In danger: the South Fork of the Rockfish River, Nelson County
POSTPONED! Professor Yuri Gorby Phd ~ Informational meeting on Natural Gas, Safety and Public Health
Wednesday, March 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Lewisburg Public Library.
Allegheny- Blue Ridge Alliance Updates 3.20.20
Federal Court Rules Against Nelson County in ACP Challenge
DEQ notes problems with erosion control during lull in work on Mountain Valley Pipeline
At a time when building the Mountain Valley Pipeline was focused almost entirely on controlling erosion, muddy runoff continued to flow from dormant construction sites.
In a letter last month to a conservation group that first raised the issue, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said the infractions would be forwarded to the state attorney general’s office, which has the authority to seek tough financial penalties.
DEQ is “committed to aggressively and effectively enforcing and maintaining compliance of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction,” Paylor wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia. Sligh made the letters public this week.
Sligh had asked the week before about DEQ inspections that showed violations of erosion and sediment control regulations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019 — when construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline was stalled by legal action, leaving workers to concentrate largely on efforts to curb erosion.
Problems with erosion along the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline continued from September through December of last year, despite a slowdown in work, an environmental group said in a letter to Virginia regulators. This photo, taken last month, shows a Mountain Valley inspector at an inactive construction site off Iron Ridge Road just past Foggy Ridge Road in Franklin County. The Roanoke Times | File 2020
The violations were especially troubling, Sligh wrote, because they began so shortly after Sept. 18 — the last day covered by a consent decree in which Mountain Valley agreed to pay Virginia $2.15 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged similar problems in the past.
Approved in December, the consent decree carried a provision for enhanced fines should the same issues recur.
Paylor wrote a month ago in his letter to Sligh that “DEQ acknowledges noncompliance noted in inspection reports during the last quarter of 2019. These will be communicated to the Office of the Attorney General for inclusion in a future demand for penalties.”
But no demand had apparently been made by Tuesday. DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said the agency is “compiling noncompliance information monthly” and will notify Mountain Valley, in conjunction with the attorney general, of any violations or penalties.
A spokeswoman for Mountain Valley said the company had not been told of any recent violations. “MVP continues to work cooperatively with the DEQ,” Natalie Cox wrote in an email.
In a follow-up letter to Paylor on Monday, Sligh urged the state to act promptly.
“Violations by MVP, which have been frequent and damaging to waterbodies and landowners, must not be handled as routine occurrences,” he wrote. “If construction resumes, the history of this project tells us that the frequency and magnitude of violations is likely to increase, unless DEQ shows that it will act quickly and decisively.”
An attorney for Mountain Valley accused Sligh of making “inaccurate and misleading statements” about the company’s compliance with erosion and sediment control regulations.
It’s not unusual for silt fences, sediment traps and other erosion control devices to be breached by heavy rains, but those “deficiencies” can be quickly repaired and do not amount to formal violations, Todd Normane, deputy general counsel for Equitrans Midstream Corp., wrote in a Feb. 25 letter to Sligh that was posted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s online docket.
“There is a persistent misconception that Virginia law prohibits the discharge of sediment-laden storm water from a construction site,” Normane wrote. “That is legally incorrect and factually impossible.
“The inspection reports cited in your letter do not represent violations and the ‘aggressive enforcement action’ requested by Wild Virginia is not warranted,” the letter stated.
Sligh, however, said it appears that his reading of the reports was borne out by Paylor’s letter.
Normane also accused Wild Virginia and other environmental groups of making matters worse by filing multiple legal challenges, which have delayed pipeline construction and forced the use of temporary erosion control measures that are more vulnerable to storms.
“If Wild Virginia’s concern is truly erosion and sedimentation, then the best environmental outcome is to support the completion of construction as soon as possible so that the ROW [right of way] can be fully restored and revegetated,” he wrote.
Wild Virginia reviewed 67 inspection reports from between Sept. 19 and Dec. 20, covering work sites in the six Virginia counties — Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania — though which the pipeline will pass on its route from northern West Virginia to Chatham.
Three of the inspections found that Mountain Valley had not installed erosion control devices as required by the state, Sligh wrote in his letter. In another 19, DEQ officials determined that the devices were not properly maintained. And in at least eight cases, sediment was washed away from the 125-foot -wide construction right of way.
