Press Release Aug 15, 2019

Parks Group Files Opposition Brief in Lawsuit Over Illegally-Permitted Dominion Transmission Line at Historic Jamestown

Dominion Energy has played loose and fast with the courts and prioritized irresponsible development over historic Jamestown and nearby national parks.

WASHINGTON – Today, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) filed an opposition brief in its lawsuit regarding the Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project in the scenic James River.

NPCA sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2017, claiming the federal agency granted Dominion Energy authorization to proceed with a highly controversial plan to build a massive 500 kV transmission line, including 17 obstructive towers hundreds of feet tall in the James River, without completing a legally required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to inform the agency’s decision.

In March 2019, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of NPCA, finding that the Army Corps failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act in granting Dominion Energy a permit without first conducting an EIS. The court initially ordered that the permit be invalidated and that the Army Corps finally conduct an EIS, but the court subsequently sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether vacating the permit remains the appropriate remedy due to completion of project construction.

This transmission line is a blight on the James River landscape, which includes national park sites such as the Colonial National Historical Park, the Captain John Smith Trail, and other beloved historic landmarks that tell our earliest shared American stories. A thorough EIS would almost certainly identify viable alternative options to this massive transmission line that would address energy needs without defacing the James River viewshed, interfering with historic resources at national parks, or causing needless harm to marine wildlife. In order for the Corps to conduct an EIS process with integrity, the agency must proceed as though the illegally-permitted line had never been built. It is critical that Dominion Energy remove the towers while this information is collected in order to ensure the integrity of the EIS process and to preserve the impartiality of the Corps in examining this project anew.

Statement of Pamela Goddard, Senior Program Director, Mid-Atlantic Region for National Parks Conservation Association: “Time and again, Dominion Energy has played fast and loose with the courts regarding this ill-advised project. With the James River’s internationally significant landscape in the balance, the court has declared Dominion’s permit invalid, and ordered the Corps to start over and do things the right way this time. That means the towers must come down to ensure a by-the-book EIS and permitting process.

Dominion has asked the court to allow the transmission line to remain operating. This would be an extraordinary, unprecedented action. The defendants cannot point to a single instance in the fifty years since the National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law that a court has ordered an EIS, but allowed a project to operate in the meantime. Our position is clear: the court should not grant the defendants special privileges at the expense of the river, the parks, and some of America’s oldest and most historic landscapes.”

###

About National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 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/100.

About Eubanks & Associates, LLC: Eubanks & Associates, LLC is one of the nation’s premier public interest environmental law firms, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Colorado. The firm represents conservation organizations and individuals in strategic impact litigation in federal appellate and trial courts throughout the country. For more information, visit www.eubankslegal.com.