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Big Pipeline Battle Brewing Nearby

PHOTO: A big legal fight is brewing in the Shenandoah Valley over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Opponents say that, like big pipelines built out West, this one would mean huge disruption of their land. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
PHOTO: A big legal fight is brewing in the Shenandoah Valley over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Opponents say that, like big pipelines built out West, this one would mean huge disruption of their land. Photo courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
January 5, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Hundreds of Virginia landowners are refusing to let Dominion survey for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The power company is suing about fifty of them and says it will sue more. Community organizers say the majority of landowners on the route in Augusta and Nelson Counties, which border West Virginia, are refusing to give surveyors access to their land.

Dominion has said it plans to take nearly a 180 of them to court. Nancy Sorrells is the co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance, a landowners group formed to oppose the pipeline.

"It's a huge groundswell of community support against the pipeline," Sorrels says. "I served eight years as an elected official and I've never, ever seen such a coming together of the community."

Dominion says it has the right to force access because it will be meeting a public need, a demand for West Virginia natural gas in North Carolina and points east. Opponents say the real demand is for corporate profits.

The pipeline would be a huge project, 550 miles long, carrying 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day. It's one of three big pipelines that companies want to build to take Marcellus natural gas to eastern markets. Sorrells says Dominion has been "used to getting their own way" in the region. But she says the "bullying" has alienated many in the Shenandoah Valley.

"In Augusta County, about 50 percent of the landowners have denied permission to survey. In Nelson County, it's closer to 75 percent."

Construction of the pipeline would mean clearing at least a 125-foot-wide swath and digging a 10-foot-deep trench and leaving a permanent right of way. Several law firms are offering assistance for free and Sorrells says it looks to be a long legal battle.

"Dominion says it is for the public good and they need to get in there and survey those routes," she says. "People who are holding out against that say this is my private property and I don't want you on my property. So it's going to be decided in court."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV