Category Archives: Landowners

FERC Provides “Additional Landowner Protections”

In a news release on June 9, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee announced an amendment to its regulations which says that even if a project has all other certifications and permissions to begin construction, it must wait to do so until the Commission either acts on the rehearing request or the 30-day time limit passes with no requests for rehearing.

When FERC issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity, allowing a project to proceed, affected landowners have the right to ask FERC to reconsider. Although FERC is supposed to respond to such requests within 30 days, it frequently issues a “tolling order,” which indefinitely extends FERC’s deadline to respond. FERC thus freezes the landowner’s request for a hearing while allowing pipeline companies to continue construction – meaning that by the time a landowner has a hearing the pipeline construction may be completed.

According to FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee, quoted in the press release, “‘The Commission has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve affected landowners’ access to a fair and transparent process and today’s effort is another important step forward,’ Chatterjee said. ‘These are complex issues, with a diverse array of stakeholder input, but I remain firmly committed to doing what we can to make the FERC process as fair, open, and transparent as possible for all those affected while the Commission thoroughly considers all issues.'”

However, FERC did not define what it meant by “begin construction,” and could still allow pipeline companies to condemn property before FERC makes a decision on a landowners appeal, and, depending on the definition of “begin construction,” go forward to cut down all the trees, dig the trench for the pipeline, spray herbicides, cross waterbodies – everything but actually put the pipe in the ground.

FERC has been under mounting pressure from landowner rights advocates and from Congress to address inequities in its hearing process for affected property owners.

Read FERC’s press release here.

Read press coverage in E&E Energywire here and in Utility Dive here.

FERC Process Skewed Against Landowners


On April 28, 2020, the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released preliminary investigative findings showing that the natural gas pipeline approval process used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unjustly tramples on the rights of private landowners.

The Subcommittee released a video report outlining its preliminary findings and interviewing landowners Richard Averitt and Maury Johnson, who have battled FERC and pipeline companies to protect their land, and Carolyn Elefant, a lawyer and expert in FERC issues.

In a press release, Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin said, “The deck is totally stacked against landowners who want to defend their family’s land against takeover by private natural gas companies It’s not a fair process. FERC habitually delays its administrative duties to respond to landowner requests so long that those landowners have no opportunity to have their voices heard. By the time they have the chance to speak up, their land has already been invaded and in some cases destroyed.”

The press release states, “The Subcommittee’s investigation found that in the last twelve years, FERC issued a tolling order to every single landowner who requested a rehearing. In every single case, FERC eventually denied the request. On average, 212 days—about seven months—passed between the time a landowner made a request for rehearing and when FERC ultimately denied it. While those cases are tolled, the eminent domain cases can continue, landowners can lose their property rights, and pipeline companies can destroy their land.”

Read the full press release here.

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.

Report on Natural Gas Act Hearing


Fellow pipeline fighter Irene Leech attended the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Natural Gas Act hearing on February 5, 2020. With her permission, we are sharing her notes on her experience. Thank you, Irene!

I was at the hearing. I sent my comments to the record. My Montgomery Congressman, Morgan Griffith, is on the committee. He used his first 5 minutes to enter my statement into the record and to tell them I was there – affected by both pipelines. He told the industry that his constituents did not verify the good working relationship they claimed. He also told them FERC ignored the request by a group of Virginia federal elected officials for at least one more hearing. They also refused to consider the combined effect of the MVP and ACP. Griffith and Kaine have introduced similar bills that address a little of what we care about.

LaFleur did a masterful job of directly laying out the problems. She spoke only for herself. She was extremely tactful describing those opposed to her positions as genuinely viewing things differently but made clear change is needed.

Maury Johnson from WVA was invited and uninvited to speak as a landowner. There were three other affected landowners from the MVP there. I believe I was the only one from the ACP. Griffith clearly described my impact from the ACP. When Maury spoke to former chairman LaFleur she already knew we were there as landowners.

Griffith entered Karolyn Givens comments into the record with the second panel and asked the industry what can be done to incentivize industry to genuinely work with landowners – at my suggestion. The question was essentially ignored.

Hearing planners decided to displace landowners but we were there early to ensure seats (arriving around 7; at 9am we were told sitting in line outside the meeting room, not blocking any door, was considered protesting and we had to stand if we wanted to stay. They let us in at 9:50). We made sure the committee knew we were present. We shook our heads no when false things were said. We had scarves that said FERC doesn’t work but did not show them once the meeting was underway, being told that would get us thrown out – but folks saw them and pictures are on Facebook and Twitter. We also talked with staff after the hearing so we have their contact info and they have ours.

