Challenges to Eminent Domain for the MVP

MVP files for eminent domain against 210 WV landowners / Landowners’ lawsuit against FERC and MVP gets first hearing

Judge slows MVP’s effort to fast-track eminent domain lawsuits in WV

In Charleston on Thursday, November 16, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver signaled concern about MVP’s handling of due process for West Virginia landowners being sued for land easements. MVP has sought to fast-track the lawsuits and require all the landowners in the lawsuit to respond by December 4 to MVP’s motion for summary judgment to gain “immediate access and possession” for pipeline construction. Thursday’s hearing was an open “status conference” with attorneys representing both MVP and landowners.

On October 24, MVP filed action against West Virginia landowners of 140 separate property parcels in nine counties along the proposed MVP route. One-third of the West Virginia parcels being sought were located in Monroe County. The MVP suit listed 71 “defendants” who own property on 48 parcels in Monroe County. MVP filed a separate action against Virginia landowners that listed more than 300 separate property parcels it seeks to condemn. Landowners in both states are being sued for right-of-way, construction space, and access road easements for the 300-mile 42-inch natural gas pipeline.

At Thursday’s meeting in Charleston, attorneys for WV landowners, including Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, raised several issues, among them that:

  • MVP should personally serve all of the landowners with the lawsuits against them, instead of relying on a public notice in the newspaper.
  • Landowners should not be subjected to unfairly tight deadlines to respond to MVP motions.
  • There are unanswered questions about the exact boundaries of some of the easements approved by the FERC.
  • MVP’s owner-operator, EQT Midstream Partners, said in a recent securities filing that the MVP joint-venture partnership “has insufficient equity to finance its activities during the construction phase of the project,” raising questions about the ability to fairly compensate landowners along the entire project route.

Judge Copenhaver said the court was concerned about due process for the landowners and that “a number of significant issues” had been raised. Instead of granting MVP’s motions to fast-track the process, he ordered MVP to respond by Nov. 22 to a filing submitted by attorneys for some of the landowners on Thursday that detailed many of those issues.

“There is no prospect that the court is going to require an answer by December 4 to those [MVP’s] motions,” said Copenhaver.

Read “Judge taps on brakes in Mountain Valley Pipeline land easement case by Ken Ward (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 11/16/17)

Related article “Suit seeks to stop FERC from blocking pipeline appeals by Ken Ward (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 11/17/17)

Affected Landowners: Please stay in touch with your eminent domain attorneys for their latest advice and information. See also the attached Landowner Information notice from POWHR (Preserve Our Water, Heritage, Rights).

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the first of two constitutional challenges to FERC and MVP was heard in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia. There has been no decision in this case so far. For background, see Landowners along pipeline route sue FERC and Mountain Valley Pipeline, July 27, 2017 (Roanoke Times).