August 2018 News

August 2018

8-31-18 Law360. DC Circ. Won’t Pause $3.5B Mountain Valley Pipeline Work. “The D.C. Circuit on Thursday refused to pause work on the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley gas pipeline while tribal officials and environmentalists fight the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision approving the project. The three-judge panel ruled that the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and preservation officers of the Rosebud Sioux tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe had not met the “stringent” requirements for an emergency stay while the appeals court reviews the FERC order.”

8-30-18 National Observer [Canada]. Court quashes Trudeau’s approval of Trans Mountain pipeline. “The Federal Court of Appeal has quashed the federal government’s approval of the troubled Trans Mountain expansion project, after concluding that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet made its decision without considering all evidence and failing in its legal duty to consult First Nations. The decision, announced Aug. 30, is the first major court defeat for the project, requiring the government to ask the federal energy regulator or its successor to redo a federal environmental evaluation and correct a ‘critical’ mistake it made to ignore the consequences of increased oil tanker traffic off the coast of British Columbia. ‘Canada was obliged to do more than passively hear and receive the real concerns of the Indigenous applicants,’ wrote Justice Eleanor Dawson in a unanimous ruling that quashed the Trudeau government’s approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project. The unanimous decision by a three member panel that heard the case will also require the Trudeau government to restart its consultations with First Nations about the project, before construction can proceed. The ruling confirms longstanding criticism from affected First Nations that the Trudeau government took a ‘paternalistic,’ ‘unrealistic,’ and ‘inadequate’ approach to consulting them, failing in its legal duty under the Constitution. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which occupies unceded territories in what is now known as the Burrard Inlet in the Vancouver region, and other affected First Nations launched the case almost immediately after the Trudeau government approved the project in November 2016.”  Read the executive summary of the ruling here.

8-30-18 Daily Progress. Letter: Costly pipeline isn’t really needed. “There is not a single power plant, either planned or in operation, that needs the ACP to operate. I challenge anyone to name even one. The purported need does not exist, but the costs surely do. Expert testimony to the Virginia State Corporation Commission uses Dominion’s own data to show that the project will increase utility bills for its customers by $1.61 billion to $2.36 billion. The ACP is an expensive, unnecessary project, funded by utility ratepayers who will provide Dominion a 14 percent return on its costs at our expense.”

8-30-18 WDBJ7. Mountain Valley Pipeline protester to perform community service. “Emily Satterwhite walked from the Montgomery County Courthouse to the cheers of supporters. ‘Be like Emily,’ they chanted, ‘Not like MVP.’ Satterwhite was facing two misdemeanors stemming from a protest in June, when she chained herself to a piece of heavy equipment in the Mountain Valley Pipeline right-of-way. Satterwhite did not plead guilty, but she agreed to perform 200 hours of community service. The judge dismissed one charge and took the second under advisement for 12 months.”

8-30-18 Roanoke Times. Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline allowed to resume. “Federal regulators are allowing construction to resume along most of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 303-mile route through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. The authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes less than a month after it issued a stop-work order for the project. In a letter dated Wednesday, FERC cited a recent analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management concluding that the pipeline’s earlier approved route through the Jefferson National Forest is the best of several alternatives. The bureau was faulted for not adequately considering all of the potential routes when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down two key approvals for the natural gas pipeline to pass through the forest. With the route no longer in question, ‘I authorize the resumption of construction for the project,’ Terry Turpin, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, wrote in a letter to Mountain Valley officials. The only exceptions are for a 3.5-mile stretch of the pipeline through the national forest — for which Mountain Valley still must obtain a new permit from the Forest Service — and a segment in Braxton County, West Virginia, that also crosses federal lands.”

8-29-18 Blue Virginia. “We Had to Destroy the Village In Order to Save It?” FERC Says Mountain Valley Pipeline “construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts.” “According to the FERC order …. ‘protection of the environment along the Project’s right-of-way is best served by modifying the Stop Work Order issued on August 3, 2018…construction is being authorized, with the exceptions note above, because construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts.’ Whaaaaa? Is this kinda like ‘we had to destroy the village in order to save it’ or what? Also of interest is the statement, ‘Based on the BLM’s determination that the route previously approved by all federal agencies provides the greatest level of collocation for an alternative crossing that is also practical, the specific route of the Project no longer seems in question.'”

8-29-18 NRVNews. Citizens Demand Accountability by DEQ. “On August 29, 2018, a letter was sent demanding that the State Water Control Board (SWCB) hold the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) accountable for its failure to properly identify MVP’s chronic violations of erosion and sediment control standards. It requests assurance that the Department of Environmental Quality staff and contract inspectors are reviewing the current approved site plans and comparing the plans to what they observe on site. Insisting that DEQ staff be provided with the resources that they need to aggressively enforce the 401 water quality permit, they also demanded qualified stream biologists, qualified site inspectors who do not have ties to the pipeline industry, and viable assessment of impacts to streams and water bodies that have been, are being, and will be impacted by sediment for compliance with the narrative water quality standard and designated uses. Tammy Belinsky, Floyd County environmental attorney, said: ‘The State Water Control Board charged the DEQ staff at last week’s meeting with aggressive enforcement of the Section 401 water quality certification requirements. The DEQ must correct its inspection procedures, the failures of which are now revealed. We are concerned that this is just the tip of the iceberg in investigation failures. There is no reasonable assurance that irreparable harm has not already been done to water supplies.’ The letter followed multiple violations by the Mountain Valley Pipeline that the DEQ had failed to inspect and monitor. Lance Gallimore, a Franklin County resident who has volunteered countless hours photographing and filming shocking violations by the MVP in Franklin, Roanoke and Montgomery counties, accompanied the DEQ on Tuesday, August 28, when they finally inspected a site in Franklin County where he had reported flagrant violations–with documentation– for months. Gallimore stated: ‘The very day citizens from all over the state were showing up in Richmond to try to speak before the SWCB, I was on the ground witnessing undeniable violations of erosion and sediment measures. And when the DEQ inspectors finally show up, they just blindly walk through the LOD without paying any attention to environmental conditions.’

8-29-18 WTKR. Neighbors come together at pipeline resistance meeting in Norfolk. “Members of the Berkley and South Norfolk communities listened intently as panelists spoke about why two pipelines are a danger to the community. The meeting was organized by three organizations: The Chesapeake Pipeline Resistance, Mothers Out Front and The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, to bring an open and honest discussion about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Southside Connector Pipeline. …. The meeting focused on potential pipeline dangers including potential blasts, leaks and methane and carbon emissions. Another point of discussion was helping people who may not be aware of what’s coming to their neighborhood. ‘Low-income communities are being targeted for dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. I think what happens is they don’t believe we’ll fight back. We’re fighting back,’ said Miller [of Mothers Out Front].

8-28-18 Washington Post. In Virginia, governor and appointees at odds over gas pipelines. “An advisory board appointed by the governor has recommended that the state rescind permits for two natural-gas-pipeline projects, putting its members at odds with Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who maintains that the regulatory process is working as it should. The 15-member Advisory Council on Environmental Justice on Tuesday formally urged Northam to direct state agencies to suspend water and air quality permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, separate projects being built through mountainous and rural parts of the state. Raising questions about the impact on health and the environment from the pipelines, the council said the governor should appoint an emergency task force ‘to ensure that predominately poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.’ The board, created in October [2017] by Gov. Terry Mc­Auliffe (D), has no authority over the process but is charged with providing ‘independent advice and recommendations to the Executive Branch’ on matters of environmental justice, according to Executive Order 73, which established it.”  The Blue Virginia coverage of this story includes a video of the unanimous vote.

8-26-18 Blue Virginia. When a “Stop Work” Order Doesn’t Mean Actually…You Know, Stopping Work. “When does a ‘stop-work’ order not mean actually, you know, stopping work? Check this out [photos of Mountain Valley Pipeline working during the ‘Stop Work Order’ taken between August 19 and 22 in and around Monroe County, WV]. Also, note that last week, Gov. Northam claimed on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” show that “the work has stopped on both pipelines.” Hmmmmmmmmmm….”

8-26-18 Virginian-Pilot. Letter: Dominion’s true costs. “Imagine you’re buying a used car, and you find a dealer who quotes you a very reasonable price of $10,000. You head to the dealership and check out the car, and eventually the salesman slides you the signing papers. You take a look and find that somehow the price of the car has ballooned to $15,000. ‘Wait a minute,’ you say, noting additional fees for servicing, a warranty and a new paint job. ‘You quoted me $10,000. This is way higher.’ The salesman smiles and says, ‘Well, yes, but the car is still $10,000.’ That’s the old trick Dominion keeps trying to pull on customers and legislators. They keep the base rates ‘low,’ but they pile on additional fees to fund questionable infrastructure projects. If you think this is hyperbole, just read the Aug. 15 letter in The Pilot from Dominion vice president William L. Murray. …. Virginia had the eighth-highest residential energy bills (and 12th-highest bills for commercial customers) in the nation in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. And its rates keep going up. Even if you just look at a flat amount (Ex. 1,000 kilowatt hours), monthly residential bills have increased from $90.59 in 2007 to $111.22 in 2016, according the State Corporation Commission.”

8-26-18 Virginian-Pilot. Editorial: On pipelines, Northam finds middle ground hard to hold. “Northam has, since his campaign for governor, sought to stake out a compromise position on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, generally favoring their construction and nodding to their potential benefits while also preaching the need for rigorous enforcement of environmental regulation as they are built. It was a difficult position to hold during a campaign that saw him face a primary opponent (Tom Perriello) very much against the pipelines and a general election opponent (Ed Gillespie) very much in favor. And it has been no easier since his election as governor, especially as protesters ramped up their efforts to halt construction and as reports of erosion and other issues have arisen as the routes through the Virginia mountains took shape. …. Gov. Northam has tried to hold the middle ground on this issue, and it’s the right place to be.”

