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Hearing, appeal set for ACP

The Buckingham County Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing for a microwave tower approved for construction in 2017 by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) LLC.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday, 7 p.m. at the Buckingham County Administration Office, 13360 W. James Anderson Highway.

The ACP project, which has seen some setbacks over the past few months, remains in the process of filing an appeal to the United States Supreme Court by the end of May, according to an ACP spokesperson.

In December 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court ruled to grant a stay of implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement.

Dominion Energy confirmed after the ruling that ACP would stop all construction except for activities in reference to public or environmental safety.

In that same month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court ruled to vacate the United States Forest Service’ (FS) decision to grant the ACP permits for the pipeline to travel through areas of national forest land and cited that the FS violated several laws in granting the permits.

Members of the court also voted to deny an en banc hearing for ACP in February, which would have allowed ACP to present its case to all judges in the court.

In response to the vote, ACP and Dominion Energy Communications Manager Karl R. Neddenien announced that they would file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Neddenien said Tuesday that the appeal is estimated to be filed by late May.

Concerning ACP’s development specific to Buckingham County, members of the board of supervisors voted in February to approve proposed variances to the county’s floodplain route. There are six locations identified that include 2 miles of pipeline construction and 1.2 miles of access roads in floodplains of the James River, North River, Slate River, Willis River, and Little Willis River in Buckingham.

The pipeline would cross approximately 27 miles in Buckingham County.

More about tower permit

The land parcel for the proposed tower is located on approximately 68 acres at South James River Highway, Route 56, in the James River Magisterial District.

The Special Use Permit (SUP) was initially approved by the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors in July 2017, and the microwave communications tower was intended to support the ACP compressor station.

“The Special Use (Permit) was valid for 18 months,” documentation from the planning commission board packet cited. “The Board of Supervisors approved the Case 17 -SUP242 on July 10, 2017, so this SUP expired January 2019. The Zoning Ordinance does not provide for authority to renew this same permit or to grant an extension. Due to this, the ACP LLC has submitted a new application for a special use permit. This application seeks authorization of the same tower, on the same property and under the same terms.”

The 12 conditions presented in the permit were the ones approved by the Board in July 2017 for the expired SUP “for the same use on the same property,” according to the board packet.

Some of these conditions for the microwave tower SUP include maintaining existing trees along the northwestern property line, along the front of the property as buffers, and to plant trees east of the station access road and east of the existing Transco lines; that the application include approved State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and National Environmental Preservation Act (NEPA) analysis reports; that the tower not exceed 199 feet in total, with 195 feet being the structural height of the tower and 4 feet being the lightning rod; and that there be space on the tower for Buckingham County 911 Communication Equipment.

A difference in the proposed conditions, County Administrator Rebecca Carter said, is that this SUP would be valid for 36 months in place of 18 months.

In a letter from ACP representative Paul A. Bastin dated March 4, Bastian made note of the January expiration and requested the county’s approval of the SUP.

“While state and local governments may not ‘prohibit or unreasonably delay the construction or operation of facilities approved by the (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),’ the FERC encourages cooperation between interstate pipelines and local authorities to address any state or local aspects of a proposed project under FERC review. Consistent with this approach, and at the County’s request, Atlantic is re-submitting this SUP application and seeking re-approval of the Tower on the Property,” Bastin said in the letter.