The problems came after Mountain Valley suspended work on parts of the pipeline after Wild Virginia and other groups raised questions in a lawsuit about the project’s impact on endangered or threatened species of fish and bats in its path.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval for the pipeline, which was followed Oct. 15 by an order from FERC that all pipeline work cease, except for stabilization and erosion control efforts.
Although other legal challenges have led to the suspension of two other sets of federal permits, Mountain Valley says it expects to obtain new approvals in time to complete the 303-mile pipeline by the end of the year.
Uplifted Standing In Line at SCOTUS
R. Whitescarver @ gettingmoreontheground.com
February 27, 2020
I Was In Line All Night, Here’s What Really Happened
It was an event of a lifetime—sitting in the courtroom of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) hearing arguments in the U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River case on Monday, February 24—the case that will determine if a dirt path, known as the Appalachian Trail, is actually “land” or not. For me, the most uplifting part of the whole event was the people standing in line for hours outside the courthouse, in near-freezing temperatures, waiting to hear the case that will weigh heavily on the lives of thousands forever. Maury Johnson, pipeline fighter and farmer from Monroe County, West Virginia, was first in line arriving at 6:30 Sunday night. The determination and leadership of these folks inspire me and so many others. The true grit of these people and thousands more like them is the reason the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will never be built.
They Only Allow 50 People In
I was asleep in bed at a friend’s house in Arlington, Virginia. I received a group text at 10:30 p.m. from my friend Carolyn who was in line. She wrote that we had better come if we wanted to get in to hear the case. She was 36 in line. They only let 50 people in.
“I’m en route,” I texted back.
My friend Roni drove me to the Supreme Court building, and we arrived at 11 p.m. As soon as I saw the people in line, I knew I was not prepared for an all-nighter in the cold. They had chairs, sleeping bags, blankets, and tarps. I had the knee pad I use in the garden, an overcoat, my gloves, and a wool cap. Folks from the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Friends of Buckingham, and the Sierra Club welcomed me with open arms. I immediately went to the end of the line, put my knee pad down on the sidewalk and declared to the group that this was my spot. Counting from the beginning of the line and if no one butted in, I would be the 45th person.
“Equal Justice Under the Law.” Yeah, Right.
There were two kinds of people in line that frigid night: the pipeline fighters and the homeless folks of D.C. hired by a professional “line-standing” company to stand in line for the pro-pipeline people. Pro-pipeline people from Dominion Energy and their allies didn’t start arriving until the next morning at 5:30. They rolled in curbside in their high-dollar suits, freshly brushed teeth, clean-shaven faces, and pretty hair.
They coordinated with a woman who had a clipboard standing on the corner of First Street and East Capitol. She escorted them to the homeless people line-standing for them all through the frigid night. The corporate rich people handed money to the homeless people and then took their place in line. I looked up at the words on the Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under the Law,” and felt betrayed.
The lady in the white pants holds a clipboard. She is escorting pro-pipeline people that paid to have homeless folks “line-sit” for them. Photo courtesy R. Whitescarver.
People trickled in all through the night, and the line grew to well over 100 people. By my estimate, 60 percent of the people in line appeared to be homeless people hired by the line-standing company. Most of them reclined in their chair and covered their whole body with a tarp.
This behavior—of beating the system any way possible, buying people off, and flaunting their power and money in the faces of the common people, whom they walk over and whose dreams they steal—is why people are standing up to them, resisting, and fighting. This is why the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will never be built.
Upbeat and Positive
The anti-pipeline people were in clusters of three to four scattered through the line. They were cold yet upbeat, positive, talkative, and very helpful. There are no bathrooms on the premises. Union Station is about five blocks away, but we learned they lock their toilets until 5 a.m. There is a 7-Eleven five blocks away that stays open all night. Oh, thank heaven.
We all guarded each other’s place in line as some left for the 7-Eleven or simply walked around to keep warm. I walked around a lot. I’ll never forget the image of Maury Johnson sitting in his chair at position number one. He’s a big guy. He was in his farmer clothes, and the only coat he had was a lightweight Carhartt jacket. He wore a red plastic poncho over his body and chair.
I’ll also never forget the kindness of my line-mate Julie Reynolds-Engle. She gave me a couple of hand warmers that I put in my boots to keep my feet from getting numb.
The Golden Tickets
The police started walking the sidewalk around us at about 7:00 in the morning. Our line tightened up, and I watched for people butting in line. A policeman started handing out the coveted golden tickets with your number on it. I braced for disappointment. He finally arrived and handed me a ticket—49. Four people had butted in line.
