CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The developers of Mountain Valley Pipeline have filed a federal lawsuit to gain eminent domain access to properties in nine West Virginia counties.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court in Charleston. A similar lawsuit focusing on properties along the pipeline’s path in Virginia was filed on the same date in Roanoke.
The West Virginia lawsuit lists more than 140 pieces of property where the pipeline developers say they need access for easements. It applies to properties along the pipeline’s path in Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel counties.
The Virginia lawsuit names more than 300 private properties.
Both cases ask for immediate access and entry to be granted prior to just compensation for the property being determined.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, along with the similar but separate Atlantic Coast Pipeline, gained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in mid-October. One of the commissioners dissented, calling the public interest of the projects into question.
The $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.
The MVP will be constructed and owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (Mountain Valley), which is a joint venture between EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.
Advocates of the pipeline projects have cited economic development benefits, such as the ability to move West Virginia’s ample supply of natural gas to markets where greater market prices might be achieved.
Critics have concerns about the pipelines’ paths through historic and fragile terrain, including potential effects on wildlife, forests and karst landforms.
Eminent domain access also has been a major issue and seems primed to be fought on multiple fronts in the federal court system.
One issue, which could be fought more broadly in the federal appeals system, could be the validity of the federal certification, including whether the pipeline project is truly in the public interest.
Another related issue will be the value of people’s property, which may be fought in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Thomas Copenhaver, who is handling the West Virginia eminent domain case.
The request for immediate access is also likely to result in court battles.
Lawyers for MVP on Oct. 27 filed a motion for an expedited hearing. The developers say they need access to people’s property by Feb. 1, 2018, to start construction of the pipeline.
The MVP lawyers asked the court to order anyone opposing immediate access to file a response by Dec. 4 and asked for a hearing on motions on or before Dec. 13.
Copenhaver issued an order having MVP’s lawyers provide a report by Nov. 8 demonstrating that all the property owners have been personally served with the original motion and related documents.
In the complaint, the lawyers for MVP cite the recent certification by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Accordingly, it is necessary for MVP to acquire temporary and permanent easements across these properties,” the lawyers wrote.
“Condemnation is necessary because MVP has beenunable to negotiate mutually agreeable easement agreements with the landowners.”
The lawyers say the pipeline will be buried except for risers, valves, drips, hydrate removal systems, line markers, cathodic protection and test standards and other secondary but necessary equipment and facilities.
“The landowners may fully use and enjoy the premises to the extent that such use and enjoyment does not interfere with or obstruct MVP’s rights described herein,” the lawyers for MVP wrote.