Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Story Map on ACP Route in Nelson and Buckingham


Friends of Nelson is very pleased to share the Esri Story Map created by Karen Kasmauski of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

This International League of Conservation Photographers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography and filmmaking. They had a small grant from BamaWorks to document the impacts that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have have on people and places, specifically in Nelson and Buckingham County.

Karen Kasmauski was the ILCP conservation fellow who came to Nelson and Buckingham for an initial reconnaissance/background tour in early September and then returned for more extensive photographing of multiple sites in early October. Friends of Nelson arranged for her to meet with some impacted landowners and see their lands and how the route would affect them. We also took her to visit local breweries and agribusinesses, explore wetlands that would be impacted, tour some of the steepest slope locations on the proposed route as well as some non-route areas that were devastated in Camille, accompany Friends of Nelson’s Doug Wellman for stream testing, observe how we/CSI use drones to monitor the route, and to come aboard and take a flight in the CSI/Pipeline Airforce plane to view the proposed impacts from the air.

In her essay accompanying the photos, Karen speaks of the people she met, saying, “Their stories also made me think about the larger picture of energy and why we continue building infrastructure like the ACP. Natural gas was supposed to be a bridge — a transitional energy source between coal and the increasingly affordable and popular renewables like solar and wind. Renewable success stories abound. Entire towns in Texas, one of the main fossil fuel states, are switching to more cost-effective wind power. While cleaner than coal, production and consumption of natural gas releases large quantities of methane, one of the main contributors to the warming of our planet. Why prolong our dependence on this energy source at the cost of alternatives that will serve us better in the long term? Is it appropriate to link these global concerns to this focused look at one portion of a regional pipeline project? Absolutely. The vast global picture of energy and environment are really comprised of thousands of local issues like those presented by the ACP. The concerns playing out in Nelson and Buckingham counties show us what could be lost should the ACP be allowed to go forward. A close look at the stories here mirror what is repeated in many ways and in many places on similar energy and environmental concerns.”

Karen Kasmauski’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Story Map is here.

Click here to view the full set of photos Karen took in Nelson and Buckingham Counties.

SELC Comments on FWS Proposal to Eliminate Bird Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed to largely eliminate protections against incidental take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”). The proposed rule would limit the reach of the MBTA’s take prohibitions to activities with the purpose of taking birds. For example, if a power washer cleaning a bridge destroyed bird nests or otherwise harmed migratory birds, that would be permissible so long as the power washer’s purpose was cleaning the bridge rather than harming the birds.

On March 19, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of over 50 organizations (inluding Friends of Nelson), submitted comments with a focus on the proposal’s implications for our Southeastern region. Their comments highlight examples in our region where the MBTA’s incidental take prohibitions have played an important role in conserving migratory birds, while also noting some key Southeastern species.

The letter argues that:

  1. The Proposed Regulation Governing Take of Migratory Birds Is Arbitrary and Capricious and Contrary to Law
    • The Interpretation in the Proposed Rule Is Not Supported by the Statute
    • The Interpretation in the Proposed Rule Is Not Supported by Treaties Relating to the MBTA
    • Proximate Cause Limits the Reach of Strict Liability Under the MBTA
  2. FWS’s Scoping Notice Previews an Environmental Analysis That Shortcuts the Agency’s Obligations Under NEPA
    • The Notice Fails to Forthrightly Disclose the Major Federal Action Properly Subject to Analysis Under NEPA and Forecasts a Predetermined Outcome
    • The Agency Should Reset the Analysis of Alternatives
  3. Excluding Incidental Takes Will Have Significant Effects on Protected Migratory Birds That Must Be Analyzed Under NEPA
    • Specific Projects That Compel Protections for Migratory Birds Due to Foreseeable Impacts (Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline, Hampton Roads, Wind Energy Development, Atlantic Pelagic Longline Fisheries, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Off-Road Vehicles)
    • FWS Must Assess Impacts to Species Particularly Vulnerable to Incidental Takes
    • FWS Must Analyze the Loss of Ecosystem Services and Economic Benefits of Birds in the Southeast
    • FWS Must Consider the Consequences of its Rulemaking in the Context of Climate Change

The SELC letter concludes, “Reversing course on decades of protections under the MBTA has already caused, and will continue to cause, impacts of significant consequence to migratory birds across the Southeast and the United States. Migratory birds are in steep decline from multiple stressors; many are already at risk of extirpation and face an uphill road to recovery, even with protections against incidental take in place under the MBTA. FWS’s proposed rulemaking will hasten the decline of migratory birds and cannot be squared with the broad protections afforded by the MBTA. Rather than continue with this rulemaking, we urge Interior to withdraw the proposed rule, rescind Opinion M-37050, and work instead on developing an appropriate regulatory program addressing the foreseeable incidental killing and taking of migratory birds.”

Read the full letter here.

Building Pipelines Is Unnecessary

An excellent compilation of information by Mothers Out Front!

From the vantage point of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, Mothers Out Front presents a full and fully documented case against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines and their effects.

They say, “We believe that the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is unnecessary and will cause serious, lasting and expensive harm to America’s public health, economy, and environment. It seems shortsighted to build pipelines designed to carry fossil fuels, with a cost that customers will bear for over 40 years, when it is likely that 10 years from now those fossil fuels will no longer be used or wanted. This is akin to buying typewriters as computers were developed, or buying Blockbuster stock as Netflix took off.”

