A Historic Case for a Historic River
In July 2017, despite immense opposition to the project from the public and a strong coalition of partner organizations including the Chesapeake Conservancy, Garden Club of Virginia, James River Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, Preservation Virginia, and Scenic Virginia, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to construct an electrical transmission line crossing the historic James River. That same year, the National Trust and Preservation Virginia filed a lawsuit alleging that the Corps violated federal law in issuing a permit without fulfilling its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations, namely completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The case was defeated and appealed in May 2018. While the case was awaiting a final decision, the transmission line was completed and energized on February 26, 2019. Only days later, on March 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declared that Dominion’s transmission line was permitted unlawfully.
This effort was important in creating a strong legal precedent demonstrating that visual effects and impacts to cultural resources must be considered under NEPA. The Army Corps of Engineers has now restarted the permit review process under NEPA and a draft EIS is expected to be released in early 2020.