United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. GIBNEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Coast Pipeline, LLC ("Atlantic"), seeks to exercise
its eminent domain powers pursuant to Section 7(h) of the
Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. § 717f(h). On January 31,
2018, Atlantic filed its Complaints in Condemnation to
acquire certain easements for two underlying cases. Atlantic
subsequently served the defendants named in the two
underlying cases personally or through publication. On August
16, 2018, the Clerk entered default against all the
defendants who failed to respond in Underlying No.
2:18-cv-00058-JAG. On January 18, 2019, the Clerk entered
default against all the defendants who failed to respond in
Underlying No. 2:18-cv-00417-JAG (the "Non-Responding
Defendants"). Atlantic filed its Motion for Default
Judgment against the Non-Responding Defendants in Underlying
No. 2:18-cv-00058-JAG on August 20, 2018. Dk. No. 124.
Atlantic renewed its Motion for Default Judgment against the
Non-Responding Defendants in Underlying No. 2:18-cv-00058-JAG
and moved for default judgment against the Non-Responding
Defendants in Underlying No. 2:18-cv-00417-JAG on January 18,
2019. Dk. No. 477.
natural gas company in possession of a certificate of public
convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, Atlantic may condemn the property interests at
issue in this litigation and is thus entitled to have default
judgment granted in its favor against the Non-Responding
Defendants. On February 14, 2019, the Court held a bench
trial to determine the just compensation owed to the
Non-Responding Defendants for the property condemned.
the bench trial, the Court finds the following facts:
Atlantic Is a Natural Gas Company in Possession of a
Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity
Issued by the FERC
is an interstate natural gas company as defined by Section
2(a) of the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. § 717 et
seq. Atlantic is subject to the jurisdiction of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") and
is authorized to construct, own, operate, and maintain
pipelines for the transmission of natural gas in interstate
commerce. See 15 U.S.C. § 717; Dk. No. 478-1,
Memo, in Supp. of Atlantic's Mot. for Default J., Ex. 1,
Decl. of Jedidiah Spratt ("Spratt Decl.") 17.
is in the process of constructing an approximately 600-mile
underground pipeline and related facilities for the purpose
of transporting natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia
and North Carolina (the "ACP Project").
See Spratt Decl. ¶ 5. The ACP Project will
measure approximately 42 inches in diameter in West Virginia
and Virginia, and 36 inches in diameter in North Carolina.
Certain extensions of the ACP Project will measure 20 inches
in diameter from Northampton County, North Carolina, to the
City of Chesapeake, Virginia, and 16 inches in diameter in
Brunswick County, Virginia, and Greensville County, Virginia.
See Spratt Decl. ¶ 8. Natural
gas transported by the ACP Project will serve multiple public
utilities. See Spratt Decl. ¶ 9.
filed an application for a certificate of public convenience
and necessity with FERC on September 18, 2015, FERC Docket
No. CP15-554-000, in which it sought permission to construct
the ACP Project and attendant facilities. On October 13,
2017, FERC issued a certificate of public convenience and
necessity (the "FERC Certificate") authorizing
Atlantic to construct and operate the ACP Project. (Comp. Ex.
2). See Spratt Decl. ¶ 10; see also
Spratt Decl., Ex. A, the October 13, 2017 Certificate of
Public Convenience and Necessity Issued by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission to Atlantic.
Atlantic Seeks to Condemn Certain Property Rights from the
the Non-Responding Defendants for each underlying case owns a
property interest in the certain tracts of land sought to be
condemned by Atlantic. See Dk. No. 1, ¶16
(2:18-cv-00058-JAG); Dk. No. 1, ¶ 16
(2:18-cv-00417-JAG). Atlantic filed its Complaints in
Condemnation to acquire easements from the Non-Responding
Defendants for the two underlying cases. See Dk. No.
