Category Archives: Take Action

“We’ve Been Sold”

“We’ve Been Sold” This short film from Water Is Life. Protect It tells a story that has Virginians righteously angry.

Call Governor Northam EACH AND EVERY DAY until he rights this wrong. 804-786-2211

Call the Secretary of Natural Resources, Matthew Strickler, EACH AND EVERY DAY until he rights this wrong. 804-786-0044

Rural communities resisting the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines learned years ago of the corruption and collusion fueling these projects. But even they never dreamed our former governor, his Department of Environmental Quality and the developers of the pipelines would sink this low.

Join the call to our new Governor to right this wrong.

ABRA to Hold Pipeline CSI Meeting

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) is convening a special meeting on Saturday, March 3, from 1:30 to 5 pm at the Holiday Inn north of Staunton, VA (152 Fairway Lane, Staunton, VA, located at the intersection of I-81 and Rt. 262) to explain details of the coalition’s Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) and describe how interested individuals can participate in this important program. You are invited to attend!

The CSI will gather in-depth data about construction activities associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The program will initially focus on the mountainous areas of the route, where construction threatens water quality in the headwaters of some of the major watersheds. ABRA expects the CSI to involve hundreds of volunteer observers in Virginia and West Virginia. After the CSI is fully underway, consideration will be given to expanding it for other portions of the ACP or to replicate it for other pipeline projects, such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

CSI program features that will be discussed at the March 3 meeting include water quality data collection, observing and reporting violations of environmental protection requirements, protocols that should be followed in information gathering and reporting, aerial reconnaissance by airplanes and drones, and a special ABRA hotline to report observed incidents. Results from the information gathered by the CSI will be shared with regulatory agencies and the media. Special training sessions and webinars are also being planned.

The agenda will also be a discussion on current and prospective legal challenges to the ACP by representatives of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The March 3 meeting is open to representatives from all ABRA member organizations, as well as others interested in learning more about the program. There is no charge for attending, but registration is required. Afternoon refreshments will be provided.

To register, go to: https://www.abralliance.org/pipeline-csi-meeting-registration/

Space is limited, so act now. If you have questions, please get in touch with ABRA’s Lew Freeman by email, lewfreeman@gmail.com

Three Time Sellout: McAuliffe’s MVP Deals

More sellouts and secret deals. Blue Virginia’s new article, published February 5, 2018, Three-Time Sellout: Terry McAuliffe’s Secret Mountain Valley Pipeline Deals and The Smoking Gun They Reveal reveals that in addition to the ACP pay to play deal signed before McAuliffe left office, there were two deals signed for the MVP.

Jon Sokolow writes, “On Friday, February 2, we published “Secret Sellout or Pay to Play?,” a Blue Virginia exclusive. Our article exposed what until then in Virginia had been a secret Memorandum of Understanding signed in December by the administration of then Governor Terry McAuliffe with political power broker Dominion Energy regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. But Friday’s Blue Virginia piece was only half of the story. It turns out the full story is much worse. Because we now know that McAuliffe made not one, not two, but three secret pipeline agreements in late December. A second agreement, which Blue Virginia is now publishing here exclusively for the first time (see below), gives the builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline the same full waivers for damage to Virginia’s forests and water resources as were given to the ACP. …. A third secret agreement, which we also now publish here exclusively (also see below), concedes that the Mountain Valley Pipeline “will result in an adverse effect to historic properties” and has the MVP companies paying $2.5 million (possibly a bit more) in return for – you guessed it – a full release from any future responsibility. But that’s not even the worst part of this story. For anyone who cares about clean and transparent government, for anyone troubled by the outsized influence Dominion Energy has over politics – and politicians – in Virginia, you need to sit down and take a deep, deep breath. Because the real scandal is what the Mountain Valley agreements, both signed on December 22, tell us about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline agreement that was signed six days later, on December 28. And what they tell us is this: Terry McAuliffe sold Virginia’s permit approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for $58 million in a blatant pay-to-play scheme.”