8-25-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: New natural gas pipelines are not necessary. “Recent letters from Marvin Averett and David Hofstetler argue that, regardless of the environmental and community impacts of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, the projects are desperately needed to make sure Virginians have access to affordable energy. Unfortunately, these pipelines are not being built to provide a supply of fuel to Virginia’s consumers, who are already amply connected to existing natural gas infrastructure. Rather, the proposed pipelines are enormous boondoggles intended to provide profits to their investors. On the same day that Averett’s letter ran, The Times-Dispatch reported on a legal appeal of the ACP’s permit from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This article tells us that two of FERC’s commissioners have expressed serious doubts about the need for the pipelines. This is remarkable, considering that FERC has traditionally been a rubberstamp agency. …. It’s time for citizens to come together and resist the status quo in which energy companies get whatever they want while the rest of us suffer the consequences. We can start by demanding that Gov. Ralph Northam and state regulators answer to the people and stop the pipelines.”

8-25-18 The Inter-Mountain [WV]. Pipeline work at odds with tourism? “I perform Appalachian music for motor coach travelers who come to the Allegheny Highlands. I also work as a step-on guide, traveling on the bus and imparting aspects of history, folklife, geography, botany and more. It has taken years to learn what to share and how. We ride the trains and eat and stay locally, by the busload. But now the West Virginia-based tour operator who hires us says she cannot book any motor coach tours here next year, because there are not enough hotel rooms. She has been told the pipeline companies have reserved the rooms, and the one hotel that is not letting rooms to pipeliners is taking all the individual overflow. How is this an economic boom? The pipeliners, who have not arrived in large numbers yet, due to opposition from many fronts, are temporary workers. …. With the demise of the coal industry, many of us are busy creating sustainable economic development for our communities. …. And yet, will the motor coaches return when the rooms free up? The tour operator that hires me will likely fold up her business rather than wait it out. This was her most lucrative region on the state. In the meantime, she is marketing a tour to Germany. …. It’s time for the Division of Tourism, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, main street efforts, and other entities to state the case that we need sustainable long-term economic development that will preserve clean water and wilderness, and enhance our efforts to repopulate the great state of West Virginia.”

8-24-18 Virginia Mercury. Virginia’s high court passes on chance to stand up to Dominion for conflicts of interest on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Many Virginia leaders seem to have the notion that if our environment is being polluted and ordinary people are having their land destroyed, that must be good for business. And as a corollary, if a business wants to pollute the environment and destroy private land, that must be good for Virginia. So maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that on Aug. 9, the Virginia Supreme Court joined the governor, the State Corporation Commission and most of the General Assembly in refusing to question the sweetheart deal under which Dominion Energy Virginia committed its captive ratepayers to purchasing billions of dollars of fracked gas shipping capacity on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, of which Dominion itself is the largest partner. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to hold Dominion accountable courtesy of Section 56-77(A) of the Virginia Code, known as the Affiliates Act. The section requires public utilities to get prior approval from the SCC for any ‘contract or arrangement’ with an affiliated company. The SCC had refused the Sierra Club’s petition to enforce the provision, saying it could review the deal when the pipeline is operational and Dominion tries to charge its customers for the gas, i.e., after the damage is done. The Sierra Club took the SCC to court, arguing that the statute requires the SCC to examine whether the deal is in the public interest before the contract for pipeline capacity could be considered valid. …. The fact that the contracts happened to be with the partners’ own corporate affiliates didn’t faze FERC any more than it fazed the SCC.”

8-24-18 Think Progress. All-volunteer groups patrol construction of gas pipeline projects in Virginia, North Carolina. Citizen groups fill regulatory gaps created by industry-friendly state and federal agencies. “After the MVP was approved in October 2017, ‘we decided that we weren’t going to sit by idly and let them run over us with their construction equipment,’ Kirk Bowers, pipeline program coordinator for the Sierra Club of Virginia told ThinkProgress. Bowers is one of the leaders of Mountain Valley Watch, a group created to monitor construction of the pipeline. Residents have signed up to serve as volunteer monitors and scouts for what have essentially become citizen regulatory agencies. Mountain Valley Watch was formed earlier this year as was the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI), which is keeping a close eye on the the ACP. The dual monitoring efforts involve hundreds of volunteer observers and collaboration with environmental organizations and citizen groups — such as Friends of Nelson County and Augusta County Alliance — formed years ago to protect the property rights, rural heritage, and environment of the region. In some cases, these volunteer monitoring groups have gathered more information on the pipelines’ impact on the environment and private lands than the regulators that are paid to monitor the projects. The mission of these all-volunteer oversight groups is to make sure laws are obeyed and no corners are cut during construction. And if the volunteers do their jobs well enough, they hope to provide enough evidence of violations to force regulators to issue permanent stop-work orders on the projects. …. ‘We literally are trying to do the regulatory agencies’ jobs for them,’ said Webb, a retired senior scientist with the University of Virginia who also serves as committee chairman of the Pipeline CSI. …. With previous construction projects, inspectors with the Virginia DEQ would, as Webb described, apologetically tell pipeline construction crews that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was forcing them to keep close tabs on their work. “Everybody blamed the EPA” for making everyone do extra work, Webb said. With the creation of the Pipeline CSI, ‘they can blame us,’ he noted.”

8-24-18 WVNSTV. Concerns over Mountain Valley Pipeline layoffs. “Layoffs continue on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project after the federal government issued a stop-order on a portion of the pipeline route. The project intends to run a 300 mile natural gas line form West Virginia into Southern Virginia. The job losses are called devastating. ‘And there’s thousands of jobs at stake here. Local workers are threatened or have been laid off. Hundreds have already been laid off on the Virginia side. And this is really going to hurt these workers and their families. They expected to earn money on this pipeline. They trained trained, they prepared,’ said Steve White, Affiliated Construction Trades. The pipeline project has been targeted by environmental protesters, who worry about potential damage to water and air quality. They prevailed in court, where a judge halted permits on three miles of the project in Jefferson National Forrest, which is in both states. ‘The bottom line message is that MVP misled the court, or misled FERC or misled both. That’s the bottom line,’ said Tom Bondurant, Protesters Attorney, on May 2, 2018.”

8-24-18 Princeton Times [WV]  Congressional delegation weighs in on blocked pipelines. “Three members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation have weighed in on two controversial natural gas pipelines, urging federal regulators to keep building them. In a letter dated Monday, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow construction to resume on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline as quickly as possible. Construction on both natural gas pipelines was recently halted after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that various federal agencies had skirted environmental protections when they approved the projects. FERC issued a stop work order on the Mountain Valley Pipeline late on Aug. 3, and then ordered a halt to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline exactly one week later, on Aug. 10. Environmental and citizen groups called the decision to stop work on both pipelines, at least until federal agencies can issue new permits and resolve the environmental problems, a victory. But in their letter, the lawmakers focused on the jobs and tax revenue that’s now on hold.”

8-24-18 Roanoke Times. State scientists confirm more sightings of endangered bumblebee along pipeline route. “State scientists have found 20 more examples of an endangered species of bumblebee near the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Allegheny Highlands, a finding that federal energy regulators say they will consider in new consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The rusty patched bumblebee is one of five threatened or endangered species that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to properly assess in its earlier opinion on the potential effect construction of the natural gas pipeline could have on their survival. Only one bee had been identified in the ‘incidental take statement’ vacated by the court, but the Virginia Department of Conservation confirmed on Thursday that a team of scientists had sighted 20 of the endangered bumblebees in the vicinity of a property on the pipeline’s path in Bath and Highland counties. …. The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday to reopen formal consultation on the biological opinion in the FERC order approving the 600-mile pipeline project last fall, in part because of new information from the state conservation agency. …. FERC spokesman Craig Cano said federal regulation ‘directs that formal consultation be reinitiated if new information shows that there could be an effect on species “in a manner or to an extent not previously considered.”‘”

8-22-18 Washington Post. Letter to Editor: An inconvenient ‘cultural landscape’  “The Aug. 19 front-page article about African Americans and others in Buckingham County, Va., fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, It’s the resistance’: Baptists, yogis unite, offered a stark reminder of the dangers of ignoring the lessons of history and basic human rights. The pipeline’s builders have chosen to dismiss the importance of the historically black community of Union Hill and the residents’ concerns about health and environmental hazards by declaring the area ‘does not exhibit a cohesive cultural landscape.’ This is eerily similar to the shortsighted excuses used throughout history to kill and displace Native Americans and to bulldoze and bully black residents of Southwest Washington and pave over neighborhoods during 1950s-era ‘urban renewal’ and many other projects in which the rich got richer and the poor got stiffed. As Buckingham’s drama plays out, I was reminded of the eye-opening research done by Charles L. ‘Chuck’ Perdue of the University of Virginia exposing how so-called hillbillies lost their homes in the 1930s to pave the way for two government-backed projects in Virginia: the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park. Those Depression-era folks had a thriving society with farms, homes and churches. But they were doomed to be swept away in the name of industrial ‘progress.’ Today, Dominion Energy and its friends in government dismissively declare that Buckingham’s local ‘cultural landscape’ never even existed.”

8-22-18 State Impact Pennsylvania. Sunoco replaces section of Mariner East 2 because of flaws in pipeline coating. “Sunoco is lifting some of its newly laid Mariner East 2 pipeline to replace pipe that has been discovered with unspecified flaws in its coating, according to two documents obtained by StateImpact Pennsylvania from Edgmont Township in Delaware County. The documents from an engineering contractor for the township refer to a ‘coating flaw’ and a ‘coating issue’ as the reasons for the work, which has been going on along Valley Road in Edgmont and Middletown townships for about a week. ‘The section of pipe with a coating flaw has been removed,’ said one of the documents, dated Aug. 16, from the contractor, Yerkes Associates Inc. ‘A new piece of pipe is being installed. Welding is in progress.’ Another document, dated Aug. 14, said that crews were on site ‘excavating pipe recently installed’ after ‘A coating issue arose on a different piece of pipe to be installed.’ The second document said that manufacturing and shipping dates were being used to trace other pipes in the same shipment. Coatings, often made with epoxy that bonds to the wall of a steel pipe, are designed to shield the pipes from external corrosion. It’s ‘rare’ for a pipeline operator to replace pipe with flawed coatings after it’s buried, said Rick Kuprewicz, an independent pipeline consultant. ‘Something triggered that the coating wasn’t quite right here, and it rose high enough for them to go dig it up and fix it, which is kind of rare,’ he said. The documents indicate that Sunoco is replacing sections of the multi-billion dollar natural gas liquids pipeline a little more than a month before it plans to begin operating the line. …. State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County), a critic of the project, criticized the lack of information from state agencies. He said the Edgmont operation, originally unveiled by a resident’s right-to-know request, is the latest example of individuals discovering and reporting Sunoco’s many violations during the project, rather than state agencies taking strong enforcement action. The discovery of coating flaws stoked long-held fears by Sunoco’s critics that the pipeline represents a grave threat to public safety because of the highly explosive nature of the natural gas liquids that will flow through densely populated areas like Philadelphia’s western suburbs. …. [T]he discovery of flaws in the pipeline shortly before the scheduled start of operation at the end of September recalls an incident in May in which a water contractor struck a section of Mariner East 2 at Middletown after being given inaccurate information by Sunoco on the depth at which it was buried.”

8-21-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Water board stops short of revoking pipeline water permits, orders stronger enforcement. “The State Water Control Board, alarmed by a flood of mud from partial construction of a natural gas pipeline in Southwest Virginia, on Tuesday ordered state regulators to step up enforcement of state water quality standards but stopped short of revoking permits for the project and another pipeline planned through the heart of Virginia. The water board narrowly defeated, 4-3, a motion to modify or revoke the state’s certification of a nationwide permit to oversee more than 1,000 water crossings by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, but agreed unanimously to require more rigorous enforcement of state standards to protect water quality. …. The water board’s action still dismayed a capacity crowd of pipeline opponents who expressed their distrust of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality throughout a tense, nearly four-hour meeting that they interrupted repeatedly to challenge statements by regulatory staff. …. But some water board members appeared skeptical of the state’s ability to protect water quality from sedimentation, after Melanie Davenport, DEQ’s director of water quality permitting, said the state does not have a way to measure or enforce sediment limits in waterways. ‘That’s really not reasonable assurance we are protecting the water quality,’ said Roberta A. Kellam, a board member from the Eastern Shore. Kellam joined two other members of the seven-member board in supporting an unsuccessful motion to hold a formal hearing on whether to revoke or amend certification of the national permit, which gives regulatory oversight of stream crossings to the Army Corps of Engineers instead of the state.”

8-21-18 Bismarck Tribune. Chase Iron Eyes, Morton County prosecutors sign plea agreement in DAPL case.  “Attorney and North Dakota’s 2016 Democratic-NPL U.S. House nominee Chase Iron Eyes has accepted a plea agreement with Morton County prosecutors Bryan Grosinger and Chase Lingle. Iron Eyes was charged last year with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass related to protest activities on Feb. 1, 2017, in erecting a camp on pipeline land in southern Morton County. Under conditions of the plea agreement, prosecutors have moved to amend felony inciting a riot to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, as well as dismiss misdemeanor criminal trespass. The plea agreement also includes a 360-day deferred imposition, during which Iron Eyes must commit no criminal violations and pay a $1,500 fine and $350 in court fees. …. If, after that 360 days, Iron Eyes has successfully completed those terms, the case will be cleared from his record. In a statement, Iron Eyes remarked that the plea agreement includes no incarceration or risk to his license to practice law. ‘The world should know that it’s legally impossible for me and other Native people to trespass on treaty land, and I never started a riot. I and the water protectors are not terrorists. We and the U.S. veterans who stood with us to protect Mother Earth are the true patriots,’ he said. Iron Eyes had intended to argue for a “necessity defense,” invoking his belief that the threat of the pipeline left him no choice but to commit civil disobedience. A nine-day jury trial had been set to begin in November.”

8-21-18 DeSmog. 5 Virginia Officials Involved in Regulating Dominion Energy Are Invested in the Company. “Five employees of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have financial interests in Dominion, the state’s largest utility and energy company. The officials are involved, in one way or another, in permitting or overseeing the company’s activities, ranging from water discharges to emissions controls on power plants. According to financial disclosures filed with the state’s ethics council, four of them directly own stock in the company, while the wife of a fifth official works for Dominion.”

8-20-18 Utility Dive. Construction pause gives momentum to Atlantic Coast Pipeline legal challenges. “Opponents of the $6 billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) have filed a broad challenge attacking the underlying need for the additional gas it would bring. The embattled project planned by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Co. is already facing a potential re-routing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) halted construction following a federal appeals court decision this month to reject construction certificates that had been approved, but declined to reconsider its certificate approval. While federal regulators said the pipeline route may need to be altered, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates (AMA) filed a broad lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which they believe could sink the project.”

8-20-18 S&P Global. Virginia governor advised to freeze permits for Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley gas pipelines. “An advisory council to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recommended the Democratic governor to rescind Clean Water Act certifications and not issue any more permits for the up to $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast and up to $3.7 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines in order to protect minority communities along their routes. …. Northam put together the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice to provide recommendations to improve the state government’s protections of low-income and minority communities, among other goals listed in an October 2017 order. Neither the governor’s office nor the advisory council responded to inquiries about the likelihood of the governor acting on the council’s recommendations.”

8-20-18 WVTF. A Pipeline Update: Where Things Stand Now. “Virginia’s Water Control Board will meet Tuesday to consider the question of whether the state should be inspecting every point on a river or stream where pipeline builders propose to cross. The Department of Environmental Quality had concluded it was enough to let the Army Corps of Engineers do that, but more than 9,000 people wrote to DEQ to protest that decision.” Includes audio.

8-20-18 Roanoke Times. Bernard and Limpert: State Water Control Board should look anew at pipeline permits. “This week, the State Water Control Board will take a fresh look at whether permits from the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines are sufficient to do so. As landowners along the pipeline routes, we urge our fellow Virginians on the board to wield its full authority to protect our waters, especially in light of multiple recent findings by federal courts and agencies that the companies’ construction plans are gravely deficient.”

8-20-18 Blue Virginia. More Outrage: Virginia DEQ Officials Tell State Water Control Board It Has No Power to Stop the Pipelines. “In an outrageous display of arrogance and disregard for Virginia law, DEQ Deputy Director Chris Bast has revealed that DEQ believes the State Water Control Board – which has broad authority under Virginia Law to regulate our water and to set and enforce Virginia State Water Quality Standards – is powerless to revoke the permits the Board itself issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. Let’s try that again. DEQ says The State Water Control Board can issue Section 401 permits for those pipelines, but it cannot revoke them. …. State law specifically allows the Water Board to “issue, revoke or amend certificates” under a whole host of conditions.”

8-19-18 Washington Post.  The Baptists and the Yogis Fight the Pipeline.  Discusses the shared concerns and joint actions of these two seemingly disparate groups. Pastor Paul Wilson and his two Union Hill congregations, along with Swami Dayananda and Yogaville residents, are leading the opposition to the Atlantic Coast pipeline and its massive compressor station in Buckingham. In a recent sermon, Wilson talked about the arrest of apostles Peter and John for healing a man. “Brought before the most intimidating authorities of the land, they were asked, how dare they defy the law? ‘There’s a turning point,’ Wilson said. Peter, filled with spirit, replied that he was acting with God’s authority. ‘Listen!’ Wilson said. ‘It does not matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from.’ If you speak with moral righteousness, he said, you can face anyone.”

8-19-18 Roanoke Times. As state board takes up pipeline permits, thousands of comments await. “The Mountain Valley Watch has seen enough. After three months of monitoring construction of the largest natural gas pipeline ever to plow through Southwest Virginia, the citizen watchdog group has reached a conclusion about the Mountain Valley Pipeline: ‘This project cannot be constructed through steep, mountainous, rocky terrain without causing severe water quality damages to downstream properties and communities,’ the monitoring group stated in a report sent to the State Water Control Board. When the board meets Tuesday in Richmond, the report urges it should rethink its earlier finding that construction of the pipeline will not pollute the more than 500 streams and wetlands it will cross. Filled with technical analysis, photographs and case studies, the Mountain Valley Watch report runs for 34 pages — yet represents just a tiny piece in a pile of reading material. More than 13,000 written comments have been submitted to the water board since it invited public comment on the sufficiency of federal permits granted to Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a similar project that will run through Central Virginia.”

8-18-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline cuts workforce, delays project completion to late 2019. “As construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline decelerates, the company says a temporary stop-work order has forced it to release half of its workforce and push back an expected completion date to late next year. The actions were taken ‘to address an idled workforce and protect the integrity of the project,’ read a statement posted to the company’s website. About 2,100 people were working on an approximately 100-mile stretch of the natural gas pipeline in Southwest Virginia earlier this summer. It was not clear how many remained Friday. …. ‘MVP remains committed to the earliest possible in-service date; however, under current circumstances a full in-service is now expected during the fourth quarter 2019,’ the company’s statement read.”

