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Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC v. Simmons

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

February 2, 2018

SHARON SIMMONS, Administratrix of the Charles D. Simmons Estate (Parcel ID NO. 7-13D-11), et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (“MVP”), [1] seeks to condemn certain temporary and permanent easements necessary for the construction and operation of an interstate natural-gas pipeline. To facilitate the expeditious completion of its project, MVP moves the Court to grant partial summary judgment regarding its right to condemn the easements, and to enter a preliminary injunction allowing it to access and possess the property prior to paying just compensation (Dkt. No. 5).

         Having carefully considered the record and the parties' arguments regarding the pending motions, for the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion for Stay of Proceedings (Dkt. No. 31), GRANTS MVP's Motion to Strike (Dkt. No. 28), DENIES AS MOOT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 23-1), and GRANTS MVP's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Immediate Access to and Possession of the Easements Condemned for Construction of the MVP Project (Dkt. No. 5).


         This proceeding is governed by the Natural Gas Act (“NGA” or “the Act”), which provides private natural-gas companies the power to acquire property by eminent domain. 15 U.S.C. § 717 et seq. Under the Act, a “natural-gas company” is “a person engaged in the transportation of natural gas in interstate commerce, or the sale in interstate commerce of such gas for resale.” Id. § 717a(6). Such companies may build and operate new pipelines only after obtaining a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“Certificate”) from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”). As the Fourth Circuit has summarized:

The procedure for obtaining a certificate from FERC is set forth in the NGA, and its implementing regulations. The process begins with an application from the gas company that includes, among other information, (1) a description of the proposed pipeline project, (2) a statement of the facts showing why the project is required, and (3) the estimated beginning and completion date for the project. Notice of the application is filed in the Federal Register, public comment and protest is allowed, and FERC conducts a public hearing on the application. As part of its evaluation, FERC must also investigate the environmental consequences of the proposed project and issue an environmental impact statement. At the end of the process FERC issues a certificate if it finds that the proposed project “is or will be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity.” In its order issuing a certificate, FERC specifies a date for the completion of construction and the start of service. The certificate may include any terms and conditions that FERC deems “required by the public convenience and necessity.”

E. Tenn. Nat. Gas Co. v. Sage, 361 F.3d 808, 818 (4th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted).

         “Once FERC has issued a certificate, the NGA empowers the certificate holder to exercise ‘the right of eminent domain' over any lands needed for the project.” Id. (citing 15 U.S.C. § 717f(h)). The authority by which natural-gas companies may exercise the right is set forth fully in the Act:

When any holder of a certificate of public convenience and necessity cannot acquire by contract, or is unable to agree with the owner of property to the compensation to be paid for, the necessary right-of-way to construct, operate, and maintain a pipe line or pipe lines for the transportation of natural gas, and the necessary land or other property, in addition to right-of-way, for the location of compressor stations, pressure apparatus, or other stations or equipment necessary to the proper operation of such pipe line or pipe lines, it may acquire the same by the exercise of the right of eminent domain in the district court of the United States for the district in which such property may be located, or in the State courts. The practice and procedure in any action or proceeding for that purpose in the district court of the United States shall conform as nearly as may be with the practice and procedure in similar action or proceeding in the courts of the State where the property is situated: Provided, That the United States district courts shall only have jurisdiction of cases when the amount claimed by the owner of the property to be condemned exceeds $3, 000.

15 U.S.C. § 717f(h). Notably, the “state procedure requirement has been superseded” by the implementation of Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1, which provides the applicable procedure in most condemnation cases. See Sage, 361 F.3d at 822.

         There are, therefore, three essential prerequisites that must be met prior to exercising the power of eminent domain under the NGA. The natural-gas company must only establish that “(a) It is a holder of a certificate of public convenience and necessity; (b) It needs to acquire an easement, right-of-way, land or other property necessary to the operation of its pipeline system; and (c) It has been unable to acquire the necessary property interest from the owner.” Rover Pipeline LLC v. Rover Tract No(s) WV-DO-SHB-011.510-ROW-T & WV-DO-SHB-013.000-ROW-T, No. 1:17cv18, 2017 WL 5589163, at *2 (N.D.W.Va. Mar. 7, 2017).

