With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project.

Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels.

“This is a victory for the landowners along the pipeline, absolutely,” said Stephen Clarke, one of their attorneys.

“There’s no way that they [Mountain Valley] can start construction on a vast majority of the properties,” he said — at least not now.

Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties.

But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court.

Read more:

The Roanoke Times – Laurence Hammack – 01.31.18

Posted by: Nelson Bailey

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