Category Archives: Friends of Nelson

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.


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

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.

Let’s Celebrate!

Friends of Nelson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting to celebrate the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline!

Click the link below to join us on Sept 5th at 7pm 
Topic: A Zoom Celebration!
Time: Sep 5, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 889 0761 6068
Passcode: WeWon
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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.

From Friends of Nelson

July 16, 2020


Six years of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, the great team at ABRA and our superb legal teams from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other conservation organizations, called a halt to the Dominion and Duke’s awful, profit-seeking Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal.

All the assistance from the attorneys and the experts ultimately depended on the fact that ordinary citizens in Nelson, Buckingham, Augusta, Highland and Bath counties joined citizen groups in SE Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia to stand against the pipeline. We informed ourselves and our neighbors, read long reports, filed comments with federal and state regulators, petitioned our elected representatives, attended hearings and gave passionate testimony, wrote letters to the editor, attended rallies, created art, wrote songs, and made videos, pitched in at tabling events, attended public meetings, helped with stream monitoring, …and in every way we could conceive kept up the pressure and showed that little David wasn’t afraid of Goliath. Had we been passive in the face of overwhelming odds, the attorneys and experts might have found other projects more worthy of their talents and time.

Time was on our side. While our team was bedeviling Dominion’s team with beautifully crafted lawsuits, the world was changing in our favor. Renewable energy caught fire, with amazing reductions in price; the American public finally realized that climate change is real and the consequences of failing to reduce our carbon footprint are horrific; “Black Lives Matter” called attention to environmental justice concerns and the need for systemic changes in many of our institutions; overproduction in the fracking rush undercut the price of natural gas and bankrupted many of the drillers; and the investment community lost confidence in fossil fuels. Expert analysts discredited Dominion’s claims of rising demand for electricity, massive job creation, and negligent environmental impacts.

Slowly at first, the comments I heard at our tabling events of “It’s a done deal” and “you can’t beat Dominion” were replaced by questions about specific lawsuits and expressions of optimism.

On behalf of the Board of Friends of Nelson, I want to thank you for your steadfast support through this six-year trial of fire. Your willingness to contribute your time and money, wear our NO PIPELINE and Friends of Nelson T-shirts, put up NO PIPELINE yard signs, and do all the hard work necessary to get the truth of the ACP proposal out was critical. And then you helped set up for events, work music festivals, posted flyers, wrote letters, went to demonstrations, gave talks, and so much more. Together we truly are stronger.

Having fulfilled our mission of defeating the pipeline proposal, the question becomes “What’s next?”

We will continue our support of landowners who were in the pipeline’s path. Joyce Burton, our landowner liaison, will continue to help landowners as they try to figure out what the cancellation means for them in terms of the easements they have signed, what rights they now have (or don’t) over the land, what the legal situation is, etc. Landowners with questions should contact us at

We will tie up loose ends, including removing or temporarily modifying the large “NO PIPELINE” signs and banners that have served us so well, wrapping up our stream water quality monitoring program in a way that assures the data we collected will be available for future use as needed, and deciding what to do with our T-shirts and other paraphernalia.

We will do what we can to help put an end to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That terrible project is largely complete, but there are still opportunities to stop or modify it, and we will work with Mountain Valley Watch, POWHR and ABRA to lend a hand where we can.

Jill Averitt will continue to serve as our volunteer coordinator, graphic artist and social media expert, although her Facebook postings will be fewer and more selective.

We will work to compile and preserve an archive of the battle against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that can inform future generations about this landmark struggle. We don’t want anyone to forget this story and the multitudes of people like you who helped make it happen.

In the months to come, the Friends of Nelson’s Board of Directors will give careful consideration to the future of our organization. Unlike in the past six years, we now have the luxury of time for exploring options and deliberating possible avenues for continuing to serve Nelson County. We will keep you posted.

Once again, Friends of Nelson thanks each and every one of you for your support, and for the many and various ways you all played a part over the last six years in bringing us to this moment of relief and celebration.

Doug Wellman, President
Friends of Nelson