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.

Northam Announces Additional Powers to Protect Virginia Waters

In a press release from his office on March 16, 2018, Governor Northam announced emergency clauses added to SB698 and SB699 allowing DEQ to issue stop work orders on all or part of land-disturbing activities associated with natural gas pipeline construction that may have adverse effects on water quality.

For Immediate Release: March 16, 2018
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Ofirah Yheskel,

Governor Northam Announces Additional Powers To Protect Virginia’s Clean Water

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today announced additional powers to expand the Commonwealth’s ability to protect clean water. SB698 and SB699 establish processes in state law to allow the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a stop work order on all or part of land-disturbing activities associated with natural gas pipeline construction if DEQ determines those activities have caused, or will imminently cause, a substantial adverse impact to water quality. On Saturday, the General Assembly accepted Governor Northam’s amendment adding an emergency clause to each bill and the measures are currently in effect.

“I want to thank Senator Creigh Deeds and the Department of Environmental Quality for working together to empower the Commonwealth to halt construction on the pipelines if there is a serious threat to water quality,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, and all the rivers and streams in between, our water quality is of paramount importance to our health and our economy and I will protect it as long as I am Governor.”

“If the pipelines go forward, it’s imperative that DEQ have the tools it needs to assure the people of the Commonwealth that water quality will not be compromised,” said Senator Creigh Deeds. “Thanks to DEQ staff for their tireless work to help get these bills through the legislative process, to Governor Northam for his timely amendments and for signing the bills, and to the conservation groups who added their voices to this important conversation.”

“We are pleased the General Assembly agreed to give DEQ the additional authority to protect water quality, and we will use these tools to exercise rigorous enforcement to ensure our water is protected and our natural areas are preserved,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. 

Dominion Wants More Time to Cut Trees

Photo by Marion Kanour

As reported on March 16, 2018, by the Durham NC Herald Sun and by Progressive Pulse, Dominion has asked FERC for additional time to cut trees.

The ACP is seeking an extension to May 15 for tree felling outside of the limitations they agreed to for bats and migratory birds. They say they can’t finish the work by the mandated deadlines. The Herald Sun article says, “Developers initially agreed to the tree-felling restrictions to protect migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species — two types of bats, in this case. The time restrictions vary from state to state but generally prohibit tree cutting between mid-March or early April through mid-September or mid-November. The earliest restriction to kick in was Virginia’s migratory bird window, which started Thursday.”

“It would be unconscionable for FERC to allow Dominion to slide around an important protection merely for the company’s convenience,” said David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, which is fighting the pipeline. “Too much destruction has already been caused. It must not be allowed to continue,” he said.

As NC Policy Watch points out, “The trees had to be cut down immediately. In fact, it should have been done yesterday. There was no wiggle room, attorneys for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline argued to a federal judge on Wednesday, and delays would cause “irreparable harm” to the utilities. But now Dominion and Duke Energy, co-owners of the ACP, have decided that, well, maybe the issue isn’t so urgent after all.

“According to documents filed today, ACP, LLC has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a deadline extension to cut trees that are on private property in the path of the pipeline. This is a major about-face, because earlier this week, ACP, LLC had taken several landowners to court, asking a federal judge to force them to provide access to their property for tree-cutting.”

Should we be surprised by the ACP request? No.

Should we fight back? Yes.

Please make a comment on the FERC web site today! Docket Numbers are: CP15-554-000; CP15-554-001 and CP15-555

Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed this letter in FERC’s dockets opposing extension of tree cutting restrictions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Long Term Pipe Storage

Thanks John Cobb, Ireland, WV, for the photo

The photo shows ACP pipe stored in West Virginia in early August, 2016 (19 months ago). Manufacturers recommend no more than 6 months exposure to the sun and elements and supports between layers to ensure “true round.” Now, Dominion proposes to haul this pipe into the mountains further damaging the coating; they intend to make the necessary bends required to traverse mountainous terrain, and they expect to get “good welds” from pipe that has changed shape under its own weight.