In the News

March 2017

3-14-17 Augusta Free Press. Study: 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…. 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.’… ‘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.”

3-12-17 CBS19. Atlantic Coast Pipeline protest in Charlottesville.”Protesters met at the freedom of speech wall in downtown Charlottesville Saturday to oppose construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by Dominion Energy. People chanted and wrote messages on the wall, while speakers from environmental organizations touched on potential effects of the pipeline. The focus of the protest was on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but people also stood in solidarity against the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. ‘We’re trying to raise awareness,’ said John Cruickshank, chair of the Sierra Club’s Piedmont Group. ‘We want everybody to become an activist for the environment because this is where we live. And we want to have our children inherit a healthy planet.'”

3-12-17 Roanoke Times. Pipeline’s passage through the region would add sediment to Roanoke River watershed. “The Roanoke River needs love, understanding and attention and not a new source of sediment. So says Bill Tanger, chairman of Friends of the Roanoke River. ‘Sediment is now the biggest problem on the upper Roanoke River,’ said Tanger, who is also a member of the Upper Roanoke River Roundtable. Dwayne D’Ardenne, storm water utility manager for the city of Roanoke, agreed that sediment already is a worry for the upper river. Sediment that settles in streams can smother aquatic life and can transport bacteria and industrial pollutants like PCBs, he said. Enter the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. Although the pipeline’s current route does not pass through the city of Roanoke, city officials recently acknowledged concerns about how erosion and sediment linked to the infrastructure project could affect the Roanoke River as the waterway winds through the jurisdiction…. ‘Sediment in the river has a direct impact on the number of days we can pump out of the Roanoke River, and we do not want to reduce the number of days that we can pump,’ said Sarah Baumgardner, a spokeswoman for the authority. ‘While the screens on the intake pumps minimize sediments coming into the reservoir, sediment can transport contaminants and bacteria and ultimately collect in the reservoir,’ she said. No one disputes that the Mountain Valley project, if approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will add sediment to the Roanoke River watershed…. According to a report by Environmental Solutions & Innovations, or ESI, a consultant hired by the pipeline company, increased sediment loads associated with project construction ‘are likely to continue downstream [in the Roanoke River] until the sediment is arrested behind the first dam (i.e. Niagara Dam) or is deposited into Smith Mountain Lake.’… In February, City Manager Chris Morrill provided the council a preliminary report. Morrill noted that the pipeline’s traverse of steep slopes in Roanoke County suggests ‘there is a significant risk for erosion’ and described as legitimate the concern of increased sediment flowing downstream into the city. He said increased sediment could impact the city’s ‘ability to achieve progress in reducing sediment, bacteria and PCBs’ in the river.”

3-11-17 NBC29. At Rally, Anti-Pipeliners Say They’re Growing Tired of Protesting. “Protesters in Charlottesville say they’re growing tired of the back-and-forth fight with Dominion to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dozens of demonstrators took over the Downtown Mall Saturday afternoon to voice their opposition to the proposed natural gas pipeline through central Virginia, and others like it around the country. ‘There’s so many things actually that can be said about today,’ environmental activist Robert Walters said. Walters is one of many people protesting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We are continuously trying to send a message to those who are in control … we keep trying and trying,’ Walters said. Paul Wilson is pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Buckingham County. It sits close to a proposed compressor station for the pipeline. ‘Of course I’m tired. Yes, because it’s almost getting to be a 40 hour week of just dealing with this pipeline, dealing with this compressor station,’ Wilson said. ‘I’ve got two properties that are directly in the bulls eye of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ Richard Averitt said. Those who continue to protest the natural gas pipeline say they want to reach a resolution but refuse to back down…. Opponents of the pipeline all seem to agree that the fighting has become a ‘dragon-sized’ problem. ‘It’s time that we just learn to stop and listen to each other. That’s part of what’s not going on right now,’ Walters said.”

3-10-17 Wilson Times (opinion). Pipeline planners must come clean on local benefits. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could be pumping pressurized natural gas through Wilson County in as little as 2 ½ years, but residents along the pipeline’s path are already feeling a blast of hot air. Dominion Power and Duke Energy officials have bloviated about supposed benefits to landowners and county residents, but their words have proven to be empty promises. Residents of the Rock Ridge community rightfully feel betrayed. County Commissioner Rob Boyette spoke out for those residents this week, reading a prepared statement during Monday’s meeting that expressed concern about inaccurate information pipeline planners have disseminated and set the record straight. Atlantic Coast Pipeline officials said Wilson County will have a tap to divert gas from the pipeline for local use. There’s just one little problem — there are no natural gas lines along the pipeline’s Rock Ridge route…. This isn’t the first time pipeline planners have come up short in the disclosure department. In May 2015, we wrote in this space that Dominion spokespeople were failing to give property owners the information they needed to make informed decisions. In two years, little seems to have changed. Boyette said ACP planners must provide more ‘transparency and truth’ to western Wilson County homeowners.”

