West Virginia Supreme Court Sides with Landowners in Pipeline Survey Case

In a move which contradicts a recent California decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s refusal to allow surveys for a contemplated pipeline installation.

The difference between California and the subject may be that FERC must first approve the project. Approval had not yet been obtained in West Virginia for the project.

It will take years to parse the decisions, but one can well expect that the US Supreme Court will at one point determine whether surveys and entries prior to acquisition require and create a takings issue.

“Opponents of Virginia’s surveying law, including property owners who have resisted surveying efforts, have argued that the pipeline company should not have access to their property until after FERC decides whether to grant the certificate.

Otherwise, opponents have said, entry without permission and compensation violates ‘takings’ provisions of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In turn, the pipeline company has said it needs to survey properties to identify a route it can present for FERC’s review that minimizes negative impacts to the environment and historical and cultural resources.

Meanwhile, pipeline foes in Virginia, including Roberta Bondurant in Roanoke County, cite language in the West Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling that they say supports their efforts to overturn the Virginia surveying law.”

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