Press Release May 31, 2019

Court’s Order Sides with Parks Group, Another Positive Step Towards Protecting Historic Jamestown

Today’s Court ruling makes clear that the Army Corps illegally approved Dominion Energy’s permit to build a massive transmission line across the James River. 

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied requests by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Dominion Energy (Dominion) to return this matter to the Corps without canceling the agency’s Clean Water Act permit that has allowed Dominion to construct and operate a massive transmission line across the James River at historic Jamestown.

In its opinion, the D.C. Circuit forcefully concurred with arguments by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), reiterating its previous ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to comply with federal environmental laws when granting this permit to Dominion, and reaffirming that an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be completed. The three-judge panel’s order specifically criticized the Corps and Dominion Energy for reversing their repeated position in past court filings that, if the permit were found to have been granted in error, the transmission line could be (and almost certainly would be) dismantled and removed from the landscape.

The case will now be returned to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where the court will gather evidence and determine remedies necessary to protect the integrity of the EIS process. At the conclusion of these proceedings, the district court could order vacatur of the permit (resulting in the dismantling of the transmission line); allow Dominion to continue the line’s operations while the EIS process moves forward; or adopt other remedies necessary to cure the harm caused by the Corps’ and Dominion’s unlawfully built project.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

“Today’s ruling is another positive step in our fight to preserve historic Jamestown and the irreplaceable legacy that it represents. The Court’s ruling makes clear that the Army Corps illegally approved Dominion Energy’s permit to build a massive transmission line across the James River that now degrades the historic character of Jamestown, the James River, and the surrounding national park landscape. For more than six years, NPCA and our partners have fought for Jamestown. As we celebrate this positive step today, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure this treasured place is protected for generations to come.”

BACKGROUND: In March 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously ruled that the Army Corps should not have granted Dominion Energy’s permit without preparing a rigorous EIS that included a thorough review of reasonable alternatives. This decision reversed a prior ruling in May 2018 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which sided with the Army Corps. The D.C. Circuit not only ordered the Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on remand, but also to consider practicable alternatives to the transmission line in compliance with NEPA and the Clean Water Act.

NPCA sued the Army Corps in 2017, claiming the federal agency granted Dominion Energy authorization to proceed with a highly controversial plan to build 17 obstructive transmission towers, some as tall as 295 feet, across the James River at Jamestown, without properly analyzing the project’s environmental impacts to the landscape and failing to consider viable alternatives. Over this six-year battle, NPCA worked with independent energy experts to provide alternatives that would address energy needs without defacing historic resources at Jamestown. Those options included burying the lines under the river or reconfiguring existing transmission lines to provide power.

The massive powerline project harms historic Jamestown, as well as surrounding national park sites in the region including Colonial National Historical Park, Colonial Parkway and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, one of our country’s most significant and historic landscapes. The project also threatens federally endangered species like the Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon that rely on the James River for critical habitat.

NPCA is represented in this case by the public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP. More information about the years-long campaign to protect historic Jamestown is available here.

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About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

About Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP Since 1993, Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP has represented national, regional, and grassroots conservation organizations in federal litigation on issues of national importance. For more information, visit www.meyerglitz.com. Please direct any legal inquiries about this lawsuit to William S. Eubanks II of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP.