Property owners file lawsuits against pipeline
By Peggy Mackenzie
In response to threats of legal action by a pipeline developer, six landowners have filed preemptive lawsuits to prevent pipeline agents from entering their properties. The suits were filed on Wednesday in Monroe and Summers counties by Appalachian Mountain Advocates’ Senior Attorney Derek Teaney, whose offices are in Lewisburg.
The plaintiffs are Bryan and Doris McCurdy of Greenville in Monroe County, and in a separate action, Thomas and Susan Bouldin, and Donald and Mary Ann Milam, of Summers County. The defendant in both actions is Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, whose main offices are in Pennsylvania, plan to lay a 300-mile pipeline across six West Virginia counties to deliver natural gas from Wetzel County to Pittsylvania, VA. The plaintiffs’ properties lay in the path of the planned route, and developers contacted the three couples to gain permission to survey, appraise, test and study land prior to taking the land under the power of eminent domain. When they refused access to their lands, they received letters from the pipeline developers threatening to file suit against them.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuits challenge the developer’s right to invoke the power of eminent domain in order to access their private properties, maintaining that the developers claims do not meet the standard of “public use.”
The lawsuit argues, “The power of eminent domain can only be exercised in West Virginia if the private property to be condemned is going to be put to a public use.” For that to be so, “the public must have a definite and fixed use of the property,” and “the public use must be clearly a needful one.”
In this case, the pipeline does “not include any gas delivery points other than the pipeline’s terminus in Pittsylvania County, Virginia… As a result, not a single West Virginian will have access to or otherwise use gas carried by the pipeline.” Thus, “[t]he general public of West Virginia does not have a definite or fixed use of the gas in the pipeline, and, accordingly, has no definite or fixed use of the property on which the pipeline will be located.”
The suits ask that the courts issue an order to either prohibit Mountain Valley Pipeline agents from entering the properties or limit the scope of any survey and prohibit the pipeline agents from entering certain areas of the properties.