Wintergreen Proposes Alternative Routes For Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Wintergreen's alternative route is 10.5 miles shorter than Dominion's proposal.
Wintergreen's alternative route is 10.5 miles shorter than Dominion's proposal.
Wintergreen’s alternative route is 10.5 miles shorter than Dominion’s proposal.

Less destructive pipeline routes, including ones that use existing rights-of-ways, would prevent the loss of jobs in Virginia’s busiest tourism area.

Friends of Wintergreen, Inc. submitted four alternative routes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Compared to the route proposed by Dominion, these alternatives are less damaging to Virginia’s environment, economy, communities and public safety.

Dominion has proposed that its 42-inch, compressed natural gas pipeline would cut through the heart of the Blue Ridge mountain communities of Wintergreen and Nelson 151, one of the most popular tourism destinations on the East Coast.

If approved by FERC, Dominion’s pipeline in the Wintergreen area would cause the loss of $75 million in new investment, over 250 new tourism jobs, and a 20% decline in tourism business and property values to Nelson County’s largest employer and taxpayer. Furthermore, Dominion wants to place the ACP immediately in front of the Wintergreen community’s only entrance and exit, a location through which 10,000 or more residents and tourists pass on a busy day. With a 1,100-foot blast radius and a 3,500-foot evacuation zone, an explosion of a 42-inch compressed natural gas pipeline at this location would be catastrophic.

“We fully support the need for clean energy,” said Jonathan Ansell, Chairman of Friends of Wintergreen, “but there are much more responsible ways to achieve this. Dominion’s proposed actions here are reckless and harmful not only to our local communities and businesses, but to Virginians and the Commonwealth as a whole. We have proposed better alternatives, including ones that use existing rights-of-ways or colocation that are less damaging and preferred by FERC. Colocation is a principle Dominion has chosen to ignore. Our research has shown that less than 10% of the ACP would use existing rights-of-way, the second worst level of all large pipelines in America.”

Friends of Wintergreen has retained top national environmental, legal and pipeline engineering firms to evaluate the legality, constructability, environmental impact, and other factors required to evaluate the relative merits of pipeline routes, including Dominion’s proposal near Wintergreen.

Ansell added, “Our experts determined that Dominion did not do a thorough or honest evaluation of alternative routes. Many of the so-called ‘alternatives’ Dominion offered are false choices, ones that would never be considered because of their obvious infeasibility. This pseudo-analysis leaves Virginians with the impression that Dominion’s proposed route is the best and only solution. That’s just wrong. Unfortunately, unless you are a pipeline company or a federal agency like the US Forest Service, most Virginians don’t have access to the talent, tools and resources needed to perform the scientific analysis needed by FERC to validate these situations. This makes it impossible for ordinary Virginians or local groups to technically critique Dominion’s proposals, opinions or judgment. Fortunately, we were able to do that.”

Of the four different route segments proposed by Friends of Wintergreen, all are constructible and less damaging than the Dominion’s proposed route.

– One uses existing rights-of-way or adjacencies for its entire 75-mile length, a substantial portion of which includes electrical transmission line rights-of-way currently owned by a Dominion subsidiary.

– A second uses colocation for one-third of its length and would actually shorten the length of the pipeline by more than 10 miles.

– The other two route alternatives also provide measurable benefits.

– None of those proposed would require congressional approval, an action that Dominion claims it is unwilling to pursue.

“The routes we have evaluated for Friends of Wintergreen are constructible. The issues and concerns we have heard raised by the ACP can be addressed,” said Bryan Melan, principal of Tide Water Integrity (Houston) and pipeline engineer of 39 years.

Friends of Wintergreen has asked FERC to require that Dominion evaluate and select one of these specific alternatives, or propose others, that provide meaningful options and avoid the adverse impacts. The group has also requested that Dominion be more forthright, transparent, responsive and accurate with information provided to landowners and Virginia communities.

Friends of Wintergreen was joined in this filing by the Wintergreen Property Owners Association and Pacific Wintergreen, the manager of Virginia’s top resort.