Category Archives: Construction

News of the Week


The Supreme Court of Virginia heard two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). For details about the cases, see the Friends of Nelson Media Advisory released April 18, 2017. No decisions have yet been issued. News coverage of the hearings appeared in many places, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and NBC TV.

More than 50 Democratic candidates running for Virginia House seats have pledged not to take contributions from Dominion. In the mean time, Dominion is betting big on two candidates for Governor, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.

News just in: In a letter dated April 17, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners (ETK) reported to FERC the spill of over 2 million gallons of drilling fluid onto wetlands in northern Ohio as part of a high density drilling (HDD) operation during constructing the Rover Pipeline. HDD is the process Dominion proposes to use for drilling under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Reeds Gap.  (See our story below on HDD at Reeds Gap.)  Construction on the Rover project began only a month ago, as it received its FERC certificate as one of the final actions before Commissioner Norman Bay resigned, denying FERC a quorum. Not an auspicious start!  See here for Ohio news coverage of the spill.

FERC to Dominion: More Information Needed


In their weekly update, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) reports, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wasted little time in following-up with Dominion Transmission, Inc. (DTI) to seek additional information and clarifications on numerous items, many of which were flagged in comments filed about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). On April 11, five days after the DEIS comment deadline, FERC wrote DTI making 111 specific requests for supplemental information, requesting that the company submit its responses by May 1 (20 days from the date of the agency’s letter).”

In the letter to Dominion, FERC asked Dominion to:

  • Conduct a thorough review in order to limit the number of access roads necessary to construct and operate the ACP, noting the very large number of temporary and permanent access roads in the current proposal
  • Incorporate small route changes and/or workspace design revisions to avoid or minimize impacts on the numerous point and area features and known and suspect closed depressions within the current project workspace that were identified in the updated Karst Survey Report filed on February 24, 2017
  • Incorporate a route variation to avoid the Valley Center area in Highland County where there is an abundance of karst features, caves, and sinking streams
  • Identify the location and temporary and permanent impact acreage of high quality wetlands
  • Provide an updated table of forest fragmentation analysis using the proper data sets, since the forest fragmentation data that DTI had submitted February 24, 2017, in response to a FERC request of October 26, 2016, was not in compliance with the agency’s requested data parameters.
  • Provide a status report on the survey, evaluation, and effect assessment of properties along the project route through Nelson County, Virginia. Include access roads and off-right-of way facilities. Report also on agency and local informant communication regarding the properties and historic districts.
  • Describe in more detail how Dominion would work with local law enforcement and emergency response to promote the safe evacuation of landowners in remote areas should a pipeline incident occur. Consult with each landowner where the proposed pipeline crosses a private egress that is the sole access to/from the property to determine if a site-specific evacuation procedure is requested.

Read the letter from FERC to Dominion here.

HDD: A Limited Review by a Company Working for Dominion

[Photo by John Claman:  Piney Mountain,Three Ridges, Reed’s Gap]

On April 17, 2017, the US Forest Service submitted a supplement to a filing made on April 6, 2017, which transmitted Forest Service approval of the primary and contingency proposals for the horizontal direct drilling (HDD) drilling under Reeds Gap and the Appalachian Trail near the sole entrance/exit for Wintergreen. The supplement provides the documents the Forest Service received from GAI, the 3rd-party contractor who conducted the review.

The GAI review should have included – but didn’t – the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) report, A High Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Instead of being comprehensive, GAI’s review is limited, stating only, “Based on our review of the geotechnical and geological data provided for the proposed HDD, GAI believes an HDD in this location is feasible.”

DPMC’s Rick Webb says there is, “No real discussion or analysis of the issues or even reference to most of the issues – just an opinion – no reference to the lack of geophysical info for most of the drill-path or the extreme conditions.” The DPMC report on drilling through the mountain includes detailed information on how the HDD could fail, which GAI seems to have ignored, and GAI did not address at all the extreme environmental footprint of the project.

Webb continues, “I expressed concern about an obvious conflict of interest to the Forest Service when I heard that GAI was the reviewer. GAI works for Dominion on the ACP. See: https://gaiconsultants.com/project/atlantic-coast-pipeline-project/

Webb adds, “GAI reps were at the open houses during the EIS scoping period – assuring us of the high-environmental standards and technical capacity of Dominion and the pipeline industry. GAI was also the company that prepared the Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for the recent Stonewall Gathering Pipeline in WV (notable for poor behavior with respect to implementation of the ESC plans on the ground; see http://pipelineupdate.org/2015/08/28/stream-zero/; also in the path of the ACP).”

Note added on April 21, 2017DeSmog reported on April 20, 2017, that after DeSmog’s story linking GAI to Dominion, GAI removed mention of its link to Dominion from its Web page.

Wintergreen Will Put 382 Acres up for Auction


According to press reports (Blue Ridge Life, Nelson County Times), Wintergreen Partners has put 382 acres up for auction, with bids to close on April 27, 2017. The residential-zoned site, at the end of Eagles Court near the Mountain Inn and next to one of the ski areas, covers three mountain ridge lines. Although the property on sale may not be directly on the ACP route, any purchasers would certainly be affected by the lengthy and major construction activities at the Wintergreen entrance, the site of Dominion’s proposed drilling under Reed’s Gap.

Comment on ACP on Forest Service Lands


The April 6, 2017, deadline for commenting to FERC on the DEIS has passed, but you still have time to comment to the Forest Service! Their deadline is April 10, 2017.

The Forest Service has requested comments on the authorization of the ACP on National Forest lands and on the proposed amendments of the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) that would allow the ACP to be constructed across the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests.

Comments to the Forest Service regarding the authorization of the ACP through National Forest Lands and the proposed amendments to the LRMPs for the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests need to be submitted to FERC.  You can file comments online using FERC’s eComment feature (for brief, text-only comments) or eFiling feature (for longer comments).  You can also mail comments to FERC at the address below:

Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

As always, remember to include the ACP’s project docket number when submitting comments to FERC: CP15-554-000.  Comments are due by April 10, 2017.

In order for the ACP to be built across National Forest lands, the Forest Service would need to authorize the pipeline crossing, issue a special use permit, and amend the LRMPs for both National Forests, as the current LRMPs do not permit such large-scale infrastructure construction.  Amendments to the LMRPs would allow the ACP to exceed current Forest Service standards for soils and water, cross the Appalachian trail, remove old growth trees, fail to meet current Scenic Integrity Objectives, and construct access roads in the National Forests.  For more information about the specific amendments to the LRMPs for the National Forests, please see the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP

For background on Forest Service frustrations with Dominions incomplete and evasive answers to their questions, see the February 22, 2017 letter to Monongahela Forest supervisor Clyde Thompson from James Thompson, a West Virginia University professor and specialist in soils and land use who has been contracted by the Forest Service as a third-party reviewer for the pipeline project, discusses in detail Dominion’s failures.

Forest Service Satisfied with Feasibility of Reed’s Gap HDD

The April 6, 2017, Richmond-Times Dispatch article reporting on DEQ’s announcement that it will require individual water quality certifications also reported that “the U.S. Forest Service said it is satisfied with the feasibility of [Dominion’s] proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountain to avoid the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties.” Further, “Clyde Thompson, Forest Service supervisor in the Monongahela in West Virginia, told federal regulators this week that the agency has concluded that the use of horizontal directional drilling and a contingency plan for a more conventional drilling method both would be ‘feasible at the proposed location.’ ”

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here (scroll down to the second half of the article).