8-17-18 Daily Progress. Environmentalists want court to invalidate FERC permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Environmental organizations have widened their legal assault on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the federal permit that authorized construction of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline through three states. The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed suit in the 4th Circuit on Thursday, less than a week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied their longstanding request for a rehearing of its decision to grant the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity. Lawyers representing 14 environmental organizations urged the court to review FERC’s decision to issue the certificate on Oct. 13, 2017, and deny the rehearing on Aug. 10, the same day the commission ordered work to stop on the project because the 4th Circuit had vacated two federal permits necessary for its construction.”

8-17-18 Blue Virginia. Press release from Global Justice Ecology Project: Gov. Northam Dismisses Letter from His Environmental Justice Advisory Council Calling to Stay Pipeline Permits. “In response to a letter from his own advisory committee calling for a halt to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline due in part to its disproportional impact on poor and minority communities, the assistant for Governor Northam’s press secretary, Marissa Astor, told Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) that it is the Governor’s position that the letter is only a draft, and not final until voted upon by the committee ‘in the coming weeks.’ The letter, obtained by GJEP, was the subject of comment by various members of the Governor’s committee in a GJEP press release on 8/16. The committee is clear that the letter is a finished piece of work deserving of action by the governor.”

8-17-18 Virginian-Pilot. Letter: Customers shouldn’t have to pay for pipeline. “In ‘Dominion’s Rates Are Low compared to other states’ (letter, Aug. 14), a Dominion Energy executive compares its rates to those in other states. But Dominion serves the most densely populated areas of Virginia and leaves the rural areas, which are more expensive to serve, to other utilities. A state-to-state comparison is more accurate. On that basis, Virginia’s rates are three-fourths of a cent higher, putting us at 27th, in the bottom half. We are in a moderate climate zone, so it costs less to operate utilities in this region. Virginia’s rates are higher than those in North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. …. The proposed new power plants that might have needed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been canceled. Yet, Dominion will ask its customers to pay for the 20-year, $4 billion contract its subsidiary signed with the pipeline. Existing pipelines can transport gas three to eight times more cheaply than the ACP.”

8-17-18 Blue Virginia. Email Exchange Between Virginia DEQ and Wild Virginia Conservation Director Raises Troubling Questions. “The following exchange is between David Sligh of Wild Virginia and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), regarding DEQ’s handling of mail sent to the State Water Control Board. The exchange concerns a report issued by Wild Virginia and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring coalition, which we published here. The report documented DEQ’s failure to consider the impact that construction of Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines would have and already have had on Virginia’s water quality. …. So…can someone please explain to me by what authority does Virginia’s DEQ take it upon itself to not attach the report — and for what purpose? Even more troubling is that we learned yesterday (in an email from a DEQ spokesperson provided to BV) that DEQ will not finish its own summary until next Tuesday (August 21), the day of the Board meeting. Based on this, it sure seems like they are trying to insulate the Board from public comments. Any other plausible explanations, or is the proverbial ‘fix’ in?”

8-17-18 WOAY [WV]. Nearly 3,000 Employees Working On Mountain Valley Pipeline Laid Off. “Employees with the Mountain Valey Pipeline tells WOAY that nearly 3,000 workers have been laid off and they were notified at around 1:30 pm on Friday. The layoffs are in response to a Federal Court of Appeals ruling over permits for a 3 1/2 mile right of way in the Jefferson National Forest. A lot of the employees affected are in our area. Workers were told they would probably be brought back in the Spring.”

8-16-18 Blue Virginia. Gov. Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice Calls for Stay on All Further Permits for Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. “Governor Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (ACEJ) raised significant concerns and has called for a stay on all further permits for on the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The VA Governor’s Advisory Council also recommends an Emergency Task Force on Environmental Justice in Gas Infrastructure to review and address the evidence it has found of ‘disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations due to gas infrastructure expansion.'”

8-16-18 The Hill. Judge orders new environmental review of Keystone pipeline. “A federal judge has ordered the government to conduct a full environmental review of a new route for the Keystone XL pipeline in a blow for the Trump administration. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris in Montana made the ruling late Wednesday in favor of the Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups challenging the pipeline. The decision is likely to delay the project, which was proposed more than 10 years ago. Morris found that the State Department must prepare a new environmental impact statement (EIS) to reflect Nebraska regulators’ November 2017 decision to reject TransCanada Corp.’s preferred route through the state, and instead approve an alternative.

8-16-18 Natural Gas Intel. FERC Eases MVP Stoppage for 77 Miles in West Virginia; Jobs Cut. “FERC on Wednesday cleared the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) project to resume construction along the first 77 miles in West Virginia, enough to add an incremental 1 Bcf/d of service, but with much of the project still stalled, MVP on Thursday announced a massive workforce reduction.”

8-16-18 Record Delta [WV]. Workers asked to stay in area during stoppage. “The lead developer of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline said transient workers from out-of-state have been encouraged to remain in Upshur County [WV] and on standby, despite federal officials having ordered construction on the project to cease. Dominion Energy spokeswoman Samantha Norris said Tuesday both Dominion employees and the energy company’s contractors have been urged to stay in the state while Dominion works to resolve a Stop Work Order, or SWO, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Friday. ‘During this Stop Work Order … contractors have been encouraged to stay in the area and be ready to return to work at a moment’s notice,’ Norris said. ‘The local community should not see a significant impact to local businesses as long as the SWO is not unreasonably extended. We are confident these issues can be resolved quickly without causing unnecessary delay to the project.'”

8-16-18 The Recorder. Let it go, Dominion. “Need we point out the hypocrisy? Oh, let’s do. Read today’s story on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline carefully. What you find is that Dominion Energy has proposed ways to get its gas from the Marcellus shale down to South Carolina and out to Hampton Roads without crossing the ecologically sensitive Appalachian terrain, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Simply put, chopped-up pieces of the gas pipeline would do the job, admittedly at a lower volume of fossil fuel than advertised. …. More than a few energy experts must be rolling their eyes. This is a way to deliver gas they’ve pointed to for years, in asserting the ACP is unnecessary. Two of the four members of FERC agree. Dominion has worked tremendously hard to convince federal regulators and state agencies —and we regular citizens — that bringing its pipe through this part of Appalachia is the only way to serve all these customers clamoring for more gas. …. Now, Dominion argues, since its incidental take statement from the U.S. Forest Service, and the permit to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway from the National Park Service have been tossed out by the court, the company should be allowed to continue building “useful component(s)” of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If Dominion could quickly — literally, in two days — propose another way to get gas to these markets, why insist it could not be done any other way than through our precious mountains in Bath and Highland? That specious argument just died on the table. Dominion might not get all the gas it wants on its own line, but it just admitted it can get a fair amount of it to those in need without wreaking havoc here. And FERC gave its nod for the supply header project this week, so if the federal regulators also agree to let the company work on the ‘useful’ portions of the ACP, Dominion is still poised to make money, and keep shareholders happy. Ergo, there’s no reason for Dominion to keep fighting for the entire ACP, especially the sections through these mountains.”

8-16-18 Virginia Mercury. With pipeline projects halted, there’s a golden chance for the state to require more review. Northam doesn’t seem likely to take it. “Since before he took office in January, opponents of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, including a list of lawmakers and officials from his own party, have begged and cajoled Gov. Ralph Northam to get tougher on the contentious natural gas projects. Work on both pipelines is now at least temporarily stalled amid court rulings that have vacated key approvals from federal agencies, which appear to have left those permits vulnerable to legal challenge by rushing their way through the review process. And with the State Water Control Board meeting next week to consider whether it should require additional scrutiny for the spots where the pipelines will blast, trench or drill across and under Virginia waterways, it could be an opportune time, probably the last chance, for Northam to finally insist on the rigorous environmental review he promised on the campaign trail. Atlantic has yet to begin construction in Virginia, but the Mountain Valley project has already proven itself incapable of handling the sediment laden runoff from construction that opponents warned the Department of Environmental Quality and the board about during the water quality review last year. The exposure of the slipshod nature of how federal agencies handled the permitting process combined with the on-the-ground performance, or lack thereof, of measures intended to keep mud from running off the MVP work areas, have knocked big holes in the narrative that the pipeline developers have been spinning, which is that regulators have left no stone unturned in reviewing the projects. If past is prologue though, don’t expect Northam to seize the moment.”

8-16-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Dominion, environmentalists battle over scope of stop-work order for pipeline. “Dominion Energy is pushing federal regulators to allow continued work on portions of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia and North Carolina while awaiting new federal permits to resolve concerns the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals raised in a ruling that triggered a stop-work order on the $5.5 billion project. However, environmental organizations — that prevailed in the federal appeals court on Aug. 6 to overturn two permits for the project — urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the company’s request and require all work to cease on the natural gas pipeline’s 600-mile length through three states. “Rushing forward with construction now would not only violate federal law, the certificate [to build the project] and the Fourth Circuit’s … decision, but risk leaving incomplete pipeline infrastructure littered across the landscape in the event the ACP is not constructed at all or as originally proposed,” the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates argued in a letter to FERC on Wednesday [August 15].”

8-15-18 Roanoke Times. Head of Jefferson National Forest temporarily reassigned as pipeline controversy continues. “A switch is coming to the Jefferson National Forest’s top leadership, a job complicated by conflict over plans to run a natural gas pipeline up and down mountainsides and under the Appalachian Trail. Forest supervisor Joby Timm has been temporarily assigned to the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office in Atlanta, according to an agency spokeswoman. …. Although Forest Service officials declined to say whether recent events prompted the transfer, some pipeline opponents were quick to suggest they did. ‘Timm’s reassignment was inevitable once the court declared the Forest Service process a ruse,’ said Tammy Belinsky, a Floyd County lawyer who worked with the Sierra Club in a successful challenge of the agency’s approval for 3.5 miles of the buried pipeline to pass through the forest. After first expressing ‘grave concerns’ about Mountain Valley’s plans to control erosion during construction, the Forest Service later caved and accepted the company’s proposal, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found. ‘American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forest lands,’ the court’s opinion stated.”

8-14-18 Augusta Free Press. Pressure mounts on Northam to oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Today, 54 Virginia organizations and businesses sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam asking him to visit the land and communities at risk from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for fracked gas, and to oppose the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. The letter, signed by 54 Virginia organizations — including the Virginia State Conference NAACP, Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and many more — asks Northam to visit the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert at “Miracle Ridge” in Bath County. Their property, filled with hundreds of centuries-old trees, sits in the right-of-way of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ridge would need to be leveled by the equivalent of a two-story building to build the pipeline. The signers asks Northam to see for himself what’s at stake in the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines for fracked gas.”

8-14-18 Colorlibes. Racial Justice Groups Enjoy Tenuous Victory in Halting Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has hit a new obstacle—one that is giving environmental and racial justice advocates reason for cautious celebration. On Friday (August 10), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered Dominion Energy, ACP’s lead stakeholder, to stop all work on ACP until its ongoing permit problems are resolved. …. Alongside environmental activists who oppose the ACP, racial justice groups have been key opponents to the pipeline. In May, the Virginia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). ‘Consideration under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inadequate and grossly neglects to consider the magnitude of both projects and the massive disruptions to surrounding communities and the environment that will result,’ the letter reads. Prior to that, last February, the NAACP released a report, ‘Fumes Across the Fence Line,’ which concluded that building the ACP through lower-income earning Eastern North Carolina counties would be detrimental to Black communities that would bear a disproportionate burden of air contamination and pollution.”

8-14-18 WSLS10. Man spreads message that pipelines will hurt Va. economy. “A Virginia man who has a background in energy and business wants to spread a message that pipelines in the Commonwealth will hurt the area’s economy. Thomas Hadwin, who lives in Waynesboro, has worked for large gas companies in two states and has been a business consultant. …. Hadwin said many people in Roanoke will pay more for energy because of an unfavorable deal if the Mountain Valley Pipeline is built. ‘This is not a good economic deal for Virginia, so why should we sacrifice our mountains, our clean water and all those other issues, just so that we pay more,’ Hadwin said. He said the U.S. is producing plenty of gas without these two proposed pipelines and questions if there will be enough demand for the energy.”

8-12-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: State water board should suspend MVP’s permit. Hileman is an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues. “The Notice of Violation consists of eight “observations” made by DEQ, which correspond to eight project areas where the agency determined violations of one or more State laws occurred. I want to focus on only one of these violations here, Observation 8, which pertains to four intermittent streams that received sediment-laden runoff as a result of failed erosion and sediment controls. …. In Observation 8, DEQ specifically states “impacts to the four streams covered a distance of approximately 6,009 linear feet.” In information provided to the Corps as part of the permit process, MVP estimated the project would result in temporary impacts to 9,629 linear feet of intermittent streams. The impacts documented in Observation 8 represent over half (62 percent) of the total estimated temporary impacts on which the Nationwide Permit 12 is conditioned. Let’s put this into perspective. MVP will cross hundreds of streams in Virginia, and the impacts to only four streams during the early stages of construction represent 62 percent of the total estimated temporary impacts to intermittent streams in the project area. And this statistic doesn’t even account for all the impacts to streams documented in the Notice of Violation, including the Cahas Mountain Road catastrophe! That is, this back-of-the-envelope calculation is seriously low-balling the total impacts to Virginia streams to date. Furthermore, the citizen-led Mountain Valley Watch has documented dozens of additional violations, which DEQ has either overlooked or simply does not have the resources to address, as the scale of this rapidly unfolding environmental disaster has already overwhelmed the agency. …. Given MVP stands to move hundreds of billions of dollars of fracked natural gas through the pipeline, there is simply no monetary fine high enough to enforce compliance with State laws. DEQ issuing a Notice of Violation is little more than a slap on the wrist, a nuisance at best, and will not lead to improved practices as MVP single-mindedly continues its quest to build the pipeline as fast as possible. Only action that halts construction, such as the revocation of a permit, will force MVP to take its obligation to comply with State laws seriously. To each and every member of the Board, the meeting you convene on August 21 may be your last chance to get this right. Your legacy, and our lives, are on the line.”

8-10-18 Connection Newspapers. Letter to the Editor: Fracked Gas? No Thanks. “Mount Vernon residents — this affects you. Did you know that the 600-mile pipeline carrying “fracked gas” proposed to extend from West Virginia to North Carolina, and traverse our Blue Ridge mountains would be paid for by us? The $6.5 billion proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be largely financed by ratepayers of Dominion and Duke. The pipeline lobbyists have done a great job of selling this boondoggle to the public, regulators, and politicians, including Governor Northam and some of our local representatives. …. Dominion appears to be planning based on profit for executive salaries and stockholders, rather than the long-term health of our children, grandchildren, and the planet. Imagine what a $6.5 billion investment in renewables would do to create jobs, preserve our air, water, and environment, and reduce utility bills. Become informed and let your local county and state officials know that this is our business, and we do not want it. Refer to pipelineupdate.org for a well-organized, factual, science-based summary.”

8-10-18 WDBJ7. UPDATE: Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline resumes after FERC approves stabilization plan. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given partial approval to the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s stabilization plan, clearing the way for some construction activities to resume in the pipeline right-of-way. The Director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects issued a letter granting partial approval of the Temporary Stabilization Plan Friday. ‘As indicated in your plan,’ wrote Terry L. Turpin, ‘the shutdown presents challenges for stabilization and restoration, and we agree that there are some clear advantages to allowing some limited construction activities to proceed to prevent potential safety and environmental impacts.’ Saturday afternoon, crews were operating heavy equipment on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County, near the point where the pipeline crosses Route 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. …. This week, MVP submitted a stabilization plan it says will minimize erosion, protect sensitive resources and topsoil, secure fuels and equipment and address safety concerns, including those associated with open trenches, but pipeline opponents are saying not so fast. ‘MVP’s stabilization plan is really a continue-to-construct plan,’ said Tammy Belinsky, an environmental attorney who works with a number of groups fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline. She and other opponents view the stabilization plan as an attempt to get around the recent order stopping work. ‘They should not be allowed to continue to construct under the guise of a stabilization plan,’ Belinsky told WDBJ7 Friday. ‘Continuing to construct will do nothing but cause more harm to our water resources, especially if they are not allowed to use this route in the future.'”

8-10-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Regulators change the rules to ease pipeline approval. “A review by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in collaboration with ProPublica, shows that, over the past two years, federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have moved repeatedly to clear roadblocks and expedite the pipeline, even changing the rules at times to ease the project’s approvals.”

8-10-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. U.S. agency temporarily halts construction of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday ordered a temporary halt to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline all along its route. The agency cited a decision Monday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss out two key federal permits issued for the $5.5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline. Those were a National Park Service right of way permit for the pipeline to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties and a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the “incidental taking” of five threatened or endangered species in its path. FERC indicated that the stop work order is meant to give the parties time to resolve issues the three-judge panel cited in its unanimous ruling. ‘There is no reason to believe that the NPS, as the land managing agency, will not be able to comply with the court’s instructions and to ultimately issue a new right of way grant that satisfies the court’s requirements, or that FWS will not be able to issue an Incidental Take Statement that does likewise,’ Terry L. Turpin, director of the Office of Energy Projects, wrote Friday in notifying Matthew R. Bley, director of Gas Transmission Certificates for Dominion Energy Transmission Inc., of the stop work order. ‘However, commission staff cannot predict when [the National Park Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service] may act or whether NPS will ultimately approve the same route,’ he wrote. ‘Should NPS authorize an alternative crossing location, Atlantic may need to revise substantial portions of the ACP route across non-federal or federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review. Accordingly, allowing continued construction poses the risk of expending substantial resources and substantially disturbing the environment by constructing facilities that ultimately might have to be relocated or abandoned.’ Environmental groups hailed the decision.”

8-9-18 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Pipeline opponents and the governor are talking two different languages. “Environmentalists cannot fathom why one Democratic governor, namely Terry McAuliffe, endorsed the two natural gas pipelines cutting across Virginia and why his successor, Ralph Northam, has done nothing to stop them. It’s actually pretty simple, and has nothing to do with either governor being ‘in the pocket’ of ‘special interests,’ as some pipeline opponents claim. They simply see the world differently. …. What a governor of Virginia hears — be it Northam or someone else sitting in that chair — is that Virginia needs natural gas if it’s going to have any chance of being competitive. That’s what the business community typically says; the Roanoke Region Chamber of Commerce, for instance, was quick to endorse the pipeline. Yes, many local governments have passed resolutions against the pipeline, but governors probably discount those. They understand politics. They probably believe those local governments simply passed those resolutions to appease pipeline opponents. Maybe that’s not really the case, but we come back to the central point: Business leaders think their communities need natural gas, so that’s what governors believe, too. Perhaps someday we’ll have a governor who doesn’t listen to the business community, but historically we always have. …. Ultimately, though, if pipeline opponents want to sway Northam to their side, they’ll need to persuade the business community that pipelines are bad for business.”

8-9-18 Farmville Herald. Toxic gas compressor stations cause stress. Compressors required for moving gas in pipelines are responsible for a wide range of health impacts, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and endocrine damage and birth defects. Risks from compressor stations also manifests in mental health challenges, particularly in low-income populations without access to services. Emergency response in rural Buckingham is notoriously inadequate. During a forum last week, Dominion Energy representatives were unable to answer basic questions about evacuation plans for inhabitants located in the high impact blast zone. …. Pipeline developers determine pollution levels that could mean life or death for impacted residents with ‘cost effectiveness’ calculations weighing the cost of the pollution control divided by the amount of pollution reduction. Impacted residents are expendable. Is this how we make decisions that will impact public health and safety? In Union Hill, where residents face the highest toxic exposure surrounding the compressor station and pipeline, more than 60 percent of households include vulnerable, elderly residents or children. The anti-rural bias of government officials and regulators in Richmond demonstrates utter lack of concern for the well-being of Buckingham residents.”

8-9-18 WV Public Broadcasting. West Virginia DEP Proposes Changes to Stream Crossing Permit. “The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is reconsidering how it permits stream crossings for natural gas pipelines and other federal projects approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a notice published this week, the agency announced a set of proposed changes to West Virginia’s 401 Water Quality Certification specifically for federal water permits issued by the Army Corps, which accounts for the majority of certification requests. The 401 certification contains state-specific conditions that must be met in order to meet the state’s water quality standards before a permit or license is issued by the federal agency. …. WV DEP’s proposed changes to its water quality certification include striking a provision that requires water crossings, or construction that goes under or disturbs stream, rivers or wetlands to be completed within 72 hours. …. Other proposed changes in the 17-page order include a provision that would allow a stream crossing method that is more environmentally protective than currently allowed. The order also gives the head of DEP the power to ‘waive, change, or eliminate’ any of the conditions set out under the 401 Water Quality Certification if the project can provide proof ‘that it will employ a method or plan that will be more environmentally protective.'”

8-9-18 WSLS10. Pipeline fighters celebrate work stoppage with dinner on Bent Mountain. “Pipeline opponents are celebrating a week after construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was put on hold. They gathered on Bent Mountain for a potluck dinner and to protest. A spokeswoman for the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to say the natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to the North Carolina border will be online early next year. But as of right now construction is paused and pipeline opponents are taking the victories where they can get them. About two dozen people gathered Thursday night, protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline at its Blue Ridge Parkway crossing. And for the first time in the four-year fight, this protest feels a little different. ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment and it’s very gratifying to see it happen,’ Preserve Floyd co-chair Mara Robbins said. ‘I call it emotional whiplash, you get a victory and a defeat, a victory and a defeat, and at this point we’re getting victory after victory.'”

8-9-18 WVNews. New FERC filing claims Atlantic Coast Pipeline unnecessary, duplicative. “Environmental groups pointed to a recent filing to the South Carolina Public Service Commission as evidence in their request for rehearing on a key Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-issued certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In the July 16 filing to the Public Service Commission, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. claims that planned Dominion Energy infrastructure would be ‘duplicative.’ The company claims their own established and operational pipeline infrastructure is enough to meet the natural gas needs of the southeast United States ‘for many years.’ According to the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. filing, the costs for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline infrastructure would be passed off to ‘captive ratepayers.’ The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of several environmental groups, entered the filing into the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission docket in support of their request last Nov. 13 for rehearing on the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In submitting the new evidence, the Law Center reiterated its request for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rehearing on the certificate.”

8-9-18 News Leader. Staunton Tractor withdraws zoning appeal over Atlantic Coast Pipeline equipment storage. “Staunton Tractor has withdrawn its zoning violation appeal that argued it should be allowed to store Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard equipment on its parking lot. The company, which sits at 1029 Richmond Ave., withdrew the appeal July 27th, according to Rodney Rhodes, a senior planner for the planning and zoning division for the City of Staunton. The company sent a letter of understanding to the Board of Zoning Appeals stating it removed the equipment that caused the initial violation.”

8-9-18 Sierra [Magazine]. Resistance to Southeast Pipelines Gains Momentum. “Two controversial gas pipelines in the South are in trouble after federal judges and regulators questioned whether their impacts had been adequately studied. On August 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission halted construction along the entirety of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after agreeing with a federal court ruling that 3.6 miles of its route through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia hadn’t been properly considered. Then, just three days later, a three-judge panel with the the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals threw out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway, forcing a significant delay. Environmental groups are thrilled with the twin decisions.”

8-9-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to the Editor (Marilyn Shifflett): Stopping the ACP isn’t a pipe dream. “In response to the Aug. 2 opinion from the editorial board, I’m compelled to point out that while large environmental groups and clean energy advocates have provided much needed and appreciated legal and technical support in the efforts to stop the Atlantic Coast and the Mountain Valley pipelines, it has been largely impacted landowners and residents of impacted communities ‘fighting them tooth and nail.’ The overused media references to ‘environmentalists, protesters, greens’ etc. feels like an attempt to erase the human costs to landowners and communities in the paths of these pipelines. Residents in the Nelson County Times’ community are investing their savings and thousands of hours in this battle. …. If indeed the opinion of the editorial board is correct in the inevitable construction of both of these pipelines, it’s also correct that those of us ‘hoping against hope to stop them’ are proving to be invaluable in holding these contractors to the ‘highest standards of accountability.’ The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are welcoming citizen involvement, as both agencies have noted insufficient resources to oversee projects of this magnitude. Those of us in opposition are resolved to continue this battle in the courts and through key agencies, and we are also resolved to save what we can. It’s unfortunate that the editorial staff of our hometown newspaper recommends “what we must do going forward is hold the contractors to the highest standards” and suggests that ‘we should expect the state DEQ to significantly tighten oversight,’ yet fails to acknowledge that those ‘hoping against hope’ are doing just that.”

8-8-18 Utility Dive. Report: Trump to nominate DOE policy head McNamee to FERC. “President Trump will nominate Bernard McNamee, head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, to fill a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission set to open this Friday, Politico reports. McNamee will take the place of departing Commissioner Robert Powelson, who will step down to head the trade group for America’s private water companies, three unnamed sources told the outlet. The White House, DOE and FERC did not respond to requests for comment. McNamee helped roll out the DOE’s ill-fated coal and nuclear bailout plan that was unanimously rejected by FERC in January. That DOE bailout plan was a litmus test for potential nominees, according to Politico, but it remains unclear if McNamee’s vetting is complete or when he will be nominated. If confirmed to FERC, McNamee would likely fall more in line with the White House’s energy priorities than Powelson, who routinely criticized the administration’s efforts to save uneconomic nuclear plants from retirement.”

8-8-18 Nelson County Times. Nelson pipeline opponents after court ruling: ‘We will never quit fighting’  “Nelson opponents believe the ruling paves the way for the possibility of preventing any further “damage” to the county and elsewhere. ‘In spite of the fact that the trees have already been felled, there is a tremendous amount still to be saved, and reevaluating this route is still critical,’ Shifflett said. In its ruling Monday, the court specifically noted a cleared right of way could harm the views from the parkway, despite the fact the pipeline itself will pass under the parkway. ‘If the pipeline is laid in that path or the drill goes through there, there will never be trees planted back there again. … They cut down some trees that will take well longer than my lifetime to replace, so the damage is grave already,’ Averitt said in the interview, but added he thinks the ruling could lead to more setbacks and further limit ‘injustice’ to residents in Nelson and along the path. Averitt drew hope from the ruling for other reasons, too, saying the language ‘arbitrary and capricious’ is a ‘really powerful’ reflection of opponents’ concerns. ‘It highlights exactly what all of the citizens have been saying,’ Averitt said, ‘which is the agencies whose job it is to uphold the standards and laws that we have simply just gave a rubber stamp and signed off on what ACP wanted. … You have to ask yourself, what is the point of a regulatory body or agency if they don’t uphold their own regulations?’ This [opinion] is really addressing, in my opinion, a much bigger fundamental issue: Are our agencies, who are charged with representing the people and citizens’ rights, doing the job that they’re put in place to do of protecting our natural resources?’ The ruling further strengthened Averitt’s resolve and belief that opponents ‘can still win this.’ ‘I hear every day that, “There’s nothing we can do.” I want to remind the public that that’s absolutely not true,’ he said. ‘This is clear evidence that the people’s voice, and continued voice, matters, and we’re not gonna quit. We will never quit fighting against this thing, because it is a grave injustice.'”

8-8-18 Blue Virginia. Audio: On WRVA, Ralph Northam Asked, “Does Dominion Energy have pictures of you or are they just giving you a blank-load of money for selling out our state’s environment?” “FINALLY, somebody in the news media actually asks Gov. Ralph Northam not just one pipelines question, but a followup, also about his views on Dominion Energy. Miracle of miracles, especially since the guy asking is WRVA’s John Reid, who is most certainly not a progressive, on this morning’s ‘Ask the Governor’ show. Check out the audio, below, and also my transcript of how this one went down – as well as my brief comments, in bold.”

8-7-18 Buffalo [NY] news. Federal ruling reopens door for controversial gas pipeline through WNY. “A new federal ruling has opened the door for National Fuel to revive a plan to build a 97-mile natural gas pipeline between northwestern Pennsylvania and Elma. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled Monday that the state Department of Environmental Conservation failed to act within its one-year statutory limit before it denied a water quality certificate needed to build the proposed Northern Access Pipeline. …. The ruling roiled some local environmental advocates who thought the issue was decided more than a year ago. ‘It’s like changing the goalposts in the middle of the game,’ Diana Strablow, vice-chair of the Sierra Club, Niagara Group. …. The DEC said it intends to appeal FERC’s decision by seeking a rehearing and a stay on the project. ‘If FERC fails to reverse its misguided decision, DEC will appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit and seek a stay of any construction and continue to vigorously use every legal avenue to protect our state’s resources,’ it added.”

8-7-18 Virginia Mercury. Another federal permit struck down? No big deal, Dominion says. “Dominion Energy, the lead partner in the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, says Monday’s decision by a federal appeals court stripping its authority to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway isn’t that big a deal. The company expects that the National Park Service ‘will promptly re-issue the permit. Ample evidence to support the requisite finding that the permit is consistent with applicable statutory purposes has previously been provided to the NPS,’ Dominion wrote Tuesday in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. ‘Atlantic is confident that the NPS will quickly issue a new permit resolving the court’s concerns. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that the NPS will consider any change in the location of ACP’s crossing under the Blue Ridge Parkway.’ However, opponents of the deeply controversial natural gas pipeline have called on FERC to order a halt to all construction, as it did last week with Mountain Valley Pipeline, a separate project that lost its authority to cross U.S. Forest Service lands, likewise at the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.”

8-7-18 Washington Post. Dominion: We have to destroy the Picasso to save the Picasso. “Dominion Energy likes to think of itself as a classy supporter of the arts. The state’s largest polluter paid good money — your ratepayer money — to buy the naming rights for the Richmond Arts Center, after all. So why is Dominion now asking government regulators for permission to destroy an entire museum of priceless masterpieces? The works of art, some 300 and 400 years old, have no equal in Virginia. They are located in Bath County. Dominion contractors plan to enter the museum, topple and shatter all the art, then blow up the museum itself. The masterpieces are ancient Appalachian trees. The museum is a patch of old-growth forest so rare there is nothing like it even in the famous Shenandoah National Park. The Bath County forest sits on the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert on a ridge appropriately named “Miracle Ridge.” If you walk the ridge, you will see the Mona Lisa of sugar maples. It’s nearly three centuries old, towers 100 feet high and has a 15-foot circumference. It hushes every human heart that enters its deep pool of shade. A few feet away is a Rembrandt of hickory oaks, older than the United States of America. And then a Picasso of basswoods and a Van Gogh of red oaks. On and on these ancient trees go. Dominion wants to chainsaw them all and dynamite the ground and bulldoze the entire 3,000-foot-long ridge. It then wants to lower the ridge itself equivalent of a two-story building. All this to make room for art’s opposite, something violent, ugly and corrosive to society’s health and soul: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The proposed pipeline would run 600 miles from the fracking fields of West Virginia to North Carolina and then likely to the coast for export overseas. Price tag: $6 billion. Damage to forests, rivers, farm land, drinking water and the climate? Incalculable. …. That’s like the Vietnam War line: ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it.'”

8-7-18 Triad Business Journal. Southern Environmental Law Center to feds: Construction on Atlantic Coast Pipeline must ‘halt’ “Hours after an appeals court vacated a pair of permits, attorneys for the Southern Environmental Law Center sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a formal letter demanding that construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stop. Referring to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinions released Monday, the SELC wrote that the $6.5 billion ACP ‘is no longer in compliance with the mandatory conditions of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and the commission must halt all construction activities.’ That federally granted certificate grants permission for construction, but only if the project receives ‘all applicable authorizations required under federal law,’ according to the letter. Without the permits – involving endangered species impact and a Blue Ridge Parkway crossing – those conditions aren’t met, the SELC argued. Aaron Ruby, spokesman for Dominion Energy (which, along with Duke Energy, is responsible for the project), dismissed the stance in an email. ‘We do not believe a stop-work order is necessary,’ he wrote. ‘We’re already working with the key agencies to resolve the 4th Circuit Court’s concerns as soon as possible. We believe the court’s concerns can be promptly addressed through additional agency review and without causing unnecessary delay to the project.'”

8-6-18 WSLS10. Mountain Valley Pipeline responds to stop work order. “Only work on the MVP project in Virginia is site stabilization. Mountain Valley Pipeline officials are responding after a stop work order was issued over the weekend. Officials with the pipeline have released a statement saying they agree that the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will be able to satisfy the circuit court’s requirements. …. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said on Monday afternoon that they will continue to inspect the project to ensure all erosion and sediment control measures are in place, installed properly and maintained throughout the stop work order. ‘The only work currently under way on the MVP project in Virginia is site stabilization,’ said David Paylor, DEQ. ‘Virginia’s laws give DEQ the authority to ensure the infrastructure is stabilized – and remains stabilized – for as long as the stop work order is in place.'”

8-6-18 E&E News. Mountain Valley pipeline’s undoing? Less than 4 miles. “Environmentalists finally stopped the Mountain Valley pipeline. For now, at least. In project opponents’ biggest win to date, federal regulators on Friday halted work on the 303-mile Appalachia natural gas project, citing a recent court decision that scrapped two federal approvals. ‘MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas must cease immediately,’ the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told developers. The EQT Corp. pipeline has been at the center of debate and litigation for years, drawing legal challenges focused on issues as varied as climate change, eminent domain and water permits. In the end, less than 4 miles of Mountain Valley’s route has thrown development off course.”

8-6-18 Triad Business Journal. Dominion: No plans to slow ACP construction, despite federal ruling. “Despite what appears to be another judicial roadblock when it comes to the long-planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy has no plans to slow construction in North Carolina. On Monday, a 62-page 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion vacated a pair of permits for the project – an ‘Incidental Take Statement’ which allows the project to impact endangered species and another with the National Park Service over the natural gas pipeline’s proposed crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway. ‘We will work with the agencies to resolve the 4th Circuit Court’s concerns and reinstate our permits as soon as possible,’ reads a statement sent late Monday by Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby. ‘We believe the court’s concerns can be promptly addressed through additional review by the agencies without causing unnecessary delay to the project. In the meantime, we will continue making progress with construction in West Virginia and North Carolina.’ Despite that statement, D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center that’s representing environmental groups Defenders of Wildlife Sierra Club and Virginia Wilderness Committee, called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to force pipeline construction to stop. In an interview after the opinion was handed down, he said the construction authorization FERC granted is dependent on the project attaining all required permits.”

8-6-18 Roanoke Times. Judges vacate two permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A three-judge panel has unanimously vacated two permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, finding the decisions by federal officials to be ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ …. [A]n an ‘Incidental Take Statement’ granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, authorizing the pipeline to ‘”take” —i.e. kill, harm, or harass—five species that are listed as threatened or endangered’ is arbitrary and capricious because the so-called ‘take limit’ cannot be enforced. The judges also found that a second permit is ‘arbitrary and capricious’ because the U.S. National Park Service did not explain how the pipeline route’s crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘is not inconsistent with the purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System.'”

8-5-18 Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Va. governor supports work on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he wants to see the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward after all work on the project was halted Friday. Northam took a tour of Bluefield College Saturday afternoon and said he thinks any roadblock in building the 300-mile natural gas pipeline, which runs through several counties in Southwest Virginia, including Giles County, will be overcome. …. ‘I am supportive of moving forward (with the MVP),” Northam said. “We need energy, but we need energy responsibly.’ Northam said he understands the problems associated with the pipeline, including landowner rights and the recent rain and flooding that have dumped ‘too much sediment into waterways. All along the pipeline they need to be conscious of the land and take people’s property rights into account,’ he said. ‘Any compliance issue … we are looking and watching the streams and the rivers closely.’ Northam said any problems with permits to cross federal land should be resolved and the state is cognizant of the work and its impact. ‘We have agencies in Virginia, like the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),” he said. “I have confidence they are monitoring what is going on. If there is an issue or problem they will (with intervention) be in compliance.’

8-5-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Mountain Valley Pipeline Apparently Violating “Stop Work” Order; Gov. Northam Can’t Wait For It to Get Going Again. “Late Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a “Stop Work” order on the entire Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Yet, as you can see in the video below, MVP construction workers appear to have been ‘busy little bees,’ as the video’s narrator puts it, on SATURDAY AFTERNOON (at 3:45 pm) working away on the MVP. So what’s the deal with this? What are the penalties, if any, for violating the ‘Stop Work’ order? Meanwhile …. [a]ccording to our fine governor, ‘I am supportive of moving forward (with the MVP)…We need energy, but we need energy responsibly…'”

8-4-18 Roanoke Times. An order stops work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but for how long?  “As construction of a mammoth natural gas pipeline grinds to a halt, there’s already talk of when it might restart. In a statement from Mountain Valley Pipeline late Friday night, several hours after the company was ordered to stop all construction for a review of environmental concerns, a spokeswoman expressed hopes for a quick turn-around. ‘We will continue to work closely with all agencies to resolve these issues and look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important infrastructure project,’ Natalie Cox wrote in an email. …. “We believe that the two agencies have the required information to address the issues related to the stop-work order and will work quickly to supplement their initial records,” Cox wrote. Pipeline foes say it won’t be that simple. Tammy Belinsky, a Floyd County attorney who joined lawyers with the Sierra Club in successfully challenging the Forest Service approval, said parts of the review process ordered by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could take six months to complete. Cox declined to speculate on the timing. But in earlier court filings involving a different phase of construction, Mountain Valley warned that an eight-month delay would cost the company more than $600 million. In a written declaration dated June 1, project manager Robert Cooper said that if the 4th Circuit stayed a permit allowing the company to cross streams and wetlands in West Virginia, it would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to the $3.7 billion project. A few weeks later, the appeals court granted the stay sought by the Sierra Club and other conservation groups, preventing Mountain Valley from starting work on more than 500 water body crossings.”

8-3-18 Inside NOVA. Republican in 8th District pledges not to take energy-company funds. “It’s a pretty fair bet that major corporate donors will not be beating down the door of Republican congressional candidate Thomas Oh between now and Election Day. But just in case, he is putting some limits in place. Oh has become the first Republican candidate to promise not to take campaign contributions from Dominion Energy or Appalachian Power as part of a pledge sought by Activate Virginia, an advocacy group that supports candidates – to date, almost entirely Democrats – who agree to eschew corporate financing, specifically from the two power companies.”

