In a case argued by SELC on behalf of VWC, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the NPS’s permit for the ACP.
The ruling entered by a panel of three judges vacated a right-of-way permit from the U.S. National Park Service which means that Dominion no longer has the permit needed to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway, which is part of the National Park System, weaves through some of the most scenic terrain in Virginia and North Carolina. Now, if pipeline developers continue construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's 600-mile route from West Virginia, through Virginia and into North Carolina, they will be operating without two crucial federal permits. The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife were also petitioners on the issue. A big thank you to the Southern Environmental Law Center for their continuous work on protecting this special part of Virginia!
Photo by Steven David Johnson
We always have fun exhibiting at events. Today we talked Wilderness and made binoculars with a great group of outdoor loving folks at Great Outdoors Day, hosted by Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg. If you missed us today, we hope to see you next month at Shenandoah National Park's Wilderness Weekend. We'll be there! If you have an upcoming event at which the Virginia Wilderness Committee would be a good fit for exhibiting or presenting, please contact us.
On Saturday, June 23, a great group of Wilderness loving folks gathered at the Dickerman farm in Swoope for the Virginia Wilderness Committee's Annual Meeting. Executive Director, Mark Miller, updated the group on our work regarding several current campaigns, including: Lower Cowpasture, North Shenandoah Mountain, and the issue of Sustainable Recreation. He also shared information on two new projects: potential Wilderness in the Dismal Swamp and work with the Monacan Nation. Lynn Cameron shared updates on all of her work as co-chair of the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain. A new slate of officers was voted in and two new Board members were added.
The Board is now led by:
President - John Hutchinson
Vice President - Steve Johnson
Treasurer - Larry Evans
Secretary - Pete Bsumek
Our new Board members are:
Tom Engle, who lives in Augusta County near Middlebrook with his wife Sharon and great niece Ivy. Tom retired from the U.S. State Department last year after a 31-year career as a Foreign Service officer. During that time he worked in U.S. embassies in China, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany and Afghanistan, as well as in several offices in the Washington headquarters. Tom has been an avid hiker since spending his high school years near the Smoky Mts., and his introduction to this region was through camping in the 1980’s in Ramsey’s Draft Wilderness.
Tyler Meader, whose family moved from the suburbs outside Harrisburg, PA to a historic home surrounded by woods, creeks and the James River when he was 10, beginning his love of the outdoors. Through the Boy Scout program he became well acquainted with the wonderful opportunities for hiking and camping that Virginia has to offer. His love of the mountains and being outdoors has continued into his adult life, and for over 25 years he has spent many nights in some of the wilderness areas in Virginia. Tyler lives in Glen Allen and works for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation-Division of Natural Heritage.
The next year will be an exciting one for the Virginia Wilderness Committee!
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has extended its 30-day public comment period regarding stream crossings for the ACP and the MVP. The comment period now ends June 15. If you did not make a comment on the stream crossings, now is the time. Do it today!
Include in your comments:
by email – NWP12InfoOnACP@deq.virginia.gov
by mail – DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218
or deliver to – DEQ, 1111 East Main Street Richmond, VA 23219
What they really need to know is how you enjoy and depend upon your stream or wetland (mention it by name) aesthetically, recreationally, for daily living, or for agricultural needs, and why the blanket Nationwide 12 Permit does not ensure you and your downstream neighbors will be able to enjoy your stream in the same way if the pipeline gets built. Your voice matters, act today!
Please join us for the Virginia Wilderness Committee Annual Meeting
Saturday, June 23 at 11am
All members are invited! Meeting will include the election of officers, annual report, and updates on our Wilderness efforts. Bring lunch, a camp chair, and a thirst for the inspiration of wild places!
The Dickerman Farm
228 Old Parkersburg Turnpike
Swoope VA 24479
Rt. 42, 6 mi S of Churchville,
R onto Rt. 688 at church, .8 mi, then L at ribbons.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction Halted
Problems with unneeded pipeline come to light
Richmond, VA – The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision to invalidate the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s review of Dominion and Duke Energy’s fracked-gas pipeline. Without a valid permit Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) developers cannot continue construction. The Southern Environmental Law Center has notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of the court decision and its significance to the construction of the pipeline through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
The case brought by Defenders of Wildlife, Virginia Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club and argued by the Southern Environmental Law Center is just the first example of the result of rushed permit approvals made under political pressure for the unneeded Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a risky and unnecessary project that customers will have to pay for. Dominion has put tremendous pressure on agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service to move this unnecessary project through the regulatory process as quickly as possible,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The Fish and Wildlife Service will need to review the full opinion of the court and we believe will have a lot of work to do to arrive at a permit for this project that will be sufficient enough to stand up in the court of law.”
The three-judge panel found that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion required to certify the Atlantic Coast Pipeline did not comport with the law. The initial decision stated that the agency’s limits for harming endangered species were so indeterminate that they undermined the Endangered Species Act.
"This fracked gas pipeline is a bad deal for people and wildlife. It will forever damage our region’s incredibly biodiverse mountains and streams, spelling doom for the fish, mussels, crayfish and other rare and vulnerable species that depend on these habitats,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney, for Defenders of Wildlife. “Under this ruling, all construction should cease until these impacts are fully understood."
“To date, only political considerations have driven this poorly conceived project. Today the rule of law prevailed. We thank all those who insist that ACP and Dominion must follow the law. Decisions should be made on the best available science and the laws of the United States—not on politics,” Mark Miller, Virginia Wilderness Committee.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is just one of the many agencies that were forced to rush through their job and failed to adequately review the threats of the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline," said Nathan Matthews, Sierra Club staff attorney. "These fracked gas pipelines are dirty, dangerous and not even necessary for meeting our energy needs. The fact that these polluting corporations want to build these pipelines just shows that they put their profits over people, communities, and endangered species.”
A full decision of the Court’s opinion has not yet been issued.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.www.SouthernEnvironment.org
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision on a case argued by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Virginia Wilderness Committee, Defenders of Wildlife, and Sierra Club that requires all construction and any activity associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to halt immediately. The three-judge panel found the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, which is required to certify the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, did not meet minimum legal standards.
ACTION ALERT – House Farm Bill would cut the “public” out of “public lands.” Urge your Reps to vote NO.
The House of Representatives will soon be voting on the 2018 Farm Bill, which would make big changes to the laws that protect public lands and their users. Among many harmful provisions, the House version of the bill would allow the Forest Service to bypass public input on clear cutting up to 6,000 acres (nearly 10 square miles!) in any single project. By comparison, even the largest Southeastern National Forests can sustainably support logging on only about 3,000 acres per year. As a result, this bill’s loophole would swallow every acre of logging in our region, and it would open up long-protected roadless areas to road construction and logging.
Our Southeastern National Forests provide clean drinking water to millions, provide places to play and explore for millions more, shelter countless rare wildlife species, and support diverse local economies built on tourism. By allowing industrial-scale logging in the wrong places, the bill places all those values at risk.
If the Forest Service needs to do a 6,000-acre project, it can do so already. But first it has to take input from the public about how they’d be affected, and it has to consider how water, soil, and wildlife habitat can be protected. The draft Farm Bill, however, would authorize logging without public involvement or consideration of impacts. This bill would guarantee that logging projects will get bigger, and they will get worse.
Public participation makes public lands work, but the House Farm Bill would remove the public’s voice.
Please call or write your representative in the House and tell them:
If you don’t have contact info for your representative, you can find her/him here:
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS AND THE LISTED COMMITTEE MEMBERS!
The House and Senate subcommittee reports released Sunday are bad for land conservation. Several of the harmful amendments stem from a misunderstanding of mitigation money.
Virginia has well established land conservation policies that emphasize geographic distribution of money and an increasing prioritization of public access and water quality protection. The mitigation money referenced in the subcommittee reports goes to mitigate mercury pollution in the Shenandoah Valley; power lines across Jamestown; and pipelines through our most pristine landscapes. Funding those geographic specific projects to remediate harm done should not be substituted for the Commonwealth’s established land conservation funding priorities that citizens and communities rely.
Essentially, the Virginia Senate is proposing to raid funds dedicated to mitigating impacts from pipelines in order to fund Government conservation departments.
We are asking you to please contact your Legislators!
Also please contact the members on the lists below to express the importance of fully funding state conservation programs and keeping mitigation money focused on addressing impacts from pipelines, power-lines and other developments. These 13 individuals will work over the next week to hammer out the differences in the House and Senate budgets. Please call, write, or visit the conferees!
-Senator Norment (Co-Chair), 804-698-7503, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Hanger (Co-Chair), 804-698-7524, email@example.com
-Senator Howell, 804-698-7532, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Saslaw, 804-698-7535, email@example.com
-Senator Newman, 804-698-7523, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Senator Ruff, 804-698-7515, email@example.com
-Senator Wagner, 804-698-7507, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Delegate Jones (Chairman), 804-698-1076, DelCJones@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Peace, 804-698-1097, DelCPeace@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Knight, 804-698-1081, DelBKnight@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Garrett, 804-698-1023, DelSGarrett@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Torian, 804-698-1052, DelLTorian@house.virginia.gov
-Delegate Sickles, 804-698-1043, DelMSickles@house.virginia.gov
Virginia Outdoors Foundation: Senate: Removes $2 million in General Fund each year. Senate rationale: VOF was awarded approximately $40 million through two recent mitigation agreements, thereby reducing the need for additional State investment. Recommendation: Restore $2 million per year to VOF. Cutting VOF by $2 million a year would shut down VOF. The mitigation money cannot be used for general operations except relating to management of the mitigation money. VOF background: VOF is Virginia’s leader in land conservation, protecting more than 800,000 acres in 107 counties and independent cities. VOF was created by the General Assembly in 1966.
Land Preservation Tax Credit, both houses: Recommends $20k individual cap on usage of credits. Budget writers say this will equal $6.6 million in savings per year. Recommendation: Allow individual use of credits to go to $50K as planned. There is no documentation that this cap will equal $6.6 million in annual savings. It appears that the $20K cap is hurting the market for tax credits when landowners sell their credits. Further, landowners put their property under easement in 2017 with the understanding that the limit would go back to $50k – to change the rules on them now after they have permanently preserved their land is unfair.
Virginia Land Conservation Funding: The Virginia Land Conservation Fund was reduced from $4.5M to $1.5M in the Senate, while the House eliminates all funding in the first year and restores to $4.5M in the 2nd year. Recommendation: $4.5 million per year for VLCF as recommended in the Governor’s budget. The settlement agreements represent compensation of damages to the resources. VLCF should be unaffected by the settlement – they are two different things with two different intents. VLCF background: VLCF represents the Commonwealth’s commitment to conservation. VLCF provides state matching grants on a competitive basis for the protection of open spaces and parks, natural areas, historic areas, and farmland and forest preservation in all areas of the Commonwealth. VLCF leverages local, federal, and private investment for natural resource conservation by paying no more than 50% of the project costs (state agencies are not required to provide a match). At least 50% of funding must be used for projects with public access. Projects are weighted on criteria such as a priority in Virginia Outdoors Plan or local comprehensive plan; water quality value; and public access. Projects receive more points if they provide riparian buffers.
The Department of Conservation & Recreation and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. We are concerned about tying the agencies’ hands, and that flexibility is needed to be able to acquire key pieces of land when they become available.
The National Park Service (NPS) is considering a steep increase in entrance fees at seventeen of their most popular and beloved national parks during their peak seasons, which includes Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. If the proposal moves forward, Shenandoah National Park's fees would rise from the current $25 per vehicle to $70 per vehicle between June 1 and October 31 each year.
We are asking you to voice your opposition to this proposal because:
We all recognize that the NPS is drastically underfunded. As Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated in justifying the increased fee, our national parks are ailing and have acquired a maintenance backlog of roughly $12 billion. Instead of asking the American public to shoulder this burden, a proposal before Congress now, the National Park Service Legacy Act, would allow a more substantial and sustainable investment in our parks. We need to urge Congress to put this bill on the president’s desk and pass a budget that puts more money, not less, into our national parks.
The NPS is accepting public comments on the entrance fee increase proposal through December 22. Please submit your comments at the NPS’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website.