In a letter on February 15, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Interim Right-of-Way and Work Area Stabilization Plan.
SELC points out that the ACP’s “stabilization” actions were merely an excuse to do new construction. ACP had said that several areas had already been trenched, and that installation of strung pipe in those areas was necessary to stabilize the right-of-way. In reality, none of the areas, totaling almost half a mile in length, had been trenched.
The letter states, “Atlantic and DETI have now asked the Commission for authorization to trench and install pipe in those three areas and six others, covering a total of approximately 1.5 miles along the pipeline right-of-way. Trenching, however, is not necessary to stabilize a right-of-way; on the contrary, it is one of the most destabilizing activities involved in pipeline construction. The Commission’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement for the ACP is replete with examples of the environmental risks associated with trenching. Accordingly, Atlantic and DETI’s construction plans call for installing additional erosion control devices once trenching begins and ‘minimizing the length of open trench at any given time.’ Far from a stabilization method, trenching actually demands further mitigation measures due to its destabilizing effects on a landscape.”
The SELC letter concludes, “We urge the Commission to enforce the terms of its certificate and to reject Atlantic and DETI’s request to proceed with construction that cannot be justified by environmental or safety concerns.”
Read the full letter here.
In mid-January we reported on the Charleston Gazette-Mail article about energy lobbyist, Bob Orndorff, state policy director for Dominion Energy, who, when speaking to Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development on behalf of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been halted because “rogue environmental groups” are getting in the way. “It’s on hold because the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a rogue environmental group to contest various permits that we have on the project.” The Gazette-Mail said, “Orndorff urged lawmakers to ‘stand up to these rogue environmental groups’ and pass a resolution to condemn them.”
In an editorial on January 11, the Gazette-Mail asks, “Who are the real rogues?” The editorial says, “In reality, Dominion Energy has halted construction after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found environmental regulatory groups were bypassing rules meant to protect people, wildlife and the environment in the path of such large-scale projects. No doubt Dominion will continue to pursue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once these legal hurdles are cleared, but for representatives of the industry to blame ‘rogue’ environmentalists is dishonest and simply wrong.”
Now a resolution condemning the “assaults on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” from citizen groups has been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. House Resolution 11, introduced February 6 and just recently made public, is co-sponsored by 49-members of the 100-member House, including the Speaker.
That January 11 Gazette-Mail editorial concluded, “The suggestion to the Legislature offered up by lobbyist Bob Orndorff that the body pass a resolution condemning the environmental groups pursuing litigation is insulting. These groups trying to protect their rights are made up of actual West Virginians who want to preserve what they have and avoid being steamrolled by big industry. Their government should be watching out for them, but it’s not, so the only way to stand up for themselves is through the courts. Remember it’s the people who are the David in this scenario, not the Goliath.”
It was amazing in January that the legislature would think condemning opposition to Dominion was a valid legislative action, and it is just as amazing a month later.
ABRA Update 217 from Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance reports that on February 11, 2019, the US Forest Service (NFS) filed a petition for review of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in December vacating the NFS permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP, LLC) had previously filed a challenge to the decision, on January 28. The NFS petition states:
. . . the Forest Service seeks rehearing of the panel’s holding that National Forest System land traversed by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail “is land in the National Park System.” Slip op. 52. That holding presents “a question of exceptional importance,” Fed. R. App. P. 35(a)(2), because it may preclude the construction of infrastructure for any pipeline across all federal lands traversed by the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail in states within the jurisdiction of this Court, and because it contradicts the plain language of the National Trails System Act and the agencies’ consistent practice over eighty years of Appalachian Trail management. The panel’s holding also calls into question the validity of dozens of Forest Service permits for electrical transmission lines, telecommunications sites, municipal water facilities, roads, and grazing areas.
Reaching this issue was unnecessary to the judgment. The Forest Service seeks rehearing to preclude the above-described holding from having precedential effect— with disruptive consequences for the many operations of the Forest Service and the Park Service in this Circuit.
The NFS petition, like the previously one filed by ACP, LLC, requests that all fifteen members of the Fourth Circuit hear the appeal. At this writing, the Court has not yet acted on either petition.
There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page):
Tuesday February 19, 2019, 6:00-8:00 pm, Buckingham Middle School, 1184 High School Road, Buckingham, VA 23921.
Join Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and former Vice President Al Gore for a program on “The Moral Call for Ecological Justice in Buckingham.” The public is invited to this free evening event, where Buckingham residents and other Virginians will share stories of the impacts of environmental injustice, and scientific experts will discuss the health threats and ecological devastation of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline and compressor station. As we celebrate Black History Month, we recognize how poverty, racism and ecological concerns are connected, and that we cannot address just one without addressing the others.
The event is FREE, but please REGISTER HERE so organizers can plan appropriately.
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Former Vice President Gore is the founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.
Writing in the Virginia Mercury on February 13, 2019, members of the POWHR Coalition ask, “Where’s the pipeline hearing you promised?”
The State Water Control Board passed a motion on December 13, 2018, requiring a hearing on whether the water quality certificate for the Mountain Valley Pipeline should be revoked. But eight weeks later, no hearing date has been announced and the MVP continues to inflict damage.
“MVP’s ongoing pattern of violations disproves the assertion that formed the basis for certification, that compliance with water quality standards was reasonably assured. Every day that passes without a stop work order from the commonwealth undermines the board’s intention to reconsider the question of reasonable assurance. The Department of Environmental Quality’s refusal to issue stop-work orders where harm continues and imminent threats to water quality now exist betrays the state’s duty to use its full authority to protect our resources.”
The authors call on the Board to:
- meet as soon as possible
- vote that DEQ and the attorney general act immediately to stop work and prevent even further damage
- provide an opportunity for meaningful citizen input. “In this case, participation by citizens is especially necessary to ensure that the interests of the public and the environment are represented. Recent disclosures by a former board member show that DEQ Director David Paylor is hostile to citizens.”
“It is important to stress that the authority for the notice and hearing process lies with the board; DEQ is merely tasked with carrying out the board’s order.”
Read the full article here.
On February 14, 2019, a meeting was announced for March 1, 2019, to discuss details on when the actual hearing will take place, and the format it will take. The Water Board meeting to discuss a time and process for the actual hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1021 Koger Center Blvd., Richmond.