         The law in the Fourth Circuit is clear that, “once a district court determines that a gas company has the substantive right to condemn property under the NGA, the court may exercise equitable power to grant the remedy of immediate possession through the issuance of a preliminary injunction.” Sage, 361 F.3d at 828. A preliminary injunction is proper when the plaintiff can “[1] establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, [2] that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, [3] that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and [4] that an injunction is in the public interest.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).[2]


         On October 13, 2017, FERC granted a Certificate to MVP authorizing construction of a 303.5-mile-long, 42-inch-diameter natural-gas pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia (“MVP Project” or “the Project”) (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 3).[3] The Project also includes three compressor stations in West Virginia and four interconnections along the pipeline's route. Id. at 3-4. The Certificate is subject to various environmental conditions, including those that must be fulfilled before and during construction of MVP's pipeline. Id. at app. C.

         MVP must obtain easements along the Project in order to construct its pipeline, and under the appropriate circumstances the NGA grants it the authority to do so by eminent domain. On December 8, 2017, MVP sought to exercise that authority over certain property located in the Northern District of West Virginia, which it could not acquire by agreement, by filing a complaint pursuant to the NGA and Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1 (Dkt. No. 1). As required by Rule 71.1(c)(2), it included descriptions of the property, as well as the interests to be taken (Dkt. Nos. 1 at 5-7; 1-1; 1-3). On December 13, 2017, MVP filed the following motions: Motion for Partial Summary Judgement and Immediate Access to Survey Parcel ID Nos. 02-4L-19, 02-4L-12 Owned by Arthur C. And Judy Roberts (“Survey Motion”) (Dkt. No. 3); Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Immediate Access to and Possession of the Easements Condemned for Construction of MVP Project (“Possession Motion”) (Dkt. No. 5); and Motion for Expedited Hearing on Motions for Partial Summary Judgment and Immediate Access to and Possession of the Easements Condemned (Dkt. No. 7).

         Following a status conference on December 21, 2017, the Court set a schedule for discovery and briefing on the Survey Motion and Possession Motion (Dkt. No. 33). The next day, several defendants filed a motion to stay proceedings on MVP's motion for immediate possession, which remains pending (Dkt. No. 31). On December 29, 2017, the Court denied the Survey Motion as moot after being advised by the parties that the motion was no longer in controversy (Dkt. No. 42). The Court subsequently granted MVP's motion for an expedited hearing, and amended the schedule to include a hearing on the Possession Motion (Dkt. No. 43).

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(e)(2), the following defendants asserted objections and defenses by way of an answer: Hilry Gordon, Gerald Wayne Corder, Randall N. Corder, Bryan and Helen Montague Van Nostrand, Charles F. Chong and Rebecca Ann Eneix-Chong, Nancy Shewmake Bates, and William G. Lloyd (Dkt. No. 23-1);[4] Western Pocahontas Properties LP (“Western Pocahontas”) (Dkt. No. 45); ICG Eastern, LLC (“ICG Eastern”) (Dkt. No. 48);[5] George Ernest Bright and William Townsend Bright (Dkt. No. 50); Dale Eastham, Travis Eastham, Brent Fairbanks, David Fairbanks, Michael Fairbanks, Edward Charles Smith, Sr., Edward Charles Smith, II, Todd Edward Smith, and Jeremy Collins (Dkt. No. 51); Adam L. Matheny and Glenn D. Matheny (Dkt. No. 52); and Arthur C. Roberts and Judy D. Roberts (Dkt. No. 53). On January 23, 2018, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing on MVP's Possession Motion (Dkt. No. 103). Thereafter, the parties filed post-hearing briefs regarding MVP's Possession Motion (Dkt. Nos. 112; 113; 114). The pending motions are now ripe for disposition.


         On December 22, 2017, defendants Charles F. Chong and Rebecca Ann Eneix-Chong (“the Chongs”) moved to stay proceedings on MVP's motion for immediate possession (Dkt. No. 31), contending that, because there is a pending application for rehearing before FERC, this Court should delay consideration of equitable relief for MVP.

         According to the Chongs, the regulatory process before FERC has subjected them to “administrative purgatory.” Id. at 2. At the evidentiary hearing on January 23, 2018, however, MVP and the Chongs advised that they had reached an agreement in principle regarding just compensation that would render moot the Chongs' motion to stay. Because that agreement is not final, however, the Court has considered the motion and DENIES it for the following reasons.

         When FERC issues a Certificate, aggrieved parties may petition for rehearing within 30 days. Unless FERC “acts upon the application for rehearing within thirty days, ” the application is deemed denied. Following further review by FERC, parties may seek judicial review, which is exclusively “in the court of appeals of the United States for any circuit wherein the natural-gas company to which the order relates is located or has its principal place of business, or in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.” 15 U.S.C. § 717r(a). Aggrieved parties are given “60 days after the order of [FERC] upon the application of rehearing” to seek judicial review. Id. § 717r(b).

