By Lew Freeman
The masthead of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance states that the organization’s mission is: “Protecting the heritage, resources and economy of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region.” ABRA was organized to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and that effort has dominated its activities for the duration of our existence. However, ABRA has never lost sight of the broader mission of promoting the integrity of this very special geographical region of the United States. In keeping with that broader mission, in coming months and beyond, ABRA will be focusing its energies and resources on three initiatives.
- ABRA and its members will closely monitor actions required to be taken to wind down the ACP project, with particular attention to the restoration of the lands that have been disturbed by construction activity. Dominion and Duke have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a year to complete that work. Reporting on restoration progress will be made in future issues of our newsletter, ABRA Update. When necessary, ABRA will communicate with responsible regulatory agencies to assure that the required restoration is done properly.
- ABRA is assisting those who are still fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, including the POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) coalition and many others. ABRA continues to believe that natural gas pipelines are incompatible with the integrity of the mountain regions of West Virginia and Virginia and that new natural gas pipelines are not needed in the region.
- ABRA is launching in August a new program designed to significantly enhance the capabilities of environmental, conservation and citizen groups to assess impacts of projects in the greater Allegheny-Blue Ridge region and to help assure that the overall environmental integrity of the region is maintained. The program, named the Conservation Hub, will employ some of the same technological tools that formed the basis of the ABRA Compliance Surveillance Initiative program that was developed to monitor ACP construction activities
ABRA’s Conservation Hub program aims to promote responsible resource management by providing data-focused tools that enhance a project’s transparency, strengthen its accountability to permitting and regulatory agencies and facilitate public participation in the evaluation process. It is a regional information and mapping portal, tailored to specific projects within the Hub’s principal study area: 26 counties in West Virginia and 26 counties in Virginia. Projects beyond the designated study area will be considered on a case by case basis. ABRA believes this new initiative will be a valuable, long-term asset for the greater conservation community.
The road ahead for the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance will bring new challenges as we endeavor to promote, protect and preserve the incredible natural resource attributes of this region. Notwithstanding our success with the ACP project, we can never take for granted that other projects in the future could undermine the integrity of the region. We must remain ever vigilant.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has been a vital part of ABRA’s efforts to date. We look forward to a continued, strengthened partnership in the future.