1, ¶ 2 (2:18-cv-00058-JAG); Dk. No. 1, ¶ 2
(2:18-cv-00417-JAG). Specifically, Atlantic seeks to
construct a portion of the ACP Project on the Properties
described in detail below. The ACP Project cannot be
constructed until Atlantic acquires certain permanent
easements (the "Permanent Easements") and temporary
easements (the "Temporary Easements") (collectively
the "Easements") on the Properties. The Easements
are necessary for constructing, maintaining, operating,
altering, testing, replacing, and repairing the ACP Project.
See Dk. No. 1, ¶ 16 (2:18-cv-00058-JAG); Dk.
No. 1, ¶ 16 (2:18-cv-00417-JAG).
Permanent Easements to be taken on each Property include a
permanent and exclusive easement and right-of-way to
construct, operate, maintain, replace, repair, remove, or
abandon the ACP Project and appurtenant equipment and
facilities, as well as the right to change the location of
the installed pipeline within the area of the Permanent
Easement as may be necessary or advisable. See Dk.
No. 1, ¶ 18 (2:18-cv-00058-JAG); Dk. No. 1, ¶ 18
Temporary Easements will enable Atlantic to construct the ACP
Project and engage in restoration or clean-up activities. The
Temporary Easements are requested as of the date of
authorized entry onto the Property and their use is required
until all work, including restoration, is complete. The
Temporary Easements will be effective and condemned for a
period not to exceed five (5) years following Atlantic's
possession of the Easements. See Dk. No. 1, ¶
19 (2:18-cv-00058-JAG); Dk. No. 1, ¶ 19
Underlying Case Number 2:18-cv-00058-JAG
defendants Muneer Elahi, Robyn Shahid, Rodyn Shahid, Gary J.
Maddox, Larry Skinner, Rodney Lionel Tillery, Valencia
Tillery, Cynthia A. Thompson, Barry L. Skinner, Kennedy
Tyrone Skinner, Fletcher Skinner, Leroy Skinner, Andre
Skinner, Damon Lovell Tillery, Eunice Willis, Marie Rivers,
Ronald Parker, Sudie V. Skinner, Terrelle Warren, Lloyd E.
Pettus, Ahmad Khalil Shy, Jr., the Unknown Heirs of Billy
Earl Briggs, the Unknown Heirs of Brenda D. Willis, the
Unknown Heirs of Earlo White, the Unknown Heirs of Georgiana
Willis a/k/a Beatrice Willis a/k/a Beatrice Powell, the
Unknown Heirs of Louise White, the Unknown Heirs of Margaret
Armstrong, the Unknown Heirs of Mary B. White, the Unknown
Heirs of Thomas Willis, and the Unknown Heirs of Viola Willis
Sumler own real property located in the City of Suffolk,
Virginia, and more specifically a parcel composed of 1.00
acre, more or less, and being more particularly described as
the "first" tract of land described in that certain
Deed recorded in Deed Book 122, Page 412, recorded among the
land records of the City of Suffolk, Virginia, and as further
identified as Parcel Identification No. 303677000 (27*3A)
(the "Tillery Property"). See Compl.
¶ 5, Dk. No. 1 (2:18-cv-00058-JAG).
attempted to negotiate to acquire Easements over the Tillery
Property for the purpose of the construction of an interstate
natural gas pipeline. See Spratt Decl. ¶¶
12-14. Atlantic has settled with 90 known landowners for the
Tillery Property. The remaining, active defendants in this
case are a mix of known landowners and unknown heirs who
collectively have a roughly 41% ownership interest in the
Tillery Property. Atlantic, despite negotiation efforts, has
been unable to acquire by contract, or has been unable to
agree with the remaining defendants as to the compensation to
be paid for, the necessary easements to construct, operate,
and maintain a pipeline for the transportation of natural
area and dimensions of the Easements Atlantic seeks to
condemn on the Tillery Property are depicted in Exhibit 4 to
the Complaint in Condemnation. See Dk. No. 1-4
(2:18-cv-00058-JAG); see also Atlantic's Trial
Exhibit No. 3. Dk. No. 419. The precise legal rights that
make up the Easements Atlantic seeks to condemn in the
Tillery Property are enumerated in Atlantic's Trial
Exhibit No. 2. Dk. No. 419.
Underlying Case ...