UPDATE: Dominion Sues Landowners to Survey Land for Gas Pipeline
Dominion Resources is suing 47 Augusta County property owners who won't allow the company to survey their properties for a proposed natural gas pipeline.
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is suing landowners in Virginia to get onto their property. The project proposes a 42 inch wide natural gas pipeline that would run 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
Dominion is still trying to survey land that lies in the proposed path, but many landowners in Augusta and Nelson Counties haven't given permission, so Dominion is suing.
Cheryle Terriault and her husband James picked land off Hotchkiss Road in Churchville because it is quiet and peaceful place.
“We moved up here from Hampton to get away from the hustle and bustle,” said Cheryle Terriault. “We found our dream piece of property, and now it's going to be destroyed. We're pretty heartbroken about it.”
Dominion's proposed gas pipeline would cut through the Terriault property.
“We've received several pieces of documentation from them, and some maps that pretty much place us here in the line of fire,” said Terriault.
The first letter came in August, requesting permission to survey the land. In September, a second letter notified of Dominion's intent to enter the property. A third letter - that was not required by Virginia code - from an attorney threatening to bring legal action against the Terriaults.
“We refused to have them up here to survey the property,” Terriault said.
The Terriaults are being sued by Dominion, along with another 55 Augusta County landowners. Dominion Transmission representative Jim Norvelle anticipates 122 lawsuits in Nelson County.
Norvelle says Dominion is looking for the courts affirmation of Virginia law.
Travis Geary, co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance opposing the pipeline, says Dominion is trying to strong arm land owners.
“What a lot of landowners who hear the word ‘court' or hear that they're going to be sued, the immediate response is ‘oh no am I in trouble with the law? Am I going to have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees? What's going to happen?'” said Geary
Geary says the worst that can happen is the court allows Dominion to go ahead and enter landowners' properties. The Augusta Co. Alliance is advising people to meet Dominion in court.
“It's evident to us that Dominion is not going to regard landowners' property rights, so we think the best place to find those protections is in state court,” Geary said.
Norvelle says Dominion is trying to work with the landowners.
“Even though we don't need their permission to survey, we believe it's the right thing to do to continue to work with them. Just because we're filing legal action, I mean if they want to give us permission now we'll welcome that,” said Norvelle.
Cheryle Terriault says the lawsuit is intimidating, but she and her husband will fight.
“Some of my ancestors were Hatfields, and we don't give up without really, really fighting,” Terriault said.
Norvelle says landowners will have 21 days to respond once they've been notified of the lawsuits.
Dominion hopes to present final plans for the pipeline's route to the feds by next summer.