The lucky 50 moved to the next level, closer to the building. A young lady I met during the night, Laura LaFleur (ticket 36), asked me if I would switch with her so she could be with her friend, Julie (48). I agreed and we switched tickets. We took some pictures then moved to the entrance to the left of the tall columns. There we received our first lecture and then proceeded into the building and through the first security checkpoint.
Once through security, we put our personal items in lockers and waited in the cafeteria for instructions to proceed upstairs. At about 9:10 we were instructed to line up against a wall outside the cafeteria in numerical order. After about a half-hour, we proceeded up the stairs to the courtroom level. There we received another lecture and then proceeded into the foyer through another security checkpoint.
“The Trail Is Not Land”
We were escorted into the courtroom and seated. “Oyez, oyez, oyez,” the marshal of the court called out, and the proceeding began. It was an hour long event. Each justice was engaged and asked questions, with the exception of Justice Clarence Thomas who didn’t say a single word. I didn’t think there was a clear winner or loser but the strangest claim was the Forest Service lawyer’s argument that the dirt path of the Appalachian Trail was not land. “The trail is not land,” he said over and over.
“Nobody makes that distinction in real life,” Justice Elena Kagan stated.
Read the entire transcript of the argument U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association.
I did not know until after the argument that my friends Julie (48) and Laura (49) did not get in. For some reason, the court stopped letting people in after 47. My heart sank. They stood in the cold the whole night to no avail.
“Equal Justice Under the Law?” I don’t think so.
Contact your legislators and demand that they stop the exchange of money for line-standing at the Supreme Court. Buying your way into court is not right.
And that’s not the only thing wrong with the system. People should have designated places in line so there is no guesswork, restroom facilities should be provided, smoking should not be permitted in line, and police should patrol the sidewalk. Why only 50 people? Why not televise it?
The Fate of the ACP
As for the fate of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, there are seven other permits that have been vacated or withdrawn for the un-needed, over-budget, an ill-planned pipeline. In addition, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people joining the ranks of pipeline fighters.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will never be built.
For the latest update on the ACP visit the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance website.
SCOTUS hears arguments in fight over pipeline under Appalachian Trail; 18 AGs support project
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments over whether a 605-mile natural gas pipeline can be constructed under parts of the Appalachian Trail.
Under consideration by the court is whether the U.S. Forest Service, which supports the pipeline, or the National Parks Service, opposing the construction, has the right to decide whether it should be built along its present route.
The review follows a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision that ruled the Forest Service did not properly consider other routes, that federal law barred energy development on the trail, and that the National Parks Service was the proper agency to make any decision.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is proposed to run through three states, bringing natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia to the North Carolina coast. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed a brief opposing its construction, while West Virginia, along with 17 other states, argued in support of the pipeline. North Carolina did not join or file its own brief.
The justices must decide whether the $7.5 billion pipeline, proposed by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, is necessary to meet the country’s energy needs or whether the trail is off limits to such as development.
Under consideration are the Mineral Leasing Act and National Trails System Act. The NPS manages the trail while the Forest Service is responsible for the adjoining federal lands.
In their brief, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and the 17 other AGs argued that the Fourth Circuit decision turns the Mineral Leasing Act on its head.
The act was “designed to facilitate crucial energy infrastructure development” but the court took a “narrow exception for ‘lands in the National Park System’ and used it to transform the roughly 1,000 miles of federal land along the Appalachian Trail (if not the entire Trail) into a near impenetrable barrier to energy development.”
In summary, the states wrote that they “have strong interests in preserving the Mineral Leasing Act’s balance between robust energy development and responsible management of public lands.”
In Virginia’s brief, Herring noted that 301 miles of the proposed pipeline will run through the state, giving it a strong interest in its construction.
“Conserving natural resources and historical sites is critically important to Virginians and is enshrined in the state Constitution,” the brief states.
“But for Virginia’s natural resources to be adequately protected, federal agencies charged with administering federal lands within its borders must fulfill their statutory obligations,” Herring’s office wrote. “The Forest Service did not do so here, to the detriment of Virginians and others who enjoy the natural treasures in the pipeline’s path.”
The brief noted that it would run through the George Washington National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian Trail.
