Category Archives: Construction

NC DEQ Issues ACP Certification

On January 26, 2018, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality issued a 401 water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project to move forward in North Carolina. Their press release lists the requirements in the certification as well as certifications the ACP “must still obtain from DEQ an air quality permit for a compressor station in Northampton County, two general stormwater permits for impacts in Nash and Cumberland counties, an individual stormwater permit for a contractors’ work yard in Cumberland County and approval of the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern segment of the pipeline’s North Carolina route.”

Immediately following the NC DEQ announcement, NC Governor Roy Cooper announced a fund for clean energy and rural development.  The Governor’s Web page says, “ACP and its partners Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives such as reducing the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources. Funds can also be used to ensure that local communities benefit economically from the pipeline by having access to natural gas from the pipeline. ACP did not guarantee affordable access to natural gas for communities through which the pipeline will run. Details on how the fund will operate are underway.”  (Read the Memorandum of Agreement for the new fund.)

NC Policy Watch reported on January 25, 2018, that Duke Energy approached the Governor’s Office about the status of the ACP permitting process. On January 26 Policy Watch reported, “Over the past week, there were rumors that Duke Energy was cutting a deal with the Cooper administration for a permit approval. Under the terms, Duke would establish a environmental mitigation fund, which included money for renewable energy. That rumor proved to be true, as within minutes of DEQ publicizing its approval of the ACP permit, Cooper’s office announced that Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives. These include efforts to ‘reduce the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources.’”

Condemnation from community groups and environmental organizations was swift, especially given that the announcement of the Dominion/Duke donation of $57.8 million came suspiciously soon after the DEQ approvals.

Speaking of the $57.8 million, the Washington Post reported, “The two utilities and the pipeline company agreed that the money will go first toward ‘mitigation for the unavoidable effects’ of the pipeline on ‘interior forest habitats, open-space lands, water bodies, and natural resources’ in communities along the pipeline’s route. The deal doesn’t bar North Carolina from recovering damages if the pipeline leaks or causes fuel spills.” In other words, Duke/Dominion agree the ACP will do lots of damage, but they will make huge profits and will graciously donate a bit of money towards fixing the damage.

In a press release immediately after the NCDEQ announcement and that of NC Governor Cooper, Appalachian Voices slammed the approval, saying “The massive pipeline would run through eight rural eastern North Carolina counties, and cross streams, rivers and wetlands 326 times, posing unacceptable long-term risks to drinking water sources, fisheries and watersheds.”

Amy Adams, North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, said, “The governor acted in the best interest of North Carolina’s coastal families and businesses when he opposed offshore drilling, but his action today abandons the people who live and work in one of the most disenfranchised regions of our state and whose private property would be sacrificed for this unnecessary pipeline.  Gov. Cooper cannot dress up this pipeline approval by throwing a few million dollars for environmental mitigation, which in itself acknowledges there will indeed be severe impacts to communities and our natural resources. And while his support for renewable energy and cutting climate pollution is commendable, his action today allowing this pipeline utterly undermines those very goals.”

She also noted, “It will be impossible for the agency to do all of the monitoring and enforcement to prevent widespread damage, and they know it. The pressure must have been very intense to make senior DEQ staff and the Governor cave in and accept a deal ahead of permit deadlines.”

Tree Cutting – What’s Allowed, What’s Not


Although final state permits have not been received in North Carolina or Virginia, Dominion contractors (all from out of state – showing the lie of the “jobs for Virginians” PR) have begun to cut trees – with limited approval from FERC– on certain properties IF the property owners have already signed easements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

However (no surprise) ACP does not appear to be strictly playing by the rules.

It has come to our attention that Dominion is engaging in the misleading tactic of contacting property owners who have NOT signed easement agreements, by letter and/or by phone, asking to cut trees on their properties. ACP cannot force landowners who have not signed an easement to let crews start cutting on their land. Unless you have signed an easement, they have no rights to be on your property or to cut trees there. Dominion/ACP is pushing hard to cut as much as they can because regulations protecting bats and migratory birds limit the legal window they have for tree-cutting. They may only cut through March 31. Delaying cutting for even a couple of months now will result in a delay until November 2018 — and much else can happen during that time.

Here is a list of what Dominion/ACP is and is not allowed to do:

