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Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Sues to Block Natural Gas Compressor Station in Buckingham County

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From the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League:

GROUPS SUE COUNTY TO BLOCK COMPRESSOR STATION

Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League announced that it, together with its local chapter Concern for the New Generation, has filed a lawsuit opposing the recently granted special use permit for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County.  The legal action was filed in Circuit Court for Buckingham County on March 8.  The League and CNG seek to reverse the decision by the Board of Supervisors to permit the industrial facility in the residential and agricultural Union Hill community.  Attorney James Ghee of Farmville represents the organizations.

The suit requests that the Court “suspend and set aside Permit 16-SUP236; find that the challenged action was not in accord with the law; and that the Permit be remanded to the Board of Supervisors with instructions to comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements.”

The issues raised in the lawsuit center on the threats to public health from excessive noise and the disproportionate impact the compressor station would have on a well-established historic African American community.  Lou Zeller, the League’s Executive Director, said, “Zoning laws do not allow a county to brush aside these concerns.  This was the Board of Supervisors biggest mistake.”  Zeller added, “We will show that under the law a compressor station cannot be placed in an agricultural community.”  The suit shows that for five weeks a year the plant would be subject to no noise limits at all.

Kathie Mosley, Co-chair of Concern for the New Generation, said, “We voiced our concerns at every public hearing the county held but did they listen to us? No!”  Mosley and thirteen other residents submitted affidavits in support of the lawsuit to provide standing in the case.

The League’s lawsuit is based on Virginia zoning law which is designed to protect residential areas from encroachment by heavy industry and provide, “healthy surroundings for family life.”  Also, state law specifically requires that the “development of new energy resources does not have a disproportionate adverse impact on economically disadvantaged or minority communities.”

The lawsuit includes the testimony of Union Hill resident Ruby Laury, delivered at the Supervisors’ January public hearing, which states: “The community was created by freed man, freed slaves in about 90% of the adjoining land.”  Other testimony, delivered by her husband John Laury, concluded, “The local residents and regional organization gave evidence of environmental injustice regarding the Union Hill Community during the Planning Commission Public Hearing process. The Planning Commission failed with respect to its legal obligation.”

Compressor stations are part of the infrastructure of the natural gas transmission.  Last year, Atlantic Coast Pipeline company submitted to the Buckingham Office of Zoning and Planning an application for the special use permit in an area zoned Agriculture A-1.  The Buckingham County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors held a series of public hearings at which hundreds of people spoke.  A pipeline cannot operate without compressor stations to move the gas along the line.

The defendants in the case include the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission.  They and the pipeline company now have 21 days to reply.

Concern for the New Generation was founded by residents of the Union Hill and Union Grove communities.  CNG became a chapter of the statewide Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in November.