3-1-17 Nelson County Times. Large crowd gives pipeline feedback to FERC. “Following the release of a draft environmental impact statement in December 2016, area residents had the chance to voice their thoughts on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline during a comment meeting last Wednesday at Nelson County High School. After about three hours, more than 100 people made verbal comments while dozens more entered written comments about the draft statement, which looks at potential impacts on the environment and residents from the proposed pipeline project and is issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…. ‘I think this meeting is the one where most of the public and community interest is coalesced,’ Swearingen said. While some would have preferred more of a traditional town-hall setting rather than a chance to enter comments individually, Swearingen said the format made the most sense for collecting substantive comments in a timely fashion. ‘The atmosphere was that people were completely misunderstanding the purpose of these sessions. They thought it was an opportunity to rally support, and we were finding that it was intimidating for people,’ Swearingen said of previous FERC comment meetings. ‘…This way, everybody has a chance to speak their mind…. Blue ‘No Pipeline’ signs were placed inside and outside the school’s entrance, and a series of poster boards that spelled out “no pipeline” in white lights stood out in the darkness that settled on Lovingston just after sunset. In the adjacent Nelson Middle School, members of anti-pipeline group Friends of Nelson occupied the library as they waited to give their comments.”

February 2017

2-6-17 Nelson County Times. Atlantic Coast Pipeline granted access to survey 29 Nelson properties. “More than a year after lawsuits were filed, a judge on Monday ruled Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC will be allowed to survey land belonging to 29 Nelson County landowners without their permission. After hours of arguments Monday afternoon, Nelson County Circuit Court Judge Michael Garrett ruled Virginia law allows ACP to enter the defendants’ properties for surveying purposes…. Garrett’s ruling was based on his interpretation of the word ‘and’ in the section of the Virginia Code that reads in part: ‘Any firm, corporation, company, or partnership, organized for the bona fide purpose of operating as a natural gas company … may make such … surveys for its proposed line or location of its works as are necessary (i) to satisfy any regulatory requirements and (ii) for the selection of the most advantageous location or route, the improvement or straightening of its line or works, changes of location or construction, or providing additional facilities …’ Lawyers for the 29 landowners argued ‘and’ should be strictly interpreted as ‘conjunctive,’ meaning ACP would be required to comply with both the ‘satisfy any regulatory requirements’ and the ‘selection of the most advantageous location or route …’ portions of the code. Garrett, however, said he believes the code says natural gas companies can survey without landowners’ permission as long as they do so for at least one of the two purposes. ‘Lawyers and judges painfully take time to examine legislative intent,’ Garrett said, citing a past case he was ‘tangentially’ involved with that also dealt with a part of the Code of Virginia. That case, he said, was determined on a comma. ‘We thought that’s what it would come down to,’ said Chuck Lollar, a defense attorney representing several Nelson landowners, ‘and we were hoping he would read ‘and’ to mean ‘a-n-d,’ just like you learned in elementary school.’… Mike Derdeyn, an attorney representing several of the defendants, argued if Garrett ruled both portions of the code had to be satisfied, ACP would have had to do more to prove surveys are needed to satisfy requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review process. Nelson County Supervisor Connie Brennan and others in the courtroom were somewhat perplexed by the enormity of such a small word in the statute. ‘It is hard for us non-lawyers to embrace the fact that very important matters, such as the one at hand, are decided on whether ‘and’ and ‘or’ are conjunctive or disjunctive in the pertinent statute. But there it is,’ Brennan said. Before issuing his ruling, Garrett said he understands the significance of his decision and ‘feels for’ all landowners involved.’This is not an issue I have not thought a great deal about,’ he said. Garrett also denied a motion by Lollar and defense attorney Ben Perdue that sought to keep Atlantic Coast Pipeline surveyors from entering their clients’ properties until the Virginia Supreme Court hands down its rulings in other ACP surveying appeals, which have not been scheduled yet.”

