|Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposed route (Associated Press map)|
Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers used eminent domain to force thousands of landowners to sell them narrow strips of land to bury the pipeline. But in July 2020, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled the project. Over a year later, those landowners still don't know what will happen to the easements crossing their property.
"Some landowners have miles of the pipeline already installed on their properties. Contractors for Duke and Dominion also cleared trees along more than 110 miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, leaving about half of the felled trees on the property," Emily Allen reports for Mountain State Spotlight. From West Virginia to North Carolina, "The proposed pipeline would’ve crossed more than 2,600 easements, covering nearly 4,300 acres of land — all of which Duke and Dominion now own the rights to," according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Dominion spokesperson Christine Mitchell told Allen in an email that the company will hang onto the easements for the next few years to "develop the most responsible approach" for restoration. "We plan to keep the easements until all restoration and monitoring are complete," she wrote. "However, we will evaluate individual landowner requests on a case-by-case basis."
Landowners fear the easements could be sold to another pipeline developer after the land is restored in one to two years, said Isak Howell, a Roanoke-based lawyer with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, which represents dozens of landowners in ACP cases. FERC hasn’t addressed the relinquishment of easements, Allen reports.