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.
What a shame. At a loss as to how to respond other than to shake my head in disbelief which seems to be a daily occurrence over the past two years. Keep advertising the plight of the old growth forest and maybe more concerned people will emerge and of course VOTE.
Thank you Bobby for this wonderful blog.
Our property actually extends nearly to the top of Jack Mountain, and includes the virgin forest. The pipeline would be constructed through that portion of Miracle Ridge as well, and on a 58% slope for one 100 foot segment.
The entire ridge would have to be decapitated 30 feet deep by excavation and blasting to place the pipeline. We would be left with a pile of rubble where ancient trees once stood.
Our property and some surrounding property has been designated as the Little Valley Slope Conservation Area by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and they describe it as one of the finest oak-hickory forests they have ever seen in all of Virginia. This is the only Virginia state agency that has helped us. All others have caved to the ACP.
The endangered Rusty Patch Bumble Bee was found on our property this past summer, within about 500 feet of the proposed construction for the pipeline. During earlier surveying for the pipeline ACP surveyors cut 49 mature mountain laurel bushes on our property. These are a prime food source for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Despite the sightings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also caved to this industry, and stated that the bee will not be further endangered by the pipeline.
All of us are threatened by these pipelines and the fossil fuel feeding frenzy. Not only do they take our land, cut our forests, threaten our water, kill our wildlife, cut our property value in half, and place us in danger of a catastrophic pipeline explosion, but they hasten and exacerbate the biggest threat that mankind has ever faced…climate change.
I am sure that as you are reading this someone is plotting a new pipeline route, and it could be aimed at you.
Please join us in fighting these unjust, and immoral pipelines.
Bill, you add such depth and knowledge to the post. Thank you for this and the continued resistance.
Yes, the healthy clean longtermlonglife beauty covers the longtermlonglife soils that have not been disturbed, and its longlife microorganisms and macroorganisms allowed to move freely and obviously what that land is doing now is the best use for that land, since the soils are old and provide so many benefits. Bobby Whitescarver, you have got to keep “talking” and writing and getting the word out, as you so beautifully do. Hang in there, keep resisting, we are pulling for you and the MVP resistance and we are on the right path. I was told so by a 92 year old Lady at this year’s Fall Festival in Craig County. We are not alone in our Love of Good Clean Healthy Wholesome (as in Whole, unsliced) Earth. Good luck to us and No more disturbance/permit revocations to ACP and MVP. Our Civic Duties extend beyond our generation. These trees must continue so that the soils continue to live. The future needs your detritivores of today and they only exist in your living native natural undisturbed soils. My Best Wishes to you and the Princess.
The gross injustices of this situation absolutely shocked me as I walked with Bill and Lynn around their property…everything from the logistics of building the pipeline on such a narrow, steep, ridge, the identification of a federally endangered animal located upon the land, and the fact that the pipeline has a ~1,200 foot blast zone and the Limperts live within 600 feet of the pipeline. Our government doesn’t care about our SAFETY, let alone our access to clean water – if they did, they would prevent Dominion from raping and pillaging the land. It’s challenging not to be overcome by rage but it was absolutely inspiring to witness Bill and Lynn’s absolute composure regarding the situation.
Well said, Laura.
The size and beauty of the red maple “Ona” just takes my breathe away. Dominion “power” does have quite the reputation. They just finished a storage and liquification project in Calvert County Maryland on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The politicians in this area sold out the people owning property “visually and financially” compromised by the project. They built a 60 ft concrete wall around the storage facility and that is the protection and view shed that is to salve the impact on views and homes and safety. The facility is to aid in the “export” of natural gas to the world…it is not for the use of anyone in the USA. So basically we are giving up so much in the Bay watershed so other people can have fuel. We certainly come together with the people of the Shenandoah/Blue Ridge area that are fighting for their rights to own and enjoy their properties. You really cannot expect any help from politicians, they are looking only at the revenue to be gotten from such projects. Since we in Maryland do not have standing in your case, we wish you a good and successful fight for your natural resources and your homes. Working together on this is so important. Thanks for what you are doing Bobby.
So well said, Judy. Thanks for reading and posting.
I wish I could have made it on the trip up to Miracle Mountain; it seems like a very spiritual and inspirational piece of land. It is devastating to hear from primary sources the unethical and immoral actions that are being catalyzed by Dominion and this pipeline. Simply put, it seems implausible to build a pipeline in such a location, or any other location for that matter. The environmental costs associated with construction do not outweigh the benefits in my eyes. Pipelines are going to be continuously pushed throughout the country, degrading so much land and so many beautiful ecosystems. It’s inspiring to see that there are groups and individuals, such as yourself and your wife, that are taking a stand and not letting this matter settle without a fight. Knowing that this is happening so close to my home motivates me to take a stand as well.
