Category Archives: Landowners

Averitt is Panel Member at FERC Forum

Nelson’s Richard Averitt was at the Envision Forum hosted by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research and FERC on October 20-21, 2019. He was there along with a couple hundred energy company execs and government policy makers, and was asked to sit on a panel as the only landowner voice.

The gas industry media outlet, Natural Gas Intel, quoted some of Richard’s comments: “‘I think there’s a very serious question about whether eminent domain should ever be used to produce a for-profit export project. I think that’s inconsistent with our beliefs around property rights, but particularly when you look at how the courts have extended the right to eminent domain to include preliminary injunctions, or ‘quick take,’ that collapses on landowners to be an absolute destruction of your right to due process…. The idea that eminent domain is only used as a last resort is a false narrative from a landowner’s perspective. It is used in every pipeline case if it’s on the table. Because when you sit down at the negotiating table, one of the two parties can walk away with virtually no negative impact, and the other one loses everything they care about.’

“In addition, conditional permits issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission leave landowners powerless, Averitt said. Such permits allow companies to seize land and prepare it for pipeline construction, often destroying farmland even if the project never comes to fruition, he said. ‘To enable the taking of private citizen’s land and the destruction of that land at a time when those permits are still in question is unconscionable…that’s not an appropriate due process.'”

Richard thanks fellow landowner supporters Ron Evans and Mayor Kristin McLaughlin, with special thanks to Megan Gibson and Niskanen for getting them in the room.

And we thank Richard for so ably and articulately representing landowners!

Here are YouTube links for Richards comments and to the full panel discussion:

To download all of the above, click here.

Read the full Natural Gas Intel article here.

Filing to FERC on New Landslide Information

In their “Motion to Intervene (Out of Time) in Docket No CP15-554 Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Request to review new information and to issue a stop work order,” filed recently with the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, Richard and Jill Averitt and other family members ask FERC to review the LIDAR work done by Dr. Anne Witt of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. They call attention specifically to the slopes near their home that are part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline path, and the disturbing results of an overlay of LIDAR data with the ACP route.

Read the Motion to Intervene here.

Read more about Dr. Witt’s LIDAR work and the heightened potential for landslides along the ACP route here and here.

Catalog of Disasters

In an article published July 17, 2019, DC Media Group reports on the catalog of disasters inflicted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline on the LaFerriere family and their Blackberry Springs Farm in West Virginia. In September 2018, despite cease and desist orders, the organic farm was showered repeatedly with pellets of Earth Guard Edge dropped from helicopters. The pellets are an erosion control product containing acrylamide, a carcinogen. LaFerriere, his wife and children, and an intern were all struck by the pellets while harvesting ginseng a quarter mile from the MVP right of way, with resulting contusions and lacerations. Specialists said nothing could be done to mitigate the damage, since once the pellet gets wet, it gets into the soil.  The organic status of the farm has been jeopardized.

“MVP is required to adhere to an Organic Management Plan it filed with FERC, but LaFerriere said they still hadn’t provided him with any information with regard to its implementation. He claims he hasn’t been allowed to speak with the expert from the International Organic Inspectors Association hired by MVP–who has been out to the property twice–and he still hasn’t received a complete list of materials that MVP would be using on the farm. MVP also wouldn’t tell him much about the pale green coating on the 42″ diameter pipeline. His concern about the coating degrading and contaminating the soil and water is shared by FERC, which last week sent a letter to MVP asking about its safety after two years of sitting in the sun.”

Last year, LaFerriere asked for 72 hours notice before MVP cut trees in the right-of-way so he could move some materials. They failed to give notice, and felled trees on the materials, ruining them. MVP had to pay to replace them.

MVP maintains they have “retained an organic consultant to train workers and environmental inspectors and monitor construction activities and remediation. LaFerriere said that no monitors or inspectors have been introduced to them, and he has not seen anyone on site that he can identify as a organically trained monitor.”

Because Laferriere believed MVP wasn’t honoring its organic management plan requirements, he sent yet another cease and desist order; MVP representatives agreed to meet with him, but cancelled at the last minute.

On July 16, only an hour after the scheduled (ten cancelled) meeting meant to discuss the Laferriere’s concerns over MVP’s failure to adhere to the organic management plan requirements, “an excavator operating on the right-of-way tipped over onto its side. The excavator was on relatively flat terrain, not on a steep hill or slope, LaFerriere said. Fluids spilled out, and nearly 20 workers were required to bag soil that was contaminated. He didn’t observe any barrier or protective silt socks put in place to contain the spill. The driver was able to exit the excavator and walk away with the assistance of co-workers.”

