An action alert from David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director:
We’ve just received word that a special deal may soon be attached to a bill in Congress to allow Dominion to change the rules in their favor so they can fast track the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We need your help today to send a strong message to our elected representatives. We need them to know to watch for tricks like this from Dominion and to be ready to vote in opposition to any legislation like this.
The time is NOW to contact your senators and representative in Congress today and urge them to oppose any legislation that makes way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Don’t know your senators or representative? No problem! Find out here.
Note: We don’t currently have a bill number or specific information about the measure that is circulating in Congress but don’t let that deter you from making the contacts. Time could be of the essence and you shouldn’t wait – it is important that our legislators be looking for these attempts whenever they arise and act quickly.
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 will oppose Dominion’s efforts and call on you to do the same – TODAY! 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 again for stepping up and taking action to protect the mountain streams, family farms, private property, water supplies, and Appalachian Trail.
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed an opposition brief in the US Supreme Court on August 28, 2019, arguing that the Court should not agree to review the Fourth Circuit opinion as requested by the petitioners, US Forest Service and Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Fourth Circuit decision blocked the ACP from coming across Reid’s Gap.
The question is “Whether the United States Forest Service has statutory authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a gas pipeline right-of-way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.”
The brief discusses the Mineral Leasing Act, and argues that:
- This case is not a suitable vehicle to address the question presented because petitioners seek review of just one of the Fourth Circuit’s four independent bases for its judgment, and the decision does not conflict with other Circuits
- The question presented does not warrant review because it does not present an issue of national importance, since the ACP and other pipelines can still cross the Appalachian Trail, and other Forest Service authorities and rights of way are unaffected
- The Fourth Circuit’s decision is correct and supported by the record, namely that the entire Appalachian Trail is a unit of the National Park System, the Mineral Leasing Act excludes all federal land in the National Park System owned by any federal agency, the ACP argument that the Appalachian Trail is merely a “Footpath” or “Right-of-Way” has no legal basis, and the Park Service administers the entire Appalachian Trail
Read the full brief here.
On August 28, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “reinitiate consultation,” asking the Service to reconsider its earlier finding that the MVP would not significantly harm protected fish and bats along the route. The Fish and Wildlife Service has said it will comply.
The announcement came two weeks after environmental groups filed an August 12 challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 opinion (see New Lawsuit Launched Against MVP). On August 15, three days after the challenge was filed, MVP said it was voluntarily suspending work on parts of the project where impacts to endangered species were in question. It is not yet clear whether any, some, or all work on the pipeline would now have to stop.
A statement from the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the August 12 challenge, said, “Because the project does not have a valid Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement, all work on the pipeline should halt until a new one is issued.”
Natalie Cox, director of communications for Mountain Valley Pipeline, attempted to give a positive spin to the FERC request, saying that the company had “received and reviewed the FERC’s letter and we are encouraged that the process is moving forward.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), headed by a three-person voting body, has the power to shut down work for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. With so many ongoing investigations and court cases proving that these projects shouldn’t be built in the first place, there is no excuse for construction to be allowed to continue. But FERC — with a troubling track record of rubber-stamping unnecessary fossil fuel projects — doesn’t do its job without public pressure. So it’s time to dial up that pressure. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) points out that FERC has issued stop-work orders for these two pipelines in the past, and could do so again. But only if we all continue to speak up.
Sign the CCAN petition! Tell FERC to issue stop-work orders for ACP and MVP immediately!
A new rule that will significantly limit protections for endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was announced by the Trump Administration on August 12, 2009, and will take effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register. Note that ESA issues related to the Atlantic Coat Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are not impacted by the new rule, as it is only applicable to future listing and delisting of threatened and endangered species.
The Trump Administration says the new rule will ease “the regulatory burden on the American public.” Environmental and conservation groups have a different take:
- Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife. – Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club
- “We are in the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, yet the Trump Administration is steamrolling our most effective wildlife protection law. This Administration seems set on damaging fragile ecosystems by prioritizing industry interests over science. – Rebecca Riley, Natural Resources Defense Council
- “Threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants in our national parks already face habitat changes and impacts of a climate crisis that is accelerating each year. Instead of working with Congress and states to better protect and restore wildlife as the climate changes, the Trump administration is reinterpreting the Endangered Species Act to weaken protections. – Bart Melton, National Parks Conservation Association.
In an August 22, 2019 letter to the editor of The Recorder, Robert “Bobby” Whitescarver says, “Representative Leonor Sullivan (D) stated the reason for the law succinctly on July 27, 1973, on the House floor when she introduced the bill: ‘From the most narrow possible point of view, it is in the best interest of mankind to minimize the losses of genetic variations. The reason is simple: they are potential resources. They are the keys to puzzles which we cannot solve, and may provide answers to questions which we have not yet learned to ask.’ In other words, it is not wise to wipe off the face of the Earth a species that could hold the cure for cancer or any number of human ailments. Today, one-fourth of all pharmaceuticals come from, or are derived from, plant and animal material.”
The courts have twice tossed out the permit for allowing the elimination or “taking” of an endangered species or its habitat by Dominion. Whitescarver concludes, “If a bee, a bat, a mussel, or a crustacean can stop Dominion’s pipeline, I’m all for it. I wish the people in its path had as much standing in court as the critters.” With the new ruling, it seems that neither the people in the path nor endangered/threatened species would have any power against the will of for-profit corporations.
From ABRA Update 241, August 16, 2019
The challenge to the Federal Energy Commission’s (FERC) approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline been scheduled for oral argument on October 16 before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs are 14 conservation groups, including several ABRA members, that are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The petitioners argue that FERC’s Environmental Justice Impact Statement is fatally flawed. Members of the 3-judge panel hearing the case will be announced in mid-September.
Read more about the case in our earlier post, FERC and ACP File Response Briefs in Challenge to ACP Certificate.