Category Archives: Friends of Nelson

Citizen Groups Were Key in Effort to Stop Pipeline

Letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Friends of Nelson President Doug Wellman, published August 1, 2020:

As someone deeply involved in the long struggle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), I found the analysis by the RTD’s Michael Martz to be well-considered and fair. Litigation indeed was crucial in defeating a project that featured Goliath (Dominion Energy and Duke Energy) against David (rural, often poor counties), and that litigation needed the tireless support of well-organized citizen groups.

From the first announcement of the ACP in 2014, citizen groups came together to do the hard work of informing themselves and their neighbors, reading long reports full of soul-deadening technical details, submitting comments at public meetings, petitioning political leaders, joining as plaintiffs in lawsuits, writing letters to the editor, attending rallies, creating art and music — in other words, doing everything they could think of to preserve their properties, their environment and their communities.

For maximum effectiveness, citizen groups along the 600-mile route had to work together. From the start of the battle in 2014, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance provided expert guidance for its 50 citizen group members, a forum for information and inspiration, and monitoring of ongoing damage related to pipeline construction through its Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative.

Many of the citizen groups were assisted by Virginia Organizing (VO), a nonprofit created to help citizen groups function effectively on a wide range of issues. VO provided local groups with their nonprofit status, assisted with business management and supported management tools essential for record-keeping, mailing lists and other purposes.

Defeating the ACP demonstrated that an engaged and organized citizenry has the power to draw in talented, experienced expert support. The outstanding work of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other national groups was the tip of the spear, while the strength behind the spear was provided by well-organized, indefatigable citizen groups.

From Friends of Nelson


July 16, 2020

WE—ALL OF US WORKING TOGETHER—DID IT! There will be NO PIPELINE!

Six years of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, the great team at ABRA and our superb legal teams from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other conservation organizations, called a halt to the Dominion and Duke’s awful, profit-seeking Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal.

All the assistance from the attorneys and the experts ultimately depended on the fact that ordinary citizens in Nelson, Buckingham, Augusta, Highland and Bath counties joined citizen groups in SE Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia to stand against the pipeline. We informed ourselves and our neighbors, read long reports, filed comments with federal and state regulators, petitioned our elected representatives, attended hearings and gave passionate testimony, wrote letters to the editor, attended rallies, created art, wrote songs, and made videos, pitched in at tabling events, attended public meetings, helped with stream monitoring, …and in every way we could conceive kept up the pressure and showed that little David wasn’t afraid of Goliath. Had we been passive in the face of overwhelming odds, the attorneys and experts might have found other projects more worthy of their talents and time.

Time was on our side. While our team was bedeviling Dominion’s team with beautifully crafted lawsuits, the world was changing in our favor. Renewable energy caught fire, with amazing reductions in price; the American public finally realized that climate change is real and the consequences of failing to reduce our carbon footprint are horrific; “Black Lives Matter” called attention to environmental justice concerns and the need for systemic changes in many of our institutions; overproduction in the fracking rush undercut the price of natural gas and bankrupted many of the drillers; and the investment community lost confidence in fossil fuels. Expert analysts discredited Dominion’s claims of rising demand for electricity, massive job creation, and negligent environmental impacts.

Slowly at first, the comments I heard at our tabling events of “It’s a done deal” and “you can’t beat Dominion” were replaced by questions about specific lawsuits and expressions of optimism.

On behalf of the Board of Friends of Nelson, I want to thank you for your steadfast support through this six-year trial of fire. Your willingness to contribute your time and money, wear our NO PIPELINE and Friends of Nelson T-shirts, put up NO PIPELINE yard signs, and do all the hard work necessary to get the truth of the ACP proposal out was critical. And then you helped set up for events, work music festivals, posted flyers, wrote letters, went to demonstrations, gave talks, and so much more. Together we truly are stronger.

Having fulfilled our mission of defeating the pipeline proposal, the question becomes “What’s next?”

We will continue our support of landowners who were in the pipeline’s path. Joyce Burton, our landowner liaison, will continue to help landowners as they try to figure out what the cancellation means for them in terms of the easements they have signed, what rights they now have (or don’t) over the land, what the legal situation is, etc. Landowners with questions should contact us at friendsofnelson@gmail.com.

