Category Archives: Natural Resources

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.”

Army Corps of Engineers Suspends MVP Permit in Virginia

On October 5, 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross all streams and wetlands on its route in southwest Virginia. A similar permit for West Virginia water crossings was vacated on October 2 by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals. In his letter to MVP, William Walker, chief of the regulatory branch of the corps’ Norfolk division, said, “Effective immediately, you must stop all activities being done in reliance upon the authorization under the NWP,” referring to the Nationwide Permit 12 authorization that was issued to MVP in January 2018.

Because there have been and continue to be massive amounts of muddy runoff and other environmental risks from MVP construction, lawyers for Appalachian Mountain Advocates, which represented the Sierra Club and other conservation groups in the successful legal challenge of the West Virginia permit, sought an immediate suspension of the federal authorization they describe as inadequate to protect Virginia’s clean water.

After winning the case in West Virginia, Appalachian Mountain Advocates sent a letter to FERC asking it to issue a stop work order for the entire MVP project, since the MVP’s October 2017 FERC approval was conditional on it having all required permits from both state and federal agencies. With the Army Corps permits invalidated, Appalachian Mountain Advocates argued that FERC’s stop work order must apply to all construction along the MVP route, not just the pipeline’s water body crossings.

Read the press coverage in the Roanoke Times here.

Groups Invite Public to Camp on Land Under Threat from Pipeline


Sept. 21, 2018
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jill Averitt 434-262-3417, sprucecreekgathering@gmail.com

Nellysford, VA: Activists opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline 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.

“Camping on the path of the proposed pipeline – ‘camptivists’ will learn what makes the area unique through talks, conversation and first-hand encounters with the land,” says a statement by Friends of Nelson, the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, and Jill Averitt. Spruce Creek Camp, the site of the encampment, is on the Averitt’s property.

“The gatherings will be peaceful, family-friendly weekends of camping, experiencing the grandeur of the natural world,” the statement says. It will allow campers to “connect with locals and learn about what is at stake.”

According to the statement, “Local experts will share why the history, ecology, and the community of Nelson Country makes the fight to keep the pipeline out of this beautiful valley so critical, and why non-carbon sources of energy and other economic strategies are now viable alternatives to large scale fossil fuel projects.”

The sponsors believe that “recent court decisions indicate it’s not too late to stop this pipeline and save the affected property, water, public parks and forests.”

Nelson County is home to many tourist destinations such as the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Wintergreen Ski Resort, the Rockfish Valley Natural History Center, the Nelson County Farmers Market, and the new Brew Ridge Trail made up of wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries.

According to the statement, “all these local attractions will be severely affected should this pipeline be constructed. We are proud to invite you to come stay with us and experience all there is to love about Nelson County and its people.”

The Camp, which is free, will be held Fridays through Sundays the first three weekends of October. Pre-registration is requested – 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,” the statement says.

SELC Challenges New Rushed Permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

September 19, 2018, press release from Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on behalf of Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Virginia Wilderness Committee, filed legal challenges today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to new permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline issued by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

After the Fourth Circuit struck down its permit for the pipeline, the National Park Service quickly reissued a nearly identical permit with no changes to the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reauthorized the pipeline despite new data confirming that it would put critically endangered species in jeopardy of extinction.

“These agencies again ignored the law in their rush to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline the approvals it wanted,” said SELC attorney DJ Gerken. “These agencies work for the public, not the developers of an unnecessary pipeline even two FERC Commissioners concluded is not in the public interest.”

“The agencies responsible for protections should be prioritizing a real review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, not abandoning a critical process to help developers,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “There is no justification for this unnecessary and dangerous project.”

“By turning a blind eye to the research that shows the Atlantic Coast Pipeline jeopardizes Virginia’s rivers, forests, plants, and animals, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Services are endangering our communities,” said Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. “We will fight to ensure our state’s natural resources are afforded the protections they deserve.”

“Letting polluting corporations build the ACP without considering the latest endangered species data is like letting a doctor operate without the diagnosis,” said Joan Walker, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “The National Park Service has already said in official comments that the ACP’s route is inconsistent with its objectives to preserve the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If they don’t know what the effects of this fracked gas pipeline will be, they shouldn’t be allowed to build it.” 

Court Filing NPS

Court Filing FWS

FERC Lifts Stop Work Order on ACP

Early afternoon on September 17, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lifted the stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline it issued on August 10. The FERC Notice was based on the issuance of new permits by, respectively, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • On September 11, 2018, the FWS issued a revised Biological Opinion (BO), which included a modified Incidental Take Statement for the ACP
  • Additionally, on September 14, 2018, the NPS issued a new right-of-way permit for crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Earlier versions of these permits had been vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had prompted FERC to issue its stop work order.
 

In its press coverage, the Virginia Mercury quotes D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, N.C., who said, “The Park Service right of way is almost the same document,” Gerken said. “It’s very disappointing. … It sure looks like more of the same, which is these agencies making political decisions rather than fact-based ones. All of these federal agencies with responsibility to protect public resources moved too fast on a political timetable. This is entirely consistent with that approach. And that’s what got them in trouble last time.” Gerken added, “There is no question that these pipeline developers deliberately race the courts. So no matter how bad the legal violations are, the project is well under way before the courts have an opportunity to review it. This is baked into their business model. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong as long as it’s fast.”