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.
On Monday, September 13, Friends of Nelson filed its third set of comments with FERC regarding these issues.
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.
It’s been just over a year since Dominion and its utility partners announced they were scrapping plans for a pipeline to carry natural gas from the fracking fields of West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. Opponents were thrilled, but the fight isn’t over yet.
Audio and written story by Sandy Hausman forRadio IQ. August 5th, 2021
Please join us to celebrate our incredible Nelson Community and our incredible collective victory over the ACP project.
The focus of the event is on the fact that this was done by ALL of us, that ALL the contributions large and small added up to the outcome.
This is our chance to say thank you to each other and to honor the connections we’ve built over the last 6-7 years, as well as to set an intention for the connections and community spirit we built to continue into the future, even in the absence of a “common enemy” like the ACP.
The celebration will be from 5pm-9pm on Saturday, July 10th at the Rockfish Valley Community Center and will include libations, musical entertainment, guest speakers, and even a food truck.
On April 14, 2021, the Board of Supervisors of Nelson County unanimously directed that a comment letter be filed with FERC to address the many “zombie” easements that afflict landowners in the County following the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In the comment letter, the Board stated that “we submit that it is the responsibility of FERC to require Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to release the thousands of easements that were obtained by Atlantic from private landowners on the proposed path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” including 250+ easements in Nelson County. The Board added that “these easements impose a significant burden upon these landowners which has been proven to be unwarranted. They significantly diminish and limit the owner’s use of their properties and, therefore reduce its value.” Moreover, “it is inevitable that the county tax assessments on these properties will be reduced due the limitations that the easements put upon the landowner’s
properties, costing a loss of county tax revenue on these properties.
Signed Letter to FERC – April 14 2021
Friends of Nelson, a non-profit organization originally formed to oppose the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to release private landowners from the easements it obtained to cross their land.
Friends of Nelson cites statements by Atlantic that it does not intend to voluntarily release the easements, and has not ruled out transferring the easements to another party, saying only “it has no plans to do so at this time.” “These easements represent a severe, continuing, and — in the wake of the project’s cancellation — a totally unwarranted burden on the properties along the Pipeline’s 604-mile route,” the comment letter to FERC says, adding, “With no ‘public use’ justification remaining, FERC must ensure that landowners’ full property rights are re-stored.”
The comment letter says Atlantic and FERC bear joint responsibility for the “zombie easements,” so-called because the easements live on even though the pipeline proposal is officially dead. FERC bears responsibility because it awarded the essential certificate of “public convenience and necessity” that opened the door to Atlantic’s use of eminent domain. Faced with powerful corporations with huge financial and legal resources, most landowners felt forced to grant easements rather than take their chances in court. Atlantic is owned by Dominion Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy Corporation, two mega-corporations.
“By remaining in place even after the cancellation of the project, these easements burden landowners’ ability to use or sell their property—and also their peace of mind, due to the threat that Atlantic could someday transfer the easements to the developer of another project” the comment to FERC states.
Friends of Nelson has researched the more than 250 easements and easement modification agreements that were filed at the Nelson County Courthouse between October 2015 and July 2020. “The owner is prohibited from doing many things within the Permanent Easement,
including, but not limited to erecting structures such as a house or barn, planting
trees and moving earth. These prohibitions continue forever, even though the pipeline will never be built,” the Friends of Nelson letter to FERC says, and it cites specific examples of Nelson County landowners’ agreements that constrain the use of their land.
The Friends of Nelson’s letter to FERC asks the agency to order Atlantic to contact all owners along the pipeline’s entire 604-mile route to inform them that Atlantic will release the right-of-way easement within 90 days of a written request from an affected landowner.
Friends of Nelson also wants FERC to order Atlantic to provide landowners with a written release of the easement, pay reasonable attorneys’ fees the landowners incur in negotiating the release of the right-of-way, and file the release in the land records of the appropriate jurisdiction.
Friends of Nelson’s request was filed on March 3. A full copy of the letter can be viewed here.
From Power for the People VA. Buses present a strong case for electrification because they serve more people of all income levels, and are mostly diesel now. February 15, 2021
Switching to electric buses, especially school buses, would save money on fuel and improve air quality, especially for children riding them. The only electric school bus bill that would have much immediate impact is so deeply flawed and counterproductive that the environmental community is largely united in opposition.
The proposed bill allows Dominion to deploy an unproven technology, electric school bus batteries used to support the electric grid, and collect the costs from ratepayers. The bill, SB1380 (Lucas), specifies that these school buses connected to the grid are in the public interest, and therefore ratepayers must pay for them, including the guaranteed profit for the utility. Also of concern is that the bill does not ensure that the buses will always be available when the schools need them for transporting kids.
While vehicle-to-grid technology is not new, it has never been deployed at this scale to support a utility’s electric grid. SB1380 will allow Dominion to charge ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars for this unproven technology, without a thorough State Corporation Commission evaluation.
The environmental community supports battery storage as a key part of the transition to renewable energy, and adding battery storage to the grid is needed for utilities to meet storage targets of 250MW by 2025 and 1200MW by 2030. However, the vehicle-to-grid technology that enables electric buses to support the electrical grid has never been implemented at this scale. Dominion has begun a pilot program, but it is in its infancy.