We will tie up loose ends, including removing or temporarily modifying the large “NO PIPELINE” signs and banners that have served us so well, wrapping up our stream water quality monitoring program in a way that assures the data we collected will be available for future use as needed, and deciding what to do with our T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

We will do what we can to help put an end to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That terrible project is largely complete, but there are still opportunities to stop or modify it, and we will work with Mountain Valley Watch, POWHR and ABRA to lend a hand where we can.

Jill Averitt will continue to serve as our volunteer coordinator, graphic artist and social media expert, although her Facebook postings will be fewer and more selective.

We will work to compile and preserve an archive of the battle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that can inform future generations about this landmark struggle. We don’t want anyone to forget this story and the multitudes of people like you who helped make it happen.

In the months to come, the Friends of Nelson’s Board of Directors will give careful consideration to the future of our organization. Unlike in the past six years, we now have the luxury of time for exploring options and deliberating possible avenues for continuing to serve Nelson County. We will keep you posted.

Once again, Friends of Nelson thanks each and every one of you for your support, and for the many and various ways you all played a part over the last six years in bringing us to this moment of relief and celebration.

Sincerely,
Doug Wellman, President
Friends of Nelson

We All Want to Celebrate Together!


We all want to celebrate the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline!  We’ve been imagining for years what our big, well-deserved celebration party might be like. But in the Covid world, celebrating together is not an option right now. So (dependent on Covid status) – Friends of Nelson will be planning a big celebration for a year from now. Perhaps the one-year anniversary, July 5, 2021, or perhaps in fall of 2021 when it is cooler. You will all be invited! We WILL celebrate together!

From ABRA

Excerpt from comments by Lew Freeman, Executive Director, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, in ABRA Update #238, July 9, 2020:

ABRA and its members are most appreciative to those in the media who for six years have
diligently covered this story and reported on our points of view about the ACP. In particular, we extend a shoutout to The Recorder newspaper that serves Highland and Bath Counties, Virginia. The Recorder’s reporting and commentary on the evolution of the ACP since the project was first announced in its embryonic stage in May 2014 has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The masthead of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance states that the organization’s mission is: “Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.” We organized ABRA to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and that effort has dominated our activities for the duration of our existence. However, we have never lost sight of the broader mission of promoting the integrity of this very special geographical region of the United States. Accordingly, the ABRA Steering Committee, on July 9 agreed to three new initiatives:

  • ABRA and its members will closely monitor actions required to be taken to wind down the ACP project, with particular attention to the restoration of the lands that have been disturbed by construction activity. We will be reporting on that progress in future issues of ABRA Update and, when necessary, taking action to assure that the required restoration is done properly.
  • ABRA has offered its assistance to those still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) coalition and many others. We continue to believe that natural gas pipelines are incompatible with the integrity of the mountain regions of West Virginia and Virginia.
  • ABRA will be announcing in coming weeks a new program designed to significantly enhance the capabilities of environmental, conservation and citizen groups to analyze impacts of projects in the greater Allegheny-Blue Ridge region to assure that the overall environmental integrity of the region is maintained. The program, named the Conservation Hub, will employ some of the same technological tools that formed the basis of the ABRA Compliance Surveillance Network (CSI) that was developed to monitor ACP construction activities. We are very excited about this new initiative and believe it will be a decided asset for the greater conservation community.
[Note: Friends of Nelson is a member of ABRA. We are very grateful to be part of this wonderful coalition, and especially grateful for the dedicated and thoughtful ABRA staff leadership over the years.]

CANCELLED!


We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” In a joint statement on Sunday July 5, 2020, Thomas F. Farrell, II, Dominion Energy chairman, president, and chief executive officer, along with Lynn J. Good, Duke Energy chair, president, and chief executive officer, issued the words we have all hoped to hear since May of 2014.

Although the ACP had won a narrowly-focused victory last month at the US Supreme Court over a critical permit, eight other vacated or withdrawn permits still blocked construction. The comment period for the ACP request to FERC to extend its construction permit, set to expire in October 2020, closed on July 2.

However, Dominion and Duke apparently finally saw the handwriting on the wall, and said, “recent developments have created an unacceptable layer of uncertainty and anticipated delays.” They noted that “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States.” Farrell and Good did not mention the massive environmental damage the ACP would have caused, the extra costs it would have brought to ratepayers saddled with paying for it, nor the fact that the ACP was never needed in the first place.

Farrell tried to put a positive spin on the major defeat for Dominion by saying the decision represented a “narrowing of focus,” and “another significant step in our evolution as a company, allowing us to focus even more on fulfilling utility customer needs and positioning us for a bright and increasingly sustainable future.”

