Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

Unity Banner on the Way to Bent Mountain

Watch this short presentation about all of those whole participated in putting together the Unity Banner as it makes its way to Bent Mountain.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, its chapters and allies presented a Unity Banner to water protectors and pipeline fighters. The Unity Banner was created to symbolize solidarity between those who successfully fought and stopped the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and those who are still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Sharon Ponton, BREDL’s Stop the Pipeline Campaign Coordinator shepherded the project and created the banner.

The Unity Banner was hosted in 16 communities; ten in Virginia and six in North Carolina. Hundreds of individuals signed the Unity Banner, representing the diverse members of the coalition created six years ago who have now become a part of the resistance movement against natural gas and other fossil fuel expansion.

Easements

Two articles of interest to landowners with ACP easement agreements.

We remind our readers that the easements are not gone now that the ACP has been cancelled, and that under the law, landowners still do not have full use of their land. For example, unless ACP formally releases them from the easements, they are not allowed to build on it. And if they want to sell it, those restrictions carry with the land.

An August 15, 2020 article in the News and Advance, A look at the Atlantic Coast Pipeline easement process that left Nelson landowners $15 million richer, reports extensively on easement payments in Nelson County, including a chart by categories showing total amounts of compensation for easements signed by Nelson landowners. Note that the headline is deceptive, as more than half of the $15 million went to a very few landowners, and most received far less. Nor did this article take into account the 30% cut that lawyers got, or the thousands of dollars in other fees (like appraisers) that some landowners had to pay to be able to fight to get for the settlements they actually got, or the income taxes most of the landowners had to pay on this “windfall”.  

An August 15, 2020 article by Irene Leech, Landowners be advised, in the Friends of Buckingham newsletter suggesting landowners “may want to take any available opportunity to express the desire to have damage repaired and to regain easement ownership to political leaders and company representatives.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have bisected Leech’s Buckingham County family farm for 1.1 mile and her home in Montgomery County, VA is within the evacuation zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Natural Gas CEO Admits to Excess Pipeline Capacity from Marcellus Basin

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 232, August 13, 2020

There is excess pipeline capacity for natural gas produced from the Marcellus shale field and the gap of excess capacity over gas produced is expected to grow, according to Toby Rice, CEO of EQT Corporation, the largest shale gas producer in the United States and a potential major shipper of gas for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). His observations were made during a July 27 earnings call with representatives of investment firms. In answer to a question about his “view on the future pipeline development out of Appalachia” in the wake of the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Rice said:

. . . the dynamics that are set up right now is Appalachia is producing around 32 Bcf a day. We’ve got about call it 35 Bcf a day of local takeaway — of takeaway and local demand. So, there is a 3 Bcf a day gap between what we are producing and what we are able to take away. Adding MVP that takes — that takes you up to – call it – 37 Bcf a day. So, you’ve got a pretty big gap between capacity and supply in the basin. I think, you couple that with the fact that the basin is going to struggle to grow. I mean, you’ve got all operators saying that they’re hanging in a maintenance mode. We’re also seeing activity levels today, which suggest that this basin is going to decline. All of that is going to widen the gap of takeaway.

Warner, Kaine Introduce Bill to Improve Pipeline Permitting Process

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 232, August 13, 2020

U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-V) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced legislation on August 6 to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. S. 4502 would make it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used.

Among other guidelines, the bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment. It also strengthens landowners’ rights by improving the processes in which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to intervene to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration and compensation.

The bill builds upon an earlier version of legislation the Senators introduced in the last Congress. More info here.

Environmental Justice in Rural Virginia

 

Watch this 4.5 minute video from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Hear from the people of Charles City County, Virginia, a rural community east of Richmond being targeted for two large new natural gas plants and a pipeline expansion. CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley is working with partners and the community to ensure their voices are heard and to prevent pollution and other threats to clean water from these proposals.

Citizen Groups Were Key in Effort to Stop Pipeline

Letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch from Friends of Nelson President Doug Wellman, published August 1, 2020:

As someone deeply involved in the long struggle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), I found the analysis by the RTD’s Michael Martz to be well-considered and fair. Litigation indeed was crucial in defeating a project that featured Goliath (Dominion Energy and Duke Energy) against David (rural, often poor counties), and that litigation needed the tireless support of well-organized citizen groups.

From the first announcement of the ACP in 2014, citizen groups came together to do the hard work of informing themselves and their neighbors, reading long reports full of soul-deadening technical details, submitting comments at public meetings, petitioning political leaders, joining as plaintiffs in lawsuits, writing letters to the editor, attending rallies, creating art and music — in other words, doing everything they could think of to preserve their properties, their environment and their communities.

For maximum effectiveness, citizen groups along the 600-mile route had to work together. From the start of the battle in 2014, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance provided expert guidance for its 50 citizen group members, a forum for information and inspiration, and monitoring of ongoing damage related to pipeline construction through its Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative.

Many of the citizen groups were assisted by Virginia Organizing (VO), a nonprofit created to help citizen groups function effectively on a wide range of issues. VO provided local groups with their nonprofit status, assisted with business management and supported management tools essential for record-keeping, mailing lists and other purposes.

Defeating the ACP demonstrated that an engaged and organized citizenry has the power to draw in talented, experienced expert support. The outstanding work of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other national groups was the tip of the spear, while the strength behind the spear was provided by well-organized, indefatigable citizen groups.