The Federal District Court for the Western District of Virginia ruled Wednesday night, February 28, against landowners and in favor of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC. (ACP). The twenty-seven cases before the Court were in response to ACP’s motions for partial summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction granting the company immediate possession of the properties. ACP claimed it needs immediate possession by March 1 to complete tree felling before that activity is foreclosed in mid-March by the Migratory Bird Act. Otherwise, claims ACP, pipeline construction would be delayed.
In his 44-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon said that “ACP has demonstrated a concrete economic harm that it would suffer if the Court did not grant it injunctive relief.” In other excerpts from the opinion, Judge Moon stated:
- “The Landowners have failed to undermine ACP’s arguments in favor of immediate possession. This Court joins the many courts throughout this country that have held pipelines are irreparably harmed by being required to wait to access easements until after a trial on just compensation.”
- In commenting upon one Buckingham County, VA case, the Judge said that the landowner “raised interests that do implicate the timing of ACP’s access, but I find both that she will be able to mitigate the effects of ACP’s immediate access and that ACP’s need to begin construction on time outweighs her interests. These harms, and the harms the unrepresented Landowners will face, are real. However, the Court is confident that they will be at least partially ‘blunted by [the landowners’] right to draw down the money’ posted by ACP. The Landowners’ harms must be balanced with the equally real harms that ACP will face if its construction is delayed. I find the balance of the equities tips in ACP’s favor.”
- “This Court fully understands that condemnation often forces landowners to part with land that they would prefer to keep for many reasons, including sentimental ones. The Supreme Court has framed these losses ‘as part of the burden of common citizenship.’ But as the evidence before the Court demonstrated, this burden can be heavy. While the Court cannot repay the Landowners for these personal associations with their property, a bond will be set and a fund will be established to allow the Landowners to be compensated, subject to a final determination of value after trial.”