• 59°

Defense League lobbies for landowner easements

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has requested the Attorneys General of North Carolina and Virginia intervene on behalf of landowners who provided easements for the now cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

A portion of that pipeline was slated to pass through a portion of Northampton County.

The ACP was a partnership between companies Dominion and Duke Energy.

According to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, “the pipeline company has refused to vacate all easements, even those gained from eminent domain proceedings through Federal courts. Many of the properties are owned by the families of freed slaves and are known as heir properties, and members of other environmental justice communities, including members of the Lumbee Tribe.

They added that US District Judge Terrence Boyle chastised ACP lawyers last July during a hearing when he said: “Here they are aggressively taking the bit in their teeth and running through several states grabbing land and throwing money and on a Sunday afternoon they decide, well, maybe we don’t need this anymore and let’s just fold up our tent. You’ve got tens or dozens or hundreds of easements that are conveyances by operation of law of fee title to pieces – to burdens on land throughout — checker boarded throughout this area. That doesn’t go away.”

BREDL organizers Therese Vick and Sharon Ponton, from North Carolina and Virginia, respectively, told Attorneys General Josh Stein and Mark Herring, “The threat and impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline remain— hanging over communities like the proverbial sword of Damocles. We urge you to act now to protect property owners.”

In her individual letter to Stein, Vick wrote: “Dozens of properties were accessed by the ‘quick take’ process – some owners were never ‘found’ and thus not contacted except through public notices in local newspapers. They may not even know that this has happened to them. Heirs property landowners, of which there are many, are particularly vulnerable because ACP most often received those easements by filing eminent domain proceedings in Federal court against them as ‘unknown heirs’ of the original landowner in a ‘catch all’ fashion.”

Vick wrote that while the aforementioned practice is legal, it is profoundly unjust.”

“Many of the heirs were never notified or paid for the easements on properties purchased as long as 140 years ago and held by these families as tenants in common,” Vick wrote in her letter. “Dominion and Duke, rather than returning the easements to the heirs, will require these families to hire an attorney, creating an additional financial burden on them, to attempt to remove these encumbrances from their properties. No landowner, including heirs property owners, asked for the ACP to build on their properties. They should not have to beg, nor pay for attorneys to petition the courts for the easements to be vacated.”

 

 

 

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal