Updated: Special board meeting scheduled to complete review of pipeline conversion applications

Update: Both Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline have submitted revised conversion applications, which they describe as reducing the overall proposed impact to VOF easements. The revised applications, along with VOF’s staff reports, may be downloaded from the October 16 meeting page on our calendar.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has scheduled a special meeting on October 16, 2017 for its Board of Trustees to complete a review of applications by two natural gas pipeline developers that have proposed crossing 11 VOF open-space easements in five counties. The meeting will be held at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond and will be open to the public.

Meeting details, and any background materials, will be posted on our website calendar.

This issue will not be on the agenda of the board’s September 28 meeting.

VOF first learned about the two pipelines in 2014. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), being developed by a partnership that includes Dominion Energy, told VOF in 2016 that it would need to cross 10 easements in Highland, Bath, Augusta and Nelson counties as a result of rerouting to avoid U.S. Forest Service land. The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), being developed by a joint venture that includes EQT Midstream Partners, is proposing a permanent access road on a VOF easement in Roanoke County, but is not proposing to cross the property with the pipeline itself.

VOF informed both developers that such incursions onto VOF easements would be incompatible with the conservation values of the easements, and would therefore trigger a process in state law known as “conversion” of open space. The developers were asked in 2016 to submit applications for conversion to VOF’s trustees, who have been working with the Office of the Attorney General to determine whether the applications meet the requirements of the law. In February 2017, the trustees heard presentations from the developers, VOF staff, and affected landowners, and received comments from hundreds of citizens. Since then, they have been waiting for other federal and state review processes to continue, in the event those processes change the route further. Final Environmental Impact Statements for both pipelines have been issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and now the developers await the issuance of federal Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity.

“Throughout this process, we have spent countless hours reviewing the requests, working closely with the affected landowners, responding to questions and concerns from the public, providing information to the developers and regulators, and meeting a high standard of transparency and accountability,” says VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph. “From the start we have stressed avoidance of our easements; but if FERC determines that avoidance is not possible, then we will use all the authority we have to get the best possible outcome for the public.”

VOF will continue to accept public comments on the conversion applications through October 16. Comments may be submitted electronically to comments@vofonline.org, through an online form at http://www.virginiaoutdoorsfoundation.org/comments/, via mail to VOF, 39 Garrett St., Suite 200, Warrenton, VA 20186, and in person during a designated public comment period on the day of the meeting. Comments must include your name and contact information.

Jason McGarvey is VOF’s communications and outreach manager. He is based in the Richmond office.