February 2018 News

February 2018

2-28-18 Blue Virginia. Call Ralph Northam and Urge Him to Stop Destruction of African-American Community of Union Hill in Buckingham County! “Dominion Energy is about to start the process of destroying the African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. Call Ralph Northam today at 804-786-2211 and urge him to stop Dominion from building its compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of an 85% African American community.”

2-28-18 The Recorder. Highland County plans Dominion public hearings. “On Thursday, Feb. 22, the planning commission voted to ratify a decision to indefinitely postpone a public hearing on proposed pipeline storage yards in McDowell and Monterey until the required information is received. …. The specific purpose of the March 29 public hearing will be to see how Dominion’s proposed plan fits with the county comprehensive plan, Dowd explained. As of Feb. 22, Dominion’s land use applications for the storage yards were incomplete. The company agreed to pay for Darren Coffey and the Berkley Group to consult the county. ‘Dominion has more homework to do,’ Coffey told the planners, adding he expects another Dominion-related public hearing to be set for April 26 concerning the storage yards because Dominion had not yet provided necessary documents from the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

2-28-18 Spectrum News Central NC. Pipeline gets air quality permit for [NC] compressor station. “A proposed pipeline to bring fracked natural gas from West Virginia to points east and south has won another North Carolina state permit. The Department of Environmental Quality issued Tuesday an air quality permit to Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers for a Northampton County compressor station. The agency approved a key water permit last month.”

2-28-18 Roanoke Times. Pipeline protesters are sitting in trees along its route in an effort to stop construction. “Chainsaw crews are cutting trees in Giles County, clearing a path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. On a ridgetop high above them, protestors are waiting. Since Monday, two self-described pipeline resisters have been sitting on platforms in two trees on Peters Mountain — about 60 feet off the ground and directly in the proposed path of the natural gas pipeline — with hopes of preventing the project from moving forward. ‘We’re hoping to delay it, at least,’ said Ashley Brown, speaking Wednesday by cellphone from one of the trees. ‘And I think we have the power to stop it.’ Brown is part of a loosely organized group of opponents who have taken a stand where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Monroe County, West Virginia. The “tree sit” is being held just across the state line from Giles County, where Mountain Valley recently began cutting trees along a right of way for the 303-mile buried pipeline.”

2-28-18 Progressive Pulse. Company surveying Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in NC lacks a current state license. “The Thrasher Group, which has been surveying areas in Nash County along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, is not licensed to practice in North Carolina. Andrew Ritter, executive director of the state’s Board of Examiners for Engineers & Surveyors, confirmed that the firm allowed its license — No. C-4054 — to lapse in 2016. …. This is at least the second time an unlicensed company has done work associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In 2015, the board sent a letter to Doyle Land Services, based in New Orleans, notifying the firm it had also been surveying without a license. A search of the board’s database shows that Doyle is still not licensed here. …. Therese Vick, sustainable communities campaign coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, is asking the state Attorney General’s office to investigate why Duke and Dominion, co-owners of the pipeline, are allowing the companies to do work on their behalf. In addition, Vick said Thrasher’s licensing status ‘calls into question every single survey” the firm did for the ACP, “or any other company that did not have the proper credentials.’”

2-27-18 Roanoke Times. Roanoke County supervisors hold off on pipeline inspection agreement. “The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors opted not to sign onto a pipeline inspection agreement with state regulators Tuesday. The agreement, offered up by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, would allow local officials to accompany state inspectors on field visits once the Mountain Valley Pipeline starts construction. The county would wield no enforcement power over the controversial natural gas pipeline project but would be able to observe the conditions and share comments with the state. Pipeline opponents urged the supervisors to hold off on considering the agreement offer. In a series of passionate remarks, they argued in part that the pipeline project hasn’t yet answered questions on key issues such as how erosion and sediment control will be handled. They also said the agreement didn’t specify what, if any, follow up will be done if the county raises concerns or whether landowners will have the right to be notified before an inspection takes place. …. The supervisors said they were persuaded by the concerns raised by the community speakers and noted the issue could be revisited later if needed. No other Virginia counties along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route have accepted the inspection offer yet, according to local officials. Eight communities along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have signed on.”

2-26-18 Blue Virginia. Rep. Don Beyer Requests Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Re-Hearing On Virginia Pipelines. “Rep. Don Beyer today sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asking for a rehearing on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Congressman Beyer is deeply concerned that an incomplete, divided Commission rubberstamped the pipelines despite three significant issues: there was a lack of verified need for the infrastructure, there is potential for the pipelines to ruin the ANST and its environs, and finally, the proposals considered were not fully vetted nor did they allow stakeholder input.” See the article for the full text of the letter and a link to the signed copy, as well as a copy of the February 8, 2018, letter from Reps. Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin making a similar request of FERC.

2-26-18 Robesonian. Tribe has ACP questions. “The Lumbee Tribe wants its concerns regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be heard. That’s why the tribe, along with 18 other organizations, on Friday joined an appeal filed Jan. 19 in federal court by the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Jan Lowery, a Tribal Council member and chairman of its Health Committee. ‘It’s not for or against the pipeline,’ Lowery said. ‘It’s about, ‘\”Hey, come sit down and talk to us.”‘ The legal action grew out of a desire to have someone representing the builders of the pipeline sit down with Tribal Council members. The Tribal Council members were not aware of all the ‘pieces of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ Lowery said. So, Dominion Energy was asked to send a representative to speak with them. …. ‘Dominion Energy has not sat down with the tribe in a full consultation capacity,’ Lowery said.”

2-23-18 Virginian-Pilot. Virginia Natural Gas files lawsuits in Chesapeake to acquire land for pipeline. “Virginia Natural Gas is pressing forward with its plan to build a roughly 9-mile pipeline from Norfolk to Chesapeake that company officials say will fill a gap between two main supply lines that service Hampton Roads. Officials say it’s on track to be operational by next winter. The gas company is seeking permanent and temporary easements in Circuit Court, claiming the right of eminent domain, against Alston and other Chesapeake property owners. Company officials said 33 cases have been filed.”

2-23-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Pipeline shouldn’t have access to streamlined permit, environmental lawyers say. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline isn’t eligible for a streamlined construction permit because state regulators waived a crucial certification, according to a motion filed by a coalition of environmental groups in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday. The motion for preliminary relief asks that a dredge-and-fill permit for the 300-mile-long natural gas pipeline be suspended until a judge can hear the case filed last week in its entirety. The petition, filed by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, argues that the streamlined permit, called the Nationwide 12 permit, was unlawfully issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the state waived a necessary certification needed for construction on the pipeline.

2-23-18 Roanoke Times. State regulators promise ‘vigilant’ inspections of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “State regulators outlined a strategy Friday to monitor construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which opponents fear will leave a trail of environmental damage through Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said it will dispatch a team of inspectors, augmented by outside contractors, to conduct routine audits, stream evaluations and water quality tests as part of its oversight.”

