Category Archives: Cultural Resources

Rockfish Valley Foundation Files Comments To FERC on ACP

On July 15, 2018, Blue Ridge LIfe reported on the Rockfish Valley Foundation‘s comments filed with FERC on negative impacts of the Atlantic Coat Pipeline in the Rockfish Valley.

“‘The Rockfish Valley Foundation has concluded several months of research into Dominion’s impact on the Rockfish Valley, home to the Wintergreen Resort and the state’s most scenic Route 151 with its many breweries, cideries and wineries. It is also home to the Rockfish Valley foundation which presents trails for the public along the waterways, Spruce Creek Park and the RVF Natural History Center,’ RVF’s President and Chairman Peter A. Agelasto lll said. ‘Studies have been made of access roads proposed by Dominion and also other construction that will have a negative impact on the South Rockfish Valley Rural Historic district,’ Agelasto added.”

Click here to read the full document as filed.

Court Ruling Stops ACP Timbering of “The Wilderness”

On March 1, 2018, Judge Norman Moon, of the US Western District of Virginia Federal Court in Lynchburg, granted ‘immediate access’ for tree-felling on 16 of 27 Virginia properties for which Dominion requested access. Acting on an appeal by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for one of the properties, “The Wilderness,” a 1,000-acre farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order on March 13, 2018, preventing imminent tree cutting by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The “stay pending appeal” overruled Judge Moon’s March 1 decision, thus providing temporary relief from tree cutting until the court could fully consider the issue.

On March 20, Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys and the ACP’s attorneys presented oral arguments on the issue before the judicial panel.

On March 21, 2018, a unanimous judicial panel of the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court’s injunction. The Fourth Circuit’s order will prevent tree cutting on the property until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fully completes the required state and federal historical review process. This review is necessary because “The Wilderness” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, and been deemed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to be a “Virginia Treasure.”

Read more on Appalachian Mountain Advocates Web page.

Environmental Justice

Sharon Ponton, of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and Free Nelson, shared on Facebook the following useful information on environmental justice issues related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with numbers from the US Census Bureau:

  • There are 13 counties in Virginia who will host the ACP if it is built. Nine of those counties have above average populations of African Americans. They are: Buckingham, 34.3%; Cumberland, 32%; Prince Edward, 32.5%; Nottoway, 40%, Dinwiddie, 32.8%, Brunswick, 55.2%, Greensville, 59.5%, Southampton, 35.4% and Suffolk, 52.5%. Virginia’s African American population statewide is about 19%.
  • Additionally, Dominion has sited the Virginia compressor station for the ACP in the middle of an African-American community in Buckingham.
  • There are eight counties in North Carolina through which the ACP would be buried, seven or which have higher than average populations of African Americans or Native Americans. They are Northampton County, 58.1%, Halifax, 53.5%; Nash, 40.4%; Wilson, 40.6%; Sampson, 27.1%; Cumberland, 38.7% and Robeson, which has a 41% native American population. Johnston County is the only county which has a lower than average African American population, 16.2%. North Carolina’s statewide African American population is about 22%. Its native American statewide population is less than 2%, and most of that 2% lives where the ACP would be built.
  • Dominion has also sited another compressor station in NC in Northampton County, which has a 58% population of African Americans.

A recent EPA report demonstrated how communities of color, including Hispanic, African American, Native American, and others, are more likely than their white counterparts to face pollution from polluting industries.  Read about the recent EPA report here and here.

Another relevant report, released on November 14, 2017, by the NAACP, is Fumes Across the Fence Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Facilities on African American Communities. “The life-threatening burdens placed on communities of color near oil and gas facilities are the result of systemic oppression perpetuated by the traditional energy industry, which exposes communities to health, economic, and social hazards. Communities impacted by oil and gas facility operations remain affected due to energy companies’ heavy polluting, low wages for dangerous work, and government lobbying against local interests.”