Dominion will be selling the natural gas transmission and storage portion of its business to Berkshire Hathaway.  In its press release, Berkshire Hathaway stated, “As part of the transaction, Berkshire Hathaway Energy will acquire 100% of Dominion Energy Transmission, Questar Pipeline and Carolina Gas Transmission; and 50% of Iroquois Gas Transmission System. The agreement does not include acquisition of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ”  For those on the proposed ACP route who worry that Berkshire Hathaway might come back with even more resources to build the pipeline, take particular note of that last sentence:  “The agreement does not include acquisition of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”  The ACP is really dead for good.

The fight against the pipeline began just days after shocked landowners along the route received the first letters, dated May 23, 2014, announcing the project. The odds were definitely stacked against us then – the laws, the policies, the agency rules, and many legislators were all pro-pipeline. We had to swim against a tremendous tide.  But enough of us decided then and there that the ACP was fundamentally wrong, and we not only had to oppose it, but to actively fight it to the bitter end.   Thousands of people from West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, along with multiple pipeline opponents regionally and from across the country, joined the 318 week fight against the ACP. Friends of Nelson is grateful beyond words for each and every person, group, and organization that participated as we all worked together to bring about the demise of the ACP.

Together we are stronger!

Statement from Southern Environmental Law Center:

In a surprise move, Dominion and Duke Energy announced today that they are abandoning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project following growing opposition, spiraling costs, and a series of legal defeats.

This is a tremendous victory for the people of Union Hill and the other communities that were in the path of this risky and unnecessary project, for public lands, for landowners, and for all North Carolinians and Virginians, who are no longer on the hook to pay for an $8 billion pipeline.

This win has been a long time coming, and SELC has worked tirelessly over the past six years with a dedicated coalition to get to this moment. We are very thankful to all those who have supported this campaign, especially the clients we have been honored to represent: Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of Buckingham, Friends of Nelson, Jackson River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Piedmont Environmental Council, Potomac Riverkeeper, Inc., Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, Inc., Virginia Wilderness Committee, and Winyah Rivers Foundation.

We wanted you to be among the first to know that Virginia, North Carolina, the Southeast, and beyond will be cleaner tomorrow thanks to all the hard work leading up to today.

For more background on how we got here, visit stoptheacp.org.

In celebration,
Senior Attorney Greg Buppert


Statement from Wild Virginia

Today, Dominion Energy and Duke Power announced plans to scrap its destructive and ill-conceived plan for the ACP. The pipeline would have damaged hundreds of waterbodies and ravaged communities all along its path.

Citizens told Dominion and all of the government agencies who were tasked with protecting us that this pipeline was a horrible idea – finally, after causing so much pain and worry for so many, these companies have made a decision that is actually in the interest of their customers and the people their actions affect.

This is a win for all of the thousands of people who have banded together in the most amazing uprising for environmental protection and environmental justice in Virginia’s history. Now, we will be pushing to make sure our state officials never let this kind of travesty happen again.

Our water and air protection laws were more than strong enough to have empowered the DEQ and the air and water boards to stop this project and the MVP years ago. This time they failed but we don’t intend to allow that to happen again.

This was a huge effort over many years. We want to thank all of the many partner groups we’ve worked so closely with for so long and thank you for keeping up this fight with your support! Today, we see that when we work together we can protect our air and our water from corporate interests. Let’s keep it up!

David Sligh


The breaking story was covered in virtually all news media:

7-5-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas transmission business. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead, abandoned by Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, after the $8 billion project reached a regulatory dead end. The decision, announced Sunday, ends a six-year effort to build the 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline through the heart of Virginia to connect gas shale fields in West Virginia with markets in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Thwarted by environmental groups repeatedly in the federal courts, the project was more than three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget, with no clear path to completion after federal courts in Montana threw out a nationwide federal water quality permit that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline relied upon to cross hundreds of bodies of water in its path.”

7-5-20 Wall St. Journal. Companies Cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline After Years of Delays. “The builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are pulling the plug on the project as companies continue to meet mounting environmental opposition to new fossil-fuel conduits. Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. said Sunday they were abandoning the proposed $8 billion pipeline—which aimed to carry natural gas 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and underneath the Appalachian Trail—citing continued regulatory delays and uncertainty, even after a favorable Supreme Court ruling last month.

