Category Archives: Friends of Nelson

Letter from Friends of Nelson President, Doug Wellman

Friends of Nelson
Standing in Opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

What We’re Up to These Days

May 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

In these difficult and disorienting times, I thought it would be helpful to update you on Friends of Nelson’s ongoing efforts to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Like everyone else, we are self-isolating, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. But we have not washed our hands of our commitment to do everything we can to assure that Dominion’s unnecessary, costly and dangerous boondoggle is stopped.

We are currently meeting as a board every two weeks, through the teleconferencing medium Zoom. Thanks to the guidance of Cheryl Klueh and Jill Averitt, we have overcome most of the hurdles and are managing to make progress on important projects.

“10 Reasons to Oppose” Initiative

Our primary current project is to build out the new “10 Reasons We Oppose the ACP” initiative [printable copy here] led by Charlie Hickox. Our goal is to focus on a manageable set of arguments against the ACP that we will feature in our public outreach and education efforts. As a board, we worked to select and refine the reasons, and we are now engaged in building the detailed information to support each of them. Forest Fragmentation will be our first focus, and will serve as a pilot for developing the facts and logic behind each of the ten reasons— and the best ways to get them out to the public.

Outreach and Education

From the beginning, one of our most important efforts has been to keep Nelson County residents informed about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We sought to cut through Dominion’s public relations blitz to tell the truth about the proposal’s many flaws and hidden costs. Tabling at the Nelson County Farmers Market, music festivals and other special events has given us the opportunity to speak directly with interested Nelson residents and visitors.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has put the clamps on our ability to speak directly with individuals at the market and festivals. For me, the great thing about tabling was that the conversations could be tailored specifically to the interests of the person or group I was talking to, whether that was on the lawsuits, landowner rights, alternative energy, economic development/damage, threats to groundwater or other aspects of the battle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with folks whose opening questions ranged from “What’s with all the NO PIPELINE signs?” to the constitutional grounds for specific regulatory agency actions. Almost always, I came away from tabling both tired and invigorated. For the foreseeable future, we will have to rely on our newsletter, social media and newspapers to get our messages out.

Board Changes

There have been a number of significant changes in our board.

After our January Annual Meeting, Helen Kimble resigned as president and member of the board, having completed two years providing outstanding leadership. We are all indebted to her for her service. As her successor in the hot seat, I am especially thankful for her help getting prepared to handle the duties of president. We all miss her.

Connie Brennan has accepted new responsibilities as vice president, bringing welcome knowledge of Nelson County and the art of politics to this position. She is a relatively new member of the board, but is quickly developing a veteran’s knowledge of our challenges, while providing me with invaluable counsel on a wide range of issues.

Two new board members, Mary Eiserman and Susan McSwain, are bringing new ideas and energy to our work. Mary’s education is in conservation biology and she currently works with local government and farmers to implement best management practices. Susan has worked on natural resources issues in many different parts of the country and world, and she has been a leader in the Master Naturalists program for years. More background on Mary and Susan can be found in the “About Us” section of this Web site.

Joyce Burton has resigned from the board to work as a part-time contractor with landowners in Nelson County whose properties would be affected by the ACP, and also with the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance’s ongoing Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI). Those of you who know Joyce know her fervor and dedication toward every sort of landowner issue.

Social Media

Unfortunately, we had to bid farewell to contractor Deirdre Skogen, who did a bang-up job of delivering our message through Facebook, as the grant that supported her work ended. Luckily, Jill Averitt stepped up to the plate and is re-building our Facebook presence. During this strange time of limited in-person contact, Jill’s creativity and energy have boosted all our outreach programs.

Other Ongoing Work

Ellen Bouton continues to masterfully manage our Web page and weekly newsletter, staying on top of breaking events, judiciously selecting news items of interest and importance, and writing excellent summaries of longer articles.

David Schwiesow brings his lawyer’s skills to tracking and interpreting the many lawsuits that have stymied the ACP’s progress. Having someone with David’s expertise and experience is invaluable in this battle, where so much depends on lawsuits challenging federal and state regulatory agencies.

Jim Bolton has assumed leadership of our Stream Water Quality Monitoring Project, a citizen-science effort under the guidance of Trout Unlimited and West Virginia Rivers. This work is aimed at building a strong baseline of water quality data on nine Nelson County streams that would be crossed by the pipeline. With years of solid information, we will be able to show that any loss of stream water quality is due to construction of the ACP.

Charlie Hickox has accepted responsibility for leading our outreach and education efforts. He is bringing new vision and vigor to this key element of our work. In addition to continuing her service as our secretary, Julie Burns will assist as needed by assuring our supplies of T-shirts, yard signs, etc. are well-stocked.

Ron Enders and Jill Averitt are working on an “Early Warning System” aimed at helping communities threatened by pipelines across the country get started quickly and effectively in their opposition. This work involves collaboration with the Property Rights and Pipeline Center. Ron pioneered our engagement with PRPC, the organization that awarded the “Stalwarts Award” to Friends of Nelson in 2019.