2-23-18 State Impact Pennsylvania. FERC order effectively denies appeals of PennEast approval, critics say. “Federal regulators have effectively denied a request to reconsider their approval of the planned PennEast Pipeline, the agency’s critics say. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday issued a ‘tolling order,’ which gives it more time to consider requests for a rehearing of its ‘Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity’ for the pipeline. But the order likely means that the agency will simply avoid making a decision on the requests for about six months and then summarily deny them, activists say. Jennifer Danis, an attorney who represents the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said FERC has used a tolling order for 99 percent of requests for rehearing over the last eight years, and that it dismisses the requests after an average of 175 days. The data were used in a federal appeals court case against FERC over its approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, Danis said. FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen did not dispute those numbers but could not confirm them. She said the agency does not compile data on the history of rehearing requests. …. ‘This is an incredible abuse of power and miscarriage of justice, and yet it is very literally standard operating procedure for FERC,’ she said in a statement. ‘While FERC has used this strategic tactic to place organizations and communities challenging PennEast into legal limbo, they have done nothing to stop the advancement of the PennEast pipeline, such as place a hold on the power of eminent domain.’ Van Rossum said that she has never known a rehearing request to succeed at FERC since DRN began monitoring the process in 2010. ‘The denial of the rehearing request is a foregone conclusion, it’s just a matter of when,’ she said.”

2-23-18 Roanoke Star. DEQ Approves Final Atlantic Coast Pipeline Stormwater Methodology. “The Virginia Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) has received a final document detailing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s (ACP) proposed compliance methodology for meeting Virginia’s post construction water quality and quantity requirements. The methodology was said to be “subjected to a thorough review” and DEQ rejected several earlier versions of this technical document before approving the final release. The DEQ also received similar technical documents from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) describing MVP’s proposed engineering methods that will be used before drafting detailed site plans for stormwater management. Both documents are available at: www.deq.virginia.gov. The DEQ is continuing to review detailed, project-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans that the agency has required ACP and MVP to submit for every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction. Once approved, these requirements, contained in Virginia’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) regulations will manage runoff during and after construction to protect water quality. In response to the DEQ’s comments, ACP continues to submit revisions to ESC and SWM plans to address deficiencies and concerns identified during the agency’s review.”

2-23-18 RVA Mag. ACP Protesters Rally Outside Governor’s Mansion. The group delivered “a sachet of postcards and a letter, which asked the governor to take several concrete steps. They asked that construction preparations and the felling of trees cease until the state has finished its certification process for the pipeline. Along two sections of pipeline, construction workers have already begun clearing sites. They asked that the citizen appointed State Water Control Board’s oversight be reinstated. They argued that this board was the body which legally ought to have oversight and not the politically appointed DEQ. They asked that public input to the Water Control Board be allowed before the already approved but delayed certification becomes effective. They demanded that he bolster his opposition to offshore oil drilling by also opposing fracking. One protester pointed out the basic hypocrisy of opposing offshore drilling when it affects his own tidewater backyard, but supporting fracking which threatens the water wells, air quality, and backyards of the rest of Virginia. They also demanded that Northam rescind a secret agreement reached between ACP and the McAuliffe administration. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in December, but only discovered after North Carolina announced they’d made a similar agreement. Under the memo, the pipeline companies agree to pay $57,850,000 for mitigation of unavoidable damage to the state’s water and forests. In return, critics say, the state has provided ACP with a liability shield that protects them from lawsuits.”

2-22-18 Outside. Will Pipelines Destroy Our Thru-Hikes? “A proposed 300-mile natural gas pipeline would cut a swath across the Appalachian Trail and could undermine protections for other National Scenic Trails across the country.”

2-22-18 Farmville Herald. Letter to Editor: Floodplain Ordinance Variances. “I also requested the BOS send the ACP FPO Variance request to the planning commission for further study and recommendations. Cobb informed me that, to date, affected and adjacent landowners have yet to be informed by Buckingham County that Floodplain Variances are being applied for on their properties and/or adjacent properties and therefore had no knowledge that the ACP’s application would be presented for consideration Monday night. The ACP has also not informed property owners. The ACP application is not on the Buckingham County website for the public to view.”

2-22-18 Augusta Free Press. Group: Property values plunge along pipeline route in Highland County, Nelson County. A property records search conducted in Highland County and Nelson County by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League reveals property values plunged on parcels whose owners sought relief through the reassessment hearing process. Three properties in Nelson County with signed easement agreements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for pipeline construction and/or roads to access the pipeline route, received reductions in property values averaging 32.5%. ‘The construction of the proposed pipeline and resultant losses in property value are devastating for directly affected landowners,’ stated Sharon Ponton, a Nelson resident and the Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. ‘It is also important for every property owner to understand these reductions will affect them, too. The governing bodies of these localities will be forced to increase real estate tax rates for every property owner to offset the difference in lost values caused by the proposed ACP. Lower property values will cause higher tax rates for all,’ Ponton stated.”

2-21-18 Other Words. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness. “A gas pipeline would put a gash the size of a 12-lane highway along the Appalachian Trail. Is nothing sacred? …. The thing is, these pipelines often aren’t even necessary. Even without the MVP, Virginia’s existing natural gas infrastructure would cover our energy needs well into the future. But even if this wasn’t the case, the tradeoffs simply wouldn’t be worth it — not in Virginia, and not anywhere else. I’m an Eagle Scout from Virginia, and I know that more pipelines aren’t what America needs.”

2-21-18 Washington Post. Pending Va. law will affect utility bills for a decade. Here’s what you need to know. “One of the most sweeping pieces of legislation before this year’s General Assembly involves the state’s regulation of its monopoly electric utilities – Dominion Energy, which services some two-thirds of the state, and Appalachian Power Co., which services customers in the Southwestern part of Virginia. …. When the General Assembly convened in January for its 2018 session, lawmakers worked with Dominion to create legislation that would enact a sweeping overhaul of utility regulation. Nearly identical versions have passed both the House and Senate and are now working their way through committees. Here are the key consumer impacts of the bills”

2-21-18 DeSmog. Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests. “On the heels of Iowa and Ohio, Wyoming has become the third state to introduce a bill criminalizing the type of activities undertaken by past oil and gas pipeline protesters. One of the Wyoming bill’s co-sponsors even says it was inspired by the protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access pipeline, and a sheriff involved in policing those protests testified in support of the bill at a recent hearing. Wyoming’s bill is essentially a copy-paste version of template legislation produced by the conservative, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

2-20-18 Charlotte Business Journal. Atlantic Coast Pipeline price tag could hit $6.5B, Duke Energy CEO says. “The latest estimate is about 30% more than the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline was projected to cost when Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. announced it in September 2014.”

2-20-18 The Bitter Southerner. A Pipeline in the Sand. “If its developers succeed, the 594-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline will run from West Virginia to a terminus in Robeson County, North Carolina — the ancestral land of the Lumbee tribe, the largest Native American community east of the Mississippi River. For centuries, the Lumbees have united to face invasive forces from man and industry. But with their home county looking for any source of jobs, the tribe is wrestling with itself over whether the pipeline should come through.”

2-20-18 The Robesonian.  Letter to Editor: ACP owners pick a path that will devastate scenic landscapes. “A recent Facebook posting from a resident along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stated that she was looking out at the mountain near her home, and wondering if this was the last time she would see the beautiful view. The ugly scar of tree clearing is starting for the ACP, and for her, for us, and for tens of thousands, some of our most beautiful views will be lost forever if this project continues. The ACP didn’t have to do this to us. They could have collocated the pipeline with existing cleared rights of way, some of which they already own. In fact, they ignored a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directive to do just that, and the commission still approved the project.”

