As the holiday season is upon us, we are pleased to share some good news with our community!
The ACP easement release situation has changed dramatically since Aaron Ruby’s January 2021 statement to the Associated Press that ACP did “not intend to voluntarily release the easements.”
Despite FERC’s refusal to hold ACP’s feet to the fire on the easement/land use issue, in Nelson and Augusta courthouses, we are now seeing easement releases being filed for the individual landowners that participated in a year-long, focused advocacy initiative that included invaluable intercession by Senator Kaine’s office.
Even better, it looks like ACP may FINALLY be committing to what we have been asking for all along: release ALL of the easements! The ACP website now states “For properties that do not require any restoration work, we are developing a plan to coordinate with landowners to release their easements.”
Although ACP is STILL not offering landowners with undamaged properties specific “how to” instructions to follow in order to get released — except to “keep waiting” — this statement is better than what their site had posted in early November. It is our hope that a turnkey process will follow quickly.
But our work is not over yet. Now we need to ensure ACP actually lives up to this commitment. We will continue to work to find ways to get the word out to landowners so that they will know release is finally happening and can follow up with ACP as appropriate. (As we all know, ACP does not have a good track record re diligent follow-up when it is only the landowners who stand to gain from that effort.)
Please feel free to spread the word through your networks!
An October 1st, 2022 evening event to celebrate the release of the Lessons Learned Project at the Rockfish Valley Community Center was well attended and a wonderful time to celebrate the accomplishment of our community in its fight against the ACP!
As we await the redesign of the Friends of Nelson webpage, you can find a link to the full 1 hour Lessons Learned video resource below. The Lessons Learned video, and a publication to come, are intended to be a resource available to other communities looking to organize against impactful projects.
Come catch up with Friends of Nelson and enjoy a unique screening of a video from our Lessons Learned Project!
The Lessons Learned Project is a video interview documentary, and associated publication, of Nelson County citizens on the fight against the Atlantic coast pipeline. It highlights the lessons learned through our organization and the ensuing battle to victory and is meant to be available as a resource for other groups.
Please join us at 7pm on the evening of October 1st. 2022 at the Rockfish Valley Community Center.
Refreshments will be available.
Help us gauge attendance by registering at the link below;
2021 has been a year devoted to exploring new ways Friends of Nelson can serve Nelson County. After six long years of battling the misbegotten Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal, our steering committee members and volunteers are ready for a change of pace and focus.
Our first priority for 2021 was finishing up the pipeline battle and doing what we could to help other citizen groups in their struggles against unwanted pipelines. We prepared an archive of our efforts and experiences; sought to get Dominion to release easements extracted through threats of eminent domain; and are preparing several different resources through a ‘Lessons Learned’ project intended to help other grassroots pipeline fighters to get started quickly and organize effectively.
Looking to the future, we examined projects aimed at preserving and enhancing Nelson County’s environmental quality and the enterprises, ranging from farming to tourism, that depend on it. Interests to be further developed include practical ways in which Nelson County can become a leader in climate and environmental action. For details see our annual report.
Our steering committee combines wizened veterans and energetic newcomers:
Doug Wellman, president and future vice president Mary Eiserman, vice president and future president Susan McSwain, secretary Cheryl Klueh, treasurer Jill Averitt Connie Brennan Ron Enders Kelly Faust Woody Greenberg David Schwiesow Coe Sweet
We anticipate some departures from the steering committee, so we are eager to hear from anyone who might be interested in serving. If you think you’d like to put your shoulder to the wheel, please contact any of the current committee members you may know or Doug Wellman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-964-8307.
Our annual meeting is scheduled for Sunday, January 23, 2022. Due to continuing COVID challenges, it will be via Zoom. The meeting link and passcode is below. We look forward to seeing you!
Topic: Friends of Nelson Annual Meeting Time: Jan 23, 2022 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 880 3273 9022 One tap mobile +13126266799,,88032739022# US (Chicago) +16465588656,,88032739022# US (New York)
Dial by your location +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 646 558 8656 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) Meeting ID: 880 3273 9022 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kc7Zyw6UOp
It has been a tumultuous month for the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline.
News at the beginning of December that the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board voted to deny an air permit for a proposed compressor station in Pittsylvania in a 6-1 vote was followed by a divided Virginia State Water Control Board 3-2 vote to approve a necessary stream crossing permit toward the middle of the month.
The denial of the air permit was based on a determination that it did not meet ‘fair treatment’ requirements under the new Virginia Environmental Justice Act passed in 2020. A lack of suitability of the site and a 2020 decision over the siting of a compressor station in Union Hill for the cancelled ACP were also cited. From a December 3rd Virginia Mercury article.
Approval of the stream-crossing permit for the MVP comes despite lawsuits over numerous erosion and sediment control violations. An analysis by Wild Virginia (a pipeline opponent) ‘has shown that Mountain Valley has violated environmental rules more than 1,500 times during its existence.’ Under the federal Clean Water Act, pipelines have to obtain federal and state permits that guarantee they will not significantly degrade water quality during either construction or operation. In 2018, federal approval of stream crossings were overturned and MVP opted to seek approval of crossings from Virginia. The project still needs stream-crossing authorizations from West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as an approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowing it to bore underneath waterways. From a December 14th Virginia Mercury article.
Friends of Nelson continues the fight to convince FERC to order Dominion to cancel all easements in Nelson County and elsewhere on the proposed path of the now abandoned Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Although Dominion has abandoned the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and will never build it, they stubbornly refuses to cancel the easements that it acquired to build the Pipeline. These easements were obtained by suing landowners, with the blessing of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) or by threatening to sue them in Federal Court. Since the Pipeline was cancelled 14 months ago, there is no justification for Dominion to keep the easements. The easements held by Dominion are a serious, continuing and completely unwarranted burden on as many as 200 easements in Nelson County.
FERC then decided to produce a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to evaluate the Restoration Plan and assist the FERC Commissioners in deciding whether or not to issue an Order approving ACP’s plans. They opened a “scoping period” to formally solicit comments from stakeholders that would help FERC do its environmental analysis.
On July 23, 2021, FERC published published the Draft SEIS and basically said ‘not my department’ and they continue to duck the easement issue. Friends of Nelson refuses to allow FERC to sit on the sidelines.
In a summary of those comments, Friends of Nelson, argues that:
‘These comments present the Commission with a clear choice – that is, the Commission may act “in the public interest” and “for the public convenience and necessity” and order Atlantic to immediately release all easements that it obtained for the now-abandoned ACP if requested by the landowner. In so doing, the Commission will end the serious burdens on private land that are imposed by these easements, easements that were obtained by Atlantic by legal force or coercion when the Commission issued the certificate of public necessity and convenience for the ACP (the “Certificate”). Or, the Commission may act “in the private interest” and “for the private convenience and necessity” of Atlantic and permit Atlantic to retain the temporary and permanent easements for many years to come and to extract further financial or other concessions from the affected property owners even though the sole reason for the easements to exist, and the sole “public interest” justification for the easements – the construction of the ACP – no longer exists. We submit that it is the Commission’s responsibility to act solely “in the public interest” and “for the public convenience and necessity,” and to reject Atlantic’s attempts to retain the easements “in its private interest.”’
Lawyers at the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Niskanen Center also have submitted multiple comments on behalf of Friends of Nelson and others, pointing out that Dominion refuses to deal with the issue of restoring landowners’ property rights.
Friends of Nelson will continue to press FERC at every point to require Dominion to cancel the easements, and leave our neighbors alone to enjoy their land unfettered by Dominion’s heavy-handed restrictions.