Read the full article by Sokolow here.

Then demand that Governor Northam (804-786-2211) and the members of the Virginia’s legislature – regardless of where they stand on the pipeline – immediately revoke all three of these reprehensible agreements.

Secret Sellout or Pay to Play?


“Did Terry McAuliffe sell out Virginia right before he left office? Or did he do something even worse? Did McAuliffe accept $58 million (paid to various entities) in a pay to play scheme to guarantee Virginia would approve Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

“In late December, the then-outgoing Virginia Governor, a longtime cheerleader for the ACP, committed the state to a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion and its pipeline partners. This agreement, apparently never before reported in Virginia, let Dominion buy its way out of paying for damages to Virginia’s forests and water quality caused by construction of, and possibly by operation of, the ACP. And McAuliffe did this before the pipeline has even been approved – it still has not been approved – much less built.

“Let that sink in for a moment.

“Terry McAuliffe gave Dominion a full and complete release from any and all damage to Virginia’s forests and water from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Jon Sokolow, writing in Blue Virginia, exposes McAuliffe’s secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion, signed on December 28, 2017, by Molly Ward, McAuliffe’s outgoing Secretary of Natural Resources, includes the following:

  • Dominion agreed to pay $38,650,000 to three public and private entities, referred to as “Forest Mitigation Partners,” who are tasked with dispersing funds to others to restore or enhance forest habitats that are “similar to those adversely impacted by the pipeline. In return, Dominion gets a full release from any further liability: “The Parties further agree that such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets the direct or indirect forest-related impacts of the Project in Virginia.” This leaves Virginia without remedy if costs exceed damages!
  • In return for a payment of $19,200,000 (to a group of entities known as “Water Quality Mitigation Partners”), Dominion gets a full release for any damage to water quality: “The Parties agree that such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets all water quality impacts caused by forest fragmentation.” No definition of what those “water quality impacts” might be, no matter how much damage is done, as far as the state is concerned Dominion is off the hook!
  • Further, the agreement says, “this Agreement reflect the full extent of natural resources-related mitigation measures and investments contemplated for the Project by the Parties.” As Sokolow says, “That’s Dominion’s way of saying don’t ask us for another dime, no matter what.”

Note that there is no such release agreement in the North Carolina pay-to-play agreement between ACP and Governor Cooper. NC’s agreement says, “Nothing in this Memorandum shall be construed as precluding or otherwise barring the Governor of the State of North Carolina from recovering damages or equitable remedies from Atlantic for spills or leaks stemming from the ACP.”  McAuliffe decided not to extract this promise from Dominion.

Read the full article by Sokolow here.

Then demand that Governor Northam and the members of the Virginia’s legislature – regardless of where they stand on the pipeline – immediately revoke this reprehensible agreement.

Nelson BZA Public Hearing, February 12, 2018


The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing 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.  The public hearings will be February 12, 2018, 7 p.m., at the Nelson County High School.

Variances are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as “critical facilities” whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplains. “Critical facilities” are prohibited because even a slight chance of flooding poses too great a threat to public health, safety, and welfare. Critical facilities include “structures that store or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials,” as well as nursing homes, police stations, and public utilities. The ordinance also lists hazardous materials, including natural gas, which may not be stored in Special Flood Hazard Areas for longer than 30 days because they “would pose an unacceptable risk…during flooding”.

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.

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. The BZA will take up and make decisions on the 11 floodplain crossing applications individually, because they want to provide a “clean record” for each application. Application hearings will be held in the same order as they appear in the application, from the westernmost crossing, S. Rockfish River up near Wintergreen, and ending with the Wingina crossing near the James River.

People who want to speak MUST SIGN UP BEFORE THE MEETING STARTS. If you cannot get there before the hearing starts, you may have someone else sign you up to speak. You (or the person signing up for you) must provide your name and address to ensure that the County has an accurate record of exactly who spoke.

