At a meeting in Henrico County on February 9, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s board of trustees voted to defer a decision on applications presented by Dominion to convert open space on 10 easements that lie in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The board also directed staff to “provide the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the staff reports on the ACP applications … to ensure that FERC has the benefit of the staff’s conclusions and findings.” FERC is the agency that is ultimately responsible for approval of the pipeline and is accepting comments on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement through April 6.
More than 100 people attended the meeting representing Dominion, easement owners, environmental groups, community leaders and pipeline supporters from across the state. Nearly four dozen people spoke in opposition or support of the applications during an extended public comment period, with most speaking in opposition.
Five of the 10 landowners whose easements are the focus of the applications also provided comments, four by video. Three of the landowners spoke in support of the conversion applications and two spoke in opposition. Videos can be viewed here.
Dominion presented its applications in the afternoon, making its case for why the proposals meet the requirements for conversion under 10.1-1704 of Virginia law. (Links: Powerpoint Presentation | Accompanying Video) The company also presented detailed information about the proposed substitute land that would be required by the conversion process. VOF staff followed with detailed presentations of the potential impacts of the pipeline on the easements, as well as the conservation values of the proposed substitute land.
“We received a great deal of information in the days leading up to the meeting, as well as through the presentations, and we feel that we need to keep the process open to allow more time for input,” says VOF board chair Stephanie Ridder. “We acknowledge that our power may be limited due to federal oversight, but we are committed to getting the best protection for the Commonwealth’s interest in our easements as we move through this process.”