March 2019 News

March 2019

3-31-19 Roanoke Times. Work continues on Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite repeated problems. “Last September, torrential rains swept muddy water from a pipeline construction zone into the nearby United Methodist Church in Lindside, West Virginia, washing out the gravel parking lot and leaving a layer of muck in the basement. In other places along the 303-mile route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, large rocks rolled off the construction right of way, tumbling more than 100 feet downhill. “This has been an ongoing issue,” regulators wrote in a July 2018 report that also documented problems with erosion control measures and mudslides. And in February, a contractor working on a Pittsylvania County stretch of the pipeline submitted paperwork stating that erosion maintenance repairs had been made, when in fact they had not. Those cases — along with scores of instances in which sediment-laden water flowed unchecked from work zones into nearby streams or onto adjacent private property — are listed in weekly environmental compliance monitoring reports filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Yet more than a year after construction of the natural gas pipeline began, FERC has not issued a single “serious violation” notice against the project. Normally, the finding of a serious violation would initiate formal enforcement action by the agency, which could include a civil penalty or a stop-work order. FERC has imposed no fines against Mountain Valley. In fact, since 2005, the agency has fined just one natural gas pipeline company for violations during construction. FERC does not keep records of how many stop-work orders have been imposed, spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said. Pipeline opponents, who for the past year have been asking state and federal agencies to address widespread environmental damage caused by construction, said FERC’s lack of action is part of a broken system in which the regulators are too cozy with the industries they regulate.”

3-31-19 News and Advance. Environmental activists fight Atlantic Coast Pipeline from the sky. “High above the twisting pathway of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, activists have taken on the role of Cold War-era spies to help halt the construction of the planned 600-mile natural gas pipeline. For more than two years, environmentalists have been flying single-engine aircrafts and unmanned aerial vehicles to fight the pipeline’s development by seeking evidence of regulation violations. The $7 billion pipeline is slated to stretch from West Virginia to North Carolina and is being built by a group of energy companies led by Dominion Energy. …. The ultimate goals of the surveillance, according to Ben Cunningham, the Pipeline CSI field director, are to stop the pipeline’s construction, mitigate any harm to the environment and show the inadequacies of current regulations and enforcement activity. So far, the initiative has submitted about two dozen compliance complaints to regulators, Cunningham said, largely thanks to the ‘Pipeline Air Force’ — the team of airplane and drone pilots navigating the skies above the construction zones.”

3-29-19 Boston Globe. Trump issues new permit for stalled Keystone XL pipeline. “Moving defiantly to kick-start the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, President Donald Trump on Friday issued a new presidential permit for the project — two years after he first approved it and more than a decade after it was first proposed. Trump said the permit issued Friday replaces one granted in March 2017. The order is intended to speed up development of the controversial pipeline, which would ship crude oil from tar sands in western Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. A federal judge blocked the project in November, saying the Trump administration had not fully considered potential oil spills and other impacts. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered a new environmental review. A White House spokesman said the new permit issued by Trump ‘dispels any uncertainty’ about the project. ‘Specifically, this permit reinforces, as should have been clear all along, that the presidential permit is indeed an exercise of presidential authority that is not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act,’ the spokesman said. But a lawyer for environmentalists who sued to stop the project called Trump’s action illegal. The lawyer, Stephan Volker, vowed to seek a court order blocking project developer TransCanada from moving forward with construction. ‘By his action today in purporting to authorize construction’ of the pipeline despite court rulings blocking it, ‘President Trump has launched a direct assault on our system of governance,’ Volker said Friday in an email.”

3-29-19 Roanoke Times. Malbon: Pipeline has corrupted our government. “It is, sadly enough, common knowledge that the executive branch of Virginia’s state government has been corrupted by corporate interests, especially Dominion Energy, with its Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and Mountain Valley Pipeline. While it was the former governor who made secret deals that favor these two pipelines over protecting the environment of all Virginians, the current governor has certainly taken up the same pattern, pushing it even further by ending the terms of members of citizen boards who ask too many questions about a huge compressor station to be built in the neighborhood of formerly enslaved persons in Buckingham County (Where was the rage over that racist action?) or about the clean water certification of the already impressively destructive MVP. The most recent case in point was the change in advice to the State Water Control Board, which dared in December 2018 to raise the question of a second look at the clean water certification of the MVP in light of the 300-plus violations mentioned specifically in the suit filed by the Attorney General.”

3-28-19 Virginia Mercury.  As he talks equity, Gov. Northam continues to ignore Union Hill. “We have a governor who still believes that he’s the best person to lead this state out of its current racial divisions even though he’s the one who caused them. Setting aside the maddening level of arrogance for a moment, Gov. Northam, if you want to help right a wrong, you can start with Union Hill, reverse your position and demand that Dominion move its compressor station. Help deliver justice to people who need it. We cannot begin to resolve the inequities in our environment at-large if we don’t tackle the underlying racial disparities that exist in our communities, in housing, in employment and within our political structures. There’s an old saying:, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Let’s continue our work to clean up our environment with that renewed focus on communities that need it most.”

3-28-19 The Robesonian [NC].  A thousand-cuts strategy imperils ACP. “When it comes to energy, we prefer an all-of-the-above approach, and that would include natural gas, a preference of the green crowd just a few years ago that has now fallen out of favor. So we worry for the first time that the future of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline does not seem bright, although its builders insist it is coming, later than sooner. Right now, however, construction of the pipeline is clogged. …. We don’t know where the line is that if crossed, the project no longer becomes economically feasible, but it seems clear to us that opponents are using a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy — and that it is showing itself to be effective.”

