Friends of Nelson Media Advisory, April 18, 2017 (Contact: Marilyn Shifflett, 434-361-9352)
Virginia Supreme Court to Hear Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey Cases
On Wednesday April 19, 2017, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).
In one case, Hazel Palmer, an 83-year old widow, and owner of a property in Augusta County just below the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, will defend her right to deny Dominion’s surveyors access to her property. “Hazel Palmer is standing at her property line facing the army of economic and political power that Dominion has amassed against her,” said Henry Howell, the attorney representing Ms. Palmer. “She is looking that army in the face, and saying, ‘You will not take my family land for your profits’.” (http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/widow-seeks-to-protect-my-heritage-against-proposed-atlantic-coast/article_e566fdbb-9bf3-5cfd-8514-dfbfea4e64f3.html)
“The United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution shield Hazel Palmer against the abuse of the power of the government and the abuse of the power of eminent domain that we, the people, have given our government. That shield protects each individual citizen and property owner.”
On the same docket, Buckingham County landowners will have their appealed right-to-enter cases heard. In April, a Buckingham County judge granted ACP surveyors the right to enter private property without giving landowners notice of the specific date of entry, despite the fact that the pipeline builder has not yet been granted the right to exercise eminent domain. Appalachian Mountain Advocates originally filed this appeal in April, 2016, arguing that this violates Virginia law and constitutes criminal trespass.
These are not the only violations of personal property rights that Dominion has perpetrated against Virginia landowners. Friends of Nelson has recently learned that Doyle Land Services, the lead surveying company that has been performing ACP surveys, is not licensed in Virginia.
“Virginia Code Section 54.1-406 requires a person or entity to hold a valid license to practice land surveying in Virginia,” said Marilyn Shifflett of Friends of Nelson. “And all landowners are entitled to know exactly who was or is on their property, and which companies they represent.”
“Many property owners throughout the route feel deeply violated by Dominion’s dismissal of their property rights.”
Numerous landowners have complained to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding legal violations performed by surveyors hired by Dominion.
For example, on the morning of May 17, 2016, a survey crew came onto a property to survey the proposed route of the pipeline in the Andersonville area of Buckingham County. Dominion/ACP did not provide direct notice of the schedule to the property owner who was not sent a certified letter, giving the dates of entry as required by the Code of Virginia 56-49.01. Members of the survey crew were not wearing personal identification tags and some refused to identify themselves or produce information of their identities, as required by law when requested to do so. According to the property owner, who filmed the proceedings, the members of the crew were “defensive to the point of being hostile. One of the surveyors actually bumped me. I cautioned him not to be so pushy. Another individual said that he would not identify himself for “security” reasons.” (A copy of the video documenting the altercation is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvSOPGXWKTU)
On December 9, 2016, Wade and Elizabeth Neely of Millboro VA, sent a picture to FERC showing survey flags on their property and said that this indicated “that Dominion surveying crews were on my property. At that point in time, they knew that there was a no-entry letter in effect.” The Neelys had been in court on November 15, 2016 and were supposed to have until Dec. 13th to agree on a date when the surveyors could come, and if they did not, the judge would choose a date for them. Neely says, “This action being in place, the surveyors trespassed on my property and deliberately denied the court order. I want them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” (https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20161214-0025)
Doyle Land Services has also been accused of forcing surveys in North Carolina despite not being licensed in North Carolina. Jane F. Finch, in a filing with FERC regarding the Finch family farm in Wilson, NC, said that:
“Doyle Land Services, a subcontractor for the ACP in NC have intentionally and deliberately ignored specific instructions to not enter property for the purpose of surveying. ACP claimed to have obtained permission to enter the property when they had been explicitly told to NOT go on the property. Two senior officials with Dominion Resources have made false representations about landowners having given permission to survey when in fact they had not. There are frequent and numerous incidences of the Subcontractor for the ACP, Doyle Land Services, wherein they failed to communicate with the ACP. These inefficiencies are very discomforting”…”ACP has failed and refused to provide copies of survey results and soil testing upon request. Doyle Land Services are not licensed nor registered as land surveyors in North Carolina. The alleged surveyors have provided no identification and it is not known who entered the property.”
Dominion has also misrepresented surveyors’ credentials in interactions with the United States Forest Service. “ACP was undiligent in following the Forest Service’s protocols and responding to the Forest Service’s requests to review qualifications of field personnel. The attachment also shows that ACP and/or its consultants misrepresented who conducted the soils surveys. In summary, the Forest Service cannot use the results of these soils surveys to evaluate project effects on NFS lands.” (November 5, 2015 letter to FERC from Clyde Thompson, Forest Supervisor.)
