Category Archives: Compressor Stations

End of the Line: Episode 3, “Heart”

End of the Line podcasts cover conflicts over pipeline construction in Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states. In Episode 3: “Heart,”  we hear about the human cost of the heart of a pipeline.

In Union Hill neighborhood of Buckingham county, a plot of land is proposed as the site of a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Compressor stations are the heart of the pipeline, pressurizing gas to be pumped across hundreds of miles. A compressor station is the lynchpin of a pipeline, as well as the most dangerous piece of infrastructure. Union Hill neighborhood, where the station is proposed to be built, is a predominantly African-American neighborhood founded by slaves freed after the Civil War. How does the history of this neighborhood coincide with the construction of a large, noisy, dirty and dangerous compressor station? How have the people most affected by its construction responded? Have elected officials or corporate decision makers heard their voices?

In the midst of turmoil surrounding historic erasure in the south, this episode tells the unique and troubling story of land, ownership and theft in the neighborhood of Union Hill, Buckingham County, Virginia.

Letter to DEQ Urges Careful Review of Pipeline Company Practices

Friends of Nelson Board member Marilyn Shifflett has written a thoroughly researched letter to David Paylor, Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), urging DEQ to carefully consider the long-term consequences of pipeline construction and citing abundant evidence of the extensive damage done by companies during construction and their unwillingness to address permanent damage after construction completion.

In her letter, dated July 14, 2017, she writes, “Patterns concerning construction of these projects have emerged that are alarming, to say the least. Included in this letter, are “situations” and violations during pipeline construction that are seen all too often. While the FERC has intervened in a small number of cases; in the majority of these situations, both the FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of issuing the nationwide permits for wetland and stream crossings have not reacted at all. The VA DEQ is inarguably now reviewing the greatest environmental challenge ever faced in our State from these two proposed mammoth pipelines. Thousands of acres of protective forested land will be stripped, and nearly two thousand streams will be crossed with countless wetland areas impacted. While the task is monumental, it’s vital that the VA DEQ consider the overall behavior of the natural gas industry and ongoing pipeline construction. The following information and related links serve as testament to this industry’s activities after lengthy reviews and permits are issued, and validates the concerns expressed by residents all along the routes of the ACP & MVP. The highly sensitive environmental areas coupled with the steeps slopes of these particular routes exacerbate the issues Virginians will likely be left to deal with if either or both of these pipelines are ever constructed.”

Shifflett goes on to summarize the extensive environmental, regulatory, and compressor station violations by a number of pipeline companies, including Dominion. She points out that “These pipeline companies routinely allow the violations to stack up, simply pay the fines, and consider them part of the cost of doing business. There is no clear intent on their part to honor agreements made to institute ‘best practices.’ The regulatory process often doesn’t react quickly enough to forestall damages, and the violation notice process is complicated and lengthy, allowing these companies to complete projects before damages can be further avoided. Is the VA DEQ prepared to monitor construction of both the ACP and the MVP simultaneously? Is the VA DEQ willing to shut down construction on the entire route through VA when the first violation occurs?”

She cites some specific examples of Dominion violations:

  • Dominon G-150 8″ pipeline in WV: These violations are a stark example of Dominion’s lack of commitment to best practices for a pipeline less than one fifth the diameter of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline; a small pipeline constructed on the steep slopes of West Virginia without many of the complications expected from the much larger ACP.
  • Dominion Transmission, Multiple Sites, PA & WV: Records from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration cite Dominion for multiple safety and regulatory regulations.
  • Dominion Transmission, Fink Kennedy Storage, West Virginia: Again, Dominion is cited for multiple violations at this site from Sept., 2009 through June, 2010. Dominion has a pattern of lengthy response times to violations at their facilities and seems rarely to take corrective actions until violations and orders are issued. These are not the actions of a company committed to safe operation and concern for residents living nearby.

Shifflett concludes, “The preceding lengthy information is offered as a record of the behavior of the natural gas industry and stands as a testament to concerns expressed by Virginia residents along the routes of these pipelines…. The routes of the ACP and the MVP were chosen for cost savings related to easement purchases and relaxed regulation in sparsely populated areas. The VA DEQ is obligated to look beyond costs to these companies; judging these routes based solely on environmental realities. The majority of the ACP/MVP routes are through terrain unsuitable for a 42” high pressure pipeline and the damage will be irreparable. The deforestation of thousands of acres for right-of-ways, access roads, and temporary work spaces will leave a lasting impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the decades of efforts to clean up this precious Virginia resource. And certainly, the VA DEQ will realize after examining applications from these companies, that they have little to offer in the way of detailed slope analyses, and stream crossing plans that will avoid permanent damage to environmentally sensitive areas. Given the predictable actions of the natural gas industry, approval of the ACP or the MVP will surely lead to additional companies following suit and Virginia will be facing additional damage. With a 14% guaranteed return from FERC approval, Dominion and EQT will not be the only companies looking to profit off the backs of Virginia citizens. Virginia residents have taken the time to thoroughly review these projects and ask that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality do the same. Please reconsider allotted comment periods, and schedule public meeting only after all reports are available for review by residents.”

Read the full text of Shifflett’s letter here. The letter also appeared in full in The Recorder for July 20. 2017.

Next Steps: How to Stop These Pipelines!

