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West Virginia Supreme Court Favors Landowners in Pipeline Survey Fight

Two West Virginia landowners have succeeded in their fight to stop Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) developers from surveying their property without permission after the state Supreme Court ruled in their favor on Tuesday.

The justices upheld a lower court's 2015 ruling that found MVP would not serve a public use under state law. Bryan and Doris McCurdy of Monroe County argued that MVP's developers have no right to use eminent domain to force surveys or take property under the state's eminent domain law, which requires such a project to serve the public.

The high court found that MVP would primarily serve markets in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, and would not supply any natural gas to West Virginians. The justices said their opinion was not a "vote against the pipeline project," pointing to the importance of the state's eminent domain laws for the rights of citizens.

MVP argued that all of the gas it would deliver would be produced in the state and enable more development. MVP has said its project would provide significant public benefits in West Virginia, pointing out the pipeline's economic benefits and long-term tax revenues.

FERC issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) in September for MVP and the related Equitrans Expansion Project. A final EIS is expected early next year and the pipeline is expected to be in-service by the end of 2018.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to follow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process, and we do not expect the West Virginia Supreme Court ruling to delay the regulatory approval process, or the current project schedule as filed with FERC,” said EQT Midstream Partners LP (EQM) spokeswoman Natalie Cox. 

The MVP would consist of 301 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline with a capacity of 2 million Dth/d. The pipeline would begin in northern West Virginia Wetzel County and travel southeast to an interconnect with a Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line compressor in Virginia. The project is a joint venture of EQM, NextEra Energy, Con Edison Gas Midstream LLC, WGL Midstream, Vega Midstream MVP LLC and RGC Midstream LLC.

Earlier this year, the state legislature rejected a bill that would have given natural gas companies the right to survey on private property without an owners' consent.

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