7-5-20 Virginian-Pilot. Dominion canceling controversial natural gas pipeline across Virginia. “Dominion Energy is pulling the plug on its controversial plan to build a natural gas pipeline crossing Virginia. The decision comes in tandem with a major strategic shift out of the energy giant’s multi-billion-dollar investment in a gas transmission business with operations as far away as Wyoming.”

7-5-20 Virginian-Pilot online. Pipeline canceled. “Restoring rights of way where Dominion has been clearing trees and resolving pending disputes with some landowners along the route will be the work of the next several months. Dominion officials do not expect to ask landowners to return compensation payments already made for use of their property. Opponents of the project said its abandonment was a major victory.”

7-5-20 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Energy companies abandon long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-5-20 CNN Business. Berkshire Hathaway will buy natural gas assets from Dominion Energy in $10 billion deal.

7-6-20 News & Advance. ‘We won the impossible fight’: Nelsonians react to news of Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s demise. “Half a decade of their lives were devoted to fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As news of its demise broke Sunday, those dedicated to the anti-pipeline cause in Nelson County were overcome with emotions.”

7-6-20 Virginia Mercury.  Delays, legal challenges allowed the curtain to be pulled back on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.   “[W]hen I first started covering the pipeline project four years ago, more or less by newsroom accident at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I was actually skeptical of many of the arguments against the project. I knew next to nothing about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, utility regulation or the handsome rate of return such pipeline projects were guaranteed to deliver to investors. I assumed it would be difficult for a consortium of energy companies to use the extraordinary power of eminent domain to grab land from people absent a compelling public need argument. Or, as I may have actually said at one point back then: ‘They wouldn’t be building a pipeline if no one actually needed the gas, right?’ I had a lot to learn.

7-6-20 Bloomberg. Grim Day for Pipelines Shows They’re Almost Impossible to Build. “To be an energy superpower, U.S. oil and natural gas requires a suitably gargantuan pipeline network that stretches for millions of miles. The country’s ability to expand that infrastructure is being tested like never before. In the span of less than 24 hours, a court ordered the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline to shut down and the developers of the Atlantic Coast gas conduit said they were canceling the project. It was a deluge of bad news for an industry that’s increasingly finding that the mega-projects of the past are no longer feasible in the face of unprecedented opposition to fossil fuels and the infrastructure that supports them. …. ‘I would expect this to be a turning point for new investment,’ said Katie Bays, co-founder of Washington-based Sandhill Strategy LLC. ‘There is real investor fatigue around this parade of legal and regulatory headwinds to energy projects.'”

7-6-20 NC Policy Watch. PW exclusive: The death of a pipeline.  “On Independence Day weekend, when most people weren’t tuned in to the news, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy jointly announced that they were cancelling the ACP. Since 2014, the utilities had been pursuing the pipeline, which would have started at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia, routed through Virginia and traversed 160 miles in eight counties in eastern North Carolina. Here, in its path were communities of color, tribal lands and low-income neighborhoods. Questions linger about how a project of this magnitude — $8 billion and 600 miles long — will be undone. But pipeline opponents view the utilities’ decision as an acknowledgment that sometimes regular, working-class people can prevail.”

7-6-20 E&E News. Supreme Court restarts key Army Corps permit, but not KXL. “The Supreme Court today allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to resume using its streamlined water-crossing permit for the construction of new oil and gas pipelines, but it excluded the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The high court accepted a request by the federal agency to lift a court-ordered freeze on its Nationwide Permit 12 program for authorizing dredge-and-fill activities for new pipeline projects across the country.”

7-6-20 NRDC. Three Lessons Learned from the Axed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

7-7-20 AP. Opponents: Pipeline’s defeat ‘a testament to perseverance’ 

7-7-20 I love Cville host Jerry Miller interviews Richard Averitt about the cancellation of the ACP in Nelson County. The interview starts 19 min. into the recording. For any concerns about the acquisition “The agreement does not include acquisition of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”  The ACP is really and truly dead.

7-7-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s ‘uphill climb’ gets a little easier. “The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay late Monday of a Montana judge’s decision to ban a fast-track permitting process that allows pipelines to cross water bodies. Mountain Valley needs such a permit — among others — if it is to complete construction of a 303-mile pipeline that has been repeatedly delayed by court challenges.”

