Category Archives: Mountaintop Removal

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….

Press Release: ACP Would Require Extensive Mountaintop Removal


CCAN and Friends of Nelson Press Release
: Thursday, April 27, 2017

CONTACT: Denise Robbins, 240-396-2022, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Anne Havemann, 240-396-1984, anne@chesapeakeclimate.org
Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson, 434-361-2328, joybirdpt@gmail.com

Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would Require Extensive Mountaintop Removal

New research exposes how Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would decapitate 38 miles of ridgelines in Virginia and West Virginia. Evidence will show project is OPPOSITE of “environmentally friendly” and states must reject it.

RICHMOND, VA — A briefing paper released today details how Dominion Resources intends to blast away, excavate, and partially remove entire mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Engineering and policy experts have examined documents submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and, using GIS mapping software, found that Dominion would require mountaintops to be “reduced” by 10 to 60 feet along the proposed route of the pipeline. For perspective, the height equivalent of a five-story building would be erased in places from fully forested and ancient mountains.

Furthermore, Dominion has yet to reveal how it intends to dispose of at least 247,000 dump-truck-loads of excess rock and soil—known as “overburden”—that would accumulate from the construction along just these 38 miles of ridgetops.

“In light of the discovery that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause 10 to 60 feet of mountaintops to be removed from 38 miles of Appalachian ridges, there is nothing left to debate,” said Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Dominion’s pipeline will cause irrevocable harm to the region’s environmental resources. With Clean Water Act certifications pending in both Virginia and West Virginia, we call on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to reject this destructive pipeline.”

Dominion has submitted a proposal to FERC to build a 42-inch diameter pipeline that would transport natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion has attempted to paint the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as an “environmentally-friendly” project. However, its proposed construction method and route selection across and along steep mountains is unprecedented for the region—if not the country—and is viewed as extreme and radical by landowners, conservationists, and engineers. Similar impacts – although not yet fully inventoried – could come from the construction of a second pipeline to the south: the Mountain Valley Pipeline led by the company EQT Midstream Partners, LP.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could easily prove itself deadly,” said Joyce Burton, Board Member of Friends of Nelson. “Many of the slopes along the right of way are significantly steeper than a black diamond ski slope. Both FERC and Dominion concede that constructing pipelines on these steep slopes can increase the potential for landslides, yet they still have not demonstrated how they propose to protect us from this risk. With all of this, it is clear that this pipeline is a recipe for disaster.”

The briefing paper released today was prepared by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in coordination with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Nelson, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. It cites data from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.

Key findings include:

  • Approximately 38 miles of mountains in West Virginia and Virginia will see 10 feet or more of their ridgetops removed in order to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
  • This figure includes 19 miles in West Virginia and 19 miles in Virginia.
  • The majority of these mountains would be flattened by 10 to 20 feet, with some places along the route requiring the removal of 60 feet or more of ridgetop.
  • Building the ACP on top of these mountains will result in a tremendous quantity of excess material, known to those familiar with mountaintop removal as “overburden.”
  • Dominion would likely need to dispose of 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden, from just these 38 miles alone.
  • Standard-size, fully loaded dump trucks would need to take at least 247,000 trips to haul this material away from the construction site.

“It is astounding that FERC has not required Dominion to produce a plan for dealing with the millions of cubic yards of excess spoil that will result from cutting down miles of ridgetop for the pipeline,” said Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “We know from experience with mountaintop removal coal mining that the disposal of this material has devastating impacts on the headwater streams that are the lifeblood our rivers and lakes. FERC and Dominion’s complete failure to address this issue creates a significant risk that the excess material will ultimately end up in our waterways, smothering aquatic life and otherwise degrading water quality. Without an in-depth analysis of exactly how much spoil will be created and how it can be safely disposed of, the states cannot possibly certify that this pipeline project will comply with the Clean Water Act.”

“Even with Dominion’s refusal to provide the public with adequate information, the situation is clear: The proposed construction plan will have massive impacts to scenic vistas, terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and potentially to worker and resident safety,” said Dan Shaffer, Spatial Analyst with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. “There is no way around it. It’s a bad route, a bad plan, and should never have been seriously considered.”

The full briefing paper is available here.