Thirdly, SSSPs are significantly smaller and less invasive than the industrial-sized footprint of MTPs, reducing the burdens, physical destruction, and functional loss imposed on the landowner by construction. Fourthly, SSSPs often increase the value of a tract of land because they bring integral services that landowners desire, whereas MTPs significantly decrease the value of land remaining after an eminent domain taking and bring a host of limitations, annoyances, and risks that landowners do not want. Finally, providing services to people’s homes by building SSSPs requires the use of specific properties; however, MTPs have at their disposal a host of potential routing options because their sole purpose is to transport their product from one point to another rather than provide service to specific homes and businesses along the way.
- Property Devaluation: Local realtors already see depressed prices and buyers cancelling contracts due to the pipeline.
- Low-Ball Offers: Condemning authorities normally offer a fraction of “just compensation” outside of court. There are many cases where offers are less than half of the property’s true value as determined by a court.
- Taxation without Rights: Owners will lose their property rights indefinitely, but still must pay property taxes on the easement.
- Utility Corridor: Almost without exception, pipeline companies seek rights to install an unlimited number of pipelines on easements they take. Even if they sign an agreement promising not to install future pipelines, they can easily break the agreement in the future by exercising eminent domain again.
- “Quick Take” Power: Land can be taken before landowners receive payment or have their case heard by a judge.
- No Jury Trial: While Virginia’s constitution guarantees jury trials for eminent domain cases, Dominion filing in federal courts skirts this protection, making it almost impossible to obtain “just compensation.”
- Business Losses: If a farm or business loses future income, the landowner will not be compensated for his loss.
- Legal Fees: Victims of eminent domain can only contest low-ball offers from Dominion by hiring expensive lawyers and going to court. However, even if landowners are able to prove in court that they were not offered fair market value, the courts will not allow them to recover their legal expenses from the condemnor, so a favorite tactic of condemnors is to drag out legal proceedings for years causing landowners to incur hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in unrecoverable legal expenses.
- Restrictions after Construction: Not only will Dominion take almost all rights to land it confiscates for the easement, it will also attempt to control landowners’ remaining, surrounding property. For example:
- Before any construction “in the vicinity” of the easement–as much as 100 feet on either side–landowners must obtain Dominion’s permission and pay Dominion for any studies or fieldwork it mandates.
- Dominion can require landowners to purchase a $1 million liability policy, minimum, for construction on the landowners’ own land.
- Dominion can destroy paved driveways and “will have no responsibility for the restoration of the pavement […] or any other associated costs.”
- Any road crossing built after installation will require very costly reinforced concrete slabs and other protection “at no expense to [Dominion].” This is especially important for farmers who require reinforced crossings for heavy equipment due to weight restrictions.
Click HERE to read a real-life story of how Duke Energy used eminent domain to abuse a landowner in Southwest Virginia.
- Many studies have shown that eminent domain appraisers, who often do business for the same clients time after time, have a strong incentive to undervalue land that is being taken in hopes of receiving future business.
- Calculations of Fair Market Value only include losses that can be proven and measured financially. Unfortunately, much of the value associated with properties, such as multi-generational family farms or homes with scenic vistas, is intangible and unmeasurable.
- Landowners cannot recover future loses from business.
- Federal law does not provide for jury trials to determine damages.
- Both federal law and Virginia state law allow “quick take” power to be used against landowners – meaning they can be evicted, their property taken, and construction begun before they are paid and before their cases are heard in court.
- The law in most states does not require the condemnor to negotiate on any level with the landowner.
- Landowners can only defend themselves in court, but both federal and state law do not allow landowners to recover legal costs from condemnors, even if the landowners prove that the contemnor’s offer was excessively low.
- Condemnors will often use legal mechanisms to delay payment to landowners for years.
- Although landowners will lose rights to their property indefinitely, they will only receive a one-time, lump-sum payment which is subject to taxation.
- In the case of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, specifically, landowners will continue to be liable for paying property taxes on the easement, although they will lose rights to the easement indefinitely.
- Many states also do not even allow landowners to admit offers from the condemnor into evidence to establish the value of the property, meaning companies often try to pay landowners even less if they do go to court.
Click HERE for the story of a landowner in Southwest Virginia who was abused by both the energy company seeking to take his property for a pipeline and the courts from whom he sought redress.