According to news reports in the Charlottesville Daily Progress and the Nelson County Times, Dominion has completed the surveying work for the proposed ACP on all but seven properties in Nelson, and expects those last few to be finished within several weeks. Dominion must still complete several weather-restricted environmental surveys, looking for certain kinds of wildlife and vegetation that cannot be found in the colder months, and expects to conduct those surveys in June or July.
A lengthy March 20, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Testimony, correspondence, show friction between Dominion, U.S. Forest Service, over pipeline permitting,” discusses the many ways in which Dominion has repeatedly failed to provide information requested and required by the U.S. Forest Service, information relevant to Dominion’s proposed pipeline through steep slope areas of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. But despite Dominion’s failure to respond to Forest Service requests, during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on energy infrastructure last week a top Dominion official complained about the Forest Service’s slowness in responding to Dominion’s application!
A 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. Teleconferences with the Forest Service on November 21 and December 8, 2016, and another on February 17, 2017, were planned as opportunities for Dominon to present their proposed “Best in Class” Steep Slopes Program and solicit Forest Service feedback. At none of these meetings did Dominion provide any specific or targeted information that would allow the Forest Service to properly evaluate Dominion’s proposal. Further, the analyses and documentation from Dominion does not include data or information derived from the Order 1 Soil Survey previously prepared for National Forest lands along the route. Professor Thompson also notes that Dominion is not making available to meeting participants the documents and data critical for discussion of agenda topics until less than 24 hours before the scheduled teleconferences!
Remember that the Forest Service is requesting public 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. For instructions on how to comment, see our January 10, 2017, Web page posting.
Some Nelson landowners with property either on or close to the route have been contacted by Dominion’s contractors to ask for permission to inspect their buildings and/or wells. Friends of Nelson believes Dominion is trying to amass pre-construction data so that if landowners later complain that their foundations have cracked or their well is no longer producing as much good water, there will be a basis for comparison.
Although we recommend that people consult with their own lawyers about whether to allow these inspections (which are separate from the pipeline surveys authorized under VA Code 56-49.01), attorneys at Appalachian Mountain Advocates have said that they see little downside to allowing the inspections: if Dominion has a record from their own contractors that the water supply was good before the pipeline, it will be harder for them to shirk responsibility if wells go bad during/after construction.
However, we are also recommending that people INSIST on getting a copy of the report. That way, if there is anything that indicates existing problems, or somehow seems incorrect, they can arrange for re-testing with a different contractor on their own in order to confirm/refute the results.
Indeed, Friends of Nelson recommends that folks who are concerned about potential impacts to their water source get well-documented, baseline water data NOW. Then, if the pipeline is actually built, they should continue to monitor during construction and for a period afterwards.
With the support of Friends of Nelson and a number of other organizations, an excellent guide to water supply monitoring has been produced by Downstream Strategies. The guide is nearly 50 pages; note that the actual “How To” of monitoring starts on p.22, and there is also list of independent consultants that landowners can hire to do the work starting on p. 36.
If you have questions or want further information, please email email@example.com; give us your phone number so we can call you back.
Thomas Hadwin, who spoke on February 12, 2017, in both Buckingham and Nelson Counties, has kindly shared his PowerPoint presentation from the workshop in Buckingham, “New Pipelines: Do We Need Them?” (the answer is no!), as well as two other documents he has written, “Purpose and Need for the ACP,” and “The ACP in a Nutshell.” In “The ACP in a Nutshell” he carefully refutes Dominion’s inflated claims of local economic benefits, reminds us that, “The Department of Energy states that adequate capacity exists in the existing pipeline system to serve this region throughout the multi-decade planning horizon of their studies,” notes that, if built, “ratepayers would pay higher transport fees for the ACP compared to existing pipelines,” and concludes that eminent domain requires landowners “to sacrifice their individual interest in order to serve the greater public good. In this case, the greater public good is better served both economically and environmentally by using existing pipelines.”
For additional information and resources by Thomas Hadwin, see “Atlantic Coast Pipeline: A Question of Need.” This story map posted by Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition includes detailed charts and information.
Voices From Bath and Highlanders for Responsible Development co-sponsored a meeting in Highland County on February 1, 2017. at which speakers from five groups discussed the DEIS and offered ways for the many attendees to continue their involvement in the pipeline fight. Speakers included Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition program coordinator; Joe Lovett, attorney and founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates; Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance executive director; and Nancy Sorrells, with the Augusta County Alliance. The five agreed FERC had issued an incomplete and inaccurate DEIS.
Greg Buppert said the DEIS “glosses over important impacts. There’s missing information. There’s information that is deferred. But this is the type of impact statement that FERC produces.” He also said the need for the ACP has been exaggerated by a Dominion-created group of businesses. “Our first critical focus will be on the need for this project. There’s evidence that this project is not needed to meet the demand for natural gas. The arrangement of the entities, both building the pipeline and buying the gas, is that they’re all affiliates and subsidiaries of Dominion Resources. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that’s not an arm’s length transaction that’s accurately reflecting the market.”
Rick Webb pointed out an obvious falsehood in the draft EIS. “Here, it says the engineering status and the permitting status are done,” he said. “Both of those are completely false. The engineering is far from being completed and none of the permitting is done.” He also said FERC had dismissed concerns about the potential for water contamination in cavernous karst terrain. “It’s not just where the pipeline crosses. Dominion is only looking at karst features within a certain distance on either side of this corridor. It’s everybody downstream — their water supply is at risk…. Once you get that mud into the subterranean karst system, it takes a long time for it to work its way out.” Webb urged residents downstream from any proposed pipeline activity to write to FERC before the April 6 deadline and request thorough study of potential karst water pollution.
Joe Lovett also urged everyone to file comments to FERC prior to April 6, and asked that they provide copies of their comments and other information to his organization, Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “If you have some data and you think FERC isn’t going to consider it, please let us know, because FERC is obligated to consider all of the relevant information. If they fail to consider it, that’s a flaw and that’s how we win.”
Nancy Sorrells urged landowners to not sell easements and discussed tactics being used by Dominion’s land agents. “This is not a done deal. The land agents who approach you will tell you it’s a done deal and you’d better sign. It’s your right — you don’t even have to talk to them. The spin they put out is pretty incredible. What they try to do is divide and conquer. They’ll say ‘Don’t tell your neighbor, but we’re going to give you a better deal.’ They’ll say ‘If you don’t sign, you’ll be flagged as troublemakers,’ or ‘We’ll just move the pipeline off your property because your neighbors have signed.’ ”
Sorrells distributed an Augusta Alliance information sheet that explains, “Dominion does not have the right to an easement through your property unless FERC grants it the power of eminent domain. That has not happened. Even if FERC ultimately grants Dominion the power of eminent domain (still far from certain), landowners have significant rights involving protection of their property to insure that they are paid the true value of the highest and best use of their property.”
The Augusta Alliance formed the Virginia Easement Action Team, a non-profit education and legal defense group, to assist landowners who do not wish to sell easements to Dominion. More information can be found at www.augustacountyalliance.org.
After a day of public hearings on February 9, 2017, in which overwhelming opposition was heard to Dominion’s proposal to swap open land conservation easement properties to facilitate building the proposed ACP across existing easements, The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) held a brief closed door meeting and voted unanimously to defer consideration of Dominion’s application. Many speakers recognized the VOF Board’s difficult position, facing intense legal pressure from Dominion on one side, but intense opposition from the public, local Planning and Supervisor’s boards, landowners, and conservation groups on the other.