Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

The ACP and the Appalachian Trail

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, thwarted in its intent to cross the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF), now wants special treatment from the U.S. Congress — a law that would force through its proposed AT crossing in the GWNF. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has prepared a set of maps and documents with the most current facts, legal status, and research. The documents are intended to help groups and individuals facilitate conversations with elected officials (and others) about the threat to the Appalachian Trail,

Resources include:

  1. ACP Factsheet (this is a colorful one pager that you can distribute and take to meetings)
  2. The Case Against the ACP (this is a longer 2 page memo on the facts including citations; good background reading for you prior to a meeting)
  3. Contact Info (all 13 Virginia members of Congress with DC and District office contact info)
  4. Letter House (the letters that were sent to our Congressional Representatives–good to distribute and take to meetings)
  5. Letter Senate (the letters that were sent to our U.S. Senators–good to distribute and take to meetings)
  6. Map US House (this shows Congressional districts and the MVP & ACP routes)
  7. Map VA House (this shows state delegate districts and the MVP & ACP routes)
  8. Map VA Senate (this shows state senate districts and the MVP & ACP routes)

With many permits revoked or in court, Dominion now wants to legislate the ACP route. We urge everyone to use SELC’s materials and contact elected officials, community members, and the media to educate them with up-to-date information, including the many reasons why the proposed AT crossing is unlawful and should not receive special treatment from Congress – and why the ACP is simply not necessary!

Month Extension Requested of Supreme Court

On May 22, 2019, Reuters reported that U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal. “The U.S. Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to extend the time the government has to file a petition in an appeal of a circuit court decision preventing Dominion Energy Inc from building the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is seeking a one-month extension until June 25. Without the extension, the time expires on May 28. Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have ballooned due to legal and regulatory delays.”

Dominion welcomed the news that the U.S. Solicitor General would join the case, believing it would increase the chances the court will hear the case.  The Reuters article states, however, that “Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington, DC, said they expect the Supreme Court to grant the extension but do not expect the court to take up the case. The court will likely make a decision in the fourth quarter.   ‘If the court declines to hear the case, we anticipate Dominion and Duke will decide to terminate the project as rerouting the pipeline would likely be cost prohibitive,’ the Height Capital Markets analysts said, noting it will be “extremely difficult” for the utilities to pass on additional costs to ratepayers.”

Virginia Senators and Representatives Urged to Protect Appalachian Trail

On May 16, 2019, more than 50 organizations from across the state (including Friends of Nelson) sent a letter to Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and to Virginia’s members of the House of Representatives calling on them to resist Dominion Energy’s political pressure seeking legislation allowing it to get around a decision by a federal court.

Their letter says, “Congress should not legislate the permits or routes for gas pipelines through national parks in Virginia,” and asks the legislators to “protect the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the interests of our many members in Virginia by opposing any federal legislation that would exempt the Atlantic Coast or Mountain Valley pipelines from normal process or clear the path for the building or siting of these controversial projects.”

Write your own letters! Use the letters linked above as models for yours, or go to the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley’s “No Passes” page and use the links there to send email to your legislators.

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.