palmer

Hazel Palmer (right) challenged the authority of surveyors for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to enter her property.

Courts are supposed to rule on the law, not to strike good balances. But by happy coincidence, the Virginia Supreme Court did strike a good balance in two recent rulings on surveying property.

Some landowners want to keep out surveyors for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But laws going as far back as 1782 have allowed the surveying of private property for infrastructure projects. All 50 states have similar laws, and courts have continuously upheld the authority to survey on private lands. What’s more, the mere act of walking across a property does not amount to a government “taking,” especially one for private purposes — which Virginia’s Constitution has prohibited since a 2012 property-rights amendment passed.

Nevertheless, the court said, property owners do deserve specific advance notice of when surveyors will appear. Good. Property owners understandably feel like Dominion and the other energy companies behind the pipeline are walking all over them. They deserve some advance warning at the least.

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