Nelson BOS Comments to FERC

Central District Supervisor Ernie Reed, writing on behalf of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, commented to FERC on the proposed Treatment Plans and Mitigation for impacts to cultural and historical resources in the Rockfish Historical District and Warminster Historical District from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The Nelson Board of Supervisors is a consulting party in the Section 106 process for the ACP. The letter outlines the numerous procedural difficulties in the Section 106 process.

After listing deficiencies the letter continues, “The scar left by the ACP across the face of our mountains, farms, rivers and streams and historic places would deform a unique and pristine natural environment rich in cultural memory and traditions that bring home the historic and cultural contributions of generations of Nelson families—white, black, red and brown. This unique and vital interplay of historic and natural landscapes is increasingly rare in this country. Qualities and cultural values that have been carefully stewarded on the land in Nelson over many generations would be altered by the ACP. Moreover, the 29 miles of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would bisect Nelson County and destroy the cultural and historical integrity of the entire County in perpetuity.”

The letter notes, “Nelson County’s agricultural, historical, cultural and archeological significance must be treated as a whole by any Treatment Plan mitigating these damages: ie. damage to the parts of the County must be addressed as damage to the whole county.”

Speaking of the December 28, 2017 Memorandum of Agreement for Mitigation of Virginia Forest Fragmentation Impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the letter points out that “Areas not directly impacted by the proposed ACP will benefit from these mitigation dollars; for instance, the $5m CACF funds are targeted to be spent totally in Albemarle County at Biscuit Run State Park. Not a single inch of the ACP will be located in Albemarle County. It is noteworthy that not a single penny of these allocated mitigation funds for fragmentation impacts has been allocated to benefit Nelson County.”

After describing the several forest conservation and agricultural-forestal areas in Nelson County that would be bisected or destroyed by the ACP, and noting that “Nelson County forests are scheduled to be totally bisected by a 125’ clearcut for a total of 29 miles. Including clearing for new access roads, nearly 440 acres of Nelson County’s forests will be destroyed,” the letter says, “Rather than mitigation for these egregious violations, the MOA provides funds designated for ‘forest fragmentation’ specifically to build parking lots, roads, bathrooms, etc. at Biscuit Run Park, as previously mentioned, in Albemarle County. ”

The letter concludes, “We are again reminded the extent to which Dominion, our Commonwealth, and federal government have failed to strive for a just compensation of the cultural damages to our communities and people. No individual, government, much less a corporation should be allowed immunity to the damages and liability that may be caused by this pipeline in a single lump-sum payment.”

Read the full letter here.

Thanks to Supervisor Ernie Reed for this well-written letter, and to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors for their position on the proposed treatment plan and mitigation plan outlined by Dominion for the proposed ACP.

Stone Walls Along the Blue Ridge

Photo by Nancy Sorrells

In the December 10, 2017 Staunton News Leader, Nancy Sorrells of Augusta County writes about the threat the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline poses to the historic dry stone walls that traverse both both the east and west face of the Blue Ridge. “The grey and green lichen and moss-covered walls of stone meander through the forest like silent sentinels of history. Long ago, settlers on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, and on the eastern slopes in Nelson, lived proud and independent lives on their subsistence farms. These stone walls were an integral part of their daily farming activities,” protecting crops and gardens and enclosing animals.

Although morterless, the walls are remarkably stable, and still stand “horse-high and hog tight,” snaking for miles along Blue Ridge slopes. Late 18th and early 19th century settlers in our part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge came from the Ulster region in the north of Ireland; scholars have suggested that the differing styles of the walls may be attributed to different kin groups.

“The only threat today to these walls is a natural gas pipeline. To date, Dominion will not acknowledge the need to avoid these walls during their construction activities. Should Dominion build its pipeline through these walls, there is no mitigation that can restore what those artisans created centuries ago.

If the destruction of these walls worries you, please write to Julie Langan, Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221. Express your concern over the potential loss of these important resources and suggest that the pipeline route be moved to protect the historic stone walls.