Group challenges lax pipeline survey practice

virginiaAppalachian Mountain Advocates (APPALMAD) appealed and moved the Supreme Court of Virginia for an emergency stay of a ruling allowing Atlantic Coast Pipeline surveyors to enter private property in Buckingham County without giving landowners notice of the specific date of entry, despite the fact that the pipeline builder has not been granted the right of eminent domain.

Appalachian Mountain Advocated maintains that Virginia law allows pipeline surveyors to enter private property without a landowner’s permission only when certain conditions are met. In particular, the gas company must send notice by certified mail warning the landowner 15 days in advance of when surveyors will enter the property.  APPALMAD argues Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s entry onto private property without first providing such specific notice would be a trespass.

The statute requires that the notice “set forth the date of the intended entry.” Va. Code Ann.  56-49.01(C)(ii). Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s notice, however, told landowners only that survey crews would enter their property after a particular date – leaving landowners to guess when surveyors would actually show up. Appalachian Mountain Advocates is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to reverse this ruling and clarify the statute requires notice of the precise entry date so that landowners can be home when the surveys actually occur.

The surveys are very intrusive.  Surveyors will spend several days on each piece of property surveying, among other things, boundaries, endangered species, plants, animals, streams, wetlands, caves, historical sites, cultural artifacts and cemeteries.

APPALMAD argues that common decency, as well as the law, requires Dominion to give landowners the right to be present and to prepare for such surveys.  Without knowing the date of the surveys, landowners cannot properly plan for the surveyors to enter their property.  Remarkably, Atlantic Coast Pipelines refuses to tell landowners the days on which it will survey and has, to avoid providing such dates, sought and obtained a Court Order allowing it to enter private property at any time after a certain date, rather than on a particular day.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates is a nonprofit law and policy center representing landowners and other nonprofits in challenging the slate of gas pipelines planned for this region.

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