         FERC Certificates are effective on the date that they are issued. 18 C.F.R. § 285.2007(c)(1) (2017). Filing an application for rehearing or seeking judicial review does not “operate as a stay of [FERC's] order” unless otherwise ordered by FERC or the applicable court of appeals. 15 U.S.C. § 717r(c). Only FERC and the courts of appeals have jurisdiction to stay the effect of a Certificate, and pending applications for rehearing - or even granted applications for rehearing - do not nullify the Certificate's effect in an eminent domain proceeding before the district court. See Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 7.72 Acres in Lee Cty., Ala., No. 3:16-cv-173, 2016 WL 8900100, at *4 (M.D. Ala. June 3, 2016) (collecting cases); Steckman Ridge GP, LLC v. An Exclusive Nat. Gas Storage Easement Beneath 11.078 Acres, More or Less, No. 08-168, 2008 WL 4346405, at *3-*6 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 2008).

         In this case, FERC issued MVP's Certificate on October 13, 2017. On November 13, 2017, the Chongs and a number of other interested parties timely moved for rehearing before FERC. They argue that MVP's Project is not necessary under the NGA, and that the FERC Certificate rests on a deficient final environmental impact statement, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (Dkt. No. 31-2 at 2, 6-7). FERC responded with a “tolling order” on December 13, 2017, which states:

In order to afford additional time for consideration of the matters raised or to be raised, rehearing of the Commission's order is hereby granted for the limited purpose of further consideration, and timely-filed rehearing requests will not be deemed denied by operation of law.

(Dkt. No. 31-1). According to FERC, such tolling orders do not constitute an “act[] upon” motions for rehearing, and associated Certificates are not final agency actions subject to judicial review (Dkt. No. 31-3 at 5). Neither FERC nor a court of appeals has enjoined enforcement of MVP's Certificate.

         While acknowledging that this Court does not have jurisdiction to stay the Certificate itself, the Chongs argue that this Court should exercise its equitable power to stay consideration of MVP's request for a preliminary injunction. They contend that FERC's tolling order “gores [them] on the horns of a dilemma”: MVP will contend that the Chongs may only challenge the FERC Certificate before FERC and the court of appeals, while the tolling order indefinitely delays such administrative and judicial review (Dkt. No. 31 at 4). According to the Chongs, they may be deprived of their property in this proceeding before the validity of the FERC Certificate is fully resolved, resulting in a “a clear case of hardship” and a “scandal to the administration of justice” that warrants the imposition of a stay (Dkt. No. 59 at 2, 5).

         In support of their request, the Chongs rely solely on Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248 (1936), which discusses the Court's inherent equitable authority. In Landis, the Supreme Court held that “the power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Id. at 254. “[T]he suppliant for a stay must make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward, if there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which he prays will work damage to someone else.” Foreclosing the district courts' power to issue such stays might result in “scandal[s] to the administration of justice.” Id. at 255.

         The Court acknowledges that it possesses inherent authority to stay consideration of MVP's request for a preliminary injunction, but concludes that several factors weigh against such an exercise of discretion in this case. First, the Chongs seek unusual relief. They do not ask the Court to stay this condemnation action in its entirety, but instead request equitable relief from the possibility that MVP will receive equitable relief. Yet the Court's analysis of whether MVP is entitled to a preliminary injunction necessarily will take into account whether “the balance of equities tips in [MVP's] favor.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. The Chongs' motion therefore is a mere redundancy.

         Second, the Chongs' argument would warrant similar stays in a broad category of eminent domain cases under the NGA. A review of the cases cited within this Memorandum Opinion and Order establishes that a significant number of eminent domain proceedings commence before administrative and judicial review are complete. See, e.g., Sabal Trail, No. 3:16-cv-173, 2016 WL 8900100, at *4 (collecting cases). In essence, the Chongs disagree with the structure of the NGA, which allows natural-gas companies to exercise the power of eminent domain upon receipt of a Certificate rather than after the Certificate has been subject to judicial review. The NGA also provides a remedy, however, by providing that FERC or the court of appeals may stay a Certificate.

         Indeed, the Chongs' attorneys have unsuccessfully requested such a stay from both FERC and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, both of which are fully aware that district courts hold the authority to grant preliminary injunctions in eminent domain cases (Dkt. Nos. 31-2; 47 at 6-7). That the Chongs have been unable to obtain the relief they seek in two other forums does not warrant an exercise of this Court's equitable power. Therefore, the Court DENIES the Chongs' Motion for Stay of Equitable Proceedings on Plaintiff's Motion for Immediate Possession (Dkt. No. 31).


