Survey Crews are Challenged on the New Natural Gas Pipelines

by Duane Nichols on June 12, 2017

"We Cherish. We Will Defend Water & Land"

Pipeline opponents confront survey crews on Bent Mountain

From the Report by Joe Dashiell, WDBJ News 7, May 31, 2017

ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) When members of a Mountain Valley Pipeline survey team pulled over on the side of Route 221, pipeline opponents weren’t far behind.

They attempted to block the path onto neighboring property with a banner that read, “We Cherish. We Will Defend Water Land.”

Eddie Conner lives on his family’s property nearby. “I’m just a small portion of everyone in the community that’s losing time from work and their vacation and from their family and their normal lives over what I’m calling legalized thievery,” Conner said Wednesday afternoon. “They’re doing what they want with your land, and you can’t do anything about it.”

Later, the survey team moved a short distance to the intersection with Montuori Way. There they set up some of their equipment, and went to work, but opponents questioned whether they had provided proper notice.

Roanoke County Police arrived, checked IDs and spoke with both sides. The surveyors eventually packed up and left, though it wasn’t clear if they had completed their work, or were putting it off for another day.

Kathy E. Chandler is a Bent Mountain homeowner. “It’s troubling, because I’ve never experienced the need to defend my borders as an every day citizen,” Chandler said. “All of my coming and going on a notice day becomes a situation of alert and defense.”

A recent ruling in Roanoke circuit court upheld MVP’s right to survey other land on Bent Mountain. And a spokesperson says the company is confident it has the legal authority to access the properties, and plans to continue the work in accordance with Virginia law.

Opponents are challenging that authority in cases headed for the Virginia Supreme Court.

Survey teams are expected on Bent Mountain Thursday. Pipeline opponents plan to be there as well.

Following is the complete statement from Mountain Valley Pipeline:

“The importance of conducting these survey activities cannot be emphasized enough, as this work is designed to evaluate and help determine a route with the least overall impact on the environment, landowners, and cultural and historic resources. MVP remains committed to working with each and every landowner along the proposed route to address their individual concerns and minimize the impact of this project on their property and daily lives. This environmental survey work is one of the most important ways we can do that. The MVP project team remains confident that we have the legal authority under Virginia statute to access property for survey activity and expects to continue this important survey work in accordance with the strict requirements of Virginia law. ”


Virginia Supreme Court temporarily halts pipeline surveying of 3 Bent Mountain properties

From an Article by Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, June 9, 2017

On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt of work by surveyors for the Mountain Valley Pipeline on three Bent Mountain properties owned by the Terry family.

The court granted a stay sought by Justin Lugar, an attorney representing the family, of a temporary injunction awarded May 26 by Circuit Court Judge David Carson that prohibited the family from interfering with efforts to survey their Roanoke County properties for a route for the proposed natural gas pipeline.

Friday’s order stays Carson’s order “pending resolution of the petition for review in this case.” Carson’s order had noted that pipeline surveyors planned to return to the Terry family properties between June 12 and 16.

“The Terrys are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to maintain the status quo pending its decision on the merits of the injunction,” Lugar said.

On May 8, when surveyors attempted to survey the Terry properties, an adjoining property owner who is also opposed to the pipeline project summoned assistance from the Virginia State Police. A trooper asked the surveyors to leave and they complied.

Mountain Valley Pipeline then filed for a temporary injunction that would confirm the company’s right to survey the properties and prohibit the Terrys or others from interfering.

At the heart of this dispute and similar pipeline-related conflicts in recent years is a controversial state law that allows natural gas companies to survey private property without an owner’s consent.

The company must follow the law’s requirements for notifying landowners, via certified mail, about their plans and the anticipated dates of entry of survey crews. The law also sanctions surveying work that is “necessary to satisfy any regulatory requirements and for the selection of the most advantageous location or route.”

As an interstate pipeline, the Mountain Valley project needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before construction can begin. FERC is working on a final environmental impact statement for the project.

Carson ruled May 26 that completing the surveying work was necessary for Mountain Valley to submit a sufficient application to FERC. In addition, he found that the pipeline company would suffer “irreparable harm” if surveying did not proceed and that the Terrys would suffer minimal harm if the work, which he described as “minimally invasive,” moved forward on three tracts owned by the family.

Lugar’s petition seeking the stay alleged that Carson erred when granting the injunction. Among other things, Lugar argued that Carson should not have concluded that the surveying was necessary to satisfy regulatory requirements. He had argued in court on May 19 and in briefs that FERC regulations allow companies to apply for commission approval of a project without completing all route surveys.

In turn, Mountain Valley said the surveys were necessary to design the best route for the pipeline — a route that would, for example, do the least environmental damage and affect fewer historical and cultural resources.

Lugar and other lawyers representing property owners along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the separate but similar Atlantic Coast Pipeline have argued — unsuccessfully, to date — that Virginia’s surveying law is unconstitutional.

He and others contend that the law violates constitutional protections against “takings” without related compensation because pipeline companies harvest valuable information when their surveyors study private properties.

The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would lie across some 303 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to another natural gas pipeline in Pittsylvania County. Its route would cross five other Virginia counties: Giles, Montgomery, Craig, Roanoke and Franklin. The buried 42-inch diameter pipeline would transport natural gas at high pressure.

The project has received support in some circles but stirred opposition in others.

Cox said last month that more than 97 percent of centerline surveying has been completed for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. FERC has said it will issue the final environmental impact statement for the project on June 23.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: