Category Archives: Natural Resources

December 7: Multiple Pipeline Barriers


December 7, 2018, saw multiple barriers placed in the way of both the ACP and the MVP.

Early in the morning NBC posted nationally a lengthy and very sympathetic article telling the story of the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s push to build a massive compressor station for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of Union Hill,an historic, predominantly African American community. In it, John and Ruby Laury, longtime residents of Union Hill told NBC News, “Dominion thought they can just come in and we’d all roll over….We have to stand up. We have no fear of Dominion.”

Then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Fish and Wildlife Service permit regarding incidental take of endangered species. This action was in response to a petition filed on November 30 by the Southern Environmental Law Center, and said simply, “Upon consideration of the submissions relative to petitioners’ motion to stay, the court grants the motion and stays implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement pending review by the court.” The Fish and Wildlife Service approvals for the ACP must be in place before Dominion can harm threatened and endangered species. The Court threw out the original permit in May 2018. “The Fish and Wildlife Service scrambled to reissue this permit and its haste is evident in its analysis,” said Attorney Patrick Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is yet another instance of government agencies rushing out ill-considered permits for this project.” Because of the stayed permit, construction must stop on the entire 600-mile route. Dominion’s Aaron Ruby said, “We respectfully but strongly disagree with the court’s decision. We believe the stay is not only unwarranted, but overly broad. We are filing a motion for emergency clarification on the scope of the court’s decision. We do not believe there is any basis for the court to stay the entire Biological Opinion, which authorizes all 600 miles of the project.”

ACP permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers are all now on hold.

By the end of the day, Dominion had notified FERC that work will stop along the entire ACP route, saying, “In response to a stay of implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement granted today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Dominion Energy, on behalf of Atlantic and itself, has stopped construction on the entire Projects, except for stand-down activities needed for safety and that are necessary to prevent detriment to the environment.”

Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times broke the news that Attorney General Mark Herring had filed suit against Mountain Valley Pipeline, citing more than 300 violations of Virginia environmental regulations, and seeking “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations.” The suit was filed in Henrico County Circuit Court, and does not state an exact monetary amount being sought by the state.

Fourth Circuit Asked to Stay ACP’s Fish and Wildlife Permit

From ABRA Update 206, December 6, 2018:

A motion to stay the US Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) latest Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was filed November 30, 2018, with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on behalf of its clients: Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and The Virginia Wilderness Committee. The FWS’s original Opinion and Take Statement on the project was struck down by the Fourth Circuit in an opinion issued August 6, 2018. FWS issued a revised Opinion and Take Statement was issued September 11 and a stop work order that had been in effect since the Fourth Circuit’s decision was lifted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on September 17.

In its petition to the Court, SELC pointed out that four endangered species would be adversely affected by ACP construction: 1) Indiana bats habitats in several designated Appalachian Recovery Units along the route; 2) clubshell mussels adversely impacted by sedimentation-inducing activities in their watershed; 3) the Rusty-patched bumble bee as the result of tree felling in Bath County, VA; and the Madison cave isopd due to access road construction in Bath County. The petition further argues that the FWS, as it did in approving the first Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the ACP rushed to judgment as the result of political pressure from the Department of Interior to accommodate the project, without conducting a thorough analysis as required by law regarding the impacts upon the cited endangered species.

Concluding, the petition proclaims: “The public interest is not harmed by a delay in construction. Even if Atlantic can make a showing of economic harm, that economic harm does not equate to harm to the public interest.”

Spruce Creek Camp: Report on Final Weekend


Oct. 22nd, 2018, For Immediate Release
Contact: Jill Averitt 434-262-3417, sprucecreekgathering@gmail.com

Spruce Creek Camp Weekend 3: Camptivists Gather on Land Threatened by ACP

Activists opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) invited the public to camp on property in its path the first three weekends in October to learn why Nelson County residents are fighting to prevent its construction.

During the final weekend of camp, attendees heard talks and presentations from a number of Nelson County citizen experts, toured local properties that would be affected by the pipeline, and participated in workshops and discussions.

Host landowner and anti-pipeline activist Richard Averitt described the camp property and his family’s plans to build an eco-resort there. He led a tour of the site and showed the group the deleterious effects the ACP would have on the Spruce Creek waterbody. He also showed a slide presentation he recently gave to a Congressional hearing on how this destructive project has affected his family both on camp land and where his family has residences.

Charlie Hickox, Friends of Nelson board member, presented a brief history of Nelson and described the devastating effects Hurricane Camille had on the county, due to the intense rain and landslides that resulted in 124 Nelson citizens losing their lives. He emphasized that the unstable soils on our steep slopes, coupled with extreme precipitation events (brought on by climate change) have a high probability of failing again during or after construction of a 42” diameter pipeline. Such integrity failure would most likely result in explosions and fire due to the volatile nature of natural gas put under 1400 + psi pressure.

Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson land owner liaison, described how individual properties in the immediate vicinity would be impacted by the pipeline. Effects include contamination of drinking water, wetland and stream bed degradation, ridgetop and old growth tree removal, the economic impact on a newly built country inn, and in one case, elimination of an entire residence due to the proximity of the ACP pipe to its septic and water systems.

In the afternoon Joyce hiked with camptivists up Robert’s Mountain to see just how steep one of these ridges that the pipeline is proposed to go though actually is. Participants got to see firsthand the narrow slope that would be significantly “reduced” in height.

Mike Tabony, local resident, school lecturer, and frequent writer of letters to the editor to local newspapers, gave a detailed slide presentation on Climate Change and Global Warming. One point he made was that increasing global temperatures result in catastrophic sea level rise with major implications for Virginia’s coast line, especially in the heavily populated Norfolk/Hampton Roads area where one segment of the ACP is proposed to end.

Lara Gastinger, an internationally recognized botanical illustrator and lead illustrator of the book, Flora of Virginia, presented a workshop on illustrating and journaling plants. Participants walked the Averitt’s property collecting plant materials and then sketched and painted them using fine point pens and watercolors.

Weston Mathews, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Virginia and co-director of the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice (IACJ), gave an insightful talk on the necessity for action and collaboration beyond borders of Nelson County, expanding the notion of what it means to relate to someone as a neighbor. His IACJ organization generously funds Native Americans under duress due to climate events, bail for arrested protesters, and supports many other environmental justice organizations and activities.

Ben Cunningham from the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) presented and demonstrated the Pipeline CSI mapping application and made a request for volunteers to monitor and report violations of erosion controls and water quality protections found during pipeline construction.

Doug Wellman, vice president of Friends of Nelson, discussed local alternatives to gas and coal power generation. Roof top solar projects exist in the county on residences, schools and community centers. There are also solar alternative projects being done by the utilities and electric coops themselves, as well as many nearby commercial projects. The energy source profile is changing but many laws and regulations still need to catch up. Sadly, off-shore wind, a stable energy source in many European countries, is just now beginning to be implemented in Virginia. Doug reminded us that energy conservation remains an effective strategy, especially for low income residents who would directly benefit from paying smaller utility bills.

Ernie Reed, former president of Friends of Nelson and current member of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, showed the group a recent Powerpoint presentation he made to Sweet Briar students. Later he discussed how the attendees could influence decision makers and the media in this fight, and the importance of continuing to mount legal challenges. He advocated having as many tools as possible to fight pipelines in order to preserve our environment and property rights.

Susan McSwain, a Nelson County master naturalist, led the group on a nature walk where she identified native and invasive plants.

The weekend camping events brought together people from Oregon, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, as well as from many cities and counties in Virginia. Participants learned about Nelson County, its history, natural resources, beauty, susceptibility to landslides, and the vulnerabilities to its tourism businesses. Campers were briefed by our knowledgeable citizen task force on the lack of property rights, legal matters now in the courts, the deleterious effects of pipelines on local flora and fauna, and, finally, on the reasons why this project is totally unnecessary. Natural gas demand in the Commonwealth is flat and alternatives such as solar, offshore wind and conservation have become much more attractive and competitive. As Nelson has stated from the beginning of this struggle: No Pipeline.

