Category Archives: Forest Service

National Forest Closings

The Forest Service has issued closure orders for both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project rights of way and access roads on National Forest System lands.  See press coverage on the Forest Service closure of MVP and ACP routes.

The orders prohibits anyone from being within 200 feet of either side of a right-of-way established for the pipelines to pass through the National Forest, and also prohibits non-motorized and motorized use of certain roads, including those planned for use as access roads during construction.  It threatens stiff fines and jail sentences for violators.

The Forest Service claims the closure orders are due to public safety hazards associated with constructing the ACP Project. It is far more likely, however, that the closure orders are meant to prevent citizen monitoring of pipeline construction.

Here is Maury Johnson’s statement on the closures:


March 12, 2018

The Government Give-Away of our Public Lands

On March 7th, the USFS issued an order closing parts of the Jefferson National Forest and the Monongahela National Forest in the areas where the MVP and the ACP are to be built through the respective National Forests. Citing safety concerns they threaten people or organizations with the following sanctions for violating this order: “Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551 and 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571).”

As a citizen of Monroe County who has been hiking and protecting the Appalachian Trail and the Jefferson National Forest for more than 40 years I am appalled at this directive. It may seem to the average person that this was done to insure public safety, but I assure you that the intent of this order is to keep citizens, the press and other local officials from monitoring the pipeline construction activities. This is government over reach by bullying and threat of arrest, fines and imprisonment.

With this order the give-away of our PUBLIC Lands and the destruction of NATIONAL TREASURES like the Appalachian Trail is complete. We the People of WV and VA will stand together to fight this government give away for private profit. This will not stand.

Maury Johnson
Greenville, Monroe Co WV

Groups Ask Court to Halt Pipeline Construction

Roberts Mountain is one of several mountain ridges that will be flattened to create a 125′ work area under ACP construction plans.

On March 9, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of their clients, filed a request asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to halt construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until the court decides whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permit is valid.

The challenge to the permit is based on the lack of evidence demonstrating the pipeline is needed in Virginia or North Carolina, as well as data and analysis showing the region already has sufficient pipeline capacity to meet future needs.

This filing comes as the cost of the pipeline has ballooned to $6.5 billion and when there are growing questions about Dominion’s plans for the natural gas as it eyes South Carolina for a possible expansion of the pipeline. The groups contend that the overwhelming evidence shows the true purpose of the ACP is to provide profits for the shareholders of the pipeline’s financial backers, Duke and Dominion, at the expense of those utilities’ ratepayers. The effect of the filings would be a halt to the construction of the ACP until the court considers the coalition’s existing challenges to the FERC certificate that authorizes construction. FERC and ACP have ten days to respond.

On the same day, the U.S. Forest Service and FERC gave pipeline developers the right to begin cutting down trees in the George Washington National Forest. If the court grants SELC’s request to stay the project, developers will be required to stop all work, including tree cutting, in George Washington National Forest and other federal properties.

Press release from SELC is here.  Press release from Appalachian Mountain Advocates is here.

Forest Service Approves Amendments to Forest Plans for ACP

On November 17, 2017, the US Forest Service released a final Record of Decision (ROD) approving amendments to the Forest Plans for the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest to accommodate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Although this action had been anticipated after the Forest Service’s recent rejection of objections to the draft ROD, the November 17 decision provides the basis of the USFS issuing a Special Use Permit for the ACP.

An overview of and link to the 63-page decision is here.

Both Wild Virginia and Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) released statements condemning the decision.

Lew Freeman, ABRA Executive Director, said, “We firmly disagree with the decision announced today by the U.S. Forest Service to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through publicly owned forest lands – valued by millions of visitors and the source of drinking water for thousands of people. We believe this decision is based on seriously deficient and incorrect information. The action imperils some of the nation’s most treasured natural resources and reflects a rush to judgment that is contrary to the standards of deliberation that we have a right to expect from the Forest Service. The decision should be strongly challenged.”

“One of the most egregious aspects of this action is that high-ranking officials in Atlanta and Milwaukee clearly yielded to pressure from industry and their bosses in Washington and disregarded the opinions of those who know these lands best, the Forest Service scientists who work every day to protect and preserve these precious areas,” said Misty Boos, Director of Wild Virginia. “Throughout the last three years, these locally-based experts have raised alarms about the wide range of threats and the certain damages that would result – many of them long-term, some permanent and irreparable.”

During its evaluation of the proposal, the Forest Service repeatedly either asked Dominion for additional information or said it did not have enough information to make a decision – but has now approved it despite the many unanswered questions, allowing Dominion to submit many of its environmental protection plans after the fact. “They’re letting the company basically make up a lot of it after the approval happened,” said David Sligh, an environmental attorney. “There’s way too much latitude for the agencies and the companies themselves that should be open to public involvement and public comment.”

“For the last two years, the Forest Service has been clear that ACP developers did not provide the agency with enough information to make a decision on this project. Serious questions remain about whether or not the pipeline can be built safely through the steep, unforgiving terrain of the Appalachians, but the agency abruptly changed course and approved the project,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The Forest Service now joins the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in approving a project that isn’t needed and that is designed to enrich developers at the expense of landowners, utility customers, and natural resources. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will strip people of their private property, raise their energy bills, and put thousands of waterways and forests in harm’s way – for the sole benefit of utility companies.”

Richmond Times Dispatch coverage of the story is here, and NBC29 coverage, including the releases from the Forest Service, from Dominion Energy, and from Southern Environmental Law Center, is here.

Forest Service Clears the Way for ACP

From this week’s ABRA Update, #155 for November 9, 2017: A response to objections raised to the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS)) Draft Record of Decision (ROD) about whether the proposed amendments to the Forest Plans of the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests to accommodate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has been issued by the agency. In an October 27 letter to 69 objectors who took issue with the proposed amending of the Forest Plan, Glenn Casamassa, Associate Deputy Chief of the USFS, concluded that the ROD met statutory requirements and rejected all filed objections.

The USFS must still issue a Special Use Permit for the ACP to be built through Forest lands, but the Casamassa letter clears the way for that action. A similar letter of rejection to objections to the proposed crossing of the Jefferson National Forest by the Mountain Valley Pipeline was issued by the USFS last month.