Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Congressional Act to Allow Pipelines to Cross Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway?


Say “NO!”

On December 3, 2018, KPVI6 reported that “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Dominion’s Aaron Ruby emailed the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying that, “Congress is considering a legislative amendment that would explicitly authorize the park service to grant a permit for such a crossing.”

The Park Service has twice issued permits for the ACP to cross the Parkway. After the first permit was issued, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated it in early August as an “arbitrary and capricious” exercise of the agency’s powers. At the same time, the Court also issued a stay of the permit the Forest Service issued for the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail. After the two agencies [minimally] revised their permits, FERC lifted the stay order, but appeals against the reissued permits are pending, and legal briefs to the Court are due at the end of this week.

In vacating the Park Service permit in early August, Judge Gregory did not rule decisively on whether the Park Service has authority to issue the permit under the Blue Ridge Parkway Organic Act, but he said it had failed to show how the project is consistent with the purposes of the parkway and National Park System. For example, the Park Service had conducted a visibility study and found that because the crossing at Reeds Gap near the Wintergreen entrance would be very visible, it would “thus significantly decreasing the park’s scenic value.”

In trying to get Congress to pass a bill (buried in the omnibus spending bill where they surely hoped no one would notice it) giving the Park Service authority to allow construction, Dominion is clearly trying to make an end run around pending Court rulings that might not be in their favor. Austin “DJ” Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, commented, “It’s disappointing but not surprising that Dominion would try to bend the law to its will. It’s already tried to bend the agencies to its will.” And he added, “The fact that Dominion is trying to work around [the law] before it even knows what the court has ruled is really shocking and bold.”

Take action! Contact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose any legislative amendment that would give the National Park Service unchecked authority to allow pipeline construction. Contact Senator Shelby and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Kaine’s office says he does not support the measure, so thank Senator Kaine for protecting the land held in common for all of us to enjoy.

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.