Spruce Creek Camp: Speakers and Events


Oct. 15th, 2018, For Immediate Release
Contact: Jill Averitt 434-262-3417, sprucecreekgathering@gmail.com

Spruce Creek Camp Weekend Two: 75 Camptivists Gather on Land Threatened by ACP

Activists opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) invite the public to camp on property in its path the first three weekends in October to learn why Nelson County residents are fighting to prevent its construction.

During the second weekend of camp, 75 attendees heard talks and presentations from a number of Nelson County and Buckingham citizen experts, toured local properties that would be affected by the pipeline, and participated in discussions.

Woody Greenberg, former reporter, retired Lynchburg College professor, former member of the Board of Supervisors, and current Secretary of the Nelson Historical Society, gave a brief history of the county and described in detail the devastating effect Hurricane Camille had here due to the intense flooding and landslides that killed 124 people. He emphasized that unstable soils on our steep slopes could fail again during or after construction of a massive 42” pipeline.

Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson land owner liaison, described how individual properties in the immediate vicinity would be impacted by the pipeline. Effects include contamination of drinking water, wetland and stream bed degradation, ridgetop and old growth tree removal, the economic impact on a newly built country inn, and in one case, elimination of an entire residence due to the proximity of the ACP pipe to its septic and water systems.

Host landowner and anti-pipeline activist Richard Averitt described the camp property and his family’s plans to build an eco-resort there. He led a tour of the site and showed the group the deleterious effects the ACP would have on the Spruce Creek waterbody. He also showed a slide presentation he recently gave to a Congressional hearing on how this destructive project has affected his family both on camp land and where his family has residences.

Lakshmi Fjord from Friends of Buckingham gave a slide presentation on the potential health effects from the proposed compressor station in Buckingham County near Union Hill on the largely African American community. Her group has done extensive health surveys of the community which could result in bringing an environmental justice case against the ACP as described in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Others from her group described the group’s baseline air and water monitoring activities. http://www.friendsofbuckinghamva.org/friends/learning-center/compressor/

Doug Wellman, vice president of Friends of Nelson, discussed local alternatives to gas and coal power generation. Roof top solar projects exist in the county on residences, schools and community centers. There are also solar alternative projects being done by the utilities and electric coops themselves as well as many nearby commercial projects. The energy source profile is changing but many laws and regulations still need to catch up. Off-shore wind, a stable energy source in many European countries is just now beginning to be exploited in Virginia. He also said that energy conservation remains an effective strategy especially for low income residents who would directly benefit from paying smaller utility bills.

David Schweisow, land owner in nearby Wintergreen Resort, described how the ACP plans to tunnel under the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail using the questionable Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) technique. The process would employ proprietary drilling chemicals, bentonite and 50,000+ gallons of water a day and take over a year to complete. Afterwards, Dave took us on a tour of the 125’ wide clear cut next to Wintergreen’s only egress road and to where the pipeline would cross the Schweisow’s front yard on Fortune’s Ridge.

The Spruce Creek Circle of Protection held an open-air Interfaith Prayer Vigil to inspire and affirm the need for communities to protect their safety, water, and land values from the threat of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, hosted by Water is Life. Protect it. The ceremony opened with words from spiritual leader Asha Greer from Batesville and pastor Louie Andrews from Rockfish Valley Presbyterian Church. Wild Common performed music powered by the Sun Bus, Richard Averitt described how his life has been affected by the ACP, Amelia Williams read an original poem, 1000 Flags 1000 Waters converged and more.

Ben Cunningham from the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) presented and demonstrated the Pipeline CSI mapping application and made a request for volunteers to monitor and report on violations of erosion controls and water quality protections found during pipeline construction.

Beth and Neal LaFerriere from Blackberry Botanicals in West Virginia spoke to the group about their family and land’s repeated bombardment by helicopters with grass/fertilizer pellets. Because of this unwarranted and illegal action, they will lose their farm’s organic certification for three years, severely affecting their chief source of income.

James Bolton, a Friends of Nelson Board member and frequent FERC commentator, discussed the legal fight and where various suits, motions and rulings stand today.

Susan McSwain, a Nelson County master naturalist, led the group on a nature walk where she identified native and invasive plants.

