Category Archives: Compressor Stations

BREDL Releases Report on Union Hill


Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League – Press release

Contact: Sharon Ponton, 434 420-1874, ponton913@msn.com
John Laury, 434 390-4725, johnwlaury@gmail.com
Kathie Mosley, 434 953-7031, kathiemosley506@gmail.com

After 400 years, African Americans Still Face
Subversive Policies Limiting Their Ability to Build Wealth

Buckingham, VA – Today Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and its Buckingham Chapter, Concern for the New Generation, released a new report: “Union Hill: Real Property, Racism and Environmental Justice,” which reveals a history of subversive policies, in Virginia and nationwide, which severely limit the ability for African Americans to build wealth.

Kathie Mosley, Co-Chair of Concern for the New Generation, stated, “Helping with the courthouse research on the properties forced to host the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the siting of the compressor station in Union Hill was an eye-opening experience for me.” She continued, “Eleven of the 15 properties in Union Hill are owned by minorities. Seven of the 15 are heir properties.”

Sharon Ponton, BREDL’s Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator said that “heir properties” occur when someone dies without a will, leaving all the heirs as owners in common. With no one having a controlling interest in the property, those families are at a distinct disadvantage when dealing with eminent domain proceedings.

John Laury, a member of Concern for the New Generation, said that Buckingham County’s courthouse records incorrectly identified the shapes of these properties. Laury said, “We needed to prove which properties the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross, if built, so we could complete the research for our study. We were surprised to find 73% of the properties are owned by minorities, and that Dominion chose the Union Hill site instead of the 148 acres it first purchased for the compressor station in a mostly white community just a couple of miles away.” Laury’s work helped identify property boundaries on three of the 15 properties studied.

Ponton pointed out that in the early 1900’s there were over 925,000 farms owned by black farmers. “There has been a 97% decline in land owned by African Americans since the 1920’s. Here in Buckingham, these families have held onto these heir properties for over a century, and here comes Dominion threatening the legacy left to them by their ancestors. It is unacceptable to allow this to happen to this community.”

The group plans to deliver a copy of the report to Governor Northam, Attorney General Herring, and David Paylor, Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality later this week.

The context for the study is Virginia 400, marking the history of the slave trade in the United States. From 250 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow laws to the continued subversive policy of siting toxic polluting facilities in environmental justice and other marginalized communities, African Americans and those who live in poverty have been relegated to less than second class citizenship.

Download the BREDL report here.

Oral Arguments in 4th Circuit Court on Buckingham Compressor Station

Oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on the challenge to the air permit issued in January 2019 for the Buckingham compressor station took place in Richmond on October 29, 2019. Chief Judge Roger Gregory, who headed the three-judge panel, repeatedly pushed attorneys representing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the State Air Pollution Control Board, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline about why they compared Union Hill air quality to air quality around the state rather than to the surrounding Buckingham area.

Under questioning from Gregory, Deputy Solicitor General Martine Cicconi conceded that Union Hill is populated overwhelmingly by African Americans. Dominion had long disputed findings of an extensive door-to-door survey to document who lives around the proposed compressor station site, begun four years ago by anthropologist Lakshmi Fjord.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation led the appeal.  In a press release from SELC, Senior Attorney Greg Buppert said, “Union Hill is a historic African-American community that traces its roots to the end of the Civil War. The siting of the compressor station and its harmful air pollution in this community is not consistent with the Commonwealth’s commitment to protect the health of all Virginians.  After five years, it remains a mystery why the pipeline’s lead partner, Dominion Energy, has never once proposed moving this facility.”

An announcement of the court’s decision is expected in early 2020.

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage here.

Read the Daily Progress coverage here.

Read the Virginia Mercury coverage here.

Read the SELC press release here.

Read the SELC opening brief here.

And finally, audio recording of the oral arguments made before the Court (57-minutes) is available by clicking here.

