News from the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA):
A group of 13 conservation groups – 10 of whom are ABRA members – filed suit on August 16, 2018, against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) challenging the Commission’s October 13 approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and, in the groups view, its wrongful refusal to look behind the inflated claims of Dominion Energy, principal partner in the project, that the pipeline is needed in Virginia and North Carolina markets. The suit was filed on behalf of the petitioners by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. It follows the August 6 decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate two key permits for the ACP and by an August 10 stop work order issued by FERC for the project. “FERC ordered the ACP construction stopped because the Fourth Circuit determined that permits were issued without proper scrutiny. On the very same day, FERC rejected a rehearing request in which the conservation groups asserted that it also rushed through its decision to permit a pipeline that we don’t need,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. FERC’s 2-1 decision to reject a rehearing was accompanied by a dissenting opinion from Commission Cheryl LaFleur that directly questioned whether there is sufficient evidence to support the need for two pipelines in the region. Commissioner Richard Glick, who did not participate in the vote, also issued a statement saying he did not vote “solely to enable those parties challenging the Certificate to have their day in court.” Commissioner Glick also said, “I share many of the concerns articulated in Commissioner LaFleur’s dissenting opinion and I do not believe that the ACP Project has been shown to be in the public interest.” (See below related stories on last week’s decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and by FERC.) “It’s clear that even within FERC there are questions about the need for this pipeline and the unnecessary harm it will cause to the surrounding communities, the environment, and the customers in Virginia and North Carolina that will bear the financial burden,” said Buppert. Most of the arguments put forth by ACP developers three years ago have crumbled. The misinformation ACP developers used as justification for this pipeline that we know are false includes:
- ACP is needed for power plants – Gas-fired power plants in Virginia and North Carolina are already connected to the existing pipeline system and will have few direct connections to the ACP.
- Savings for residents – Testimony at the Virginia State Corporation Commission has revealed that customers will pay anywhere from $1.6 – $3B for the ACP – and could be paying for this pipeline in their monthly bills regardless of whether the gas is used to generate power or not.
- Savings for businesses – The fracked gas from the ACP will be more expensive than the gas that is currently available in Virginia through existing infrastructure, which means no savings for businesses.
- Jobs – Without cheaper gas as an incentive, the pipeline is not likely to attract new businesses and new jobs to our region.
The petitioning groups in the suit are: Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Piedmont Environmental Council, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, the Sierra Club, Sound Rivers, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Wild Virginia, and Winyah Rivers Foundation.