Dominion sends letters to NC land owners who won't cooperate on gas pipeline

Dominion Energy said Tuesday it sent letters to 226 land owners in North Carolina and two other states who have refused to allow the company to survey their land for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route.

The Richmond, Va.-based company said the letters are a final attempt to get the land owners to cooperate before Dominion seeks court orders to gain entry onto the properties to conduct survey work.

Most of the letters went to Virginia property owners but 32 were sent to North Carolina residents who own 38 tracts of land. The vast majority of North Carolina land owners, who represent 1,250 tracts, have not tried to prevent Dominion from surveying their land, the company said.

Dominion is building a 550-mile natural gas pipeline from the Marcellus shale in West Virginia to North Carolina to supply Duke Energy power plants. The pipeline route will not be finalized until next summer, when Dominion applies for permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the project would be completed in 2018.

Property disputes are not uncommon during public works projects -- such as highways, transmission lines and natural gas pipelines -- that require the purchase of private property, sometimes from reluctant land owners.

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said the company is not required to notify the landowners and has legal authority to enter their land, but some property owners have resisted, so the company will seek court orders affirming state law. When the final route is determined, property owners affected by the interstate pipeline will be compensated for the loss of their land.

The letter says the land survey could result in a change in the proposed route, and urges the property owners to cooperate with the legal process.

"Unfortunately, if ACP is not able to obtain your consent to the Studies, we intend to file a lawsuit to secure a court order granting access," the letter states. "That is not our preference, which is the reason for this final request."

Landowners of about 73 percent of all the tracts along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route have given permission to survey, Dominion said.

Dominion sent letters to 189 Virginia owners and five in West Virginia. Of the 32 in North Carolina, 18 are in Cumberland Count, nine in Johnston County and three in Nash County. Northampton and Sampson counties were sent one letter each, and Halifax, Robeson and Wilson counties received no letters.

About 180 miles of the pipeline project are in North Carolina.

The pipeline will supply power plants with natural gas from fracking operations that have flooded the nation in affordable gas that is offsetting the need for coal.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer