“Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) through eleven properties meant to be protected in perpetuity would deeply undermine the conservation easement program in Virginia and do untold harm to the conservation values of this unique region,” stated a filing submitted December 13 by 13 organizations, 10 of whom are ABRA members, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The filing, submitted on behalf of the groups by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), was in response to the proposal by Dominion Transmission, Inc. (DTI), managing partner of the ACP, that the pipeline route be permitted to cross eleven conservation easements held by the Virginia Outdoor Foundation (VOF), a state agency.
Under Virginia law, an interstate natural gas pipeline is precluded from crossing lands protected by conservation easements held by the VOF, unless a modification is granted by the agency in accordance with specific guidelines. The SELC filing contends that the DTI proposal does not meet the criteria specified by law.
Major points made in the submission are:
- The ACP falls outside the scope of easement provisions addressing utilities;
- Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not an easement “modification;”
- The ACP fails to meet the statutory requirements for conversion under the Virginia Open-Space Land Act;
VOF is scheduled to vote on the DTI easement proposal at its February 9 meeting. FERC has recently asked DTI to detail assurances that it will receive approval from VOF.
The 10 members of ABRA on whose behalf the comments were filed were the Shenandoah Valley, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation, Augusta County Alliance, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, Friends of Nelson, Valley Conservation Council, Voices From Bath and the West Virginia Highland Conservancy. Also associated with the comments are the Natural Resources Defense Council, Piedmont Environmental Council and the Rockfish Valley Foundation.