Category Archives: Environmental Impact

4th Circuit Court Stays ACP Permit in WV

On Wednesday November 7, 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to the water-crossing permit allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build through streams and rivers in West Virginia. Although the Army Corps of Engineers had issued a “Nationwide Permit 12,” the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inserted two stipulations, requiring that stream crossings must be completed in 72 hours, and that structures authorized by the permit could not impede fish from swimming upstream or downstream. ACP then changed its construction method for crossing the Greenbrier River to a method environmental lawyers say violates the WV DEP conditions.

The Corps reinstated their permit in October, and last week Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of the Sierra Cub, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, asked the 4th Circuit Court for a stay to pause the construction. The Court issued the two-page order from Chief Judge Roger Gregory, with the concurrence of Judge James Wynn and Judge Stephanie Thacker.

Read the Court’s order here.

Charleston Gazette-Mail press coverage is here.

Judge Allows Youths’ Climate Case to Proceed to Trial

On October 15, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled in Eugene OR that the plaintiffs in Juliana vs. The United States can credibly claim that their due process rights have been violated by the government and fossil fuel companies, and that their suit may go to trial as scheduled on October 29, 2018. The suit was first filed in 2015, with the 21 plaintiffs, then ranging in age from eight to 19, arguing that government actions worsening carbon emissions “violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.”

Aiken said in her ruling that the young plaintiffs “proffered uncontradicted evidence showing that the government has historically known about the dangers of greenhouse gases but has continued to take steps promoting a fossil fuel based energy system, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The federal government has tried for the three years since it was filed to have the suit dismissed, arguing that pollution and extreme weather are world-wide, and, as one Justice Department lawyer said in 2016, “There simply is no constitutional right to a pollution-free environment.”

Judge Aitken rejected the government’s argument, saying, “Where a complaint alleges knowing governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem, it states a claim for a due process violation. To hold otherwise would be to say that the Constitution affords no protection against a government’s knowing decision to poison the air its citizens breathe or the water its citizens drink.”

Read the full Common Dreams article here.

Our Children’s Trust, which helped the young plaintiffs with their suit, has a press release on the ruling here.

Spruce Creek Camp: Report on Final Weekend


Oct. 22nd, 2018, For Immediate Release
Contact: Jill Averitt 434-262-3417, sprucecreekgathering@gmail.com

Spruce Creek Camp Weekend 3: Camptivists Gather on Land Threatened by ACP

Activists opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) invited the public to camp on property in its path the first three weekends in October to learn why Nelson County residents are fighting to prevent its construction.

During the final weekend of camp, attendees heard talks and presentations from a number of Nelson County citizen experts, toured local properties that would be affected by the pipeline, and participated in workshops and discussions.

Host landowner and anti-pipeline activist Richard Averitt described the camp property and his family’s plans to build an eco-resort there. He led a tour of the site and showed the group the deleterious effects the ACP would have on the Spruce Creek waterbody. He also showed a slide presentation he recently gave to a Congressional hearing on how this destructive project has affected his family both on camp land and where his family has residences.

Charlie Hickox, Friends of Nelson board member, presented a brief history of Nelson and described the devastating effects Hurricane Camille had on the county, due to the intense rain and landslides that resulted in 124 Nelson citizens losing their lives. He emphasized that the unstable soils on our steep slopes, coupled with extreme precipitation events (brought on by climate change) have a high probability of failing again during or after construction of a 42” diameter pipeline. Such integrity failure would most likely result in explosions and fire due to the volatile nature of natural gas put under 1400 + psi pressure.

Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson land owner liaison, described how individual properties in the immediate vicinity would be impacted by the pipeline. Effects include contamination of drinking water, wetland and stream bed degradation, ridgetop and old growth tree removal, the economic impact on a newly built country inn, and in one case, elimination of an entire residence due to the proximity of the ACP pipe to its septic and water systems.

In the afternoon Joyce hiked with camptivists up Robert’s Mountain to see just how steep one of these ridges that the pipeline is proposed to go though actually is. Participants got to see firsthand the narrow slope that would be significantly “reduced” in height.