Thank you, Maja. Well said.
With my capstone project being on the ACP and it’s possible impacts on the water quality of a nearby Brook Trout stream this post is all too familiar. The slope that the pipeline is going to be constructed on near a monitoring site for my project is about 20% and I would slip and fall if trying to climb down it, and wonder how they plan on putting in a pipeline without causing a significant amount of erosion in the stream. The fact that they’re planning on starting construction on slopes of 46% and greater is absolute insanity seeing as how steep a 20% slope already is. And with that there’s no way they can minimize erosion in those areas with the sediment controls examined by Mr. Limpert who is a professional in dealing with sediment control plans in a state that emphasizes the reduction of sediment into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The proposition and handling of this pipeline is incredibly disappointing and disheartening.
Thanks for the insight, Jack. I would like to know more about your capstone project.
I am so grateful to have been able to visit this magical place while it still stands, unharmed by corporate greed and the refusal to push towards renewable energy forms. The mix of emotions that spew from my head as I think about the pipeline and the push for natural gas as a “better alternative” keeps me up at night. However, seeing how truly passionate Bill and Lynn were about protecting their land as well as the integrity of the ecosystem is what gives me hope. People that learn about these injustices are likely to stand up and fight, and I’m so grateful for the Limperts as well as your blogs for reaching out and aiming to educate people of all backgrounds on these issues. At the end of the day, I’m always wondering what more I can do. Thank you for this captivating review, and thank you again for the warmth of the Limperts in welcoming us to this beautiful land!
Spot on, Celeste.
This is why Congress must remove from FERC the authority to give these energy companies automatic eminent domain. Real public use – not just stockholder rewards- must be fully documented before eminent domain is used as a real last resort. These companies threaten eminent domain from the first interaction.
We must make these companies respect landowners and our goals and needs for our property. Other utilities do it. Cell towers are sited through real negotiation, give landowners annual income, provide liability insurance and promise to remove unused infrastructure. Energy companies need to have a similar environment so they respect landowners, guarantee safety and financial wholeness, and share the benefits. The onetime payments they make do not adequately compensate landowners who lose full use of their property but continue to pay property taxes, are provided no assurance of coverage for risks, and who get no ongoing income. When there are problems landowners’ only recourse is the courts – and expensive and slow process that keeps many from seeking redress. Companies deny they caused water systems to fail, etc. The energy companies even refuse to remove the infrastructure when it is no longer used.
Laws must change.
Well said, Irene!
As all of your posts; this one is timely, important, and mostly SAD.
Dominion has always played the General Assembly like a Stradivarius violin; and now they’ve expanded their influence to the Federal Level with their testimony at the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) hearings.
What’s really sad to me is that irreplaceable trees like Ona ( and I’m sure there are many more in the path of this pipeline) will be sacrificed for Dominion’s greed, if were can’t stop it.
So, my friend, Thanks for the clarion call to action, ands as you point out, the real answer is to Vote at every chance one gets.
One may not think one vote matters, but Appeals Courts, and Supreme Courts are populated by people that have been voted into office. It’s time to vote them out!
Thanks, as always, for all you do!
George L. Ohrstrom II
Thank you, George, for your great comment and leadership.
Well written Professor Whitescarver, you did a great job of describing the beauty of this old grove forest and the travesty that may occur, but it still was not enough. No words can describe the injustice that is likely to happen to this forest and no words can describe the forests peacefulness, beauty, or magnitude. I was there with you I walked the steep hills of the ridge, felt the chilled mountain hair, smelled the leaves that crumpled under my feet, and I hugged Ona. I heard the pain and distress of the Limperts when they spoke of the pipelines. I am not in construction and I am not certified in sediment and erosion controls but I can say with full confidence that Dominion can not successfully and truthfully do what they claim to be able to do. It is not possible for them to stick to their already too loose standards and not violate them. I can not wrap my head around this entire situation and how unbelievable it is. It infringes on the property rights, our state laws, and our federal laws. It is like we are living in the 1950’s again polluting and destroying our natural resources for industrial greed that is truly destroying our environment. After meeting the Limpert’s and seeing Magical Ridge for myself I have become very invested in the anti-pipeline movement. #NoPipline
Right On! Austin!
The fact that Dominion is able to come in and cause so much damage and heartbreak legally saddens me. We need to increase local voting that will ensure that places containing this much history, biodiversity, and life are not destroyed to make way for an alternative that will continue to harm the ecosystem. Dominion’s plan for this pipeline is foolish, wasteful, and a detriment to the mountain and the people and fauna that live there. Changes need to be made to remove the power Dominion has to take precious land from its caretakers and destroy it. I didn’t get to visit these amazing trees but I’m know for certain that they need to be protected for future generations.
Spot on, Jules!
