West Virginia property owners won an important case at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday when that Court sided with Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys, ruling that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot survey for its proposed natural gas pipeline without landowner permission. The Court held that such a survey would constitute an illegal “private taking for private use,” because the proposed pipeline would not benefit West Virginians.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came in a case brought by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of Bryan and Doris McCurdy. Mountain Valley Pipeline threatened to sue the McCurdys after they refused to allow the pipeline company to survey their homeplace in Monroe County, West Virginia. Appalachian Mountain Advocates helped the McCurdys sue Mountain Valley Pipeline first to keep the company from trespassing on their property. They argued that state law prohibits the pipeline company from setting foot on McCurdy’s property without their permission unless the pipeline company first showed that its pipeline would be for public use.
Mountain Valley Pipeline could not make that showing because no West Virginians will use the gas transported through the pipeline.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates represented the McCurdys when they won in the trial court in 2015. The pipeline company later appealed this decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. On November 15, 2016, the West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and held that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not for public use by West Virginians.
“This is a great day for private property rights in West Virginia,” said Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, who represented the McCurdys in their case against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “This ruling vindicates the rights of landowners in the path of this ill-advised pipeline and shows that private companies cannot bully West Virginians into allowing them onto their property without their permission.”
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would transport fracked natural gas over 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia to connect to the Transco Pipeline, a mega-pipeline that ships gas to burn in the Southeast. The pipeline would be 42 inches in diameter (by comparison, Keystone XL would have been just 36 inches).
Contact: Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney, 304.793.9007, firstname.lastname@example.org