Atlantic Coast Pipeline Set To Destroy Old-Growth Forest
“At least three hundred trees, older than this nation, will be destroyed if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) comes through this ridge on our property,” Bill Limpert lamented. We were walking his part of Jack Mountain in Bath County, Virginia. I could smell the old-growth forest as we walked under the towering sugar maples, shagbark hickories, and chestnut oaks. The branches create a cathedral canopy seventy feet over our heads.
Bill and his wife, Lynn named this part of Jack Mountain, Miracle Ridge because it gives them a spiritual feeling, walking among the giant trees. I could not believe how steep the land was in every direction. The top of this ridge, or spur leading up Jack Mountain, is a forty-six percent slope. The side slopes are steeper. The one to the north is a seventy-eight percent slope. A human cannot walk on land this steep. If I dared to step off to the north, I would almost free-fall to the canyon floor one-hundred feet below. The planned ACP will unearth a swath of mayhem three-thousand feet long and at least one-hundred and twenty-five feet wide through the Limpert’s property.
Too Steep for the Pipeline
“When this ridge leaves our property it gets even steeper,” Bill said. “The timber up there has never, ever, been cut.”
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy’s forty-two-inch, fracked-gas pipeline, is planned to come up this ridge and cross Jack Mountain. They will have to cut down thousands of old-growth trees, clear a swath 125 feet wide, and dig a trench ten-feet deep in the steepest terrain I have ever walked on in Virginia. It will cause the most irresponsible, environmental damage to this forest—ever. Loggers never touched it because it is so steep.
Native Trout Waters Will Be Damaged
All of the streams born on this land drain to Little Valley Run, a wild, native trout stream. If constructed, the sediment leaving the site will destroy the aquatic habitat necessary for Brook Trout to survive. Without the trees to provide shade, the water will heat up which can also affect trout survival. The waters of Little Valley Run empty into Bolar Run, another native trout stream, then into the Jackson River, followed by the James River and into the Chesapeake Bay.
Ona is 300 Years Old
We stopped at one of the largest sugar maples in the path of the pipeline. Lynn Limpert named it Ona. It’s between 260 and 300 years old. Here, we talked about all the folks that have come to see this forest, feel its energy, and ponder the plunder.
Bill retired from the Maryland Department of Environment in 2010. He was an Area Supervisor for erosion and sediment controls on constructions jobs. He knows what he is talking about when he says the erosion and sediment control plans for this pipeline are woefully inadequate. “Dominion and DEQ should not attempt this,” he says.
Environmentalists Sue Virginia’s DEQ and State Water Control Board
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) holds the pipeline builders to lowest possible erosion and sediment control standard—a two-year storm frequency. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Appalachian Voices, Jackson River Preservation Association Inc., and many other environmental organizations sued the Virginia DEQ and the State Water Control Board for being arbitrary and capricious when they issued the 401 certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In short, the erosion and sediment controls for this massive pipeline are woefully inadequate to protect Virginia’s streams from sediment pollution.
The case, Appalachian Voices v. State Water Control Board, was heard on September 28, 2018, by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The panel of three judges has not ruled as of this writing.
Dominion’s Disrespect For Those In Its Way
The worst part of this saga may not be the insane notion of destroying the mountain by constructing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline but how Dominion has treated the Limperts, and many others in their way—with disrespect, unanswered questions, a subpoena to appear in court, and silence.
Survey crews damaged the Limpert’s property, Dominion forced them into court, and generated reports that are, “inaccurate, evasive, and misleading,” according to the retired soil erosion inspector.
The Limperts have not accepted any offers from Dominion to compensate them for taking their land. There is no way to set a value on this needless, unwanted, and reckless destruction. They fear that they will receive a condemnation letter any day so Dominion can take their land by eminent domain.
“It’s been an ongoing nightmare,” Bill tells me.
What has our country come to?
A corporation can take your land by eminent domain—for profit. The pipeline builders can injure, maim, and kill federally endangered species. Construction of pipelines have caused landslides and sediment filled streams and roads, violating Virginia’s water quality standards. They ask the courts for “quick-take condemnation” of private land. I have seen them bring in outsiders to speak at hearings. They use “placeholders” in lines at hearings to prevent local people from speaking. Dominion paid in advance for “any and all future damages.” Dominion Energy has a long history of disregard the law.
Take, take, take is their credence.
We Shall Overcome
The firehose of corporate greed taking place across this country must be stopped. We must vote and support the environmental groups fighting on the land and in the courts. There are so many people, like the Limperts, being bullied and taken advantage of by corporations like Dominion Energy. Finally, we must continue to resist, peacefully demonstrate, and stand our ground like the Limperts—true heroes for property rights and water quality.
To learn more, contact me, or any number of environmental organizations fighting to keep our water clean and property rights unviolated.
The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance has a long list of organizations opposing the pipelines. Please join us.
Some pipelines are needed, but only in areas where there is not much else, and where they won’t destroy anything. Upon reading more about the land the ACP was supposed to go through, I am even more astonished. This wasn’t just inadequate land for a pipeline to cut through, it was the worst type of land. The inherent dangers and complications that the land would have causes it could only spell disaster. If it was successful, it would have still damaged land that is greatly valuable. I find it hard to believe that Dominion thought this through, or even made the trip out to the land they wanted to cut up. There’s no way they could have thought it would have worked out. There is a long list of tangible and intangible things that the ACP would have destroyed and it makes it scary how close we were to this dire result.
Thank you, Alex. Good comment.
It was interesting to learn yet another reason why the ACP is a horrible investment into the community. The destruction of these trees would be catastrophic, not only for the environmentalists, and the earth but also Dominion. The area they are trying to build the ACP is not conducive to a pipeline being built. However, I am yet again astounded at the high level of civil society engagement in this endeavor. If the world needs to be changed then we the people need to do everything we can to make that change. It often takes the locals to make the greatest impact on the world. I am interested in knowing how other energy companies treat the locals and if there are any equitable organizations.
Building the pipeline through the forest serves no purpose it seems more of a danger to not only the workers to have to build on such steep land. It will also cause harm to wildlife. I think it’s important that there should be more laws that are put into place to protect against version and sediment pollution and create higher fines to protect the environment. I think the DEQ needs to hold these companies to higher standards and recognize the harm that comes with building pipelines. It is also the DEQ’s responsibility to protect the environment, which they should make their priority.
Dominion’s corporate greed is no uncommon theme in their long-lived pursuit of fulfilling the profit motive. While they continue to do this, it seems as though the state continues to sit idly by. In contrast, Dominion and other actors continue to destroy private property deliberately, endanger or kill wildlife, and hurt the environment – advocacy groups like Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance oppose the pipelines and mobilize to advance the focus on sustaining the environment and property. Still, more must be done to remedy the bullying these corporations explicitly partake in; their utter ignorance and impetus to churn money is something we must all be aware of and continue to oppose.
The more I discover about the ACP, the more frustrated I become. It is totally all about money, with no regard to the environment. Some of those trees have probably been there long than Dominion has ever existed, yet they chose to still destroy them. These trees are on the Limpert’s private property, and the last thing I would want in my backyard is an ugly, manmade trail with a giant pipeline on it. That would ruin the peaceful atmosphere, and also having to hear them doing all this work would drive me crazy. This pipeline is nothing but a big mess.
I find it extremely interesting that the largest sugar maple tree (in the path of the pipeline) is between 260 and 300 years old. That by itself shows how important our environments are to the animals who live in them. Dominion has disrespected all ecosystems and environments in its path of destruction. Where I live in Churchville, Virginia, wild trout streams are native to my surrounding areas. If the ACP was to continue construction, the sediment leaving the site will destroy the aquatic habitat. And as you stated, “without the trees to provide shade, the water will heat up which can also affect trout survival”. Although some pipelines may be beneficial, there are so many crucial environmental issues when it comes to the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The unquestioned demand for greed and the necessitations of year after year increasing profit clearly show their disastrous effects when profit is the only motivator that matters, such that these large companies are willing to put anything and everything down if it would increase their bottom line. The short-sightedness of the ACP to go through these old-growth trees shows their true values, as well as the bad planning and execution of Dominions pipeline going through very steep land, which would increase pollution and erosion of that land along with every other ecologically disastrous effect they will have.
I think my biggest takeaway from this article is that the DEQ set such a low standard for one of the biggest pipelines that would have been built in Virginia. A pipeline that would cross over thousands of streams needs to be regulated in the highest regard. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s construction plan was very ambitious; however, the DEQ failed to set a high standard for it’s construction. Furthermore, I do not think Dominion Energy nor the general public understand the dangers of having a pipeline built on people’s property. A client of my father’s company had part of his barn destroyed because a pipeline exploded close by (Buckingham, Va). I am not anti-pipeline but I am all for holding Dominion Energy to the highest quality and safety standards possible in order to ensure the preservation of people’s property and the environment surrounding it.
Today our society is focused on money but what happens when our resources are completely depleted? Dominion acts as if this pipeline is necessary to the success of our society with no regard to the negative impacts it has. I cannot comprehend how someone can look at land and see 50 and almost 70 degree angle slopes and think, this is the perfect spot for our pipeline. Anyone who has common sense would realize this pipeline would be unsuccessful. There is no logic behind this pipeline but there is no saying how far these companies will go to make a dollar. This pipeline would not only impact the environment but people’s lives yet, this means nothing to Dominion. Dominion and companies like this need to realize the damage they cause to societies as a whole. The fight is just beginning and I am scared for how much these companies will continue to take before it is too late.
I continue to feel baffled by the blatant disregard people have for our environment in the name of corporate profit. I have seen people defend these types of decisions, saying it’s “economically what’s best”. While I understand the appeal of short-term economic decisions, environmentalism mustn’t suffer, because the long-term economics will suffer as we frantically try to fix irreparable environmental issues selfishly made for money reasons. The scientific evidence is endless about how damaging these types of projects are, yet people continue to plan them. Dominion had such disregard to this integral area of forest, and although the ACP eventually got cancelled, it is upsetting to think that this was ever even a possibility.
It is always important to not damage the environment when dealing with building things such as a pipeline in an area. However, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have damaged land that is also historical. I’ve read that the Appalachian mountains themselves are over 450 million years old, and as the post stated, there are trees there that are also very old. That land should be treated very carefully, especially in regards to something that could be disastrous such as a pipeline.
This blog post really accurately describes the tangible consequences that the ACP can pose to real people. Because of the steepness of the land, Bill and Lynn’s property that they love will be completely destroyed by the roots that will rip through terrain. Cutting down trees will also effect the shade of the river where trout are which in turn will cause them to overheat and possibly die out. It will also take out Ona, a 300 year old tree that is a landmark in Bill and Lynn’s property. Eminent domain allows corporations to take land to use for profit as is the case with Bill and Lynn’s property. Eminent domain in cases like these have lasting effects on citizen’s property but also on the environment as a whole. Imagine if the ACP were to run through every neighborhood or property, and be justified by eminent domain. My question after reading this is if eminent domain is a completely lawful practice, and if it is, should it be?
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been pushed by Dominion and other companies for a profit, without giving a slight care to the people and animals they could affect. The removal of the Old growth trees to install this pipeline will cause even more of a landslide, and also the removal of these trees would be taking away the shade theses trees provide which as the article states can hurt trout survival. Bill Limpert working for the Maryland Department of Environment and providing his insight on what the pipeline would destroy really shows the reader that these companies do not care about the environment. The Limperts should not have to worry that any day their land could be used in the destruction of these old growth trees in the old growth forest, but this is the place where we are at and it is completely unfair.
The importance of old growth forests to the environment at large cannot be understated, and the destruction of these forests in the name of short-term energy gains is a recipe for disaster. Dominion and the other pipeline construction companies are well aware of the destructive impact of their projects, but profit motive and short-term gain takes precedent for them over the preservation of our ecosystems and environment. While this pipeline was successfully stopped, the increasing ties between the government and corporations, namely in terms of eminent domain rights, poses a large pertinent threat.
Time and time again we see, money, power and greed overrule the environmental sanctuaries and historical roots. The ACP is just yet another example of a larger company believing they have the rights to do and demolish as they please since they have the means to pay for it. Continuing to cut down old-growth trees for short sighted energy consumption goals are achievements that companies such loke Dominion hold high in standard but these destructions are the things that can lead to extended detriment
What strikes me most about Dominion’s plan to cut through this particular ridgeline of steep slopes is that historically the loggers in that area hadn’t even dared to try to cut the trees down. I’m not aware of how closely loggers work with environmentalists (my guess would be with little input) but it seems like the logging industry wasn’t refusing to cut the trees down for the business because of potential threats from environmental activists but just because the slopes were simply too steep for it to be worth cutting the trees down. It’s pompous, then, for Dominion to believe they have a greater ability and skill to do what professional loggers have never been able to. The argument comes to mind of why dominion didn’t try to use existing throughways like highways before they would disturb ridgelines with steep slopes. They clearly weren’t thinking about the habitats the pipeline would affect, but I hesitate to believe they would think about disturbing the interstate highway system if their goal was narrowed to installing the pipeline regardless of its impacts.
Good points, there Laura. The loggers never got there, even at the turn of the century when most of our mountains were clear cut.
It continues to stun me how ignorant Dominion seemed to be about the land they planned on digging into, but I guess if you don’t really care about the consequences, you won’t really look into anything. Reading though, how they wanted to put a pipeline in extremely steep terrain, makes me think they have very little knowledge of things they should for their line of work. Also, while I doubt Dominion cared about personal impact, reading how connected Bill and his wife were to the forest, naming the 300 year old tree “Ona”, and the ridge “Miracle Ridge,” it shows just a sliver of how much that land meant and still means to people.
Spot on, Rylee. Dominion had no regard for the individuals in the path of their pipeline.
It’s crazy but unsurprising to read how Dominion acts without thought, respect or conscience for the people, land, and organisms they would undoubtably destroy. Strictly for their own risk you think they would want to build such an expensive pipeline in a safe environment– I mean wouldn’t so expense to repair safety disasters that would’ve risen from building the ACP there, and how bad it would be for their public image? I guess they have large enough wallets/are confident in their ability to receive funding and do not fear the accountability from the general public they would receive due to the damage they cause. Does Dominion do any restorative environmental action? – not that it would in any way make up for it.
Felicity, thanks for your comments and questions. I think Dominion is now moving in the right direction but it took the legislature to create laws to make them change. I think this is true of most large corporations, they play by the rules or fake playing by the rules to make the most money.
Something I’ve noticed is that more and more trees are being cut down everywhere. The street I live down use to be full of trees and now it’s full of homes. I wish there was a way to preserve more of them. It is gross the ACP was considering that area and damaged those peoples yards.
This article hit home for me. My greatest childhood memories exist in the summers I spent on my family friend’s property down on the Rappahannock River. Every day I would eat lunch under what my friends and I called “the Big Beech Tree”, a 250-year-old American Beech. This tree was nearly 250 years old and 8 feet wide and we all considered it magic. This one tree touched so many lives and was featured in hundreds of stories, poems, and sketches. When my family friend passed she placed her land in a conservation easement, so thankfully the Big Beech Tree will live out its years in its shady grove. This is not the reality for every forest, however. It is so important that we protect and properly respect our state’s beautiful deciduous forests, some of these trees are older than the United States, and I can guarantee many of them existed before Dominion Energy Company. I want every child to have the opportunity to experience the magic of the woods as I did, and that means standing up to corporate bullies like Dominion.
It has been a shock to me all semester how Dominion has been able to tread all over rules and regulations and how a corporation can be so thoughtless and careless. I always knew that corporations cared more about money and business than the environment but this class has been very eye opening for me. Seeing the specifics of how Dominion disrespects something as crucial as an old growth forest is heartbreaking to me but seeing that there are people putting up a fight against corporations like this gives me hope.
Unfortunately, the loudest voice is often the one that gets heard. It is evident that Dominon is motivated by corporate greed. The centuries of history that would be demolished in the name of a natural gas pipeline that would cause even MORE damage when in use is telling of the integrity of this establishment. The idea is that the pipeline would bring more resources; however, it hurts the people they say they seek to help. I truly believe that the voices being raised against Dominion is what caused the pipeline to be pushed back so many times. It is through hard work and advocacy that we can protect ourselves and the nature that offers so much to us.