Deadline for Comments on FERC Process: July 25


The deadline for commenting to FERC on revising its policies on review and authorization of natural gas pipeline proposals is July 25, 2018. FERC’s policies have not been revised since 1989!

FERC’s news release of April 19, 2018: Commission Initiates Notice of Inquiry into Pipeline Certificate Policy Statement

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today launched an inquiry seeking information and stakeholder perspectives to help the Commission explore whether, and if so, how, to revise existing policies regarding its review and authorization of interstate natural gas transportation facilities under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act.

FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to examine its policies in light of changes in the natural gas industry and increased stakeholder interest in how it reviews natural gas pipeline proposals since the Commission adopted its current Policy Statement on pipeline certification. The Commission issued its current Policy Statement, “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities – Statement of Policy” (Docket No. PL99-3-000), in September 1999.

Today’s NOI poses a range of questions that reflect concerns raised in numerous public comments, court proceedings and other forums. Through the NOI, FERC is seeking input on potential changes to both the existing Policy Statement and the structure and scope of the Commission’s environmental analysis of proposed natural gas projects.

The Commission also is seeking feedback on the transparency, timing, and predictability of its certification process. FERC is encouraging commenters to specifically identify any perceived issues with the current analytical and procedural approaches, and to provide detailed recommendations to address these issues.

A number of recent news stories have addresses FERC’s refusal to address broader impacts of pipelines on climate change and greenhouse gases, e.g. LaFleur defies FERC majority, will consider broad climate impacts of pipelines, and Federal appeals court dismisses pipeline case that charged FERC with bias.

Be sure to use docket number PL18-1-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by U.S. mail.

You may  submit a comment to FERC electronically (https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx).  

Directions to submit an e comment:

Go to https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx and fill in your information.  They will send you an email immediately. You will need to click on the link they provide in the email. It will take you to the FERC comment page. You will need to enter the docket number – PL18-1-000. After you have entered it, it should show up in a box, and you will need to click on the blue ‘+’ next to it. Then you copy and paste your comment into the provided box or write in your comment and submit.

You can also send comments and letters by U.S. mail, addressed to:

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

To read other submissions to FERC:  You can search the FERC database of comments submitted on the ACP using either their General Search page or their Advanced Search page.  In both cases, be sure to include the docket number (PL18-1-000).  Note:  You should be aware that the search page and its functions on FERC’s Web site are temperamental and often non-functional – that in itself is something worthy of comments to FERC!

ACP Threatens “Alcohol Alley”

An article in the July 3, 2018, Belt Magazine discusses how “Alcohol Alley” merchants say the Atlantic Coast Pipeline threatens their industry.

“Whether it’s a glass of estate Chardonnay on the grounds of Afton Mountain Winery or a Full Nelson IPA on Blue Mountain Brewery’s sprawling patio, the breathtaking Shenandoah views are a common ingredient in the region’s various alcoholic beverages. Terrific views sell booze, and many of Nelson County’s producers have capitalized on the landscape to power on-site appeal at their facilities. Virginia doesn’t track tap room & tasting room sales volumes across categories of alcoholic beverage, and besides, it’d be impossible to extrapolate how much of that revenue was directly due to the scenery. But on-site sales are a crucial source of revenue for small alcohol producers across the country, and the ACP’s impending construction in the Rockfish Valley may threaten that.”

The article discusses the importance of unspoiled scenery to Nelson County’s alcoholic beverage industry, which employs some 425 locals directly, and helped to bring in almost $200 million in tourism expenditures in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available). All this would be threatened by Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

DEQ Gives Notice to MVP on Violations


On July 10, 2018, both the Roanoke Times and WSLS10 reported that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has given EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a nine-page notice of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates. The notice says MVP failed to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations.

Read the full Notice of Violation.

According to the Roanoke Times, “The Virginia notice is not a finding of guilt or liability but a set of allegations over which the company and regulators are to negotiate and reach agreement. In Virginia, fines for environmental violations of the type alleged can reach $32,000 per day. ‘We are holding MVP accountable and we expect full resolution of the issues,’ DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said Tuesday. …. The unexpectedly large rainfall won’t qualify as an excuse for not keeping sediment under control, said Regn, who added that the company is responsible for cleanup.”

The company has 10 days to respond – BUT they are allowed to keep working during the 10 days.

Landslide Caused June Pipeline Explosion in WV

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on July 11, 2018, that “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”

According to the US Geological Survey Web page, “Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials.”

TransCanada, owner of Columbia Gas Transmission, touted the pipeline, which just started operation in January 2018, as “best-in-class,” exactly what Dominion says the ACP will be.

Writing in Blue Virginia on July 11, 2018, Jon Sokolow reminds us of the stories in late May and early June about Precision Pipeline (builder for the MVP), which had more than 50 post-completion landslides along a 55-mile non-mountainous pipeline route in Wisconsin. That’s approximately one landslide per mile.

The Sokolow article continues, “The landslide risks at issue in the Dominion/Precision Pipeline lawsuit are terrifying because the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are proposed to be built through some of the steepest terrain in Virginia, with slopes as steep as 78% in places. This mountainous terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides when fill material generated by construction is deposited on slopes after the pipelines are buried.”

How many miles of steep slopes are there on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route? How many on the Mountain Valley Pipeline route? How many potential landslides?  How many potential explosions?

Dominion Spends Money – and More Money

Dominion vastly increased its political spending on lobbying and “communications” recently. A July 10, 2018, AP report says, “Recently filed disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. That’s about 10 times what the company said it spent in last year’s filing. The spending came during a period when the company successfully pushed through legislation that could lead to substantial increases to electric bills.

“Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the company’s stepped up ‘education outreach’ was needed ‘to break through the fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups.’ Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000. Dominion’s media blitz while lawmakers were debating the bill included a TV ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Dominion had 22 registered lobbyists this last session, a mix of full-time employees and well-connected hired guns. Dominion hired lobbyists from McGuireWoods, Reed Smith and Williams Mullen, three of the top lobbying firms in Virginia. The regulated monopoly also hired David Hallock, a close political advisor to Gov. Ralph Northam, as an outside lobbyist. The $1 million figure likely does not include the full scope of the company’s efforts, as Virginia law requires only that a narrow definition of lobbying expenses be made public.”

Dominion must be running scared if it needs to spend that much money to counter the increasing success of low- and no-budget groups fighting to protect land, forests, water, and private property – and consumers’ electric bills – from the actions of a company focused only on profit, a company accustomed for decades to doing whatever it wants.

An interesting side note:  the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on June 22, 2018, that “The highest-paid local CEO in 2017 was Dominion Energy’s Thomas F. Farrell. As chairman, president and CEO of the state’s largest utility company, Farrell earned $14.21 million, up 18 percent from $12.09 million in 2016.”