Center for Law and government hosts discussion on property rights and the Virginia Pipeline

As the people and the government duke out the Virginia pipeline debate, representatives for the positions of the plaintiffs and the defendants sat face-to-face outside the courtroom, informing students on the legality of government projects conflicting with private property

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Center for Law and Government, a partnership between Liberty School of Law and the Helms School of Government, hosted a conversation about pipelines and property rights. The discussion featured guests of two law firms: Mia Yugo of Gentry Locke and John Thomas of Hafemann of Magee & Thomas. Helms School Dean Robert Hurt moderated the discussion.

“It is a fascinating issue, it is a very timely issue, and from a politics standpoint, it gets at the heart of property rights,” Hurt said. “But also, from a politics standpoint, it implicates what it means to have the infrastructure in place to be able to have an abundant energy supply and all the good effects on the economy that it has.”

Yugo, a recent graduate of Liberty School of Law, represented clients who do not wish for a pipeline to be run through their yard. Thomas presented the opposite side of the discussion, explaining the importance of the proposed pipelines. 

Photo Provided
DISCUSSION — Mia  Yugo of Gentry Locke law firm continued to discuss the matter of pipelines and private property with students in attendance.

There have been multiple pipeline projects proposed in recent years, Hurt said, with one going from the Western part of the state through the Eastern area to the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are many environmental issues to be weighed before a final say on the start of the pipeline.

In 2019, protests took place, including a man chaining himself to a tree and provoking terrorism charges, according to Mason Adams of the Virginia Mercury.

The protestors play one small part in the interference of the pipeline completion. 

“While protesters are placing their bodies in the way, legal and regulatory barricades related to the pipelines’ crossings of waterways, federal land and the Appalachian Trail stand in the way of completion,” Adams wrote.   

Hurt said there are two sides to be considered when deciding whether or not the pipelines should be constructed, and students should be informed on both stances. 

On one side, Hurt said, energy and electricity contribute heavily to everyday living and provide the high standard of living Americans experience. The alternative, however, is the legitimate property rights of landowners who place great value and significance in their land. 

Hurt believes the two vastly different sides make the conversation so exciting. 

“That’s why it is so interesting because it is the intersection of these two things that is often so difficult to reconcile,” Hurt said.

Slaughter is a news reporter. Follow her on Twitter.

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