They document pipeline effects and explain in detail why Mothers Up Front opposes new local or intrastate natural gas pipelines. They provide a detailed timeline indicating ways “the affected states are starting to realize that these pipelines are not in their best interests”

They state, “One fundamental issue is that the ACP and MVP pipelines are not necessary — existing pipelines are adequate to serve customers for the projected future,” and provide an extensive listing of a wide variety of in-depth resources as background material.

Be sure to check out this new and excellent Web page!

Video: This Land Is My Land


A year ago Sebastian Mlynarski and two others from NY came and interviewed property rights activists and Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents — Richard Averitt, the Limberts and Union Hill residents among others — about the injustice to landowners on the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Click here for the 6 minute video, This Land Is My Land, directed by Sebastian Mlynarski and Rachel Fleit, who hope to produce a feature-length documentary.

SELC Challenges Potential Army Corps and FWS Actions

On February 11, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center sent two letters, one to the the Army Corps of Engineers and one to the Fish and Wildlife Service, to challenge potential actions by them regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Both letters have been filed with FERC.

To the Army Corp of Engineers, SELC writes, “This letter is a notice that the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, cannot lawfully reinstate its suspended verification that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is authorized to be constructed using Nationwide Permit 12. The pipeline developer, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic), expressly plans to violate at least one of the permit’s general conditions and has taken steps to do so, despite making contrary representations to the Corps and other regulators.” The letter then explains in detail that:

  • Atlantic must comply with FEMA-approved local floodplain management requirements to be eligible for Nationwide Permit 12.
  • Atlantic does not intend to comply with an applicable FEMA-approved floodplain management requirement in Nelson County.
  • The Corps cannot reinstate the Norfolk Verification unless Atlantic complies with Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance, regardless of Atlantic’s lawsuit.
  • The Norfolk Verification must be revoked unless Atlantic obtains variances or reroutes the pipeline.

The SELC letter notes that, “Unless Atlantic obtains variances or reroutes its proposed pipeline to avoid SFHAs [special flood hazard areas] in Nelson County, the Corps must revoke the Norfolk Verification and instruct Atlantic to seek an individual permit.”

Read SELC’s full letter to the Army Corps here.

Despite ongoing requests by citizen groups for FERC to issue a stop-work order for the ACP because so many key permits have been rejected, on February 10 FERC staff asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinitiate formal consultation so the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project can resume construction. FERC is asking the FWS to develop a new Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement on the company’s proposed pipeline. Two previous Opinions and Take Statements have been vacated by the Fourth Circuit Court.

To the Fish and Wildlife Service, SELC writes, “Yesterday’s request for reinitiation of consultation, and discussion at the October 22, 2019, meeting as documented in the meeting minutes, suggest FWS is once again preparing to commit legal errors in an effort to approve this pipeline along Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s (Atlantic’s) preferred route.” The potential legal errors to which SELC refers are:

  • FWS Cannot Complete Consultation on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Without a Final Route
  • FWS Must Fully Assess Impacts to Candy Darter and Its Critical Habitat
  • FWS May Not Authorize Further Impacts to the Clubshell

The letter concludes, “To be clear, FWS may not authorize further impacts to this population, which it has already put on the brink of extinction. ‘Congress foresaw that [consultation under the Endangered Species Act] would, on occasion, require agencies to alter ongoing projects in order to fulfill the goals of the Act.’ Tenn. Valley Auth. v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 186 (1978). This is one of those occasions.”

Read SELC’s full letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service here.

Trump Weakens the Nation’s Clean Water Efforts

Writing in the New York Times on February 10, 2020, Chris Wood, Collin O’Mara, and Dale Hall discuss the presidents “deeply misguided” decision to roll back water protections. Wood is president of Trout Unlimited, O’Mara is president of the National Wildlife Federation, and Hall was director the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

They write, “The Environmental Protection Agency made a startling admission last month when it announced that many of the nation’s streams and wetlands would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act, perhaps the nation’s most successful antipollution law. The agency said it could not predict how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands would lose their protection because of ‘existing data and mapping limitations.’ In other words, the E.P.A. was sharply narrowing the reach of a landmark environmental law without understanding the consequences of its actions.”

They state “unequivocally that this ill-informed policy will reduce water protections to a level not seen in more than a generation.”

The authors did what EPA apparently did not do, and used best mapping resources to find out what would no longer be protected. They say, “Trout Unlimited’s research suggests that more than six million miles of streams — half the total in the United States — will now be unprotected by the Clean Water Act, because they flow only after rainfall. More than 42 million acres of wetlands — again, about half the country’s total — will no longer be protected because they are not immediately adjacent to larger waters.”

Under the new laws, for example:

  • In Arizona, 88% of streams and 99% of lakes will lose protection, meaning “98 percent of the permits that limit pollution discharges into waterways will simply no longer be in force.”
  • In New Mexico, invalidated permits will no longer control the levels of mercury and PCBs running off the heavily contaminated grounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • “In West Virginia and Virginia, there will no longer be federal protections for some 82 small streams that are to be excavated if the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is built, based on surveys by Dominion”

Wood, O’Mara, and Hall conclude, “You need only consider the name to recognize what’s happening here. What was the Waters of the United States Rule is now the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This signals a narrow concern only for commerce but not, illogically, for the network of tributaries and wetlands that keep navigable waters healthy. It also completely misses the point of the Clean Water Act, which is to protect the health of all the nation’s waters.”