Category Archives: Mountaintop Removal

Take a Day Hike or Camp Overnight in a Bath County Old Growth Forest


The biggest regional land-clearing project since the federal highway program of the 1960s is now underway in Virginia. In order to build the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, Dominion Energy and EQT are targeting vulnerable communities, destroying precious ecosystems, and threatening the livelihoods of Virginians far and wide.

Enough is enough! Visit Bath County this summer for a continuous peaceful and family-friendly encampment on the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is slated to go right through their property, destroying hundreds of its jaw-dropping old growth trees, and decapitating an entire ridgeline known locally as “Miracle Ridge.” To participate, sign up here. For more information, check out a recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

No Pipeline Summer: Camp to Save the Limperts’ Land


Sign up HERE for a day hike or an overnight stay at a miraculous old-growth forest in Bath County Virginia, threatened by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The biggest regional land-clearing project since the federal highway program of the 1960s is now underway in Virginia. In order to build the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, Dominion Energy and EQT are targeting vulnerable communities, destroying precious ecosystems, and threatening the livelihoods of Virginians far and wide.

Enough is enough. Join pipeline opponents in Bath County this summer for a continuous peaceful and family-friendly encampment on the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is slated to go right through their property, destroying hundreds of its jaw-dropping old growth trees, and decapitating an entire ridgeline known locally as “Miracle Ridge.”

Sign up HERE to schedule a time to visit for a day or camp for a few nights and take a stand with the Limperts. The encampment will start on Friday, June 29 and will run at least until the first week of September when people across the country will call on their leaders for climate action as part of the People’s Climate March.

The Limpert camp will be set up a very short walk from their mountain home. You will be able to park within a few hundred feet of your camping location. Water and emergency phone service will be available at the camp, as well as a full-time coordinator to greet you and provide assistance as needed. Please bring your own camping equipment and food.

Please list every date you are interested in a day visit or camping. You will have the option to participate in community potlucks, go on hikes, join open mic nights, and participate in community forums to discuss the ongoing resistance to the ACP in Bath County. Participants will be calling on all our leaders to stop these pipelines once and for all.

Take a stand this summer and join the No Pipeline Summer: Camp to Save the Limpert Land.

After you fill out the form, you will receive all the details you’ll need regarding location, directions, and more. For insurance purposes, participants must present some form of photo ID upon arrival. Multiple forms of ID including but not limited to a driver’s license will be accepted.

SIGN UP HERE TO JOIN THE CAMP.

Want to know more about the Limperts and their land?  Watch the video, The Truth Is in the Proof.

Richmond Times-Dispatch news coverage here.

The Truth Is in the Proof



The Truth Is in the Proof
: excellent new video focusing on the Limpert property in Highland County.

What if anything can stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines? The level of frustration is growing as more people wake up to the reality that the pipelines pose significant danger to fragile ecosystems along their paths. Concerned citizens, landowners, lawmakers, environmentalists and many government officials continue to protest.  Join them!

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat


The following editorial is reprinted with permission from The Recorder for January 24, 2018. The list of legislators at the end has been expanded to include those who represent Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham Counties.

Say Goodbye to Forests, Vital Habitat

Readers may or may not have noticed the news recently about federal regulators giving Dominion Energy the green light to begin slicing huge swaths of mountain forests in preparation for building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

We think it stinks.

Cutting an interstate-highway sized void through a forest means only one thing. What was forest is no longer forest. It’s now a pustule, a barren scar, open for all sorts of nasties to wreak havoc on water quality, bordering vegetation and indigenous animal life. It will never be the same. Removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. It has adverse impacts on the atmosphere.

In its infinite knowledge, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the energy giant permission to start felling some of the most pristine trees in the world before all necessary environmental safeguards have been put in place. The go-ahead signals a fait accompli that the proposed pipeline is a done deal, something already accomplished and presumably irreversible. We found it a little more than curious that FERC prescribed a deforestation method whereby trees will be cut to ground level. Root systems and their severed trunks wait in place until pipeline construction is authorized. No doubt the clear-cut method will lay out a scrumptious banquet for ravenous woodland beetles and bugs to begin their work of advancing a manmade process of natural woodland decay and decline.

There’s little wonder a company like Dominion Energy is eager to deforest thousands of acres. The return on investment for building a pipeline is so enticing — with federal approval comes a 15 percent guaranteed rate of return on the pipeline builder’s investment — that it quickly becomes evident why Dominion wants to build a lucrative pipeline project it could somehow justify.

The FERC tree cutting approval arrived shortly after Dominion admitted, for the first time, the real project goal all along has been to take the gas to South Carolina and farther south. The premise flies in the face of the case Dominion made to FERC during the licensing process, that the gas was intended for use in Virginia and North Carolina only. This is pure fraud and grounds for putting an end to the project.