I think we made good use of our day. I did not widely share my comments but will get a copy to you. The ACP and MVP were referenced several times to point out problems with the Natural Gas Act.

We got things on the record – started the process to create change. I’m bummed we didn’t make the news – but they had a vaping hearing simultaneously along with a briefing on the coronavirus – plus State of the Union and impeachment.

P.S. Congressman Riggleman’s statement was announced as being put on the record but I have not seen/heard it.

[Note: Congressman Denver Riggleman’s statement is here.]

Landowner Comments for Congressional Hearing


The House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Natural Gas Act was held on Wednesday February 5, 2020. Included in the hearing was discussion on H.R.5454 – Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act.

Richard Averitt, on behalf of himself and 25 other ACP-impacted Nelson County landowners, submitted a powerful and impassioned letter to be entered into the record for hearing. In his covering letter, Averitt stated, “It is of critical importance that the voice and perspective of landowners affected by the current implementation of the Natural Gas Act be part of the record and a stakeholder to the process of reforming the NGA.”

His letter begins, “I write to you on behalf of Landowners in Nelson County, Virginia who are suffering greatly from gross abuse and misuse of the Natural Gas Act by a FERC that repeatedly slants every decision and ruling in favor of any new energy project regardless of the need, cost or environmental impacts.

“We are outraged citizens who have spent nearly six years fighting for our most basic and fundamental rights to due process and property in a country founded on these sacrosanct principles. Moreover, while our specific experience relates to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), our grievances are representative of injustices perpetrated against thousands of families across the country at this very moment along dozens of new pipelines routes. We are the victims of a broken system, a truly feckless FERC, an energy economy that is wildly incentivized to build infrastructure at any cost, and the outrageous lie that the public need for gas is driven by domestic demand while our nation races to be the largest global exporter.”

He asks that “there be more thoughtful and detailed discussion allowing for adequate citizen comment to identify the right changes moving forward,” and notes that while there are many issues worth discussing, “There are at least five key issues which must be resolved in order to protect citizens’ basic rights to property and due process in the courts and to re-balance the NGA.”

Averitt continues by discussing in detail:

  1. Issues of Notice and Intervention
  2. Defining the metrics for determining NEED
  3. Tolling orders must be eliminated
  4. Conditional Permits must be eliminated
  5. Eminent Domain reform – eliminate Quick Take

He concludes, “In summary, while there are many details beyond these five core reforms, these changes to the NGA and the FERC process represent the bare minimum Congress must do in order to restore a semblance of fairness and balance to the process and ensure the most basic and primary protections to a citizen’s guaranteed right to due process and property are preserved.”

Read the full letter here.

Many thanks to Richard for so eloquently and articulately giving voice to landowners most impacted by the reforms in question!

Information on hearing is here, including the Committee Memorandum, witness list, testimony and a live webcast.

In opening remarks at the hearing, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman of the full committee, said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “must take a more holistic view of the pipeline infrastructure already serving particular regions in order to determine whether new infrastructure is truly needed.” He continued, “I am concerned FERC is simply approving duplicative pipelines, with 60-year lifespans, under the guise of ‘market need’ even when those pipelines are not really necessary. The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects clearly illustrate the need for regional review. Both pipelines cross roughly the same areas in the mid-Atlantic region and, in some instances, impact the same communities and landowners. Why do we need that duplication? And while work on both pipes has been halted, much of the land damage has already been done because FERC allowed these duplicative projects to begin construction.”

Congressional Hearing on Natural Gas Act


The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the Natural Gas Act on Wednesday February 5, 2020.  Included in the hearing will be discussion on H.R.5454 – Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act. The hearing is open to the public on Wednesday, February 5, at 10 am in room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, “Modernizing the Natural Gas Act to Ensure it Works for Everyone.”

The House Committee’s press release, with information on the hearing, is here.  Information for this hearing, including the Committee Memorandum, witness list, testimony and a live webcast will be posted here as they become available.

H.R.5454 – Fairness for Landowners Facing Eminent Domain Act that is being referenced in the hearing is here.

A press release from the Fairness for Landowners bill’s sponsor, NJ Representative Tom Malinowski, is here.