Virginia argues that the claim it is necessary to address demand in Virginia and North Carolina does not withstand scrutiny as “recent analyses indicate that the demand for natural gas will remain flat or decrease for the foreseeable future and can be met with existing infrastructure.”
This Pipeline Case Could Gut 100 Years of Safeguards for Federal Parks
The Supreme Court is poised to allow a gas pipeline to pass underneath the Appalachian Trail. Experts can’t believe the case has gotten this far.
By KATHRYN MILES
Kathryn Miles is the author of four books, including Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake.
When is a hiking trail not the same as the land it sits on?
That’s a question before the Supreme Court, which last week heard oral arguments concerning the siting of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5.1 billion project that, if completed, would transport over a billion cubic feet of gas each day from West Virginia to North Carolina. The arguments were the latest in five years of legal snags for the project that has pitted two federal agencies against each other in a battle over jurisdiction and administrative oversight of federal lands.
As proposed, the 3-foot diameter Atlantic Coast Pipeline, co-owned by Dominion and Duke Energies, would span approximately 600 miles, 21 miles of which would cross the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. This route would also require the pipeline to cross the 2,100-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which bisects much of the George Washington Forest. Under the proposal approved by the U.S. Forest Service, the pipeline would cross the trail by way of a half-mile-long tunnel 600 feet below the trail.
Oral arguments on February 24 asked the court whether the Forest Service had the authority to grant this right-of-way access for the pipeline. At issue is the federal Mineral Leasing Act. Passed by Congress in 1920 as a response to the Teapot Dome scandal, the Mineral Leasing Act was intended to protect federal lands from private interests and to ensure fair use of the natural resources those lands contain. The act also stipulates that lands administered by the National Park Service are exempt from uses such as mineral exploration, drilling and the locating of pipelines.
Environmental groups fear that a ruling in favor of the energy companies behind the project could ultimately open up millions of acres of federal land—national monuments and historic places, wild and scenic rivers and other wilderness areas—to uses ranging from energy exploration and timber harvesting to highway construction and mining. Doing so, they say, would upend over a century of what was once considered inviolable protection.
The Appalachian Trail is administered by the National Park Service. Sixty percent of the trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine crosses state and private land, mostly by way of easement agreements. In many cases, those easements allow for shared uses, including the siting of pipelines (there are currently approximately 50 pipelines that cross the Appalachian Trail). But the remaining 40 percent of the trail is on federal land—like the national forests. And where those sections of the trail are concerned, the Mineral Leasing Act is clear, says Vermont School of Law professor Hillary Hoffmann.
“By design, the Appalachian Trail—like all National Park Service land—is granted the most protected status for federal lands,” Hoffmann says. “It’s hard to see this case as anything other than one federal agency trying to steamroll another one.”
That was the decision of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard the case in December 2018. It determined that the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was clearly a unit of the Park Service and therefore excluded from natural resource considerations afforded to other federal lands such as national forests. Any other interpretation, “would give the Forest Service more authority than the NPS on National Park [Service] land,” insisted the panel of three judges. Doing so, they concluded, “defies logic.”
But some of the Supreme Court justices weren’t so sure. They questioned whether the Forest Service land might also be considered a kind of easement. And they entertained the petitioner’s question of what constitutes land at all: whether it is just the footpath itself, or merely the idea of the footpath, or the footpath and all of the land below it, down to the center of the earth.
“When I think of a trail, I think of something that is on top of the earth. And when I think of a pipeline that is 600 feet below the surface, that doesn’t seem like a trail,” Justice Samuel Alito said. “So instead of having to draw this distinction between the trail and the land, why can’t we just say that the trail is on the surface and something that happens 600 feet below the surface is not on the trail?”
The answer to that question matters quite a lot, Hoffmann says. “What this ultimately does is open up the idea that subsurface areas can be considered mineral estate.”
This, she says, would reclassify protected federal lands in a way similar to private property in states like Texas and Oklahoma, where property ownership often does not include access to minerals found below the ground. There, a resident might own a home, but access to the oil or natural gas below it could belong to an energy company or private investor who, in turn, also maintains the ability to mine or drill for those minerals at will.
Were the court to decide in favor of the Forest Service, Hoffmann adds, the Supreme Court would be allowing the federal government to remove the protective legal framework limiting extractive uses of parks and wilderness. These areas, she says, could then be considered fair game for the kind of “multi-use” scenarios like timber harvesting and mining seen today on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. That, in turn, would allow the BLM and USFS to grant drilling and pipeline rights to dozens—if not hundreds—of similarly protected National Park Service parcels, including previously protected places like Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the already reduced Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, or national parks, like Grand Teton, that are abutted on multiple sides by Forest Service land.
