Author Archives: Ellen Bouton

“We’ve Been Sold”

“We’ve Been Sold” This short film from Water Is Life. Protect It tells a story that has Virginians righteously angry.

Call Governor Northam EACH AND EVERY DAY until he rights this wrong. 804-786-2211

Call the Secretary of Natural Resources, Matthew Strickler, EACH AND EVERY DAY until he rights this wrong. 804-786-0044

Rural communities resisting the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines learned years ago of the corruption and collusion fueling these projects. But even they never dreamed our former governor, his Department of Environmental Quality and the developers of the pipelines would sink this low.

Join the call to our new Governor to right this wrong.

ABRA to Hold Pipeline CSI Meeting

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) is convening a special meeting on Saturday, March 3, from 1:30 to 5 pm at the Holiday Inn north of Staunton, VA (152 Fairway Lane, Staunton, VA, located at the intersection of I-81 and Rt. 262) to explain details of the coalition’s Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) and describe how interested individuals can participate in this important program. You are invited to attend!

The CSI will gather in-depth data about construction activities associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The program will initially focus on the mountainous areas of the route, where construction threatens water quality in the headwaters of some of the major watersheds. ABRA expects the CSI to involve hundreds of volunteer observers in Virginia and West Virginia. After the CSI is fully underway, consideration will be given to expanding it for other portions of the ACP or to replicate it for other pipeline projects, such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

CSI program features that will be discussed at the March 3 meeting include water quality data collection, observing and reporting violations of environmental protection requirements, protocols that should be followed in information gathering and reporting, aerial reconnaissance by airplanes and drones, and a special ABRA hotline to report observed incidents. Results from the information gathered by the CSI will be shared with regulatory agencies and the media. Special training sessions and webinars are also being planned.

The agenda will also be a discussion on current and prospective legal challenges to the ACP by representatives of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The March 3 meeting is open to representatives from all ABRA member organizations, as well as others interested in learning more about the program. There is no charge for attending, but registration is required. Afternoon refreshments will be provided.

To register, go to: https://www.abralliance.org/pipeline-csi-meeting-registration/

Space is limited, so act now. If you have questions, please get in touch with ABRA’s Lew Freeman by email, lewfreeman@gmail.com

Rainy Days, High Water

Watch Richard Averitt’s quick video, made on Sunday, February 11, 2018, to document the very regular but significant rainfall over the weekend and how the proposed location of the ACP staging areas and pipe across Spruce Creek is destined to fail and wreck this pristine stream. This same thing is playing out across thousands of streams in Virginia.

Virginia House Amends Utility Bill

On February 9, 2018, the Virginia Senate passed a bill radically restructuring how Virginia regulates monopoly utilities (Dominion and other minor players), allowing utilities to use excess earnings from over-charges paid by customers to build new electric infrastructure. Then, by incorporating building costs into the company’s rate base for which customers are charged annually, utilities could “double dip” by billing customers twice for these capital projects. (see Virginia Senate Allows Dominion to Regulate Itself)

But on February 12 the House advanced the final bill with a floor amendment that would prevent the utility from recovering the costs of the spending from base rates, which make up the biggest portion of customers’ bills. To the surprise and shock of the unamended bill’s supporters and of Dominion lobbyists, the amended bill passed the House, 55-41 with two abstentions, with six House Republicans joining all 49 Democrats to place a serious check on Dominion’s power mere days after their colleagues in the Senate decided to give them a blank check.

Read Huffington Post coverage here and Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage here.

Friends of Nelson Policy on Signs


A statement from the Friends of Nelson Board:

It has come to our attention that many county residents believe the “Remember Camille” signs are a Friends of Nelson initiative. While we were aware this independent initiative was in the works, Friends of Nelson did not conceive, design, approve, purchase or place any signs or materials related to this campaign. It is and will continue to be our policy to request permission of any landowner prior to placing signs on their property. Please contact us at 434-260-3298 or friendsofnelson@gmail.com for any needed clarifications or concerns.

Virginia Senate Allows Dominion to Regulate Itself; House Votes Feb. 12

On February 9, 2018, the Virginia Senate passed a bill radically restructuring how Virginia regulates monopoly utilities (Dominion and other minor players), allowing utilities to use excess earnings from over-charges paid by customers to build new electric infrastructure. Then,  by incorporating building costs into the company’s rate base for which customers are charged annually, utilities could “double dip” by billing customers twice for these capital projects. The legislation also fails to fully refund Dominion’s overcharges from 2015-2016. Currently, the legislation proposes that Dominion refund just $200 million of what the State Corporation Commission estimates to total between $327.8 million and $705.2 million in overcharges from 2015-2016.

On Monday February 12, 2018, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote on HB1558, a bill that will govern our energy policy for a decade. While Dominion and its allies have launched a propaganda campaign (funded by our electric bills) to hide its effects, the bill is unquestionably a bad idea for Virginians. Learn why here. Contact your delegate and urge that delegate to vote against Dominion.

Read Appalachian Voices’ op-ed for more background on the issue

In response to the Senate vote, Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, released the following statement:

This bill would further erode the SCC’s authority to regulate monopoly utilities including Dominion Energy Virginia, and effectively allow Dominion to use their outsized influence in the General Assembly to regulate themselves. Giving Dominion the power to charge customers twice, or “double dip” on infrastructure projects effectively steals from Virginians, and hits low-income families the hardest.

Dominion is proposing to refund an arbitrary amount representing just pennies on the dollar of SCC estimates of overcharges from the years the refund freeze was in effect. The amount to be refunded should be determined by an SCC audit in a rate case, not by Dominion in the legislation they wrote.

While progress towards stricter energy efficiency standards and more clean energy is commendable, it should not come at the expense of ratepayers’ rights and sensible supervision.

Under this new scheme, refunds for Dominion’s overcharges over the first four-year period, no matter how high, are capped at a meager $50 million dollars. This is unacceptable: every dollar overcharged by Dominion should be returned.

The Senate’s vote today allows Dominion to profit from projects that Virginians will pay for twice, and leaves us footing the bill. If the goal is to end the “rate freeze,” then the General Assembly should simply restore government watchdog authority so they can force Dominion to treat customers fairly.