The Virginia Supreme Court is located at 100 North Ninth Street, 5th Floor, in Richmond, across from the Capitol building.
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.
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 Media Advisory, February 4, 2017: Community Rally and Court Hearing: Nelson County Landowners’ Right to Deny Survey for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Contact: Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647
A community rally in support of Nelson County property owners who have been sued by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) will be held on Monday, February 6, at 12 noon on the steps of the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. The rally will precede the 1:30 hearing in Nelson Circuit Court on ACP’s request for a declaratory judgment that would allow them to enter private property in order to survey for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline without the consent of affected Nelson County property owners.
In the evidentiary hearing on the petition, both ACP and the defendants will likely call witnesses to testify, including experts on the matter in dispute. According to the Circuit Court schedule, this hearing will be for 39 different property owners being sued by Dominion, and they will be represented by several different attorneys.
A previous hearing in Buckingham County Circuit Court resulted in the awarding of a declaratory judgment against 7 Buckingham citizens. That ruling is not applicable to Nelson County defendants.
The defendants claim 1) that Atlantic Coat Pipeline LLC does not have the authority to enter these properties and that 2) ACP has failed to give proper notice of entry as required by the Virginia Code.
“We’re hoping Judge Garrett will hear the evidence and conclude, as we do, that the ACP cannot satisfy the requirements of the statute in order to be exempt from common law trespass,” said attorney Chuck Lollar, who is representing many of the defendants.
“Pipelines can be built using fair practices that respect landowners and property rights,” said Richard Averitt, one of the defendants. “Virginia citizens are being victimized by a corrupt system where Dominion, in this case being treated as a public utility, has biased our system of checks and balances.”
“A bully is an opportunist, using intimidation and manipulation to prey upon isolated, weaker victims for their own self-gratification,” said Barbara Fuhrman, who is also being sued. “Dominion has tried to get individual property owners to allow surveyors on their land, telling the landowner that this was Dominion’s legal right. Some property owners were also asked to sign easement agreements prior to FERC’s issuing a certification of approval for the pipeline, implying that if they didn’t agree now, they might not receive settlement money.”
“We will continue to use the courts over and over again to protect our rights!” Ms. Fuhrman concluded. “ We will never give in! We will never give up!”
The rally is being organized by Friends of Nelson. Additional affected property owners will be available for comment.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, December 31, 2016: 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.
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 Press Release, September 22, 2016: 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.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, August 22, 2016: The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has released a report for landowners and water providers concerned about the potential impacts of pipeline development on water supplies.
The report, “Guidance for Monitoring Effects of Gas Pipeline Development on Surface Water and Groundwater Supplies,” was prepared by Downstream Strategies, a West Virginia-based environmental consulting firm. Funding for the report was provided by Friends of Nelson, ABRA member groups and individual contributors.
Although the developers of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) indicate that they will monitor the quality and quantity of water supply springs and wells, the information they have provided about monitoring plans and acceptance of responsibility for water supply damage is incomplete.
The new report provides information concerning:
- Risks, potential impacts, and other water supply issues related to pipeline development;
- Collection of the data that will be needed to hold pipeline developers responsible for harm to water supplies;
- Methods for establishing baseline information on water quantity and quality and for long-term monitoring to detect change; and
- Laboratories and consultants that can conduct monitoring and analysis.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 12, 2016: A Nelson County Circuit Court Judge has ruled in favor of 37 Nelson County landowners who had denied Dominion the right to survey their properties for construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ruling states Atlantic Cast Pipeline LLC had failed to specify a date of entry to perform surveys and, therefore, failed to comply with VC 56-49.01 which allows natural gas companies the right to survey properties only if certain terms are met. Read the full press release here.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 2, 2016: The proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines are unnecessary and pose unacceptable risks to ratepayers, communities and investors. These are some of the conclusions of a new study, Risks Associated With Natural Gas Pipeline Expansion in Appalachia, released April 27 by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Risks-Associated-With-Natural-Gas-Pipeline-Expansion-in-Appalachia-_April-2016.pdf).
The study strongly refutes claims made by the sponsoring companies of both proposed pipelines that the projects are needed to assure continued delivery of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields to markets in Virginia and North Carolina. The report also concludes that industry overbuilding of unnecessary pipelines will cripple consumers’ access to non-carbon energy sources for decades to come.
