Dominion sues landowners in Va. to survey land for pipeline

STAUNTON, Va. — Dominion Resources is suing more than 40 landowners in Virginia who won’t allow the energy company to survey their properties for a proposed $5 billion natural gas pipeline

Dominion filed lawsuits earlier this week in circuit courts against 20 property owners in Nelson County and 27 in Augusta County. That number is expected to double, the company said.

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said Virginia law allows the company to enter the properties to conduct the surveys. He said the surveys are needed to avoid future problems, such as family cemeteries.

Dominion sent a final letter to the landowners in November asking for permission before making the decision to move forward in the courts.

“We notified them that if they did not grant us permission, we would file legal actions and ask the court to affirm the law,” he said. “We are now at the stage with these landowners.”

If the court orders access, Augusta County resident Travis Geary told The News-Virginian that his family will abide by the decision. But Geary said they will continue to oppose the project.

“I think this was designed to scare people into submission,” Geary said of the legal filings. “Some landowners are understandably fearful of what the consequences would be if they didn’t allow Dominion on the property.”

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

The pipeline is being proposed by Dominion Resources, Duke Energy and other partners to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. It would begin in Harrison County, West Virginia, and stretch through Virginia and North Carolina to Robeson County, near the South Carolina border.

The pipeline has plenty of supporters, including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his West Virginia counterpart, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. They have said the pipeline will enrich their states’ economies by attracting new businesses with the promise of abundant and relatively cheap energy supplies.

A study commissioned by Dominion concludes the pipeline’s construction could have a total economic impact of $2.7 billion in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.

In court papers, Dominion said certified letters went out to 3,331 property owners across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina alerting them of its plans to enter the property and survey land.

If the court grants Dominion’s request, it would just allow access for surveying.

Dominion plans to hold open houses in the next few months to go over the proposed route. A final “preferred” route is expected to be ready to present to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by next summer.