Category Archives: Friends of Nelson

FERC should order Dominion to cancel all easements in Nelson County

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.

 
As part of that Scoping Period, on April 15, 2021 we submitted our comments again.  
 
 

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.

“Zombie Easements” story featured on NPR

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

1 year later… Let’s Celebrate the Cancellation of the ACP!

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.

Save the Date! – Celebrate the End of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

SAVE THE DATE: JULY 10, 2021


ON JULY 5, 2020, THE ACP WAS CANCELED. WE WANTED A
REAL CELEBRATION, BUT THE PANDEMIC MADE THAT IMPOSSIBLE.


NOW MANY OF US ARE VACCINATED AND THE RESTRICTIONS
ON LARGE GATHERINGS HAVE BEEN LOOSENED.

SO…. IT’S TIME TO PARTY!!!

VENUE: ROCKFISH VALLEY COMMUNITY CENTER—OUTSIDE,
WITH TENTS, TABLES AND SEATING

TIME: 5-9 PM
FURTHER DETAILS TO FOLLOW.


JOIN THE FUN AND FELLOWSHIP—WE’VE EARNED IT!

 

Friends of Nelson Asks FERC to Order Release of “Zombie” Pipeline” Easements

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. 

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.

CLOSING OUT 2020

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.

Archiving

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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

THE ANNUAL MEETING IS SCHEDULED FOR WEDNESDAY JANUARY 27 AT 7:00 PM. WE WILL CONVENE OVER ZOOM; A LINK TO THE MEETING WILL BE SENT OUT SHORTLY BEFORE THE MEETING. AT THE MEETING WE WILL IDENTIFY MEMBERS OF THE BOARD AND THE SLATE OF NEW OFFICERS.

WE ANTICIPATE THAT THIS WILL BE A SHORT BUSINESS MEETING, VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE IN-PERSON MEETINGS WE’VE HAD IN YEARS PAST. WITH LUCK, WE HOPE TO HAVE A LARGE CELEBRATION ON JULY 5, THE ANNIVERSARY OF ACP’S DEFEAT, WHEN WE CAN ENJOY THE MUSIC, DANCING, POTLUCK DELICACIES, AND GOOD FELLOWSHIP WE ALL SO RICHLY DESERVE.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR STEADFAST SUPPORT. BECAUSE OF YOU, OUR COMMUNITY WON.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,

Doug Wellman, President
Friends of Nelson