  1. Contractors may cut trees ONLY on properties for which Dominion has a signed easement agreement.  No felling may occur on National Forest lands at this time.  Additionally, contractors may cut trees ONLY in upland areas and ONLY on select sections of the route which FERC has specifically approved. In Nelson County, there are only two short stretches approved:
    A. Between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen’s Fortunes Point (ACP mile markers ~158.2 – 159.5), and
    B. In Wingina from approximately Cabell Road to the James River (ACP mile markers 183.2-184.3).
    (For locations approved in other counties, see: http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20180119-5004)
  2. No mechanized methods are allowed. That means no wheeled, tracked, or other equipment is authorized for any clearing-related activity, and contractors may use ONLY equipment that can be operated and carried by hand, by an individual (i.e. chainsaws).
  3. Although they may access the site as stipulated in your easement, improvement or modification of approved access roads is NOT authorized, and use of U.S. Forest Service access roads is not permitted until ACP obtains the applicable road use permit(s).
  4. Ground disturbance is not allowed, and in certain terrain that could potentially preclude the use of any vehicles. We encourage you to request that they walk in from public roads and, if they won’t, we ask you to photograph any damage or ruts they leave.
  5. Contractors may only cross wetlands and waterbodies on foot.
  6. Trees and vegetation may be felled at or above ground level, BUT ONLY using methods that will not rut soils or damage root systems, and in a way that avoids obstruction of flow, rutting, and sedimentation of wetlands and waterbodies.
  7. Tree felling may NOT occur within waterbodies and wetlands, and a 50-foot buffer must be maintained between waterbody and wetland boundaries and the tree-cutting activities.
  8. Felled trees and woody and other vegetation debris MUST BE LEFT IN PLACE until further authorization for any earth-disturbing activities or equipment use is granted by the FERC.

If Dominion/ACP contacts you or anyone you know to ask for permission to fell trees on your property, tell them NO. They have NO right to be there unless you have signed an easement and your property is located in the specific stretches of the route mentioned above. (Contact Friends of Nelson if you are unsure.)

If you witness what you believe to be violations of any of the approved processes above, please try to take some photographs to document the situation and immediately notify:

  • Sarah.McKinley@ferc.gov, 202-502-8368 (Please refer specifically to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline), or
  • Notify public affairs at the FERC to report violations via these avenues: Public Inquiries: Local: 202-502-6088. TTY: 202-502-8659, Toll-free: 866-208-3372, or customer@ferc.gov

When reporting a violation, you will be asked for specific locations.

Friends of Nelson also asks that you notify us: friendsofnelson@gmail.com – or phone our landowner hotline, 434-260-3299 (text preferred, someone will call you back), and strongly recommends that you also notify Governor Northam’s office (804-786-2211).

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat


The following editorial is reprinted with permission from The Recorder for January 24, 2018. The list of legislators at the end has been expanded to include those who represent Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham Counties.

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat

Readers may or may not have noticed the news recently about federal regulators giving Dominion Energy the green light to begin slicing huge swaths of mountain forests in preparation for building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

We think it stinks.

Cutting an interstate-highway sized void through a forest means only one thing. What was forest is no longer forest. It’s now a pustule, a barren scar, open for all sorts of nasties to wreak havoc on water quality, bordering vegetation and indigenous animal life. It will never be the same. Removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on the atmosphere.

In its infinite knowledge, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the energy giant permission to start felling some of the most pristine trees in the world before all necessary environmental safeguards have been put in place. The go-ahead signals a fait accompli that the proposed pipeline is a done deal, something already accomplished and presumably irreversible. We found it a little more than curious that FERC prescribed a deforestation method whereby trees will be cut to ground level. Root systems and their severed trunks wait in place until pipeline construction is authorized. No doubt the clear-cut method will lay out a scrumptious banquet for ravenous woodland beetles and bugs to begin their work of advancing a manmade process of natural woodland decay and decline.

There’s little wonder a company like Dominion Energy is eager to deforest thousands of acres. The return on investment for building a pipeline is so enticing — with federal approval comes a 15 percent guaranteed rate of return on the pipeline builder’s investment — that it quickly becomes evident why Dominion wants to build a lucrative pipeline project it could somehow justify.

The FERC tree cutting approval arrived shortly after Dominion admitted, for the first time, the real project goal all along has been to take the gas to South Carolina and farther south. The premise flies in the face of the case Dominion made to FERC during the licensing process, that the gas was intended for use in Virginia and North Carolina only. This is pure fraud and grounds for putting an end to the project.

The company’s first 42-inch diameter pipeline, the proposed ACP would feed the Southeast fossil fuel at the expense of permanently scarring our pristine Allegheny Highlands landscapes.

It’s a colossal experiment, a project on a scale matching few, if any of its kind. The work would include not only deforestation but mountaintop removal in West Virginia and Virginia. Dominion prefers the euphemism of “flattening.” Either way, some of our most visually appealing mountains would be forever scalped.

Forest fragmentation results from utility rights of way, and the ACP would be no exception. Utility rights of way span areas as large as 5 million acres in the United States. Some studies have shown that transmission rights of way harbor more plant species than adjoining forest areas, due to alterations in the microclimate in and around the corridor. Forest fragmentation is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in forests. The problem of habitat destruction that caused the fragmentation in the first place is compounded by the inability of individual forest fragments to support viable populations, especially of large vertebrates. Local extinction of species occurs when there’s a lack of at least one fragment capable of supporting a viable population. The scar alters the conditions of the outer areas of the fragment, greatly reducing the amount of true forest interior habitat.

