Federal Judge Hears Case to Dismiss Proposed Pipeline Lawsuit

Posted: Updated: Aug 18, 2015 05:37 PM
U.S. federal courthouse in Charlottesville U.S. federal courthouse in Charlottesville

A federal judge is reviewing Dominion Virginia Power's request to throw out a lawsuit trying to stop the company's crews from surveying land for a proposed natural gas pipeline.

Five Nelson County property owners argue the surveying steals a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  The Afton-area landowners filed this lawsuit in September 2014. Last week, Dominion decided to move the pipeline path away from their properties but the landowners are not dropping the lawsuit, because they say a fundamental right is at risk.

Opponents of Dominion's proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed into the federal courthouse in Charlottesville for Tuesday’s hearing in front of Judge Elizabeth Dillon.
Neal Walters, the attorney representing the five Nelson County landowners, argues a Virginia law that allows natural gas companies to survey private property is unconstitutional.

“Our position is – look - it's private property. I have the right to tell people you can't come on my property if it's just for your convenience. The constitution says you can't do that,” he stated.
Frank Mack of Dominion contends it is following the law and needs to survey properties to find the best pipeline route with the least environmental impact.
“We feel the law as it is written right now is sensitive to the need for growth in infrastructure projects and in the same regard the need to protect private property,” he said.

Interestingly, Dominion announced it is rerouting the pipeline away from these five property owners.  They're not dropping the lawsuit, since the energy company admits federal regulators could recommend the pipeline go back through Afton.

A lawyer from the Virginia attorney general's office was in court to support Dominion's argument to dismiss the suit.
Judge Dillon is considering all the arguments and promised to make a decision as soon as possible, saying, "I understand the importance of this case to all involved."

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