The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments Tuesday in an appeal filed in response to a lower court’s ruling in a Monroe County civil case concerning access to private property by agents of developers of a proposed natural gas pipeline.
Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is appealing the Monroe Circuit Court’s order of a permanent injunction, prohibiting the agents’ entry to the Greenville property of Brian and Doris McCurdy under the power of eminent domain. The company sought entry in order to complete a survey and environmental study associated with the planned construction of the pipeline which, when completed, will stretch 300 miles from Wetzel County, W.Va., to the Virginia coast.
In its appeal, MVP maintains that Monroe Circuit Judge Robert Irons erred in ruling that the proposed pipeline is not for a public use and in denying entry for surveying. The company also claims Irons erred in ruling that entry for surveying requires a finding of public use.
In the McCurdys’ response, they assert that the judge “correctly concluded” that a for-profit pipeline company which is “pursuing a project that would not benefit the general public of West Virginia, would not be for public use under West Virginia law, and has not been authorized by any governmental entity” cannot enter private property in the state without the consent of the landowner.
“There’s very little benefit to the citizens of West Virginia,” Judge Irons said in entering a declaratory judgment for the McCurdys at the Circuit Court level in August of last year.
Irons said he would be willing to reconsider his ruling if the pipeline developers were to present convincing evidence to the contrary. He advised MVP’s attorneys that they would improve their client’s chances of gaining eminent domain powers if they were to demonstrate that West Virginia gas utility companies will be allowed to tap this pipeline.
Upon conclusion of oral argument of the appeal, the Supreme Court will take one of three steps:
1 - Decide the case on the merits by issuing a memorandum decision which explains the reasons why the court is not issuing an opinion
2 - Decide the case on the merits by issuing an opinion
3 - Issue an appropriate order
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