Federal Judge Pushes Pause Button on Mountain Valley Pipe in VA

In mid-January MDN brought you the news that (sadly) Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) had to file in federal court to “condemn” some holdout landowner properties along the pipeline’s route (see Mountain Valley Pipe Tweaks Route, Asks VA Judge for Eminent Domain). MVP is a $3.5 billion, 303-mile pipeline that will run from Wetzel County, WV to the Transco Pipeline in Pittsylvania County, VA. Holdout landowners in Virginia hired attorneys who argued that because MVP continued to tweak the route of the pipeline (in an attempt to work WITH said landowners!), that serves as evidence MVP doesn’t know what it really wants and whom to condemn with eminent domain–therefore the whole thing should be put on hold. MVP wants condemnation using eminent domain for Virginia landowners to happen now, because they are playing Beat the Clock with tree clearing along the path of the pipeline, work that must be done by March 31st because federal law prohibits it after March 31st for fear of killing a few roosting bats (we kid you not). In a decision handed down last week, a federal judge gave both sides reason for hope. The judge ruled that MVP can proceed with eminent domain cases against some 300 landowners–a huge legal victory for MVP. However, MVP can’t (yet) enter those properties for tree clearing and survey work. Why? Because MVP hasn’t provided the judge with enough proof that they will be able to pay landowners a fair price for their property when the time comes to settle up. She’s not saying MVP can’t or won’t pay up, she’s saying she wants to see more evidence first (surety bonds), before she will let MVP begin work. Those opposed to the pipeline heralded the judge’s decision to temporarily prevent work as some sort of victory–which it is not. They lost the case! The properties are now condemned using eminent domain (or soon will be, once the court paperwork proceeds). The judge’s order temporarily prevents work, but we expect MVP will remedy that post haste so they can then start up the chainsaws and get to work…

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