Legal Battles Flare Up Regarding Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipeline

By Brian Sewell

On Nov. 11, Dominion Transmission Inc., sent letters to 226 landowners in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia who have refused to allow surveyors onto land along the 550-mile route of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The company says it will seek a court order allowing access if landowners refuse to cooperate.

But some legal experts say Dominion must first prove the pipeline serves a public need.

“It’s improper for a company just to assert that its project is for public use, without actually having had that determined,” Joe Lovett, an attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, told Public News Service.

In September, residents of Nelson County, Va., filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming a Virginia law allowing natural gas companies to enter private property without a landowner’s written permission is unconstitutional. Like Lovett, attorney Neal Walters, who is representing the landowners, argues Dominion has not demonstrated the pipeline’s public use. Dominion has asked the court to dismiss that lawsuit.

The $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a joint project between Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas that would deliver natural gas produced in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to power plants and other industrial customers in the Southeast.

Duke Energy and Dominion recently asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin its environmental review of the pipeline, beginning with a public comment period.

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