ACP and Compressor Station Not Needed or Wanted

jeeva-graphic-8dec2016Joseph Jeeva Abbate’s December 8, 2016, Letter to the Editor in the Farmville Herald points out that people in Buckingham County don’t want the compressor station and don’t want the pipeline, and that economic studies show the pipeline isn’t needed. Furthermore, “More than 95 percent of all concerned citizens submitting letters to FERC understood the ACP and its compressor station would have a negative impact to the Virginia economy, a negative impact on Virginia forests, a negative impact on Virginia water, a negative impact on Virginia citizens’ health, a negative impact on Virginia citizens’ safety and a negative impact on Virginia culture. And 73.7 percent of all respondents expressed a negative viewpoint on the ACP overall.”

Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Dominion, and Conservations Easements

highland-vof-graphic-8dec2016An excellent article in the Highland County Recorder by staff writer John Bruce discusses clarification by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation of its position on its conservation easements that Dominion wants to swap. The full article is reproduced here with permission of The Recorder.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), a state agency, holds almost a dozen conservation easements on private property (3,474 acres in Bath County and 737 acres in Highland County) that are on the route of the proposed ACP. Dominion wants to do an “easement swap,” exchanging conservation easements on the acreage in the already existing properties for acreage to be put in conservation easement on a property recently purchased by Dominion. Only in rare circumstances VOF has allowed “conversion,” and up to now only on much smaller pieces of property.

FERC has told Dominion to identify any construction, restoration, or operation mitigation measures identified by VOF that would promote compatibility with the purpose and values of the easements. In early November, Dominion said, “After a series of consultations with VOF, Atlantic filed 10 applications with VOF in May 2016 for minor conversions under (the Open-Space Land Act) for each of the open-space easements proposed to be crossed by the ACP.”

Consideration of the applications is on the VOF Board’s February 9, 2017, meeting agenda. But on December 5, 2016, VOF Deputy Director Martha Little replied to Dominion, saying, “It is VOF’s position that the proposed conversions under this code section are not minor and, in fact, would represent the largest conversion of open-space land in VOF’s 50-year history.”

Little explained to FERC, “It is accurate to say that this language is present in the easements and that VOF does recognize the need to balance its preservation obligations with necessary utility infrastructure. However, what is not clearly stated here is that construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would not fall within the scope of activities permitted by this language in the easements.” The foundation, she said, “has stated since the very first consultation with Atlantic that this project could not be completed on VOF open space land without impairing conservation values of the affected properties. VOF has consistently taken the position that construction, maintenance and operation of the interstate gas transmission line is inconsistent with the open-space protections afforded by the subject easements. Therefore, the construction, operation and maintenance of the ACP [would] constitute a conversion/diversion of the easement property as outlined in … the Open-Space Land Act,” she said.

“It is not a question at this time of whether the crossing will be deemed to be a conversion, but rather whether Atlantic will have met the statutory requirements of [the Open-Space Land Act.]”

The article explains in detail the many arguments by Dominion on why the “conversion” should be allowed, as well as explaining some of the particulars of existing easements on some specific properties. Chuck Burke, managing partner of the LLC owning one of the tracts, says they secured the easement in 2013 because of the land’s extensive karst topography, that the Open-Space Land Act prohibits VOF from permitting Dominion to cross conservation easements, that any or all of the easement on the property was unavailable for conversion and ineligible for taking through eminent domain, and that the LLC would would “take full advantage of all legal recourse” against Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC to protect “the significance of the gift” covered under the Code of Virginia.

Read the full article here.

More on Polls

Our previous post included Doug Hornig’s December 8, 2016, Daily Progress Letter to the Editor. But it seems they published an earlier letter rather than the revision they had asked him for. When Doug first sent the letter back in October, the Progress asked him to pare the reference list; he did that and also revised the letter to include results of the non-partisan September poll. The letter published on December 8 was the original, not the revised version. What the Daily Progress left out: “Consider what happens if the question is framed differently, as it was in a September poll by the nonpartisan public research Cromer Group, which gave respondents the details of BOTH the pipeline pros and cons, and then asked Virginians if they supported it . Pretty different result: 55% said No and only 28% Yes. Virginians clearly do not want this pipeline, and an honest poll confirms it.”

In Buckingham County, The Farmville Herald’s poll last week asked, “Are you in favor of building the ACP compressor station in Buckingham County’s Union Hill community?” Results:

  • No, the dangers are too great. (87%, 512 Votes)
  • Yes, it is part of a project that will boost the economy. (11%, 64 Votes)
  • I have no opinion. (2%, 13 Votes)

Another clear loss for ACP (although Dominion keeps saying that most people support it!).

Editor Martin Cahn said this poll had the largest number of responses since he started working at the Farmville Herald.

Misleading Information and a Flawed Regulatory Process

In a December 6, 2016 letter to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Doug Hornig sets the record straight about the recent poll that Dominion Power loudly proclaimed showed “an overwhelming majority” of Virginians favor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 55% is not an “overwhelming majority.” The obviously rigged survey, conducted by a company that proudly describes its partisan connections, did not, of course, tell people that a host of energy experts have publicly stated that the ACP won’t bring jobs, will threaten water resources, and is totally unnecessary to serve current and future energy and electricity needs. As Doug says, “Given how slanted the question was, the most remarkable thing is that nearly one in three respondents still opposed the pipeline. Virginians do not want it, and any fair poll would confirm that.”

A December 5, 2016, Staunton News-Leader article discusses similarities between the ACP and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Like Doug Hornig in his letter, the News-Leader article points out Dominion’s extensive media campaign which spreads “misleading information. Most people in Virginia believe that the pipeline is necessary and will benefit our economy because of misleading information put forth by the project developers.”

Tom Hadwin, who worked in the utility industry for 15 years, notes in the article that, “The regulatory process is supposed to examine all of the facts and balance the pros and cons of the project and represent the interests of both the citizens and the project owners. This is not happening with pipeline projects anywhere in the United States. This should be a concern for everyone. Personal rights are being trampled upon, misleading information is being accepted as fact, and federal laws are ignored.”

And speaking of the regulatory process, Friends of Nelson was one of the 180 organizations that signed on to a request calling on Congress to reform the Natural Gas Act and investigate how FERC reviews natural gas infrastructure projects. Friends of Nelson’s Ernie Reed was one of more than 60 speakers who presented testimony in Washington DC on December 2, 2016 an a “People’s Hearing,” held at the National Press Club, on why they believe FERC systematically fails to listen to the concerns of the general public. A panel of “judges,” in a format similar to the monthly FERC open meetings, presided over the Dec. 2 hearing. Read more about the meeting here.

FERC Should Slow Down the Train

slow-down-the-trainIn an article published in the Highland Recorder for December 1, 2016, staff writer John Bruce asks some interesting questions. FERC is expected to issue the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP this month, but there are still a huge number of questions Dominion has been asked to answer (e.g. by FERC, or the Forest Service) and it seems hard to believe a DEIS could actually be completed without those answers. Is FERC planning to issue the DEIS based on incomplete information – information that FERC has specifically asked Dominion to provide?

The Forest Service has asked Dominion to give answers to a list of more than 450 items the USFS found deficient or poorly explained in Dominion’s plans – some easy to answer, some far more complex, requiring complex and in-depth answers that have not yet been received.

Then there is the matter of compressor stations – Dominion says two will be enough for the entire ACP, industry standards call for more, and FERC just recently asked Dominion for explanations and clarifications – and we’d like to have examples of places where what Dominion says will work is actually working in similar terrain.

There is the question of conservation easements. Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) is considering Dominion’s proposal to mitigate nearly a dozen properties with VOF easements by offering up a couple of other properties instead. But VOF is not even going to discuss the proposal until their meeting early in 2017.

How can FERC issue a DEIS until these issues and others still pending have been resolved?

The Recorder says, “According to FERC’s schedule, the draft statement will be published this month. Once it’s out, there will only be a few months for public comment before the final EIS gets issued this June. Once the final statement is issued, FERC will make its decision on the project application within 90 days. Conceivably, the pipeline could be under construction by this time next year. It’s been more than two years since Dominion announced its plans, and in all that time, the company hasn’t explained its plans in enough detail for anyone, or any agency, to examine every potential impact and mitigation measure. Given the company’s record of slow response times, dubious responses, if any, and outright environmental violations, FERC needs to slow this train down.”