2-19-18 MyCentralJersey.com. State joins groups to ask feds to rescind PennEast decision. “The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with state legislators, has joined conservation groups in asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its decision to certify the need for the PennEast natural gas pipeline. …. FERC’s ruling paved the way for PennEast to start the condemnation proceedings for the 36-inch diameter pipeline that would enter Hunterdon County north of Milford then run parallel to the Delaware River, east of Frenchtown and Lambertville. PennEast has filed more than 120 lawsuits in federal court seeking to condemn land under the federal power of eminent domain to acquire the easements for the pipeline. The state is asking FERC to stop the condemnation process, saying that the environmental impacts to two-thirds of the route are still unknown. The DEP are also argues that there are ‘fundamental flaws’ in the FERC approval.”

2-19-18 StateImpact Pennsylvania. Landowners brace for eminent domain loss in PennEast pipeline cases. “[A]nother Carbon County landowner who has refused PennEast’s compensation offers, said he doesn’t object to eminent domain if it’s used for a project that is clearly in the public interest, but he argued that doesn’t apply to PennEast. ‘If you’re building a turnpike and someone says, ‘You can’t come through here,’ you have to have a mechanism to get that land,’ Christman said. ‘The difference between the turnpike and this pipeline is that everybody gets to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike if they pay their toll. Here, the people who will benefit are the companies.’”

2-19-18 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]  S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails. “Lawmakers have demanded an investigation into a pro-utility email lobbying campaign that used people’s names and addresses without their knowledge. The push for an investigation comes less than a day after The Post and Courier revealed a string of cookie-cutter, pro-utility emails that impersonated average South Carolinians. The fake messages appear geared to pressure lawmakers to support Dominion Energy’s proposed $14.6 billion takeover of SCANA Corp.”

2-19-18 Washington Post.  Judge refuses to delay hearing on pipeline land acquisition. “A federal judge has refused to postpone a hearing in a lawsuit brought by developers seeking possession of land in several Virginia counties for a controversial pipeline project. Atlantic Coast Pipeline is seeking possession of several properties in Augusta, Bath, Buckingham and Cumberland counties for the natural gas pipeline, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The judge declined Monday to postpone a Feb. 26 hearing regarding land in Bath County, but he ordered developers to turn over more information and gave property owners more time to respond. Disputes over land in other counties also will be addressed at next Monday’s hearing.”

2-18-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Commentary: Tide is turning on Dominion Energy. “At first, it looked like the same old Richmond ritual that has played out ad nauseam over the past several decades. Dominion Energy was back at the General Assembly last month with its latest attempt to defang regulators and keep electricity rates artificially inflated for the more than two-thirds of the commonwealth’s residents in its monopolized territory. …. But here’s where the company miscalculated, apparently forgetting that it isn’t 2007 or 2015 anymore. This year, Virginians have mounted a forceful response, and if our elected leaders see the writing on the wall, Dominion isn’t going to get away with this. Perhaps Dominion did not notice that 13 of the freshman legislators elected in November took a pledge not to accept any Dominion campaign contributions, an indication of the public relations nightmare that the company’s ruthless push for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has become.

2-18-18 Roanoke Times. MVP’s contractor ran into environmental problems during construction of other pipelines. “A construction company hired to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline worked on three similar projects that were cited by environmental regulators, who found mountainsides turned to muddy slopes and streams clogged with sediment. The three developers of the natural gas pipelines, two in West Virginia and one in Pennsylvania, failed to comply with plans to control erosion, sediment or industrial waste, according to enforcement actions taken by state regulators. Precision Pipeline, a Wisconsin company that is a primary contractor for Mountain Valley, played a role in the construction of the earlier projects. Opponents of the Mountain Valley project fear that the pipeline will bring the same problems to Southwest Virginia, which features mountainous terrain similar to that in West Virginia and Pennsylvania where pipelines were built. Those worries were heightened by news that the same contractor will be doing the work.”

2-18-18 GoDanRaver.com The quagmire of eminent domain and pipelines. “We all know the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence with its resounding proclamation that all men are created equal and possess the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ But in early drafts on the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson leaned more explicitly on the writings of political and economic philosopher John Locke, declaring we all possessed the ‘unalienable’ rights of ‘life, liberty and property.’ Which may explain why Americans view private property rights almost as an article of faith today. Two major infrastructure projects in Virginia — the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast pipelines — have brought the issue of private property rights into sharp focus as the giant energy companies pushing construction of these natural gas pipelines have turned to the weapon of last resort to obtain the easements and rights of way needed before construction can begin: eminent domain. In plain English, the governmental power to take private property, with ‘just compensation,’ for a public purpose.”

2-17-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Letter to editor: Dominion deserves its villainous reputation. “I commend your reporters Robert Zullo, Patrick Wilson, and Graham Moomaw for their excellent work on Dominion Energy. Their news stories have been like a tutorial on the company and Virginia legislators. The news article that stuck with me was, ‘Senate committee kills bill to ban campaign donations from public service corporations.’ Senate Bill 10, if it passed, could have ended campaign donations to lawmakers from public service corporations such as Dominion. …. In the past two years, Dominion has donated more than $2.2 million to Virginia legislators. Wouldn’t that money have been better spent updating and improving the power grid? Perhaps it’s time Dominion’s shareholders step up and ban or limit the amount that may be donated to political campaigns. Perhaps the shareholders can restore some public trust and dignity to Dominion Energy. Otherwise, it’s politics as usual.”

2-16-18 NBC29. Dominion Energy Introduces Interactive Map for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy introduced an interactive map for people to stay updated on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s construction. The map shows the current route and timeline of construction project within specific regions.”

2-16-18 News & Observer. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not bring the jobs that it claims. [This article focuses on NC, but the same analysis holds true for Virginia.] “It doesn’t take much to pull the curtain back on the economic projections conducted by the pipeline to realize its promises are a fantasy. And, yet, here we are. The analyses used to determine economic development rely solely on broad-sweeping assumptions that, once unpacked, do not hold water. …. A spokesperson for Dominion Energy admitted that Dominion customers may end up paying between $1.6 billion and $2.36 billion more after the ACP is built, in testimony to Virginia. This points to an alarmingly inadequate evaluation of a multi-billion dollar pipeline that will cost ratepayers billions of dollars, could result in epic environmental disaster, and creates false hopes for struggling regions….”

2-16-18 Power for the People. After losing a vote on the double dip, is Dominion losing Power? “An earthquake shook Richmond, Virginia on the afternoon of Monday, February 12, rocking the House of Delegates just as it was supposed to be passing HB 1558, Dominion Energy’s Ratepayer Rip-Off Act of 2018. The bill was intended to help the utility lock in stupendous unearned profits for its parent company, courtesy of the monopoly’s captive customers, under the guise of supporting clean energy and grid investments. And the bill did pass the House, but only after delegates adopted an amendment offered by Minority Leader David Toscano stripping away a lucrative provision that Dominion both desperately wanted and swore didn’t exist: the infamous “double dip” that the SCC has said would allow Dominion to charge customers more than twice over for a large portfolio of infrastructure projects. With billions of dollars worth of projects on the drawing board, the double dip meant serious money. …. The earthquake could be felt over at Dominion headquarters, where reporters could be seen inspecting the foundation for damage. CEO Tom Farrell called in his damage control specialists, heavy-hitting lobbyists Eva Teig Hardy and Bill Thomas, to persuade legislators to support the Senate version of the bill over the House version—or failing that, to lard it up with new favors to the utilities. …. In the past, good arguments were not a requirement for Dominion to get what it wants; political power has always been enough. It will be interesting to see now whether Dominion emerges with some semblance of its omnipotence intact, or whether this earthquake presages new shocks that could crack the fortress.”