The company’s first 42-inch diameter pipeline, the proposed ACP would feed the Southeast fossil fuel at the expense of permanently scarring our pristine Allegheny Highlands landscapes.

It’s a colossal experiment, a project on a scale matching few, if any of its kind. The work would include not only deforestation but mountaintop removal in West Virginia and Virginia. Dominion prefers the euphemism of “flattening.” Either way, some of our most visually appealing mountains would be forever scalped.

Forest fragmentation results from utility rights of way, and the ACP would be no exception. Utility rights of way span areas as large as 5 million acres in the United States. Some studies have shown that transmission rights of way harbor more plant species than adjoining forest areas, due to alterations in the microclimate in and around the corridor. Forest fragmentation is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in forests. The problem of habitat destruction that caused the fragmentation in the first place is compounded by the inability of individual forest fragments to support viable populations, especially of large vertebrates. Local extinction of species occurs when there’s a lack of at least one fragment capable of supporting a viable population. The scar alters the conditions of the outer areas of the fragment, greatly reducing the amount of true forest interior habitat.

We think it’s a super sloppy job when Dominion leaves in place sites for construction lay-down yards following a major rerouting two years ago. Now on the table of the Highland County Planning Commission, Dominion land use applications infuriatingly remain in McDowell and Monterey, promising to completely tear up more than 10 miles of Highland’s arterial roadways, including U.S. 250 (where there’s a new bridge), Route 679 (Bullpasture River Road) and U.S. 220 (Jackson River Road).

We take comfort in efforts by citizen groups to police Dominion, which has long been cited for water quality safeguard violations in pipeline construction and coal ash pollution. As noted in a story in this week’s edition, the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance has launched a citizen initiative to monitor proposed pipeline construction activities. The alliance of more than 50 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia stated the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative intends to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.

We urge readers to let their feelings be known. The contact information for Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham federal legislators is:

  • U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Bath, Highland, Augusta), 2309 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, phone: (202) 225-5431, fax: (202) 225-9681, goodlatte.house.gov
  • U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, Jr. (Nelson, Buckingham), 415 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, phone: (202) 225-4711, fax: (202) 225-5681
  • U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, 231 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-4024, fax: (202) 228-6363, www.kaine.senate.gov
  • U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 475 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, phone: (202) 224-2023, www.warner.senate.gov/public.

Contact information for state elected officials:

  • In Bath, Del. Ben Cline, P.O. Box 1405, Amherst, Va. 24521, www.bencline.com.
  • In Highland, Augusta, and Nelson’s North District, Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, P.O. Box 239, Staunton, Va. 24402, www.bellfordelegate.com.
  • In Nelson (except North District) and Buckingham, Del. Matt Fariss, (434) 821-5929, DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov
  • In Bath, Highland, Augusta, Nelson, Sen. Creigh Deeds, P.O. Box 5462, Charlottesville, Va. 22905- 5462, 434-296-5491, district25@senate.virginia.gov
  • In Buckingham, Sen. Mark Peake, 4925 Boonsboro Road, Box 172, Lynchburg, VA 24503, 434-455-3382, district22@senate.virginia.gov

2017 in Review

2017 was a busy year in the pipeline fight. Here are some highlights – there are a lot!

On December 30, 2016, FERC released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC extended the usual 45-day period for public comment so the deadline was April 6, 2017. Over January-March 2017 FERC held public hearings on the DEIS, where the majority of speakers (once beyond Dominion’s front-loaded supporters) pointed out omissions and inaccuracies in the DEIS, as well as numerous instances where Dominion had not provided required information. Thousands of groups and individuals, some property owners along the route and others not, filed comments with FERC.

On January 5, 2017, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors ignored their constituents so thoroughly that after five hours of testimony almost totally opposed to the ACP compressor station in Buckingham County, they read a PREPARED statement approving the station, having obviously reached their decision well ahead of the meeting. On February 2 a complaint for declaratory relief was filed against the Supervisors and Dominion asking that the special use permit for the station be vacated.

FERC Commissioner Norman Bay resigned on February 3, and with only two remaining commissioners, FERC no longer had a quorum and could not issue decisions.

Judge Michael T. Garrett ruled in Nelson County Circuit Court on February 6, 2017, that Dominion may have access to survey for the proposed ACP on the property of landowners who had steadfastly denied access. The landowners filed a joint notice of appeal with the Virginia State Court of Appeals in early March.