3-28-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion Energy bows to pressure on energy efficiency spending. “Dominion Energy has bowed to pressure from Gov. Ralph Northam and others and has agreed to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs over the next decade. Dominion President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II told Northam about the company’s plans in a letter sent Tuesday, reversing the Richmond-based company’s previous position that its energy efficiency spending should be significantly less. Dominion pushed through a major overhaul of electric utilities in 2018 that could lead to substantial increases in customers’ bills. Those changes also gave the company new flexibility in accounting for costs that virtually guarantee its rates can’t go down. To get some skeptical groups and lawmakers to support or at least drop opposition to the legislation, Dominion also committed to submitting $870 million in proposed energy efficiency programs to state regulators over the next decade. …. But at a recent hearing before state regulators, Dominion argued that the $870 million should include any lost revenue it would incur because of decreased electric usage. If approved, that could have effectively reduced actual spending on energy efficiency programs by about 40 percent or more. Dominion’s position faced pushback from the Northam administration, lawmakers and others who said the company was not living up to a deal it struck last year. …. Farrell said in his letter to Northam that Dominion views lost revenues ‘as an important provision for energy efficiency at the greater scale contemplated and note that this concept has long been recognized’ in state law. ‘However, we commit to an aggregate total of $870 million in regulated energy efficiency filings through 2028 exclusive of any lost revenues,’ Farrell said.”

3-28-19 The Recorder. Dominion confident in its troubled pipeline project. “Dominion Energy informed investors that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision suspending the proposed $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, there are ‘alternatives’ sure to ‘get the job done.’ CEO Tom Farrell did not say what the ‘alternatives’ were. The ‘job’ is the ACP, a major part of Dominion Energy’s plan to ‘decarbonize’ or close down coal-fueled power plants, Farrell told shareholders on ‘Investor Day,’ Monday, March 25. He did not mention that methane gas is a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide when burned to generate electricity. …. ‘Nothing new here,’ Farrell said in his concluding remarks on the ACP, noting construction is expected to resume by the end of September, at least on the portions from Buckingham to Lumberton to North Carolina, Virginia, and in West Virginia. An appeal to the Appalachian Trail decision by the Fourth Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court will be filed by early June and full construction could commence by June 2020. ‘We have a high confidence level the solicitor general will join us on the appeal,’ Farrell said, adding there are other methods besides the Supreme Court.”

3-28-19 The Recorder. Pipeline risky business, investors warned. “Behind the times. Unjustified. Behind schedule. Over budget. Monday, right on time for Dominion Energy ‘Investor Day,’ a shareholder-targeted briefing report from Friends of the Earth and Oil Change International confirmed an onslaught of costly troubles plaguing the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Burning yesterday’s dirty methane fossil fuel in the middle of an American clean energy revolution, at a 50 percent cost overrun, plus a barrage of court challenges, were high on the briefing’s list of problems.” The full briefing report can be found at priceofoil.org/acp-risk-upon-risk.

3-28-19 Roanoke Times.  Northam’s push to overhaul DEQ moving forward. “Plans to overhaul the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, launched one year ago, are starting to take shape. A report with recommendations will be released next month pursuant to an executive order from Gov. Ralph Northam, who directed DEQ staff, in consultation with the secretary of natural resources, to review the agency’s permitting, monitoring and enforcement activities. …. Northam’s executive order aims to overhaul the agency in three ways: updating and better enforcing regulations, guarding against the rollback of environmental protections under President Donald Trump, and improving public relations and transparency.”

3-27-19 Independent. Anti-pipeline campaigners found not guilty by judge because ‘protest against climate change crisis’ was legal ‘necessity’. “More than a dozen protesters who clambered into holes dug for a high pressure gas pipeline said they had been found not responsible by a judge after hearing them argue their actions to try and stop climate change were a legal ‘necessity’. Karenna Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, was among more than 198 people who were arrested because of their 2015 actions protesting the pipeline in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, a neighbourhood of Boston. Thirteen people were to go on trial this week, though prosecutors downgraded their original criminal charges to one of civil infraction. On Tuesday, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll of West Roxbury District Court, found all 13 defendants not responsible, the equivalent of not guilty in a criminal case. She did so after each of the defendants addressed the judge and explained why they were driven to try and halt the pipeline’s construction. …. The environmentalist and academic Bill McKibben, who was to appear as a defence witness for the defendants, said on Twitter: ‘Good golly! A few minutes ago a Boston judge acquitted 13 pipeline protesters on the grounds that the climate crisis made it necessary for them to commit civil disobedience. This may be a first in America.'”

3-26-19 E&E EnergyWire.  Cheap batteries could soon replace gas plants — study. “Power stored in lithium-ion batteries could soon become cheaper than power produced by natural gas-fired “peaker” plants, with that advantage growing in coming years, according to an analysis today from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s because of the global increase in electric vehicle production, which is bringing down the cost of battery packs. Over the last year alone, the levelized cost of electricity from lithium-ion fell some 35 percent per megawatt-hour, BNEF said. The cost decline effectively means that the efforts to cut emissions from the transportation sector are accelerating the power sector’s transition to cleaner sources, because battery technologies are useful in both. ‘The main driver for this is obviously the manufacturing ramp-up for electric vehicles,’ said Tifenn Brandily, an energy economics analyst at BNEF. The report is the latest analysis from an energy research firm that sees battery storage eventually subverting gas plants’ status as a preferred source of quick-start power during times of peak demand. Last spring, Wood Mackenzie wrote that batteries would beat out gas peakers by 2022 in much of the United States. In some parts of the United States, that’s already the case. By 2021, battery dominance will occur across a broader swath of the country, according to Brandily. ‘This is not looking good for peaking plants,’ he said.”

3-26-19 Blue Virginia. Dominion Energy Touts the (Supposed) Wonders of Fracked Gas, Lays Out Its Timeline for Restart of Its $7 Billion+ Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction. “Yesterday, Dominion Energy delivered a presentation at its ‘Investor day general session.’ Below, see a few slides that jumped out at me, with my comments, followed by the entire presentation.” See the full set of Dominion slides here.

3-26-19 Lancaster Online. Property owners along Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline get letters warning of possible liens. “A fight over payment for work on the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline made its way to the mailboxes of Lancaster County residents who own land the pipeline crosses. Some local landowners along the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline are expressing surprise and concern about letters warning that liens might be placed on their properties. Several said they received certified letters in the last few days that were formal notice of intent to file liens against their property if Michigan-based MacAllister Machinery Co. Inc. does not receive timely payment of about $1.02 million it asserts it is owed by Welded Construction LP, which was the main contractor on the project. …. The letters indicated the liens would be filed under the Mechanics’ Lien Law, which allows unpaid contractors, subcontractors and suppliers to recover payment for work done by filing liens against the owners of properties where ‘improvements’ had been made. …. Chris Stockton is spokesman for Atlantic Sunrise owner Williams Partners. ‘It is our position that subcontractors do not have any right or legal ability to lien these properties,’ he wrote in an email Monday. Stockton noted that Williams required Welded to procure a roughly $450 million bond before the project started, to help protect subcontractors and suppliers.”

3-25-19 Chicago Tribune.  Northam presses Dominion boss on energy efficiency. “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is pressing the CEO of the state’s largest electric utility to ‘fully act’ on a commitment it made last year to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs. Northam sent a letter Friday to Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell asking him to clarify that the company plans to spend the full amount. Dominion is asking state regulators to include any lost revenue related to decreased electric usage as part of the $870 million. That would effectively reduce what the company spends on energy efficiency programs by hundreds of millions of dollars. Critics say Dominion is breaking a deal it made last year.”

3-25-29 Seeking Alpha. Duke Energy needs ‘Plan B’ if Atlantic Coast Pipeline fails, Good says. “Duke Energy (DUK +0.1%) CEO Lynn Good says it would need to come up with ‘another project‘ if the delayed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline cannot overcome legal setbacks and opposition from environmental groups. DUK ‘remains committed’ to completing the pipeline that would ship gas from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, and the ‘Atlantic Coast pipeline was sized and designed with a timeframe to meet the needs of our customers,’ Good tells Bloomberg. If Atlantic Coast is blocked, DUK would consider building a pipeline from eastern to western North Carolina as opposed to north-south – ‘That’s something that remains a plan B’ – the CEO says.”

3-21-19 The Recorder. Investors worry about proposed pipeline project. “Federal court actions obstructing investor-owned utility Dominion Energy and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline have set off tremors in the investment community. West Virginia lawmakers chimed in to approve a bill to ‘categorically condemn these counterproductive and economically damaging assaults.’ The U.S. Fourth Circuit denied a full-court rehearing and ruled the U.S. Forest Service cannot allow the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail without an act of Congress.
Dominion faces other legal challenges to restarting construction because approvals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were thrown out. Dominion responded to the rulings by announcing it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by late May. While Dominion management has promised a legal or legislative remedy, the lack of either could compound investor worries, further extend delays, drive up costs more, or scrap the ACP entirely. …. And a legislative remedy is questionable because Democrats hold the U.S. House majority. Investment analysts took notice.”

3-20-19 Washington Post. Federal judge demands Trump administration reveal how its drilling plans will fuel climate change. “A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West. The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington could force the Trump administration to account for the full climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda, and it could signal trouble for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country.”

3-20-19 Virginia Mercury. A revised generation plan leaves Dominion’s case for its pipeline in shambles. “In December of last year, regulators at the State Corporation Commission took the unprecedented step of rejecting Dominion Energy Virginia’s Integrated Resource Plan. Among other reasons, the SCC said the utility had inflated projections of how much electricity its customers would use in the future. On March 8, Dominion came back with a revised plan. And sure enough, when it plugged in the more realistic demand projections used by independent grid operator PJM and accounted for some energy efficiency savings, the number of planned new gas plants dropped in half. Instead of eight to 13 new gas combustion turbines, the revised plan listed only four to seven of these small ‘peaker’ units. …. That’s bad news for Dominion Energy’s other line of business, gas transmission and storage. With demand for new gas generation here evidently falling off a cliff, Dominion’s ability to rely on its customer base as an anchor client for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline becomes increasingly doubtful.”

3-19-19 Clean Virginia.  SCC Should Reject Dominion’s Request to Scale Down Energy Efficiency Spending. “Clean Virginia expressed its opposition today to Dominion Energy’s latest filing to the State Corporation Commission (SCC), in which Dominion is attempting to scale down its commitment to energy efficiency projects. As part of negotiations to pass the 2018 Grid Transformation and Securitization Act allowing Dominion to continue withholding approximately $300-400 million each year in consumer overcharges, Dominion made a $870 million commitment to new energy efficiency projects. Now, it is attempting to decrease that commitment, claiming a loss in projected revenue if it increases the efficiency of its systems. Currently, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranks Dominion 50th out of 51 large-scale national utilities in energy efficiency efforts. Increasing energy efficiency is a low-cost and low-risk solution to meeting energy demand while saving money for consumers.”

3-19-19 Blue Virginia. Anatomy of a Farce, Part 2: How Virginia AG Mark Herring & the State Water Control Board Ignored the Law to Protect Corporate Criminal Mountain Valley Pipeline. “To date, no state official has publicly described how the [State Water Control] board could possibly have concluded that it could not revoke its own certification, particularly when the certification itself says that it can. Their silence speaks volumes. Privately, however, people with knowledge of what transpired in that secret meeting have described to this author what happened. And it’s not pretty. Simply put, the board relied on two sections of the Clean Water Act, a twenty-five-year-old court decision and a forty-year-old letter written by an EPA official from the Gerald Ford administration – none of them relevant to the facts involved here – to reach the conclusion that the board was powerless to act.”

