Category Archives: Mountaintop Removal

Dominion’s Political Toxicity

Writing in a Washington Post opinion column on May 19, 2017, Mike Tidwell and LaDelle McWorter discuss why an all-powerful corporation is becoming politically toxic in Virginia. “More than 60 candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates have rejected campaign contributions from fossil-fuel giant Dominion Energy. Two candidates for governor, a Democrat and a Republican, have, too. It’s the equivalent of an earthquake.”

Why? Because Virginians are realizing that Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction plans include removing the tops of 38 miles of heavily forested, mostly pristine ridge lines, shaving off 10 to 60 feet to create the wide, flat surface needed for Dominion’s heavy equipment to lay the 42-inch-diameter pipe. Plus much of the needed land would be seized by eminent domain from landowners who understandably don’t want such destruction on their property. (Dominion says they would remove all the rock and rubble, then pile it back again in a treeless heap, and professes to believe that would be environmentally friendly. Of the treeless swath of wasteland, Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby says, “You won’t even notice it.”

Further, Dominion has dumped toxic coal-ash liquid into major Virginia rivers, wants to bury remaining coal ash right where it currently sits on the river banks (where it is already suspected of toxic leaking) because they say it is too expensive to move it to modern, safer landfills. Plus Dominion wants to build an unneeded $19 billion nuclear reactor at its North Anna plant, costs that would be passed on to consumers. Without Dominion’s throttle hold on Virginia and its legislators, the state might even begin to improve its abysmally low standing in development of renewable energy and start to catch up with neighboring North Carolina and Maryland in solar and wind power.

In a related story reported in the May 18, 2017 Newport News Daily Press, State Senator Chap Peterson, D-Fairfax, wants “to harness a populist wave against the energy giant to pass major reforms in Virginia. Those include a new ban on campaign contributions from Dominion and other public service corporations, as well as an upheaval at the State Corporation Commission, the government branch tasked with regulating utilities and other businesses.”

“When Did He Walk Our Ridge Line?”

A Letter to the Editor (Daily Progress, May 10, 2017) by Joseph McMoneagle discusses the move of the ACP route to the other side of the ridge from Davis Creek. “Does Dominion believe that changing sides of the mountain is going to prevent the same thing from occurring on our side as it did on the Davis Creek side — especially after removing the trees and topping the mountain ridge for almost a mile? ….  Greg Park, construction manager, said that ‘some ridges may be cut as much as 10 feet, but nowhere near the 60 feet predicted by opponents.’ When did he walk our ridge line? Our mountain crest is 9 to 25 feet across for almost its full length. It has a 45- to 60-degree grade or greater. To meet his required 125-foot width to bury his 42-inch pipe, a minimum of 40-55 feet of the ridge — with accompanying trees, rocks, and underbrush — must go. It’s simple geometry.”

On the Ridge Line

On May 7, 2017 a group of Pipeline Resisters hiked through the stunningly beautiful Bath County land where Bill and Lynne Limpert have built a home. They hiked up onto high ridge lines, and gathered around huge old growth trees that would be lost if construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline application is approved by FERC. Bill Limpert talked about the mountaintop removal/destruction/leveling – and FERC’s refusal to even look at Little Mountain, the particular mountain he speaks of, one of the ridges on the list for leveling. (And by the way, The Limperts have joined the Burn Your Easement Challenge and have burned their easement offer.)

A short video of Bill Limpert talking about the mountain is here.

Heidi Dhivya Berthoud’s photo montage of the hike is here.

Landowners Take Concerns to Governor’s Office

Following news that Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline would obliterate 38 miles of ridge lines in Virginia and West Virginia, several severely impacted residents and business owners spoke at a May 4, 2017, Richmond press conference detailing their concerns and calling on McAuliffe to reject the pipeline. At the press conference outside Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office, residents demanded the Governor use his full legal authority to stop Dominion’s plan to explode entire ridge tops along 38 miles of mountains to build the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Read the full press release from Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Read the briefing paper on mountaintop removal.

News coverage of the event outside the Governor’s office:

Dominion’s PR Machine Keeps Trying

Dominion’s PR people are working very hard to convince everyone that the ACP has no problems and is a done deal. With every new revelation of the destruction and damage the pipeline would cause, Dominion staff repeat and repeat and repeat the same phrases to justify their plans: “pleased with progress,” “years of experience,” “best-in-class programs,” and they even talk about their “environmental stewardship” and “sensitivity to residents and communities.”

Route adjustments? Dominion’s Aaron Ruby says, “We’ve made more than 300 route adjustments to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and minimize impacts on individual properties.” In reality, they have only made the route adjustments forced on them through the courts and regulatory requirements. The project remains as damaging as it was when they first drew the line through West Virginia and Virginia to North Carolina.

Ridge removal? Dominion’s Aaron Ruby says, “You would not notice. I mean, the contours of the ridge lines will remain exactly the same as they always have been.” Of course, immediately before that, he said, “For a 50 foot wide strip on some of these ridge lines, there won’t be trees replanted.” Does he truly think people are so stupid that they would not notice a 50 foot clear-cut path across previously forested ridge lines? (If indeed the path is only 50 feet – most indications are that it will be wider and therefore even more visible.) Dominion’s own documents diagram 125 foot ridge removal.  See the FactSheet on mountain top removal here.

Overburden is the term describing the left-over soil and rock after flattening constructions areas and digging the pipeline trench. The briefing paper on mountaintop removal released by opposition groups concluded that the 38 miles of Appalachian ridge lines impacted would create 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden. About that, Ruby says only that it doesn’t match with a favorable draft environmental statement or the reality of Dominion’s project. But since there are absolutely no details in Dominion’s submissions to FERC on how they would deal with overburden, we can’t help but wonder what Dominion wants to hide – or how they plan to hide all that overburden.

For media discussions of the evidence against the ACP and Dominion’s responses to pipeline opponents (and their contention that all is well), see:

A Different Universe?

Are Dominion officials in a different universe?

As reported on April 27, 2017, in the Exponent-Telegram (WV), “Dominion Energy officials are pleased with progress on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, with the start of construction about five months away. ‘The project continues to move forward on all fronts, and we are confident of a successful outcome,’ Dominion Energy President and CEO Diane Leopold said.” In the article Dominion officials tout the pipeline’s “environmental benefits” and Dominion’s sensitivity “to residents whose communities and properties will be affected by the construction,” although they do acknowledge in passing that “there has been some opposition.” A different universe?

In a similar disconnect, Dominion responded to yesterday’s revelation by opposition groups of the scope of mountaintop removal required by ACP construction by saying the claims are “exaggerated.” But Dominion has repeatedly indicated that the width of the construction corridor will be at least 125-feet, and in many place it will be wider, depending on the need for “additional temporary work space”. Although Dominion talks up its environmental stewardship, it has not made public any actual construction plans for erosion and sediment control plans, stormwater management plans, or steep slope stabilization plans for the part of the project that is in Virginia. But plans for West Virginia are available, and the depicted construction corridor width on ridgelines is indeed 125 feet or more.

Although FERC and Dominion concede that constructing pipelines on slopes steeper than black diamond ski slopes can increase the potential for landslides, Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby continues to say that they have developed a best-in-class program for steep slope construction that is one of the most protected programs that has ever been used in the industry. However, since no pipeline of this size has ever been built in steep mountainous territory, “best-in-class” may not be good enough for totally new circumstances. A different universe….