We think it’s a super sloppy job when Dominion leaves in place sites for construction lay-down yards following a major rerouting two years ago. Now on the table of the Highland County Planning Commission, Dominion land use applications infuriatingly remain in McDowell and Monterey, promising to completely tear up more than 10 miles of Highland’s arterial roadways, including U.S. 250 (where there’s a new bridge), Route 679 (Bullpasture River Road) and U.S. 220 (Jackson River Road).

We take comfort in efforts by citizen groups to police Dominion, which has long been cited for water quality safeguard violations in pipeline construction and coal ash pollution. As noted in a story in this week’s edition, the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance has launched a citizen initiative to monitor proposed pipeline construction activities. The alliance of more than 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia stated the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative intends to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.

We urge readers to let their feelings be known. The contact information for Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham federal legislators is:

  • U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Bath, Highland, Augusta), 2309 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, phone: (202) 225-5431, fax: (202) 225-9681, goodlatte.house.gov
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, Jr. (Nelson, Buckingham), 415 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, phone: (202) 225-4711, fax: (202) 225-5681
  • U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, 231 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-4024, fax: (202) 228-6363, www.kaine.senate.gov
  • U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 475 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-2023, www.warner.senate.gov/public.

Contact information for state elected officials:

  • In Bath, Del. Ben Cline, P.O. Box 1405, Amherst, Va. 24521, www.bencline.com.
  • In Highland, Augusta, and Nelson’s North District, Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, P.O. Box 239, Staunton, Va. 24402, www.bellfordelegate.com.
  • In Nelson (except North District) and Buckingham, Del. Matt Fariss, (434) 821-5929, DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov
  • In Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, Sen. Creigh Deeds, P.O. Box 5462, Charlottesville, Va. 22905- 5462, 434-296-5491, district25@senate.virginia.gov
  • In Buckingham, Sen. Mark Peake, 4925 Boonsboro Road, Box 172, Lynchburg, VA 24503, 434-455-3382, district22@senate.virginia.gov

ABRA Announces Pipeline CSI


Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance announced on January 22, 2018, the launching of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI) to monitor construction activities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A copy of the press release sent to media in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina is reproduced below.

Additional details about Pipeline CSI, including how persons in ABRA member organizations can become involved, will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks.


Press release from the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, January 22, 2018

Media Contact: Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, rwebb.dpmc@gmail.com, 540-290-0913
Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, lewfreeman@gmail.com, 540-468-2769

Citizen Surveillance Launched for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

A citizen initiative to monitor construction activities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is being launched today by the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), a coalition of over 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia. The objective of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI) is to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.

“We strongly believe that the ACP is unneeded and cannot be built safely without causing permanent damage to the environment, particularly critical water resources,” stated Rick Webb of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, who is chairing the development of the new ABRA program. “We will continue to challenge the government decisions involving the project. But, with certain pre-construction activities already underway, citizen oversight is essential given the limited resources of government agencies that are responsible for regulating pipeline construction.”

Continuing, Webb said “the need for citizen oversight of pipeline construction has been made clear by observations of recent pipeline projects and ineffective government agency response to repeated violations and water resource harm. We have no reason to expect more from the agencies during construction of the ACP, given their failure to require submission of complete environmental plans prior to project approval. This deferral of critical review and analysis sets the stage for significant and long-term degradation of high-quality streams and groundwater supplies.”

The Pipeline CSI is gathering in-depth data and assessing the landscape the ACP is proposed to cross to fill in information gaps in official records. The effort will involve hundreds of volunteer observers in Virginia and West Virginia. The program will include extensive water quality monitoring and aerial reconnaissance. Initial phases of the Pipeline CSI will focus on mountainous areas of the pipeline route, where ACP construction threatens water quality in the headwaters of some of the major watershed systems in the eastern United States. Results from the information gathered will be shared with regulatory agencies and the media.

The ACP received a permit for construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on October 13, subject to the project receiving other state and federal agency approvals. FERC approved on January 19 limited tree felling for the ACP.

Video: Beyond the Pipeline

A new video, Beyond the Pipeline, focuses on ways individuals and communities in Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham counties are coming together to stand up against the ACP.

Lee White: “It starts on the local level. We have to act. We have to step up. It’s our responsibility.”

Richard Averitt: “We’re fighting an extraordinarily powerful enterprise. And really, at its core, we’re fighting things that are so hard-baked into our legal system, and our society, and the incentives that are there, that you recognize when you get into this that it’s not really about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That’s a symptom of a much, much bigger problem, and it’s going to take all of us to turn it around.”

Join us in the fight!

(A production of Amanda Joy Photographics, Conservation Division.)

Tree Cutting – Action Alert!


Call Gov. Northam and tell him to stop Dominion’s tree cutting for the unwanted and unnecessary ACP.

FERC just approved Dominion’s request for early tree removal (using chainsaws). Area impacted around Wintergreen is the blue line in the red box. DEQ has not issued permits! Call the Governor of Virginia.

FERC says it’s ok for Dominion to take down trees before receiving all approvals. Write to Governor Ralph Northam and other elected officials — stop Dominion’s end run around state agencies, leaving a swath of destruction in their wake.