Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

Crossing the Appalachian Trail

Many have worried that Dominion Energy would make a concerted effort to convince Congress to grant permission for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found the Forest Service did not possess the right to allow the crossing. At this time (February 11, 2019), there is no Dominion amendment attached to any piece of pending legislation in the Congress. However, it now appears it would be useful and important to express concerns to relevant members of Congress.

If you are worried about this unwarranted attempt by Dominion, we urge you to contact your Representative within the next several days. Ask the Representative to contact Congressional leadership to make clear their ACP concerns and opposition, including opposition to the idea of Congress stepping in to help the ACP sidestep fundamental permitting problems that are currently being sorted out in the normal regulatory process and in the courts, and opposition to and concerns about ACP in general. Many of these members have voiced concerns about or outright opposition to ACP in the past; others are new to Congress.

This congressional “fix” is a problem because it would:

  • Imply a congressional endorsement for the ACP, stacking the deck for building the ACP as proposed, on its current route.
  • Set the wrong example for special congressional exceptions to the federal law that otherwise disallows pipelines across national parks.
  • Limit the otherwise-required further analysis of alternatives to the ACP.
  • Leave decisions about key ACP permits entirely in the hands of federal agencies, which already have short-changed public and environmental review of ACP permits.

As a resource for your communication, see this set of talking points, with supporting citations, with detailed information about the fundamental lack of need for the ACP, and about the Fourth Circuit’s Forest Service decision and the Appalachian Trail.

SELC Challenges Virginia Air Board Decision

In a press release on February 8, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center announced their challenge of the Air Pollution Control Board on behalf of the Union Hill Community. The press release states:

Today the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its client the Friends of Buckingham, challenged the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s decision to approve Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Buckingham County compressor station.

“The Air Board has refused to address the disproportionate harm that our community will have to bear as a result of the construction of this polluting compressor station,” said John W. Laury of Friends of Buckingham. “The members of our community should not have our health put at risk for a project that wasn’t properly vetted for environmental justice or air quality concerns.”

The Air Board and the Department of Environmental Quality did not meet their obligations under state and federal laws to consider less polluting alternatives and the best available pollution controls for minimizing pollution from the proposed compressor station.

“The backdrop to the board’s decision about the compressor station is the mounting evidence that customers in Virginia do not need the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to meet their energy needs,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “When a project like this pipeline goes forward without a full and transparent evaluation of its public necessity, it unfairly puts communities like Union Hill in harm’s way.”

Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is already stymied because a federal court has vacated or put on hold multiple required permits for failing to comply with applicable law and federal agencies have themselves revoked other permits.

Environmental Groups Request Congressional Hearing on FERC

On January 29, 2019, over 180 environmental organizations, including Friends of Nelson, wrote a letter to members of Congress requesting a congressional hearing into the approval process for interstate gas pipelines. The letter argued that the Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC) approves nearly all proposed pipelines, abuses its eminent domain authority, relies on erroneous data when evaluating whether to allow pipeline companies to begin construction. In requesting a congressional hearing, the letter lists many of the misuses of FERC’s Natural Gas Act (NGA) authority:

