Dominion’s Simulated Pipeline “Visuals”

Dominion has released detailed simulations purporting to illustrate what a few selected ACP route locations would look like before, during, and after construction. Dominion hopes that the visuals, produced for them by Truescape (BP and Shell are among Truescape’s other clients), will convince people that the ACP could go “virtually unnoticed” once the land near and in the right of way is restored to its “original condition.” By carefully choosing sites that would have a minimum of difference between their pre- and post-pipeline look, by cleverly choosing angles of view that obscure the clear-cut swath, and by simulating only neat and tidy construction sites in open or partially open land (and on a dry sunny day), Dominion and Truescape have created a fine promotional tool to sell their story. See Dominion’s carefully arranged visuals here.

But as Friends of Nelson’s Ernie Reed points out, the only way to really see the effects of pipeline construction is to visit sites of existing and under-construction pipelines. “Simulations are promotional tools to promote the building of the infrastructure,” he said. “There’s nothing real about a simulation. If you want to see the impact, go find yourself a 42-inch pipeline” and take a look.

Press Release: ABRA Releases Guidance for Monitoring Water Supplies

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has released a report for landowners and water providers concerned about the potential impacts of pipeline development on water supplies.

The report, “Guidance for Monitoring Effects of Gas Pipeline Development on Surface Water and Groundwater Supplies,” was prepared by Downstream Strategies, a West Virginia-based environmental consulting firm. Funding for the report was provided by Friends of Nelson, ABRA member groups and individual contributors.

Although the developers of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) indicate that they will monitor the quality and quantity of water supply springs and wells, the information they have provided about monitoring plans and acceptance of responsibility for water supply damage is incomplete.

The new report provides information concerning:

  • Risks, potential impacts, and other water supply issues related to pipeline development;
  • Collection of the data that will be needed to hold pipeline developers responsible for harm to water supplies;
  • Methods for establishing baseline information on water quantity and quality and for long-term monitoring to detect change; and
  • Laboratories and consultants that can conduct monitoring and analysis.

For landowners, the guide describes a tiered approach to water supply monitoring that incorporates collection of defensible data by water resource professionals and landowner collection of screening or early-detection data.

For water providers, a primary benefit of the guide is to document likely contaminants and the potential impacts to source water from pipeline development that may affect their treatment processes or finished (post-treatment) drinking water distributed to customers.

“The report complements other Friends of Nelson initiatives to protect Nelson County water quality, including our Stream Monitoring Program which is now in full swing,” said Deirdre Skogen, Friends of Nelson Outreach Coordinator.

Teams of Certified Volunteer Water Monitors have started water quality testing at ten locations in Nelson County where the proposed ACP would cross streams or creeks.  The water testing locations cover the breadth of the proposed ACP route through Nelson County.

“From the steep rocky slopes on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains down to the Rockfish River Valley, through unspoiled and mountainous Wheelers Cove, to the meandering Mayo Creek through historical Wingina at the James River, we will have baseline data on record to compare with ongoing stream monitoring results, should ACP construction begin,” said Anne Buteau, Friends of Nelson Water Monitoring Coordinator.

Although some of the information in the report is specific to the MVP and ACP pipelines, the guidelines for monitoring water resources are applicable to any landowners and water providers who may be impacted by pipeline or other infrastructure development.

ABRA is a coalition of 50 organizations, including Friends of Nelson, concerned about the natural gas pipeline that Dominion Resources and its partner companies have proposed to build through portions of West Virginia and Virginia.

 Other organizational contributors to the water supply monitoring guidance project include:  Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Hands Across Our Land

haol stone bridge

Yesterday, people from across Virginia stood hand in hand to oppose the devastating impacts of the fossil fuel industry at the Hands Across Our Land event.  Actions took place at many locations in Virginia and beyond, wherever people are standing up for clean energy and fighting to protect their land, forests, and water.

In Nelson County, actions took place on top of Afton mountain, at the Stone Bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at the James River, at the Wingina Bridge.  Together, Nelson County residents stood hand in hand with residents from Augusta and Buckingham Counties to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the dumping of coal ash in the James River.  In Buckingham County, residents also gathered for an interfaith prayer service at Union Hill Baptist Church.

To read more about the event, you can read articles at any of the many news outlets that covered the event:  NBC 29, WHSV 3, the News Leader, and The News Virginian.

