Pipeline renews lawsuit

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has re-filed a lawsuit against a Suffolk corporation that it hopes will help it gain entry to the corporation’s property to survey for a natural gas pipeline route.

The lawsuit against Davis Boulevard LLC, along with more than 100 others across the state, was dropped after Fifth Circuit Judge Carl Eason ruled against the utility company on a technicality the first time it showed up in court, in March.

Eason agreed with attorneys for Davis Boulevard LLC that it had not been given notice by the correct party as outlined in state law.

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But now, letters have been sent from the correct entity, and many of the original defendants — including Davis Boulevard LLC, which owns a five-acre parcel east of Blythewood Lane abutting the Great Dismal Swamp — have again refused to allow the company to survey. That leaves a constitutional issue to be decided.

The 540-mile natural gas pipeline by Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run from Harrison County, W.Va., to Robeson County, N.C., with a spur coming east from the Virginia/North Carolina state line to Chesapeake, running through Suffolk on the way.

Charles Lollar of Waldo and Lyle, P.C., who is representing most of the property owners being sued by the pipeline, argues that any entry onto the property by representatives of the gas company would constitute a “taking,” even if a temporary one, and that the owner should be compensated for it.

“The right to exclude others from private property is a fundamental right,” he said after the March hearing where Eason handed down his decision. “There’s got to be a check, and that’s what the constitution is all about.”

The surveys would include sticking flags in the ground, clearing brush, looking for endangered species, conducting borings and studying soil types. Any items of historical or cultural interest would be studied and catalogued but left in place, according to recent letters. Prior letters had said the items would be taken from the property, and that was a point Lollar made in the previous hearing.

The pipeline company says it already has met the state requirements, which include a 15-day notice ahead of the anticipated survey date, to be able to come onto the property but that it is asking for a court order in an effort to avoid problems with owners.

“Although no court order is required to conduct surveys, it is ACP’s experience that, in the absence of an order, property owners may physically inhibit and resist the inspection on the grounds that it is unlawful,” states supporting documents filed with the new lawsuit.