Nelson County Community Public Hearing on the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 21, 2017 (Contacts: Ernie Reed, lec@wildvirginia.org, 434-249-8330, and Kirk Bowers, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org, 434-296-8673)

**MEDIA ADVISORY**

Nelson County Community Public Hearing on the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 6-9 p.m.
Location: Nelson County Middle School, 6925 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston, VA 22949

Local citizen groups will hold a Community Public Hearing on Wednesday, February 22 from 6-9 p.m. at the Nelson County Middle School. The hearing will be held concurrently with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s “Listening Session” on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is conducting public listening sessions in Virginia regarding the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) at different locations throughout the state. The Nelson County FERC session begins at 6:30 p.m. at the adjacent Nelson County High School.

Concerned citizens will be gathering in the Nelson County Middle School library at the same time as the FERC meeting, to provide a welcome environment for the public to share information and show opposition to the ACP.

FERC has refused to hold true Public Hearings on the proposed ACP, instead holding “Listening Sessions” where citizens sit in a closed room with a scribe and speak their 3 minutes of comments in secrecy.

“The FERC process makes a mockery of the concept of a Public Hearing,” said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson. “FERC has also cut the time for public comment in half in Nelson County, severely limiting the time available for citizens to make their comments. This is despite the fact that opposition to the pipeline is strongest and the destructive impacts most significant here in Nelson County.”

“The alternate community hearing is intended to highlight the continuing lack of transparency and public disclosure by the FERC during the environmental review process,” said Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club. “The community meeting will provide an open forum for the community to prepare comments on the proposed pipeline for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed $6 billion, 42”, high-compression pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, across Virginia to North Carolina and the Tidewater area, causing environmental and economic damage to communities and private properties that it does not serve. Polls confirm that a majority of Virginians doesn’t want it, and gubernatorial candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties have come out strongly against it.

A press conference with local citizens opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be held at 6:10 p.m. at the Nelson County Middle School library. We encourage the press to attend and interview participants at that time.

To download the full press release from Friends of Nelson, click here

A Look at Easement Negotiations

The Roanoke Times has published an article, titled “Pipeline Easement Agreements Stir Questions, Strong Feelings,” that takes a close look at how easement agreements are proceeding for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).  The article reports that easement agreements have varied greatly, with compensation ranging from $1,000 to $356,880, and with some landowners signing company-drafted easement agreements without the help of legal counsel, while other landowners have hired experienced lawyers to help ensure that easement agreements protect their interests and fairly compensate them for losses in property values.  Some landowners have reported unfair and deceptive negotiation tactics on the part of Coates Field Service, an Oklahoma-based company handling easement acquisitions for the MVP, while others have reported fair dealings with the same company.  In Roanoke County, where opposition to the MVP has been strong, a majority of landowners continue to refuse to sign easement agreements. 

Of note in the article is lawyer Chuck Lollar’s advice to landowners facing the prospect of easement agreements and land seizure through eminent domain:  Lollar recommends that landowners approach easement agreements with caution and hire lawyers with experience in easement negotiations, “because the easement language MVP, ACP and other gas companies is using is broad, complicated and somewhat unlimited, and owners generally cannot understand the impact of these permanent easements on their property.”  For example, company-drafted easement agreements for the MVP have included provisions that would allow the company to use any and all parts of a landowner’s property for access during construction, operation, and maintenance of the pipeline and/or the terms by which the company could transfer the easement agreement to another company in the future.  An experienced lawyer can negotiate the terms of these provisions, protecting the landowner’s interests.  Lollar also states that landowners who try to negotiate easement agreements without the help of an experienced lawyer risk “being grossly under-compensated.”

Friends of Nelson continues to encourage landowners to hire experienced legal counsel and to refuse easement agreements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).  For more information about easement agreements and eminent domain and how to hire an eminent domain lawyer (including contact information for several eminent domain lawyers), please see our Eminent Domain page

The Oroville Dam: A Cautionary Tale

Twelve years ago, when the Oroville Dam in California was up for relicensing,  a group of concerned citizens (including Friends of the River and the Sierra Club) filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete to ensure its integrity under high water conditions.  They said that the dam did not meet modern safety conditions and warned that, in the event of extreme rain, fast-rising water could create flooding and the dam’s earthen spillway could fail.  FERC, however, disregarded these warnings, stating that the dam’s earthen spillway met engineering guidelines, and instead ruled in favor of state and industry officials who did not believe that the upgrades were needed and did not want to incur the extra costs of an armored spillway.

This week, nearly 200,000 people had to be evacuated due to flooding from the Oroville Dam and the risk that the dam will collapse.  Portions of the dam and emergency spillway have eroded away under the force of water spilling over the dam.  If the Oroville Dam were to fail, it would be one of the worst dam disasters in U.S. history.

For citizens who are concerned about the proposed construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), the Oroville Dam serves as a cautionary tale.  Will the many concerns of citizens and scientists regarding the potential impacts of the ACP–concerns and impacts that FERC seems to be disregarding, given its conclusions in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS)–ultimately be realized in a similar catastrophic failure or other disaster of the ACP if it is approved and built?  The history of the Oroville Dam seems to confirm the fears of many concerned citizens who live along the route of the ACP: that FERC ignores the concerns of citizens and scientists in favor of industry and state analysis and pressure and that it is the people who will live near the ACP who will pay the price.

To learn more about the Oroville Dam and FERC’s role in the decisions that led up to the current crisis, you can read articles at the many news organizations that have covered the story:  The Mercury News, CNN, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic.

DEIS: What Is It? What’s In It? What You Can Do!

The Allegheny–Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has created an excellent overview of the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP):  DEIS:  What Is It?  What’s In It?  What You Can Do!  In just 16 pages (compared to the 2300+ pages in the DEIS!), the overview explains the DEIS’s purpose, main points, and major conclusions, providing the most relevant highlights and quotations for concerned citizens who want to understand more about the DEIS.  The document also explains how to make comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in writing or at an upcoming public hearing. 

You can download the ABRA’s overview of the DEIS at their Web site by clicking here.  For more information about submitting a comment to FERC in response to the DEIS, please visit our FERC page (see the section titled “How to Comment on the DEIS”) and/or our Submit Comments and Write Personal Letters page

Tell FERC: Reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) has created an easy-to-use online comment form, Tell FERC: No Atlantic Coast Pipeline, that allows you to send a comment to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the ACP.  The form provides a pre-written letter to FERC that details the many failings of the DEIS; you can edit this letter or add your own comments about the DEIS and how the pipeline would impact you. 

Remember you can submit as many comments as you like to FERC during comment periods.  Friends of Nelson strongly encourages you to write and submit your own comments to FERC, but you can and should use tools like this form provided by CCAN to submit more comments.  They make the process of submitting comments to FERC easy and quick, so that it’s easy to submit more comments.  The more comments submitted in opposition to the ACP, the better. 

Need Help Crafting Your Public Comment to FERC? Friends of Nelson Can Help

If you are planning or want to attend the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Lovingston on Wednesday, February 22nd, but aren’t sure what to say during your three-minute speaking allotment, Friends of Nelson can help.  From 6:00 pm on, Friends of Nelson will be available in the Nelson County Middle School library (right next door to the high school, where FERC’s hearing will be held) for help and support.  Come gather with us and share information, prepare comments, and wait for your number to be called by FERC for the public comment session.