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Appeals court: Mountain Valley Pipeline not required to condemn coal property

Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC had no obligation to take the coal beneath the pipeline it is building to move natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia after taking an easement by eminent domain, a federal appeals court ruled March 13.

When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized the natural gas company to exercise the right of eminent domain to build a pipeline, it gave the company "sole power to define the extent of the taking," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit wrote. Western Pocahontas Properties Limited Partnership argued that Mountain Valley should have condemned the mineral rights and coal estate when it condemned easements on three parcels of land belonging to Western Pocahontas.

Western Pocahontas' arguments essentially assert Mountain Valley is going to take more property than it has represented and must condemn that property now, the court wrote. Because all of Western Pocahontas' potential losses are compensable, it could recover any losses in an inverse condemnation action if necessary, the written opinion states.

The Mountain Valley pipeline would transport gas produced in West Virginia to mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets.