Category Archives: Construction

December 7: Multiple Pipeline Barriers


December 7, 2018, saw multiple barriers placed in the way of both the ACP and the MVP.

Early in the morning NBC posted nationally a lengthy and very sympathetic article telling the story of the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s push to build a massive compressor station for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of Union Hill,an historic, predominantly African American community. In it, John and Ruby Laury, longtime residents of Union Hill told NBC News, “Dominion thought they can just come in and we’d all roll over….We have to stand up. We have no fear of Dominion.”

Then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Fish and Wildlife Service permit regarding incidental take of endangered species. This action was in response to a petition filed on November 30 by the Southern Environmental Law Center, and said simply, “Upon consideration of the submissions relative to petitioners’ motion to stay, the court grants the motion and stays implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement pending review by the court.” The Fish and Wildlife Service approvals for the ACP must be in place before Dominion can harm threatened and endangered species. The Court threw out the original permit in May 2018. “The Fish and Wildlife Service scrambled to reissue this permit and its haste is evident in its analysis,” said Attorney Patrick Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is yet another instance of government agencies rushing out ill-considered permits for this project.” Because of the stayed permit, construction must stop on the entire 600-mile route. Dominion’s Aaron Ruby said, “We respectfully but strongly disagree with the court’s decision. We believe the stay is not only unwarranted, but overly broad. We are filing a motion for emergency clarification on the scope of the court’s decision. We do not believe there is any basis for the court to stay the entire Biological Opinion, which authorizes all 600 miles of the project.”

ACP permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers are all now on hold.

By the end of the day, Dominion had notified FERC that work will stop along the entire ACP route, saying, “In response to a stay of implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement granted today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Dominion Energy, on behalf of Atlantic and itself, has stopped construction on the entire Projects, except for stand-down activities needed for safety and that are necessary to prevent detriment to the environment.”

Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times broke the news that Attorney General Mark Herring had filed suit against Mountain Valley Pipeline, citing more than 300 violations of Virginia environmental regulations, and seeking “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations.” The suit was filed in Henrico County Circuit Court, and does not state an exact monetary amount being sought by the state.

ACP’s Floodplain Variance Request Denied


On December 3, 2018, on a 3-2 vote, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals denied four of Dominion’s applications for the variances to the County’s flood plain ordinance needed to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across flood plains in Nelson. The other seven of the original eleven applications were dismissed in January 2018, and ACP will have to submit new applications for them.

The Nelson County Zoning Ordinance specifically includes “Structures or facilities that produce, use, store, or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials” in the list of “critical facilities [that] are prohibited from being constructed or operated within a SFHA [Special Floodplain Hazard Area] unless a Variance is granted.” (Article 10.15F on p. 87)

Friends of Nelson issued the following press release on December 4, 2018:

Friends of Nelson commends the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals for its 3-2 vote to deny the applications for variances that would allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross four floodplains along its route through Nelson. These four applications were deferred by Dominion earlier this year. ACP had originally filed applications for 11 floodplain sites, but easement agreements at that time were only in place for the 4 sites applied for and heard by the BZA on Dec. 3.

Board of Zoning Appeals’ member Gifford Childs, made the motion to deny, expressing concerns that the ACP’s application did not offer sufficient detail and assurances that these areas would be protected during construction.

Friends of Nelson agrees and remains very concerned about the inevitable negative impacts to our water, to surrounding properties, and the long-term damage to the fragile ecosystems that exist naturally in floodplain areas. We are convinced that the ACP’s plans do not meet the standards required by Nelson County’s current floodplain ordinance. The preferred route chosen by the ACP through 11 floodplain areas in Nelson is the highest number in any jurisdiction in Virginia, and begs the question of any earnest effort on the ACP’s part to avoid areas that will increase risks associated with large natural gas transmission pipelines. One of the major causes of pipeline “failures” is soil movement and the industry, as well as key agencies, recommend avoiding areas prone to flooding when selecting pipeline routes.

Friends of Nelson will continue to monitor the ACP’s applications on the remaining floodplain sites and is most grateful to the residents who commented during the public hearing.

See press coverage by the Lynchburg News & Advance.

FERC Asked to Issue Stop Work Order for ACP

On November 27, 2018, a group of six ABRA members – Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and Wild Virginia – asked the Federal Regulatory Commission to issue a stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). On November 9, the same organizations had requested a stop-work order. The new request, sent by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of the six organizations, supplements the November 9 request, noting that the project has recently lost permits from three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts (Norfolk, Wilmington and Huntington) to construct the ACP over streams under the Corps’ Nationwide 12 permit. FERC’s October 13, 2017 Certificate to the ACP requires all federal authorizations to be in place in order for construction to take place. The letter states:

As a result of the suspensions of those three authorizations, Atlantic no longer has the requisite federal approval to construct any stream or wetland crossing along its entire route. Atlantic also lacks NWP 12’s authorization for “temporary structures, fills, and work necessary for the remediation of inadvertent returns of drilling fluids to waters of the United States through subsoil fissures or fractures that might occur during horizontal directional drilling [HDD] activities,” meaning that Atlantic lacks the ability to promptly and legally control the all-too-common inadvertent releases from HDD operations that might be performed in lieu of in-stream crossings. Because those mandatory federal authorizations are now lacking, FERC must not allow pipeline construction to continue, not only in waters of the United States but anywhere along the pipeline route.

