A bipartisan majority in the West Virginia Senate struck down Senate Bill 596, vote 23 to 11. Bill 596 was requested by the natural gas industry in an attempt to circumvent an August 2015 ruling in a Monroe County Circuit Court hearing by Judge Robert Irons. Judge Irons upheld the West Virginia law which bars surveyor access to private property when the property owners say, “No surveying on my land.”
During the hearing, Judge Irons patiently explained that the law in West Virginia allows eminent domain only in situations where the public will benefit. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has no “public use” for the State of West Virginia. During the August hearing this information was verified by Mr. Posey, MVP Project Manager for pipeline construction. Until such time when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approves the MVP application, the use of eminent domain rights does NOT apply in West Virginia. To date MVP’s application has not been approved.
Rather than appeal Judge Iron’s decision of this August 2015 hearing, the arrogant natural gas industry requested passage of Senate Bill 596. In essence, industry expected WV lawmakers to circumvent accepted legal appellant procedures to obtain what industry demands, in this case to allow eminent domain. Big money makes for big bullies.
Judge Robert Irons made his decision as per WV written law. A round of applause goes to Derek Teeney, attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Lewisburg, who defended, pro bono, Doris and Brian McCurdy, Union, during the August 2015 hearing. The McCurdy’s refusal to allow MVP to survey their Lillydale property, a proposed pipeline location, initiated the August hearing in Monroe County Circuit Court.
People of Monroe County, the Greenbrier Valley and beyond must become aware of the brutal force of industry in West Virginia. Time to keep pushing back. Victories for the people are few and far between. Celebrate this victory. More on the defeat of the Forced Pooling Bill at a later time. And thank you to our West Virginia lawmakers who voted against Senate Bill 596.
Jill Fischer, member
Southern WV Mineral Owners Coalition