Mike Tabony, local resident, school lecturer, and frequent writer of letters to the editor to local newspapers, gave a detailed slide presentation on Climate Change and Global Warming. One point he made was that increasing global temperatures result in catastrophic sea level rise with major implications for Virginia’s coast line, especially in the heavily populated Norfolk/Hampton Roads area where one segment of the ACP is proposed to end.

Lara Gastinger, an internationally recognized botanical illustrator and lead illustrator of the book, Flora of Virginia, presented a workshop on illustrating and journaling plants. Participants walked the Averitt’s property collecting plant materials and then sketched and painted them using fine point pens and watercolors.

Weston Mathews, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Virginia and co-director of the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice (IACJ), gave an insightful talk on the necessity for action and collaboration beyond borders of Nelson County, expanding the notion of what it means to relate to someone as a neighbor. His IACJ organization generously funds Native Americans under duress due to climate events, bail for arrested protesters, and supports many other environmental justice organizations and activities.

Ben Cunningham from the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) presented and demonstrated the Pipeline CSI mapping application and made a request for volunteers to monitor and report violations of erosion controls and water quality protections found during pipeline construction.

Doug Wellman, vice president of Friends of Nelson, discussed local alternatives to gas and coal power generation. Roof top solar projects exist in the county on residences, schools and community centers. There are also solar alternative projects being done by the utilities and electric coops themselves, as well as many nearby commercial projects. The energy source profile is changing but many laws and regulations still need to catch up. Sadly, off-shore wind, a stable energy source in many European countries, is just now beginning to be implemented in Virginia. Doug reminded us that energy conservation remains an effective strategy, especially for low income residents who would directly benefit from paying smaller utility bills.

Ernie Reed, former president of Friends of Nelson and current member of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, showed the group a recent Powerpoint presentation he made to Sweet Briar students. Later he discussed how the attendees could influence decision makers and the media in this fight, and the importance of continuing to mount legal challenges. He advocated having as many tools as possible to fight pipelines in order to preserve our environment and property rights.

Susan McSwain, a Nelson County master naturalist, led the group on a nature walk where she identified native and invasive plants.

The weekend camping events brought together people from Oregon, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, as well as from many cities and counties in Virginia. Participants learned about Nelson County, its history, natural resources, beauty, susceptibility to landslides, and the vulnerabilities to its tourism businesses. Campers were briefed by our knowledgeable citizen task force on the lack of property rights, legal matters now in the courts, the deleterious effects of pipelines on local flora and fauna, and, finally, on the reasons why this project is totally unnecessary. Natural gas demand in the Commonwealth is flat and alternatives such as solar, offshore wind and conservation have become much more attractive and competitive. As Nelson has stated from the beginning of this struggle: No Pipeline.

VA NAACP Troubled by Lack of Regulatory Protection

Press advisory, Saturday, October 20, 2018

Kevin Chandler, President, PastorChandler@gmail.com; Karen Campblin, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, ECJVA2018NAACP@gmail.com

Virginia State Conference NAACP Troubled by State Regulator’s Refusal to Protect Our Land, Water and Communities

The Virginia State Conference NAACP (VSC NAACP) opposes the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and the proposed ACP Compressor Station in Union Hill, Buckingham County, VA. We are also gravely concerned over the lack of fair and appropriate response to environmental injustices perpetuated by the approval and construction of these projects and ask that a more thorough and comprehensive analysis of potential negative and cumulative impacts to the natural and social environments be conducted. Careful consideration must be made to properly identify residents located within the study area to ensure Title VI compliance and that there are no disproportionate impacts on burdened communities.

According to “Fumes Across the Fence-Line“, a report jointly written by NAACP and CleanAIR Task Force, “the racial disparities among communities impacted by environmental pollution in the United States is stark. African-Americans are exposed to 38% more polluted air than Caucasian Americans, and they are 75% more likely to live in fence-line communities than the average American.” The report defines fence line communities as “communities that are next to a company, industrial, or service facility and are directly affected in the facility’s operation (e.g. noise, odor, traffic, and chemical emissions”.

The VSC NAACP has submitted comments against the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 (May 2018) and the Buckingham Compressor Station- Air Permit (September 2018). We have not received a response. Furthermore, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (ACEJ), which is tasked with providing advice and recommendations to the Executive Branch on Environmental Justice issues throughout the Commonwealth, submitted its first set of environmental concerns, “Environmental Justice Review of Virginia’s Gas Infrastructure”, on August 16, 2018. The ACEJ’s August 16 report included detailed, thorough and heavily footnoted review of the pipeline projects, associated infrastructure and Compressor Station, and identified cases of environmental justice issues. The report includes 7 areas of concern and recommendations to mitigate or eliminate the negative impacts. In particular, the ACEJ recommended “that the 401 Clean Water Act certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) be rescinded immediately” and that “the Governor direct [the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] to suspend the permitting decision for the air permit for the Buckingham compressor station pending further review of the station’s impact on the health and the lives of those living in close proximity.”

The ACEJ recommendations were in line with recommendations presented to the Department of Environmental Quality by the VSC NAACP, and other environmental and legal organizations requesting an immediate halt in all construction activities until a thorough review of the permitting policies and procedures and analysis of associated impacts are conducted and all pending legal cases are completed. It is well documented that the permitting processes are flawed, and yet the projects are being allowed to move forward with reckless abandon to our natural environment and communities.

On October 16, 2018, Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, on behalf of himself and the Governor, provided what is, in our view, an inadequate one-page response to the ACEJ report and recommendations. Secretary Strickler refused to take any action to stop either the MVP or the ACP or to suspend the permitting process for the proposed compressor station in Buckingham County, claiming that decisions from federal agencies preclude Virginia from doing so. Secretary Strickler did not respond in any detail to the environmental justice concerns documented by the ACEJ.

VSC NAACP is troubled by Secretary Strickler’s summary dismissal of the serious, pressing and legitimate issues raised by the Governor’s own Advisory Council. Thousands of people who live along the route of the MVP and ACP are being negatively impacted daily by construction issues that already have done damage to Virginia’s precious water and natural resources. Federal court decisions have resulted in multiple permits having been vacated, exposing a rushed and slipshod regulatory process. More is required of our state leadership and we believe that state and federal law allow Virginia to both revoke the previous certifications granted for these pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and to deny an air permit for the Buckingham compressor station.

On Thursday and Friday, November 8th and 9th, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board will be conducting a Public Hearing on the Draft Air Permit for the Compressor Station at Union Hill, Buckingham County, VA. Union Hill is a predominately African-American community established by Freeman after the Civil War. The Compressor Station would be located within close proximity to existing homes. We ask that the Governor direct DEQ to not recommend approval of the permit and that the Air Pollution Control Board deny the permit and request the applicant to conduct a more comprehensive socio-economic analysis of the surrounding community, as well as completing a qualitative risk assessment and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment. Furthermore, we ask that a more meaningful public engagement plan be implemented with residents directly impacted by the projects. An effective public engagement program, particularly for a project of this magnitude, scale and potential impact, should consist of more than just a listening tour. The public engagement process should be based on mutual respect, understanding, collaboration, two-way conversations, and most importantly, opportunities to be an active participant of the decision-making process.

Air Pollution Control Board Public Hearing on the Draft Air Permit for the proposed ACP Compressor Station in Union Hill, Buckingham, November 8th and 9th (Thursday and Friday) beginning at 9:30 am at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Building Level 2, Room E21-AB, 301 North 3rd Street, Richmond VA, 23219

MVP Dumps on Blackberry Botanicals


Beth and Neil LaFerriere from Blackberry Botanicals in West Virginia spoke to the attendees at the second weekend of Spruce Creek Camp about their family and land’s repeated bombardment by helicopters with grass/fertilizer pellets.

Because of this unwarranted and illegal action, they will lose their farm’s organic certification for three years, severely affecting their chief source of income. Neil has posted this YouTube video version of their talk at Spruce Creek Camp.