Landowners await decision on pipeline eminent domain suit

Published: Feb. 27, 2018 at 9:32 AM EST
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A U.S. district court hearing will continue into a second day as developers behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline take landowners

to court for permission to access their properties.

The project director for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline told the court on Monday the

needs to be complete by March 14, per environmental guidelines. The next time the process could continue is November, and the director argued this would delay the project — potentially costing millions of extra dollars.

The hearing comes after developers

with more than 80 percent of landowners, according to Dominion Energy Spokesperson Aaron Ruby.

But over a dozen landowners in Augusta, Bath, and Buckingham counties have thus far refused to settle with Dominion on parcels of land ranging from 0.09 acres to 27.85 acres.

Attorneys for the landowners questioned the urgency of the project's completion and the estimates of extra costs that would incur because of a delay.

Irene Ellis Leech, who owns an Angus beef cattle farm in Buckingham County along the path of the pipeline, attended the day-long hearing.

She expressed concerns about the construction's impact on her operation.

"How do we get the animals where they need to be? Will they have access to water?" she asked.

Leech teaches at Virginia Tech and said she planned on retiring on her farm.

"Honestly, I may continue to live in Montgomery County the rest of my life instead of moving to Buckingham like we had planned, because I'm not sure I could put my head down at night," she said.

Another landowner from Bath County took the stand to talk about concerns over the construction's impact on a possible archaeological site on his property. His attorney argued in court historical value of property was overlooked by land assessors.

If the judge decides to approve land easements, only a few reviews of plans by the state would be needed to begin full construction — which is now slated for this spring. The process is projected to last two years and be completed in late 2019, the project director told the courtroom.

Ruby said the project has undergone one of the most "thorough regulatory processes" in recent history.