ACP Emminent Domain part 2
In the first part of this pair of news stories we heard from two of the many landowners who do not want the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to come through their land. While final figures are not complete, into the hundreds of people approached by Dominion to sell access to their land for the pipeline are still saying “No.”
Two attorneys, Chris Johns, and Issac Howell of Appalachian Mountain Advocates met some landowners, and concerned residents in Williamsville last week to talk about eminent domain. That would be the law saying private property can be seized if it is for public use, and if the owner receives “just compensation.” Most of the discussion focused on how that “just compensation” is determined. The lawyers mentioned cases will often be settled before going to court, even when landowners may feel no amount of money actually compensates them for their loss. For those resolved to resist as long as the process allows, there is no guarantee they will receive everything their land is worth. Chris Johns explained how the range of what a pipeline company ends up paying often varies significantly.
“Well, what they’re obliged to pay you is their estimate of just compensation, which would be based on their appraisal, and they’ll do that at the beginning of the case, and that will allow them to make their deposit. And then at the end of the case, you know, the jury would decide how much they really should have paid.”
He went on to describe how the political process is also an effective way to make change for those who are not fighting an eminent domain battle themselves. Until recently, most representatives have been treating the pipeline like a hot potato. Johns suggested it’s time for that to stop.
“I mean they’re here to serve us. I think they get confused sometimes, but they are our servants, not the other way around, and how do they know how to serve us unless we tell them what we need?”
He spent some time working on Capital Hill in Washington and observed first hand.
“You’d be surprised at how few letters from constituents it takes, to get their attention.”
“There’s at least one candidate who’s indicated strong opposition to the pipelines, and has indicated that if elected, he would not sign the 401 certification. Governor Cuomo up in New York did a similar thing, and that effectively shut down that pipeline project.”
So, while one of the boots-on-the ground ways to resist the ACP is still with landowners and their lawyers, both attorneys encouraged voters to use the polls on June 13th too. Issac Howell, of Appalachian Mountain Advocates also described how when FERC completes its process, his firm is going to argue Dominion’s bottom line does not constitute public use.
“APLMAD is planning to, and has invested a lot of money in suing FERC if it grants the certificate. That is the legal path, the lawyers’ path, not the political path, but the path to challenge public use.”
For more information about appalachian mountain advocates visit appalmad.org or call 540-998-7744 .