Category Archives: Press Releases

Appalachian Trail Hikers Protest McAuliffe’s Support of Fracked Gas Pipelines


Press release from Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):

RICHMOND, VA – Dozens of Appalachian Trail hikers in full backpacking gear rallied outside Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office on June 2 — the eve of National Trails Day — to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. The hikers highlighted the fact that both pipelines for fracked-gas, each of which would cross the Appalachian Trail, would severely impact the viewsheds and water sources along the iconic trail. Following the protest, the hikers delivered dozens of compasses to the Governor’s office, demanding that he chart a new direction for the state.

Companies building the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines would lay nearly 1,000 miles of fracked-gas pipeline infrastructure across West Virginia and the Commonwealth, threatening hundreds of waterways and endangered species. Recent data show that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, supported by McAuliffe and proposed by controversial power company Dominion Energy, would blast away the tops of 38 miles of mountain ridges in West Virginia and Virginia, much of it near the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would likewise deforest and harm valleys and mountains along the trail, causing permanent damage to iconic views.

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline are both unnecessary and dangerous projects,” said Jessica Sims, lifelong hiker from Midlothian, Virginia. “They would be irreversibly traumatic to Virginia’s landscape — physical manifestations of disregard for the environment. They are attacks on that which I love: Virginia, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains, our park systems, our tourism industry, our water, our ecosystems and our history.”

“I know these mountains, these waters, these forests, and how fragile they are,” said Kathleen “Kit” Johnston, a member of Wild Virginia and Appalachian Voices from Reva, Virginia. “That’s why McAuliffe must say NO to cutting hundreds of miles of pipeline access under and through our ancient mountains, invaluable forests, and irreplaceable waters.”

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which McAuliffe oversees, recently abandoned its promise to conduct thorough, site-specific reviews of the impacts that the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would have on water quality. Now, the agency wants to abdicate that responsibility to President Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a blanket one-size-fits-all permit that does not look at each individual stream crossing, and therefore does not fully protect these water bodies.

“I’ve been a proud hiker of the Appalachian Trail since I was a kid,” said Mike Tidwell, member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. “But with the Governor’s support, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline for fracked gas would decapitate mountains within view of the trail and plow through geologically fragile areas. The pipelines would threaten not only water along the trail, but also water for farmers and communities across 13 counties. This is horrifying, and must be stopped.”

The hikers also referred to the climate change impacts of the pipelines. The two pipelines would together create annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to doubling all of Virginia’s current power plants combined. If built, these pipelines would lock us into another generation of unacceptable and unnecessary fossil fuel extractions.

“Climate change threatens our mountains, our forests, our rivers, and the entire ecosystem that we depend on,” said Lorne Stockman, lifelong hiker from Staunton, Virginia and senior researcher at Oil Change International. “These pipelines will not only disrupt the Appalachian Trail, but also fuel the destruction of our climate. With Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, it is up to us to defend our future and stopping these pipelines is at the top of our pack list.”

This rally was one of the largest political acts ever in Richmond held by defenders of the Appalachian Trail.

Press Release: Study Concludes that Dominion Understates Pipeline’s Landslide Potential in Nelson County

Friends of Nelson Press Release, March 13, 2017 (Contact:  Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson, 434-361-2328)

Study Concludes that Dominion Understates Pipeline’s Landslide Potential in Nelson County

A study of the potential for slope failures and landslides in Nelson County from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, coupled with a review of Dominion’s in-house analysis, has concluded that “Dominion has not adequately identified those soils and landforms that are prone to debris flows (and) landslides.” The report also states that “the potential for debris flows in the very steep mountainous portions of Nelson County is underestimated by the reports submitted to FERC by Dominion.”

The author of the report, Blackburn Consulting Services, LLC, was contracted to review, assess, and comment on information submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as related to the construction and operation of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) through Nelson County. The review was limited to information pertaining to soils/soil structure and slope stability, as well as the associated geohazards and erosion/water quality concerns that the ACP project raises for Nelson County.

As part of their work, Blackburn developed a series of predictive maps to better identify the areas with high debris flow potentials and spent three full days in Nelson County traveling to 17 pre-determined sites along the pipeline route to ground-truth their model. In addition to their visual assessments of the terrain in those areas, four hand-auger borings were performed, and full soil descriptions were completed from 14 soil pits dug using a mechanical excavator. Three of the sites were located near the Wintergreen entry on Rt. 664—proposed as the exit point for a 4500-foot tunnel through the Blue Ridge—where they found evidence of a history of numerous debris flows.

Blackburn also reviewed documents submitted by Dominion to FERC through December 1, 2016. Soil scientists looked at the information Dominion was using to determine the pipeline route, soil types along that route, slope stability and erodibility.

The scientists found that Dominion has been using inadequate and inappropriate data sets to assess the soils and identify the landslide risk potential along the pipeline route in Nelson.

The report states: “(The) review has discovered that, due to the reliance on this regional- based and publicly available information, many of the statements made in Dominion’s FERC filings represent gross generalities. Dominion has not adequately identified those soils and landforms that are prone to debris flows/landslides, nor have they adequately addressed how they plan to mitigate those site-specific hazards that can put people, property and water quality at extreme risk.”

“Given the types of soils that the soil/scientists observed during their site work on Nelson’s steep slopes (loose uncompacted soils on slopes that measured as steep as 83%), it is obvious that the erosion potential of these slopes is much higher than Dominion is reporting,” said Randy Whiting of Friends of Nelson. “Considering the anticipated difficulties Dominion is expected to have with revegetating the pipeline right-of-way—both during and after construction—it becomes apparent that combining Nelson’s soils, slopes and this proposed pipeline is a recipe for disaster.”

“After reading this report, what scares me even more are the places where they want to install the pipeline along our narrow ridgetops,” said Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson, referring to ridgetops such as those on Roberts Mountain. “There is no way to clear and flatten a 125’ construction right-of-way on a ridge that is only 60’ feet wide without severely impacting the landslide-prone slopes on either side. “

“We are calling on FERC to rescind the current DEIS and demand that Dominion follow these scientists’ recommendations to perform a more thorough assessment of the landslide risks in Nelson before the approval process is allowed to proceed any further,” Burton concluded.

Blackburn Consulting Services, LLC has over 50 years of experience in mapping and evaluating soil characteristics for a variety of purposes—ranging from agriculture and forestry to land development, environmental and wastewater disposal. They are licensed Professional Soil Scientists and On-site Soil Evaluators in the State of Virginia and nationally certified through the Soil Science Society of America.

The report was a joint project of Friends of Nelson, Friends of Wintergreen, and Wintergreen Property Owners Inc.

You can download the full report by clicking here.

To download this press release, click here

Nelson County Community Public Hearing on the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 21, 2017 (Contacts: Ernie Reed, lec@wildvirginia.org, 434-249-8330, and Kirk Bowers, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org, 434-296-8673)

**MEDIA ADVISORY**

Nelson County Community Public Hearing on the Proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Date: Wednesday, February 22, 6-9 p.m.
Location: Nelson County Middle School, 6925 Thomas Nelson Hwy, Lovingston, VA 22949

Local citizen groups will hold a Community Public Hearing on Wednesday, February 22 from 6-9 p.m. at the Nelson County Middle School. The hearing will be held concurrently with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s “Listening Session” on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is conducting public listening sessions in Virginia regarding the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) at different locations throughout the state. The Nelson County FERC session begins at 6:30 p.m. at the adjacent Nelson County High School.

Concerned citizens will be gathering in the Nelson County Middle School library at the same time as the FERC meeting, to provide a welcome environment for the public to share information and show opposition to the ACP.

FERC has refused to hold true Public Hearings on the proposed ACP, instead holding “Listening Sessions” where citizens sit in a closed room with a scribe and speak their 3 minutes of comments in secrecy.

“The FERC process makes a mockery of the concept of a Public Hearing,” said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson. “FERC has also cut the time for public comment in half in Nelson County, severely limiting the time available for citizens to make their comments. This is despite the fact that opposition to the pipeline is strongest and the destructive impacts most significant here in Nelson County.”

“The alternate community hearing is intended to highlight the continuing lack of transparency and public disclosure by the FERC during the environmental review process,” said Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club. “The community meeting will provide an open forum for the community to prepare comments on the proposed pipeline for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed $6 billion, 42”, high-compression pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, across Virginia to North Carolina and the Tidewater area, causing environmental and economic damage to communities and private properties that it does not serve. Polls confirm that a majority of Virginians doesn’t want it, and gubernatorial candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties have come out strongly against it.

A press conference with local citizens opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be held at 6:10 p.m. at the Nelson County Middle School library. We encourage the press to attend and interview participants at that time.

To download the full press release from Friends of Nelson, click here

Friends of Nelson Press Release on FERC’s DEIS for ACP

Friends of Nelson Press Release, December 31, 2016 (Contact Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647, lec@wildvirginia.org)

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Environmental Impact Statement Reveals Shocking Impacts and Hides the Truth

Friday’s release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came as no surprise to Friends of Nelson and to those who have been opposing the pipeline since it was first proposed.

The document prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fails to analyze the purpose and need for the project–something it is, by law, required to do–deferring instead to Dominion’s self-serving statement of uses.

“FERC has taken Dominion’s assertions as truths and dismissed the findings of dozens of reports and analysis by experts who know better,” said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson.

For instance, FERC refuses to raise the obvious subject of energy alternatives, even though they clearly factor into the equation of project need. The agency dodges the issue by stating that “alternative energy sources, energy conservation, and efficiency are not within the scope of this analysis because the purpose of the ACP and SHP is to transport natural gas.”

“This blanket statement conveniently ignores that the purpose of the ACP, as stated elsewhere, is mainly to supply gas to electrical generating stations,” said Jim Bolton of Lovingston. “In what world does the rapidly increasing, cost-effective contribution of wind and solar not figure into the need for gas-powered electricity generation and, by extension, the justification for taking private property via eminent domain? “

“This is in clear violation of federal law that requires analysis of a range of alternatives that are lower-cost and less destructive,” Reed stated.

FERC also dismisses the notion that the gas might be exported, reasoning that “all” of the gas cannot be subscribed for export because the pipeline’s volume exceeds projected export capacity at Cove Point.

The DEIS may be voluminous, but it is far from comprehensive. It defers until later many necessary surveys, analysis and vital information that the public will not be able to review.

FERC’s report is especially dismissive of issues in Nelson County. “FERC has thumbed their nose at the historical and cultural values of Wingina, the James River Basin and the Rockfish Valley, falsely claiming that they can mitigate what would be irreparable damage,” said Joanna Salidis of Friends of Nelson.

“The steep slopes and fragile soils that are prevalent throughout Nelson County are virtually ignored,” said Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson. “It has been left to us to provide the detailed analysis of the direct impacts to our water, our property and our economy.”

“FERC continues to use data provided indirectly by the industry to draw its conclusions regarding negative impacts on tourist economies and property values and Friend’s of Nelson Key-Log study debunked these long ago,” said Marilyn Shifflett of Friends of Nelson.

Still, “the impacts that are listed in the DEIS are numerous, far-ranging and shocking,” Shifflett continued. “While acknowledging that damages will be both temporary and permanent, FERC basically concludes ‘Oh well, ACP will do its best!’ That is totally unacceptable.”

“Rest assured, we will analyze the DEIS in depth, and challenge any inaccuracies we find,” said Deirdre Skogen, Outreach Coordinator of Friends of Nelson. “We have a team of educated and experienced specialists, in a multitude of fields, doing this important work. Only if the DEIS is 100% accurate, and fully comprehensive, can it be considered legitimate and permissible. This is our health, our water, and our land that is at risk with this pipeline. We cannot and will not accept anything less than a precise and all-encompassing impact statement that concludes that the ACP endangers us all.”

“For Nelson County and for all of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, this is just one more giant step in the wrong direction,” Reed concluded.

Community and Conservation Groups Blast FERC’s ACP DEIS

Press Release, December 30, 2016 (multi-group press release coordinated by Appalachian Voices): To all media: America’s next big pipeline fight is emerging in the mountain towns and farming communities of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. With federal regulators poised to rubber-stamp the proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, landowners, community leaders and their allies are taking inspiration from the water protectors at Standing Rock and vowing to stand together to stop it.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 30, 2016
Community and Conservation Groups Blast FERC Findings on Fracked-Gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dozens of local groups and public advocacy organizations today condemned federal regulators for ignoring evidence that the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed and puts lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, publicly owned natural resources and the climate at unacceptable risk.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released its draft environmental review of the $5 billion pipeline spearheaded by Dominion Resources. For two years, the proposal has sparked fierce opposition from hundreds of landowners in the three states — including farmers, business leaders, Native American tribes and rural African-American communities — who reject the company’s plan to take their land without their consent. Their fight has drawn comparisons to the ongoing citizen-led resistance at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to the fight in Nebraska to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Atlantic Coast project would pump fracked gas across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, harming communities, water resources, private property, historic sites, and iconic public treasures including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. The groups say FERC failed to honestly assess these impacts and disregarded evidence that the project would lock consumer into decades more reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

An independent study shows there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet consumer demand through 2030 — negating the need for the massive pipeline and the harm it would trigger. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of six major pipelines proposed for the same region of West Virginia and Virginia, where experts warn the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure. However, FERC ignored this evidence in its draft Environmental Impact Statement while also failing to assess the cumulative effects of the pipelines. The groups also fault the agency for dismissing clean energy alternatives.

In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC has extended the usual 45-day period for public comments; the deadline is April 6, 2017. While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review the document, they have initially identified major gaps in FERC’s analysis, including:
• The core issue of whether the massive project is needed to meet electricity
demand, and whether alternatives including energy efficiency, solar and wind
would be more environmentally responsible sources;
• A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would
result from the pipeline;
• A full accounting of the negative economic consequences to communities,
including decreased property values, loss of tourism revenue and other factors;
• Any accounting of other environmental and human health damage from the
increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline; and
• Thorough, site-specific analysis of damage to water quality and natural resources throughout the pipeline route.

Citizens along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — along with landowners in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 301-mile fracked-gas project proposed in the same region — vow they will continue to build resistance to stop them.

Click here for the full press release, including contact information, statements from community, environmental, and legal experts, and highlights of major impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the related Supply Header Project.

Friends of Nelson Joins Call for Congressional Review of FERC

With a press release issued on September 22, 2016, Friends of Nelson has joined more than 180 organizations representing communities across America calling on leaders in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold congressional hearings into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) extensive history of bias and abuse. The groups are also requesting reform of the Natural Gas Act, which the groups say, gives too much power to FERC and too little to state and local officials.

A letter to Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairwoman Lisa Murkoski (R-AK), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), signed by 182 community organizations representing communities in 35 states argues that FERC’s review and approval process for jurisdictional pipeline projects is infected by bias; and that it is resulting in uncontrolled and irresponsible proliferation of unneeded natural gas pipelines. Finally, the letter charges the agency with misusing provisions in the law to strip people and states of their legal rights, to prevent fair public participation in the pipeline review process, and to improperly use the power of eminent domain to take private property and public lands in a way that inflicts unforgivable harm to rights, jobs, and communities.

The letter details how FERC has implemented the Natural Gas Act in ways that deliberately undermine public input. FERC has prevented communities from challenging projects before the exercise of eminent domain and pipeline construction, made decisions to benefit its Commissioners, and used conflicted consultants to handle much of the review process.

Other regional groups endorsing the letter include the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Buckingham, Wild Virginia, Free Nelson, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Augusta County Alliance, Appalachian Voices, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, the Pipeline Education Group of Nelson County, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Southern Shenandoah Chapter of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

Read the full press release here.

Read the letter to Senate and House leaders here.   Includes full list of supporting organizations.