“Imagine bridges, pipelines, or water projects bisecting the Grand Canyon, its walls, or the Colorado River,” Hoffmann says. “It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten that public lands belong to the entire public, and not just to the Department of Agriculture and whomever happens to be secretary at the time,” Hoffmann says.
The Mineral Leasing Act, she says, is supposed to prevent that from happening. And that has left Hoffmann and other legal scholars—including at least one of the Supreme Court justices—wondering why the court agreed to hear the case at all.
Just moments into the oral arguments, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned whether the entire argument might not be moot when it comes to the completion of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. She noted that the 4th Circuit Court of Appealsvacated the Forest Service’s approval of the project based not just on the problematic Appalachian Trail crossing, but also on multiple environmental and procedural missteps along the way.
This question was not an integral part of last week’s arguments, but environmental law scholars say it should have been.
Unlike national parks, which are preserved as “unimpaired” resources, national forests have always been managed with multiple uses in mind, including timber harvesting and mineral exploration. However, these uses are restricted by multiple federal laws, including the National Forest Management Act, which mandates that forests be governed by conservation plans that promote ecological diversity and health, and the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires all federal agencies to prepare a formal environmental impact statement prior to altering the land those agencies manage for any so-called special use (such as routing a pipeline through the forest). This impact statement must demonstrate that any special use will not harm any sensitive species found within the forest.
When Dominion Energy first announced plans for the pipeline in 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission required the company to complete an environmental impact statement that included a full account of possible water issues, along with an understanding of potential damage to threatened and endangered species, such as the candy darter—a rainbow colored fish recently added to the endangered species list. Because the pipeline would cross through mountainous and unstable terrain, the Forest Service also required Atlantic to produce proof of concept designs demonstrating the stability and safety of its pipeline in 10 high hazard areas along the proposed corridor.
Atlantic eventually produced two designs for demonstration purposes only. The Forest Service found both suspect and renewed its request for 10 actual site designs. The Forest Service also rejected stability studies provided by Atlantic after noting they had not been conducted by properly certified professionals. Although Atlantic did not submit its requisite environmental impact study, initial reports submitted by Dominion acknowledged construction of the pipeline would most likely “displace certain sensitive species.” Simultaneous internal analysis at the Forest Service both corroborated and strengthened this conclusion and determined that construction of the pipeline would have long-lasting negative effects not only on threatened and endangered species, but also on the ecosystem as a whole.
Forest Service policy also mandates that environmental impact studies must prove that the proposed special use “cannot reasonably be accommodated on non-National Forest Service lands.” The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Atlantic did not provide the requisite analysis demonstrating that routing the pipeline through national forests was the only viable alternative. The Forest Service requested a “National Forest Avoidance Alternative” for the routing of the pipeline. The court found that Atlantic also failed to provide that document.
In January2016, the Forest Service rejected the proposed route for the pipeline. The two regional heads responsible for making this determination—Kathleen Atkinson, regional forester for the Eastern Region, and Tony Tooke, for the Southern region, cited multiple “inconsistencies with Forest Plan direction,” particularly as they related to ecosystem restoration projects and the protection of three sensitive species: Cheat Mountain salamanders, Cow Knob salamanders and West Virginia northern flying squirrels.
Clyde Thompson was National Forest supervisor for Monongahela at the time. In a phone interview last week, he acknowledged that Atlantic’s failures to complete multiple aspects of the environmental impact and stability studies were major roadblocks to the approval of the pipeline, but he says they weren’t insurmountable.
“The Forest Service was never anti-pipeline,” Thompson says. “We were always just trying to minimize adverse impacts and ensure that worst-case scenarios had been vetted.”
That process was halted shortly after the 2016 election.
According to Thompson and others familiar with the project, in late 2016, a high-ranking Forest Service official, issued a memo informing regional forestry staff that the pipeline would be approved as prescribed by Atlantic and on that company’s timeline.
“The Forest Service changed its mind because of a change in political winds,” says Kent Karriker, who served as the ecosystems group leader for the Monongahela National Forest. “It was made very clear that we were now going to toe the line for Dominion.”
