Letter from Friends of Nelson President, Doug Wellman

Friends of Nelson
Standing in Opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

What We’re Up to These Days

May 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

In these difficult and disorienting times, I thought it would be helpful to update you on Friends of Nelson’s ongoing efforts to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Like everyone else, we are self-isolating, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. But we have not washed our hands of our commitment to do everything we can to assure that Dominion’s unnecessary, costly and dangerous boondoggle is stopped.

We are currently meeting as a board every two weeks, through the teleconferencing medium Zoom. Thanks to the guidance of Cheryl Klueh and Jill Averitt, we have overcome most of the hurdles and are managing to make progress on important projects.

“10 Reasons to Oppose” Initiative

Our primary current project is to build out the new “10 Reasons We Oppose the ACP” initiative [printable copy here] led by Charlie Hickox. Our goal is to focus on a manageable set of arguments against the ACP that we will feature in our public outreach and education efforts. As a board, we worked to select and refine the reasons, and we are now engaged in building the detailed information to support each of them. Forest Fragmentation will be our first focus, and will serve as a pilot for developing the facts and logic behind each of the ten reasons— and the best ways to get them out to the public.

Outreach and Education

From the beginning, one of our most important efforts has been to keep Nelson County residents informed about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We sought to cut through Dominion’s public relations blitz to tell the truth about the proposal’s many flaws and hidden costs. Tabling at the Nelson County Farmers Market, music festivals and other special events has given us the opportunity to speak directly with interested Nelson residents and visitors.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has put the clamps on our ability to speak directly with individuals at the market and festivals. For me, the great thing about tabling was that the conversations could be tailored specifically to the interests of the person or group I was talking to, whether that was on the lawsuits, landowner rights, alternative energy, economic development/damage, threats to groundwater or other aspects of the battle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with folks whose opening questions ranged from “What’s with all the NO PIPELINE signs?” to the constitutional grounds for specific regulatory agency actions. Almost always, I came away from tabling both tired and invigorated. For the foreseeable future, we will have to rely on our newsletter, social media and newspapers to get our messages out.

Board Changes

There have been a number of significant changes in our board.

After our January Annual Meeting, Helen Kimble resigned as president and member of the board, having completed two years providing outstanding leadership. We are all indebted to her for her service. As her successor in the hot seat, I am especially thankful for her help getting prepared to handle the duties of president. We all miss her.

Connie Brennan has accepted new responsibilities as vice president, bringing welcome knowledge of Nelson County and the art of politics to this position. She is a relatively new member of the board, but is quickly developing a veteran’s knowledge of our challenges, while providing me with invaluable counsel on a wide range of issues.

Two new board members, Mary Eiserman and Susan McSwain, are bringing new ideas and energy to our work. Mary’s education is in conservation biology and she currently works with local government and farmers to implement best management practices. Susan has worked on natural resources issues in many different parts of the country and world, and she has been a leader in the Master Naturalists program for years. More background on Mary and Susan can be found in the “About Us” section of this Web site.

Joyce Burton has resigned from the board to work as a part-time contractor with landowners in Nelson County whose properties would be affected by the ACP, and also with the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance’s ongoing Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI). Those of you who know Joyce know her fervor and dedication toward every sort of landowner issue.

Social Media

Unfortunately, we had to bid farewell to contractor Deirdre Skogen, who did a bang-up job of delivering our message through Facebook, as the grant that supported her work ended. Luckily, Jill Averitt stepped up to the plate and is re-building our Facebook presence. During this strange time of limited in-person contact, Jill’s creativity and energy have boosted all our outreach programs.

Other Ongoing Work

Ellen Bouton continues to masterfully manage our Web page and weekly newsletter, staying on top of breaking events, judiciously selecting news items of interest and importance, and writing excellent summaries of longer articles.

David Schwiesow brings his lawyer’s skills to tracking and interpreting the many lawsuits that have stymied the ACP’s progress. Having someone with David’s expertise and experience is invaluable in this battle, where so much depends on lawsuits challenging federal and state regulatory agencies.

Jim Bolton has assumed leadership of our Stream Water Quality Monitoring Project, a citizen-science effort under the guidance of Trout Unlimited and West Virginia Rivers. This work is aimed at building a strong baseline of water quality data on nine Nelson County streams that would be crossed by the pipeline. With years of solid information, we will be able to show that any loss of stream water quality is due to construction of the ACP.

Charlie Hickox has accepted responsibility for leading our outreach and education efforts. He is bringing new vision and vigor to this key element of our work. In addition to continuing her service as our secretary, Julie Burns will assist as needed by assuring our supplies of T-shirts, yard signs, etc. are well-stocked.

Ron Enders and Jill Averitt are working on an “Early Warning System” aimed at helping communities threatened by pipelines across the country get started quickly and effectively in their opposition. This work involves collaboration with the Property Rights and Pipeline Center. Ron pioneered our engagement with PRPC, the organization that awarded the “Stalwarts Award” to Friends of Nelson in 2019.

Cheryl Klueh continues her service as treasurer, leader of our member relations group, and technical manager of our Zoom meetings. Woody Greenberg advises us on all matters related to newspapers, including letters-to-the-editor and press releases. Marilyn Shifflett brings us news about other pipeline struggles around the country, keeps us apprised of investors’ declining interest in fossil fuels, and contributes letters to the editor and Facebook posts. Kathy Versluys hosts our in-person meetings (temporarily suspended) at the Acorn Inn and serves as our official photographer (she took the photo that forms our logo).

With the strong foundation built by our founding members—and with you, our community members and supporters, standing with us—the Friends of Nelson board is dedicated to continuing to fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until it is buried in Dominion’s graveyard of dead projects.

We all hope you and your loved ones are well and able to stay safe,

Doug Wellman
President, FoN