The Virginia Outdoors Foundation recently submitted staff reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) detailing the potential impacts to 10 VOF conservation easements if FERC approves the current route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The reports were produced in response to applications filed by Dominion, the pipeline’s lead developer, which is seeking “conversion” of open space on the easements through a process outlined in section 10.1-1704 of Virginia’s Open Space Land Act.
Dominion presented its conversion applications to VOF’s board of trustees on February 9 at a public meeting in Richmond. The company says that the ACP project satisfies all the requirements of section 1704. VOF trustees heard from dozens of speakers at the meeting who spoke both in favor and against the proposed conversions. Trustees deferred a decision on the applications to allow more time to consider the information that was presented to them.
The board did, however, direct VOF staff to submit the staff reports to FERC “to ensure that FERC has the benefit of the staff’s conclusions and findings.”
Copies of the staff reports, Dominion’s applications, public comments, and other background material from the February 9 board meeting can be found here.
In the cover letter that accompanied the package to FERC, VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph wrote, “VOF has consistently taken the position that construction, maintenance and operation of the interstate gas transmission line is inconsistent with the open-space protections afforded by the subject easements.” Glymph also took issue with characterization in the draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by FERC in December that such conversions would be “minor.” “The impact is very significant,” she stated.
The cover letter ended by asking FERC to include staff recommendations found in the reports as part of any final Environmental Impact Statement or Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity that may be issued.
In conjunction with submitting the staff reports to FERC, VOF Chair Stephanie Ridder sent a letter to all VOF easement owners describing the situation with ACP, the conversion/diversion process, and expressing confidence in VOF’s ability to protect the public interest.
“VOF was established by the Commonwealth to protect the public’s interests, and we take our commitment to the public very seriously,” she wrote. “We strive to balance competing interests between conservation and development. The Open Space Land Act is the strongest in the nation, but the law is clear that there may be instances where land may be utilized for essential public projects. Because FERC has the ultimate authority in determining the necessity and siting of interstate pipelines, VOF’s own power is limited. However, we pledge to use the power that we do have to get the best possible outcome for the Commonwealth.”