Karriker says he and others working on the impact study were told they were no longer allowed to correspond with Dominion or include their findings on the official Federal Energy Regulatory Commission docket, the document hub for the approval process.
In May 2017, the Forest Service announced Atlantic was exempt from completing the 10 stabilization designs, which would have also included requisite analysis of landslide risks and erosion mitigation. It also exempted Atlantic from National Forest avoidance route alternatives, a statutory requirement demanding that companies demonstrate the only viable path for their pipeline is through federal land, and 13 environmental standards related to water quality, endangered species and outdoor recreation. A few months later, the Forest Service reversed its findings regarding the long-term ecological impact of the pipeline.
“We were basically shut down,” says Karriker, who had authored the impact study. “The project was taken away from people at the forest level and was handled at the regional and Washington level who would go along with whatever Dominion wanted to do, up to and including changing the fact determinations I had written for several sensitive species that showed the project would impact them in a way that was not allowed by the regulations.”
Atkinson and Tooke signed the pipeline approval in November 2017. Soon after, Tooke was promoted to Forest Service chief. (He later resigned after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.) Atkinson retired last year. Neither responded to interview requests. However, in aUSFS news releaseannouncing the approval, Atkinson was quoted as saying the approval “supports Forest Service efforts to provide for multiple uses, minimize impacts to natural resources, and to implement federal polices that encourage energy infrastructure, jobs, and economic growth.”
A group of conservation organizations, led by the Cowpasture River Preservation Association and argued by the Southern Environmental Law Center, challenged this approval in the 4th Circuit of Appeals. Arguments were heard in September 2018; the judges released their unanimous findings in December of that year.
It’s not clear to what extent the circuit court was aware of the internal machinations at work in the Forest Service that led to the eventual approval of the pipeline. But the justices there were decisive in finding that the Forest Service’s multiple “reversals” and the agency’s eventual decision to approve the pipeline were both “arbitrary and capricious.” In their ruling, the judges listed myriad deficiencies and errors in the studies conducted by both Atlantic and the Forest Service. They concluded the Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” calling the agency’s disregard for deleterious effects associated with the pipeline “nothing short of remarkable.”
Neither the Forest Service nor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline appealed the circuit court’s findings of violations to the National Forest Management Act or the National Environmental Policy Act. As a result, those violations will continue to halt the pipeline, regardless of how the Supreme Court decides (no doubt why Ginsburg raised the issue so early in the oral arguments).
Given the number of outstanding violations found by the 4th Circuit Court and the clear specificity of the Mineral Leasing Act, the Supreme Court could determine it erred in agreeing to hear the case at all, Georgetown University Law professor Hope Babcock says.
“It’s hard to understand how the court could find ambiguity in the plain language of the Mineral Leasing Act,” Babcock says. Should a member of the Supreme Court decide that they erred in agreeing to hear the case, now that oral arguments have been made, the justices can caucus and determine to send the case back to the circuit court—an unlikely event, given past Supreme Court practice, she says, but one that is technically possible.
Should the Supreme Court uphold the circuit court’s decision, other pipelines in development may also be in jeopardy. Of particular concern to energy watchers is the beleaguered Mountain Valley Pipeline, which was also granted access by the Forest Service to cross the Appalachian Trail over federal forest lands.
And it’s important to note that, even if the Supreme Court issues a ruling in favor of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with regards to the Appalachian Trail crossing, Atlantic and the Forest Service will still need to rectify those permitting violations.
“The case would still be far from over for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” says D.J. Gerken, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which argued the case.
But the real issue, agrees Gerken, Hoffmann and Babcock, will be what that ruling means for the rest of the public lands administered by the National Park Service.
“We would be putting in jeopardy many of our really pristine wilderness areas, along with historical places and monuments protected by a buffer of forest,” Hoffmann says. “Basically, it would be giving the Forest Service permission to trump National Park Service management mandates. There’s no way Congress intended this to be the effect of the Mineral Leasing Act.”
Action Alert: Tell WVDEP to Hold the MountainValleyPipeline Accountable for Water Quality Violations – WV Rivers Coalition
Congratulations to all our Racers for The 33rd Great Greenbrier River Race on April 27, 2019
The 33rd annual Great Greenbrier River Race was held the last Saturday in April each year in Marlinton, WV. With great prizes, live music and good food,the event attracts a loyal following of racers and fans.