8-3-18 Roanoke Times. Giles County couple blames Mountain Valley Pipeline for runoff mess. “It was bad enough to see the driveway that leads to their blue and white-trimmed farmhouse converted to a construction access road for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “When you think you’re going to run out to the store and back, but you have to wait for three dump trucks to get out of the way,” Danny Gallagher said, his voice trailing off as his wife completed the sentence: ‘It’s frustrating,’ Sherri Gallagher said. More than frustrating was what happened during Thursday night’s pounding rainfall, when the same gravel road channeled a wave of muddy water down a hillside, through a chicken coop, across the yard and into their basement. …. In recent months, state regulators have documented uncontrolled erosion from multiple work sites along the pipeline’s path. Late Friday afternoon, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered a stop to all construction on the project. But that was too late for the Gallaghers, who spent Friday assessing damage to their farm. It was the first reported case of runoff from the project actually entering someone’s home, according to Jason Shelton, who works for Mountain Valley Watch, a citizen watchdog group that has been tracking the largest natural gas pipeline ever to cross Southwest Virginia. About eight inches of water covered their basement floor by the time the torrent subsided, the Gallaghers said. Much of it was still there Friday afternoon, causing a dank odor that spread through their circa-1890 house and a sense of unease that could last even longer. ‘Is the foundation compromised?’ Sherri Gallagher wondered. ‘Is it going to cause mold? How much time do you have to get it out before it starts affecting you?’ A spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline, a coalition of five energy companies building the 303-mile pipeline, did not respond Friday to emailed questions about what happened at the Gallagher farm.” The article continues with an account of the extensive additional damage to the road and other structures caused by runoff after MVP added grading and rock filling changed the road’s slope to lead away from a drainage ditch that had previously diverted runoff.

8-3-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Letter to Editor: Ruinous pipelines will harm lives and waters. “The recent news article, “Pipeline opponents say Va. water regulatory process is broken,” highlights deliberate obfuscation by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). By delaying the start of the open comment period the State Water Control Board requested for public input on the nationwide permit’s ability to ensure water safety, and by postponing the board’s meeting date, the DEQ made the board’s responsibilities more dire and public trust in this process weaker. At the board’s April 12 general meeting, those in attendance who live along the Mountain Valley Pipeline path provided disturbing evidence that their waterways had already been negatively impacted. That was almost four months ago and owing to additional actions from Precision Pipeline as it attempts to clear a construction path for the potential Mountain Valley pipeline, the route is now riddled with four more months of mud, sediment-soaked waterways, flooded pipeline trenches, and repeatedly failed erosion measures. Additionally, Dominion’s tree-felling that occurred on the path of the potential Atlantic Coast Pipeline racked up multiple water violations in early spring. Neither project can be built without impacting waterways. …. These ruinous and unnecessary fracked-gas pipelines would irrevocably damage the lives of those who live along their paths and the future safety of Virginia’s waterways.

8-3-18 Roanoke Times. FERC orders work to stop on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A federal agency ordered a stop Friday to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has run into repeated problems with erosion since it began its path through the Roanoke and New River valleys. In a letter to pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited an appeals court decision last week that reversed earlier-granted approvals for pipeline work in the Jefferson National Forest. With construction of that 3.6-mile segment of the natural gas pipeline now on hold, FERC determined that work on the rest of the 303-mile project should not proceed. ‘MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas must cease immediately, with the exception of any measures deemed necessary…to ensure the stabilization of the right of way and work areas,’ the letter stated. The stop-work order appeared to be temporary, with FERC saying that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will likely be able to re-issue approvals that were struck down July 27 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Even so, it marked a huge win for opponents who have been fighting the massive pipeline for the last four years.”

8-3-18 News & Observer [NC]. Private pilots, drone operators to patrol [NC] Atlantic Coast Pipeline for violations. “They plan to deploy private planes, send in the drones and paddle canoes to remote locations along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that no outsider was intended to see. An all-volunteer army of citizen scouts, now being recruited by environmentalist organizations under the name N.C. Pipeline Watch, will be assigned to patrol the construction that is about to begin in North Carolina on the 600-mile interstate natural gas pipeline and spot environmental violations that could lead to fines or work interruptions. The Sierra Club and several North Carolina river keepers organizing the citizen patrols say that a similar effort in Virginia generated more than 150 reports of violations to regulators there….”

8-2-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. SCC trims Dominion transmission rate to give federal tax savings to customers. “State regulators have trimmed Dominion Energy Virginia’s requested transmission rates by almost $131 million, ordering the company to immediately share federal tax savings with customers. The State Corporation Commission dismissed the utility’s argument that it should wait up to two years to credit $118 million in savings from a 14 percentage point cut in the corporate income tax rate, citing decisions by Appalachian Power Co. and other utilities to reflect those savings in transmission rates now. ‘Importantly, this is customers’ money, not Dominion’s, as Dominion’s only basis to collect it is to pay its actual corporate taxes,’ the SCC said in its order on Thursday.”

8-2-18 Virginia Mercury. In Buckingham’s Union Hill, a center of resistance for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion brings in a ringer. “‘They want to shut us up,’ [The Rev. Paul] Wilson told the [Union Hill Baptist Church] congregation. ‘This church is too loud. It’s too vocal. It’s getting to be a problem for Dominion.’ Earlier this year, though, the formidable energy company, the biggest corporate donor to Virginia political campaigns and possessed of other levers of power to get its way, brought in a new ‘community liaison’ to work in Union Hill. He was a familiar face: former Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden, whose family has deep roots in the community and who is a member of Wilson’s congregation. ‘Dominion picked the right one because he’s trustworthy. He articulates Dominion’s position better than Dominion,’ Wilson said in an interview. ‘They’ve always tried to dismiss us as being nonexistent, that we really weren’t there. Dominion miscalculated plain and simple and they realize it. If there’s any entity that can stop the whole process, it would be the church and Dominion has started to realize it.’ Gooden says he was brought on as a paid consultant by the company in the spring, but doesn’t see it as his job to sell people on the project. ‘I don’t know if Dominion did everything right from the outset. I don’t know if they’re saying “Now we have a problem, let’s bring Basil in and he’ll smooth it over,”‘ Gooden said. ‘It’s not my role to smooth over anything Dominion is doing.’ …. On one thing, he and Wilson agree: If the community has to live with the compressor station, and the noise and emissions that come with it, they need to be compensated. Wilson said millions have already been offered through back channels. ‘It hasn’t been officially offered. It was presented to me through the back door,’ he said. The worst outcome, Gooden said, would be for the ‘community to have a compressor station there and nothing to show for it.'”

8-2-18 WHSV3. Anti-pipeline groups to build Defenders Anti-Pipeline Sculpture. “Anti-pipeline groups joined forces Wednesday night, teaming up to create a symbol of opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We’re trying to unite communities all along the pipeline paths in their opposition to these dirty fossil fuel projects,’ said Rosie Lynch. Many in the community against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline came together at Seven Arrows Brewery, to check out the 8-by-8 steel project. The gathering was hosted by Climate Action Alliance of the Valley. The sculpture will be moved and placed at several homes along the pipeline route in Nelson, Augusta and Bath Counties.”

8-1-18 NC Policy Watch. [NC] State Bureau of Investigation unit prepared ‘threat assessment’ of Atlantic Coast Pipeline protestors. “The state’s surveillance and counter-terrorism unit, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC), warned law enforcement officials that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could attract ‘violent extremists’ who are opposed to the natural gas project in North Carolina, a document obtained by Policy Watch shows. According to a December 2017 unclassified ‘threat assessment’ (see below), the ACP ‘has the potential to become a regional focal point for ideologically or politically motivated violent extremist actors inspired to commit acts intended to disrupt and halt ACP construction.’ The document was intended to be shared only with law enforcement, but it was included in attachments of emails among state environmental officials, provided as part of a public records request. It’s unclear who authorized the assessment or if there have been recent updates to the report. Patty McQuillan, spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation, told Policy Watch the agency could not comment on the document. …. Despite the possibility that the protests could become violent, the ISAAC document goes on to state that there is no ‘specific, credible information’ suggesting international or domestic terrorists, or ‘homegrown violent extremists,’ are actively targeting the ACP. …. However, the document does not mention that industry has tried to infiltrate and disrupt peaceful demonstrations at several pipeline sites. TigerSwan, a private security firm based in Apex, has been cited by North Dakota regulators for surveilling and conducting intelligence investigations on protesters without a private investigator’s license. …. Nor does it mention land agents’ tactics in trying to access private property for surveys related to the ACP. Many land owners have complained publicly, and in a related court case, that the agents, contracted by the utilities, have tried to intimidate them or even lied, to gain that access.”

8-1-18 Roanoke Times. Appeals court upholds Virginia’s review of water quality impact of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A federal appeals court has upheld Virginia’s water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, preserving a major milestone for the controversial project. In a decision Wednesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the Sierra Club and other environmental conservation groups that the State Water Control Board erred when it found a ‘reasonable assurance’ that streams and wetlands would not be harmed by the natural gas pipeline. …. The ruling applies to approximately 500 waterbody crossings the pipeline will make on its path through Southwest Virginia. As such, it is more sweeping than a decision last week by the same three-judge panel, which reversed the U.S. Forest Service’s approval for the 303-mile buried pipeline to burrow through 3.6 miles of the Jefferson National Forest. Critics said they were especially disappointed with Wednesday’s ruling, given that their predictions have been borne out by official warnings the project has since received from state environmental regulators. ‘We will continue to closely monitor construction and press DEQ to uphold the promises it made to the court to protect Virginia’s water quality,’ said Ben Luckett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a nonprofit law firm involved in the case. ‘We will also continue to pursue all other available legal avenues to oppose this harmful and unnecessary project,’ Luckett said.”