Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

This Fight Is Now

New video from ARTivism Virginia. Follow one Mountain Valley Pipeline resister from Southwest Virginia as she journeys to stand with the Union Hill Community in their resistance against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its proposed compressor station. Bernadette “BJ” Brown speaks a simple and profound truth to those resisting new fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere: “We will win. Because if we lose – there won’t be anyone here to win. “This Fight is Now” is a collaboration of ARTivism Virginia and Lights and Years.

Subsidies: More on Fossil Fuel than on Education

A June 15, 2019 article in Forbes discusses a new International Monetary Fund study showing that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, an increase of a half-trillion dollars over 2015. The increase is despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, and despite renewable energy production becoming cheaper.

“The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.”

The article notes that “analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.”

Read the full article here.

Amicus Briefs Filed in Support of Buckingham Suit


Friends of Buckingham, et al. v. State Air Pollution Control Board, et al., is a case pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the potential harms facing Union Hill, an African American community in Buckingham County, from the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station. The suit was filed on February 8, 2019, by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). Read the February suit here and the related SELC press release here. The court has now scheduled the case for argument between October 29 and November 1, 2019. A specific date and time will be announced when the date is closer.

On May 31, 2019, SELC filed the Petitioners’ Opening Brief and an Opening Brief Addendum.

On June 7, 2019, three amicus briefs were filed in the case:

  • from the Virginia NAACP; 28 members of Virginia’s General Assembly; and the Center for Earth Ethics; prepared by the Georgetown University Law Center – Civil Rights Clinic (read the brief here; the press coverage here)
  • from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (read the brief here; Lawyers’ Committee press release here)
  • from the Sierra Club on behalf of the Virginia NAACP; Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church; Sierra Club; Virginia Interfaith Power & Light; and Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice (read the brief here)

An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”) is someone who is not a party to a case, but who assists a court by offering information, or brief, that bears on the case. The decision on whether to admit the information lies at the discretion of the court.

The Recorder Marks Fight’s Fifth Year

The Recorder, the newspaper covering Virginia’s Bath and Highland counties, marked the fifth year of the fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline with a series of articles summarizing events since May 2014:

Our thanks to The Recorder, and especially to writer John Bruce, for exemplary coverage of pipeline issues over the past five years!

Safety Threats of ACP Highlighted to PHMSA

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 233 for June 14, 2019:

No further work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline should occur until safety threats can be fully assessed and remedied according to a comprehensive letter sent this week to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In a June 10 letter to PHMSA Administrator Howard Elliott, William Limpert, a Bath County, VA landowner whose property would be adversely impacted by the ACP and who is a member of ABRA’s Steering Committee, warned about the “threat to public safety from the ACP from landslides and earth movement, but other public safety concerns exist as well. These include risks from flooding, karst terrain, difficult construction in extreme terrain, and degradation of the pipe exterior corrosion protection from excessive exposure to sunlight during storage.”

Continuing, Limpert wrote:

“I am aware that FERC approves the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines, and that FERC allows an operator’s hired consultant to perform a geohazard assessment. This puts PHMSA in the unenviable position of insuring public safety on a project that PHMSA neither approves nor assesses for geohazards. That, along with the current proliferation of new natural gas pipelines, and your limited staff makes your job a difficult one. Nevertheless, I believe that you have the authority to adequately protect the public safety if you act aggressively, use all of the tools at your disposal, and do not allow the industry to control your agenda.

“I appreciate the recent PHMSA Advisory Bulletin ADB-2019-02 regarding the threat to pipelines from landslides, earth movement, and other geological hazards. The bulletin lists a large number of recent pipeline failures. These failures indicate that current practices are not sufficient to protect the public safety., especially from a project as fraught with peril as the ACP. I applaud the comprehensive list of suggestions to operators in the bulletin to improve safety. Nevertheless, I believe that most operators will not act on PHMSA suggestions. I believe that PHMSA needs to require operators to make safety upgrades, or they won’t be done.”

News You May Have Missed


There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page).