United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ORDER GRANTING PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE ISSUE
OF ITS RIGHT TO CONDEMN
Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission, LLC (“DCGT”)
has moved for partial summary judgment as to its right to
condemn the easements at issue in this action. After
considering the motion, the memorandum in support, and the
Affidavits of Michael R. Ferguson and James G. Barton
(“Ferguson Affidavit” and “Barton
Affidavit”), the Court finds the motion should be
granted as set forth below.
OF UNDISPUTED FACTS
case arises from DCGT's exercise of its eminent domain
powers pursuant to the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”),
15 U.S.C. § 717, et seq. and the applicable
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”)
Certificate order, attached to the Ferguson Affidavit as
Exhibit A. DCGT brought this action seeking certain easements
it requires in connection with its Eastover pipeline project
an interstate natural gas company as defined by the NGA. 15
U.S.C. § 717a(6); see also Ferguson Affidavit
at ¶ 8. As such, DCGT is subject to the jurisdiction of
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”)
and is qualified to, among other things, construct and
operate interstate natural gas transmission pipelines. 15
U.S.C. § 717, et seq.; Ferguson Affidavit at
¶ 8. DCGT has conducted extensive negotiations in an
effort to obtain the easements required for the project and
has reached an agreement with respect to the vast majority of
the involved parcels and landowners. DCGT has been unable to
reach an agreement as to the defendant parcels and landowners
in this action, each of which is listed below (collectively,
Landowners own or hold interests in real property located in
Richland County, South Carolina described as the Estate of
Janie Sims, TMS # R39100-02-05 (the “Property).
Ferguson Affidavit at ¶¶ 4-7. DCGT seeks easements
over the Property in connection with the Project as shown in
Exhibit M of the Complaint. Id. at ¶ 10.
FERC Certificate order authorizes DCGT to construct and
operate the Project, an approximately 28-mile long pipeline
and appurtenant facilities serving an industrial customer in
South Carolina. Id. at Ex. A. The FERC Certificate
order and the NGA authorize DCGT to condemn property
interests that are necessary for the Project in the event
DCGT cannot obtain those interests through negotiation with
the property owners. See 15 U.S.C. § 717f(h);
Ferguson Affidavit at ¶ 17. DCGT “has tried
multiple methods of negotiation, including sending multiple
written offers to the landowners and, in many cases,
in-person negotiations over the course of nearly two
years.” Ferguson Affidavit at ¶ 20.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material
fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Summary
judgment should not be viewed as a disfavored procedural
shortcut, but rather as a key component of the federal rules
as a whole and their goal of promoting “the just,
speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).
Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving
party “must come forward with ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The non-moving party must present
evidence, beyond a mere scintilla, from which a fact finder
could find in its favor. Anderson at 247-48.
must view the facts and inferences reasonably drawn from them
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Smith v. Univ. of N.C., 632 F.2d 316, 338 (4th Cir.
1980). However, the non-moving party may not rely on beliefs,
conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat
a properly made and supported motion for summary judgment.
Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75
(4th Cir. 1992).
DCGT's Right to Exercise the Power of Eminent Domain
authorized by the NGA and the FERC Certificate order to
exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn any easements
necessary for the Project that it cannot obtain through
negotiation with the property owners. As set forth by another
District Court within the Fourth Circuit,
The Natural Gas Act grants a natural gas company the power to
exercise eminent domain over the necessary property and right
of way to construct a pipeline if 1) the company holds a
certificate of public convenience and necessity, and 2) the
company cannot acquire by contract, or is unable to agree
with the owner of property to the compensation to be paid
Columbia Gas Transmission LLC v. 0.85 Acres, 2014 WL
4471541, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 8, 2014) (quotation omitted). In
this case, there is no dispute as to ...