Appeals Court Vacates MVP Nationwide Permit


On November 27, 2018, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Clean Water Act when it verified that construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project could proceed under Nationwide Permit 12 in West Virginia. The Court vacated the Corps’ verification in its entirety, leaving the project with no authorization under the Clean Water Act. The Court’s November 27, 2018, decision supports and expands upon their October 2, 2018, decision to vacate the Corps’ verification on more limited grounds.

A copy of the Court’s opinion is here.

A detailed explanation and interpretation from the Policy Resolution Group is here.

Coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail is here.

Dec. 3: Nelson Hearing on ACP Request to Cross Floodplains

A Public Hearing will be held at 7 pm Monday December 3, 2018, in the auditorium at Nelson County High/Middle School (6919 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston) to review four of the deferred floodplain variance applications submitted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in early 2018. On January 31, 2018, ACP requested the deferrals until such time as they could provide the additional information requested by Nelson County on behalf of the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) for these four applications to cross designated floodplains.

There are no NEW applications at this time. The hearing will be on the four prior permit applications that were deferred at ACP’s January 31, 2018, request. The other seven of the original eleven applications were actually dismissed in January 2018, and ACP will have to submit new applications for them.  Based on a Friends of Nelson phone call to the Planning Office on November 26, no new information or documentation on the four variance requests had been received from ACP as of that date, and as of November 29 the meeting packet for BZA members, which would include relevant information, had not been posted to the BZA Web site.  The request to reopen the Variance Appeal process came to the Zoning Office via phone call rather than in writing.

The Nelson County Zoning Ordinance specifically includes “Structures or facilities that produce, use, store, or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials” in the list of “critical facilities [that] are prohibited from being constructed or operated within a SFHA [Special Floodplain Hazard Area] unless a Variance is granted.” (Article 10.15F on p. 87)

The ACP Statement of Justification for Floodplain Crossings contains the usual boiler plate ACP language: “this project is needed,” “FERC agrees this is the best route,” “it will not have adverse impacts,” “it will not affect existing or future development”, etc. Clearly not valid justifications for a variance for a 42-inch pipeline carrying natural gas at 1400 psi, and we need to speak out against it.

Come to the hearing and speak out against granting variances to ACP!  Those wishing to speak will be required to sign in before the meeting.  (As usual, ACP will probably stack their speakers at the beginning.) Nelson County has guidelines for speakers at hearings; note that speakers representing a group will have 5 minutes, individual speakers will have 3 minutes (and may not allocate their time to another individual). If you have general comments (vs site-specific ones), you should state when speaking that you want your comments entered into the public record for all four permits.

Permits are being considered for the following applications/parcels/landowners, all of whom have signed easements with ACP:

Public Hearing on ACP Request to Cross Floodplains

A Public Hearing will be held at 7 pm Monday December 3, 2018, in the auditorium at Nelson County High/Middle School (6919 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston) to review four of the deferred floodplain variance applications submitted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in early 2018.  On January 31, 2018, ACP requested the deferrals until such time as they could provide the additional information requested by Nelson County on behalf of the BZA for these four applications to cross designated floodplains.

The Board of Zoning Appeals Web page has details about the ACP application as well as links to written comments on the requests submitted to the BZA. (Scroll down past the comments section to get to the links for the ACP application.)

Those wishing to speak at the hearing will be required to sign in before the meeting. Nelson County has guidelines for speakers at hearings; note that speakers representing a group will have 5 minutes, individual speakers will have 3 minutes (and may not allocate their time to another individual).

The hearing will address these four variance requests:

Variance # 2018-007

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across property owned by Ronald Slaughter Jr. & Others, 14815 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston, Virginia and further identified as Tax Map #45-A-25.

Variance # 2018-008

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across the following properties:

  • 1434 Starvale Ln, Shipman, VA – owned by Gillis Rodgers, and further identified as Tax Map #46-A-34.

  • Tax Map #46-A-12 – owned by Equity Trust Company

Variance # 2018-009

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across property owned by James & Virginia Powell, 884 Wheelers Cove Rd, Shipman, Virginia and further identified as Tax Map #59-A-23.

Variance # 2018-010

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across properties owned by Greenway S Corporation, Tax Maps #60-3-15, 60-3-16, and 60-A-28.

See a map of the FEMA floodplains on the ACP route. The blue dots on the map (look for them along the orange line that is the pipeline route) are the water crossings. The A (red), AE (yellow), and X (green) areas on the map are FEMA designated Floodplain Areas. A & AE are the most dangerous part of Floodplains, called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), and any permanent structures are prohibited there, with or without Higher Standards.