The article notes that, “Problems with MVP construction have not been limited to Blackberry Springs Farm. MVP was cited with more than 300 violations by the end of 2018 alone. As a consequence, many of the pipeline’s permits have been revoked. FERC has approved 125 requests by MVP to deviate from its original work plan, and most appear to be related to efforts correct erosion events.”

Also in recent days, MVP construction materials in Virginia were swept down the Blackwater River by heavy rains, ending up in Smith Mountain Lake, where they are a safety hazard, particularly for boaters. Because of its many violations in Virginia, attorney general Mark Herring filed a civil lawsuit against MVP in October 2018. But because he refuses to issue a stop work order, construction and the resulting devastation continues.

Read the full DC Media Group article here.

Related article in the July 15, 2019 Virginia Mercury, MVP’s violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’

Powerless: The High Cost of Cheap Gas

When the U.S. declared the discovery of natural gas reserves large enough to propel the country to energy independence, property owners in West Virginia could never have imagined how that discovery might affect them. CBSN Originals and ProPublica traveled to West Virginia’s “gas patch” to meet landowners Beth Crowder and David Wentz, a once-married couple who found themselves in the crosshairs of Big Gas and joined forces to fight back.

You Can’t Just “smooth it back over”

So often we hear pipeline proponents say that after it is built you won’t know it is there. As Robert Pollok says, “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

In the April 7, 2019, article in GoDanRiver.com, Pittsylvania County farmer sheds light on how pipeline project will affect land for years to come, Pollok explains how pipeline construction would affect his small-grain seed production operation. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposed Southgate extension project would run through his land and through two different properties he leases. During construction he would be unable to get farm equipment across MVP’s work zone to reach both a part of his own property and one of his leased properties which is only accessible through the part of his land that would be inaccessible. He estimates that at least 55 acres of crop land could be inaccessible during construction spanning two growing seasons.

“Pollok said he’s concerned about whether he’ll be able to grow enough to satisfy the customer base the farm has built up over 30-plus years. He’s also concerned that he will not have the option of expanding during that time. …. As a farmer in the highly-regulated certified seed production industry, Pollok’s products undergo several stages of scrutiny, from field inspections prior to harvest by state agents to sending his yield to the state to undergo a series of quality tests. ‘If it does not meet the criteria for certified seed at that point, even before I harvest it, it’s rejected for being able to be kept for seed, and it cannot be sold for seed,’ said Pollok. The seed must be free of any contamination from weeds and disease as well as be genetically pure, otherwise it’s prohibited from sale of any kind. …. Therefore, he keeps his fields carefully controlled. His equipment is only used on his own fields so as not to potentially transfer weeds from another farmer’s field to his.”

Beyond inhibiting his ability to farm parts of his land during the proposed construction, Pollok says it will take years to reverse the harm to the land caused by construction in the temporary workspaces. In 1990 his family acquired the section of land where Southgate wants to build, and “it took them more than a decade to fix the very sections damaged by the construction of the Transco pipeline in 1954. ‘It still had remnants of uneven ground and unproductive soil,’ said Pollok. ‘It was close to the early 2000s before we had it where you couldn’t say, “Oh, this was where the pipeline was,”‘ he said. ‘The crops wouldn’t be lagging in yield quality because of where that construction took place decades before.'”

And every time crews come to do work or make repairs to the pipeline, they damage the land again. “Driving up his driveway to his house, Pollok pointed out the vehicle’s window to the spot where the crews had worked a few years ago. Compared to the ground around it, grass grew more sparsely with patches of dirt clearly visible. Thick grass lined the perimeter of the former work zone. ‘Stuff still doesn’t grow right, and that was four years ago,’ he said.”

Pollok thinks it would take at least five years after construction to heal the land. During construction and during the healing time thereafter, his yield – and therefore his livelihood – would be severely reduced, and he wonders if he would ever regain the lost business. “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

Read the full article here.

People in the Path of the Pipelines


The Appalachian Voice for February/March 2019 includes a second installment in their “People in the Path of the Pipeline” series. There are stories from people in the path of the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, Mountain Valley Southgate, and Mountaineer Xpress Pipelines. Read the February 2019 set of stories here, and the earlier April/May 2018 stories here.