The Mountain Valley gas pipeline scheduled to begin construction through southwest Virginia today was ordered delayed by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon yesterday.
The Roanoke Times reports the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) had requested permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to immediately start site prep work clearing trees for the 303-mile pipeline earlier in the week, citing the tree clearing must be completed on a self-imposed deadline before March 31 so the company can be in compliance with a federal wildlife mandate that protects cave-dwelling bats who roost in the trees from April to mid-November.
The pipeline's route cuts across the Appalachian Trail, running Mobley, West Virginia southeast to a transfer station in Pittsylvania County outside Roanoke, Virginia.
At issue in part 300 property owners who have not come to terms with Mountain Valley for their land. Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. Only nine of the properties have been appraised for just compensation.
Judge Dillon wrote in her decision released Wednesday, “Until MVP can provide a more fulsome basis on which the court can assure that just compensation will be paid, the court cannot allow immediate possession at this time to nearly all of the properties.” The court gave Mountain Valley another week to report back with a timeline for how long it will take the company to do more property appraisals to determine a bond.
Dillon did allow immediate entry on the nine properties have been appraised, but only after a bond of three times their established value is posted.
The MVP project runs through karst terrain which frequently includes caves and sinkholes. Construction in karst terrain is guided by identifying sensitive areas and developing a mitigation plan so that any pollution generated by the build will not be carried to other areas by underground water streams.