2-16-18 The Inter-Mountain [WV]. Elkins votes on camping ordinance. “Elkins City Council is considering an ordinance that would outlaw ‘unauthorized camping,’ just as an influx of workers for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to descend on Randolph County. Council approved on the first of two required readings Thursday a proposed ordinance that defines ‘unauthorized camping’ and would make it illegal on both public and private property within city limits.”

2-15-18 Blue Virginia. Here comes the sun … though Virginia remains solar straggler.  “Former Governor Terry McAuliffe exclaimed, more than once, that Virginia was a true leader in solar power, with growth rates that should amaze one and all. …. Pulling back the curtains on Virginia solar left one scratching one’s head trying to figure out the justification for this. ”

2-14-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: BZA stands up to Dominion. “On Feb. 5, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals did something very unusual: Unlike many other Virginia governmental bodies, its members actually stood up to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and insisted that Dominion play by the rules instead of running roughshod over local citizens’ rights. …. To every member of the BZA: Thank you. Your neighbors are grateful to you for having the rare courage to prioritize our interests — and the law — over Dominion’s profit-seeking.”

2-14-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Dominion didn’t do homework. “In regard to the recent article in the Nelson County Times about the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals’ actions on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s application for variances to cross more than four miles of Nelson floodplains, I commend the diligence of the BZA and the Department Planning & Zoning staff. I am most grateful for their attention to detail. However, I find myself left with more questions than answers regarding the ACP’s quoted responses in the article.”

2-14-18 MyCentralJersey.com. Groups file legal challenge to PennEast’s federal OK. “The battle against the PennEast pipeline is ramping up, with two conservation groups formally requesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reverse its decision to certify the need for the $1 billion project. The action comes after PennEast filed more than 120 lawsuits in federal court seeking to condemn land under the federal power of eminent domain to acquire the easements for the pipeline. FERC’s ruling paved the way for PennEast to start the condemnation proceedings for the 110-mile pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania to Mercer County. The 36-inch diameter pipeline would enter Hunterdon County north of Milford then run parallel to the Delaware River, east of Frenchtown and Lambertville, before connecting with another pipeline near Pennington in Mercer County. But the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook–Millstone Watershed Association are asking FERC to rescind its decision that the pipeline is needed. ‘FERC ignored volumes of evidence from experts demonstrating that the region PennEast purports to be serving has more than enough gas and that the PennEast pipeline is not needed,’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, NJ Conservation. ‘There is clearly no benefit to this proposed project, yet PennEast has already started the eminent domain process to take property from more than 100 landowners in New Jersey alone.’ The group are challening the Jan. 18 ruling because significant amounts of data concerning environmental impacts still have not been provided by PennEast. ‘FERC failed to consider the magnitude of the damage that PennEast would cause to our water, land and natural resources — and acted before New Jersey had its chance to review the project’s harm to natural resources — and we will not stand by while these natural resources are lost for a project that is unneeded and unwanted by the people of New Jersey,’ said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association.”

2-14-18 WBTV.com [Raleigh NC]. $11M in environmental mitigation for pipeline permit. “The two power companies behind a controversial pipeline that will run through ten counties in North Carolina agreed to pay $11 million in environmental mitigation costs as part of the permitting process through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, WBTV has learned. The $11 million of mitigation funds is separate from a second fund that was made public hours after DEQ announced the pipeline permits had been approved.”

2-14-18 E&E News/Energywire. Libertarian group eyes eminent domain reform on Capitol Hill.  “A libertarian think tank is looking to Congress for stronger protections for landowners in the path of natural gas pipelines. The Niskanen Center is launching a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill to push amendments to the Natural Gas Act that would tweak the way eminent domain is used for interstate gas pipelines, among other changes. ‘We’re going to aim to get a nonpartisan group together to say, “We’ve got some problems here. How do we protect or enhance the protection for property owners without adversely affecting the permitting for energy infrastructure?”‘ Niskanen chief counsel David Bookbinder told E&E News. ‘We think it’s possible.’”

2-13-18 Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Clean Water Advocates Challenge Army Corps of Engineers on Fracked Gas Pipeline Water Quality Review. “Today, a coalition of clean water advocates filed a suit contending the United States Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued a crucial permit for the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. Under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps is charged with issuing a permit for the pipelines’ stream crossings that allows the project’s builders to trench through the bottom of those streams, including the Greenbrier, Elk, and Gauley Rivers, and fill the crossings with dirt during construction of the pipeline. Before the Army Corps can issue this permit, the state in which construction will occur must certify the pipeline’s construction will not degrade the state’s water quality. The permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline by the Army Corps is commonly known as a ‘nationwide’ permit, which takes a one-size-fits-all approach that can only be used when a state has done the necessary water quality analysis. Since West Virginia waived its right to do that analysis, the Army Corps can not legally issue the section 404 permit for construction of the pipeline in West Virginia. If successful, this suit will require the Army Corps or the state of West Virginia to do another water quality impact review before the pipeline can be built through that state.”

2-13-18 Huffington Post. Virginia Democrats Score A Surprising Win Against Powerful Utility Monopoly. “It was supposed to be an uneventful Monday evening in Virginia’s House of Delegates ? another moment for lawmakers from both parties to come together in the spirit of bipartisanship to give free rein to the state’s two electric power monopolies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power. Instead, six House Republicans joined all 49 Democrats to pass an amendment that placed a serious check on the monopolies’ power mere days after their colleagues in the Senate decided to give them a blank check. The vote demonstrated the desire of a Democratic caucus that has sometimes been criticized for its coziness with the monopolies to heed the populist appeals of its constituents. ‘It’s clear that the grassroots will not stand for business as usual. Now is the time to continue pushing to ensure … that the regulated do not become the regulators,’ said Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul (D), a leading monopoly critic in the House. For Dominion, which, as the larger of the two utilities and top campaign donor, is sometimes considered the most powerful force in Virginia politics, the defeat was especially humbling.”

2-12-18 Backpacker. The Fight Against a Pipeline Along the Appalachian Trail. “A lawsuit hasn’t been enough to stop construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a proposed 300-mile natural gas pipeline that would cross the Appalachian Trail and some of the region’s largest national forests on its way, from starting as soon as this month. …. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal calls for drilling through the Blue Ridge Mountains, in areas that have a history of landslides and debris flows, and along narrow ridgelines. If they’re able to achieve that technically challenging feat, says David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, the changes to those ridgelines and aquatic habitats will be irreparable. In 35 years of working on conservation in Virginia, he can’t recall a project that has promised to so deeply transform the state’s forests and waterways.”

2-12-18 Bloomberg Business Week. A Powerful Mix of Solar and Batteries Is Beating Natural Gas. “Natural gas is getting edged out of power markets across the U.S. by two energy sources that, together, are proving to be an unbeatable mix: solar and batteries.”

12-12-18 Huffington Post. What A Battle Over Virginia’s Most Powerful Monopoly Can Teach Democrats Everywhere. A long but excellent analysis and summary of Dominion’s dominance in Virginia. “Consumer advocates were amazed that a utility monopoly had successfully shepherded a law that shielded it from regulation ― even temporarily. ‘What Dominion was able to accomplish in 2015 is pretty remarkable,’ said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, senior policy counsel at the Washington-based Consumer Union. It has little if any precedent in other states, where utilities are also frequently powerful political forces, according to Baker-Branstetter. ‘I’m not aware of another case where this has happened on this scale ― certainly not in recent memory,’ she said. John Howat, senior energy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center, offered a damning assessment. ‘In most states, the regulator has at least the option of doing its job. They can issue orders and decisions and open their own proceedings. There are all kinds of avenues to accomplish the regulatory duties that these statutorily authorized agencies have,’ Howat said. ‘In Virginia, that’s out the window, and the ratepayer is left holding the bag as a result.’”

