Friends of Nelson’s Ben Cunningham has produced an interactive map showing the ACP route through Nelson County. See the map here (21MB so it may take a few moments to load). The 125 foot clear cut ACP right of way is shown in orange, the 1100 blast radius zone in light orange, and the access roads in red. You can zoom in by clicking control-+. Where is your property on the map?
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.
The Washington Post reported on July 13, 2017, that “The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled … on two cases related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, handing opponents a minor victory but otherwise leaving the huge project unscathed. The court found in favor of a small group of landowners in Buckingham County who said pipeline surveyors had not provided adequate notice before entering their property. Survey crews have since changed their practice, though, to give more specific information about timing.
“The other case was potentially far more sweeping, as a landowner [Hazel Palmer] challenged whether an out-of-state utility has the right to enter property for surveys or to seize property under eminent domain. Although the natural gas pipeline project is largely controlled by Richmond-based Dominion Energy, the partnership that is building it is registered in Delaware.
“The court ruled that state law permits the survey work but said the plaintiffs had waited too late in the legal process to raise the issue of eminent domain, or property seizure. One expert said that could leave the door open for someone to pursue the eminent domain question, because the state constitution contains language prohibiting any outside company from exercising ‘the powers or functions of a public service enterprise.'”
Read the full article here.
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!
Having a hard time keeping up with all the news related to the pipeline? Remember to check out our In the News page for stories not featured in our main page posts. Click on the In the News tab for the current two months, or use the dropdown menu under In the News to look at back stories. A few good stories from the last week or two:
- 7-7-17 The Record Delta. Who is really paying for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?
- 7-7-17 Crozet Gazette. Battle Over Pipeline Inspires Afton Author.
- 7-3-17 Washington Post. Conflicts of interest pile up on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
- 7-1-17 Augusta Free Press. Letter to Editor by Jane Twitmeyer: Is pipeline ‘too big to handle’ for DEQ?
- 6-30-17 ClimateTruth.org. After polluter contributions, McAuliffe and Northam must stand strong against pipelines.
- 6-30-17 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Facing Down Dominion.
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.