Dominion Energy : Atlantic Coast Pipeline starts suing NC landowners as construction schedule looms
The energy consortium, headed by
Last week, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed seven condemnation actions in
Through eminent domain, the consortium hopes to gain access for tree clearing, trenching, construction and, after the project is completed, upkeep and repairs.
The 600-mile underground pipeline would cross about 2,900 properties in eight counties in
Public infrastructure projects -- such as roads, railways, power lines and pipelines -- have legal authority to seize private property, but they must compensate affected landowners. When landowners refuse to negotiate or can't strike a deal, the prices and terms are set by courts, under eminent domain powers granted the federal and state government.
About 20 percent of the project's affected property owners, including an estimated several hundred in
"It's now time to secure the remaining easements necessary to begin construction," Ruby said in an email. "Over the last few weeks, we've made final, good faith attempts to reach these agreements. In each case, our final offers were well above the appraised value of the properties. We were pleased to reach an agreement with some of these landowners, but unfortunately we could not reach an agreement with all of them."
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not completely take over the affected properties. It will allow crop farming above the buried pipeline, but the project will prohibit construction of buildings and swimming pools or the planting of trees on a 50-foot-wide strip called an easement.
The pipeline project appears to be pursuing an aggressive legal strategy to start construction before all landowners have negotiated agreements, said
"Their goal is to get it up and running because there's money to be made, and the farther they get along the harder it is to stop them," said Lollar, who doesn't represent any of the seven property owners sued by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline received approval in October from the
But the project does not need to have all regulatory approvals to commence eminent domain lawsuits.
One of those sued is
Watson said the pipeline crosses a section of the farm and also a section of the land where he lives. He said he and his family members have reached an agreement with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on reimbursement fees, but they are still working out terms that will preserve the organic certification of the farm in the event of a spill or other accident that could contaminate the property.
Watson said he became snared in the eminent domain lawsuit because the Atlantic Coast Pipeline couldn't risk anyone backing out of a deal before it was signed. Watson is represented by an attorney in the negotiations.
"We're not holding out," Watson said. "We're fine with what's going on as far as the settlement."
The lawsuits identify 10.28 acres in
The project is seeking a temporary easement up to 5 years, according to the lawsuit, for immediate entry to conduct all work, including restoration and clean-up activities.
"We're talking to the man to get this mess settled up," she said. "I want him to change some of the stuff in the agreement, some of the terms."
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