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Atlantic Coast pipeline begins suing property owners along route.

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World Pipelines,

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has begun suing property owners in North Carolina who have not agreed to lease their land for the planned natural gas pipeline.

The energy consortium, headed by Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, says it needs to clear away legal obstacles that stand in the way of construction, which is scheduled to begin early next year.

The project has fallen more than a year behind schedule and is facing an aggressive review by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Last week, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed seven condemnation actions in US District Court against landowners in Nash and Cumberland counties.

Hundreds more could be sued in the coming months as construction deadlines approach.

The litigation asks the court to grant Atlantic the property by eminent domain. Through eminent domain, the consortium hopes to gain access for tree clearing, trenching, construction and, after the project is completed, upkeep and repairs.

Atlantic wants permanent easements — the right to use land in which the pipeline will be built — plus temporary easements for construction.

The property owners would still keep ownership, but they would lose some use of their land in the pipeline’s permanent easement. They could not put a building there, for example.

The pipeline would run 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and 186 miles of North Carolina.

It’s estimated to cost US$5 billion.

In its litigation, Atlantic says it tried to make deals with the landowners but they have been unable to reach agreements. “Through cooperation, we’ve reached mutual agreements with almost 80% of landowners, and we’ve fairly compensated them for the use of their land,” Aaron Ruby of Dominion Energy said.

The company would rather not sue the remaining property owners to have the court settle the prices, Ruby said. “It is an absolute last resort that we’re only taking after exhausting every other option,” he said.

In related news, another state permit needed for the gas pipeline is being slowed.

The state Department of Environmental Quality asked Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers this week for more information for an air quality permit for a compressor station.

The department already has submitted four rounds of questions to pipeline builders over a water quality permit.

The new request indefinitely suspends the 15 December deadline to issue the air-quality permit for a planned compressor station. The date to issue a decision on the air-quality permit will now depend on the promptness of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s responses and the amount of time it takes state officials to review the materials.

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