Category Archives: Environmental Justice

Challenge to FERC Certificate Scheduled for October 16 Oral Argument

From ABRA Update 241, August 16, 2019

The challenge to the Federal Energy Commission’s (FERC) approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline been scheduled for oral argument on October 16 before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs are 14 conservation groups, including several ABRA members, that are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The petitioners argue that FERC’s Environmental Justice Impact Statement is fatally flawed. Members of the 3-judge panel hearing the case will be announced in mid-September.

Read more about the case in our earlier post, FERC and ACP File Response Briefs in Challenge to ACP Certificate.

FERC and ACP File Response Briefs in Challenge to ACP Certificate

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 235:

The lawsuit challenging the certificate of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) moved a step closer to being considered by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals with the filing of response briefs by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), on June 18, and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC), on June 26. The pending case consolidates several individual suits brought by a group of ABRA members and other organizations, as well as several individual landowners. Counsel representing the plaintiffs include Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

The plaintiffs’ brief, filed on April 5, argued that: 1) FERC’s authorization of the ACP served no demonstrated need and that it’s finding of need based solely on precedent agreements between the project sponsors and affiliated utilities was insufficient; 2) the certification was based on unsupported assumptions and thus violated the Federal Environmental Protection Act (NEPA); 3) environmental justice considerations were improperly evaluated; and 4) the exercise of eminent domain was in violation of the Natural Gas Act and the U.S. Constitution because required conditions of the certificate were not followed.

FERC’s response brief argues that all required issues were properly addressed in the agency’s consideration of the project’s certification. The brief further states:

Over the course of an extensive three-year regulatory review process culminating in a rehearing order issued in August 2018, the Commission carefully weighed the evidence of public benefits against the potential adverse economic and environmental effects of authorizing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and related Supply Header Project (together, the “Project”). Although the Commission found that the Project may result in some adverse environmental impacts, the Commission ultimately concluded that the Project, if constructed and operated in accordance with federal standards and specific environmental, safety, and regulatory conditions imposed by the Commission, will serve the public interest.

The ACP, LLC response brief makes contentions similar to FERC’s, that the agency’s decision-making process in issuing the certificate was supported by substantial evidence and was in full compliance with all applicable legal procedures. It is worth noting that many of the points made in the April 5 plaintiffs’ brief to which FERC and ACP, LLC responded are not addressed in their briefs.

The case has not yet been scheduled for oral argument before the DC Circuit.

Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Buckingham Suit


Friends of Buckingham, et al. v. State Air Pollution Control Board, et al., is a case pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the potential harms facing Union Hill, an African American community in Buckingham County, from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station. The suit was filed on February 8, 2019, by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). Read the February suit here and the related SELC press release here. The court has now scheduled the case for argument between October 29 and November 1, 2019. A specific date and time will be announced when the date is closer.

On May 31, 2019, SELC filed the Petitioners’ Opening Brief and an Opening Brief Addendum.

On June 7, 2019, three amicus briefs were filed in the case:

  • from the Virginia NAACP; 28 members of Virginia’s General Assembly; and the Center for Earth Ethics; prepared by the Georgetown University Law Center – Civil Rights Clinic (read the brief here; the press coverage here)
  • from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (read the brief here; Lawyers’ Committee press release here)
  • from the Sierra Club on behalf of the Virginia NAACP; Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church; Sierra Club; Virginia Interfaith Power & Light; and Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice (read the brief here)

An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”) is someone who is not a party to a case, but who assists a court by offering information, or brief, that bears on the case. The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the discretion of the court.

Video: Speakers at Buckingham’s Bridging the Gap Kickoff

On June 8, 2019, Bridging the Gap kicked off a week-long solar installation and environmental health training in Buckingham County. In this video from the kick-off event, Richard Walker, CEO of Bridging the Gap, introduces Basil Gooden, Jon Sokolow and Karen Campblin Jon Sokolow, writer, attorney, activist, fighting the Atlantic Coast & Mountain Valley Pipelines speaks about 3 Amicus Briefs filed June 7, 2019 in support of Southern Environmental Law Center’s filing on May 31 on behalf of the Union Hill Community. Karen Campblin, VA NAACP Environmental Justice Chair speaks about their recent meeting with AG Mark Herring and specifically about the woes of the Southside Connector, another environmental justice disaster.

Bridging the Gap In Virginia has received a grant from Mertz Gilmore Foundation to sponsor a solar installation and environmental health training program in the Union Hill area of Buckingham County, for the benefit of the African-American community, where Union Hill struggles economically and many leave in search of work. Their vision is to provide good jobs for the residents of Union Hill while starting a green workforce development program that mentors formerly incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth in the areas of solar installation, energy audits and conservation (i.e., weatherization, efficiency) and in-door environmental health (i.e., lead testing and encapsulation, mold remediation, and air quality monitoring).

New Broken Ground Podcast


Broken Ground is a podcast by the Southern Environmental Law Center “digging up environmental stories in the south that don’t always get the attention they deserve, and giving voice to the people bringing those stories to light.”

Demand for Power, episode 3 of Broken Ground, is now live, and tells John and Ruby Laurys’ story of stepping up in Buckingham County to defend their farm and neighbors when pipeline developers won’t back down from pursuing a risky, polluting project that’s become obsolete.

Listen here.

Walk with Me

On May, 17, 2019 Virginians and allies from the region walked with Union Hill to demand environmental justice and a stop to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines. They were joined by William Joseph Barber III and Karenna Gore of the Center for Earth Ethics. Returning to the route across the Robert E. Lee Bridge into Richmond traveled by civil rights advocates 51 years ago during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic Poor People’s Campaign march to Washington D.C., hundreds called for an end to environmental racism and new fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens our ability to protect our homes, our water, and our children’s future.

Jessica Sims of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter led the collaboration of dozens of Virginia environmental and grassroots organizations, including the Virginia Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Musical support was provided by the SUN SiNG Collective of ARTivism Virginia.

Featured here is singer, Bj Brown and speakers Queen Shabazz, Genesis Chapman, Karenna Gore, William Barber II, and Marie Gillespie. Other speakers for this event included: Beth Roach, Pastor Paul Wilson, Evelyn Dent, Lakshmi Fjord, Richard Walker, Andrew Tyler, Swami Dayananda, John Laury, Andrea Miller, Travis Williams and Chad Oba. Other ARTivists included All the Saints Theater, Lilly Bechtel, Tom Burkett, Tom Elliott, Kay Ferguson, Gabe Gavin, Jameson Price, Mara Eve Robbins, Graham Smith-White, Laney Sullivan, Siva Stephen Fiske and Joshua Vana.