Appeals Court Allows MVP Quick-Take of Land to Proceed

In a February 5, 2019 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a District Court decision that allowed MVP pipeline developers to use the “quick-take” approach to obtain forced easements for about 300 parcels in southwest Virginia.

A “quick-take” involves the government or condemning entity formally taking possession of land prior to awarding compensation to landowners for their losses. Last year, the District Court found that this form of immediate condemnation was necessary given the timeline of the project, and thus allowed ACP developers to move forward with tree-cutting starting in February 2018. Since determining just compensation can be a time-consuming process, Judge Elizabeth Dillon found that developers would suffer “irreparable [financial] harm” if the project did not begin according to schedule. Judge Dillon also found that a delay of even a few months would be ecologically infeasible, since felling trees during the summer months would disrupt the habitats of protected bats in the area.

By solidifying property rights to land they had already begun construction on, the ruling is technically a win for MVP developers. However, the project still faces a number of obstacles before it can be completed. Property owners who have not yet agreed to a fair price for their land remain in negotiations with MVP developers, with several jury trials scheduled to determine fair prices. Developers must also get permits reinstated to allow the pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest. Additional litigation and regulatory hurdles may also delay the project in spite of this favorable judicial ruling.

– Alison Wrynn, Laura Hoey, Mark Short