Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

FERC Announces Review Schedule for Proposed MVP Extension

From Allegheney-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #222 for March 21, 2019:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has announced its schedule for issuing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Southgate Project, a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) into North Carolina. Specifically, the proposal is a 73-mile natural gas pipeline connecting with the MVP in Pittsylvania County, VA and extending to Rockingham and Alamance Counties in North Carolina. The Southgate Project would also include construction of a 29,000 horsepower compressor station in Pittsylvania County (about half the size of the proposed Buckingham compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline). The pipeline would transport 375 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. FERC’s March 14 notice of the FEIS schedule is:

  • Issuance of Notice of Availability of the final EIS: December 19, 2019
  • 90-day Federal Authorization Decision Deadline: March 18, 2020

The Southgate Project has encountered stiff opposition since it was first proposed in mid-2018. In September, the Alamance County Commissioners adopted a resolution in opposition to the project. The March 15 FEIS notice acknowledges that “major issues raised during scoping include project need, water quality degradation, environmental impacts, and private property rights and valuation.”

Important Upcoming Events

In addition to the one-day Spruce Creek Camp (see above), there are two other forthcoming events of note:

Dominion vs Nelson County in Federal Court, April 8, 2019:

For background information see our post on March 14, 2019.


Pipeline Air Force Drone Meet-Up, March 30, 2019:

For details see our post on March 7, 2019.  See also the recent news article, Drones change the way advocates protect the environment

News You May Have Missed


There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page):

Round-up of Legal Challenges to the ACP

This excellent update on the current legal challenges to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline comes from Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Update #221

The lawsuit challenging the FERC certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has finally been scheduled for briefs to be filed by April 5. The suit, which was filed August 16 with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals but was re-assigned to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, was brought on behalf of a group of ABRA member organizations and other plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad). Arguments before the court are not expected to be scheduled until sometime in the Fall. Here’s a brief status report on two other pending cases that challenge ACP permits:

  • Forest Service – The challenge to the U.S. Forest Service’s issuance of a Special Use Permit for the ACP on January 23 was filed February 5, 2018 with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs are a group of ABRA members and others, represented by SELC and Appalmad. The Fourth Circuit vacated the permit in a December 13 decision, thus denying the ACP the right to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST), which the Court said the U.S. Forest Service lacked the legal authority to grant. An appeal of that ruling to the entire Fourth Circuit (an en banc hearing before all fifteen of the Court’s judges) was denied on February 25. Dominion Energy has said it will appeal the decision by late May to the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal has not yet been made. It is worth noting that only about one percent of the cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court are heard. In the meantime, Dominion has been lobbying Congress since the Fourth Circuit’s December decision to have language added to pending legislation that would override the Court’s vacating of the Forest Service permit to cross the ANST. To date, those lobbying efforts have not succeeded. ABRA asks that contacts be made with Members of Congress to urge them to oppose such an action. For the Action Alert, click here.
  • Air Permit for Buckingham Compressor Station – The January 8 decision by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to grant an air permit for the proposed ACP compressor station in Buckingham County, VA was challenged in a lawsuit filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Friends of Buckingham. A proposed briefing schedule for the case will be filed in early May, with arguments in the case not likely until sometime this Fall.

Dominion vs Nelson County in Federal Court: April 8


Dominion’s suit against Nelson County over the refusal of the Nelson Board of Zoning Appeals to grant a variance for the ACP to cross flood plains in the County will be heard on April 8, 2019, at 11:30 a.m. in the Federal Court in Charlottesville, 255 West Main Street. Respectful attendance at the hearing is encouraged – no signs, no t-shirts, no protesting.

Why is Dominion suing Nelson County? On December 3, 2018, on a 3-2 vote, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals denied four of Dominion’s applications for the variances to the County’s flood plain ordinance needed to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across flood plains in Nelson. (The other seven of the original eleven applications were dismissed in January 2018, meaning ACP will have to submit new applications for them.) The Nelson County Zoning Ordinance specifically includes “Structures or facilities that produce, use, store, or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials” in the list of “critical facilities [that] are prohibited from being constructed or operated within a SFHA [Special Floodplain Hazard Area] unless a Variance is granted.” (Article 10.15F on p. 87)

Three days after the Nelson BZA denial of variances, on December 6, 2018, Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed a lawsuit against the Nelson County Board of Supervisors in the Western District of Virginia’s federal court, and it is this suit that will be heard on April 8. The suit asks the Court to:

  • enter judgement declaring that Nelson’s zoning ordinance and floodplain regulations are preempted by federal regulations and therefore null and void as applied to the ACP
  • enter an injunction enjoining Nelson County from enforcing any of its zoning ordinances and floodplain regulations that may affect ACP construction

The ACP has no federal permit to cross any waterbodies, including wetlands and floodplains.

For further information on the four variances denied by the Nelson Board of Zoning Appeals see our story from 2018.

Sidenote: The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has designated March 10-16, 2019, as Virginia Flood Awareness Week. You can read about the function and value of floodplains on their floodplain Web page.

West Virginia House Votes to Condemn Opponents of the ACP

In early January 2019, energy lobbyist, Bob Orndorff, state policy director for Dominion Energy, speaking to the WV legislature’s Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development on behalf of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been halted because “rogue environmental groups” were getting in the way. He urged lawmakers to “stand up to these rogue environmental groups” and pass a resolution to condemn them.

In an editorial on January 11, the Gazette-Mail asked, “Who are the real rogues?” The editorial says, “In reality, Dominion Energy has halted construction after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found environmental regulatory groups were bypassing rules meant to protect people, wildlife and the environment in the path of such large-scale projects. No doubt Dominion will continue to pursue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once these legal hurdles are cleared, but for representatives of the industry to blame ‘rogue’ environmentalists is dishonest and simply wrong.” The editorial concluded, “The suggestion to the Legislature offered up by lobbyist Bob Orndorff that the body pass a resolution condemning the environmental groups pursuing litigation is insulting. These groups trying to protect their rights are made up of actual West Virginians who want to preserve what they have and avoid being steamrolled by big industry. Their government should be watching out for them, but it’s not, so the only way to stand up for themselves is through the courts. Remember it’s the people who are the David in this scenario, not the Goliath.”

Despite the editorial, a resolution condemning the “assaults on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” (ACP) from citizen groups was approved by the Rules Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates on March 6, 2019. On March 7, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved House Resolution 11 by a 80-17 vote (3 members did not vote). All Republican members voting supported the measure, plus 21 of the 40 Democrats in the House. (The resolution as introduced is available here.) An identical resolution was introduced in the West Virginia Senate in mid-February. Senate Resolution 42 is pending before the Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining, which to date has taken no action on the measure.

It is amazing that the West Virginia legislature continues to think it is a valid legislative action to condemn the many citizens who, for a wide variety of reasons based on a wide variety of reliable data, continue to oppose Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.