Originally a team event with four members, canoeists, bicyclist and runner, the race has now attracted many people who do it solo. But there is still room for the whole family or the family dog on a team! Kayaks and canoes are both encouraged and the many categories encourage prizes for many racers.
2019 Race Results HERE
Thank you to our 2019 Sponsors!
Tracking Water Policy
March 6, 2018 E -day! at the Capitol – Charleston, WV
Double Crossed Gatherings in Pocahontas & Summers Counties
On Saturday, September 16th, residents from all counties of the Greenbrier River Watershed and beyond met to express their concerns about the two 42-inch pipelines proposed by shale gas developers for the Greenbrier River and tributaries. Two events, called “Double-Crossed,” were held. Gathering at Clover Lick, in Pocahontas County and at Pence Springs, in Summers County at the places proposed for pipeline crossings of the main stem of the river, participants came face to face with what may have only been lines on a map before.
Most of the assembled citizens had commented to federal and state regulators expressing their concern for lost property rights, questioning the need for two big pipelines (and many more}, impacts to fisheries, unstable soils, impacts on fragile karst terrain, loss of water supplies and more, but felt they had not been heard.
Indeed, West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection had just rescinded their approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline the week before, due to concerns about the inadequacy of the company’s environmental review. This was done due to citizens suing in federal court. A group of North Carolina residents also won a similar court case against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, challenging North Carolina’s permitting. However, in a recent ruling FERC, Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, the quasi-federal agency which approves pipelines, ruled that New York state’s regulators could not challenge its approval of a pipeline there.
So, while participants were encouraged by legal appeals, their fear and concerns about the future of their property and the rivers and streams and the landscape they love were not allayed. Ashby Berkeley, whose family’s riverside property in Pence Springs will be crossed by the MVP if it is built, said. “It is not just because they want to come through my family property, I would oppose it for many reasons anyway. It is not the right solution for our country’s energy needs to keep relying on fossil fuels, and the impacts are too great on communities. Plus, where are these gas supplies going? Lots of this gas will be exported overseas, and we here will not see anything but negative impacts. Where is the upside for us?”
Clover Lick resident Maryann Tomasik showed the assembled group the exact location of the spillway for the proposed crossing along the Greenbrier River Trail of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Local resident Nikki Alikakos, who returned to her family home two years ago with her husband and young children expressed dismay that they had thought they would be returning to the bucolic landscapes and country life she missed in larger cities. She decried the intrusion of two large projects on one small river in Appalachia as she and her family walked up the trail to see the proposed crossing. ”It is so disheartening to come home to being part of an energy sacrifice zone,” she lamented.
Organizers of the event, The Greenbrier River Watershed Association (GRWA) and West Virginia Rivers Coalition expressed the hope that the event would help raise peoples’ awareness of the impacts of the proposed pipelines on what are considered relatively unspoiled areas of the state. Leslee McCarty, board member of the GRWA said, “We thought the name double -crossed conveyed not only the fact that the river will be crossed twice if the companies get their way, but also of the sense of betrayal felt by many community members”
Greenbrier Watershed Celebration
is grateful to our sponsors:
And our partners:
The Greenbrier River Trail is Open
July 18, 2017
Reports are that the repairs to the lower portion of the trail have allowed the trail to reopen from North Caldwell to Cass. Portions of the damaged lower section still need some TLC, but reports are that it is definitely bikeable! Everyone should be aware that there may be Preview Changessome hazards. We are so happy the trail is “whole” again! Thank you to everyone who helped make this a reality! Stay tuned for more updates.
See video of restored Greenbrier River Trail HERE
Trump Administration Moves to Undo Clean Water Protections
Angie Rosser, West Virginia Rivers Coalition
Washington DC – Today the Trump Administration put the sources of drinking water for more than half of West Virginians at greater risk, along with the streams and wetlands that filter pollution and provide habitat for wildlife, by starting the process to repeal the Clean Water Rule.
The rule was in place to clarify protections for West Virginia’s vulnerable headwater streams under the Clean Water Act. Over half (54%) of West Virginians get their drinking water from sources that rely on small streams that were protected under this rule.
“This is a troubling day for water drinkers, river users, and wildlife in West Virginia,” said West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser. “Our state’s headwater streams supply the drinking water sources for millions of people; this rule was important for the health of our communities and everyone downstream.”
Rosser said that for more than a decade, many of our streams have been stuck in a legal limbo caused by two divided Supreme Court decisions, actions of the previous administration and inaction by Congress. The rule clarified that 8,390 miles of streams that feed into West Virginia’s drinking water sources were protected. Now those streams are put back at risk.
