February 24, 2017 Read More →

Grass-Roots Resistance to Pipeline Company’s Eminent Domain Orders in West Virginia

Stuebenville (Ohio) Herald-Star:

As a 29-year Army soldier and former West Virginia State Police trooper, trooper, Larry Helmick said he is no stranger to the federal courthouse in Wheeling, where he and dozens of other property owners face a sweeping eminent domain lawsuit from the company building the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline.

“I have testified in that courtroom to put drug dealers in jail,” Helmick said, regarding his work as a trooper in Wetzel County. “Now, I’m going to be there facing them taking my property.”

In Ohio and West Virginia, the company building the natural gas pipeline is filing to use eminent domain. The pipeline will be up to 42 inches in diameter on its route stretching from Doddridge County, W.Va., to Michigan. Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted approval for the project, which will be able to ship up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

The Rover is one of several interstate pipelines — along with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Leach XPress and the Nexus Pipeline — that industry leaders believe are necessary to move natural gas to market.

Helmick, a Sistersville-area resident, is one of numerous West Virginia landowners facing an eminent domain lawsuit in federal court. Rover’s complaint shows the company is suing such entities and individuals including Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher, Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil, the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, Southwestern Energy Co., Statoil, Consol Energy and American Electric Power.

The company filed a similar federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Ohio, where the pipeline system runs through portions of Belmont, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson counties. There are so many defendants in Ohio that the first 258 pages of the complaint are devoted to identifying them.

“Rover has not been able to acquire by contract and/or is unable to agree as to the amount of compensation to be paid for the easements …” the company’s West Virginia complaint reads.

Helmick said the company offered him $24,000 to cross his property, on which he said he has two houses valued at $300,000 and $150,000. He did not believe the $24,000 was close to a fair price for all the disruption the work will bring for his family.

“It will decrease the value of our property. They are going to be here all the time, disrupting our lives,” Helmick said. “Their temporary construction zone is within 21 feet of our house. We are getting railroaded.

“It’s not right,” Helmick added. “We work. We pay our taxes. We do everything we are supposed to do. And then, to have them come in and just so nonchalantly say, ‘We don’t care what we do to you and your family,’ is really frustrating.”

Eminent domain pushes Rover project

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