3-18-19 Maryland Reporter. Drones change the way advocates protect the environment.  “Riverkeepers, researchers and volunteer monitors have long kept an eye on water quality from the ground and from the river. But, with the help of technology that’s suddenly far more accessible, they’re taking to the skies, too. Unmanned aerial vehicles, also called UAVs or drones, have recently become so affordable and easy to fly that they are winding up in the hands of more environmentalists. Pipeline opponents and watchdog groups are a perfect example. ‘The technology has come along to the point where everyday people can put a camera up in the air and see beyond the tree line or their property line,’ said Ben Cunningham, Virginia field coordinator for the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, a program that is training volunteers to use drones to keep tabs on controversial natural gas pipeline construction projects. With the help of this equipment, he said, they’ve created an oversight system that is often ‘superior to what regulators have at their disposal.'”

3-18-19 Virginia Mercury. Delegate pushes for an explanation from DEQ on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, has asked the Department of Environmental Quality to issue a stop work order on the Mountain Valley Pipeline until a lawsuit filed by the state over hundreds of construction violations is resolved. ‘The destruction of our clean water in Virginia caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline has gone on for long enough,’ Hurst tweeted. In a letter to DEQ Director David Paylor, Hurst said Paylor has the authority to pause construction of the 303-mile pipeline under approved 2018 legislation that gives the department power to halt work when projects have caused ‘substantial adverse impacts to water quality or are likely to cause imminent and substantial adverse impacts to water quality.'”

3-18-19 Forbes. Homeowners Take Fight Against Gas Pipeline Land Grab To U.S. Supreme Court. “Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco), a wholly owned subsidiary of the $8.6 billion energy-infrastructure titan Williams, demanded access to the Erbs’ land so it could construct the Atlantic Sunrise project, a 200-mile pipeline that expands the nation’s largest natural-gas pipeline system to the Marcellus Shale. …. At first, Transco offered to pay the Erbs for a six-acre easement. When the couple declined, Transco authorized eminent domain and forced the Erbs to hand over the property anyway. It’s now been more than a year and a half since Transco began digging up their land and yet the Erbs still haven’t seen a dime for their land. On Wednesday, the Erbs, along with their neighbors Stephen Hoffman and Lynda Like, who also saw their land taken, filed a cert petition urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rein in this widespread abuse of eminent domain. Representing the landowners is the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that litigated on behalf of homeowners in the Supreme Court’s last major eminent domain case: Kelo v. New London. What happened to the Erbs is not an isolated incident.”

3-18-19 WSLS10. Delegate Chris Hurst calls for immediate stop work order for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Virginia Delegate Chris Hurst is asking for an immediate stop work order for the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Hurst sent a letter to Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor Monday with the request. ‘I applauded the efforts (during the 2018 legislative session) to enact emergency legislation to address concerns the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would potentially harm existing stormwater management and erosion and sedimentation control laws,’ wrote Hurst in the letter. ‘Unfortunately, the landowners in my district and many others cannot continue to guess what it will take for a reasonable stop work order for the Mountain Valley pipeline project. …. Clearly there is evidence of violations and a lack of seriousness on the part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC,’ said Hurst. ‘What remains unclear is a lack of action to enforce these laws today.'”  Read the full text of Hurt’s letter here.

3-18-19 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Riggleman should care for all in district. “During his first six weeks in office, Congressman Denver Riggleman has made it one of his priorities to work for access to construct an alternate entrance/exit for the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County. He has called attention to his efforts in the press, on social media, and on his official congressional website. On Jan. 17, he spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the need for a second access to the resort. He cites the possibility of a catastrophic fire; however, he never mentions that the risk of a catastrophic event is increased by the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline crossing directly under the only current entrance/exit. Meanwhile, in Buckingham County (also in Riggleman’s district), the people of the Union Hill community, a historically African-American community, have been fighting to have a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline relocated from the planned location in their community. Riggleman has shown no interest in, nor acknowledged, the concerns of the Union Hill residents.”

3-15-19 Charlottesville Tomorrow. Charlottesville, Albemarle students rally in support of sustainable climate policy. “Amid chants, a group of area youth gathered at the Charlottesville Free Speech Wall at noon Friday to take part in the Global Youth Strike for Climate Change. …. Charlottesville organizers said they were expecting about 50 people and were pleasantly surprised when a crowd of about 200 gathered. …. Focusing on what could be done here in Charlottesville and Albemarle, the group demanded a halt to the development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in the community of Union Hill in Buckingham County and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Continued reliance on carbon-producing fossil fuels and a disproportionate burden on marginalized communities makes these projects problematic in multiple ways, the said. Union Hill is a community founded by free African-Americans and emancipated slaves.”

3-15-19 Blue Virginia. Students Strike Because Politicians Fail Climate Math. “Today, students across the United States and the planet will leave their classrooms to educate their parents and politicians on the urgency of climate change and how “business as usual” is jeopardizing their future. This reversal of roles comes about because too many parents and far too many politicians, including most Democrats, fail basic climate math. The very basics of climate math are not hard. It comes down to understanding the difference between addition and subtraction. In order to save the planet and our children’s future we need to subtract, that is, cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. Those parents and politicians failing in climate math continue to support policies and projects that add to the carbon pollution in our atmosphere.”

