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Nelson officials recognize anniversary of pipeline's demise as day of celebration
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Nelson officials recognize anniversary of pipeline's demise as day of celebration

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Nelson County will officially mark the one-year anniversary of the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — July 5 — as a commemorative day of celebration.

“... [I]n recognition of the success of these citizen-led efforts, the Nelson County Board of Supervisors resolves to publicly congratulate and thank those who put the interests of their fellow citizens at the forefront of their concerns in their successful campaign to defeat this misguided project,” the text of the resolution states.

Approved during the June 8 meeting by the Nelson County Board of Supervisors in a 4-0 vote, the resolution in its current, slimmed-down state comes after a debate from board members over the exact language that should be included in the document.

West District Supervisor David Parr was absent.

Board chair Ernie Reed said the resolution celebrates both the people of Nelson and the local government which took positions against the pipeline, calling the cancellation a “historical victory for all the people who were involved.”

Originally announced in 2014, Dominion had hoped to complete the project in four years, but the pipeline was mired in opposition, court challenges, delays and, at the time of its cancellation, was more than $3 billion over budget. Dominion officially pulled the plug in July 2020.

Federal courts in Montana had also thrown out a national federal water quality permit that the ACP relied upon to cross hundreds of waterbodies in its path, leaving the project with no clear path to completion.

South District Supervisor Robert “Skip” Barton said the document recognizes multiple reasons why Nelson County residents and others stood in opposition of the roughly 600-mile natural gas pipeline slated to go through parts of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina and would have cut through some 27 miles of Nelson.

The controversial project sparked the formation of the nonprofit Friends of Nelson, a grassroots organization which would spend the next half-decade fighting the pipeline.

“I think the key point is the people of Nelson County, for a variety of different reasons, stood up to a corporation that was manipulating the system in order to ensure a profit,” Barton said. “We can debate each of these [bullet points], but we should celebrate that we all got together to stand up to something that didn’t make sense.”

North District Supervisor Tommy Harvey took issue with some of the resolution’s original language, calling it “political talk,” sparking the conversation that would ultimately remove most of the resolution’s original text.

“I have no problem with recognizing it, but I don’t think we need to go do this angle,” Harvey said.

Vice Chair Jesse Rutherford agreed, saying some of the points being made were controversial topics. He said the resolution should more focus on the fact the ACP was canceled and let the people remember their own reasons for why they opposed it.

Reed said the “whereas” portions of the resolution being omitted were “well established.”

“They were all successful arguments to have the pipeline canceled and anyone could go through the record take a look at these and realize that none of these were effectively refuted in court,” Reed said.

Friends of Nelson also will hold a celebration July 10. The party was delayed last year because of COVID-19.

In other news:

On June 1, Nelson County received the first of its two-part installment of American Rescue Plan funding at just less than $1.45 million as part of a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package singed into law by President Joe Biden. According to County Administrator Steve Carter, staff’s recommendation was to hold a workshop in the coming months to potentially settle on uses for the money. He said the county has until 2023 to expend all of its ARP funds.

Robert Brown, Virginia Department of Transportation representative for the Lynchburg District which encompasses Nelson County, reported to the board VDOT intends to widen a portion of Route 664 along Reeds Gap that has become a notorious pinch point for through tractor trailers. VDOT recently prohibited tractor trailers from using the mountainous stretch of roadway after an uptick in the number of stuck vehicles and while the restriction has eased the problem, there are still trucks that use and clog the path. Despite criticism from Harvey for widening the road, Brown said keeping the work will ultimately benefit emergency services and public safety.

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