Category Archives: Pipeline Route

SELC Urges FERC to Reject ACP “Stabilization ” Plan

In a letter on February 15, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Interim Right-of-Way and Work Area Stabilization Plan.

SELC points out that the ACP’s “stabilization” actions were merely an excuse to do new construction. ACP had said that several areas had already been trenched, and that installation of strung pipe in those areas was necessary to stabilize the right-of-way. In reality, none of the areas, totaling almost half a mile in length, had been trenched.

The letter states, “Atlantic and DETI have now asked the Commission for authorization to trench and install pipe in those three areas and six others, covering a total of approximately 1.5 miles along the pipeline right-of-way. Trenching, however, is not necessary to stabilize a right-of-way; on the contrary, it is one of the most destabilizing activities involved in pipeline construction. The Commission’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement for the ACP is replete with examples of the environmental risks associated with trenching. Accordingly, Atlantic and DETI’s construction plans call for installing additional erosion control devices once trenching begins and ‘minimizing the length of open trench at any given time.’ Far from a stabilization method, trenching actually demands further mitigation measures due to its destabilizing effects on a landscape.”

The SELC letter concludes, “We urge the Commission to enforce the terms of its certificate and to reject Atlantic and DETI’s request to proceed with construction that cannot be justified by environmental or safety concerns.”

Read the full letter here.

Crossing the Appalachian Trail

Many have worried that Dominion Energy would make a concerted effort to convince Congress to grant permission for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found the Forest Service did not possess the right to allow the crossing. At this time (February 11, 2019), there is no Dominion amendment attached to any piece of pending legislation in the Congress. However, it now appears it would be useful and important to express concerns to relevant members of Congress.

If you are worried about this unwarranted attempt by Dominion, we urge you to contact your Representative within the next several days. Ask the Representative to contact Congressional leadership to make clear their ACP concerns and opposition, including opposition to the idea of Congress stepping in to help the ACP sidestep fundamental permitting problems that are currently being sorted out in the normal regulatory process and in the courts, and opposition to and concerns about ACP in general. Many of these members have voiced concerns about or outright opposition to ACP in the past; others are new to Congress.

This congressional “fix” is a problem because it would:

  • Imply a congressional endorsement for the ACP, stacking the deck for building the ACP as proposed, on its current route.
  • Set the wrong example for special congressional exceptions to the federal law that otherwise disallows pipelines across national parks.
  • Limit the otherwise-required further analysis of alternatives to the ACP.
  • Leave decisions about key ACP permits entirely in the hands of federal agencies, which already have short-changed public and environmental review of ACP permits.

As a resource for your communication, see this set of talking points, with supporting citations, with detailed information about the fundamental lack of need for the ACP, and about the Fourth Circuit’s Forest Service decision and the Appalachian Trail.

Park Service to Vacate ACP Permit to Cross Parkway

On January 16, 2019, the US Park Service filed a motion (made public on January 18) with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a voluntarily remand of the construction and right-of-way permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Park Service explains that upon the Court granting the request, the agency will vacate the previously issued permit for the ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and “consider whether issuance of a right-of-way permit for the pipeline to cross an adjacent segment of the Parkway is appropriate.”

The Fourth Circuit granted the Park Service’s request to remand the permit back to the agency for reconsideration on January 24, 2019.

Read a copy of the motion.

Read Platt S&P Global January 18 coverage of the motion and the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage.

ACP’s Floodplain Variance Request Denied


On December 3, 2018, on a 3-2 vote, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals denied four of Dominion’s applications for the variances to the County’s flood plain ordinance needed to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across flood plains in Nelson. The other seven of the original eleven applications were dismissed in January 2018, and ACP will have to submit new applications for them.

The Nelson County Zoning Ordinance specifically includes “Structures or facilities that produce, use, store, or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials” in the list of “critical facilities [that] are prohibited from being constructed or operated within a SFHA [Special Floodplain Hazard Area] unless a Variance is granted.” (Article 10.15F on p. 87)

Friends of Nelson issued the following press release on December 4, 2018:

Friends of Nelson commends the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals for its 3-2 vote to deny the applications for variances that would allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross four floodplains along its route through Nelson. These four applications were deferred by Dominion earlier this year. ACP had originally filed applications for 11 floodplain sites, but easement agreements at that time were only in place for the 4 sites applied for and heard by the BZA on Dec. 3.

Board of Zoning Appeals’ member Gifford Childs, made the motion to deny, expressing concerns that the ACP’s application did not offer sufficient detail and assurances that these areas would be protected during construction.

Friends of Nelson agrees and remains very concerned about the inevitable negative impacts to our water, to surrounding properties, and the long-term damage to the fragile ecosystems that exist naturally in floodplain areas. We are convinced that the ACP’s plans do not meet the standards required by Nelson County’s current floodplain ordinance. The preferred route chosen by the ACP through 11 floodplain areas in Nelson is the highest number in any jurisdiction in Virginia, and begs the question of any earnest effort on the ACP’s part to avoid areas that will increase risks associated with large natural gas transmission pipelines. One of the major causes of pipeline “failures” is soil movement and the industry, as well as key agencies, recommend avoiding areas prone to flooding when selecting pipeline routes.

Friends of Nelson will continue to monitor the ACP’s applications on the remaining floodplain sites and is most grateful to the residents who commented during the public hearing.

See press coverage by the Lynchburg News & Advance.

Public Hearing on ACP Request to Cross Floodplains

A Public Hearing will be held at 7 pm Monday December 3, 2018, in the auditorium at Nelson County High/Middle School (6919 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston) to review four of the deferred floodplain variance applications submitted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in early 2018.  On January 31, 2018, ACP requested the deferrals until such time as they could provide the additional information requested by Nelson County on behalf of the BZA for these four applications to cross designated floodplains.

The Board of Zoning Appeals Web page has details about the ACP application as well as links to written comments on the requests submitted to the BZA. (Scroll down past the comments section to get to the links for the ACP application.)

Those wishing to speak at the hearing will be required to sign in before the meeting. Nelson County has guidelines for speakers at hearings; note that speakers representing a group will have 5 minutes, individual speakers will have 3 minutes (and may not allocate their time to another individual).

The hearing will address these four variance requests:

Variance # 2018-007

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across property owned by Ronald Slaughter Jr. & Others, 14815 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston, Virginia and further identified as Tax Map #45-A-25.

Variance # 2018-008

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across the following properties:

  • 1434 Starvale Ln, Shipman, VA – owned by Gillis Rodgers, and further identified as Tax Map #46-A-34.

  • Tax Map #46-A-12 – owned by Equity Trust Company

Variance # 2018-009

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across property owned by James & Virginia Powell, 884 Wheelers Cove Rd, Shipman, Virginia and further identified as Tax Map #59-A-23.

Variance # 2018-010

Consideration of a request from Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC for a Variance to construct a pipeline across a floodplain in conformance with Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Code for construction of a natural gas pipeline across properties owned by Greenway S Corporation, Tax Maps #60-3-15, 60-3-16, and 60-A-28.

See a map of the FEMA floodplains on the ACP route. The blue dots on the map (look for them along the orange line that is the pipeline route) are the water crossings. The A (red), AE (yellow), and X (green) areas on the map are FEMA designated Floodplain Areas. A & AE are the most dangerous part of Floodplains, called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), and any permanent structures are prohibited there, with or without Higher Standards.

Army Corps of Engineers Suspends ACP Permit

Appalachian Mountain Advocates announcement, November 20, 2018:

Following requests from Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) attorneys, the Norfolk, Huntington, and Pittsburgh districts of the Army Corps of Engineers have each suspended its authorization of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As a result, ACP lacks authorization to do any instream or wetland construction anywhere along its route.

Appalmad has argued this action was necessary in light of a recent federal court ruling that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s reliance on Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 was improper. The NWP was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. It allowed contractors to trench through the bottom of streams and rivers. The Corps’ decision has had the effect of forcing the ACP to temporarily suspend water crossings along the entire project until it can obtain a satisfactory permit.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates represents the Sierra Cub, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network in this action.

See the Richmond Times-Dispatch news story on the suspension.