3-15-19 Energy News Network. A sunnier view for Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents — but will it last? “Ona is still standing on Miracle Ridge. Much to the relief of Lynn and Bill Limpert, the nearly 300-year-old sugar maple on their property in rural Virginia hasn’t yet been cut or compromised to clear a right-of-way for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That the gargantuan tree has been spared is encouraging for a couple so deeply immersed in preserving their 120-acre sanctuary in Bath County. ‘It is a David and Goliath story, and David is getting some good shots in here,’ Bill Limpert said about the pipeline opponents who have joined forces to halt — for now — Dominion Energy’s controversial natural gas project. ‘We feel we have a better chance at this point than we did back in October of stopping the pipeline or keeping it off of our property.'”

3-14-19 The Recorder. Remain vigilant, pipeline opponents told. “Even though work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is now at a standstill, residents along and near the pipeline route, as well as other opponents, must continue to fight and do all they can to stop the project. That was the message at a meeting last Thursday of the antipipeline group, Voices from Bath, held at the Burnsville Community Center. Meeting moderator Dick Brooks, who works with the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance and the Cowpasture River Preservation Association, said there were several pieces of good news. ‘The project is on hold, Moody’s has downgraded its bond rating, there is increased public awareness, there is increased agency scrutiny, and there have been good level results,’ he said. However, he warned that Dominion is a powerful company, is well-funded, and has a great deal of influence among politicians. Ben Cunningham, a member of the ABRA and Friends of Nelson, an anti-pipeline group in Nelson County, said work is going on in West Virginia and North Carolina to clean up workspaces while the project is on hold in the courts. Of the 600 miles of pipe needed to complete the project, only about 10 miles has been deployed, he said. ‘They (Dominion) are years and years behind their schedule,’ Cunningham said. ‘They are millions of dollars over budget. However, the fight is far from over.'” [Article includes specifics on status of work to date in WV, VA, and NC]

3-14-19 Grist. Students share motivations ahead of Youth Climate Strike. “Young people around the globe are gearing up for the International Youth Climate Strike on Friday, March 15. Students at tens of thousands of schools are expected to leave their classes and take the streets to demand world leaders act on climate change. The global movement started last year when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, began a solo protest calling for climate change action by holding up handmade signs outside her country’s Parliament every Friday. Thunberg’s actions sparked the hashtag #FridaysForFuture — now a worldwide youth climate movement.”

3-12-19 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Dominion tries to work around ruling. “It is disappointing that Dominion potentially is subjecting Virginia to endless lawsuits and that it promises to pursue “legislative and administrative options” in its attempt to push the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through our region to accommodate construction of fracked-gas infrastructure. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Appalachian Trail and the national forests shouldn’t be plowed up. This ruling demonstrates great wisdom, especially in light of the disastrous environmental consequences born of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which currently faces a lawsuit by the Virginia attorney general for allegedly violating environmental regulations over 300 times during its construction. …. It seems the lesson Dominion has learned from the MVP has been to build fast and furious and then deal with public outrage with its army of lawyers, rather than to acknowledge to shareholders and community stakeholders that the entire project was ill-conceived from the start.”

3-12-19 Crozet Gazette. Letter: Tell Northam, Stop the Pipeline. “I want to alert you to a threat faced by our neighbors south of us in Buckingham County that will affect our children, too, and ask you to write to Governor Northam, who has been siding against us. You might think of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as a necessary and safe way to transport gas. Perhaps other forms of energy are cleaner, you say, but maybe we need this for now and better to pipe than truck. I’d like to share some details that show the ACP is unnecessary, damaging, a scam, and a threat to our health. Even if fracking weren’t creating unacceptable contamination in West Virginia, where it would increase if this pipeline is built, this pipeline would be a catastrophe for Virginia. …. Why would Governor Northam side against Virginians? Well, Dominion has basically paid him to. You and I cannot hope to buy him back, but we can ask him to show some integrity. Please write to him now at: Governor Ralph Northam, P.O. Box 1475, Richmond, VA 23218.”

3-11-19 Virginia Mercury. How the General Assembly failed Virginia again on clean energy. “When the General Assembly session opened Jan. 9, legislators were presented with dozens of bills designed to save money for consumers, lower energy consumption, provide more solar options and set us on a pathway to an all-renewables future. Almost none of these measures passed, while bills that benefited utilities kept up their track record of success.” [A comprehensive review of bills that passed and those that did not.]

3-11-19 Winston-Salem Journal. Donna Chavis, Jean Su and Jim Warren: It’s time to end Duke Energy’s monopoly in North Carolina. “A series of monster hurricanes have pummeled eastern North Carolina, devastating its rural communities. Since 2016, Robeson County has seen three so-called “500-year floods” and other steady rains that have turned the Lumbee River – a lifeline for generations – into something people fear. Eastern communities are also suffering the storm of efforts by Duke Energy to push the dirty Atlantic Coast Pipeline through their communities. They’ve also been hit with repeated rate increases and toxic coal ash pollution while the utility blocks competition from cheaper, cleaner renewable energy solutions. These are symptoms of North Carolina’s badly broken electricity system. …. Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power provider, generates 90 percent of the electricity used in North Carolina. Based in Charlotte, Duke’s executives have long abused their monopoly privilege and the people of North Carolina are paying the price.”

