Category Archives: Pipeline Route

Nelson BZA to Hold Hearings on ACP Flood Plain Crossings


The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold public hearings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s request to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads. Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as critical facilities whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplain. State law mandates decisions on variance requests within 90 days of the January 16, 2018, application date.

The BZA has retained David Shreve, former Campbell county attorney who has a private practice in Altavista, as legal counsel for the review, and has requested technical assistance from Draper Aden Associates, an engineering, environmental services and surveying firm with offices across the commonwealth and in parts of North Carolina.

The BZA’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be February 5, during which they will meet in closed session with Shreve and Draper Aden to go over application details. The public hearings on the variance applications will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m.

During their January 16 meeting, the BZA adopted procedures for the public hearing: speakers must sign up to speak during the hearings and will be limited to three minutes unless they are representing a group, in which case they have five minutes to speak. At Shreve’s suggestion, the BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, thus providing a “clean record” for each application.

The February 12 meeting is currently planned for the General District Courtroom in the Nelson County Courthouse, but because of anticipated large turnout may be moved to a different site. Announcement of meeting site will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.

A listing of the requested variances is posted on the BZA portion of the Nelson County Website.

Brief Radio Piece: Dominion and Scana

A 3-minute radio spot on WTJU on January 9, 2018, discusses Dominion’s purchase of Scana, and South Carolina’s potential as a market for and extension of the ACP, continuing from the NC-SC border to Elba Island near Savannah, where there is a massive gas export facility. Remember that not only has Dominion repeatedly and publicly denied that any of the gas is for export, they wrote it into the Purpose and Need section of their FERC application.

Tree Cutting


Dominion wants to cut your trees. Dominion wants to cut your neighbor’s trees. Dominion wants to cut as many trees as possible on the pipeline path during the allowable time period (now through March, to protect nesting and migrating birds) – because their next opportunity would not be until November 2018. DEQ has said that under Virginia regulations some cutting may be allowed where the activities do not qualify as “land disturbance.” That means only hand-felling, no equipment or machinery – yet even hand-felling can cause significant disturbance.

BUT – Dominion does not have the required permits from North Carolina and has only a conditional one from Virginia. The projected date for completing the required studies for Virginia’s reconsideration of permits is March or April 2018, after the allowable tree felling period has ended.

Here’s a re-post of an article from September 2017 that spells out the mess early tree-cutting has caused for Pennsylvania landowners on the Constitution pipeline route. Half the sugar maple trees (550 of them!) on one family’s maple sugar farm were cut – and then the pipeline was blocked by neighboring New York. The pipeline company sued, and a federal court sided with New York. The landowner lost trees and half her livelihood for a pipeline that probably won’t be built – because the pipeline company charged ahead with having all the permits. A lawyer for the pipeline company said, “I think going forward, people will be very careful before they authorize either the taking of land or the clearing of right of way.” (Dominion, take note!)

On December 27, 2017, Friends of Wintergreen and Wintergreen Property Owners Association filed documents asking FERC to oppose Dominion’s request to cut down trees. For more details on the tree-cutting issue, including Dominion’s petition to FERC, statements from DEQ, and submissions to FERC by several other organizations, see our December 21, 2017, article, What’s Next?

Keeping Up the Fight


The Nelson County Times for December 27, 2017, includes an excellent review of the fight against the ACP in Nelson County, featuring Joyce Burton, Eleanor Amidon, and Deborah Kushner. For them, as for may of us, Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline split life into before and after. “‘Boy, that was a different age,’ [Kushner] said. ‘The pre-pipeline age.’ And there’s now, when hundreds of residents continue to battle the project.”

The fight started with a handful of shocked residents trying to develop the best first step in resistance. Soon, local nonprofits and other organizations dedicated solely to fighting the pipeline began to form; they were joined by regional chapters of larger organizations.