For the full press release, click here.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, April 12, 2016: Friends of Nelson is providing funding support for two initiatives that will be instrumental in understanding the potential impacts of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on Nelson County’s groundwaters and streams. The findings from these efforts will help assure that, whatever the future holds with the proposed ACP, Nelson’s high quality water will remain uncompromised.
Downstream Strategies, a Morgantown, W.Va. environmental consulting firm, has been contracted by the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) to examine the implications of pipeline development for private and public water supplies. Their report will provide recommendations for water quality and quantity monitoring for landowners and water providers. The report will include Nelson County and will address both the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.
See the full press release for further details, including how to volunteer, training for volunteers, and how to donate to support the study.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, April 5, 2016: Friends of Nelson has issued a press release on the call by many Nelson businesses, community organizations, and private citizens for FERC to conduct a comprehensive, simultaneous review of all four proposed gas pipelines that would cross Virginia instead of following their usual procedure of one-at-a-time environmental assessments. To date, 45 small businesses have endorsed the statement, along with four community groups (all are listed in the release). Friends of Nelson continues to add additional support from the county business community. For the full press release click here.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, March 21, 2016: Friends of Nelson has issued a press release on the review and analysis by Key-Log Economics of individual and form letters submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which shows a vast number of significant concerns about Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) from citizens in impacted areas and their overwhelming opposition to the pipeline. For the full press release click here.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 29, 2016: Friends of Nelson, a citizens’ group opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Nelson County, VA, will rally in support of citizens’ property rights prior to court proceedings on ACP LLC’s lawsuits to force surveys on property owners in Nelson. The group will gather at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2 outside the Nelson County Courthouse in Lovingston. The court hearing is scheduled for 10:00 am.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, the limited liability corporation led by Dominion that is proposing the pipeline, has sued 47 property owners throughout the route to assert their right under VA statute 56-49.01 to survey private property without the consent of the property owner. This hearing includes 37 of the unresolved cases in Nelson County, with 10 more yet to be scheduled who were served last Friday. By law, there must be at least 21 days between when defendants are served and the date of their hearings.
Dominion has sued many more people in Nelson than in any other county on the route.
“We are rallying today to raise awareness of the massive scale of Dominion’s bullying of property owners and residents,” said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. “Our entire community is deeply opposed to this project.”
“I want people to know how threatened and violated Dominion makes me feel,” says Nancy Holstein, one of the sued property owners. “I have withstood months of pressure from them to allow survey, including this suit, because I want it to be very clear that their pipeline on my property is against my will.”
Should the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issue a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to ACP LLC, Dominion will then be able to use the power of eminent domain to force the taking of property easements for its construction. But the current Virginia statute allows surveyors to trespass although the federal government has made no such determination.
“FERC mandates that benefits of a pipeline must be proportional to the proposed impacts. However it has been clearly shown that costs to our county are huge and far exceed the benefits,” says Salidis.
An independent analysis by Key-Log Economics released last month states that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cost Nelson County up to $43 million dollars per year, with additional onetime costs of up to $41 million. Individuals and businesses would lose up to $25 million in property value outright, while annual losses would include $18 million in recreation tourism dollars and $1.2 million in personal income.
“Why should a landowner be forced to submit to the desires of a private company to assist that very same company in building the case to steal their land?” asks Richard Averitt of Nellysford, who has also been sued by Dominion. “How many families have been forced, through the threat of lawsuit, to yield their rights for speculative routes that will perhaps be abandoned?”
An amendment to the Virginia Constitution was passed in 2012 that received more than 75% of the vote in a public referendum that reinforced Virginia’s property rights laws. On February 16, a writ panel of Virginia Supreme Court heard Williams v. Mountain Valley Pipeline challenging the survey trespass law and soon it will determine whether to hear the full appeal. If it does, there will be a decision of the court on whether the survey statute is unconstitutional. The decision would almost certainly be decisive, one way or the other, as to whether the state constitution’s private property guarantees prevent the surveys for ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline without landowner permission.
“Since when did the Virginia Courts and our Legislators decide that their first priority is to serve Virginia companies and not Virginia citizens? “ Averitt continued. “If Dominion proves that this project is needed and if it receives a certificate of public necessity, then and only then, should landowners be asked to forgo their rights.”
Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 16, 2016: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cost Nelson County up to $43 million dollars per year, with additional one-time costs of up to $41 million according to an independent economic report issued Tuesday by Key-Log Economics. Individuals and businesses would lose up to $25 million in property value outright, while annual losses would include $18 million in recreation tourism dollars and $1.2 million in personal income.
The county government would lose $526,000 in tax revenue and $144,000 in property tax revenue per year should the pipeline be built in Nelson County. The total annual costs to Nelson County far exceed the local annual tax payment promised by ACP LLC. These costs would be borne by the entire community, assuming taxes were raised to cover lost county revenue.
The report surveyed available literature and research studies on the effects of natural gas pipelines on property values. Effects were estimated based on the best and most recent research. Previous studies that failed to find an effect did not ensure that buyers were aware of the presence of the pipeline, and they used properties that were still in the evacuation zone to compare to properties that were in the right of way.
“Dominion wants to subsidize their profits on the backs of Nelson County’s property owners and tax payers. Property owners in the right of way will be forced to ‘host’ the ACP, and will not even be compensated for losses in property value. The entire community will suffer as property taxes are raised to make up for lost revenue,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson.
The construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would reverse the trend of growth that has been a trademark of Nelson County. Since 2001 population has grown 2.8 percent, sole proprietorships have grown almost 30 percent and investment and retirement income by over 61 percent. “Retirees, entrepreneurs and small business owners in a variety of industries choose where they locate, basing their decisions on amenities and quality of life “ in which Nelson County excels.
“If what we have here changes, we won’t be as attractive for real estate,” says Dima Holmes of Wintergreen Real Estate. “(People) don’t buy (just) the real estate, they buy the experience and they buy what we have to offer.”
Over 26 miles of pipeline proposed for Nelson County would touch over 130 parcels, with over 87 percent of the permanent right of way currently forested. 2,094 people and 2,409 homes lie within the evacuation zone, should an accident occur. The ACP would be the first and only natural gas pipeline in Nelson County.
“We believe that property value and other losses would actually be considerably greater than Key-Log estimated – because even the best available research isn’t assessing the impact of a pipeline or right of way this big in a tourism dependent community with steep, forested terrain comparable to the route through Nelson,” continued Salidis.
The Nelson County Pipeline Impact Study is part of a 4 County analysis including Augusta, Buckingham and Highland Counties. That study places 4-county costs at over $100 million annually plus an additional one-time cost of $141 million. These costs include estimated impacts to air, water and recreational benefits.
The Dominion reroute recently announced will further increase these costs as more property and more landowners will be affected in Augusta along with new ones in Bath County. It affects Nelson and Buckingham counties in that as the costs of the pipeline continue to mount, proposed tax payments to these counties will continue to decline.
The pipeline impact study was spearheaded by Friends of Nelson and was funded by donations from citizens and property owners. “It has fallen to us to analyze the costs to Nelson County should this pipeline come to pass,” said Ernie Reed of Friends of Nelson. “The study demonstrates not only how economically dangerous the pipeline is but also how Nelson County would bear a huge share of costs at the hands of Dominion.”
“While the use of the pipeline is measured in years, the costs to the county are forever,” Reed concluded.
Nelson County Economic Impacts from Atlantic Coast Pipeline:
• Total one time loss to county: $19-$41.2m
• Additional Annual costs to county: $39.6-$43m /year
• Total loss in property values $14.7-$25.3m
• Annual loss in property tax revenue $83,666-$144,363 /year
• Annual loss in recreation tourism expenditures $18.5m /year
• Annual loss in local Tax revenue $526,000 /year
• Annual loss in personal income $1.2 m /year
Friends of Nelson Press Release, November 10, 2015: Outraged Nelson County Residents Welcome Governor McAuliffe to Nelson County. “Nelson County residents are outraged that Governor McAuliffe has chosen to visit Nelson County today yet has expressed no interest in meeting with residents over the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Residents are present at today’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting in Lovingston at Virginia Distillery Company, protesting the governor’s dismissal of their concerns. The Virginia Distillery Company is the latest business to open in Nelson County that depends entirely on the high quality of the water and the natural beauty ‘that captures the essence here in the mountains of Virginia.’ Ernie Reed, Vice-President of Friends of Nelson said, ‘Nelson County is a brand to make any business proud. However, no business and no Nelson County resident will be immune to the unnatural disaster that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would unleash on us.’ More than 1200 Virginia residents signed an invitation that was delivered to the Governor two weeks ago that invited him to visit the county and to meet with local residents whose lives are being forever changed by Dominion’s proposal. The governor has promoted the pipeline since it was first announced at a press conference in May of 2014. ‘The governor has slammed his door in our face over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ said Joanna Salidis, Friends of Nelson President. ‘He has ignored its costs, fabricated its benefits, and refused to advocate for the kind of regulatory process that would show the truth. His is a business plan for disaster that steals our property and water rights, forever scars our land and mortgages our future.’ ”
An hour after the initial press release, it was announced that due to inclement weather the Governor would not be coming to the opening. Friends of Nelson’s second press release said, “We have just received notice that Governor McAuliffe has cancelled his plans to attend the Ribbon-Cutting at Virginia Distillery Company this morning, citing the weather and the inability for the governor’s helicopter to land in the fog and drizzle. We anxiously anticipate his next visit to our beautiful Nelson County home.”