2-10-18 Daily Progress. Pipeline sues Wintergreen property owners citing eminent domain. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is suing Nelson County property owners to gain land for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, which is set to emerge from the mountain and pass along a ridge right next to the popular Wintergreen Resort. The company, which is majority owned by Dominion Energy, sued the Wintergreen Property Owners Association Friday in the United States Court for the Western District of Virginia for seven and a half acres. The suit cites eminent domain, or the governmental power to take private property for public use. The company has made several efforts to buy the land, but it and the association have never been able to agree about adequate compensation, according to the lawsuit. In a release on Friday, the association repeated its opposition to the location of the pipeline. The association represents 3,700 property owners in Nelson County, and the proposed pipeline would pass right next to the resort and the association’s front gate. ‘However, based on the law of eminent domain and the history of these cases in Federal Court, we expect that a court of law will grant the access necessary for the project to proceed,’ the association said in the release. In the release, the association said it would pursue a mediation process. Federal court filings show that the pipeline has sued nearly 50 property owners since December in Highland, Bath, Augusta, Buckingham and Nelson counties. On Jan. 31, the pipeline also sued the owners of the Fenton Inn, a Bavarian-style bed-and-breakfast near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen Resort, for less than one acre.”

2-9-18 Blue Virginia. More on the McAuliffe-Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline Mitigation Agreement. “The agreement between Dominion Energy and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a liability waiver for the inevitable harm to water resources that will result from construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In exchange for paying for water monitoring, it seems that the State will exempt Dominion from liability for damage to water resources that might be revealed by the water monitoring. …. ‘Enhanced Water Quality Monitoring. Atlantic agrees to transfer funds in the amount of $700,000 to the United States Geological Survey (“USGS”) to pay for water quality monitoring requirements of the Commonwealth.’ This $700,000 is part of $19,200,000 to be distributed among Water Quality Mitigation Partners (including the USGS), in exchange for which, the parties, including the State, agree that ‘such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets all water quality impacts caused by forest fragmentation that are not otherwise avoided by Atlantic’s construction methods and environmental protection measures.”Finally, it should be recognized that the water monitoring in question is limited. It only involves 7 streams, among the many that will be impacted by the ACP route in Virginia.’ …. Finally, it should be recognized that the water monitoring in question is limited. It only involves 7 streams, among the many that will be impacted by the ACP route in Virginia.”

2-9-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Virginia Senate passes utility regulation overhaul. “Despite floor speeches from lawmakers from both parties calling it a mistake, the state Senate voted 26-13 on Friday to pass the utility regulatory reform package endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam and spearheaded by Dominion Energy, Virginia’s biggest utility. ‘Let’s be honest,’ said Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City. ‘This bill is being written to benefit … an industry giant.’”

2-9-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline files eminent-domain suit against Nelson County family. “The right of way sought by the ACP contains land on which the Fenton Inn sits. The Fenton Inn, a Bavarian village-style bed-and-breakfast off Virginia 664 near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen Resort, opened nearly two years ago. …. ACP has not yet reached agreements with all landowners on the route in Nelson County, but no eminent domain suits have been filed against other Nelson landowners. Most ACP construction in Nelson is slated for 2019, Ruby said. In the case of the Fentons, the company seeks the easements because it plans to start construction on the land this year, Ruby said. Construction in the area focuses on horizontal directional drilling that will be used to bore beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway. ACP’s suit seeks ‘immediate possession of the Easements prior to the determination of just compensation.’ Such a judgment by the court would allow ACP to move toward construction without having to wait for a final determination on how much a landowner deserves for the easement on his or her property. In all eminent domain cases, if ACP is granted easements or immediate entry onto properties, ACP still would only be allowed to perform permitted activities. In Virginia, ACP cannot conduct full-scale construction yet and is allowed only to fell trees in upland areas with handheld equipment. …. The Fentons’ case is set for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26 in Lynchburg.”

2-8-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Major Democratic donor in Virginia aims to counter Dominion donations with his own money.  “A major Democratic donor is planning to counter what he calls “legalized corruption” at the Virginia General Assembly by putting up his own money to fund candidates who swear off donations from Dominion Energy. Michael D. Bills, a Charlottesville investor who was one of the top donors to Gov. Ralph Northam’s campaign in the 2017 cycle, says he’ll offer thousands of dollars to sitting delegates and state senators who sign a pledge to refuse any money or gifts from Dominion and divest any personal investments in the company.”

2-7-18 The Recorder. Editorial: U.S. Forest Service: Watchdog or unfaithful servant? “We’re glad the Southern Environmental Law Center and The Sierra Club acted on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups and filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Forest Service over a grant recently issued to developers of the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Political pressure forced approval of this boondoggle through steep slopes and landslide-prone areas on a treasured national forest, a SELC senior attorney noted. Forest service staff warned of the impacts this project would have, but the agency ignored them and granted special exceptions to let these pipeline developers get their way. Let’s unpack this for a minute. Before the current administration took charge in January 2017, the forest service seemed much more pro-active when it came to environmental protection and the proposed pipeline. That’s when the warnings were issued. Nowadays, the forest service is playing the role of the devoted unquestioning servant to a boss entrenched by the fossil fuel industry and unmindful of the vast, pristine natural treasures our region possesses. We’re convinced that’s why the forest service is now ignoring its previous cautions.”

2-7-18 CleanTechnica.com.  New US Renewable Energy Capacity Beats Natural Gas For Fourth Year Running, Renewables Now Account For Over 20%. “For the fourth year in a row, new US electricity capacity from renewable energy sources surpassed those from natural gas, and accounted for half of all new capacity additions, according to recent figures published by the country’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. New electricity capacity from renewable energy sources — including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind — accounted for 49.85% of all new capacity installed during 2017, which totaled 24,614 MW (megawatts), meaning that there was 12,270 MW worth of new renewable energy capacity. New natural gas capacity accounted for 48.67%, with the remaining new capacity being served by waste heat (0.89%), nuclear (0.41%), and oil ( 0.16%). There was no new coal capacity added during 2017. These are the key statistics from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest issue of its Energy Infrastructure Update (PDF) which includes data through to the end of 2017. Ken Bossong’s Sun Day Campaign highlighted these statistics in an email on Wednesday.”

2-7-18 Roanoke Times. Hadwin: No, cold wave doesn’t show need for pipeline. [Hadwin served as an executive for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York. He lives in Waynesboro.] “Dominion Energy recently claimed — in several news stories and in an op-ed that ran in the January 15 Roanoke Times (“Extreme cold shows need for new pipelines”) — that the “recent cold spell demonstrated a need for new pipeline infrastructure in Virginia.” This misrepresents what really happened and proposes a solution that is wholly unnecessary and very expensive for the people of Virginia…. Dominion made it sound as if we had gas shortages throughout Virginia. What really happened was that 10 industrial customers of Virginia Natural Gas volunteered to cut back on some of their gas usage in exchange for lower rates. This voluntary curtailment involved 90 fewer industrial customers than during the polar vortex in 2013-2014. Virginia Natural Gas is owned by Southern Company, an owner of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Transco, the nation’s largest pipeline, runs through our state. During this winter’s severe cold, Dominion said it relied on Transco for about 75 percent of its gas supply, including service to its newest power plant in Southside Virginia. Public utilities in North Carolina relied on the Transco system for 100 percent of the state’s supply during the cold spell, according to Dominion. Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the owners of the Transco system, said their pipelines ‘performed remarkably’ during the cold weather. ‘It’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s a testament to the system that we have,’ he said. The nation has more than enough pipeline capacity. In the past ten years, the U.S. added pipeline capacity that is 60 percent greater than our average national gas use, and 30 percent greater than our peak usage. Transco intends to add more than the capacity of Dominion’s proposed ACP to its existing system before the end of this year. And Columbia Gas, a pipeline that has reliably served Virginia for decades, will add almost as much capacity as the ACP in West Virginia and Virginia this year.”

