By Peggy Mackenzie
A pipeline company with plans for a natural gas pipeline across the state has filed legal action against West Virginia landowners who have refused to allow access to their properties.
Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Beckley on Friday requesting authorities to force three corporations and more than 100 property owners from 10 West Virginia counties to allow the pipeline’s agents access to survey their lands for the pipeline route.
The suit names 103 people living in Braxton, Nicholas, Monogalia, Harrison, Lewis, Greenbrier, Monroe, Mercer, Summers and Webster counties as respondents, as cited in The Register-Herald. The list also includes Lake Floyd Club, a golf and country club in Harrison County, Green Valley Coal Co., and White Pine, Inc., a real estate firm with a Lewisburg P.O. Box.
The landowners received letters from MVP attorney, Stephen E. Hastings, in February warning that continued resistance to the pipeline company’s demands for access would likely result in legal action. Three couples who received letters from Hastings filed preemptive lawsuits against MVP in March. Appalachian Mountain Advocates senior attorney, Derek O. Teaney, who represents the three couples, stated, “Because the pipeline will not be put to a public use, defendant is not invested with the power of eminent domain.” And, because MVP is not invested with that power, the suits maintain that MVP “does not have a right to enter plaintiffs’ property for any purpose.”
The MVP is a proposed 42-inch diameter, 330-mile line that would connect hydraulic fracturing operations in West Virginia to a transmission pipeline in Virginia. EQT and NextEra Energy are partnering on the project. They intend to file their final application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October 2015.
Because the pipeline crosses state boundaries, FERC is overseeing its development. It’s FERC’s job to determine whether the pipeline’s benefits outweigh its adverse effects. If FERC decides the project should go ahead, a certificate of public convenience and necessity will be issued. The pipeline company can only ask a federal court to use eminent domain once that certificate is issued. If the application is approved, eminent domain likely wouldn’t be granted until sometime in 2016.
Area residents are invited to submit a comment to the FERC regarding the proposed MVP (docket number PF 15-3) either electronically or by mail. To comment electronically, go to http://ferconline.ferc.gov/. To submit by mail, address your comment to: Ms. Kimberly Bose, Secretary, Federal energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room IA, Washington, DC 20426.