Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

Reactions to ACP EIS


Reactions to FERC’s release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ACP were swift:

Oil Change International issued a press release titled FERC’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Review Shrugs at Climate Disaster, which begins by saying, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile project driven by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy that would carry fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. In the review, FERC continues its systemic failure to seriously assess whether the pipeline is needed, while appearing to shrug off the damage it would inflict on people’s land, water, health, and the climate. Oil Change International Research Analyst Kelly Trout had the following response: ‘With this sham review, FERC is teeing up Dominion and Duke to reap big profits on the backs of communities, their own customers, and the climate. FERC’s climate assessment is laughable. The agency grossly undercounts climate pollution by omitting fracking emissions, downplaying methane leakage, and wrongly assuming gas will replace coal when it increasingly displaces clean energy. It’s common sense that we can’t solve the climate crisis by digging a bigger hole of pollution. But that’s exactly what FERC is systematically helping the gas industry do.'”

7-21-17 News Leader. Dominion sees ‘clear path to approval’ for pipeline after FERC releases report. “In its environmental assessment, FERC concluded that the pipeline’s construction and operation ‘would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment’ and ‘would result in some adverse effects.’ However, the commission also wrote that if the pipeline developers follow through with ‘impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures’ and heed FERC recommendations to ‘further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts, most project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.’ Dominion Energy sees this conclusion as favorable — it ‘provides a a clear path for final approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this fall,’ said Leslie Hartz, Dominion’s vice president of engineering and construction, in a press release…. Lew Freeman, executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, an organization that’s vocally opposed the pipeline, said FERC’s environmental review ‘reveals significant gaps in information and woefully inadequate analysis’ in a press release.”

7-21-17 Washington Post. Environmental report on pipeline favorable for developers. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday for the proposed 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is staunchly opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners. The assessment is a major milestone in the approval process for the project that will cross hundreds of bodies of water, mountainous terrain, national forest, and the Appalachian Trail. Its findings were largely favorable for developers. The impact statement did find that construction in steep terrain could increase the potential for landslides and that the project was likely to adversely affect seven species protected under the Endangered Species Act. It found that the greatest impact on vegetation would be on forested areas, with more than 3,400 acres having long-term or permanent effects.”

Additional media reports on the release of the EIS:

Friends of Nelson Press Release: ACP Impacts Terrifying; Official Documents Irredeemably Flawed


Friends of Nelson Press Release, July 24, 2017
Contact: Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647, lec@wildvirginia.org

On Friday [July 21, 2017], the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Also on Friday, the United States Forest Service released its draft Record of Decision that could allow permitting of the ACP through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. Friends of Nelson concludes that these documents are “irredeemably flawed.”

The reports rely solely on the project developer’s claims of need for the 600-mile, $5.2 billion pipeline, which would yield substantial profit for Dominion Energy and the other private companies behind the project, while the public would be saddled with the long-term and permanent financial, environmental and health costs.

Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson noted that “The FEIS paints a terrifying picture of a bleak future: 4,892 acres of interior forest habitat would be eliminated, creating 30,025 acres of new forest edge habitat and destroying 214 acres of National Forests…1,669 waterbody crossings, threatening native trout streams and severing Potomac, James and Roanoke River watersheds…permanent scars on the Appalachian Trail…100 miles of construction on steep slopes including those in Nelson County…and the truth is actually worse, as the combined impacts of the ACP and MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline) are never considered…and all this to give Dominion and Duke Energy enough gas to burn our way into hell.”

“It is beyond shocking that FERC has thus far not completed essential biological studies or consultation with the US Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, and how much is being left to state agencies to address later,” said Marilyn Shifflett of Friends of Nelson. “This document is premature and incomplete and its conclusions defy science and logic.”

In Nelson County, construction is predicted to take longer than a year, including creation of the landing and drill pad to be located adjacent to the entrance to Wintergreen and a still-unanalyzed 2.5 million gallon water impoundment on the Rockfish River. The bulldozing, trenching and blasting in areas of cultural and historical value in Wingina, Dutch Creek, Wheeler’s Cove and the Rockfish Valley have all been deemed “insignificant” by FERC.

“The destructive effects on our economy, our roads, our water and our community are unfathomable,” Reed said.

Confirming what Friends of Nelson has long maintained—and what independent soil scientists have affirmed—the FEIS tellingly asserts that “considering the historic and recent landslide incidence in the immediate project area…we conclude that constructing the pipelines in steep terrain or high landslide incidence areas could increase the potential for landslides to occur.” Yet development of other slope instability/landslide risk reduction measures have not been completed and have not been adopted.

“How can landowners determine what kind of impacts the construction on steep slopes will have if the details of how ACP is going to manage them are still ‘under development’?” asked Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson. “And furthermore, why would Dominion be willing to put Virginia citizens and water resources at risk by building it?”