Union Hill Residents and Supporters Continue to Fight ACP

The Friends of Buckingham County held a town Hall meeting Saturday in Union Hill. More than 120 people turned out for the event, where residents and their supporters spoke out against Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a compressor station. The proposed compressor station and the current path of the ACP threatens homeowner’s property, according to residents.

Breaking Through News Reporter Elaine Rackley spoke with members of the Union Hill Community and various Group leaders supporting Buckingham County, including Greg Buppert, a senior attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center,  and journalist Jonathan Sokolow (see below).

Our Air, Our Health, Our Common Future: The Fight to Save Union Hill


Our Air, Our Health, Our Common Future: The Fight to Save Union Hill

Saturday, September 7, 2019 at 1 PM – 4 PM, Union Hill, Virginia

Join friends, neighbors and Virginians leading the fight to protect our communities against corporate polluters for a Town Hall to address this important question: What kind of Commonwealth are we?

Refreshments will be served immediately following the event program. Please register on our Eventbrite web page (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/our-air-our-health-our-common-future-the-fight-to-save-union-hill-tickets-69378548105) so you have all the details and directions to the event (and to give us an accurate head count for food!).

The Town Hall will take place on the ancestral land of Taylor Harper, a former slave who bought a portion of the plantation land he once toiled in Union Hill. This community has been targeted for a massive, dangerous fracked-gas compressor station that would be part of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline – a highly controversial, expensive and unneeded project.

You’ll hear from several Harper descendants as well as other Union Hill landowners who likewise trace their ancestry to the courageous women and men who founded this historic community, and other area residents. The Town Hall will also feature speakers from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Chesapeake Bay Foundation who are representing community members in efforts to stop the compressor station.

The fight for Union Hill is part of a broader struggle for environmental justice in Virginia. It also includes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Chickahominy power plant, the mega dump (called “Green Ridge”) in Cumberland County and other projects that threaten vulnerable communities. Together, communities across the commonwealth are calling on our elected leaders to take meaningful action to develop sound environmental policies that leave no community behind.

Hosted by Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, POWHR, Water Is Life. Protect It.

See also the Event page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/506866846742060/

Crucial Legal Decisions Expected in Coming Months

This excellent Status of Principal Court Challenges to Permits and Certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was prepared by the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and posted in the ABRA Update #236 for July 12, 2019.

Construction activity on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was suspended several months ago as the result of a stay from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a successful challenge to the endangered species biological opinion that had been issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But, a decision on that important case, as well as decisions regarding some other cases challenging permits for the ACP are expected over the next 3-4 months. Here is a rundown of the status of the key court cases that have been brought by various ABRA member organizations.

1. FERC Certificate – A challenge to the Federal Energy Commission’s (FERC) issuance of a certificate for the ACP on October 13, 2017 was filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 16, 2018. The plaintiffs are 14 conservation groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The suit could not be filed until FERC formally rejected a request for a rehearing of the certificate, which did not occur until August 10. One basis of the suit is the petitioners’ contention that FERC did not look behind the affiliate agreements that Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, (principal partners in the project) claim demonstrate that the pipeline is needed in Virginia and North Carolina markets. The petitioners argue that FERC’s Environmental Justice Impact Statement is fatally flawed. Jurisdiction of the case has been transferred to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are expected to occur in the fall of 2019.

2. Forest Service Permit – On January 23, 2018, the U.S. Forest Service granted the ACP a Special Use Permit to cross national forest lands and a right-of-way to cross beneath the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST). This action followed a November 17, 2017 decision by the Forest Service to amend the Forest Plans for the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests to accommodate the ACP. A suit was filed on February 5, 2018 by seven conservation/environmental organizations (most members of ABRA) represented by SELC, arguing that the Forest Service had rushed to judgment to approve the project, notwithstanding raising serious questions about the project’s ability to be built over steep mountain terrain without serious environmental damage. The case was argued before a three-judge panel on September 28, 2018. On December 13, the Fourth Circuit ruled to vacate the Forest Service permit, expressing agreement with the petitioners about environmental threats being improperly evaluated and the Forest Service’s failure to asses off-forest alternatives, and in addition ruled that the Forest Service lacked the authority to grant the project permission to cross the ANST.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) on January 28 filed with the Fourth Circuit requesting a rehearing en banc, meaning a hearing on the case before all fifteen judges of the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit rejected the ACP, LLC petition for rehearing and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was filed June 25. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in October whether to take the case.

