(CN) – The developer of a controversial natural gas pipeline says it is being unlawfully blocked from carrying out the project by more than 100 West Virginia landowners who won’t let it on their land.
The Mountain Valley pipeline will extend roughly 300 miles from Chatham, Virginia to Oak Grove, West Virginia, cutting a meandering swath through several counties.
In a lawsuit filed in the Charleston, W.Va. Federal Court, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC says the defendant landowners refused to allow it to survey their properties.
“While the Natural Gas Act does not expressly outline the procedure for natural gas companies to gain survey access to properties in connection with such pipeline projects, the West Virginia Legislature has recognized the importance of pre-construction surveys, vesting private corporations with this authority where, as here, private property ‘may be taken or damaged for public use,” the complaint states.
This notwithstanding, the company says in each case the defendants “failed or refused to permit MVP” to enter their properties.
“It is necessary to enter the respondents’ properties to survey to appropriate necessary rights-of-way, obtain a FERC Certificate, and construct the pipeline. Therefore, to deny such access would violate MVP’s eminent domain rights set forth in W. Va. Code … and undermine the purpose of the Natural Gas Act,” the complaint says.
The company is asking the court to order the landowners to give surveyors unencumbered access to their properties.
Its lawsuit was filed by Charleston Piccirillo of Shaffer & Shaffer PLLC.
The filing of the company’s lawsuit comes two weeks after several of the landowners sued Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC in the Summers and Monroe circuit courts.
In those lawsuits, the landowners insist that a corporation’s right to enter private property is limited under West Virginia code to examining, surveying, and laying out lands for easements, but that the company’s intention is to go far beyond that.
They maintain that the West Virginia code states that only a governmental body may enter and bring machinery, equipment, or tools upon the property.
The landowners also argue that the power of eminent domain can only be exercised in West Virginia if the private property is going to be put to public use.
They maintain that since the pipeline’s plans do not include any gas delivery points other than one in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and that no West Virginian will have access to or otherwise use gas carried by the pipeline, they should not be compelled to permit the company entry.
The landowners are represented by Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates in Lewisburg, W. Va.
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