PNS Daily Newscast - May 27, 2020 

Four Minneapolis police officers fired following the death of a black man; and a federal lawsuit claims New Yorkers with disabilities excluded from expanded absentee ballot plan.

2020Talks - May 27, 2020 

Republican governors in Georgia and Florida offer their states as alternatives to North Carolina, after President Trump expresses impatience about talks of a more limited Republican National Convention because of the pandemic.

Property Owners Seek Justice As Pipeline Companies Seize Land

The Natural Gas Act governs land seizures, allowing for pipeline companies to invoke eminent domain to build pipelines. (Pixabay)
The Natural Gas Act governs land seizures, allowing for pipeline companies to invoke eminent domain to build pipelines. (Pixabay)
May 6, 2019

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Property owners are fighting back against pipeline companies who seize their land through eminent domain.

In 2015, Gary Erb and his wife received a letter from the Oklahoma-based energy company Williams, which stated that it would be seizing a portion of their land for the construction of a natural gas pipeline. However the couple has yet to receive any compensation for the pipeline which cuts across their homestead in Pennsylvania.

Erb said this situation is far from uncommon as his legal team has found companies have seized land from hundreds of private owners while offering below market value and using legal loopholes to delay compensation.

"You have these pipeline companies that do this every single day, and they're preying on the uneducated, private landowner to not know how to respond,” Erb said. “So they take full advantage of their knowledge and their deep pockets and their scare tactics."

Erb went to court and a judge ruled in favor of the company as the federal Natural Gas Act allows companies to take possession of land without first negotiating a price with the landowner. In a statement, the Williams company said they work to ensure that landowners are quickly compensated for their properties and that they do their best to reach an agreement through negotiation.

Erb's legal team, Virgina-Based Institute for Justice, have found federal law gives pipeline companies the right to seize land and begin construction even before negotiating terms of compensation. Erb said once the land is taken, property owners are rendered powerless.

"Once you have what you want, there's no incentive to be fair, and we found that to be the case,” he said. “Once they have all the leverage, they're not going to negotiate a single dime more than their original offer."

Similarly, companies building the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines have been able to take land needed for construction before paying for property. The Erbs said they plan to keep fighting and are petitioning the Supreme Court to take their case.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA