Court Ruling Stops ACP Timbering of “The Wilderness”

On March 1, 2018, Judge Norman Moon, of the US Western District of Virginia Federal Court in Lynchburg, granted ‘immediate access’ for tree-felling on 16 of 27 Virginia properties for which Dominion requested access. Acting on an appeal by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for one of the properties, “The Wilderness,” a 1,000-acre farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order on March 13, 2018, preventing imminent tree cutting by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The “stay pending appeal” overruled Judge Moon’s March 1 decision, thus providing temporary relief from tree cutting until the court could fully consider the issue.

On March 20, Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys and the ACP’s attorneys presented oral arguments on the issue before the judicial panel.

On March 21, 2018, a unanimous judicial panel of the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court’s injunction. The Fourth Circuit’s order will prevent tree cutting on the property until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fully completes the required state and federal historical review process. This review is necessary because “The Wilderness” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, and been deemed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to be a “Virginia Treasure.”

Read more on Appalachian Mountain Advocates Web page.

Tell Northam: Keep Virginia’s Water Clean

Pipelines are a threat to the clean water Virginians depend on. A recent study,  Threats to Water Quality from Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Water Crossings in Virginia, confirms that the proposed pipelines will cause massive disruption to streams and wetlands, pollute the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and threaten crucial drinking water supplies. Why should Virginians pay billions of dollars for pipelines that could pollute our water? Virginia governor Ralph Northam has promised to hold these projects to the “highest environmental standards” and that individual reviews of their pollution impacts are needed. Call the Governor at 804-786-2211 and tell him to stay true to his word and keep Virginia’s water clean.

Remember and Recommit

Photo by Ken Wyner

Stronger Together was the theme of the March 17, 2018, Remember and Recommit action at Wintergreen where Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline has destroyed our mountains and endangered the headwaters of the south fork of the Rockfish River. At the end of the event, we laid 1000 carnations in the wreckage which was once a forest, to commemorate its beauty and our loss.

Videos by Alice Ng:

Photo by Ken Wyner

Photo by Sharon Ponton

Tell FERC to Say NO to Dominion

Monday, 3/19/2018, is the first business day since Dominion’s request for an extension for tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline went public. Let’s tie up FERC’s phone lines and flood their inbox to tell them to say NO to Dominion’s request to extend the deadline for tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline! Call, email, or both – as many times as you like.  Reference the ACP docket number in you calls and emails, CP15-554-000; CP15-554-001 and CP15-555

phone: 202-502-6088, 1-866-208-3372 (toll-free)
Additional numbers/email that FERC reps are required to catalog and pass on to reference ACP (thank you to Marilyn Shifflett for providing)-
Phone: 202-502-8390, 1-888-889-8030 (toll-free)
Fax: 202-208-0057

Dominion submitted a request to FERC asking to have the tree felling deadline extended from this month to May 15, citing the delay in construction that would be caused by them not finishing the felling before the current deadline. The company would not be able to resume felling until November if they miss the current deadline. This is a vital delay in construction of the pipeline!  (More info here.)

Not only that, but the day the request was made public, Virginia’s DEQ issued a notice to Dominion for having already committed 15 violations while felling.  (More info here.)  According to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, violation notices are typically resolved with the payment of a fine and required action to correct the violation, but fines are irrelevant to the ACP – and once the trees have been cut, even if improperly, there is no action that will put them back.

The permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not complete, and the tree felling up to now should not have been authorized. Please contact FERC and tell them any extension is unacceptable – there is absolutely no justification they can give to extend a deadline in place to protect wildlife simply to avoid inconveniencing Dominion’s shareholders, especially since Dominion has already been cited for 15 violations during the felling to date. Conceding to Dominion would set a terrible precedent that the MVP applicant, EQT, would likely exploit.

Let’s tie up their phone lines, flood their inbox, and make sure they hear us in saying they cannot extend the deadline for tree felling for Dominion’s convenience!

NC Judge Rules in Favor of Two Landowners

On Wednesday March 14, 2018, Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s motion asking a federal judge in US District Court in Elizabeth City NC to force Marvin Winstead Jr., Ronald Locke, and 11 other hold-outs to allow contractors to immediately begin tree-cutting on their land. Standard practice for eminent domain is to pay up front, but since they had been unable to reach any agreement with landowners, ACP asked to use “quick-take,” agreeing to a bond that supposedly guarantees landowners will be paid after a jury determines an appropriate amount.

ACP argued that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they couldn’t proceed. According to NC Policy Watch, “the landowners will suffer no such harm from allowing construction to begin now, ACP lawyers claim. ‘What is the harm in giving us access now or later?’ Richard D. Holzheimer, Jr., an attorney with McGuireWoods, the firm representing the ACP, asked the court. He acknowledged the project would inflict ‘irreparable harm’ but ‘not from early access.'” [Note the admission by the ACP lawyer that the pipeline would cause “irreparable harm” to landowners.]

On Friday March 16, 2018, US District Court Judge Terrance Boyle ruled that Winstead and Locke do not have to allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractors on their property to begin tree-cutting – at least for now – because neither had been given a reasonable opportunity to negotiate with ACP, LLC. Although Winstead received an offer from the ACP in January 2016, a surveyor later told him his property was not on the route. Locke tried to communicate with ACP LLC, but they never responded.

However, Boyle ruled in favor of the ACP in the cases of the other 11 landowners, saying the ACP may invoke eminent domain on their properties. As a security, the ACP must deposit with a federal district court clerk an amount three times the appraised value of each parcel it plans to condemn, and must also obtain a bond twice the appraised value of the parcels.

Read a fuller report on the March 14, 2018, hearing here, and a fuller report on the judge’s March 16 decision here.