Cheryl Klueh continues her service as treasurer, leader of our member relations group, and technical manager of our Zoom meetings. Woody Greenberg advises us on all matters related to newspapers, including letters-to-the-editor and press releases. Marilyn Shifflett brings us news about other pipeline struggles around the country, keeps us apprised of investors’ declining interest in fossil fuels, and contributes letters to the editor and Facebook posts. Kathy Versluys hosts our in-person meetings (temporarily suspended) at the Acorn Inn and serves as our official photographer (she took the photo that forms our logo).

With the strong foundation built by our founding members—and with you, our community members and supporters, standing with us—the Friends of Nelson board is dedicated to continuing to fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until it is buried in Dominion’s graveyard of dead projects.

We all hope you and your loved ones are well and able to stay safe,

Doug Wellman
President, FoN

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.

Ten Reasons to Oppose the ACP

Here are 10 reasons why Friends of Nelson opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In the coming weeks we will be posting expanded information on each of the 10 reasons. We hope this information will help clarify your thinking and help you to explain to family, friends, neighbors, and legislators why you oppose the ACP. (Click here to download a printable version of the list.)

1. No Demand or Need
With evidence of reduced future demand and with recent upgrades to existing pipelines, energy analysts argue that there is no need domestically for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Additionally, foreign demand for this gas is better satisfied by nearer sources which can be produced and delivered at a lower cost.

2. Climate Change Implications
Gas pipelines leak methane gas and their compressor and metering stations regularly release methane and other harmful pollutants. The ACP will therefore significantly contribute to climate change.

3. Cost Burden on Ratepayers
The pipeline’s almost $8 billion construction cost will eventually mean rate increases for all Dominion customers as they will have to foot a large part of the ACP cost, regardless of whether it is put into service or not.

4. Discourages Utility Investment in Alternatives
The ACP’s possible construction and its huge capital investment cost will discourage utilities from promoting and developing non-fossil fuel, increasingly cost-effective alternatives such as wind and solar.

5. Eminent Domain Seizures of Private Property
Through the imposition of Eminent Domain, the proposed route confiscates and restricts Nelson landowners’ property rights, lowering their own and adjoining neighbors’ property values.

6. Landslide Danger on Steep Slopes
The proposed construction and placement of the pipeline endangers Nelson citizens’ lives and property, especially on steep slopes which are highly susceptible to landslide failures. Note that ruptured pipelines are likely to explode.

7. Disproportionate Harm to Minority Communities
The ACP will specifically harm the historic African American community of Union Hill by locating a dangerous and polluting compressor station in its midst.

8. Containment Failures Impact on Streams and Drinking Water
As recently demonstrated with the Mountain Valley Pipeline, construction of the ACP will, despite promised containment safeguards, silt up mountain and valley streams, affecting local drinking water and aquatic life.

9. Forest Fragmentation and Effects on Endangered Species
The ACP’s construction will further fragment our vulnerable eastern forests, reducing the habitat and population of Federally-listed endangered species. Such activity could potentially cause their extinction.

10. Detracts from Scenic Views on Public Lands
The pipeline corridor will detract from scenic views on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and National Forest Lands. One of the most prominent viewing locations is at the Parkway’s Raven’s Roost overlook.

Friends of Nelson Annual Meeting


A crowd at the Friends of Nelson annual public meeting at Rockfish Valley Community Center on January 12, 2020, enjoyed an extensive and varied potluck, along with great music by local favorites Kim and Jimbo Carey, as we celebrated 5.5 years and counting of our fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And we celebrated the fact that, because of the hard work of committed citizens and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has resulted in numerous obstacles and denied permits, pipeline builders Dominion and Duke shut down all construction more than a year ago – with less than 6% of the project in the ground so far – and are now struggling to find a way to retool their plans.

We elected Friends of Nelson Officers and Board: Doug Wellman (President), Connie Brennan (Vice-President), Julie Burns (Secretary), and Cheryl Klueh (Treasurer), Jim Bolton, Ellen Bouton, Ron Enders, Woody Greenberg, Charlie Hickox, David Schwiesow, Marilyn Shifflett, and Kathy Versluys. And we gave outgoing President Helen Kimble a standing ovation for her two years of exemplary leadership and incredibly hard work!

Join Us: Friends of Nelson Annual Meeting

Join us on Sunday January 12, 2020, at Rockfish Valley Community Center from 6-10 p.m. for our annual meeting and potluck. We’ll vote on Board members and officers for 2020, review our 2019 accomplishments, talk about plans for 2020, and enjoy being together. Local favorites Kim and Jimbo Carey will provide our music. Beer, wine, cider – and potluck dinner!

Bring friends, bring family, bring your potluck dish, and come help us usher in a new decade!