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Jury awards $523K in Virginia pipeline compensation dispute

March 18, 2022 GMT

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A jury has ordered a company that’s building a natural gas pipeline to pay about $523,000 to a Virginia family that owns land through which the controversial project will run.

Attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline argued during a four-day trial in Roanoke’s federal court that the Terry family deserved nearly $152,000 for their loss, The Roanoke Times reported. But the jury on Thursday awarded most of the $570,000 that the owners sought.

Four years ago, the company offered about $119,000 for an eight-acre (3-hectare) easement through the 560-acre (226-hectare) property in Bent Mountain. The family refused to sell, so Mountain Valley used the power of eminent domain and quickly started cutting trees on land that includes forests, meadows and headwaters.

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The verdict came after conflicting testimony from appraisers who were tasked with putting a price on land that has been with the Terrys for seven generations. Jurors had to sort through four differing values and accounting methods.

Frank Terry, who lives in a farmhouse on the property that he owns with his brother and sister, told the newspaper that the award was “a great thing for the jury to do” — but added that he would rather have the land back.

“I don’t want them on my property, and if I could I’d keep them off,” Terry said of the construction workers.

This isn’t the first jury verdict for a just compensation case involving the 303-mile (487-kilometer) pipeline. A couple was awarded $430,000 last May after saying their dream home was forever changed by the project.

Mountain Valley sued the owners of about 300 parcels who refused to sell their land in 2017. Most cases have been settled, with less than a dozen still pending. The company says about 85% of the landowners in the path of the pipeline agreed to sell and weren’t sued.