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New Study Says Dominion Underestimating Risks of Landslides in Nelson County

Posted: Updated: Mar 26, 2017 04:22 PM
Proposed path for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Proposed path for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

A new study of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline claims Dominion is underestimating the risk of landslides in Nelson County.

Opponents of the pipeline are urging federal regulators to demand Dominion dig deeper into the threat.

Friends of Nelson hired a team of soil scientists to find areas at risk of landslides. The group says the study's results show Dominion failed to take a detailed look at the potential for slipping mountainsides.

Joyce Burton of Friends of Nelson led the team from Blackburn Consulting Services to 17 sites along the pipeline route in Nelson County, including near Wintergreen.

They dug soil pits and located bowls along the ridgetops where the land is more prone to slipping.

The study says reports submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) underestimate the potential for debris flows in very steep, mountainous terrain of Nelson County.

Friends of Nelson wants Dominion to analyze the landslide risk over a wider area than just the pipeline corridor.

“We don't have the money to do the kind of detailed study that needs to be done to figure out what the risks are. That's not our job, that's Dominion's job. And if Dominion doesn't do that job, it's the FERC - the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's - job to make them do that - to say this is not adequate," said Burton.

Dominion says its analysis is far more extensive than what it calls the "limited analysis" in the Blackburn study. The company says it has developed programs to protect against slope instability and landslides.

The Friends of Nelson Group wants FERC to throw out its draft environmental impact statement and require Dominion do that more detailed landslide study.

Dominion's full statement is below: 

From day one, we’ve been committed to building this pipeline in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Nothing is more important to us than protecting the natural resources of every community. Dominion and our lead construction contractor have more than 200 years’ experience safely building pipelines in similar terrains across the United States. We’ve performed an extensive analysis of all potential geohazards for this project, far more extensive than the limited analysis in this report. Based on that analysis, we’ve developed robust programs that will protect against slope instability, landslides and other potential impacts during construction. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s draft Environmental Impact Statement evaluated and confirmed the effectiveness of these programs. These are some of the most protective programs that have been ever been used for a project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In many cases, particularly for steep slope construction, we’ve gone well above and beyond regulatory requirements to ensure that we build the pipeline with the highest safety standards and the most protective measures available.

Buckingham County is also facing another lawsuit to stop construction of a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Concern for the New Generation are suing the county, its board of supervisors, and planning commission.

The groups argue the county violated zoning laws when it issued a special-use permit for the compressor station near Union Hill.

In February a farmer whose land is next to the proposed station filed a similar suit.

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