3-11-19 News Virginian. We must stop the pipeline. “There are many reasons to oppose the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. First, environmental racism…. Second, the abuse of eminent domain and corruption. …. Third, this pipeline symbolizes our continued dependence and investment in unsustainable and destructive fossil fuels, and our refusal to progress and invest in renewable energy. …. This pipeline was already supposed to be in the ground and in service by now. The delay is because neighbors and communities came together and said ‘no.’ We have fought in the courts with the amazing leadership of great groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center and Wild Virginia. Yes, many things the pipeline represents are horrible and unethical, but the silver lining in this fight has been seeing folks from all different walks of life jump into this fight, whether they are impacted landowners or not because ‘if it’s not your land today, it will be yours tomorrow.’ The pipeline issue shows us the truth of how our elected officials feel about us normal folks like you and I. They are perfectly fine with taking money from a dirty industry that is willing to throw away a clean future for the next generation. For those wondering, in 2017 Tom Farrell, Dominion CEO, made a salary of a little over $14 million.”

3-11-19 Blue Virginia. Virginia’s Elected Democratic Officials Continue to Disappoint on the Pipeline Issue. “In the last five years, I have been told by two Governors (McAuliffe and Northam), one Lieutenant Governor (Northam, again), and one Attorney General (Herring) that there is “nothing they can do” with regards to the pipeline issue. I am surprised that the top three officials in Virginia state government think they have such little power or influence. I am frustrated by their refusal to stand up for the environment, protect our water, and fight for private property rights. I am shocked that many Democrats talk badly about Republicans who refuse to accept that climate change is real, but are okay with Democrats who accept campaign contributions from Dominion and are the biggest cheerleaders for a pipeline that symbolizes our refusal to move away from dirty, fracked gas to renewable forms of energy.”

3-9-19 Roanoke Times. State board’s vote in Mountain Valley Pipeline’s favor raises questions for opponents. “For nearly four hours, while members of the State Water Control Board huddled with their attorney behind closed doors, observers we’re left to wait and wonder what the board would do about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They eventually found out what, but they’re still asking why.”

3-8-19 The Guardian. ‘They chose us because we were rural and poor’: when environmental racism and climate change collide. “The south-east, particularly North Carolina and Virginia, is notorious for its coal ash deposits, spills, and anti-regulation mentality. People of color have outsized exposure to coal ash pollution, which contains carcinogens like mercury, lead, and arsenic. The EPA estimates that 1.5 million people of color live in areas vulnerable to contamination. I decided to visit Virginia to learn more and arrived in February, Black History Month. Governor Ralph Northam was on a listening tour following his blackface photo scandal, and a bill allowing local governments to determine the future of Confederate monuments had just been easily defeated, 6-2. I wondered: if Virginia is still fighting culture battles, how can it address the imminent threats of climate change effectively and protect all its citizens? Though Northam recently encouraged bipartisan legislation requiring Virginia’s Dominion Power Company to excavate and clean up its ash ponds, citizens will fund the $5bn cleanup bill, not the company. Furthermore, Dominion is pursuing a pipeline project that would place a pollution-generating compressor station in the historic black community of Union Hill.”

3-7-19 Forbes. The Fight For The Atlantic Coast & Mountain Valley Pipelines. “Two proposed long-haul natural gas transportation projects—the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)—are now in peril. That’s the result of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia in late February. The court didn’t just reject U.S. Forest Service permits for the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail. They ruled the Forest Service lacks the authority to permit any pipeline crossing the A.T., without an act of Congress. If that stands, it invites a fresh challenge to the MVP project, which is also attempting to transport gas from Appalachia to the Southeast US. The ACP’s lead developer and 48 percent owner Dominion Energy (D) will file an appeal with the US Supreme Court ‘in the next 90 days.’ If that fails, management will have to decide whether to seek an unlikely exemption from Congress, substantially re-route the pipeline or cancel the project entirely.”

3-7-19 BTU Analytics. ACP on the Trail to the Supreme Court. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) both intended to enter service in late 2018. However, regulatory delays pushed MVP’s scheduled in service date to late 2019. Additionally, ACP projects to enter service in early 2021. ACP’s most recent delay announcement also included a substantial cost increase for the project. Recent pipeline news included a flurry of announcements about ACP’s legal battles with environmental groups challenging various permits issued to ACP in the 4th circuit court of appeals. Even the 45th Vice President Al Gore joined in the debate on ACP, attending a rally in Virginia and calling the pipeline an ‘environmental injustice’. Today’s Energy Market Commentary will delve into ACP’s regulatory and legal process thus far and the potential implications to MVP. We will also briefly discuss the possible impacts to Atlantic Seaboard basis dynamics when MVP and ACP are online. For a deeper dive on the topic, please see more in-depth write up in this quarter’s Gas Basis Outlook. The timeline below includes some of ACP’s major developments since the project was announced in 2014.” [Interesting time line of ACP actions and obstacles in the article]

3-7-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Something’s not right with water board. “What should we make of the State Water Control Board’s surprising decision not to hold a hearing on whether to revoke the water certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline? We say ‘surprising’ because in December the board — also surprisingly — voted 4-3 to hold a special meeting to set in motion just such a hearing. Then last Friday, the board voted unanimously not to do anything. What happened? Well, a closed-door meeting with an assistant attorney general happened. Afterwards, the board announced that, on the advice of counsel, it had concluded it did not have authority to revoke the certification, after all. Something here doesn’t feel right.”

3-6-19 EVVA.com. Organic farmers say known carcinogen found in pellets dropped in MVP construction. “In September of 2018 suspicious pellets rained down on an organic farm near the path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now, those pellets have been found to contain a cancer causing chemical- and are continuing to be dropped in Monroe County. Organic farmers near the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say suspicious pellets dropped from a helicopter in the sky are ruining their livelihood. Beth and Neal Laferriere own Blackberry Springs Farm. Beth said of the pellets, ‘It has effectively decimated our business.’ According to an EPA spill report, the pellets are Earth Guard, a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. Blackberry Springs Farm is adjacent to a path cleared for the pipeline. The pellets fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path, contaminating the organic certified farm. …. According to the manufacturer’s GHS sheet, the pellets were found to contain a chemical called acrylamide. The FDA says acrylamide is a known animal carcinogen and human neurotoxicant, which means it can cause cancer and birth defects. Neal said of the chemical, ‘It’s in our water system.’ For now property owners near the pipeline are on high alert, waiting for the next pellet to drop. Neal said, ‘Nobody is willing to do anything when it comes to holding MVP accountable, and it’s unfortunate. What can we do as citizens to hold them accountable? We’re just the small guy.'”