3. Fish and Wildlife Service – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) biological opinion on threats to endangered species by the ACP was vacated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 5, 2018, but an opinion from the Court explaining its order was not issued until August 6. A new biological opinion was issued by the FWS that sought to meet the court’s objections. That re-issued opinion was also been challenged by the petitioners, (Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and the Virginia Wilderness Committee) represented by SELC. That challenge was argued before the Fourth Circuit on May 9, 2019. A decision is expected later in the summer. The re-issued biological opinion is currently stayed pending a ruling by the court.

4. National Park Service Permit – The National Park Service’s (NPS) December 2017 approval for the ACP to cross underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway was challenged in the Fourth Circuit by Sierra Club and the Virginia Wilderness Committee, represented by SELC. The Court vacated the permit on August 6, and FERC issued a stop-work order for the entire project on August 10. The stop-work order was lifted September 17, just five weeks later, when the NPS issued a new permit that purported to remedy the deficiencies in the earlier permit. That permit was challenged again by the petitioners in the Fourth Circuit.

Before the case was argued, the Park Service asked the Court to vacate the previously issued permit for the ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway so the agency could “consider whether issuance of a right-of-way permit for the pipeline to cross an adjacent segment of the Parkway is appropriate.” The Fourth Circuit granted that motion on January 23. Thus, at this writing, there is no permit for the ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway.

5. Army Corps of Engineers – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed a motion on January 18 with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a remand and vacating of the permit that the Huntington District of the Corps had issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross rivers and streams in West Virginia. The Court had previously issued a stay of the Nationwide 12 (NWP12) permit issued for the ACP by the Huntington District, as well as other NWP12 permits issued for the project by Corps districts in Pittsburgh, Norfolk and Wilmington that have jurisdiction over other portions of the ACP project. The motion was unopposed and subsequently granted by the Court. While the action only directly affects the portion of the ACP subject to the Huntington District’s jurisdiction (West Virginia portions of the route), the stays on stream and river crossings for the ACP in the other Corps districts remain in effect.

6. Buckingham County Compressor Station Air Permit – The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted on January 8, 2019 to grant an air permit for the proposed ACP compressor station in Buckingham County, VA. The vote had been delayed several times and was particularly contentious because of concerns over air emissions that would affect the immediate area, as well as the Chesapeake Bay to the east, but also be because it would be built proximate to an historic African American community, raising the issue of environmental justice. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on behalf of Friends of Buckingham, challenged on February 8 the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s decision to approve Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Buckingham County compressor station. Joining SELC in the lawsuit, filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, was the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. SELC filed its opening brief on May 31. Response briefs are due to be filed by July 24. Oral arguments are expected in the Fall.

7. Virginia State Water Board 401 Certification – The Virginia water quality certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act was granted December 12, 2017 by the State Water Control Board. The action was challenged in a suit filed by SELC on behalf of several conservation group clients and argued before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on September 28, 2018. The principal contention in the case was that the Board’s approval of the certificate for the ACP was, on several grounds, arbitrary and capricious. On January 14, 2019, the Court rejected the arguments of the petitioners.

This Fight Is Now

New video from ARTivism Virginia. Follow one Mountain Valley Pipeline resister from Southwest Virginia as she journeys to stand with the Union Hill Community in their resistance against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its proposed compressor station. Bernadette “BJ” Brown speaks a simple and profound truth to those resisting new fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere: “We will win. Because if we lose – there won’t be anyone here to win. “This Fight is Now” is a collaboration of ARTivism Virginia and Lights and Years.