2-6-17 Richmond TImes-Dispatch (opinion). Main on pipeline. “Your Jan. 27 Op/Ed page contained twin columns, both extolling the job-creation benefits of new fossil fuel infrastructure. One column was supporting the proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to carry natural gas from fracking operations in West Virginia across Virginia to the coast of North Carolina. The other supported both the Keystone pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Canada down through the American heartland and the Dakota Access Pipeline, famous for its threat to the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Certainly, building new infrastructure creates short-term construction jobs, but if jobs are our main concern, this country — and especially Virginia — has plenty of aging infrastructure in pressing need of repair. Rebuilding and strengthening bridges, roads, and transit systems will put more people to work over longer periods and create lasting benefits for everyone. By contrast, profits from new gas and oil pipelines will go to a handful of corporations like Dominion Resources and TransCanada, while the costs will be borne by people living along the route. In the case of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the costs will also fall on electricity ratepayers, who will be stuck paying for the new gas plants Dominion Virginia Power is building to ensure its parent company has enough gas demand to keep the pipeline filled. None of this includes the cost to all of us from locking ourselves into further fossil fuel dependency when we are already suffering the consequences of putting too much carbon and methane pollution into the atmosphere. We have the tools to wean ourselves off fossil fuels while creating vastly more jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. But we won’t get there as long as we allow fossil fuel companies to pretend they’re doing us a favor. They’re not.”

2-5-17 Nelson County Times. Pipeline fight spurs creation of new protest songs. “Dominion Resources has said that all comments from opponents as well as proponents of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be collected and taken under review. The same thing apparently goes for songs that are written specifically about the pipeline. Concerns about the pipeline have spurred the creation of at least two original songs. At Dominion’s second local open house last month, local groups in opposition banded together to sing ‘We Don’t Want Your Pipeline’ by Augusta residents Robin and Linda Williams. ‘This song just sort of spilled out,’ Robin said. ‘Linda got the chorus right away and sang it to me, and we just went from there.’ Lines from the song read: ‘Sinkholes, explosions, gas line leaks; you hear it on the news almost every week. Dominion says ‘Don’t worry,’ but we don’t think it’s wise to be flirting with disaster with the pipeline.’ At the time the song was written, Robin said, the pipeline was proposed to run right down their road. But later, the route was moved. ‘Dominion is just on the wrong side of history on this thing and they’re too consumed with the prospect of short term profits to see it,’ he said. ‘We may not stop them, but they’ll know they’ve been in a scrap.’ Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said he knew of more than one song written regarding the project.”

2-1-17 Roanoke Times-Dispatch. Dominion-backed bill on burying power lines sails through Senate committee. “A bill that would require the State Corporation Commission to find that burying power lines in areas prone to service problems (and allowing utilities to recoup the cost from ratepayers) is ‘in the public interest’ sailed through a Senate committee Monday. It comes as a GOP gubernatorial candidate and Democratic senator both criticize the amount of control the state’s largest utility wields over the political process. About a year and a half ago, the State Corporation Commission put the brakes on a Dominion Virginia Power plan to bury 526 miles of distribution lines and recoup about $700 million from customers over 40 years. The commission, charged with regulating utilities, found that Dominion Virginia Power failed to demonstrate that its ‘strategic underground program’ was cost-effective ‘based on any reasonable criteria’ or that it was ‘reasonable, prudent and in the public interest.’ But legislation that sailed through the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Monday on a 14-0 vote and now heads to the full Senate may help the commission make up its mind in the future about the merits of similar projects. SB 1473 by Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, would declare that moving any investor-owned electric utility’s overhead ‘tap lines’ underground ‘is in the public interest. Tap lines are smaller lines that generally connect main feeders to the wires that go to individual homes or businesses, to improve reliability ‘is in the public interest.’ Saslaw’s bill would apply to lines that have a ten-year average of nine or more ‘unplanned outage events per mile.’ Dominion Virginia Power says it has about 4,000 miles of lines that meet the criteria in its 20,000 miles of tap lines. In deciding whether to allow utilities to charge customers for the cost from burying lines, the original draft of the bill directed the commission to presume that such projects ‘will provide local and system-wide benefits’ and that the new facilities are cost-beneficial and the associated expenses are ‘reasonably and prudently incurred.’ However, an amendment now makes that presumption ‘rebuttable.'”


Note:  This page contains recent news articles from the past two months.  For older news articles regarding Friends of Nelson, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, anti-pipeline advocacy, and pipeline-related news, please visit our archived news pages:

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016