Thursday, September 17, 2015

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Takes Landowners Property in Nelson County

How would u feel?

Sally just retired to Nelson County Virginia from a grueling job at a Flower Shop. She was a Floral Designer for 40 years, creating floral masterpieces for others. Her specialty was the design of elaborate Casket Sprays which took a day to assemble. Sally was on call 24/7 awaiting notice from the funeral home saying that another local citizen had passed away. She was in high demand, in a small Southwest Virginia town, where Florists were far and few between. She worked every Christmas Eve, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and pre-week Thanksgiving. She worked in retail in a fast paced, high pressure, public job.

Once she "paid her dues" and accumulated enough cash to retire, she decided to move to peaceful and quiet Nelson County with her chickens and cats to keep her company. Her decision was based on how fellow landowners loved their land and preserved the natural state of it. Also, just to the north was Charlottesville, Virginia, touted in many publications as "the" best U.S. city for a host of reasons. She bought 6 acres of breathtakingly beautiful pasture land with a wooded stream and a view of undeveloped Afton Mountain.

One day after returning back to her home, which she had recently named "Peaceful Pastures", she was taken aback by a group of men with equipment standing in her field, She thought possibly it was a neighbor that had mistaken her new plot as their land. Cautiously approaching the group, she asked why they were on her property. After a short and unnerving discussion, it was explained they were on official business, hired contractors by Dominion Resources to survey her land for a gas pipeline.

Stay with me on this section, it's really not that boring!
After feeling helpless and frankly, in a panic, she reached out to Friends of Nelson County to try and figure out what was going on. According to Virginia law Eminent Domain is defined as "the power to take or damage private property for a public use, provided that the owner is paid just compensation. VA. CONST. art I, § 11. Using this power, entities with the power of eminent domain may acquire private property from a property owner even if the owner does not wish to sell." There are 2 provisions that must be met in order for your land to be taken and there is disagreement about this part of the text: "Virginia Code § 1-219.1 defines public use to include only the following: (i) the property is taken for the possession, ownership, occupation, and enjoyment of property by the public or a public corporation; (ii) the property is taken for construction, maintenance, or operation of public facilities by public corporations or by private entities provided that there is a written agreement with a public corporation providing for use of the facility by the public."

There are several proposed pipeline projects in Virginia. One begins in West Virginia and ends in Southwest Virginia. West Virginia has a different defined law on Eminent Domain. There is a growing list of court cases being presented over property rights.

Rainbow over Shenandoah Mountains
Sally also learned that a 42" wide pipeline would be buried underground in a swath of her land the width of the length of a football field. She would pay a one time fee but continue to pay taxes and insurance on land she could not disturb. There is no guarantee the pipe would not leak or that a Pigging Station (named because of the squealing noise it makes) or Compression Station would not be placed on her property. She also was surprised to discover that none of the gas flowing through Virginia for this project would be used in Virginia. We are just a thoroughfare to the coast where natural gas can be shipped & sold overseas for 4 times its U.S. value. Sally, scratching her head, wondered exactly what is the "public good" for citizens of Virginia having this project burden our lands and State.

The agency responsible for granting permits for oil and gas pipelines is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This agency certainly sounds official and as if it was managed by the Federal government but actually it is operated by many individuals that have a history in the oil and gas industry. "It is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil." Dominion Resources is the biggest campaign contributor to state politicians in Virginia and all 40 senators currently serving have received campaign contributions. A recent bill will allow Dominion to not be state regulated for 8 years, which conveniently gives them the right to raise your rate during the interim and freeze their rates until 2023 even if utility rates plummet! Dominion is reported to have a surplus of 280 million dollars.

Yep I'm one of them.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project that impacts Nelson County and other counties in the Central part of Virginia also impacts the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was recently reminded that our federally designated parks are owned by EVERY U.S. CITIZEN so WE ARE ALL impacted by this project.

For all of my life I've been told our National Parks are sacred lands set aside for future generations and are therefore to not be destroyed. Doesn't a clear-cut through preserved ecosystems approximating the width of route 29 count as destruction?

Prior to this personal experience, Sally had no real opinion about the pipeline project she heard mentioned in the news. Hey, it was not on HER LAND. Now she is active in the Nelson County movement and supports other counties impacted (Highland, Augusta, Buckingham, etc.) that oppose the rape of Virginia land and our National Forests. We don't want your Pipeline.


~ Sally is fictitious but based on real experiences.


  1. Rebecca, this makes me ill to read this. I worked 10 of my career years for an oil & gas company and I know what's going on here. I hope your friend can find the best lawyer, perhaps in a class action suit, to overcome this. What a shame!
    Rita C at Panoply

  2. This is terrible! I worked for a year in the legal department of an oil & gas company, and my dealings with the FERC were a nightmare mainly of filing thousands of copies of big long documents that I am quite sure no one ever read. I used to wonder how many trees had been destroyed just to make all that paper that was no doubt shredded. I agree with Rita -- rise up!


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