Category Archives: Natural Resources

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.”

Friends of Wintergreen Files Comments with Park Service

On August 20, 2018, Friends of Wintergreen sent an extensive analysis to the National Park Service informing the agency that Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have a significant negative impact on Wintergreen viewsheds.

In their introductory comments, they say:

The purpose of this letter is to:

  • Identify substantial additional visual impacts of the Pipeline that establish that the Proposed Path of the Pipeline is entirely inconsistent with the conservation purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System.
  • Identify an alternate route for the Pipeline across the Parkway at I-64/Rockfish Gap that involves substantially fewer visual impacts and that, therefore, is more consistent with the conservation purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System.
  • Respond to the inaccurate public statements of Dominion/ACP as to why the Fourth Circuit opinion is wrong and can easily be remedied by the NPS.