New Delays and Potential Roadblocks for the ACP

A new article in The Recorder, “Dominion Seeks to Address Delays on ACP Gas Pipeline,” cites a new delay in the schedule for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), as well as potential roadblocks to its approval and construction.

The recent announcement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of its anticipated availability of the environmental impact statement (EIS) on June 30th, 2017, and a federal authorization deadline of September 28th, 2017, puts the ACP further behind schedule.  Dominion originally planned for construction to begin of the fall of 2016, with an in-service date of 2018.  With FERC’s latest announcement, the earliest that construction could take place is now late summer/early fall of 2017.  Dominion has stated that the construction period would last 18 months, so a groundbreaking in the late summer of 2017 would push completion of the ACP to the first half of 2019.

Despite this delay, Dominion has stated that it plans to hold to a late 2018 in-service date to meet customer supply obligations for fueling electric power plants.  This means that Dominion is consulting with its construction contractors to accelerate its construction plans in order to meet the 2018 completion date.  Such accelerated construction would obviously be a point of concern for citizens who are concerned about the myriad negative impacts related to the construction of the pipeline itself, as well as the safety of the pipeline, which could be compromised if construction is rushed.

The Recorder’s article also brings up potential roadblocks for the ACP, the most notable of which is the fact that Dominion has requested offsetting the sacrifice of conservation of easements along the route with the donation of other land to replace those easements.  Such swapping of land for conservation easements is unprecedented, according to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), which administers 750,000 acres of open-space conservation easements across the state.  Dominion has stated that it cannot avoid crossing conservation easements in southern Highland, northern Bath, and western Augusta counties, so it has proposed this unprecedented land-swapping arrangement to mitigate the loss of those conservation easements to the ACP.

The VOF has stated that, while unprecedented in number and size, it is possible that conservation lands could be swapped through an administrative law process.  Current Virginia law (Code section 1704 of the Virginia Open-Space Land Act) states that “No open-space land … shall be converted or diverted from open-space land use unless the conversion or diversion is determined … to be essential to the orderly development and growth of the locality and in accordance with the official comprehensive plan … and there is substituted other real property which is of at least equal fair market value (or) of greater value as permanent open-space land than the land converted or diverted and of as nearly as feasible equivalent usefulness and location for use as permanent open-space land as is the land converted or diverted.”  The VOF plans to look carefully at Dominion’s request for land swapping for the conservation easements, at the law regarding this issue, and at whether federal regulations regarding the pipeline have any bearing on this issue.

The VOF plans to discuss this proposition in a meeting on September 29th, which is open to the public (location to be announced).  It is also accepting public comments on this issue: public comments will be accepted by email to bcabibbo@vofonline.org or by letter to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, 39 Garrett Street, Suite 200 Warrenton, Va. 20186. Comments must include the sender’s name, address, and daytime phone number for verification purposes, or they will not be accepted as part of the official meeting record.

To read The Recorder’s full article, which covers a number of issues regarding the permitting and construction of the ACP, including the assessment of karst terrain and the crossing of special biological areas, click here.  For more information about conservation easements and the issues that the VOF is considering regarding the ACP, click here.

New Legal Challenge to the ACP and the Greensville Power Station

This week, the Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a lawsuit challenging the construction permit for Dominion’s proposed gas power plant in Greensville, Virginia. The suit was filed on the grounds that the permit unlawfully fails to require the “best available emissions control technology” for the power plant and fails to control against the massive quantities of methane that would leak from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which is proposed to connect directly to the power plant.

To read more about the law suit, click here to view Appalachian Mountain Advocates’ press release.

Reminder: Hands Across Our Land is Tomorrow, August 18th

haol reminder

Hands Across Our Land will be held tomorrow, August 18th.  Come stand hand in hand with friends and neighbors, in solidarity with people across Virginia and beyond, to say no to pipelines, no to coal ash in our rivers, and no to all of the corporate polluters who would sacrifice our land, forests, water, and communities in the name of profit.

Local actions will be held at the Stone Bridge on Route 250 and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Nelson County–Augusta County Line at 5:30 pm (click here for the event’s Facebook page) and at the Wingina Bridge over the James River on Route 56 on the Nelson County–Buckingham County line at 6:30 pm (click here for the event’s Facebook page).  As with last year, these events have been scheduled an hour apart so that you can participate in both actions:  show up at the Stone Bridge on Afton mountain to stand in solidarity with Friends of Augusta at 5:30 pm and then drive to the Wingina Bridge at the James River to stand in solidarity with Friends of Buckingham at 6:30 pm.

