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Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC v. 84.53 Acres of Land

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

October 7, 2019

COLUMBIA GAS TRANSMISSION, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
84.53 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, IN CALHOUN, MARSHALL, RITCHIE, TYLER, AND WETZEL COUNTIES, WEST VIRGINIA, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 1559]

          IRENE M. KEELEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this condemnation case, the plaintiff, Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC (“Columbia”), previously obtained immediate access to and possession of certain temporary and permanent easements it sought to condemn to construct a natural gas pipeline (Dkt. No. 308). Now, Columbia moves for summary judgment on the amount of just compensation due for the portions of this property owned by the remaining defendants, Sandra Mays Eggleston (“Eggleston”), Mary Curtis (“Curtis”), and Gary David Clinton (“Clinton”) (collectively, “the remaining defendants”) (Dkt. No. 1559). For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the unopposed motion (Dkt. No. 1559).

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On December 29, 2017, FERC granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Columbia authorizing construction of 170.9 miles of natural gas pipeline in West Virginia (“the Project”) (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2).[2] The Project also includes the construction or modification of several compressor stations, a regulating station, and tie-in sites. Id. at 3-5. The Certificate is subject to various environmental conditions, including those that must be fulfilled before and during construction of Columbia's pipeline. Id. at app. C.

         Columbia had to 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 January 12, 2018, Columbia sought to exercise that authority over certain property located in the Northern District of West Virginia, which it was unable to 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), Columbia included descriptions of the property, as well as the interests to be taken (Dkt. Nos. 1 at 44-68; 1-2).

         On January 16, 2018, Columbia moved for partial summary judgment on its right to condemn the subject property, as well as a preliminary injunction allowing it to immediately possess the property (Dkt. No. 6). On February 16, 2018, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing, and on February 21, 2018, the Court granted Columbia's motion for order of condemnation and for preliminary injunction, authorizing Columbia to condemn and obtain immediate access to and possession of the subject property (Dkt. No. 308).

         On June 10, 2019, Columbia moved for summary judgment on just compensation owed to the remaining defendants (Dkt. Nos. 1559, 1560). Despite being served a Roseboro Notice (Dkt. Nos. 1565, 1566), the remaining defendants have not responded to Columbia's motion. Accordingly, Columbia's motion is ripe for disposition.[3]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). 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, 211 F.3d at 850. 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.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The question at issue is the amount of just compensation due to the remaining defendants for their interests in the outstanding tracts, Tract Nos. 4 (WV-MA-0165.000) and 20 (WV-TY-0008.000) (Dkt. No. 1560 at 1-6). Eggleston owns a 0.9259% interest in Tract No. 4, Curtis owns a 0.2778% interest in Tract No. 4, and Clinton owns a 0.9259% interest in Tract No. 20. Id. at 5-6.

         “‘Just compensation' is that amount of money necessary to put a landowner in as good a pecuniary position, but no better, as if his property had not been taken.” United States v. 69.1 Acres of Land, More or Less, Situated in Platt Springs Twp., Cty. of Lexington, State of S.C., 942 F.2d 290, 292 (4th Cir. 1991). “[I]t is well settled that in the event of a ‘partial taking' - i.e., a case in which the [condemnor] has taken one part of a larger tract, leaving the remainder to the landowner - the measure of just compensation is the difference between the fair and reasonable market value of the land immediately before the taking and the fair and reasonable market value of the portion that remains after the taking.” United States v. Banisadr Bldg. Joint Venture, 65 F.3d 374, 378 (4th Cir. 1995). When a taking is temporary in nature, because it involves a temporary work space, “the value of the taking is what rental the marketplace would have yielded for the property taken.” Banisadr Bldg. Joint Venture, 65 F.3d at 378.

         Generally, “the property owners bear the burden of proving the fair market value at trial.” Hardy Storage Co., LLC v. Prop. Interests Necessary to Conduct Gas Storage Operations, No. 2:07-cv-5, 2009 WL 689054, at *3 (N.D. W.Va. Mar. 9, 2009) (citing United States ex ...


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