The Supreme Court of Virginia has once again upheld a controversial state law allowing natural gas companies to survey on private property without the landowner’s permission under certain conditions, another legal victory for the oft-challenged Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC (ACP) as it works to finish construction and enter service next year.
In the case of Barr v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, Virginia’s high court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s ruling allowing the 1.5 Bcf/d, 600-mile pipeline’s developers to gain access to private property for survey work. The particulars of the case hinged on whether natural gas companies seeking entry to survey under the 2004 law -- 56-49.01 in the Code of Virginia -- must be doing so to “both satisfy regulatory requirements and to select the most advantageous route” or if meeting either one of those conditions separately is sufficient.
ACP had sought and won a declaratory judgment allowing entry under the 2004 law after providing evidence that it needed to survey for selecting the best route possible, but a group of landowners challenged that ruling, arguing that ACP had failed to also show that it was necessary to survey to satisfy regulatory requirements.
The majority in the opinion, authored by Justice Cleo E. Powell, concluded that the provisions should be read separately.