Friends of Nelson Press Release, November 4, 2015: Governor McAuliffe Issues Gag Order to State Agencies Over Natural Gas Pipeline. On November 3rd, The Roanoke Times reported that the decision to share pipeline comments with the governor’s office before making them public was one outcome of an Oct. 28 meeting in Richmond that included representatives from 13 state agencies involved in the permitting process or mitigation efforts for the proposed pipelines. The Times reported the purpose of coordinating with the Governor’s office was to “ensure that state agencies will speak about the pipeline projects in the same way.”
Many groups across the state are fighting these highly controversial large-diameter high-pressure pipelines due to concerns about property rights, local economies, clean water, safety, air quality and climate change. Despite this opposition, Governor McAuliffe maintains that the pipelines would bring jobs to VA, a position he has repeated since he stood arm and arm with Dominion CEO Tom Farrell at the initial press conference in September 2014 announcing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“There’s only two possible reasons the Governor would want state agencies to ‘coordinate’ their comments – one is to control those comments and the other is to vet them through his contacts with Dominion,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson.
Many federal and state agencies have responded to Dominion’s filing for permits with feedback that their application is too incomplete to process, including the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
“This is a gag order, pure and simple,” said Ernie Reed of Friends of Nelson. “Many Virginia residents and groups communicate directly with state agencies including the Department of Natural Heritage, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Environmental Quality. Our governor has a relationship with Dominion and won’t speak with us. This makes clear whose interests he is serving.”
Early last week Friends of Nelson invited the Governor to visit Nelson County to speak to landowners, business owners, and local officials, sending him more than 1200 invitations signed by residents of and visitors to Nelson County. The Governor has not responded to that invitation.
“The Governor campaigned on government transparency and clean energy,” says Deirdre Skogen, Friends of Nelson’s Networking and Communications Coordinator. “Actions speak louder than words and they tell us differently.“
Friends of Nelson Press Release, October 30, 2015: Friends of Nelson launched a No Pipeline! video contest today, with a $1000 prize for the winner. The contest is open to anyone, including those fighting other proposed natural gas pipelines. Entries must mention the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by name, the high-pressure, large-diameter pipeline proposed to run through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, the Appalachian Trail and Nelson County on its way to the coast and NC, but can include other projects or mention any of the myriad issues raised by new natural gas infrastructure. “We hope that this contest, and the videos that come from it will help raise awareness in urban areas of the true consequences of the “Fracking Boom.” More and more of us in rural America are experiencing first hand the frightening loss of personal and community sovereignty as we are forced to “host” these dangerous pipelines and compression stations, turning our homes and communities into sacrifice zones, and wasting the resources that we all depend on — and for nothing but to enrich the very few,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. Full contest rules are here.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, October 28, 2015: Residents and Business owners invite Governor McAuliffe to Nelson County. Virginia citizens and business-owners have extended an invitation to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to visit Nelson County and tour the proposed route of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In an invitation delivered yesterday, the Governor was invited to meet with citizens and business and property owners who would be impacted by the construction and operation of the 42-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline. The invitation, signed by over 1200 Virginia residents reads “(We) would really appreciate your taking the time to travel along the proposed route to meet and speak with your constituents on the frontline of the proposed demolition. Your visit will introduce you to landowners along the route and could include a public forum with a question and answer session and meetings with local officials and business leaders.” Click the link for the full text of the press release PLUS quotes from some of the 1200 signers of the invitation.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, July 3, 2015: Nelson County Residents Rally for Independence from Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Friends of Nelson, a citizen’s group in Nelson County, VA opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, plans to rally in celebration of American Independence and the rights our founding fathers conferred on citizens, as well as protest the erosion of property rights this fourth of July. We will line Route 20 near Route 53 in Charlottesville between 8 and 9 a.m. on July 4th…. ‘Many people don’t realize that there are no legal or regulatory protections against using eminent domain for gas transmission lines for private gain or export of natural gas,’ says Joanna Salidis, Friends of Nelson’s President. ‘The Governor’s support for the ACP indicates that he does not take seriously the harm done to property owners or communities by the government wielding the extraordinary power of eminent domain to benefit private interests. We respect the importance of the naturalization ceremony at Monticello today, and find the Governor’s participation ironic as he actively undermines cherished American rights.’”
Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 29, 2015: Friends of Nelson Joins Grassroots Coalition Protesting FERC’s Flagrant Disregard for the Public. “Today, on the steps outside the Washington Office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Friends of Nelson is protesting FERC’s flagrant disregard for the public in the permitting process for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Nelson County residents have joined activists and organizations all over the East and Northeast in opposing FERC’s abuse of its responsibility to fairly consider the public and their comments. ‘We want FERC and its commissioners to know that we are here this week because their complicity to route the ACP through our home deeply violates so many of our personal and community values,’ said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. ‘Nelson County property owners want FERC to uphold their claim that eminent domain is a method of last resort — not a gift from the government to maximize profit on the backs of unwilling private property owners and communities.’”
Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 6, 2015: Friends of Nelson Asks Dominion Board of Directors and Stockholders to Drop Plans for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Today, on the steps outside the Dominion Resources Board of Directors and Shareholder’s Meeting, Friends of Nelson is asking that Dominion drop its plans to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
Friends of Nelson Press Release, March 26, 2015: Regulators Fail to Protect Public Interest in Pipeline Process. “FERC’s scoping meeting in Nelson illustrates exactly what so many affected communities around the country have been saying: FERC is an independent governmental agency, funded by the industry it regulates, with no accountability – nor, in their eyes, responsibility to the public,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson, a group working to oppose Dominion’s pipeline.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, March 3, 2015: Nelson and Augusta Counties Join Forces to Document Pipeline’s Impacts. Friends of Nelson and the Augusta County Alliance, have joined forces in order to produce an economic report countering the purported economic benefits of Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Charlottesville-based firm of Key-Log Economics, LLC, will conduct a thorough economic study that will show the true costs and impacts to Nelson and Augusta communities along the proposed path of the pipeline.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, March 2, 2015: Dominion’s Rush Makes Regulatory Process a Sham. Dominion’s announcement of alternative routes through Nelson County doubled the people and properties affected. Newly affected property owners are struggling to understand all the implications of being on the route, and now feel even more pressured. Friends of Nelson believes the FERC should give more time before the scoping meeting and a longer scoping period.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 26, 2015: Nelson County Takes the Offensive Against Illegal Surveys. A response to Dominion’s February 23 letters stating intent to begin surveying properties on the newly announced alternate routes.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 23, 2015: Opposition to Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline On the Rise. A response to Dominion’s recent release of proposed “alternative routes” for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, February 11, 2015: Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipedream: Lies and Numbers. A response to Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline economic impacts report.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, January 23, 2015: First Response to Survey Suits Filed in Nelson Court
Friends of Nelson Press Release December 16, 2014: discusses Dominion’s passive-aggressive PR.
Friends of Nelson Press Release November 25, 2014, discusses a myriad of water issues that the pipeline would affect – for example, the good water our breweries rely on, or the Richmond area drinking water that is directly affected by the tributaries to the James in our mountains, or the disastrous effects of weather events like Camille.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, November 12, 2014: 3 of Every 4 Nelson Landowners Refuse Access For Dominion Pipeline Surveys.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, September 2, 2014: Duke Energy has selected Dominion Resources and its subsidiaries to build and operate a massive new natural gas pipeline slicing through the heart of central Appalachia and Virginia’s Southside. Dominion will have to seize private property through eminent domain, uproot farms and families, and disrupt businesses and lives in their attempt to complete the project. The pipeline will also fragment over 50 miles of remote National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia. Friends of Nelson, one of many local groups of property owners opposed to the pipeline, remains emphatically opposed to the pipeline in its entirety.
Friends of Nelson Press Release, August 11, 2014: Friends of Nelson, one of several groups opposing Dominion’s proposed 42” natural gas pipeline, calls the project incompatible with the tourism and agricultural way of life in the mountainous rural county.