“‘We have never seen this kind of uprising of people in this state on an environmental issue,’ David Sligh, an environmental attorney, former DEQ engineer, conservation director for Wild Virginia and investigator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch following the [Virginia State Water Control] Board’s Dec. 12 decision. ‘I’ve been working on these issues for over 35 years, and I have never seen this kind of effort. I have never seen this kind of unity. And that is important, and I think they recognize this.'”

Yes, we are still fighting! The pipeline is not a done deal!

Designed in a Week!

Pipeline opponents have said from the very beginning that the chosen route for Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline shows immense ignorance (or perhaps conscious blindness) of the difficulties of the terrain it would traverse, the scenic and cultural heritage it would destroy, the watersheds it would affect, and the racial injustices it would perpetuate. We were right!

In an article in the December 27, 2017, Nelson County Times, Dominion engineers proudly (!) describe how they designed the route in just a week. “Brittany Moody recalls the exact moment the Atlantic Coast Pipeline took over her life. Moody was on a break from a training session in Richmond in early 2014 when Leslie Hartz, Dominion Energy’s vice president for engineering and construction, approached her to ask: ‘Hey, I’m gonna need you to route a pipeline. How long do you think it’ll take you to complete it?’ Moody, manager of engineering projects for Dominion, answered without hesitation. ‘I’m thinking it’ll be just like every other pipeline I’ve done [and responded], “I’ll have it done in a week,”‘ she said. In the days that followed, though, Moody began to learn more details about the project, which would become the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘Later I started getting the details and it’s a 500-mile pipeline, and I’m like, “Oh shoot, I’ve got to get it done in a week,”‘ Moody said. So she and Dominion construction manager Greg Park, the two appointed to lead the design of the route from start to finish, set to work. About a week later, after hours in front of computers analyzing thousands of miles in West Virginia, Virginia — including the 27 miles of Nelson County that are currently included in the route — and North Carolina, the first iteration of the natural gas pipeline’s route was born.”

Although in the more than three years since, the route has undergone hundreds of changes (few of more than a very short distance), it is basically the same as that first route, designed in just a week. Moody and Park feel they have done a great job in meeting with landowners and adjusting the route. “‘If they don’t want their parcel divided in half or they’d rather see the pipeline farther away (from their residence or other parts of their property), we try to accommodate all of that if we get it caught early enough in the process.'”

But the fact remains that no matter how many minor adjustments to the route they are proud of, they are clear that, “infrastructure such as the ACP requires sacrifices from multiple people along the route…. For businesses and residents in southern Virginia and North Carolina to receive the natural gas companies say they need, residents in Nelson and 11 other counties in Virginia had their number called for the ACP.”

Everyone living in the region crossed by the pipeline route – designed in just a week – has indeed “had their number called for the ACP.”

Stone Walls Along the Blue Ridge

Photo by Nancy Sorrells

In the December 10, 2017 Staunton News Leader, Nancy Sorrells of Augusta County writes about the threat the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline poses to the historic dry stone walls that traverse both both the east and west face of the Blue Ridge. “The grey and green lichen and moss-covered walls of stone meander through the forest like silent sentinels of history. Long ago, settlers on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, and on the eastern slopes in Nelson, lived proud and independent lives on their subsistence farms. These stone walls were an integral part of their daily farming activities,” protecting crops and gardens and enclosing animals.

Although morterless, the walls are remarkably stable, and still stand “horse-high and hog tight,” snaking for miles along Blue Ridge slopes. Late 18th and early 19th century settlers in our part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge came from the Ulster region in the north of Ireland; scholars have suggested that the differing styles of the walls may be attributed to different kin groups.

“The only threat today to these walls is a natural gas pipeline. To date, Dominion will not acknowledge the need to avoid these walls during their construction activities. Should Dominion build its pipeline through these walls, there is no mitigation that can restore what those artisans created centuries ago.

If the destruction of these walls worries you, please write to Julie Langan, Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221. Express your concern over the potential loss of these important resources and suggest that the pipeline route be moved to protect the historic stone walls.