“The most significant thing about this release is that it brings us one step closer to stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Burton continued. “We have spent the last 3 years building our legal case, documenting the potential impacts to residents with expert economic and steep-slope studies and water quality analysis that clearly define the danger this presents to Nelson County. Now this is all coming to a head.”

“It is inconceivable that anyone could conclude, as FERC and the USFS do, that the massive impacts of the ACP are ‘less than significant’,” Reed concluded. “This will not be allowed to happen.”

FERC Issues FEIS on ACP


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21, 2017. FERC has 90 days to make a decision on issuing a certificate of approval for the project.

The full statement can be found here: https://ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp

The summary statement from FERC staff includes this paragraph:

“The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects, such as impacts on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies and associated aquatic resources; forested vegetation; Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, Roanoke logperch, Madison cave isopod, clubshell mussel, small whorled pogonia, and running buffalo clover; and karst, cave, subterranean habitat and the species associated with these habitats. Implementation of Atlantic and DETI’s respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to staff’s recommendations in the EIS would further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts. Most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. These determinations are based on a review of the information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders.”

We note that the FERC staff makes little mention of input from the large number of experts in varied fields who have presented evidence of severe consequences, relying instead on “information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests.”

Note also that these are a staff recommendations only; actual FERC permits need approval by the Commissioners (there is only one at the moment, with three more nominated but not yet approved by the Senate). and the ACP must receive other permits as well, e.g. from DEQ and the USFS.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA, of which Friends of Nelson is a member) issued a press release saying the EIS fails to assess whether the project is even needed (relying solely on the project developer’s claims of need), that numerous studies in recent years show the gas and utility sector is overbuilding natural gas infrastructure, and that the EIS glosses over the profound and permanent harm to water resources and drinking water supplies, forest ecosystems, wildlife and endangered species habitat, historic sites, agricultural resources, public lands including the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, and local economies. A significant red flag for the ABRA is FERC’s reliance on Dominion’s pledges to mitigate harm to water resources rather than requiring the company to provide upfront detailed plans to be shared with the public prior to granting federal certification and the power of eminent domain. The press release also lists nine key points the EIS fails to adequately address.

Letter to Landowners on Nelson County ACP Route


Friends of Nelson has sent the following letter and invitation to Nelson County landowners on the ACP route:

Dear Landowner,

Do you have questions about eminent domain?

How the compensation amounts for landowners are determined?

What the legal process in eminent domain cases is?

What the timing of events is most likely to be?

What you can do to fight for your land?

What happens now?

If you have ever wondered about any of the above then please join Friends of Nelson, and lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates for an informative Landowner Meeting on Thursday, August 3rd at 7pm, at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Afton.

The guest speaker will be Chris Johns, a prominent Texas attorney who has not only handled many jury trials on pipeline cases but also teaches eminent domain and private-property rights at the University of Texas School of Law. He has created a primer on eminent domain and will be present to talk about the process of eminent domain and answer your questions on the subject.

Landowners who have property on the pipeline route or on an access roads are invited and encouraged to attend.

If you have any questions about this meeting please do not hesitate to contact Randy Whiting at 434-529-7247.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

DEQ Posts Info on Erosion & Stormwater Plans for ACP and MVP


Plans for erosion and sediment control, as well as for stormwater management, for the ACP and MVP were made available this week on the website of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The posting on the DEQ website states:

“Virginia state law and regulations establish that land disturbance associated with pipeline construction activities must meet Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) requirements to protect surface water quality during and after construction completion. State law further mandates that natural gas pipeline utilities (and certain other utilities) meet the requirements for ESC and SWM under a DEQ approved Annual Standards and Specifications Program.

Under the required Annual Standards and Specifications Program utilities are not required to submit site specific ESC and SWM plans to DEQ for approval. However, as an additional measure to ensure protection of state waters DEQ has required the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) projects to submit their site specific ESC and SWM plans to DEQ for review and approval.

ACP and MVP site specific ESC and SWM plans will address every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction, including access roads and construction lay-down areas.”

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition points out that, “The DEQ has previously stated it will review those plans (stormwater management and erosion and sediment control plans) separately from its review under the Clean Water Act Section 401. As a result, the State Water Control Board’s decision whether to certify that construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not harm state waters will not be informed by the essential details that the erosion and runoff control plans should provide. This is a concern that ABRA and many of its members have voiced to DEQ and the Water Control Board.”

New Map: The ACP in Nelson County


Friends of Nelson’s Ben Cunningham has produced an interactive map showing the ACP route through Nelson County. See the map here (21MB so it may take a few moments to load). The 125 foot clear cut ACP right of way is shown in orange, the 1100 blast radius zone in light orange, and the access roads in red. You can zoom in by clicking control-+. Where is your property on the map?