ABRA, SELC, and APPLMAD talk to public in Bolar

It was towards the end of the holiday lull that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its DRAFT environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Representatives from local groups who’ve worked diligently for almost four years to follow the process, and prepare for litigation if/when a certificate of need is issued, met with the public Wednesday evening at the Bolar Ruritan Club to share “What is it? What’s in it? and, What you can do.”

Lewis Freeman of Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance and Highlanders for Responsible Development, first explained how FERC had set the bar low for regulations, and Greg Buppert of the Southern Environmental Law Council followed with more.

“In General FERC’s approach to all of those impacts is “Yes, there will be some impacts of the project, but Dominion will implement mitigation measures that will reduce them to less than significant levels.

What they are charged to do is to balance the public necessity verses the adverse impacts. Those adverse impacts include all the environmental impacts.”   All the discussion leaders who included Rick Webb of Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and Nancy Sorrels of Augusta County Alliance shared it’s likely in the end, when opponents will need to resort to legal action, that proving irreparable harm to human lives and livelihoods will be more effective than establishing all the resulting environmental damage.

Greg Buppert continued,

“There are areas like Little Valley, and other places, that will cause, can cause a delay for this project. Now, of course a delay is beneficial. Pointing out problems with the preferred route may convince FERC to send Dominion back to the drawing board and redraw the route and those delays could be significant.” One critical aspect of the whole process Wednesday night’s group wants landowners who have been contacted by Dominion, or Doyle Land Services, to understand, is there is absolutely no need to sign or agree to ANYthing before FERC issues a certificate of need. While the experts also agreed that FERC is practically certain to issue the permit, every bit of documentation collected along the way, especially anything that proves how human life can be harmed, particularly by ruining primary water sources, such as springs, and damaging one’s ability to earn a living might get some attention. They were candid about how low wildlife, even endangered species, and plants rank in FERC’s review.   In addition to that “irreparable damage” to life and livelihood, everyone was encouraged to speak out in opposition to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s vote on “converting” ten properties in Highland and Bath from being protected, to being used for the pipeline. This vote by the VOF Board will take place February 9th at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries building in Henrico County. Information for how to comment to VOF, and also the US Forest Service is available on AMRs website.

Again Greg Buppert: “This would be, if it’s allowed, would be the largest intrusion on protected easement lands in Virginia. “

And, while it’s very unlikely one Federal agency would ever discount another’s power or opinions, it appears the United States Forest Service is consistently careful and thorough following the National Environmental Protection Act. Rick Webb,

“The Forest Service has raised lots and lots of concerns repeatedly, and Dominion has persistently ignored them.” Letters of support can be sent to the Forest Service, and sent to FERC about what a good job the Forest Service is doing. For more detailed guidance on how to understand the 2,300 page document in thirteen sections that is only a draft, visit the ABRA website, and for ongoing coverage of this issue, stay tuned to AMR.

To offer letters of Support to the Forest Service:  Forest Service Chief, Thomas Tidwell, ttidwell@fs.gov  and two Regional Foresters, Kathleen Atkins, katkinson@fs.gov ,  and Tony Tooke ttooke@fs.gov

And to submit copies of same letters to FERC:  http://www.ferc.gov/.   Docket number is CP15-554.  click on documents and filings and use the eComment feature.  Or send by mail to: Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr. Deputy Secretary, FERC, 888First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426

To let Virginia Outdoors foundation know how you feel about “conversions” of conservation easement lands to allow for ACP construction:  Ms. Stephanie Ridder, VOF Chairman, 39 Garrett Street, suite 200, Warrenton ,VA, 20186, or bcabibbo@vofonline.org.



Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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