Gas pipeline compensation dispute goes to trial in Virginia

March 15, 2022 GMT

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — The amount of money a company should have to pay the owners of a Virginia property it is building a natural gas pipeline through is being determined in a weeklong jury trial.

Mountain Valley Pipeline used eminent domain to take part of the Terry family’s Bent Mountain property four years ago, The Roanoke Times reported. Proceedings over the compensation amount started Monday in Roanoke’s federal court.

The tract is worth $2 million, according to Joe Sherman, an attorney representing Frank Terry, his brother John Coles Terry and his sister Elizabeth Terry Reynolds. Sherman said during opening statements that plowing a trench to bury the pipeline through a scenic stretch of land and headwaters would lower the property’s value by about a third.

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“The pipeline corridor will run through this land forever,” he told the jury. “The Terrys can’t afford to compromise, and you shouldn’t either.”

About a half-mile of the 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline will pass through the property. The family’s representation says the company should have to pay $650,000, but Mountain Valley argues that a fair compensation amount is closer to $150,000.

Testimony between appraisers for both sides is expected during the trial — which could lead to the second jury verdict in a just compensation case involving the pipeline. A couple was awarded $430,000 last May after saying their dream home was forever changed by the controversial project.

Mountain Valley sued the owners of about 300 parcels who refused to sell their land in 2017. Most cases have been settled, with less than a dozen still pending. The company says about 85% of the landowners in the path of the pipeline agreed to sell and weren’t sued.

The Terrys haven’t let their land go without a fight. Coles Terry’s wife and daughter camped in tree stands for more than a month in an effort to stop tree cutting when work reached Bent Mountain in the spring of 2018.

Coles Terry and Reynolds, who own other land nearby, also had parts of their property taken by eminent domain and are set to have just compensation trials later this year.