3-6-19 Blue Virginia. Sorry (Not Sorry), Virginia Politicians: You Can’t Support New Fracked-Gas Pipelines and Also Support Clean Energy. “Among the many other ‘joys’ (most definitely in air quotes) of covering Virginia politics is listening to hypocritical elected officials and candidates talk about how much they support something, but then listen – and watch – as their other words and actions completely undercut the thing they claim to be supporting. A great example of this is politicians who claim to understand the need (for economic and environmental reasons) to move towards a clean energy economy, while simultaneously either supporting or failing to oppose new fracked-gas pipelines. The problem, as this excellent article by Energy News Network elucidates, is that supporting new fracked-gas pipelines not only encourages more development of fracked gas, but just as bad in many ways, actually ‘slows progress on renewables.'”

3-5-19. Duke Human Rights Center. Interview with Scholar and Indigenous Rights Activist Ryan Emanuel. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline also poses challenges for local communities along the route, including indigenous communities. If built, the 600-mile long pipeline would rank among the largest-diameter and highest-pressure gas pipelines in the United States. Myriad health, safety, and socioeconomic impacts would be exacerbated by the size and scope of this project. Unique impacts to indigenous communities, who often live close to the natural environment and base their cultures and identities on natural landscapes, have yet to be assessed. Much of the pipeline’s infrastructure, including compressor stations, metering stations, and other industrial facilities, are slated for African American or American Indian communities such as Union Hill, VA and Prospect, NC. These communities were targeted for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in part, because they host existing gas infrastructure built decades before environmental justice or community engagement were part of the regulatory process. Regulators and developers have yet to grapple with the present-day ethical challenges created by legacy decisions to locate this type of infrastructure predominantly minority communities.”

3-5-19 MyBuckhannon [WV].  Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction unlikely to recommence prior to September. “Work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline won’t recommence until the third quarter of 2019, meaning September at the earliest, a Dominion Energy spokesperson said Monday. Karl Neddenien, media relations manager for Dominion Energy, told My Buckhannon he doesn’t expect full construction to be underway on the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline until the fall. ‘We expect recent permitting issues to be resolved in the coming months so we can resume construction,’ Neddenien wrote in an email. ‘We currently expect that full construction could restart in the third quarter of this year.’ The “permitting issues” to which Neddenien refers are the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s invalidation of several key permits, including ones issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the National Park Service; and the U.S. Forest Service. …. Lewis Freeman, the executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance based in Virginia, says the coalition of groups that oppose ACP’s construction are primarily concerned about the feasibility of building a pipeline through such a mountainous region. ‘There are some in the investment community who have questioned the viability of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, notwithstanding the opinions of the people invested in the project,’ Freeman said Tuesday. ‘The coalition of these environmental groups has formed because ultimately we agree, above and beyond, that it is environmental folly to build a natural gas pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia.'”

3-5-19 Virginia Mercury. Citizen oversight of Virginia’s environmental regulations increasingly looks like a farce. “Even after more than two years of being steadily bludgeoned into subservience by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Attorney General’s office over the regulations of a pair of contentious natural gas pipeline projects, Friday’s meeting of the Virginia State Water Control Board was a new low point. The meeting, mostly conducted behind closed doors as an anxious public waited for hours, concluded with varying flimsy excuses for why the board was backing away from a public hearing on revoking a state water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Actually, not quite. The finale was more revolting than that. As board members fumbled through explanations before an increasingly angry audience, Chairwoman Heather Wood abruptly called for an adjournment. Then, most of the board members beat a swift retreat behind a wall of state troopers, who were necessary, it seems, to protect the citizen board from citizens asking it to do its job and protect their water. …. Between the water board debacle and Gov. Ralph Northam’s interference with the air board, removing two members seemingly to ensure that the board didn’t reject a crucial permit for a compressor station that is part of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citizen oversight of Virginia’s environmental agency and the regulations it enforces is looking increasingly like a sad farce. To perform their proper role, they need to be determined, independently well-versed on the issues and, perhaps most importantly, unafraid of upsetting the apple cart in a state where going along to get along when big business is involved is par for the course. Lately, they don’t seem up to the job.”

3-4-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. 4th Circuit decision prompts Wall Street concern over pipeline. “A decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has cast a lengthening shadow over the creditworthiness of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Moody’s Investors Service, a national bond rating agency, said Monday that the planned 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘credit negative’ for Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, the primary partners in a project now projected to cost up to $7.75 billion. Moody’s already had rated the project ‘credit negative’ because of mounting costs and uncertainty after a three-judge panel’s decision in December to overturn a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail. But the rating agency’s concern intensified after the 4th Circuit’s dismissal last week of Dominion’s request for the full court to reconsider the panel’s decision and the company’s immediate announcement that it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days. ‘The appeals court’s decision and the subsequent appeal mean that a longer legal process will ensue, adding costs and uncertainty to when and how the project will be completed,’ Moody’s said…. The additional delay for the Supreme Court appeal ‘will increase the negative pressure on both companies’ already weak cash flow ratios compared with peers,’ the rating agency said.”

