Dominion Admits to “Clerical Error”

Dominion has admitted that they made a “clerical error” in their letters to landowners on the new alternate routes, stating that surveying would begin on March 2. Since they are required by law to notify landowners at least 15 days prior to their intended date of entry, the March 2 date was illegal. Dominion says they will be sending new notices to affected landowners with a new date. (For February 27 news coverage of the error, to which Dominion admitted only after objections from Friends of Nelson and other pipeline opponents, click here.)

The important message: You still have time to deny permission to survey – send your certified, return receipt letter as soon as possible. You don’t have to send another denial when you receive their new letter as long as your denial of permission for entry was unequivocal regarding denying entry to all parties at any time for any reason.

Several people have asked for a sample denial letter, so one is provided below (or you can click here to download a Word version ).  Please be sure to substitute the date, your parcel numbers, and your contact information in the appropriate places (in bold in the sample letter).

The Date, 2015
To Whom It May Concern
Dominion ACP
c/o Doyle Land
99 Edmiston Way, Suite 112
Buckhannon, WV 26201

Dear Sir or Madam:

We want to clearly and unequivocally state that NEITHER you NOR any of your representatives or associated companies have permission to enter our land for any reason at any time. If you or anyone enters our property, it will be considered an illegal act of trespassing and the incident will be reported to the appropriate authorities. We will pursue charges and penalties against you to the fullest extent of the law. Our property is generously marked with NO TRESPASSING and other warning signs so there can be no mistaking our intent.

Our property includes parcel numbers XXXXXX and XXXXXX.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. Should you, for any reason, not understand this letter, you may contact me at your phone or your full address.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Press Release: Nelson County Takes the Offensive Against Illegal Surveys

Friends of Nelson Press Release:  February 26, 2015
Contact: Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647, lec@wildvirginia.org

In response to Dominion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC’s latest effort to illegally expedite surveys on hundreds of properties in Nelson County, Nelson County residents are taking the offensive.

Friends of Nelson continues to organize landowners in opposition to these illegal surveys. And another lawsuit targeting Dominion could be on the horizon.

Property owners started receiving letters yesterday from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, dated February 23, stating that surveys will begin in Nelson on Monday, March 2.

“Dominion has failed to give the required 15 days notice before entry,” said Joanna Salidis, property owner and President of Friends of Nelson. “Dominion is taking a heavy-handed approach by bullying residents into allowing surveys by announcing they will begin surveys in less than one week.”

Further, the letters came from Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC., a foreign limited liability company from Delaware that has registered to do business in Virginia only as a foreign limited liability company. It is not a Virginia public service company under the regulation of the State Corporation Commission according to the most current list of Virginia public service companies the State Corporation Commission maintains. Therefore, ACP LLC’s right to access property without permission at all is highly questionable.

“It is hard to imagine that the Right-to-Trespass statute, Virginia Code Section 56-49.01, which is in the Title 56 of the Code dealing exclusively with Virginia public service corporations, would give a statutory defense against an owner’s trespass charges to a foreign limited liability company when it is not regulated as a Virginia pubic service company,” says Henry Howell III, an eminent domain attorney representing some property owners on the proposed route in Nelson against ACP LLC’s suits against them to gain access for surveying. “In my opinion, the Right-to-Trespass statute should be interpreted to apply to interstate gas transmission companies which are also Virginia regulated public service companies.”

The constitutionality of the statute that allows gas companies to access properties to survey without permission (Virginia Code Section 56-49.01) is yet another issue. Two suits have been filed and are awaiting rulings. Dominion’s aggressive tactics are an attempt to obtain surveys before these rulings have been rendered.

“Dominion is randomly violating personal property rights and usurping individuals rights to privacy,” said Ernie Reed, of Friends of Nelson. “Virginia landowners are just so much collateral damage in their business plan to export natural gas to the highest foreign bidders.”

“Dominion’s business plan is obviously to maximize the use of eminent domain to grab landrights to build their pipeline, “ said Salidis. “First they buy our legislators, then they take our land to add to their portfolios, then they sell America’s natural resources to the highest bidder as quickly as they can.”