There will also be an interfaith prayer service at 5:00 pm at Union Hill Baptist Church on Route 663 in Buckingham County.  Pastor Paul Wilson of Union Hill Baptist Church; Marion Kanour, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Massies Mill; and Swami Dayananda of the Yogaville community will be among those who will offer their prayers.  All are welcome to join this event.

Citizen Scientists Prepare to Monitor Water Quality

Thanks to the recent water quality monitoring workshops held by Wild Virginia and Trout Unlimited, a number of volunteer citizen scientists are ready to begin monitoring water quality in areas where the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will be routed.  Construction of the ACP will negatively impact water quality along the route and is an issue of particular concern in rare and sensitive habitats.

Volunteers have learned how to conduct chemical monitoring on water samples, measure stream flow, test water temperatures and turbidity, and conduct visual assessments of water quality.  They will now begin to gather water samples and monitor water quality, so that they can establish a baseline of information regarding local water quality that they can use to compare to water samples taken if and when the ACP is under construction.

You can read more about the water quality monitoring program and its recent training workshop that was held in Staunton in the News Leader’s article, “Citizen Scientists Prepare to Monitor Water.”

FERC Will Not Conduct Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Multiple Virginia Pipelines

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) announcement this week of its schedule for releasing its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) confirms that it will not be conducting a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the multiple natural gas pipelines proposed for construction in Virginia.  Instead of weighing the widespread, cumulative impacts that the construction of multiple natural gas pipelines would have on Virginia’s environment and communities, FERC has chosen to analyze only the single impacts of each individual pipeline, thus ignoring the significant, region-wide consequences of building multiple large-scale pipelines in the same region.

The Sierra Club has stated that “with seven new pipelines planned for the region, including three in Virginia, a PEIS was the primary means to adequately assess the necessity and consequences of the proposed pipeline projects in Virginia and West Virginia–including the significant impact to our climate of this massive gas buildout. Now, it is uncertain how federal regulators will consider the cumulative impacts of multiple pipelines on local communities and our environment.”  Furthermore, this myopic approach to analyzing pipeline impacts “does not comply with current White House and Department of Environmental Quality policy for review of similar projects within this region.”

To read more about FERC’s refusal to conduct a PEIS for the multiple natural gas pipelines proposed for construction in Virginia, you can read articles about this issue at NBC 29 and the Augusta Free Press.

FERC Issues Schedule for the Availability of Its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the ACP

On August 12th, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) released its schedule for the availability of its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and its related supply header project.  At this time, FERC anticipates that its final EIS for the ACP will be available on June 30th, 2017.  The 90-day federal authorization decision deadline for the ACP is September 28th, 2017.  It still remains possible that this schedule could change, and, if so, FERC will provide additional notices of the schedule for the release of the final EIS and authorization for the ACP.

As part of its project description for this notice on the schedule of the EIS for the ACP, FERC noted several major environmental issues that were raised during the project’s scoping period, including “karst terrain and caves; impacts on groundwater and springs, drinking water supplies, and surface waterbodies; impacts on forest; impacts on property values and the use of eminent domain; impacts on tourism; impacts on public recreational areas such as the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Blue Ridge Parkway; impacts on historic properties and districts; and pipeline safety.”

To read FERC’s notice in full, click here to download a PDF file.  If you would like to receive notification of the issuance of the EIS and keep track of all formal issuances and submittals for the ACP, you can sign up for FERC’s free eSubscription service.

Virginia Students Celebrate the Power of Collective Action at March on the Mansion

vsec march replay video

The Virginia Student Environmental Coalition has made an excellent new video celebrating the powerful environmental action that was March on the Mansion.  More than 600 people from across Virginia and beyond marched to the Governor’s mansion in Richmond to ask him to put people over polluters, to stop supporting reckless pipelines and coal ash dumping that directly harm Virginians, and to support clean energy and a sustainable future for Virginia.

Together, our voices are powerful.  Be sure to join us for the next inspiring environmental action across Virginia and the country:  Hands Across Our Land.