3-4-19 NC PolicyWatch. Federal judge to Dominion: No eminent domain for at least 90 days. “US District Court Judge Terence Boyle has extended a three-month stay in an eminent domain case related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a status conference last Thursday, Boyle ruled that Dominion could not seize 11 acres belonging to Marvin Winstead Jr., of Nash County until at least May 31. Winstead has refused to allow ACP contractors to timber a portion of his land, which has been in his family for more than 100 years. Dominion took him to court last March, but Boyle ruled against the company, saying that the company had not given Winstead a reasonable opportunity to negotiate.”

3-2-19 Blue Virginia. Threatened by Corporate Criminal Mountain Valley Pipeline, Attorney General Mark Herring and State Water Control Board Members Fold Like Cheap Suits.  “[O]n February 14, two days after being threatened by MVP and following two months of silence, DEQ scheduled a meeting to ‘discuss’ the revocation process. That was the first signal that Virginia was about to cave. On March 1, the Board held its meeting – and the fruits of MVP’s outrageous threats – and Ralph Northam’s purge of the Water Board – became clear. Attorney General Mark Herring, represented by a junior attorney from his office, told the Board that MVP was right and that the Board had no authority to revoke MVP’s permit. The junior attorney from AG Herring’s office gave this ‘advice’ even though the permit itself, which was approved, or more likely actually written by Herring’s office, said exactly the opposite. Faced with this new advice from Mark Herring’s office, James Lofton and his fellow Board members folded like so many cheap suits.” Article includes several videos.

3-1-19 Virginia Mercury.  After hours behind closed doors, State Water Control Board decides not to revoke Mountain Valley Pipeline certification.  “Emerging after hours behind closed doors, the State Water Control Board decided Friday it would not consider revoking a key water-quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, with members citing uncertainty about the board’s authority to do so. The water control board and Department of Environmental Quality have been under pressure from environmental groups and landowners to force work to stop on the 300-mile pipeline planned to run from West Virginia into Pittsylvania County and revoke a water-quality permit issued in 2017. The controversial project is the subject of a state lawsuit over several hundred environmental violations and a criminal investigation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.”

3-1-19 Roanoke Times.  State water board reverses course again on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “After starting a process that could have pulled a key permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a state board responsible for protecting Virginia’s water reversed course Friday. On a unanimous vote, the State Water Control Board withdrew its earlier decision to hold a hearing to consider revoking a water quality certification it issued for the controversial natural gas pipeline in December 2017. …. In comments before the vote, several members said they had become convinced that the board lacked authority to revoke the certification. They also said that by doing so, the state would lose the regulatory oversight it has through 16 conditions that were imposed as part of its initial approval.”

3-1-19 Virginia Mercury.   Amid federal criminal probe and a state lawsuit, why hasn’t the Virginia DEQ stopped work on Mountain Valley Pipeline?  “Nearly one year ago, Gov. Ralph Northam celebrated newly passed legislation he touted as an expansion of Virginia’s ability to protect its waterways. The two bills established a process for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to stop work on large natural gas pipelines if it determined there was a ‘substantial adverse impact to water quality,’ or if such a threat was ‘imminent.’ ‘From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, and all the rivers and streams in between, our water quality is of paramount importance to our health and our economy and I will protect it as long as I am governor,’ Northam trumpeted in a March 16 press release. The governor also added an emergency clause to the bills, putting them into effect immediately. In retrospect, he needn’t have bothered. Fifty weeks after the governor’s press release, the DEQ hasn’t used those powers to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite the fact that the DEQ and a state contractor recorded more than 300 violations of erosion, sediment control, and stormwater regulations on the MVP between June and November.”

3-1-19 DeSmog. Student Reporters in West Virginia Find Atlantic Coast Pipeline Offers Only Two Dozen Permanent Jobs. “The Student Reporting Labs (SRL) program connects high school teachers with local PBS reporters and journalism experts. Over 150 schools nationwide participate in the program, producing video projects that are published online and aired during PBS NewsHour broadcasts or on local PBS stations. The students were particularly interested in the kinds of jobs that could let workers stay in or near their hometown, a small city (population: 138,000) on the banks of the Monongahela River in north-central West Virginia. Earlier reporting by a different PBS project revealed that the 17,000 jobs advertised for the Atlantic Coast pipeline didn’t stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, that number is based on an estimate that re-counts the exact same position each year. ‘In other words, if someone was hired for a job that lasted for six years, that would count as six cumulative jobs,’ Community Idea Stations reported. It added that during an average year, the pipeline would directly employ 1,556 workers (and the projections then added in a nearly equal number of spin-off jobs, also multiplied by six years). At no point, in other words, was the pipeline project hiring 13,000 union workers at one time. ‘It was trouble finding out how many jobs the pipeline would create,’ another SRL reporter, Kyle Shaw, told DeSmog. So, they went to the source, interviewing Dominion’s Brittany Moody, lead engineer for the Atlantic Coast pipeline. ‘I’m thinking in the low 20’s range for permanent employees,’ she tells Student Reporting Labs in a roughly six-minute video report produced by the students.”

3-1-19 Rocky Mount Telegram. Pipeline progress thwarted. “Momentum for the once juggernaut-like Atlantic Coast Pipeline through Nash County appears to be grinding to a halt this week after another crushing court ruling. The now-struggling pipeline would carry natural gas from a fracking site in West Virginia to North Carolina. Dominion Energy remains confident in the full completion of the pipeline along the entire 600-mile route, said Karl Neddenien, Dominion Energy’s media relations manager. There are huge hurdles ahead. The Fourth Circuit Court declined this week to reconsider its December ruling that the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to authorize the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail. The court also ruled the Forest Service approval fell short of federal requirements because the agency didn’t look at environmental impacts of the project from risks of landslide and erosion.”