The final weekend of October 19 – 21 will include many of the above speakers as well as Mike Tabony discussing global warming, Lara Gastinger on illustrating and journaling flora and fauna with an opportunity to create your own art and journal, Weston Matthews discussing climate justice from a religious perspective, a hike to Roberts Mountain ridge, discussions and drumming held in the resident tipi, and Ernie Reed speaking on political activism and where the group goes from here.

The final weekend of the Camp, which is free, will be held Friday afternoon October 19 through Sunday mid-day October 21. Pre-registration is required – register here. “We feel finances should not be a barrier to enjoy the beauty of our area. Donations will be gratefully accepted for Friends of Nelson and Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice.”

Spruce Creek Camp: Speakers and Events


Oct. 8th, 2018
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jill Averitt 434-262-3417, sprucecreekgathering@gmail.com

Spruce Creek Camp: Speakers and Events

Nellysford, VA: Activists opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) are inviting the public to camp on property in its path the first three weekends in October to learn why Nelson County residents are fighting to prevent its construction.

During the first weekend of camp, attendees heard talks and presentations from a number of Nelson County citizen experts, toured local properties that would be affected by the pipeline, and participated in selected topic discussions.

Woody Greenberg, a former reporter, retired Lynchburg College professor, and former member of the Board of Supervisors, and current Secretary of the Nelson Historical Society, gave a brief history of the county and described in detail the devastating effect Hurricane Camille had here due to the intense flooding and landslides that killed 124 people. He emphasized that unstable soils on our steep slopes could fail again during or after construction of a massive 42” pipeline.

Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson land owner liaison, described how individual properties in the immediate vicinity would be impacted by the pipeline. Effects include contamination of drinking water, wetland and stream bed degradation, ridgetop and old growth tree removal, the economic impact on a newly built country inn, and in one case, elimination of an entire residence due to the proximity of the ACP pipe to its septic and water systems. She also described the inherent pitfalls of ACP’s plan to tunnel under the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway using the Horizontal Drilling (HDD) technique.

Peter Agelasto, President and Founder of the Rockfish Valley Foundation, led a tour of an old mill site near Spruce Creek in the historic area of Wintergreen Village and showed how the proposed pipeline would run thorough the valley’s only archeological site.

Host landowner and anti-pipeline activist, Richard Averitt, described the camp property and his family’s plans to build an eco-resort there. He led a tour of the site and showed the group the deleterious effects the ACP would have on Spruce Creek waterbody. He also showed a slide presentation given recently to the Congress on how this destructive project has affected his family.

Susan McSwain, a Nelson County master naturalist, led the group on a nature walk where she identified native and invasive plants.

Randy Whiting, a resident of Horizons Village adjoining the camp property, led a tour and showed the group where the pipeline would destroy a forest wetland in that community.

Todd Rath, a local cidery owner, related how the project would endanger the water supplies so necessary for his business and, in turn, impact local tourism.

Doug Wellman, vice president of Friends of Nelson, offered the group local alternatives to gas and coal power generation. There are a number of roof top solar projects in the county and nearby, on residences, schools and community centers. There are also solar alternative projects being done by the utilities and electric coops themselves as well as many nearby commercial projects. The energy source profile is changing but many laws and regulations still need to catch up. Off-shore wind, a stable energy source in many European countries is just now beginning to be exploited in Virginia. He also said that energy conservation remains an effective strategy especially for low income residents who would benefit from paying less in utility bills.

Ernie Reed, former president of Friends of Nelson and current member of the Board of Supervisors, discussed how the attendees could influence decision makers and the media in this fight and the importance of continuing to mount legal challenges. He advocated having as many tools as possible to fight pipelines in order to preserve our environment and property rights.

During the weekend of October 12-14, speakers will discuss Nelson County legal challenges, highlight our Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) program, and give a presentation on the proposed Buckingham compressor station; there will be more tours of local properties, and a “Circle of Protection” at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The Camp, which is free, will be held Fridays through Sundays the next two weekends of October. Pre-registration is required:  REGISTER HERE. “We feel finances should not be a barrier to enjoy the beauty of our area. Donations will be gratefully accepted for Friends of Nelson and Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice.”