On February 15 Oil Change International released two studies finding that if built, the controversial Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would together contribute as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants — some 158 million metric tons a year. ACP basic facts: http://priceofoil.org/2017/02/15/atlantic-coast-pipeline-greenhouse-gas-emissions-briefing/ ACP full briefing: http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2017/02/atlantic_coast_pipeline_web_final_v3.pdf

In mid-March, Friends of Nelson released the Steep Slope Report by Blackburn Consulting Services, which concluded that “Dominion has not adequately identified those soils and landforms that are prone to debris flows (and) landslides.” The report also states that “the potential for debris flows in the very steep mountainous portions of Nelson County is underestimated by the reports submitted to FERC by Dominion.” Steep Slopes Study by Blackburn Consulting:
http://friendsofnelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Final-Steep-Slope-Report-March-2017.pdf

On April 5 Friends of Nelson submitted comments to FERC on the DEIS – 96 pages including charts, diagrams, maps, and photos. Read it here: http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20170405-5161

On April 6, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality announced that both proposed Virginia pipelines, the ACP and the MVP, would be subject to DEQ water-quality review. This meant that DEQ would require water quality certifications under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act for each segment of both projects that crosses or potentially affects water bodies. But the next day, on April 7, 2017, DEQ provided water quality certification for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2017 Nationwide Permits, thus issuing a blanket Clean Water Act section 401 certification for pipelines that are covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit number 12. And in late May DEQ said they would not require specific water quality impact analysis for water crossings for the proposed ACP or MVP. On June 5, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) filed suit against the DEQ in state Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, asking the court to rule that DEQ issued a Clean Water Act section 401 Water Quality Certification for construction of utility lines, including natural gas pipelines, in state waters without legal authority to do so and without ensuring water quality would be protected.

On April 27, a briefing paper released details on how Dominion intends to blast away, excavate, and partially remove entire mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of ACP construction, flattening them by anywhere from 10 to 60 feet. See http://friendsofnelson.com/press-release-acp-would-require-extensive-mountaintop-removal/

June 17-July 2: Walking the Line. Group walks the proposed ACP path for 150 miles, through Bath, Augusta and Nelson Counties, into the heart of Virginia, Buckingham County, where the walk ends at Union Hill, the site of the proposed compressor station.

On June 29, 2017, the Virginia Conservation Network, along with its partners Southern Environmental Law Center and Shenandoah Valley Network, sent a letter (signed by over 80 organizations) to Governor McAuliffe, DEQ Director David Paylor and the State Water Control Board asking them to use their full authority under the Clean Water Act to conduct a thorough and transparent review of stream and wetland crossings along the proposed ACP and MVP fracked gas pipeline routes and ensure that Virginia water quality standards are met.

And then there was one: Friday June 30, 2017, was FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable’s final day at FERC. Although a pair of Trump administration nominees remain on the sidelines awaiting Senate votes, Honorable’s a departure leaves the already quorumless panel with a single member.

At their meeting on July 4, members of Wintergreen Property Owners Association voted overwhelmingly for a new covenant prohibiting construction of “any lines, facilities, structures, or other appurtenances related to the transmission of utilities” if they do not provide services to the Association or its members.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21, 2017. FERC has 90 days to make a decision on issuing a certificate of approval for the project. The full statement can be found here: https://ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp. The summary statement from FERC staff said, “The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects,” but that with adherence to mitigation measure and FERC staff recommendations “most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.” FERC said their determinations were based on information provided by Dominion and ACP, with no mention of extensive contradictory information filed by a variety of experts.

Also on July 21, the U.S. Forest Service issued a draft Record of Decision to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Forest Service release statement is available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd551404.pdf.

In July Friends of Nelson posted interactive maps showing the ACP route through Nelson County. See http://friendsofnelson.com/information-resources/maps/

Through August, DEQ held public hearings to receive comments on draft water quality certifications designed to protect water quality along the routes of the proposed ACP and MVP.

On August 3, 2017, the Senate voted to confirm Donald Trump’s nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson. They join Cheryl LaFleur, who had been the sole member of the five member commission, so FERC now has a quorum.

In mid-August, Friends of Nelson submitted extensive comments to DEQ on the proposed 401 Water Quality Certifications for the ACP. See http://friendsofnelson.com/friends-of-nelson-submits-comments-to-deq/ And a group of thirteen expert scientists and engineers submitted reports to the DEQ on August 22, finding that DEQ has failed in its duty to properly analyze and protect against the water quality damages the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cause to Virginia’s waters. See http://friendsofnelson.com/failure-to-meet-minimum-standards-of-scientific-proof/

On August 22, the Virginia Supreme Court agreed without argument to hear on appeal the survey suit against the ACP brought on behalf of six Nelson residents by Lollar Law. Briefings will take place in autumn 2017, and the oral arguments before the full seven-justice court will take place in late 2017 or early 2018. See http://friendsofnelson.com/virginia-supreme-court-to-hear-survey-case/

On August 22 in a 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that a Florida pipeline project would deliver to power plants.

A lawsuit, filed September 5 in Washington D.C. federal district court, on behalf of 57 Landowners, Bold Alliance and Friends of Nelson, challenged the constitutionality of the eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act, and seeking to end the unconstitutional and unconscionable process of taking citizens’ private property via eminent domain for a corporation’s profits — and not for “the public good” as the Constitution intended.

September 15-17: No Pipeline Action Camp held in Nelson County, sponsored by Friends of Nelson, Greenpeace, and Blue Ridge Rapid Response.

In mid-September North Carolina delayed by three months its decision on certification of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline under section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. This followed West Virginia’s September 7 announcement that the state was vacating its water quality certification for the proposed MVP in order to reevaluate. Virginia’s DEQ pressed ahead, even as other states hit the brakes.

In late September, Dan Weekley, Dominion Energy’s vice president and general manager of Southern pipeline operations, told attendees at an energy conference ‘everybody knows’ the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — currently slated to pass through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina — is not going to stop there, despite what the current plans say, and that the ACP will be extended into South Carolina.

The NC DEQ disapproved the erosion and sedimentation control plan submitted to the agency by the ACP, Their September 26, 2017, letter of disapproval, cites 17 specific deficiencies in the submitted plan as grounds for disapproval.

Late on Friday evening October 13, FERC approved both the ACP and the MVP. Authorization had been widely expected by both supporters and opponents of the pipelines. The certificates granted by the commission came with dozens of conditions, and other necessary permits for both projects are still pending. The approval was issued with a highly unusual dissenting opinion by Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur. The FERC permit is not the final word on the projects. VA, NC and WV must still issue environmental permits.

Meeting in Richmond on October 16, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) voted to approve Dominion’s application for 11 land conversions of open-space easements on the route of the proposed ACP through southern Highland, northern Bath, Augusta and Nelson counties, and approved a single swap for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline near Roanoke.

On October 18 Dominion released a proposed construction plan, see http://friendsofnelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Dominion-construction-plan20171018-5002-32464467.pdf, When they sent their original “we want your land” letters in spring 2014, Dominion planned to start construction of the ACP in the Fall of 2016 and have the pipeline in service sometime early in 2018. But Dominion did not expect so many people and organizations to fight back!

On November 2, 2017, the Senate approved Trump’s final two nominees to FERC, giving the Commission the full five members for the first time in two years.

On November 13, a motion was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting a rehearing of the Commission’s order issuing a certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The petition, filed on behalf of 22 organizations (including Friends of Nelson) and 10 individuals. See https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Petition_for_Rehearing_to_FERC_20171113.pdf.

On November 14 Friends of Nelson filed a Request for Rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on FERC’s decision to issue a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The filing is on behalf of 63 property owners and citizens of Nelson County, and 4 community organizations.

The NAACP released a report on November 14, Fumes Across the Fence Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Facilities on African American Communities. “The life-threatening burdens placed on communities of color near oil and gas facilities are the result of systemic oppression perpetuated by the traditional energy industry, which exposes communities to health, economic, and social hazards. Communities impacted by oil and gas facility operations remain affected due to energy companies’ heavy polluting, low wages for dangerous work, and government lobbying against local interests.”

On November 17, 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).

Late in the afternoon on December 7, 2017, after two days of hearings, the Virginia State Water Control Board approved water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The vote was 5-2, with members Roberta Kellam and G. Nissa Dean dissenting.

On December 12, 2017, the Virginia State Water Control Board voted 4 to 3 to approve certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. However, the approval does not immediately grant the 401 water permits requested by Dominion; it is subject to certain conditions and to information which must be provided by the ACP. The permit can’t take effect until several additional studies are reviewed and approved by DEQ, including soil and erosion control plans and stormwater management plans. Although this is not an outright denial of the permits, it does not allow Dominion to move forward at this time.

SO…. As we move into fourth year of the pipeline fight, we know the ACP is closer to receiving all final approvals, but we continue our work to stop this economically unnecessary and environmental damaging project. Legal challenges to some approvals have already been filed, more are being evaluated. No, the pipeline is NOT a done deal.

Why This Fight?


“Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia” presents “Why this fight?” A conversation with some, not remotely all, of the organizations and volunteers working to stop the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked-gas pipelines.

With Nancy Sorrells of Augusta County Alliance, Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Lee White of Walking the Line and Cville Rising, Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson, Joseph Jeeva Abate of Yogaville Environmental Solutions – YES and Malik Olson of Walking the Line and Cville Rising.

This is such a good fight for so many reasons and we haven’t yet even talked about the unlawful use of eminent domain. We will. Go to http://walkingtheline.org/ to learn more. Join us!