Va. Supreme Court issues ruling on pipeline surveying

Local News

The Virginia Supreme Court has decided on two cases involving surveying on residential property for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ruling in the pipeline’s favor. 

The landowners in the two cases, who live in Augusta and Buckingham counties, argued the company building the pipeline did not have the right to enter their properties to survey the land. But the court sided with the pipeline, ruling landowners do not have the right to stop surveyors from coming onto their property.

“It’s a very frustrating feeling,” said Carolyn Reilly, a member of Bold Alliance who is against the pipeline.

Reilly lives in Franklin County and said she has not allowed surveying on her farm for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“We have animals that are on our property, and that affects our business as well as other landowners who just say, ‘No. We don’t want these strangers on our property,'” she said. 

Reilly and others against the pipeline argue the surveyors do not have the right to access their property because the pipeline is not a Virginia public utility. She said she believes the latest ruling could set a precedent for similar cases.

“You’re getting these letters in the mail stating they are coming on your property,” Reilly said. “And you have no say whatsoever as how it feels.”

“We’ve completed well over 98 percent of the surveys for the project,” said Aaron Ruby, Dominion Energy spokesperson. “And we’ve performed those surveys with the permission of 90 percent of the landowners.”

Dominion is satisfied with the court ruling, Ruby said. The surveying process is required by law, he added, and is done with the public in mind to help lessen the impact on both landowners and the environment.

“Based on those survey results, we’ve made more than 300 route adjustments in order to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and minimize impacts on individual landowners,” Ruby said. “And we think it’s very important to treat all landowners with fairness and respect.” 

Attorney Henry Howell, who is representing Hazel Palmer, a landowner in one of the cases ruled on Thursday, said they plan to ask the Virginia Supreme Court for a rehearing. He said they want the court to consider part of the state constitution that prohibits giving Virginia public service corporation powers to companies not based in the commonwealth.

The final environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to be released as early as next week, Ruby said. Dominion expects final federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this fall, he added.

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