7-7-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Landowners hopeful, but wary after cancellation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Two and a half years after the trees fell, so did plans to build the 605-mile pipeline. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy abandoned the $8 billion project on Sunday after a six-year battle that pitted energy development against environmental protection and property rights in Nelson and other localities in the pipeline’s path. …. ‘In the coming months we will seek approval from FERC and other agencies to complete restoration for areas of the right of way that have been disturbed,’ spokesman Aaron Ruby said Tuesday. FERC spokeswoman Tamara Allen-Young said Tuesday, ‘The commission will consider issues of site restoration as they arise.’ The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said it will coordinate with other state agencies as plans are developed to restore areas disturbed by the project. ‘We will insist that ROW restoration is completed appropriately and completely without further disturbance,’ spokeswoman Ann Regn said. …. Dominion plans to withdraw about 80 active lawsuits from local courts to condemn property for the pipeline right of way, but the company hasn’t decided how to deal with the easements it already obtained through agreements with landowners or eminent domain. ‘We will evaluate the best way forward for resolving easement agreements with landowners,’ Ruby said. ‘They will, of course, keep any compensation they’ve received.'”

7-7-20 News & Advance. ‘A thorn in their side’: Nelson County stands out in its fight against now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Were bets allowed in this fight, oddsmakers would have made the ACP the overwhelming favorite. And yet Nelsonians against the pipeline that had been slated to cross about 27 miles of their county came out victorious Sunday, as ACP officials announced their decision to abandon the interstate energy project. ‘It’s like an ant going against the elephant,’ said Harvey, who also serves as chairman of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. ‘But it just goes to show you that persistence pays off.’ Other localities along the planned 600-mile route through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina joined and remained in the yearslong fight, which began half a decade ago with the project’s proposal. But in Virginia, Nelson County’s pluck, and the commitment of opposed individuals and groups to fight the pipeline and everything associated with its majority partner Dominion, have been unique.”

7-8-20 Slate. The Pipeline Setbacks Reveal the Perils of Rushed Agency Approvals. “On Monday, federal courts dealt major setbacks to the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. The two decisions came directly on the heels of an announcement that energy utilities were abandoning another high-profile project: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have crossed beneath the Appalachian Trail. Together, these developments amount to a stunning victory for environmental advocates and tribes who have long challenged these projects in court, and are just the latest roadblocks to the Trump Administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, which has sought to expedite fossil fuel projects in an era of climate change. But, how, exactly did this all come to pass, and back-to-back-to-back at that? The reason the pipelines have faltered is mainly due to legal errors and injudicious project approvals. It’s a bureaucratic failure rather than any kind of policy directive.”

7-8-20 Slate. Why It Took So Long to Defeat the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was a planned underground highway of natural gas, meant to cover 600 miles across the South. Activists were hugely worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline, so their strategy was to block every attempt to get it built. They tried to keep pipelines away from the Appalachian Trail. They argued that construction of the pipeline put endangered species at risk. They filed lawsuits. All this work slowed the pipeline down, but what no one was expecting was what happened this weekend: After six years of legal fights, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the companies behind this pipeline, announced that the whole thing was canceled. How did this victory happen? And can it be replicated? On Wednesday’s episode of What Next, I spoke with Lyndsey Gilpin, the founder and editor in chief of Southerly, a media organization covering ecology, justice, and culture in the South, about the people who dedicated years to successfully busting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.”

7-8-20 Slate. How Activists Brought Down a Massive Gas Pipeline. “Local activists never expected the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to go bust. Now they’re asking each other: How did that victory happen? And can it be replicated? Guest: Lyndsey Gilpin, founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly.”

7-8-20 Virginia Mercury. What sank the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? It wasn’t just environmentalism. Article that digs deep into reasons for the demise of the ACP.

And in another pipeline fight

7-6-20 NPR.org. Court Rules Dakota Access Pipeline Must Be Emptied For Now. “A federal judge has ruled that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied for now while the Army Corps of Engineers produces an environmental review. In a decision posted Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that it was clear shutting down the pipeline will cause disruption. But he said that ‘the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow’ during the estimated 13 months it will take to complete the environmental impact statement. The court vacated the Corps’ decision to grant federal approval for the project, and will require the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days.” [“The Court ORDERS that: 1) The Mineral Leasing Act easement authorizing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe is hereby VACATED; and 2) Dakota Access shall shut down the pipeline and empty it of oil by August 5, 2020. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 7/6/2020.”]