         On December 21, 2017, several defendants moved to dismiss MVP's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (Dkt. No. 23-1). MVP moved to strike the motion to dismiss, arguing that it is procedurally improper (Dkt. No. 28).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 71.1 governs “proceedings to condemn real . . . property by eminent domain.” The rule provides for only one responsive pleading: “A defendant that has an objection or defense to the taking must serve an answer within 21 days after being served with the notice.” Among other things, such an answer is required to “state all the defendant's objections and defenses to the taking.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(e)(2). Moreover, the rule expressly states that “[a] defendant waives all objections and defenses not stated in its answer. No other pleading or motion asserting an additional objection or defense is allowed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 71.1(e)(3). As the advisory notes regarding Rule 71.1 explain, “[d]eparting from the scheme of Rule 12, subdivision (e) requires all defenses and objections to be presented in an answer and does not authorize a preliminary motion. There is little need for the latter in a condemnation proceeding.” The plain language of Rule 71.1 makes clear that motions to dismiss are not permitted in condemnation proceedings, rendering the defendants' motion to dismiss procedurally improper. See Atl. Seaboard Corp. v. Van Sterkenburg, 318 F.2d 455, 458 (4th Cir. 1963) (“We need not consider the dubious merits of the . . . motion to dismiss, for [it was] not [an] allowable pleading[].”). Therefore, the Court GRANTS MVP's motion to strike (Dkt. No. 28) and DENIES AS MOOT the defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 23-1). Nonetheless, to the extent the defendants raise similar arguments in their answers and responses to MVP's motion for summary judgment, they are addressed below. Accord Sabal Trail, 3:16-cv-173, 2016 WL 8900100, at *3.


         The Court may only exercise its equitable power to grant a preliminary injunction after determining “that a gas company has the substantive right to condemn property under the NGA.” Mid Atlantic Express, LLC v. Baltimore Cty., Md., 410 F. App'x 653, 657 (4th Cir. 2011) (unpublished decision) (quoting Sage, 361 F.3d at 828). As discussed, to establish that it has the right to condemn, MVP must demonstrate only that 1) it holds a FERC Certificate, 2) it needs to acquire the easements, and 3) it has been unable to acquire them by agreement. 15 U.S.C. § 717f(h). MVP has satisfied each of these elements, and is thus entitled to partial summary judgment regarding its right to condemn.

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” establish that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court reviews all the evidence “in the light most favorable” to the nonmoving party. Providence Square Assocs., L.L.C. v. G.D.F., Inc., 211 F.3d 846, 850 (4th Cir. 2000). The Court must avoid weighing the evidence or determining its truth and limit its inquiry solely to a determination of whether genuine issues of triable fact exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for the motion and of establishing the nonexistence of genuine issues of fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has made the necessary showing, the non-moving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” favoring the non-moving party will not prevent the entry of summary judgment; the evidence must be such that a rational trier of fact could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Id. at 248-52.

         A. MVP holds a FERC certificate.

         The parties cannot dispute that FERC issued MVP a Certificate on October 13, 2017 (Dkt. No. 1-2). Various defendants argue, however, that the FERC Certificate's conditions render it ineffective to grant the power of eminent domain under the NGA, thus divesting the Court of jurisdiction (Dkt. Nos. 69 at 3-4; 70 at 2-5). That argument is without merit.

         Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 717f(e), FERC “shall have the power to attach to the issuance of the certificate and to the exercise of the rights granted thereunder such reasonable terms and conditions as the public convenience and necessity may require.” FERC is capable of imposing conditions precedent to the exercise of eminent domain power, but it did not do so in this case. See Mid-Atlantic, 410 F. App'x 653 (dismissing case in which the FERC Certificate contained conditions that must be fulfilled prior to exercising the power of eminent domain). In addition, FERC can condition actual approval of a project on the fulfillment of certain conditions. See, e.g., Del. Dep't of Nat. Resources & Envtl. Control v. FERC, 558 F.3d 575, 577-79 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (noting that a “conditional approval” could not approve a project without fulfillment of a condition).

         Here, the FERC Certificate includes numerous environmental conditions, which require MVP to obtain a variety of permits and approvals from state and federal agencies at various stages of the Project (Dkt. No. 1-2 at app. C). There is nothing in the FERC Certificate, however, that conditions either approval of the Project or MVP's exercise of eminent domain under the NGA. Instead, FERC intended to confer the power of eminent domain. Id. at 27.

         In this case, therefore, “the FERC Order cannot reasonably be read to prohibit [MVP] from exercising eminent domain authority until it has complied with all conditions set forth in the Appendix.” Constitution Pipeline Co., LLC v. A Permanent Easement for 0.42 Acres & Temporary Easements for 0.46 Acres, No. 1:14-CV-2057, 2015 WL 12556145, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 17, 2015). When FERC's conditions are not precedent to approval of a project or the exercise of eminent domain, whether an applicant has complied with those conditions is an issue for FERC and cannot delay the exercise of eminent domain. See, e.g., Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC v. 7.72 Acres in Lew Cty., Ala., No. 3:16-CV-173-WKW, 2016 WL 3248666, at *4 (M.D. Ala. June 8, 2016) (“There is no basis to delay the condemnation proceedings because any failure to comply with the FERC certificate is an issue for FERC - not this court at this stage in the proceedings.”); Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 370 Acres, More or Less, No. 1:14-0469-RDB, 2014 WL 2092880, at *4 (D. Md. Oct. 9, 2014).

         Nonetheless, the defendants argue that the environmental conditions contained within the Certificate undermine its validity in this Court. They argue that § 717f(e) allows FERC to impose only limitations on MVP's operation of the pipeline, not prerequisites to MVP's Project. They argue that FERC exceeded its authority by imposing conditions that must be satisfied prior to construction, such as acquiring necessary permits. They ask the Court to find that MVP does not truly hold a FERC Certificate (Dkt. No. 70 at 3-5). The Court rejects these arguments for two reasons.

         First, analyzing the propriety and validity of a FERC Certificate is not the Court's role in the statutory scheme. As summarized by the District of Maryland:

A district court's role in proceedings involving FERC certificates is circumscribed by statute. The district court's role is simply to evaluate the scope of the certificate and to order condemnation of property as authorized in the certificate. Disputes over the reasons and procedures for issuing certificates of public convenience and necessity must be brought to the FERC.

Columbia Gas, No. 1:14-0469-RDB, 2014 WL 2092880, at *3 (quoting Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 76 Acres More or Less, Civ. A. No. Elh-14-0110, 2014 WL 2960836 (D. Md. June 27, 2014)). “The NGA does not allow landowners to collaterally attack the FERC certificate in the district court, it only allows enforcement of its provisions.” Transwestern Pipeline Co. v. 17.19 Acres of Property Located in Maricopa Cty., 550 F.3d 770, 778 n.9 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Williams Nat'l Gas Co. v. City of Oklahoma City, 890 F.2d 255, 264 (10th Cir. 1989)); see also Gas Transmission Northwest, LLC v. 15.83 Acres of Permanent Easement, 126 F.Supp.3d 1192, 1198 (D. Or. 2015). Therefore, the defendants' suggestion that this Court declare the FERC Certificate invalid is completely improper.

         Second, even if the Court had jurisdiction to consider the validity of MVP's Certificate, the substance of the defendants' argument is of dubious merit. The NGA simply does not contain a provision limiting the exercise of eminent domain when conditions have not been met, and “[c]ourts have repeatedly rejected similar arguments that a pipeline company cannot exercise eminent domain because a FERC Order is conditioned.” Transcon. Gas Pipe Line Co., LLC v. Permanent Easement for 2.14 Acres, No. 17-715, 2017 WL 3624250, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 23, 2017) (collecting cases). The plain language of § 717f(e) permits FERC to attach conditions to the FERC Certificate, not any particular kind of condition.[6]

         Moreover, the cases cited by the defendants do not support their argument. For instance, they citing Northern Natural Gas Co., Division of InterNorth, Inc. v. FERC, 827 F.2d 779, 782 (D.C. Cir. 1987), they argue that FERC may only impose “conditions on the terms of the proposed service itself, ” rather than pre-construction conditions (Dkt. No. 70 at 3). Northern Natural simply does not stand for this limited proposition. There, the question presented was “whether the Commission lawfully imposed upon the certificate the condition that [the natural-gas company] credit fixed-cost related revenues from its proposed discount resale service to the customers of its existing non-discount resale service.” N. Nat., 827 F.2d at 781. In Northern Natural, the circuit court reaffirmed that § 717f(e) allows FERC to “impos[e] conditions on the terms of the proposed service itself, ” not “on the terms of services not directly before the Commission.” Id. at 782. That ruling on the scope of § 717f(e) is thus wholly distinguishable from the facts of this case, where FERC imposed conditions on the construction of MVP's Project itself, rather than a separate “service[] not before it in the certificate proceeding.” Id. at 783 (quoting Panhandle E. Pipe Line Co. v. FERC, 613 F.2d 1120, 1133 (D.C. Cir. 1979)).

         In summary, MVP's FERC Certificate is effective in this Court and does not include a condition limiting the exercise of eminent domain. The Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the defendants' challenge regarding the validity of the Certificate, and thus ...

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