By James Miessler
and Brian Williams
Capital News Service
A group of about 50 rallied Tuesday to oppose private contractors coming on their land surveying for proposed pipelines without consent. The group of protestors, composed of six separate organizations, demanded legislators repeal the Wagner Act, a statute which allows companies like Dominion to survey on the land of private citizens.
“The statute that we want repealed hands private property to for profit enterprises,” said Joanna Salidis, the president of Friends of Nelson County.
“I am here working to protect the property rights, rural heritage, economy and environment for all the citizens of Nelson County. Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline threatens all of those values.”
The House bill opposing the statute, HB 1118, is being spearheaded by Republican Del. Joseph R. Yost of Giles County, who says that even though citizen’s land is private property, the Wagner Act still grants natural gas companies access for surveying.
“If a natural gas company is interested in surveying your property, obviously they have to come and ask your permission,” said Yost. “You have the option of saying no to them, but then there’s a process in the section that we’re trying to repeal that allows them to do another notification process. They can then go through and eventually gain admission to your property to do the surveys. We’re trying to stop that.”
Legislative efforts to repeal the section aren’t a new thing, Yost explained.
“There was a similar piece of legislation, I believe by Emmett Hanger in Augusta County, last year,” Yost said. “I don’t know if it was a complete repeal but it did fail in the Senate. I revived his efforts in the House this year, and I believe Sen. John Edwards has an identical version of my bill this year.”
Even though the rally made clear that a number of citizens aren’t happy about the Wagner Act, the bill isn’t guaranteed to make it any further than it did last year. Its fate will become known fairly soon.
“It’s always possible it could fail again,” Yost said. “It hasn’t come up in the committee yet. I’ve been talking to my colleagues to see where they stand on this and move forward. It will be discussed sometime in the next two weeks, I imagine.”