People must sign up separately for each crossing they wish to comment on and will have 3 minutes to speak at each. (5 minutes if they represent a group). You may only sign up once for any one specific variance hearing.

If you have “general” comments that would apply to more than one crossing, you may specify during your comments that you want them to be applied to all eleven crossings (or to three of them or whatever). This will help avoid unnecessary repetition of the same testimony from a single speaker. You may request that your comments be entered into the other hearing records regardless of which hearing you choose to speak at. Or you may speak specifically about a particular variance, e.g. Muddy Creek or South Fork Rockfish River 1.

Nine of the eleven variances requested are in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). Such zones are determined based on events (determined by the American Society of Civil Engineers) that may occur in them, and Nelson County has 6 of the 8 determining factors: mudslides, flash floods, high velocity flow, erosion, alluvial fans, and winter ice jams. Nelson County’s flood plain ordinance includes what are called Higher Standards prohibiting Critical Facilities & Hazardous Materials in floodplains (e.g. pipelines carrying natural gas at high pressure).

People may submit written comments and any supporting documents for the public record online by e-mailing them to: bza@nelsoncounty.org.  You can also submit larger files directly to a dropbox they have set up at
https://www.dropbox.com/request/qtVOeYvsfrUoWefgCvki

If the submissions are made by Tuesday or Wednesday (February 6 or 7) before the public hearing, they will be included in the BZA packet that is distributed and posted online before the meeting. However, since it is highly unlikely that the BZA will make its decision that night, written comments may be submitted after the meeting as well and still “count”. Submissions that are not included in the BZA packet will be made available to the general public, but it may take several days for the County to post them to the website for public access. We recommend that anyone speaking at the meeting also provide the BZA with a written copy of their comments.

The county will be making audio and video recordings of the meeting, but they will not be uploaded to a website. They will be made available to people on request, however. Attendees are also welcome to tape/videotape the hearing themselves, as long as the equipment is not disruptive (e.g. blocks access to the podium, etc.)

If the meeting goes on for too long (it has not been defined what “too long” means), the BZA will continue it at a later date to be announced.

Some suggestions for what to include in your comments (at the hearing or submitted in writing):

  • Why the existing ordinance is wise to prohibit the placement of infrastructure such as natural gas pipelines in the floodplain
  • Why the BZA is obligated to uphold the intent of the ordinance
  • How granting a Variance in this case runs counter to the description in the official Standard for BZA Review of Variances
  • What specific dangers exist at specific crossings

Learn more! Come to Rockfish Valley Community Center on February 5, 2018, between 6:00 and 8:30. Get educated about the importance of floodplains in our county and why we need to protect them from Dominion’s ACP. We’ll answer questions and provide “talking points” for the upcoming BZA meeting.

Most importantly, we urge everyone to attend the hearing, even if you do not plan to speak. Ask the BZA to PROTECT our floodplains and DENY DOMINION’S REQUEST to cross floodplains so that our safety as well as our water quality and water supplies are preserved!

Floodplain Information and Education Meeting

April 2011 flooding, Goodwin Creek

Friends of Nelson will hold an information and education meeting to help you learn about floodplains and Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance. Drop by any time between 6:30-8:00 pm on Monday February 5, 2018, at Rockfish Valley Community Center.

Dominion & Atlantic Coast Pipeline want to override Nelson County’s important FEMA Floodplain Management Ordinance protections. ACP needs approvals from Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals to cross 11 floodplains in Nelson County.

Come learn what’s at stake with the Board of Zoning Appeals Variance requests and how to participate in the upcoming public hearings at Nelson County High School at 7 pm on February 12th. We’ll have “talking points” handouts and answer any questions you may have about submitting public comments. We MUST urge the Board of Zoning Appeals to reject Dominion/ACPs request for ordinance protections to put their pipeline through our floodplains – our water is at stake!

The floodplain ordinance is available online.  It is Article 10 of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance.