Category Archives: Citizen Activism

Unity Banner on the Way to Bent Mountain

Watch this short presentation about all of those whole participated in putting together the Unity Banner as it makes its way to Bent Mountain.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, its chapters and allies presented a Unity Banner to water protectors and pipeline fighters. The Unity Banner was created to symbolize solidarity between those who successfully fought and stopped the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and those who are still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Sharon Ponton, BREDL’s Stop the Pipeline Campaign Coordinator shepherded the project and created the banner.

The Unity Banner was hosted in 16 communities; ten in Virginia and six in North Carolina. Hundreds of individuals signed the Unity Banner, representing the diverse members of the coalition created six years ago who have now become a part of the resistance movement against natural gas and other fossil fuel expansion.

Warner, Kaine Introduce Bill to Improve Pipeline Permitting Process

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 232, August 13, 2020

U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-V) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced legislation on August 6 to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. S. 4502 would make it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used.

Among other guidelines, the bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment. It also strengthens landowners’ rights by improving the processes in which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to intervene to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration and compensation.

The bill builds upon an earlier version of legislation the Senators introduced in the last Congress. More info here.

Citizen Groups Were Key in Effort to Stop Pipeline

Letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Friends of Nelson President Doug Wellman, published August 1, 2020:

As someone deeply involved in the long struggle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), I found the analysis by the RTD’s Michael Martz to be well-considered and fair. Litigation indeed was crucial in defeating a project that featured Goliath (Dominion Energy and Duke Energy) against David (rural, often poor counties), and that litigation needed the tireless support of well-organized citizen groups.

From the first announcement of the ACP in 2014, citizen groups came together to do the hard work of informing themselves and their neighbors, reading long reports full of soul-deadening technical details, submitting comments at public meetings, petitioning political leaders, joining as plaintiffs in lawsuits, writing letters to the editor, attending rallies, creating art and music — in other words, doing everything they could think of to preserve their properties, their environment and their communities.

For maximum effectiveness, citizen groups along the 600-mile route had to work together. From the start of the battle in 2014, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance provided expert guidance for its 50 citizen group members, a forum for information and inspiration, and monitoring of ongoing damage related to pipeline construction through its Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative.

Many of the citizen groups were assisted by Virginia Organizing (VO), a nonprofit created to help citizen groups function effectively on a wide range of issues. VO provided local groups with their nonprofit status, assisted with business management and supported management tools essential for record-keeping, mailing lists and other purposes.

Defeating the ACP demonstrated that an engaged and organized citizenry has the power to draw in talented, experienced expert support. The outstanding work of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other national groups was the tip of the spear, while the strength behind the spear was provided by well-organized, indefatigable citizen groups.

ACTION ALERT: Comments Needed on Dominion Extension of Time Requests

We are urging everyone — and especially impacted landowners — to file comments to FERC on the request that Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI) submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 10, 2020, for an extension of time of

  1. one-year to address abandonment and restoration issues for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and
  2. two-years to complete construction of the Supply Header Project (SHP).

FERC has set a comment deadline of 5 p.m. Monday, August 3.

For details on how to comment, click here.

The major points that should be made in comments are:

1) – Landowners who entered into an easement agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) should be provided an opportunity to be released from those agreements as a condition of FERC’s granting Atlantic its requested extension so that the landowners can once again utilize their land without the restrictions such agreements placed upon future use. The recommendation for such a remedy made in the July 17 filing by a group of conservation organizations (cited below) should be adopted by FERC. “Requiring Atlantic to promptly contact all landowners where a right-of-way easement exists and inform them that

  • (i) Atlantic will release the right-of-way easement within 90 days of a written request from an affected landowner,
  • (ii) Atlantic will provide the affected landowner with the proposed written release of the right-of-way easement,
  • (iii) Atlantic will pay the reasonable attorneys’ fees of the affected landowner in reviewing and negotiating changes to the proposed written release of the right-of-way easement, and
  • (iv) Atlantic will file the final, executed written release of the right-of-way easement in the land records of the appropriate jurisdiction. Atlantic has already committed that landowners will keep the easement compensation they have received.”

For impacted landowners: Click here for additional information, including a comment template.

2) – The extension request for the ACP to address abandonment and restoration activities along the project’s right-of-way should not be granted without a public comment period of at least 30 days. It is in the Commission’s interest to know the concerns that the public and affected landowners have about restoration activities and impacts on landowners’ rights in the future.

FERC’s agreement with these first two items would be in keeping with the recently expressed interest by Chairman Chatterjee for the Commission to be more responsive and sensitive to the interests and concerns of landowners who are affected by projects being considered by the Commission.

3) – The SHP time extension should be denied because it has not and cannot be justified in accordance with FERC standards. The project was proposed as being dependent upon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Dominion Energy clearly stated on the record that “the SHP does not have independent utility and would not be built without construction of the ACP.” If built, the SHP would be a pipeline to nowhere!

If you are interested in learning more about all of these issues, you can read more about them in the excellent and detailed comments that that SELC submitted to FERC.

 

From Friends of Nelson


July 16, 2020

WE—ALL OF US WORKING TOGETHER—DID IT! There will be NO PIPELINE!

Six years of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, the great team at ABRA and our superb legal teams from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other conservation organizations, called a halt to the Dominion and Duke’s awful, profit-seeking Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal.

All the assistance from the attorneys and the experts ultimately depended on the fact that ordinary citizens in Nelson, Buckingham, Augusta, Highland and Bath counties joined citizen groups in SE Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia to stand against the pipeline. We informed ourselves and our neighbors, read long reports, filed comments with federal and state regulators, petitioned our elected representatives, attended hearings and gave passionate testimony, wrote letters to the editor, attended rallies, created art, wrote songs, and made videos, pitched in at tabling events, attended public meetings, helped with stream monitoring, …and in every way we could conceive kept up the pressure and showed that little David wasn’t afraid of Goliath. Had we been passive in the face of overwhelming odds, the attorneys and experts might have found other projects more worthy of their talents and time.

Time was on our side. While our team was bedeviling Dominion’s team with beautifully crafted lawsuits, the world was changing in our favor. Renewable energy caught fire, with amazing reductions in price; the American public finally realized that climate change is real and the consequences of failing to reduce our carbon footprint are horrific; “Black Lives Matter” called attention to environmental justice concerns and the need for systemic changes in many of our institutions; overproduction in the fracking rush undercut the price of natural gas and bankrupted many of the drillers; and the investment community lost confidence in fossil fuels. Expert analysts discredited Dominion’s claims of rising demand for electricity, massive job creation, and negligent environmental impacts.

Slowly at first, the comments I heard at our tabling events of “It’s a done deal” and “you can’t beat Dominion” were replaced by questions about specific lawsuits and expressions of optimism.

On behalf of the Board of Friends of Nelson, I want to thank you for your steadfast support through this six-year trial of fire. Your willingness to contribute your time and money, wear our NO PIPELINE and Friends of Nelson T-shirts, put up NO PIPELINE yard signs, and do all the hard work necessary to get the truth of the ACP proposal out was critical. And then you helped set up for events, work music festivals, posted flyers, wrote letters, went to demonstrations, gave talks, and so much more. Together we truly are stronger.

Having fulfilled our mission of defeating the pipeline proposal, the question becomes “What’s next?”

We will continue our support of landowners who were in the pipeline’s path. Joyce Burton, our landowner liaison, will continue to help landowners as they try to figure out what the cancellation means for them in terms of the easements they have signed, what rights they now have (or don’t) over the land, what the legal situation is, etc. Landowners with questions should contact us at friendsofnelson@gmail.com.

We will tie up loose ends, including removing or temporarily modifying the large “NO PIPELINE” signs and banners that have served us so well, wrapping up our stream water quality monitoring program in a way that assures the data we collected will be available for future use as needed, and deciding what to do with our T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

We will do what we can to help put an end to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That terrible project is largely complete, but there are still opportunities to stop or modify it, and we will work with Mountain Valley Watch, POWHR and ABRA to lend a hand where we can.

Jill Averitt will continue to serve as our volunteer coordinator, graphic artist and social media expert, although her Facebook postings will be fewer and more selective.

We will work to compile and preserve an archive of the battle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that can inform future generations about this landmark struggle. We don’t want anyone to forget this story and the multitudes of people like you who helped make it happen.

In the months to come, the Friends of Nelson’s Board of Directors will give careful consideration to the future of our organization. Unlike in the past six years, we now have the luxury of time for exploring options and deliberating possible avenues for continuing to serve Nelson County. We will keep you posted.

Once again, Friends of Nelson thanks each and every one of you for your support, and for the many and various ways you all played a part over the last six years in bringing us to this moment of relief and celebration.

Sincerely,
Doug Wellman, President
Friends of Nelson

From ABRA

Excerpt from comments by Lew Freeman, Executive Director, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, in ABRA Update #238, July 9, 2020:

ABRA and its members are most appreciative to those in the media who for six years have
diligently covered this story and reported on our points of view about the ACP. In particular, we extend a shoutout to The Recorder newspaper that serves Highland and Bath Counties, Virginia. The Recorder’s reporting and commentary on the evolution of the ACP since the project was first announced in its embryonic stage in May 2014 has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The masthead of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance states that the organization’s mission is: “Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.” We organized ABRA to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and that effort has dominated our activities for the duration of our existence. However, we have never lost sight of the broader mission of promoting the integrity of this very special geographical region of the United States. Accordingly, the ABRA Steering Committee, on July 9 agreed to three new initiatives:

  • ABRA and its members will closely monitor actions required to be taken to wind down the ACP project, with particular attention to the restoration of the lands that have been disturbed by construction activity. We will be reporting on that progress in future issues of ABRA Update and, when necessary, taking action to assure that the required restoration is done properly.
  • ABRA has offered its assistance to those still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) coalition and many others. We continue to believe that natural gas pipelines are incompatible with the integrity of the mountain regions of West Virginia and Virginia.
  • ABRA will be announcing in coming weeks a new program designed to significantly enhance the capabilities of environmental, conservation and citizen groups to analyze impacts of projects in the greater Allegheny-Blue Ridge region to assure that the overall environmental integrity of the region is maintained. The program, named the Conservation Hub, will employ some of the same technological tools that formed the basis of the ABRA Compliance Surveillance Network (CSI) that was developed to monitor ACP construction activities. We are very excited about this new initiative and believe it will be a decided asset for the greater conservation community.
[Note: Friends of Nelson is a member of ABRA. We are very grateful to be part of this wonderful coalition, and especially grateful for the dedicated and thoughtful ABRA staff leadership over the years.]