Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

Friends of Nelson 2020 Annual Report

Friends of Nelson Annual report for 2020
December 19, 2020

Dear Friends:

The major accomplishment this year can be summed up in three words: “Our Community Won!”, which you will recognize as the announcement we added to our large NO PIPELINE signs around Nelson County.

“Our Community” was, of course, not confined to the borders of Nelson County. Friends of Nelson joined hands with over fifty local resistance groups along the 600 mile proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, coordinated and informed by the outstanding team at the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance and the superb legal assistance provided by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and attorneys from the Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and others. It truly was a team effort that defeated the pipeline. We are stronger together.

Having accomplished what we set out to do over six years ago, we have since been occupied tying up loose ends from the battle and exploring ways Friends of Nelson can continue to contribute to the quality of life and the environment of Nelson County.


Landowner Support

Joyce Burton continues to provide excellent support for landowners along the proposed pipeline’s route. She stays in touch with them, answers their questions and responds to their concerns. She maintains close watch on emerging developments in such things as how and when Dominion plans to restore damages to the landscape in the Wintergreen area and how the company will release the easements which now constrain landowners’ use of their land, including clearing title for those who want to sell their property.

Ten Reasons Campaign

Charlie Hickox championed development of our “Ten Reasons to Oppose the ACP” campaign, which sought to capture all the reasons for our opposition in a memorable form. He led preparation of a large banner that we used at the farmers’ market. Shortly after we had the banner and backup information ready for use, the pipeline was cancelled. We think Dominion got word that the campaign was being launched and decided the game was up and it was time to cut their losses.


Led by Ellen Bouton and Woody Greenberg, we are working to compile an archive that will enable scholars, journalists and others to learn from our experience. In both tangible and digital form, we are collecting news articles, legal documents, reports, correspondence, testimony submitted for the record on hearings conducted by federal, state, and local government agencies, Dominion reports and PR pieces, and other documents. The archive will also include thousands of photographs (many of which were taken by Kathy Versluys) and videos from rallies, special projects and other actions. The entire archive will be delivered to the Virginia State Library.

Database Upgrade

Charlie Hickox and volunteer computer wizard Jim Plitt successfully transferred our member information to a new system that is simpler to use and considerably less expensive than the one we relied on for years. They cleaned up the data to eliminate duplicative entries and, with Joyce Burton’s assistance, identified landowners along the proposed pipeline route. Being able to quickly reach out to landowners is important because numerous issues affecting them are as yet unsettled.

FoN Web Site

Mary Eiserman has volunteered to update our web site to improve its look and functionality. Our current web site has served us well, and the newsletter compiled by Ellen Bouton has been instrumental in keeping all of us informed about not only pipeline-related stories and also other news about developments in the gas industry, renewable energy, and related government at all levels. We don’t know when the new web site will go live, but until it is fully operational the current site will remain up and running. You will see changes to the format and content over the next months as FoN’s new, post-pipeline focus evolves.

Facebook Page

Eleanor Amidon has graciously agreed to post articles of interest on the Friends of Nelson Facebook page. Board members have been sending articles to her, and she is finding new sources for stories of interest. At this transitional time in FoN’s existence, we are striving to have at least one post every day, which will maintain our presence and keep our account active. As we gain our footing as an organization, we intend to have more and more variety in our posts, as in the past.

Sharing Anti-pipeline Materials

We have offered our large road signs, yard signs, and “No Pipeline” t-shirts, banners, bumper stickers and other materials to other organizations fighting pipelines. At this point, only the smaller, more easily transported materials have been accepted, but we will continue to see if other groups fighting pipelines can use them. We have retained all Friends of Nelson materials, our canopy, tables and other equipment for future use here.

ON TO 2021

Membership and Mission

Since July, we have worked hard to sort out what FoN will be doing in the future, and who among the current board will continue their involvement. Our mission will be the same as it has been: “Friends of Nelson is a citizen-run, community-based, membership organization dedicated to the protection of property rights, property values, rural heritage and the environment for all the citizens of Nelson County, Virginia.” A number of our current board members will be retiring, so the new board will be smaller, at least until we can bring in new members. We have not fully fleshed out our agenda, but we have a number of projects either under way or under development.

“Lessons Learned”

We are working to redirect the grant we received for well-water testing. That project was aimed at providing solid data on any damage to our essential groundwater resources resulting from pipeline construction. Once Dominion and Duke surrendered, that project became unnecessary. As an alternative, we are developing a new proposal that, if approved, would delve deeply into identifying which of the many actions we took to stop the pipeline were most consequential. If the grantor accepts our proposal, we will prepare a short document and corresponding video on “Lessons Learned” that should be helpful to other citizen groups around the country who find themselves in the path of harmful developments.

A History of the Fight against the ACP

In the future we anticipate being involved in the development of a book telling the story of the battle to stop the pipeline. This would be a thorough and highly engaging retrospective. A number of FoN board members are serving on an advisory committee for this worthy project, and we look forward to doing what we can to see it through to a successful finish. Work on the book may not get started until later in 2021 at the earliest, but we are confident it will happen and it will be good.

Re-centering Friends of Nelson

2020 has been a wild ride. For the first half of the year, we kept our shoulders to the wheel, pushing hard to stop the pipeline. Much of the action was in the courts under the leadership of our attorneys, but we were involved in reading draft legal briefs, submitting comments to FERC and other regulatory agencies, tracking new state legislation, and keeping everyone up to date on breaking news. Then, on July 5, Dominion and Duke abruptly threw in the towel. After we got past the celebrations (all sadly muted because of COVID 19), we got to work on wrapping up the campaign and then working through ideas about FoN’s future. We expect 2021 to be a rebuilding year as we re-set our organization. But rest assured, we’re not disappearing. We’ll keep you posted as our plans for the future emerge.





Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,

Doug Wellman, President
Friends of Nelson

News You May Have Missed

Recent post-ACP-cancellation news articles of interest. More detailed information on our In the News page.

FERC Orders ACP to Provide Close-Out Plan

On October 27, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asked Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI), managing partner for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Supply Header Project (SHP), to provide to FERC “a plan for disposition of ACP and SHP, including restoration activities.” Dominion was given 60 days from the date of the FERC letter to respond, which would be December 26, 2020.

On June 16, 2020, Dominion had filed with FERC a request for a two-year extension of its FERC certificate in order to complete the SHP, and in a separate filing on July 10 requested a one-year extension of its ACP certificate to implement abandonment of the ACP project areas that had been disturbed.

The FERC letter asks that Dominion’s plan include:

Discussion of the status of Atlantic’s/DETI’s consultation with landowners on matters pertaining to project disposition and restoration activities on their property, as applicable, including: a. preferences regarding treatment of pipeline segments that have already been installed (i.e., pipeline to be left in place or removed); b. preferences for removal of felled trees that have not been cleared; and c. preferences on how disturbed areas would be restored, depending on their land use type (e.g., forest, agricultural, etc.).

FERC has not yet granted the extension, but is asking Dominion to submit plans for the ACP restoration they intend to do.

However, FERC’s response does not address the question of easements at all. The Southern Environmental Law Center, along with many others who submitted comments to FERC on Dominion’s July 10 request, urged that the issue of landowner easements be included in the restoration plan. Further, FERC has not granted requests to solicit comments from landowners themselves regarding what restoration is needed on their lands. FERC Commissioner Richard Glick wrote recently: “When it comes to protecting landowner interests, we should look at what the Commission does, not what it says. With that in mind, today’s order tells you everything need to know about how much the Commission cares about landowners.”

An October 29 Virginia Mercury article, Federal regulators order Atlantic Coast Pipeline to provide a plan for project wind-down, restoration, says, “Asked about how Dominion intends to approach easements that remain in force and whether it plans to relinquish those easements, Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby said in an email the company ‘will work with each landowner whose property has been disturbed to develop a plan for the right of way on their property’ and will ‘evaluate each easement agreement on a case-by-case basis in consultation with each landowner. Our goal is to close out the project as efficiently as possible and with minimal environmental disturbance.'”

FERC Grants MVT Construction Extension; No Decision (Yet) on ACP

On October 9, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a request from the Mountain Valley Pipeline for a two-year extension of the project’s certificate to complete construction of the pipeline. The existing certificate was to expire October 13, 2020. Many organizations and individuals had opposed MVP’s request.

The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner Glick dissenting. Read the FERC decision here. Note especially the last two pages where Commissioner Glick registers his partial dissent, and delivers a scathing criticism of FERC for their decision to deny intervenor status to a number of landowners who had not been formal intervenors in the original Certificate process, but who had attempted to intervene in the time extension request proceeding.

Glick writes, “Time and time again, landowners do their very best to navigate the complexity of FERC proceedings. And, time and time again, the Commission relies on technicalities to prevent them from even having the opportunity to vindicate their interests. When it comes to protecting landowner interests, we should look at what the Commission does, not what it says. With that in mind, today’s order tells you everything need to know about how much the Commission cares about landowners.”

Glick’s dissent indicates the “care” landowners may expect in upcoming ACP extension decision. ACP’s original Certificate of Public Convenience and Need expires on Oct. 13, 2020. That means they can do nothing after that date – including cleaning up the mess they made on many people’s properties. So, ACP asked for a one-year extension to complete necessary “stand down” activities, remove pipe that has been staged but not buried, stabilize and restore the abandoned construction sites, etc.

Many organizations (including Friends of Nelson), the lawyers from SELC, and many individuals submitted comments to FERC this summer requesting that certain conditions be met as part of the process of such an extension being granted. A couple of notable conditions were 1) that all landowners be released from the easement agreements they signed and 2) that there be a formal opportunity for landowners and other stakeholders to submit further comments to FERC delineating exactly what kind of restoration or other things are needed to restore impacted lands and make impacted property owners “whole” so that those needs could be taken into account in whatever orders FERC gives to ACP as the “stand down” process begins.

We expect to hear FERC’s decision about the extension — and thus on whether they will require conditions that would help landowners — any day now.

Video: Pipeline Opponents Discuss Lessons Learned

Southerly’s Lyndsey Gilpin speaks with organizers from West Virginia and North Carolina and a lawyer from the Southern Environmental Law Center about their successful efforts to stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. After years of fighting new oil and gas pipelines in rural areas, activists have scored major victories that cloud the future or eliminate several big projects. Three people who helped lead anti-pipeline campaigns talk about their work and what lies ahead.

The article, Pipeline opponents discuss lessons learned (in Southerly magazine), and video were produced in collaboration with Southerly and the Rural Assembly. The Rural Assembly is a project of the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder.

Our Community Won! – Sharing Our Online Celebration

We are delighted to share the video of the Friends of Nelson online celebration of the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We couldn’t celebrate in person, but on September 5, 2020, two months after Dominion’s announcement, we had a wonderful online party – with speakers, music, and slide shows – and we now offer the video of the party for your enjoyment. Many thanks to our party’s planning team, Mary Eiserman, Jill Averitt, and Joyce Burton, to Irene Leech for her video editing, and to Charlie Hickox for help with the video upload to YouTube.

And – hold the date! – we hope to have an in-person celebration on July 5, 2021, the first anniversary of the ACP cancellation.