fbpx

BREAKING: Federal judge rules in favor of two landowners in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case

Marvin Winstead Jr. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

Marvin Winstead Jr.’s pine tree will survive another day. US District Court Judge Terence Boyle ruled today that Winstead and fellow defendant Ron Locke do not have to allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractors on their property to begin tree-cutting — at least for now.

Earlier this week in Elizabeth City, Judge Boyle heard arguments from both attorneys for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, a company formed by co-owners Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, and lawyers for the landowners over tree-cutting and access to land.

ACP, LLC had asked Boyle to force Winstead and Locke to allow them access to their properties, even though they had not yet negotiated payment for the condemned land. ACP wants to exercise eminent domain on 2.27 acres of Locke’s farm and more than 11 on Winstead’s — including the family’s 100-year-old pine tree that lies in the pipeline’s path.

In his 14-page ruling, Boyle, a George H.W. Bush nominee, determined that neither Winstead nor Locke had not been given a reasonable opportunity to negotiate with ACP, LLC.

In Winstead’s case, surveyors allegedly trespassed on his property. Although Winstead did receive an offer from ACP, LLC in January 2016, he testified Wednesday that a surveyor’s crew chief subsequently told him his land wasn’t even on the pipeline route.

Locke testified that he had tried to communicate with ACP, LLC about compensation, but that the company had failed to contact him.

Eminent domain is a power usually reserved for government to build projects, such as roads, that are in the public interest. However, there is a legal precedent for private companies to use the authority as long as the project is also in the public interest.

While Boyle found in favor of Winstead and Locke, the rest of his order supported ACP, LLC’s claims. Those include that the company would suffer “irreparable harm” if access isn’t granted, and that it is in the public interest that ACP gain that access to build the pipeline.

Boyle also ruled that ACP, LLC can invoke eminent domain on property belonging to 11 other landowners in Northampton, Halifax, Nash and Cumberland counties, and start construction on those tracts.

However, Boyle wrote in his ruling, “to protect the landowners,” ACP, LLC must deposit an amount three times the appraised value of each parcel it plans to condemn with a federal district court clerk. If the appraised value is less than $3,000, then ACP, LLC must deposit $9,003.

The utilities also must obtain a bond twice the appraised value of the parcels.

The payments are only for security, Boyle wrote, and not the compensation itself.

Also today, as Policy Watch reported, ACP, LLC asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a deadline extension to begin its tree-cutting. That timbering was supposed to be finished by March 31.

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Lisa Sorg
Load More In Environment

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Jayden Seay, a sophomore education major at North Carolina A&T University, didn’t need any arm-twisting to… [...]

The prospective jurors started arriving after lunch. They walked, single file, through the metal detector at… [...]

In early February of this year, Brian Wrenn, director of the state’s Division of Energy, Minerals… [...]

Nye County, a rural enclave in Nevada, has positioned itself as the epicenter of a Donald… [...]

For nearly a decade, North Carolina has forgone billions of federal dollars, prevented the creation of… [...]

The Internal Revenue Service needs a lot more funding and staff – not less In December… [...]

The post When it comes to accepting election results… appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

‘The migrants are human beings, and we’ve got to treat them like human beings. They are… [...]

REPUBLISHING TERMS

You may republish this article online or in print under our Creative Commons license. You may not edit or shorten the text, you must attribute the article to The Pulse and you must include the author’s name in your republication.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

License

Creative Commons License AttributionCreative Commons Attribution
BREAKING: Federal judge rules in favor of two landowners in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case