Representatives of energy giant Dominion Resources were caught off guard this week by landowners outraged over the company’s threatened use of eminent domain in the construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Bruce McKay, Senior Energy Policy Director of Dominion, struggled to explain the utility’s position to an increasingly skeptical audience during a panel at the Republican Party of Virginia Advance in Richmond Dec. 10.
Dominion thought they had the deck stacked in their favor.
They didn’t expect Virginia property owners directly affected by the pipeline to show up, advocating for their rights. The property owners’ message was simple: “Pipeline yes, eminent domain no.”
Led by Americans for Personal Property, Energy and Landowners (APPEAL), the grassroots coalition set up a table amidst the various Republican candidates, asking them to sign a petition to follow their ideals of limited government as well as energy independence. “We are in favor of the pipeline, but Dominion does not have to use eminent domain to take our land without just compensation,” said Jon Ansell. “You can either build it along existing easements, or give the property owners a small percentage of the proceeds like they do with fracking or gas extraction in Alaska. It’s simple.”
The property owners definitely stirred up a hornet’s nest that Dominion wasn’t expecting. Outside the panel room the property rights advocates clashed with event officials. They were forbidden from raising their signs opposing eminent domain. Henry Howell, an attorney representing the landowners, passionately argued about the importance of property rights to all Americans, especially for Republicans, and called out the hypocrisy of the aggression towards the property owners.
Multiple questions were submitted by attendees who voiced their concern about using eminent domain for the ACP. McKay was visibly flustered at the number of questions posed on the subject, then played dodgeball. He threw out confusing rules and facts to try to make it seem impossible to change the current pipeline plans.
Landowners weren’t buying it. After the panel, landowner Colin Winter confronted the Dominion representative, pleading with them to understand how much of an impact the pipeline was having on their way of life.
Even some of the public in attendance confronted Dominion after the panel. When faced with a large group of attendees advocating for greater compensation for the farmers and property owners, McKay was forced to admit it sounded like it could work.
Jon Ansell said APPEAL wasn’t letting up any time soon. “We’ll see if Dominion heeds the warnings and suggestions for all those in attendance here today. Until then, we’ll keep fighting for our rights and the rights of our neighbors.”