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.