The Clean Water Act rule repeal announced today by the Trump Administration had been the subject of more than a million public comments, with 87 percent of those responding—including over 2,000 West Virginians, supporting the rule. Learn more.
Clean up begins on Greenbrier River waterways
GREENBRIER COUNTY (WVVA) –
When looking at the rivers and creeks in Greenbrier County it’s easy to spot trash and other debris left behind by last summer’s floods. However, crews are working to clean it up to help prevent future flooding.
Trash piles filled with tires and debris, all from the Rupert/Rainelle area. The Human Resources Development Foundation is taking care of the fallen trees that play a big role in flooding issues.
“We had to cut the trees off in order for the water to flow the way it’s supposed to because with the trees blocking, it’s causing the water to build up which is going to cause a flood again,” said Audie Sloan, Crew Leader for HRDF Greenbrier County. See video HERE
Make it Shine Volunteers Rock!
A chilly start, but the crew from the Greenbrier River Watershed Association was ready for the challenge! Anthony Boat Launch and
Campground Area is ready for the summer. Thanks to all that participated in this years Make it Shine event!
The Great Greenbrier River Race is in the books!
Congratulations to everyone!
2017 was the 31st annual Great Greenbrier River Race. The race is held the last Saturday in April each year. With great prizes, live music and good food,the event attracts a loyal following of racers and fans.
Originally a team event with four members, canoeists, bicyclist and runner, the race has now attracted many people who do it solo. But there is still room for the whole family or the family dog on a team! Kayaks and canoes are both encouraged and the many categories encourage prizes for many racers.
WATERSHED GROUP VIDEO’S
Check out the Watershed Group Videos, including ours, HERE
Currents is a celebration of the dozens of watershed groups that help protect, preserve and restore West Virginia’s waterways, told in their own words. It premiered at the WV Rivers Film Festival in Morgantown on October 22, 2015. Currents is a production of the WVDEP, and was produced and directed by Michael Huff.
For Legislative Updates, please check the following:
Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County. Photo credit to Kevin Jack Photography
Final EPA Report: Fracking Threatens Drinking Water
December 13, 2016
After years of researching the environmental effects of horizontal gas drilling, including the controversial practice called “fracking”, the Environmental Protection Agency released a final report that highlights threats, but is still largely inconclusive.
Drilling practices that capture gas trapped in shale rock deep underground can contaminate drinking water – but federal regulators aren’t sure how risky it is. That’s the final takeaway from a $30 million report that took six years to finish. Continue
WV Supreme Court: No Pipeline Surveys for Private Gain
West Virginia property owners won an important case at the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday when that Court sided with Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys, ruling that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot survey for its proposed natural gas pipeline without landowner permission. The Court held that such a survey would constitute an illegal “private taking for private use,” because the proposed pipeline would not benefit West Virginians. Full story click here
The Greenbrier River Watershed Association, founded in 1990, is one of the oldest watershed associations in the state. With this website, we hope to give the Greenbrier River Watershed residents and visitors the tools they need to take responsible care of the land that is home to the waters. Most importantly we hope that the people of these beautiful mountains get outdoors and enjoy wild and wonderful West Virginia. Come out and join us!
NEWS: Greenbrier River Watershed Association joins with Pipeline Update to provide the most up to date meeting information and news on proposed pipelines in our watershed. If you want the most recent news and information, go to http://pipelineupdate.org/ and see what is happening lots of folks are coming out to meetings all over West Virginia and Virginia!
HIGH QUALITY PIPELINE MAPS:
The Greenbrier River
From the wilds of Blister Swamp high in the Allegheny Mountains until it flows into the New River Gorge National River near Hinton, the Greenbrier River has carved its way almost two hundred miles through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled terrain on the East Coast. It is the longest free flowing river in the East, and boasts two of our newest wilderness areas, Spice Run and Big Draft.
One of the nation’s oldest rail to trail conversions, the scenic Greenbrier River Trail parallels the river for almost eighty miles in Pocahontas and Greenbrier Counties, affording access to the river and some of the surrounding state parks and forest and the Monongahela National Forest.
The river and its tributaries provide drinking water for communities, water for agriculture and recreation, and home for abundant wildlife, including bald eagles, lynx, black bear, river otters and myriad of birds and mammals.