This is another in a series of profiles of the member groups of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance.
Friends of Nelson
In May 2014, shortly after Dominion Energy announced its plan to build a natural gas pipeline through Nelson County, Virginia, a group of affected landowners and concerned citizens convened to discuss how to respond to this threat to their rural county. That informal gathering resulted in the formation of Friends of Nelson (FoN), a citizen organization whose mission is “to protect property rights, property values, rural heritage and the environment for all citizens of Nelson County, Virginia.” And, there is indeed much worth protecting in Nelson.
Nelson County is known widely for its iconic beauty, which includes portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and the James River, for its thriving adult beverage industry, and as the setting for the popular TV series, The Waltons. Nelson is also known for the devastation that Hurricane Camille brought in 1969, where heavy rains led to landslides that killed at least 124 people. Memories of Camille prompted FON to commission a study of the dangers posed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which concluded that the ACP could not be built safely. Another expert study funded by FoN showed that the potential economic costs of the ACP outweighed the potential benefits.
Friends of Nelson (FoN) is a member-run organization, governed by a 15-member Board, a few dedicated contractors and dozens of hardworking volunteers. It conducts regular information meetings for its membership and the community. A recent gathering featured a presentation by a Commonwealth of Virginia geologist discussing the significant threats that landslides pose in Nelson County because of its steep terrain and highly erodible soils. FoN has also been very active in providing assistance to landowners whose property would be adversely affected by the ACP.
In October, FoN, a founding member of ABRA, was given the Community Stalwart Award by the Property Rights and Pipeline Center (PRPC), a national coalition supporting the fight to prevent abuses of eminent domain for siting oil and gas infrastructure.