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Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. v. 8.00 Acres of Land

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

January 10, 2020

DOMINION ENERGY TRANSMISSION, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
8.00 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, IN DODDRIDGE COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 50]

          IRENE M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (“Dominion”), previously obtained immediate access to and possession of certain temporary and permanent easements that it had sought to condemn in order to construct a natural gas pipeline (Dkt. No. 22). Dominion has moved for summary judgment on the amount of just compensation due for the portions of this property owned by the remaining defendant, Timothy G. Mayle (“Mayle”) (Dkt. No. 50). For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the unopposed motion (Dkt. No. 50).

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On October 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) granted a Certificate to Dominion authorizing construction of 37.5 miles of natural-gas pipeline in West Virginia (“the Project”) (Dkt. No. 1-3 at 7).[2]

         On February 2, 2018, Dominion sought to exercise that authority over certain property located in the Northern District of West Virginia that it had been unable to acquire by agreement. It did so 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), Dominion included a description of the property, as well as the interests to be taken (Dkt. Nos. 1 at 3-7; 1-5; 1-6).

         On February 2, 2018, Dominion sought partial summary judgment as to its right to condemn the subject property (Dkt. No. 3). It also sought a preliminary injunction allowing it to possess the easements (Dkt. No. 4). After the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing, it granted Dominion's motion for order of condemnation and for preliminary injunction on March 2, 2018, thereby authorizing Dominion to condemn and obtain immediate access to and possession of the subject property (Dkt. No. 22).

         On April 2, 2019, Dominion moved for summary judgment on the remaining issue of just compensation owed to Mayle (Dkt. Nos. 50, 51). Despite being served a Roseboro Notice (Dkt. Nos. 52, 53), Mayle has not responded to Dominion's motion. Accordingly, Dominion'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 Mayle for his 0.008% interest in the property taken by Dominion (Dkt. No. 51 at 1).

         “‘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 rel. and ...


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