Next Steps: How to stop these pipelines! Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia ponders right next actions, looking back to early interviews for inspiration to keep on truckin’. Featuring landowner, Ernie Reed of Wild Virginia, and with Lakshmi Fjord of Friends of Buckingham, Joseph Jeeva Abbate of Yogaville Environmental Solutions, Kirk Bowers of Virginia Sierra Club, and Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson. Since the June 23, 2017, interview with Ernie Reed, new public hearings have been announced by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for August. While these hearings are a bit of a sham (an ACP hearing in Harrisonburg? Rockingham County is not on or near the ACP route!), we still must turn out for them in force. Will you be one of the many people we need on each of these five dates? Stay tuned for how we will join together to send a clear and powerful message at these hearings. This fight will take all of all of us!

Now, This Fight Is Now

Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia – The group finished the 150 mile walk along the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland, Bath, Augusta, and Nelson Counties, ending on Sunday July 2, 2017, at Union Hill Church in Buckingham County, next to the site of the proposed compressor station. The final video of the walk, Sow Em on the Mountain – Sing 3: Now, This Fight Is Now, was filmed there.

Critics Challenge Dominion’s Local-Level Tactics

A WVTF feature story which aired on July 5, 2017, discusses the questionable tactics Dominion has used to influence local officials – specifically in Buckingham County, but it is likely the same tactics are routinely used elsewhere.

Pastor Paul Wilson recalled the January 2017 Buckingham Supervisors meeting where, “I guess over a hundred people spoke against the pipeline [and compressor station]. The board of supervisors and the people on the planning commission – they never listened to us. It was obvious from the very beginning that Dominion manipulates the whole process!” The Board voted unanimously to approve the compressor station.

After hearing complaints about people going unheard at Buckingham public hearings, Charlie Spatz, with the Climate Investigation Center, a non-profit in Northern Virginia, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the county, asking for all correspondence with Dominion. What he found was a cordial relationship between local Buckingham officials, the town’s largest employer, Kyanite Mining, and Dominion.

Documents revealed promises Dominion made to the county and to Kyanite, and also revealed that a Supervisor signed a letter on county stationary to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) in favor of the pipeline – a letter whose text was written by Dominion and which Dominion picked up in time for the VOF public hearing. Dominion’s Aaron Ruby explained that by saying, “Every company and corporation involved in the political process works with their elected officials to achieve shared goals.” Andy Wicks, of the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at UVA’s Darden School of Business, suggests a distinct ethical difference between working with elected officials and asking officials to sign letters written by corporations seeking favors.

Read or listen to the full WVTF report here.

Walking the Line Press Release, June 28, 2017

Walking The Line: Into The Heart of Virginia celebrates July 2

Walking the Line press release, June 28, 2017
Contact: Kay Leigh Ferguson, 434-987-1736; Lee White, 434-282-7259

Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia will complete its two week, 150 mile, 5 county walk along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route this Sunday, July 2, 2017, in the pews of the Union Hill Baptist Church, near the site of the proposed Buckingham Compressor Station and at Union Grove Baptist Church, all in Buckingham County.

Buckingham County, geographically the center of Virginia, is also the site of the most shocking and most racially unjust assault that the ACP plans against the rural communities of our state. The historic African American community of Union Hill surrounds former slave plantations which are now the chosen site of a proposed 54,515 horsepower gas compressor station.

At 10 am, the walkers, Buckingham County community organizers, and the congregation of Union Hill Baptist Church with Pastor Paul Wilson will join in worship and in the third sing and filming of Sow Em on the Mountain, a song which is quickly becoming the anthem of many who oppose the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline proposals.

Sow Em on the Mountain is a traditional song that reminds us that ‘we’re gonna reap just what we sow'”, says Kay Leigh Ferguson whose group ARTivism is supporting Walking the Line. “We can decide now to hold the line and protect our water, air and children and sow the seeds of protection. Or we can sow the seeds of environmental destruction by doing nothing. It’s time to choose what we want to sow.”

Following worship, the community is invited to walk or drive to the nearby site of the proposed Buckingham Compressor Station for a ritual sign dedication and planting by Friends of Buckingham and then on to Union Grove Baptist Church for a potluck supper. All are invited.

The proposed Buckingham Compressor station will be one of the largest of its kind and targets this small, rural, largely African American community to bear by far the greatest burden from the real dangers of fire and explosion and from toxic emissions and degraded land values of any community along the proposed ACP pipeline route.

“This is not about keeping the lights on. This is not about jobs. This is corporate greed hiding under a very thin mask of common good,” adds Ms. Ferguson.

“Dominion acts as though they are in charge of us. That they can rule us. That they have authority over the water, over the land and over people’s lives.” says Pastor Paul Wilson. “They, in that sense, become the destroyers of God’s creation.”

“This walk is not about being against anything as much as it is about drawing attention to the beauty and value of the land and the water that we must not allow ourselves and our children to lose,” says Lee White, key organizer of Walking the Line.

Union Hill Baptist Church is at State Rte 663, Buckingham, VA, 23921 (off 64E south of Charlottesville, take VA-20 S (24.7 mi). Take State Rte 655 to State Rte 602, 8 min (5.7 mi) Turn left onto State Rte 602, 6 min (5.2 mi) Continue on State Rte 660. Drive to State Rte 663, 8 min (4.3 mi)

Related links: the first and second “Sow Em” song videos and the Buckingham Compressor station focused video “Thou Shall Have No Dominion Here”  and more information can be found on our Facebook page here: Walking the Line facebook and details about joining the walk are here:  Walking the Line website