  • Allowing premature use of the legal construct of eminent domain to seize property rights, even before a pipeline project has met all legal obligations, thereby allowing the taking of private property for a pipeline that may never be constructed (which has in fact happened – once taken, the property rights do not return even if approvals for a pipeline are subsequently denied);
  • Stripping people of their legal and due process rights to challenge FERC approval of natural gas pipelines and infrastructure before the power of eminent domain is used to seize their property rights, and construction is allowed to proceed, thereby inflicting irreparable harm on communities and the environment;
  • Undermining the legal authority of states to determine whether natural gas pipelines and infrastructure would violate state water quality standards and should be approved, denied or modified prior to construction;
  • Undermining the authority of other federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine if the project would comply with federal law under their jurisdiction and therefore should be approved, denied or modified before FERC approval is granted and construction started;
  • Advancing pipeline projects based on demonstrably false and misleading facts, claims and “data”; i.e., FERC approval is granted despite demonstrated proof (such as legitimate scientific data, photographs, agency documentation, and factual proof) that information provided by the pipeline company, key to its proposal, is false, misleading and/or intentionally not provided;
  • Advancing pipeline projects without genuine demonstration of need, instead allowing companies to claim “need” simply by producing contracts with affiliates of the pipeline company itself and/or asserting the project is needed in order to enhance a company’s private profits or competitive edge;
  • Allowing third party contractors with demonstrated conflicts of interest and an obvious vested interest in the outcome to lead review of the proposed project. This includes contractors who are working for the company at issue on other or related projects, and/or those working for the pipeline companies on directly related projects that will be affected by the actions and recommendations of the contractor; and
  • Allowing FERC employees and Commissioners with demonstrated conflicts of interest, including financial, to work on project review and decision making for proposed pipeline projects.

Read the full letter here.

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):

Barber and Gore to Visit Buckingham


Save the date! Tuesday February 19, 2019, 5:30-10 pm, Buckingham VA.

The Poor People’s Campaign and the Climate Reality Project in collaboration with the community of Union Hill will bring Reverend Barber and former V.P. Al Gore to visit with and speak to Union Hill,, site of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station. All will be welcome. Details to follow. See Facebook page for full listing of sponsors.

Statement from Union Hill Community

A powerful statement from the Union Hill community of Buckingham County, VA after their press conference on Saturday February 2, 2019, following Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to stay in office.

“For us who live or work in Union Hill, Buckingham, Virginia, the revelations that Gov. Ralph Northam engaged in racist behavior in medical school over thirty years ago are less troubling than his most recent actions, inactions, and silence about environmental racism related to the massive fracked gas compressor station to be built in Union Hill.

“When Gov. Northam removed two of the 5 Air Pollution Control Boards in the middle of a decision about that compressor station air permit after they raised questions of environmental [in]justice for that siting — his actions spoke loudly about his unwillingness to make donor sacrifices for his PAC required to make racial justice a reality in Virginia.

“His support of the actions of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to push through the controversial air permit for Union Hill speaks loudly that he is not committed to racial justice in our state. For, the VDEQ spokesman publicly erased the existence of Union Hill’s African American majority and labeled its history of “no significance.” That history is of former slaves building a freedmen community on plantations lands where they were once enslaved. And, whose present day residents are their descendants threatened by the carcinogenic cocktail of most harmful air emissions of Virginia’s ACP compressor station.

“Tellingly, Gov. Northam not only ignored the unanimous decision by his Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for him to issue a moratorium on the ACP and MVP pipelines until environmental justice reviews were taken, but disbanded that body of citizen experts to create a “new” EJ council with seats for the very corporate polluters whose toxic emissions were the reason for the EJ council formation.

“We ask you to consider the direct lines we see between the actions of a young man and his actions and silence when elected to the most powerful office in Virginia. It is not a matter of Democrat or Republican in state that was the capital of the Confederacy. It is a question of making the hard, ethical choices to do the daily work of restorative justice toward racial justice in Virginia.

“The following spokespersons for Union Hill are willing to speak with reporters today:

“Rev. Pastor Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Grove MIssionary Baptist Church and leader of the movement to stop the environmental injustice of the compressor station
Cell: (804) 356-4288

“Mr. John W. Laury, Union Hill farmer, veteran, Union Grove deacon, and freedman family descendant in Union Hill
Cell: (434) 390-7650

“Mrs. Ruby Laury, Union Hill, Friends of Buckingham steering committee member and Concern for the New Generation member
Cell: (434) 390-4824

“Dr. Lakshmi Fjord, anthropologist, Friends of Buckingham Steering Committee, principal researcher, Union Hill Community Study and History
Cell: (510) 684-1403”

See press coverage in the Daily Progress on February 2, 2019.