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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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