We should all ask FERC to take a step back, change the schedule, and wait until there are satisfactory answers to the many outstanding questions before issuing a DEIS.

The Highland Recorder article is here (but access requires a subscription)

“Take the Position that Only You Can Do Something”

Nelson County’s Richard Averitt gave an 11-minute talk to open the November 27, 2016, Water Is Life rally DC in support of Standing Rock. Listen to his passionate speech, much of it focused on the fight against the ACP – and we hope Governor McAuliffe and Senators Warner and Kaine also listen, since they are all mentioned by name. As Richard said, the Constitution begins with “We the People,” only we the people can put things right, and we the people will not stand down. “Take the position that only you can do something!”

Tom Farrell and Bob Blue: Dirty Politics and Dirty Dominion Power

picdomgwstartshereThe good Dominion keeps the lights on. Then there is the other Dominion, with “numerous environmental shortcomings related to coal ash and taking people’s land for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” with “potent political clout as the largest corporate political contributor to both Democrats and Republicans,” and with “plans to increase its climate-disrupting levels of carbon pollution by 80%, not counting its ‘fracked’ natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

Read Glen Besa’s article in Blue Virginia describing all the ways in which Dominion, led by Tom Farrell and Bob Blue, pursues corporate and personal profit at the expense of good government and of clean air and water.

“Virginians need to be better informed about Tom Farrell and Bob Blue and how they manipulate, even warp Virginia politics to their advantage. The media, too, needs to do a better job shining a bright light on how these powerful business leaders and their politician allies rig the system in their own favor.”

FERC Finally Asking the Right Questions

On September 7, 2016, Richard Laska (Bartow, WV) wrote to FERC asking how ACP planned to traverse 600 miles with only two compressor stations (Lewis County, WV and Buckingham, VA), when the industry standard is to have compressor stations every 100 miles. He suggested that ACP might be planning to run at partial capacity, and would then ask to put in an additional compressor station later.  He argued that if that were true, the location of the additional compressor needed to be identified now, not later.

Apparently FERC hadn’t thought of that! On November 23, 2016, FERC requested that ACP explain their compression numbers.

In the same request to ACP, FERC is finally asking about several other important issues:

  • The number and percentage of parcels that are collocated with existing rights of way,
  • The number and percentage of parcels for which ACP has easements.
  • What existing and proposed power generation facilities would be served by the ACP — apparently this is not specified in ACP’s application! (Was FERC supposed to just take ACP’s word for it that 79.2% of the gas was going to go for electricity generation?)
  • Information about whether local distribution companies had sought service from ACP prior to or after ACP’s “open season.”

FERC has asked that ACP provide a response within 15 days.

Richard Laska’s September 2016 letter to FERC is here.

FERC’s November 2016 request to ACP is here.

Further on Anti-Trust Questions about Dominion and ACP

Michael Hirrel has filed a new response to FERC on anti-trust questions.

In May 2016 lawyer Michael Hirrel, who retired last year from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “whether ACP’s project constitutes a prohibited monopolization by Dominion, Duke and Piedmont, under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, and an unfair method of competition, under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”  Hirrel’s original filing is here.

On June 23, 2016, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted a letter (with numerous attachments) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) detailing the harm to consumers and competition stemming from the role of Dominion Resources, LLC and Duke Energy as partners in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The letter says its purpose “is to support a complaint filed by attorney Michael Hirrel on May 12, 2016. Mr. Hirrel stated his concern that the activities of the utility investors in the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline violate Section 2 of the Sherman Act and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. We believe Mr. Hirrel has identified potential antitrust violations that merit investigation by the FTC.”

Dominion filed an answer to Hirrel in August 2016.

New info: November 7, 2016, Hirrel filed a response to the response that ACP had made to his original filing. In it, he characterizes ACP’s filing as firing “a series of aimless scattershot arguments…The result (of which) is a lot of noise and no useful information.”