Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

What’s the Impact of a Recession on Natural Gas?

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ABRA Update #268, March 19, 2020:

Growing speculation about a possible economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to raise questions about the impact on the natural gas market. A March 9, 2020, commentary by Andrew Bradford, CEO of BTU Analytics, notes that declines in natural gas demand in 2020 could decline by as much as 5%, or 4.2 billion cubic feet per day. Continuing, he says:

“Considering the US gas market was already expected to be long supply following a weak winter 2019-2020, an additional 4.2 Bcf/d is a lot of length to manage into an already long summer gas market. Add in an oversupplied global LNG market and the US gas market could be further awash in supply if demand falters. While US operators are slashing CAPEX (capital expenditures) in the face of falling oil prices, the risk of demand shocks to the system may overwhelm the CAPEX declines.”

Updated Status of Principal Legal Challenges to the ACP

Click here for the newest update on the status of the principal legal challenges to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, now available on the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Website. The two-page document, which is regularly updated, features a brief description of seven lawsuits that have been brought by ABRA members.

Included are:

  • Forest Service Permit
  • Buckingham County Compressor Station Air Permit
  • FERC Certificate
  • Fish and Wildlife Service Take Statement
  • National Park Service Permit
  • Army Corps of Engineers Motion
  • Virginia State Water Board 401 Certification

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).

Judge Moon Rules Against Nelson County on Floodplain Challenge

Senior U.S. District Judge Norman Moon issued an opinion on Monday March 9, 2020, finding that the Natural Gas Act preempts Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance, siding with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and finding federal law superseded the county’s effort to block the project from crossing designated flood plains.

On December 3, 2018, on a 3-2 vote, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals denied four of Dominion’s applications for the variances to the County’s flood plain ordinance needed to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across flood plains in Nelson. The Nelson County Zoning Ordinance specifically includes “Structures or facilities that produce, use, store, or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials” in the list of “critical facilities [that] are prohibited from being constructed or operated within a SFHA [Special Floodplain Hazard Area] unless a Variance is granted.” (Article 10.15F on p. 87)

Three days after the Nelson BZA denial of variances, on December 6, 2018, Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed a lawsuit against the Nelson County Board of Supervisors in the Western District of Virginia’s Federal Court, asking the Court to enter judgement declaring that Nelson’s zoning ordinance and floodplain regulations are preempted by federal regulations and therefore null and void as applied to the ACP, and to enter an injunction enjoining Nelson County from enforcing any of its zoning ordinances and floodplain regulations that may affect ACP construction. The case was heard before Judge Moon on April 8, 2019.

In his opinion, Judge Moon wrote, “Nothing gives these floodplain regulations, as modified, the force of federal law now,” – referring to the county’s zoning ordinances. “Rather… because the floodplain regulations and their application through the [county] to deny Atlantic’s variance request stands as a clear obstacle to the meaning and purposes of the [Natural Gas Act], it is therefore preempted as applied to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

Nelson County now must decide whether to appeal the ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. The Fourth Circuit has vacated a number of permits that Dominion needs in order to construct and operate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, finding repeatedly that Dominion and relevant Federal agencies have acted arbitrarily, capriciously and not in accordance with law.

In addition, Nelson County’s floodplain ordinances play a critical role in potentially stopping the Army Corps of Engineers from authorizing construction of the Pipeline, even if the ruling is upheld. On February 11, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center sent a letter to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, stating that they cannot lawfully reinstate their suspended verification that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is authorized to be constructed using Nationwide Permit 12. The pipeline developer, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic), expressly plans to violate at least one of the permit’s general conditions and has taken steps to do so, despite making contrary representations to the Corps and other regulators. The letter stated that the Norfolk District cannot reinstate its suspended verification because:

  • General Condition 10 of Nationwide Permit 12 requires Atlantic to “comply with applicable FEMA-approved state or local floodplain management requirements.”
  • Nelson County’s floodplain ordinance adopts a FEMA recommendation that critical facilities not be located within floodplains by mandating that any such facility proposed to be located in a special flood hazard area receive a variance.
  • Atlantic will not satisfy General Condition 10 unless Atlantic complies with the variance requirement, regardless of the outcome of Atlantic’s separate lawsuit that is referred to above.
  • The Corps cannot lawfully excuse Atlantic’s plan to violate General Condition 10 by failing to comply with the variance requirements.

The letter stated that, under the circumstances, reinstating the suspended verification would be arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law.

Judge Moon’s full opinion is here.

Judge Moon’s order is here.

Friends of Buckingham Spring Celebration – POSTPONED

Due to the coronavirus and a desire to keep all of us as safe and healthy as possible, the Friends of Buckingham Spring Celebration is cancelled (for now). We are all so excited to gather with you and celebrate our shared good work, but we’ll have to wait a while yet to do so.

When: Saturday, March 28, 2020, 11 AM – 3 PM
Where: The “B.A.R.N.” (Buckingham Agriculture Resource Network), 11851 W James Anderson Hwy, Buckingham, VA 23921

Join Friends of Buckingham, Appalachian Voices, and friends for a spring party to celebrate the 4th Circuit Court victory over the Buckingham Compressor Station! Hurray, Union Hill! Hurray, Environmental Justice!

This is an opportunity to show gratitude for all the hard work we’ve put in the last 5 years with the help of allies and partners across the region. We’ll recap where we’ve been and share what is coming up next. Fun games, activities, and music (feel free to bring an instrument if you like). Potluck style. Please bring a dish to share!

Please RSVP to Lara Mack at 540-246-9720 or by March 21, 2020.

We’ll send additional information out closer to the date. Keep an eye on your inboxes for updates in a couple of weeks!

Friends of Buckingham, Appalachian Voices, and friends

Wild Virginia Film Festival

Hidden Rivers – Preview from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.

Wild Virginia is hosting their own special film festival this year!

They will be bringing audiences the award-winning film Hidden Rivers, along with several other short films that highlight our rivers, streams, and forests and how we can protect them.

Ten years in the making, Hidden Rivers is Freshwaters Illustrated’s newest feature film that explores the rivers and streams of the Southern Appalachian region, North America’s most biologically rich waters. The film follows the work of conservation biologists and explorers throughout the region, and reveals both the beauty and vulnerability of these ecosystems.

May 5, 2020, at Visulite Theater in Staunton, 6:30 pm – BUY TICKETS

May 6, 2020, at Violet Crown in Charlottesville, 6:30 pm – BUY TICKETS

Wild Virginia expects both shows to sell out quickly, so buy your tickets now.