“This is Dominion’s vision of the American way,” Reed concluded. “It has fallen to the citizens of Nelson County to see that they are stopped.”

Requests to Survey for Alternate Route

Alternate route landowners: Did you just receive a “request” from Dominion to allow them to survey? Please see this letter Friends of Nelson prepared to answer the most important questions that new landowners may have.  Send back your certified letter denying permission to survey!  And, since they say they will start surveying on Monday March 2nd, you should also call their toll-free number immediately to verbally deny permission.  That number is 888-895-8716.  If you get an answering service, leave your name, phone number, and state that you are denying permission to survey; a representative will call you back.

Additional steps you should take:

  • Put  up “NO TRESPASSING’ signs
  • If anyone comes to your property, ask them to leave.  If they don’t leave, call the Sheriff (434-263-7050) and report a trespassing incident.

Remember – you CAN deny permission, and this IS an effective tactic to stop the pipeline in Nelson County.  We need to act as a community to deny them access to large portions of the route.

News and Events: Letter from Friends of Nelson

Dominion keeps us hopping!

As you may know, they announced on Monday that “requests” have been sent to property owners for permission to survey 186 new parcels in Nelson County. These parcels fall into what Dominion refers to as the “alternate routes” for the ACP through Nelson County. “Alternate routes” would cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail near Reid’s Gap, descending near Beech Grove, and cross Rte 151 south of Nellysford. Broadly, other targeted areas include east of Hwy 29, Stage Bridge area, Wheeler’s Cove area, and Mayo Creek area. Please take the time to peruse an overview map of all the various route alterations here.

You can read Dominion spokesperson Jim Norvelle’s explanation of these altered routes here.

Friends of Nelson has no interest in evaluating or debating the pros and cons of any alternate routes through beautiful Nelson County. These alterations don’t change Dominion’s grand plan for the ACP—which, on its face, fails to protect property rights and the rural heritage and integrity of Nelson County. Friends of Nelson remains fundamentally opposed to the ACP in Nelson County. We are fully committed to supporting all newly impacted property owners, as well as property owners on what we’ll now call “the original route.” NBC 29 reported Friends of Nelson’s response to the announcement.

Our immediate concern is to identify and communicate with all the newly threatened property owners to give one clear message: Deny permission to survey! This tactic is proving very fruitful. We want to make sure folks know they can DENY permission, and tell them the most effective way to do so.

If you received a recent letter from Dominion, please send us an email at friendsofnelson@gmail.com, and let us know which alternate route your property is on. If you know neighbors and friends who got letters, please tell them about the Friends of Nelson website and Facebook page. We’ve been through this—we can help.

If you are a property owner on the route (which includes the “original” or “alternatives”), or even just near the route, please fill out this survey we’ve designed to collect information to irrefutably demonstrate the potential harm to property owners.

Important upcoming events!

FON is actively working to raise money. All funds raised go toward Atlantic Coast Pipeline opposition. Please join us this Saturday, Feb 28 at our Community Fundraiser Dance and Silent Auction, at Rockfish Valley Community Center, from 7-10 pm—to share information and support—and have fun, of course!
Square and Round Dances, with live music and instruction. Tickets: $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Dominion has announced they will be having an “Open House” for the newly affected property owners in Nelson on March 5th from 5:30-7:00 at Nelson County High School.

Friends of Nelson will be hosting another public meeting on Thursday, March 12, at 7:00 pm at Rockfish Valley Community Center.

Most of you know that this pipeline is being fought on many fronts! Whether you are on one of the new routes or the original route, please contact the Virginia Department of Historic Resources as soon as possible, if you think there is something historically significant on your property. Click here for more information.

Working together, supporting each other—we can beat this thing!

Joanna Salidis
President, Friends of Nelson

More Information on Alternate Routes

Today there is more information coming out about the alternative routes through Nelson. Dominion says they are sending out more survey notices soon. IF YOU ARE ON AN ALTERNATE ROUTE AND RECEIVE YOUR FIRST SURVEY NOTICE, PLEASE EMAIL FRIENDS OF NELSON, friendsofnelson@gmail.com. See further information in this email from Dominion’s Jim Norvelle sent to a reporter.  For instructions on how to view and expand a version of the map on page 3 of Norvelle’s email, see the post below, “Dominion Map Shows Possible Alternative Routes.”

