Staunton: City voices water concerns in pipeline challenge

staunton virginiaThe City of Staunton has joined Nelson County to express its concerns to a federal appeals court in a legal challenge to the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Staunton City Council voted unanimously during its regular meeting on Oct. 25 to adopt a resolution that authorizes participation in a brief amicus curiae, or amicus brief, and present its concerns about the pipeline to the federal appeals court that will be hearing legal challenges to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

An amicus brief is provided by non-litigants in appellate court cases and provides supplemental information and arguments for the consideration of the court. The City will not become a party to the litigation but act as a “friend of the court.”

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors has already approved participation in the brief, and Staunton’s city council has been informed that other localities and government agencies affected by the pipeline’s construction are considering joining the brief as well.

Last October, FERC issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity authorizing the construction of the pipeline on a route passing nearby the City of Staunton and the recharge zone for the City’s major water supply source at Gardner Spring. The spring supplies approximately half of the City’s water and also supplies some water to the citizens of Augusta County.

“Submitting an amicus brief is likely our last real opportunity to voice our concerns yet again,” said Mayor Carolyn Dull. “City council is united in its commitment and diligence to protect one of Staunton’s most important natural resources in Gardner Spring, and will continue to fight for its preservation.”

Council’s foremost concern is the impact of potential contaminant spills along the pipeline corridor, thereby potentially tainting Gardner Spring.

“Our fears were confirmed recently when we learned of Dominion Energy’s own trace dye test, which found that the karst terrain allows infiltration to Gardner Spring,” Dull said. “Since 2014, we’ve written numerous letters to FERC and others about our uneasiness with the potential impact of the pipeline on our water supply, only to receive no response. Regrettably, no one has answered any of our concerns, such as who will pay for an alternate water source for Staunton and Augusta County if the pipeline construction or an associated disaster destroys or contaminates Gardner Spring.”

Council’s position on the issue is further detailed in the resolution it adopted on Oct. 25.

The possible cost to the City to participate, subject to any contribution from other localities, is approximately $8,000.

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