Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

Dominion’s Assault on the Blue Ridge


An update from the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance:

As reported previously, aerial photographs of apparent unauthorized construction work where Dominion Energy proposes to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were obtained during recent surveillance flights conducted by the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA). Requests for investigation and clarification were submitted to FERC and the Virginia DEQ.

In response to media inquiries concerning “noncompliance with restrictions against earth disturbance and construction prior to receipt of required approvals,” Dominion spokesman, Aaron Ruby, asserted that the company is doing nothing of the sort, and that it is instead doing a geotechnical survey. See Pipeline prep area allegedly being constructed, citizen group files against FERC, News Leader, 3/23/18

CSI Investigator, David Sligh, has responded on behalf of ABRA, objecting to Mr. Ruby’s characterization of the construction activity and noting that over a year ago, when pipeline opponents objected to inadequate geotechnical study of the proposed drilling, Dominion responded by declaring that geotechnical investigation had been “fully accomplished.” See Dominion’s pipeline story doesn’t add up, Letter to News Leader, 3/30/18

The Backstory and a Warning 

Dominion intends to drill 4,639 feet through the Blue Ridge under the George Washington National Forest, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Dominion’s plans call for use of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and contingency use of direct pipe installation (DPI) if the HDD operation fails. Given the topographic and geophysical challenges at the site, the Forest Service initially conditioned any authorization for ACP construction on prior successful completion of the proposed HDD or DPI operations. This condition would have avoided a situation in which significant investment associated with premature ACP construction would be put at risk and in direct conflict with established legal protection of highly valued public resources. Should the HDD and DPI prove impracticable after ACP construction is underway, there will be a strong incentive for allowing an open-cut crossing of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The proposed drilling operations will have an extreme environmental footprint, requiring extensive excavation for entry and exit workspace, pipe pullback, fabrication, and testing workspace, as well as siting of heavy equipment for pipe handling, and a network of access roads – all on steep mountainsides with multiple stream crossings. As with other aspects of the ACP, the public and regulatory review agencies have not had access to detailed construction plans. The areas and amount of excavation required for construction have been imprecisely specified at best.

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition published a report in early 2017 describing both the risk of failure and the unavoidable environmental damage associated with the plans for drilling through the Blue Ridge. This report described the risk factors confronting both the HDD and contingency DPI operations. Although detailed geophysical investigation of the drill path is standard practice for assessing the feasibility of prospective HDD and DPI operations, the information considered during environmental review was limited in both scope and reliability. No subsurface borings were completed at or near the HDD endpoints and geophysical survey data were obtained for less than 25% of the drill path. See A High-Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Now, we learn that Dominion Energy is belatedly collecting data that should have been collected and made available during environmental review. 

Dominion Energy knows how to game the system:  defer collection and analysis of essential environmental data until after the review process is concluded and approvals have been obtained. 

Further info:

CSI Incident Report – submitted to DEQ, 3/13/18

Request for Investigation – Submitted to FERC, 3/22/18

Peters Mountain Tree Sit


A March 13, 2018, video from Appalachians Against Pipelines includes footage of trees being felled during Monday’s snowstorm – right up to the base of the sit.

Appalachians Against Pipelines says, “Currently, the only thing physically standing in the way of pipeline construction is the tree sit on Peters Mountain. People in trees are doing what our ‘representatives’ and ‘regulators’ refuse to do — they’re protecting land, water, and communities of Appalachia from corporations that believe their money gives them the right to pillage this land and pollute our water.”

National Forest Closings


The Forest Service has issued closure orders for both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project rights of way and access roads on National Forest System lands.  See press coverage on the Forest Service closure of MVP and ACP routes.

The orders prohibits anyone from being within 200 feet of either side of a right-of-way established for the pipelines to pass through the National Forest, and also prohibits non-motorized and motorized use of certain roads, including those planned for use as access roads during construction.  It threatens stiff fines and jail sentences for violators.

The Forest Service claims the closure orders are due to public safety hazards associated with constructing the ACP Project. It is far more likely, however, that the closure orders are meant to prevent citizen monitoring of pipeline construction.

Here is Maury Johnson’s statement on the closures:

MY STATEMENT CONCERNING THE CLOSURE OF THE JEFFERSON NATIONAL FOREST:

March 12, 2018

The Government Give-Away of our Public Lands

On March 7th, the USFS issued an order closing parts of the Jefferson National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest in the areas where the MVP and the ACP are to be built through the respective National Forests. Citing safety concerns they threaten people or organizations with the following sanctions for violating this order: “Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551 and 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571).”

As a citizen of Monroe County who has been hiking and protecting the Appalachian Trail and the Jefferson National Forest for more than 40 years I am appalled at this directive. It may seem to the average person that this was done to insure public safety, but I assure you that the intent of this order is to keep citizens, the press and other local officials from monitoring the pipeline construction activities. This is government over reach by bullying and threat of arrest, fines and imprisonment.

With this order the give-away of our PUBLIC Lands and the destruction of NATIONAL TREASURES like the Appalachian Trail is complete. We the People of WV and VA will stand together to fight this government give away for private profit. This will not stand.

Sincerely,
Maury Johnson
Greenville, Monroe Co WV

Hands Across the Appalachian Trail

Join us for Hands Across the Appalachian Trail – Blue Ridge Parkway, Saturday August 19, 2016, 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, sponsored by the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter and Wild Virginia.

Join hands to protect our land, communities and the Appalachian Trail from the unnecessary and unwanted onslaught of natural gas pipelines. This event features the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s vision to “connect the human spirit with nature – preserving the delicate majesty of the Trail as a haven for all to enjoy.” Everyone should have the opportunity for that experience.

More information here.