2-6-18 New York Times. Why a Big Utility Is Embracing Wind and Solar. “In parts of the country, wind and solar plants built from scratch now offer the cheapest power available, even counting old coal, which was long seen as unbeatable. …. Across its eight-state system, Xcel predicts that well over half its electricity will come from renewable sources by the mid-2020s. It will be one of the cleanest large utility companies in the country.”

2-6-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Del. Lee Ware (R) Quotes Gimli from Lord of the Rings, Calls for Heroic Fight Against “Dominion Bill” and For the “Little Guy”. “Check out the video below for a great speech earlier today by Del. Lee Ware (R), quoting the dwarf Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movie and utterly demolishing the so-called “Dominion bill.” As Gimli said, before taking on the forces of Mordor, “Certainty of death, small chance of success– what are we waiting for?” Well, the same question can be asked, Del. Ware suggests, about Virginia’s own dark lord, Dominion Energy, and its legion of orcs…er, lobbyists. The question is, Del. Ware asks, whether the General Assembly will have the courage to stand up to Dominion’s dark army and to fight for the “little guy” for a change. We’re going to find out soon enough…”

2-6-18 CBS19. Atlantic Coast Pipeline files first lawsuit. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline recently filed a lawsuit against the Fenton Inn, according to documents from the Friends of Wintergreen. This the first eminent domain lawsuit filed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Fenton Inn is located near the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County.”

2-6-18 NBC29. Environmental Activists React to McAuliffe, Dominion Energy Deal. “A $58 million deal between Dominion Energy and the state in regard to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will help cover costs to address some of the pipeline’s impacts. …. But something people might not know about it is that this particular deal was made during the final days of Terry McAuliffe’s time in office, and some are not happy about it. ‘It was not a good deal, it was really not transparent and clean government,’ says Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club. The deal was made as Governor Terry McAuliffe’s time in office drew to a close. Bowers says that McAuliffe also signed two deals with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. ‘These agreements were supposed to protect our water and our historic resources, and both reasons of the state, but he didn’t tell anybody that he was going to make these agreements,’ says Bowers. …. The money is going to a number of state environmental organizations. ‘Albemarle County actually receives some of this money that’s being paid to the state, but the pipeline doesn’t go through the county,’ says Bowers.”

2-5-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Wall Street’s losing faith in Dominion Energy’s $8 Billion takeover of South Carolina utility. “For the clearest sign yet that Dominion Energy Inc.’s $7.9 billion takeover of South Carolina utility SCANA Corp. is in trouble, check out the stock price. The gap between SCANA’s share price and the price that Richmond-based Dominion has offered to pay for the utility is the widest since the companies announced the merger in January. On Monday, the stock traded even lower than it did before the takeover. SCANA shares closed at $37.44, down 4.42 percent. The company’s stock had closed at $38.87 the day before the deal with Dominion was announced. That demonstrates that Wall Street has lost all confidence in the deal getting done as is, according to analysts.”

2-5-18 News Virginian. Opinion: It’s about more than ‘just’ a pipeline. “At this month’s [Augusta County] Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Dominion proposed a 34-acre contractor yard off Route 42/Scenic Highway in Churchville, which is currently zoned agriculture. This proposed site was not discussed with neighboring property owners, including the family-run organic farm, Dancing Star Farm. This site was not included in any submitted plans to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as other contractor yard sites have been. …. Dominion has not completed a traffic study to determine how 400 to 600 workers and heavy machinery coming and going would affect the two-lane, curvy country road. This location is not appropriate, regardless of how you feel about the overall project. It is not close to the highway or freight so every pipe and piece of machinery will be brought in by truck. We don’t have answers on whether Dominion will repair any roads that are degraded. This is just another example of Dominion’s disrespect not only to the landowners who will have their land seized and have to live with a massive, dirty, explosive pipeline every day, but the disrespect to our community as a whole. It is disrespectful of them to think our community is not worth the appropriate studies and research. Even if you are supportive of this project, don’t you want it to be done in a safe, responsible manner? We should demand detailed plans on how exactly we will be impacted and how issues will be resolved when things go wrong. Even the best planned project will have issues and currently we don’t have answers on who is responsible and how things will be mitigated.”

2-5-18 News & Advance. Nelson board dismisses seven pipeline permitting requests, grants deferral on four others. “During its meeting Monday night, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed “for lack of standing” applications for variances from the ACP to cross seven properties in floodplain areas in the county. Seven of the 11 total variance applications submitted by the ACP were dismissed Monday because the ACP has not obtained easement agreements yet for those seven properties. The lack of easement agreements constitutes the ‘lack of standing’ required by Virginia law for such variance applications, according to the BZA’s legal counsel, David Shreve. The BZA unanimously approved each of the seven dismissals following a closed session Monday with Shreve. …. For the four properties for which the ACP has obtained easement agreements, the BZA unanimously granted a request for deferral by the ACP.”

2-5-18 WAVY.com   Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners, seeking to build on holdout properties, file court motion.  “There’s a new push to speed up the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) moving into Hampton Roads. This development comes in the form of federal court filings, which ask the federal court to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners immediate entry onto private property through easements, even if those holdout landowners haven’t reached an agreement with the pipeline. ‘The ACP wants the court to say they have the power of eminent domain, and second that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction that would mean the property owners can’t stop them from coming on the properties, clearing trees, clearing the right of way, trenching and installing gas transmission lines,’ said Steve Clarke, an attorney who represents landowners who have refused to settle with the ACP. Dominion Energy says that approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval gave them a green light for the 600-mile pipeline, even though they don’t have all the permits yet. Clarke says Dominion shouldn’t go onto anyone’s property until all the ACP permits are in hand”

2-5-18 Press release from Governor Northam. Governor Northam Statement on Rate Freeze Repeal Legislation. Includes key details of the suggested changes the Governor’s working group made to the bill’s patrons.

2-5-18 Blue Virginia. Three-Time Sellout: Terry McAuliffe’s Secret Mountain Valley Pipeline Deals and The Smoking Gun They Reveal. “On Friday, February 2, we published “Secret Sellout or Pay to Play?,” a Blue Virginia exclusive. Our article exposed what until then in Virginia had been a secret Memorandum of Understanding signed in December by the administration of then Governor Terry McAuliffe with political power broker Dominion Energy regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. But Friday’s Blue Virginia piece was only half of the story. It turns out the full story is much worse. Because we now know that McAuliffe made not one, not two, but three secret pipeline agreements in late December. A second agreement, which Blue Virginia is now publishing here exclusively for the first time (see below), gives the builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline the same full waivers for damage to Virginia’s forests and water resources as were given to the ACP. …. A third secret agreement, which we also now publish here exclusively (also see below), concedes that the Mountain Valley Pipeline “will result in an adverse effect to historic properties” and has the MVP companies paying $2.5 million (possibly a bit more) in return for – you guessed it – a full release from any future responsibility. But that’s not even the worst part of this story. For anyone who cares about clean and transparent government, for anyone troubled by the outsized influence Dominion Energy has over politics – and politicians – in Virginia, you need to sit down and take a deep, deep breath. Because the real scandal is what the Mountain Valley agreements, both signed on December 22, tell us about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline agreement that was signed six days later, on December 28. And what they tell us is this: Terry McAuliffe sold Virginia’s permit approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for $58 million in a blatant pay-to-play scheme.”

2-4-18 Virginian-Pilot. Editorial: A bad mix of politics and electricity. “Dominion Energy Virginia is as close to a monopoly as exists in the commonwealth. The company provides electricity to about 2.5 million customers in Virginia, easily the largest market share among utility companies, and its involvement in public affairs extends almost as far as its power lines. There are a great many things that Dominion does well, but its penchant for throwing its weight around in Richmond is not among them. …. So much of this debate — the wrangling with lawmakers, advocacy groups and members of the public — is due to a lack of faith in the company’s behavior. The distrust is painfully evident and should be deeply troubling to Dominion. As it proceeds, the company would do well to consider how its actions have poisoned the atmosphere. If it uses this opportunity, this debate, to repair its relationship with customers, Dominion may find that outcome more valuable than any piece of legislation.”

2-3-18 WRAL.com Gas pipeline opponents charged with trespassing during sit-in at Cooper’s office. “Fifteen activists demanding the state rescind a permit allowing construction of a natural gas pipeline in eastern North Carolina were charged with trespassing Friday evening during a sit-in at Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. …. Activists complained that the permit was issued before Duke and Dominion supplied all the required information, a decision they claim was influenced by the utilities’ agreement to put $57.8 million into a fund to expand renewable energy in the state and to ensure communities near the pipeline have access to the natural gas for economic development. ‘We campaigned for [Cooper], but little did we know that he would sell us out for $57.8 million,’ Northampton County resident Belinda Joyner said. ‘Little did we know that supporting him would get us a slap in the face for standing up for what’s supposed to be rightfully ours.’ Eastern north Carolina has been a dumping ground, they said, for dangerous substances for years, from PCBs to coal ash to the planned gas pipeline. They also compared Cooper’s opposition to offshore drilling with the approval for the pipeline. ‘You chose to stand against drilling off of our coast. At the same time, you allowed an unwanted, unneeded, unsafe fracked gas pipeline to tear through our farms, our dreams, our homes and, most of all, our families….’”

2-2-18 AlleghenyFront.org. How Pipelines are Changing the Dynamics of PA Forests. Fragmentation from pipelines is a major problem. PA is seeing the effects on birds and other species. “Some migratory birds need the deep, dark cover of Pennsylvania’s forests to breed. But natural gas development has cut into their habitat. And it’s prompting a call for a mindful approach to pipeline construction. Lillie Langlois is a researcher and instructor at Penn State University, and she studied aerial images to map natural gas development in Lycoming County over a number of years. Langlois and her colleagues found that linear infrastructure like pipelines and roads had a bigger impact on carving up forests — and affecting the wildlife habitat within them — than the drilling well pads themselves.”

2-2-18 News & Advance. Nelson pipeline hearings this month may be put on hold. “Permitting discussions for Atlantic Coast Pipeline floodplain crossings that began in Nelson County in January may be put on hold following a request this week from the project developer. In a letter to the county’s planning and zoning department dated Jan. 31, Dominion’s Vice President for Pipeline Construction Leslie Hartz, on behalf of the ACP, requested a deferral of public hearings on variance applications for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson, currently scheduled for Feb. 12. The deferral request from ACP essentially would put a pause on the Nelson variance process. Securing the variances is a necessary step before the pipeline can be constructed in the designated floodplain areas, and pipeline opponents had been expected to turn out en masse for the hearing. If the request is accepted by the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals — the body considering the variance requests — the Feb. 12 hearings would not take place, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Sandy Shackelford.

2-2-18 Blue Virginia.  Secret Sellout or Pay to Play? Terry McAuliffe’s Parting Gift to Dominion Energy and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Did Terry McAuliffe sell out Virginia right before he left office? Or did he do something even worse? Did McAuliffe accept $58 million (paid to various entities) in a pay to play scheme to guarantee Virginia would approve Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline?  In late December, the then-outgoing Virginia Governor, a longtime cheerleader for the ACP, committed the state to a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion and its pipeline partners. This agreement, apparently never before reported in Virginia, let Dominion buy its way out of paying for damages to Virginia’s forests and water quality caused by construction of, and possibly by operation of, the ACP. And McAuliffe did this before the pipeline has even been approved – it still has not been approved – much less built.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Terry McAuliffe gave Dominion a full and complete release from any and all damage to Virginia’s forests and water from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ”  This story was reported on February 2, 2018, in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

2-1-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Beth Little: Only way around law for Atlantic Coast Pipeline is to trample over it. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could not be built through the Monongahela National Forest without violating the law, so the law has been suspended. I will explain. I say ‘suspended’ because the amendments to the forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan included in the permit issued by the Forest Service are ‘project-specific plan amendments.’ They apply only to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The Construction Operations & Maintenance Plan wasn’t available for comment when the draft environmental impact statement was issued. When the final statement was issued on July 21, 2017, it was labeled a draft with critical sections missing. It wasn’t until October 27, 2017, three months later, that a final version was identified in the Forest Service Record of Decision. How could Federal Energy Regulation Commission properly evaluate the environmental consequences of the pipeline, when they didn’t have all the pertinent information? This has been the basis of media reports that several agencies have issued postponements after requesting more information. Why didn’t the commission postpone the environmental impact statement until they had a completed COM Plan? The Land Management Plan for the Monongahela National Forest took several years and thousands of hours of Forest Service personnel to develop at taxpayer expense. You might question whether it is appropriate that a private, for-profit company can arrange for a federal law to be brushed aside because they can’t abide by it. Dominion will tell you that their substitution is better; but, if so, why do they have to suspend the existing regulations? And why wasn’t the Construction Operations & Maintenance Plan available for public comment?”

2-1-18 News and Observer [NC]. The hidden dangers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Like a snake in the grass, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would threaten Eastern North Carolina with dangers that tend to go unseen until it is too late to stop them. The people who expect to make money off the fracked gas pipeline – Duke Energy and their corporate partners – are hoping that their ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy will allow them to slide the project by local residents until it is built. A corporate monopoly is ripe for abuse, especially when given the power of eminent domain.”

2-1-18 WHSV. Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals once again tables pipeline permit. “In Augusta County, the Board of Zoning Appeals once again tabled their decision on a special use permit request by Dominion Energy until their next meeting. The permit would allow Dominion Energy to set up a construction staging area on farm property in Churchville for two years while the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being built. Although the meeting was closed to public comments, it was heavily attended by opponents of the pipeline. With approximately 400 vehicles traveling through the 34-acre site each day, the board said they need to learn more about how traffic can safely access the site. ‘Those workers are going to be leaving there,’ said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of Augusta County Alliance, ‘traveling our roads, mixing with our school buses and our work traffic to get to wherever the pipe yard is, to get to wherever the work site is, and so we need to know what those impacts are.’ The board said that although representatives from Dominion did provide them with some answers to their questions, they still do not have enough information to make a decision on the permit. Major concerns brought up by the board were the lack of visibility at the approved entrance site, the volume of traffic traveling through the area, and the ability to screen around the site. ‘Why are we getting one little piece of the puzzle without the puzzle box that has the picture on it?’ asked Sorrells. ‘We need to know what Dominion’s plans are for the impacts in this county to our people.’ When the board discusses the permit again next month, they said they hope to have a VDOT representative attend to answer their questions. Citing several requests they received, the board said the next meeting will be open for public comment.”

