Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

Action Alert: Appalachian Trail


Wild Virginia has issued the following action alert on Dominion’s efforts to build the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline across the Appalachian Trail. Friends of Nelson urges our readers to contact their Senators and Representatives.

Alert:

The proposed route for Dominion’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a mess from the beginning. It carves through family farms, steep mountain ridges, and public water supplies, and it is slated to cross the Appalachian Trail on U.S. Forest Service land, a move that federal judges say is not legal. Rather than reconsider their poorly-planned project, Dominion is asking the U.S. Congress to change laws to make way for its unneeded gas pipeline.

We are calling on you to contact your senators and representative in Congress today and ask them to oppose legislation that makes way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  (Don’t know your senators or representative? Find out here.)

Background:
Dominion is in trouble. It’s been five years since the company announced that it would build a high-pressure gas pipeline from West Virginia, across the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, into North Carolina. Today, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is broadly unpopular, 50 percent over budget (now a shocking $7.5+ billion), and two years behind schedule.

In December 2018, a federal court in Richmond said that Dominion’s plan to cross the Appalachian Trail was not legal, and it overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of the crossing.  Dominion has already tried to sneak a bill through Congress to change the law and allow our precious federal resources to be harmed. The company won’t stop in its efforts to get senators and representatives to change the law and undo the court’s ruling.

We will oppose Dominion’s efforts and call on you to do the same – NOW!

The Appalachian Trail crossing is one of seven permits that federal courts have overturned or put on hold, all because of Dominion’s careless route selection and rushed permitting. And it’s increasingly clear that the pipeline is not needed to meet electricity and gas demand. Worse, electricity customers in Virginia and North Carolina would be on the hook to pay for the costly new pipeline.

Tell your senators and your representative in Congress that you oppose legislation that would change the rules to make way for Dominion’s unneeded and destructive pipeline.

Thank you for taking action to protect the mountain streams, family farms, private property, water supplies, and Appalachian Trail that we all cherish.

Sincerely,

David Sligh 
Wild Virginia
Conservation Director

Fourth Circuit Denies ACP Request for Review

On February 25, 2019, the Fourth Circuit DENIED Dominion’s request for the full circuit to review and then reverse an earlier panel decision throwing out permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Argus Media reported, “A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision that the developer of the $7bn Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline has warned would ‘imperil’ pipeline construction from Georgia to Maine.”

The report continues, “The 4th Circuit in its ruling said the US Forest Service was unable to grant a right-of-way across the hiking trail, as the agency had done, because it is managed as a national park rather than as a forest. …. The US Forest Service earlier this month also petitioned the court to reconsider the decision. The developer of the 1.9 Bcf/d Mountain Valley pipeline, which follows a similar path as the Atlantic Coast pipeline, filed a ‘friends of the court’ brief echoing concerns that the ruling could disrupt its project.”

Additionally, “Company executives, on an earnings call earlier this month, repeatedly raised the possibility of appealing the decision to the US Supreme Court. This approach would increase project costs by $250mn, to $7.25bn-7.75bn, and delay completion of the project until the end of 2021, they said.”

A press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center says, “Today, the Fourth Circuit declined to reconsider its December ruling that the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to authorize the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail. The Court also found that Atlantic and the Forest Service ignored routes that would avoid the National Forest. Today’s decision sends the Atlantic Coast Pipeline back to the drawing board.”

The SELC press release concludes, “‘The Fourth Circuit has once again made it clear what everyone but the corporate polluters behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline already know: it is impossible to construct this fracked gas project without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water. Any proposal to threaten our communities, our clean water, and our national parks and public lands simply cannot ever be permitted. It’s past time that the companies behind the disastrous Atlantic Coast Pipeline abandon this dirty and dangerous project once and for all,’ said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews.”

Read SELC’s full press release here.

On February 26, 2019, Dominion indicated they plan to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States in the next 90 days.  Read the Dominion statement here.

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.

Call or Write Your Senators!

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on December 3, 2018, that “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway…. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Appalachian Trail.

Having been thwarted by the court in efforts to bend the National Forest and the National Parks Services to its will, Dominion is trying circumvent the court ruling by sneaking a last-minute amendment into a pending appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that would permit the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen and Reed’s Gap.

Although we understand that (at this moment) the amendment has been pulled, we should assume that Dominion is pulling out all the stops to get something from Congress to sidestep the court’s ruling.

Write or call (or better yet, do both!) your Senators and tell them that you are upset about any possible legislative “slight of hand,” that you oppose any last minute amendments to the budget reconciliation bill, especially one that would allow gas pipelines to cross our national forests and the Appalachian Trail, and that you oppose Dominion’s efforts to make an end run around the clear and carefully considered ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court.

Tim Kaine
https://www.kaine.senate.gov/contact/share-your-opinion
Phone: 202-224-4024

Mark Warner
https://www.warner.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactPage
Phone: 202-224-2023

SELC Asks FERC to Revoke ACP’s Certificate

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance reports that in a filing late December 13, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revoke the certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in light of the decision earlier in the day by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the U.S. Forest Service’s approval for the pipeline to cross national forest lands and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In its 65-page letter to FERC, SELC stated:

Crucially, the court held that the Forest Service does not have statutory authority to authorize the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. As a result, under federal law, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (“Atlantic”) cannot obtain authorization from federal agencies to cross the Trail as proposed. Thus, the Commission’s Certificate approves a project that cannot be constructed in compliance with federal law. Further, the proposed Appalachian Trail crossing is a linchpin in the Commission’s alternatives analysis—almost every alternative considered in the Final EIS includes this crossing point. See ACP Final EIS at 3-18 to 3-19. In light of the court’s decision, that analysis is not valid and cannot be used to approve a re-route of the project at this stage. The Commission must therefore revoke the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Further, the Commission must issue a formal stop-work order, effective immediately, halting all construction activities because the court’s decision means that Atlantic continues to be out of compliance with a mandatory condition of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

 

Fourth Circuit Court Throws out ACP’s Forest Service Permit


On December 13, 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Appalachian Trail.

The case was argued before the Court on September 28, 2018, with the Southern Environmental Law Canter and Appalachian Mountain Advocates representing the plaintiffs.

The Court found that the Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” and noted the agency’s “serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.” The opinion says the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and did not have authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trail.

Read the Court’s opinion here.

See news coverage from Virginia Mercury here.

See news coverage from the Washington Post here.

See news coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.

Be aware: The Richmond Times-Dispatch points out that, “Dominion’s allies in Congress reportedly are considering an amendment to a pending appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that would permit the crossing of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway near Reed’s Gap.”  Additional information hereContact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose any legislative amendment that would give the National Park Service unchecked authority to allow pipeline construction.