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Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. 6.56 Acres of Land

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20019
Nos. 18-1159, 18-1165, 18-1175, 18-1181, 18-1187, 18-1242, and 18-1300, (4th Cir., 02/05/2019)

The Fourth Circuit affirmed district courts' injunction orders granting a pipeline company immediate possession of necessary easements along its FERC-approved pipeline route by eminent domain. Landowners argued that the district courts lacked authority under the Natural Gas Act to grant immediate possession—prior to the determination and payment of just compensation—because the Act did not expressly permit it. But the appellate court found that a federal court could indeed grant immediate possession of private property so long as a company deposited equitable funds with the court, as the pipeline company did here, for eventual payment. The landowners also argued the district courts abused their discretion in issuing the preliminary injunctions. But the court found no clear error or abuse in the district court's findings that the company would incur irreparable harm absent the injunctions, that the balance of the equities favored the company because the landowners' harms would be the same whether access was granted prior to or only after just compensation was paid, and that the injunctions were in the public interest as they would allow for expeditious construction of a FERC-approved pipeline. The appellate court therefore affirmed the district courts' orders.