Dominion’s actions are an injustice to what America stands for. Their behavior is all too familiar. It is a shame that as I read this post, I thought I was reading a chapter of a history book. The chapter that brings up the European conquest of other lands. How there nations such as Great Britain and Spain snatched the land of others from right below their feet. Most Americans look back at these actions with anger and shame. We should all be taking a look at the way Dominion is handling this situation. The Limpert’s are hardworking citizens that care for the land they live on. It is cruel that their return on this is having their land not only taken away, but drastically changed and damaged. Dominion and the DEQ could benefit from taking their eyes off of their checkbooks for a moment and take a look into history.
Well said, John.
I wish I could have gone to see this beautiful place. It is saddening to see that people are willing to just rip through beautiful pieces of nature that have existed for so long. I have see the toll that construction takes on an area many times, whether it be in a small river body or just in a forest environment that is completely filled with sediment from sites. It is important that we as a country see to the future sustainability of our ecosystems and try to construct, if it is necessary, in the most sustainable and least disturbing way.
The idea of a large corporation ignoring the rights of citizens in favor of seeking maximized profits is an idea that I have become very familiar as an adult who is informed on current event in America. That will never surprise me, however, state agencies not defending the rights of the citizens they are elected, appointed, or hired to represent will always shock and disappoint me. The Virginia DEQ and State Water Control board have failed the people of Virginia for allowing Dominion to run rampant on Virginia’s rich, historic forests.
It is disgraceful that injustices like these continue to happen within our society, and I read blogs and articles like these that just make me speechless on just how truly greedy and unethical big corporations are. When are morals and ethics going to outweigh the need for people to make money? We live in a world now where we don’t have to settle for building these dirty pipelines, that not only through construction degrades the environment, along with the water supply, but continues throughout the operation of these damaging energy sources. I would like to believe that it’s just ignorance that allows these type of operations to continue, but I can’t be the ignorant one, they know the shameful truth of what these pipelines are doing to the environment. BUT we have the knowledge and resources these days to stand against these cruel operations, and to try everything in our power to protect the environment, an environment that has been nothing but helpful to us, an environment we have been nothing but cruel towards.
The simple fact that Dominion is doing this is just wild to me, especially considering it has such an adverse effect on the environment. However, because they are a money hungry corporation who doesn’t care about anything else except getting paid; they do not want to see the error in their ways. There are way too many corporations in America currently like this and if we wish to preserve this planet for future generations to come; we have to get out of this mentality. As mentioned in the article, we the general public must take a stand against this even if it may not directly affect us and with enough effort, we could hurt these big corporations and make them reconsider their actions.
Bobby, I am so angry I am in despair over this and all the other injuries and lack of accountability of Dominion, the Commonwealth AND the feds. So much that we’ve spent our lives protecting, advocating, contributing to and loving is under attack. We simply have to replace these reckless greedy officials as quickly as possible. I hope to live long enough to see it happening. Thank you for continuing to sound the alarm and bring all environmentalists, conservationists, lovers of green..to the table. YES, we vote! Anne
Thank you, Anne!
Dominion’s heavy handedness in stepping on anyone who gets in its way is analogous to the way early American citizens were treated in the colonies by the British. Those citizens started an armed revolution and put their lives on the line.
Today it’s not appropriate to start an armed war over the ACP or hire a George Hayduke as a consultant, but the anger we all feel now is the same as those colonists felt. Dominion and our elected representatives, both Federal and State, are collaborating for one reason – money.
We are all angry, so let’s keep fighting this. I appreciate the efforts of everyone up and done the ACP route who are working tirelessly to fight this.
This is a really powerful post. “The firehose of corporate greed” is the best way to put it; they are willing to do just about anything in the pursuit of more money, no matter who or what is hurt in the process. Having met the Limperts and been on Miracle ridge, its inconceivable to me that there are people who think building a natural gas pipeline on it is a good idea. The amount of disturbance to local ecosystems, watersheds, property values, and bedrock itself that this construction project will lead too (or already has led too in West Virginia) is utterly despicable. I hope and pray that this and all similar projects are put to a stop. The last thing we need at this time of crisis is more access to fossil fuels at the expense of carbon sequestering trees.
The Virginia DEQ approved all of the delinquent reports for the ACP after 5 pm last Friday. Dominion now has 401 certification. We now must hope that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in our favor.
where does the non-profit national environmental law organization stand on this?
I’m not sure, Nancy.
It’s funny how big corporations and money makers can get around rules way easier than someone like me. It’s almost as if the system was created unequally to benefit those who need it least. The whole eminent domain thing too is insane to me, government and corporations can take your land for profit? That doesn’t sit right with me, and there’s nothing you can do if the government is properly compensating you. When did government care more about money than people? or maybe it has always been this way.