Press Release: Opposition to Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline On the Rise

Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 23, 2014
Contact:  Ernie Reed , 434-971-1647, lec@wildvirginia.edu

Dominion’s recent release of proposed “alternative routes” has Nelson County landowners outraged. And so does Dominion’s reliance on eminent domain as the “preferred alternative” to transport vast quantities of natural gas for export.

“The fact that Dominion has now gone on record with a handful of routes doesn’t solve any of their problems,” said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. “These will impact an entirely new list of landowners, resulting in increased property owner resistance and lawsuits. Dominion continues to ignore all requests to drop the proposal or to use existing pipeline easement infrastructure instead of depending solely on eminent domain to achieve its business goals. ”

This morning’s protests in Richmond give further proof of how widespread and deep-seated is the opposition to Dominion’s plans. “You don’t have to be a property-owner under threat of eminent domain to see how bad and long-lived the effects of this pipeline would be,” Salidis said.

Dominion’s latest move is in direct response to widespread opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coat Pipeline. “Dominion received immense push back from the public from their applications to survey across the George Washington and Monongahela National Forest. Dominion’s application specified that there was ‘no alternative’ to their proposed route,” said Ernie Reed of Wild Virginia. The George Washington National Forest has received over 5,000 comment letters, many of which asked that survey should be denied. Dominion failed to consider an alternative that would minimize impacts to the forest or that would follow existing easements and rights-of-way. “Dominion’s only proposed route was in clear violation of the GW Forest Plan, pure and simple,” said Reed.

In addition, Dominion’s assertion that there is a need for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is “hollow”, says Reed. “Our research, including the growing financial viability of renewables, demonstrates otherwise. Most of this fracked gas will be headed for foreign markets with no public, domestic or local benefits.”

“Dominion is just shuffling its cards,” said Salidis. “By threatening so many more property owners and landscapes, today’s news that Dominion is considering new alternate routes just brings into sharper focus what we already know. Large diameter high pressure transmission lines like the ACP are at the intersection of what may be the most important social issues today – climate change and the rise of special interest domination of fundamental American values like property rights, safety, and civil liberties.”

Dominion Map Shows Possible Alternative Routes

Dominion’s new interactive map shows that they MAY be considering a couple of route changes through Augusta and Nelson. We have no idea how seriously they are considering these alternatives, if at all, beyond the fact that they put them on their map. You can access the map here.

To find the potential alternatives, you have to play with the “layers” which is the symbol that looks like a stack of paper, which is in the row of symbols under the words “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” in the rectangular green box. Click on the “layers” symbol and then click to check Alternative Survey Corridor on the drop-down menu. You can enlarge the map (with the + and – signs on the top left corner) and move the map around by holding the right click button and moving your cursor. The image below shows the alternative that is on this interactive map – the original route is in yellow, and the potential alternatives are green.

alt-route-22feb15

Is Something Special on Your Property?

gravestoneLandowners on the route!

Do you have an old cemetery on your property? Evidence of Native American Artifacts? Old houses or historic buildings?

NOW is the time to call the Virginia Department of Historic Resources!

DHR staff will come out and do a preliminary evaluation of the historic resources on your land and will enter them in the State Database.

While “Get out Free” cards in pipeline land are hard to come by, historical and cultural artifacts on the route, like wetlands, rare species, and difficult terrain, make it harder for Dominion. We want these things documented as soon as possible (just not by Dominion!)

Contact:
Tom Klatka (DHR Archaeologist)
Salem Archaeologist,Western Region Preservation Office – still the guy for our area!
(540) 387-5396
tom.klatka@dhr.virginia.gov

Another Federal Court Case Challenges Survey

In Federal Court today, February 19, Churchville landowner William Little challenged the constitutionality of Dominion’s survey on private land. In today’s case, heard by the same judge, Urbanski, who on February 5 heard arguments in the constitutionality case filed by Nelson landowners, the argument focused on the fact that the survey without permission statute is too vague, as it does not specify what happens when landowners explicitly state “No,” and is thus unconstitutional. Read press coverage here and here.