Columbia Gas sues to lay pipe to Dominion plant

By Alex Bridges — abridges@nvdaily.com

Columbia Gas seeks to condemn land for a pipeline to the Dominion power plant currently under construction in Warren County.

The natural gas provider claims talks with the owners of more than six acres sought for easements fell through.

The gas company filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg on Friday against Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Cedarville LLC, E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., and “unknown persons and interested parties,” collectively identified as landowners. Richmond attorney Travis A. Sabalewski filed the complaint on behalf of Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, its parent companies identified as Columbia Energy Group and NiSource Inc.

The complaint identifies Warrenton-based Cedarville, E.I. Du Pont, and the electric cooperative, as well as the easements, as defendants. Summons were issued to the defendants Friday.

Documents filed with the lawsuit indicate Columbia Gas seeks an easement of 2.83 acres of property owned by Cedarville for the permanent right-of-way; 2.72 acres from E.I. Du Pont; and 0.77 acres from the electric cooperative. Maps show land sought for the easements lies along U.S. 340-522 (Winchester Road) and crosses Va. 658 (Rockland Road), and would cross a future connector to Va. 658.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Columbia Gas to build and operate 2.47 miles of 24-inch diameter, lateral pipeline and related facilities to enable the utility to transport natural gas for Virginia Power Services Energy Corp. Inc. to a new power generation facility under construction in Warren County, according to the complaint filed in the court.

“FERC determined that the Project is in the public interest and issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity,” the complaint states. “Condemnation is necessary because Columbia has been unable to negotiate with the Landowners mutually agreeable terms for easements necessary on the Properties.”

Columbia filed the complaint pursuant to the Natural Gas Act under which the company has a duty to provide service to its customers, according to the complaint. Columbia is authorized to build, operate and maintain the proposed pipeline pursuant to the certificate issued by FERC, the complaint states.

FERC approved Columbia’s application for the certificate by order dated March 20, according to the complaint. Under the federal act Columbia Gas has the right to condemn the easements across the properties at issue in order to build the pipeline, the complaint states.

Drawings filed with the lawsuit illustrate the easements sought by utility. The drawings show the location of the proposed pipeline in relation to the properties and the extent of permanent easements, access roads, temporary staging and workspace areas where applicable.

Columbia plans to bury the pipeline, with the exception of risers, valves, drips, hydrate removal systems and other related facilities, “so as not to interfere with the cultivation of the land,” according to the complaint. Landowners may use the properties to the extent this doesn’t interfere with or obstruct Columbia’s rights described in the complaint. Such prohibited use of the easement by landowners would include placing any temporary or permanent structure or obstruction of any kind, such as buildings, swimming pools, sheds, sidewalks, mobile homes, trees, poles or wires, water or sewer lines and roads.