in the future, but has no intention of doing so now.

“From the beginning, we have always believed that the Virginia law is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and allows surveys with proper notification and landowner protections. Yesterday’s ruling affirmed that belief and our actions,” Dominion said in a statement October 1. “ACP has followed the procedure as laid out in the Virginia law to survey the best route with the least environmental impact. The Virginia law allows survey only as necessary to meet regulatory requirements.”

Related links:

Landowners respond to Dominion pipeline survey lawsuits

Dominion sues landowners for pipeline survey access