On November 13, 2017, Friends of Wintergreen and the Wintergreen Property Owners Association filed a rehearing request and temporary injunction to stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Wintergreen area, saying “FERC’s approval was arbitrary and capricious and not based on facts on (and in) the ground.”
Breaking news from the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA):
Late afternoon on November 13, 2017, a motion was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting a rehearing of the Commission’s order issuing a certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The petition, filed on behalf of 22 organizations (including Friends of Nelson) and 10 individuals, requests that the Commission:
1. Grant Intervenors’ request for rehearing;
2. Grant Intervenors’ motion for a stay and immediately stay applicants and their contractors from taking any action authorized by the Certificate Order including, but not limited to, construction of the projects (including tree clearing) and any attempt to use the power of eminent domain pending final action on the request for rehearing;
3. Upon completion of the rehearing process, rescind the Certificate Order;
4. Grant Intervenors’ request for an evidentiary hearing concerning the market demand for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline;
5. Before making any new certificate ruling, conduct an analysis of whether the projects are required by the public convenience and necessity, as required under the NGA, that complies with the Commission’s Certificate Policy Statement;
6. Before making any new certificate ruling, conduct a NEPA analysis that addresses the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the projects; provides a robust analysis of alternatives, including the existing infrastructure alternatives; and addresses the other NEPA-specific issues set forth in this request and Intervenors’ previous comments in these dockets.
7. Grant any and all other relief to which Intervenors are entitled.
A copy of the 210 page petition is available on the ABRA website, see https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Petition_for_Rehearing_to_FERC_20171113.pdf.
In an October 19, 2017 Web page post, Oil Change International lists “Community Responses to FERC’s Terrible Pipeline Approvals.” They provide an extensive list of groups and organizations across WV, VA, and NC opposing the pipelines, with brief descriptions of the groups and quotes from their statements or press releases. “Fortunately for pipeline fighters and water protectors, the fights against these two fracked gas pipelines is far from over.”
We all knew that FERC would use its rubber stamp to issue a Certificate to Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, but we weren’t sure just when. Now that FERC has given its blessings to this wretched project, Friends of Nelson, and our many friends and colleagues throughout Virginia, North Caroline, and West Virginia are moving forward on strategies that could not be initiated until now!
Friends of Nelson is continuing to fight to stop the ACP in every way that we can.
- Keeping our membership and allies informed and engaged through e-mail, Facebook and the Friends of Nelson Webpage.
- Acting on strategic opportunities with our board of directors, our membership, our allies and our colleagues
- Being represented in legal actions wherever possible and whenever necessary
- Keeping pressure on all Federal, State and local agencies to do the right thing.
- Continuing to build the public record through continued water monitoring and engagement with experts and resource professionals.
Remember: it only takes one agency or one judge doing the right thing to stop this runaway train.
Friends of Nelson cannot, of course, give legal advice. However, this is what we know and this is what we recommend:
- The FERC process was expedited by executive order and has left many regulatory requirements incomplete. The only FERC Commissioner who had a deep understanding of the ACP, and with whom Friends of Nelson representatives met three years ago, filed a dissent and voted against the issuance of the permit on grounds that it was not deemed necessary. The only two commissioners who voted for the certificate have served less than 2 months with FERC and were both Trump appointees.
- A legal challenge to the issuance of the FERC certificate is in the works.
- Construction on the ACP cannot begin until ALL necessary permits have been obtained by Dominion. This includes approval from:
- The Forest Service on required forest plan amendments and special use permits
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service on its regulatory requirements for endangered species
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency and affected counties on regulations for construction and hazardous materials in floodplains
- the Virginia Outdoors Foundation on affected lands with conservation easements
- Section 401 (water quality, erosion and sediment control and storm water management) and 404 (water discharges) permits under the Clean Water Act by the Virginia State Water Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality (or Army Corps of Engineers)
- Tree clearing MAY be able to begin on properties that have recorded easement agreements with Dominion, but it also MAY NOT. If you have a signed easement agreement and Dominion either contacts you about entering your property for tree clearing or enters your property without notice we strongly recommend that you CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY immediately. There are a variety of possible legal challenges that may prevent entry to your property in the short or long term, whether you have signed an easement or not.
- If you are an impacted landowner and do not yet have an attorney, we STRONGLY advise that you contact Appalachian Mountain Advocates (434-529-6787), Lollar Law (757-644-4657), or one of the other firms (see our website) that specialize in these matters. Representation is usually offered on a no-fee, contingency basis. Even if you opt to negotiate an easement rather than go to court for an eminent domain hearing, it has been our observation that individuals with legal representation have obtained much better settlements than those without it.
- If you have not signed an easement agreement, then you can continue to deny access to your property until the entire eminent domain process has run its course. This includes Dominion bringing a lawsuit for entry under eminent domain, you obtaining legal representation, a court hearing and a judge ruling on appropriate compensation. This process takes time to run its course. No property owner is under any obligation to allow eminent domain condemnation or access without this full process being completed. There is one existing lawsuit already filed and the possibility of others that could stall or obstruct this process.
- If you feel that your property rights have been violated and your property is being entered illegally, immediately contact Nelson County Sheriff David Hill at: 434-263-7050.
- If you filed with FERC as an intervener and if you submitted comments to FERC on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement, we invite you to join Friends of Nelson in filing a Request for Rehearing with FERC which is the next step in challenging the FERC decision. For more information, contact Ernie Reed at 434-971-1647. And, most importantly…
KEEP IN TOUCH!
WE ARE HERE!
Ernie Reed, President, Friends of Nelson
Pipeline opposition and challenges continue, despite FERC’s October 13, 2017, rubber stamp approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, issued with a highly unusual dissenting opinion by Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur. The FERC permit is not the final word on the projects. VA, NC and WV must still issue environmental permits. The NC Department of Environmental Quality recently declined to issue water quality, soil erosion control permits for the project, requesting additional information from the pipeline. The WV Department of Environmental Protection recently vacated and remanded their water quality certification, saying they want to reevaluate the complete application. The VA Department of Environmental Quality has yet to make a decision, and will hold public hearings in December. Citizens still have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to express their concerns to DEQ (and may sign a petition to protect Virginia waters here).
“It’s only being built because Dominion and Duke Energy will make $2 billion off of it even if it never comes into service,” said Friends of Nelson President Ernie Reed when interviewed at the Nelson Farmer’s Market the morning after the FERC announcement. “We only need one Federal Agency or one State Agency to do the right thing or one judge to force them to do the right thing to stop this runaway train.”
Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated “rubber stamp” and said his organization intends to challenge the decision. “The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers’ bills – and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come,” he says.
Bold Alliance and more than 50 landowners, have a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for private gain and intend to continue the fight for property rights in the court system.
Carolyn Reilly, impacted landowner and Pipeline Fighter with Bold Alliance, said, “Thousands of landowners and citizens have stood strong in the battle to defend land, protect water and preserve communities. FERC has, yet again, pulled out its rubber stamp and permitted two more risky, fracked gas pipelines that put our homes, our land, our water, and our communities at risk. But, our fight is far from over. The ACP and MVP are not a done deal; between the Bold lawsuit against FERC and water permits needed from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, we, the people, press on and persevere to defend and protect what is sacred.”
In an interview with WVTF, Reilly said, “I think it’s been an amazing thing to see people coming together despite many differences and political affiliations. This is not a partisan issue, this fight. There’s environmentalists and there’s conservative property rights activists that are united in this fight to protect our homes, our lands, the whole Appalachia, and especially water.”
Yes, we are all still here, and the fight goes on!
Lorne Stockman, Senior Analyst with Oil Change International, released the following statement:
“In spite of FERC’s irresponsible action, these fracked gas pipelines still face massive opposition in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. FERC cannot sneak these mega-projects past the hundreds of communities in their path in the dead of night.
“Oil Change International and the many groups fighting these pipelines have documented the extensive damage these projects will do. Both projects are bad deals for ratepayers, and huge threats to our mountains, rivers, farms, and local economies. They threaten our climate and disproportionately impact our low-income and minority communities. FERC has ignored all the evidence and certified these destructive projects as ‘convenient and necessary’ – when in fact they are neither.
“There is no public convenience or necessity associated with either of these pipelines, and the only people they serve is shareholders. No assessment of actual need has been conducted for either of them, as noted by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur in her rarely-seen dissent opposing today’s approvals. Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley will cause irreparable harm to our climate, and to the communities and environment along their routes.
“Despite the certificates granted today, these fights are far from over. The responsibility to protect the climate, ratepayer interests, and the precious water in these states now rests squarely on the shoulders of Governors Terry McAuliffe, Roy Cooper, and Jim Justice. We will join our partners and communities in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia to increase pressure for the rejection of 401 water permits in these states and stop these reckless pipelines.”