2-1-18 E&E News. D.C. Circuit ruling could shut down pipeline. “A federal court may shut down a Southeast natural gas pipeline in a stunning rebuke of government regulators who approved the project. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday refused to revisit its 2017 ruling that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have taken a closer look at climate impacts from the Sabal Trail pipeline. As soon as the court issues a formal mandate finalizing the decision, Sabal Trail’s federal certificates will be void, and operations will come to a halt. The D.C. Circuit is expected to issue the mandate next week. It’s unclear, however, what FERC and pipeline backers could do to attempt to stall the process, and it’s possible any interruption in pipeline operations would be short-lived. Still, the court’s decision is the strongest legal rebuke of FERC’s oversight since the rush to build out natural gas pipelines began several years ago.”

2-1-18 WWALS Watershed Coalition. Court rebukes Sabal Trail in pivotal case, may shut it down next week. “Yesterday FERC rubberstamped Sabal Trail’s five-month construction delay, but that same day the DC Circuit Court rejected all arguments by FERC and the pipeline company, and could mandate vacating the pipeline’s permit next week. Meanwhile, Sabal Trail already has been shut down, shipping mostly zero gas since mid-November, when it apparently lost one of its only two customers. According to an industry publication the case by Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is ‘the strongest legal rebuke of FERC’s oversight since the rush to build out natural gas pipelines began several years ago’ and ‘a pivotal moment in the evolution of pipeline opposition and broader climate accountability.’”

2-1-28 News Observator. Atlantic Coast Pipeline stirs mix of hope for jobs, leeriness by Native Americans. “U.S. Senator Tim Kaine wants a do-over. The Virginia Democrat has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will ferry fracked natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina. Two of five commission seats were vacant when the panel approved the project by a 2-1 vote in October 2017. Noting the commission is back at full staff, Kaine wants a re-vote saying ‘there is a real concern about whether the divided rulings by a partial Commission fairly reflect the FERC position.’ A handful of environmental groups, property owners and even a North Carolina state agency also want FERC — for various reasons — to reconsider their approval of the project. Along with issues related to greenhouse gasses, eminent domain and damage to wetlands and rivers, opponents also question whether a legitimate economic need exists for the ACP, and numerous other pipelines, that FERC has greenlighted to move natural gas from the Marcellus-Utica shale basin in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The project also reflects another growing dispute in America: Whether economic development projects have a disparate impact on communities of color.”

2-1-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Attend BZA’s Feb. 12 hearing. “Nelson County residents should be aware of what’s been happening in Pennsylvania regarding the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline. It may be a harbinger of what will happen here if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project isn’t stopped. An upcoming public hearing called by the Board of Zoning Appeals on Feb. 12 gives all of us a chance to weigh in on how to protect our county. …. However good Dominion’s promises of best practices and environmental sensitivity may sound, its own record and that of the industry indicates on-the-ground results that fail to match their promises. The process needs our constant scrutiny. The next significant opportunity to exercise that scrutiny is coming up. The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing Monday, Feb. 12, on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s applications for 11 variances from the provisions of our local Flood Plain Ordinance in order to cross water bodies and flood plains. Friends of Nelson urges the public to attend this hearing and ask the BZA to strictly enforce the provisions of our local ordinance, designed to protect the citizens of the county from the practices cited above. The hearing will be held in the auditorium of Nelson County High School at 7 p.m.”

2-1-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Dominion’s empty promises. “Dominion’s pipeline plunder has entered a new phase now that trees are being cut in Buckingham County. The mega-corporation missed a grand opportunity on Day 1, when photographs taken on site showed every truck had out-of-state licenses. So much for their “local jobs” claim. If Dominion can’t find locals to fell trees, they certainly won’t be looking locally for skilled labor to do the more specialized work. …. Across the country, citizens’ property, livelihoods and safety are being stolen by corporations intent on one purpose only: profit. Empty promises of low energy costs and jobs never come to fruition. Explosions, polluted streams, stolen land and undrinkable water are left behind. Dominion is a prime example of corporate raiding of our environment and property: They bribe politicians with ‘contributions,’ refuse to invest in renewable energy because of the huge windfalls to be made by building pipelines for which they are guaranteed a 14 percent return and scam the “independent” State Corporation Commission into further rate freezes despite their already windfall-level profits from us, the ratepayers.”

2-1-18 Natural Resources Defense Council. Natural Gas Industry Admits New Pipelines Aren’t Needed. “Some proponents of new pipelines point to the recent cold snap and claim that more fracked gas pipeline capacity is needed to meet winter spikes in natural gas demand. However, the facts don’t back this up. Even in 2014, when the infamous “Polar Vortex” occurred, additional pipelines were not needed. On January 22, 2014, gas prices in the mid-Atlantic region exceeded $100/dekatherm when the 2014 average was only $4/dekatherm. Power prices reached $1000/MWh, when the 2014 average was $40/MWh. But the increased fracked gas prices weren’t due to too few pipelines. There was unused capacity on several pipelines supplying the region from production areas in the Marcellus and Utica basins. Rather, the price spike was the result of pipeline owners being allowed to restrict gas flow on their pipelines. They are not required to accept frequent changes in the amount or timing of gas scheduled to be delivered. This reduces the flexibility in the system needed to adjust to high demand. Skip to 2018, when we had another severe cold wave in the same region. This time, despite the so-called ‘bomb cyclone’ leading to some increasing demands on fracked gas, a natural gas price index lost more than 4.6 percent of its value. This calls into question any claims that more natural gas supply is needed in times of deep cold. My colleague Montina Cole has blogged about the over-capacity in the U.S. pipeline system: the United States now has enough pipeline capacity to carry 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day, but last year, average daily U.S. consumption was just 75 billion cubic feet. …. [A] spokesman for Williams, owner of the Transco pipeline, a would-be competitor of ACP, indicated ‘the infrastructure is in place right now to meet the current demand.’”

2-1-18 Roanoke Times. Federal judge puts a pause on Mountain Valley Pipeline construction plans. “With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project. Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels. Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties. But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. At a hearing earlier this month, Mountain Valley presented appraisals for just nine of the nearly 300 properties, which Dillon said was insufficient information on which to base an appropriate bond amount.”

2-1-18 The Recorder. Planners slam pipeline permit applications. “Citing numerous errors and inadequacies, the Highland County Planning Commission on Jan. 25 voted to set one public hearing, but tabled two other land-use applications for Dominion to establish proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction lay-down material storage yards. Dominion calls them ‘satellite’ yards, even though there would be an estimated 30 big-rig trips in and out six days a week. Staff recommended planners proceed with a public hearing on rezoning applications for a proposed storage yard south of Monterey, in the former location of Jack Mountain Village, which was a worker camp for the Bath County Pumped Storage Station project decades ago. But zoning administrator Joshua Simmons noted there were numerous errors in the applications, particularly with respect to incorrect mailing addresses and partial omission of surrounding landowners. Citing errors, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s demand of a traffic study and unanswered questions about the application for a McDowell storage yard, planners tabled considering the rezoning and conditional use permit applications.”