Category Archives: Certificates of Approval

Dominion Didn’t Do Homework


In a Letter to the Editor of the Nelson County Times, published February 14, 2018, Marilyn Shifflett points out the many ways in which Dominion had failed to do their homework when they came to the Board of Zoning appeals on February 5 with applications for variances to cross more than four miles of Nelson floodplains. She says, “I commend the diligence of the BZA and the Department Planning & Zoning staff. I am most grateful for their attention to detail. However, I find myself left with more questions than answers regarding the ACP’s quoted responses” in the press coverage of the hearing.

  • “The pipeline route through Nelson is roughly 90 percent sloped terrain, which means the bulk of the remainder is through these sites. Nelson’s route has more floodplains than any community on the entire 600-mile route. After nearly four years, this was their “preferred route” in a community with a long history of frequent flooding?”
  • Variance requests were submitted after the Nelson County Board of Supervisors passed a new floodplain ordinance. Apparently the ACP didn’t realize their requests would be considered under that ordinance.
  • Variance requests on seven properties were dismissed because the ACP had not obtained easement agreements for those properties and, under Virginia law, the lack of easement agreements constitutes the “lack of standing” required for variance applications. Dominion surveyed the properties (uner court order in February 2017 and floodplains were clearly delineated in the sruveys. Yet Dominion apparently didn’t know they needed an “interest” in the properties to apply for variances.
  • “The ACP’s request for deferral on all 11 sites expresses an interest in further hydrologic and hydraulic analyses indicating that they now suddenly view these areas as “high consequence.” One of the most frequent causes of pipeline ruptures is earth movement on slopes and along stream crossings, particularly during periods of heavy rains. Given Dominion’s public statements regarding thorough environmental reviews and their commitment to the safety of impacted communities, I am left wondering why these sites were not given attention a year ago during survey, and why did the ACP’s October request for variances not include such analyses and engineering plans specific to these sites?”

Did Dominion think they could just walk in and get the variances, regardless of what the ordinance says, regardless of their standing on the properties, regardless of their lack of analysis and plans for the properties? Probably they did. Leaves us to wonder about the extent of other homework undone. Think about all those applications – to FERC, to DEQ, to the Forest Service – where Dominion has said, “Information on this will be provided later. But we want you to approve this now.”

ACP Receives Army Corps Permit

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has now received authorization from all relevant Army Corps of Engineers offices to proceed with the project in accordance with the Corps National Permit 12 program. The Corps’ Pittsburgh office issued its authorization with a February 7 letter, and the Corps Norfolk, VA and Wilmington, NC offices issued their authorization letters on February 9. The authorizations are part of Dominion’s February 12 filing with FERC.

Did the Army Corps of Engineers ever set foot in the places they are putting at risk before they made a key decision about our streams and water bodies? Not so far as we know.

The Lynchburg News Advance reported on February 14, 2018, that, “The Army Corps permits pave the way for more pre-construction activities along the route of the pipeline. With the permits now in hand, ACP officials on Monday submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a request for a “limited notice to proceed” in Virginia with non-mechanized tree felling and cutting of vegetation in non-uplands in certificated workspaces along the pipeline right of way, on access roads and in contractor yards. In West Virginia and North Carolina, ACP has asked FERC for approval to begin mechanized tree felling and clearing of trees and vegetation. ACP still must be granted the limited notice to proceed by FERC before it can begin such activity. Additionally, those pre-construction activities only can take place in areas where ACP has signed easement agreements with landowners.”

FERC Answers Kaine

In a January 5, 2018 letter to FERC Chair Kevin McIntyre, Senator Tim Kaine requested that FERC grant rehearings on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline petitions and asked for clarification on “tolling orders,” which some suggest are a way for FERC to freeze legal appeals while allowing construction to move forward. (See our story on January 5, 2018)

In a letter dated February 5, 2018, FERC responded to Kaine, saying, “On October 13, 2017, when the Commission had a quorum consisting of three commissioners, the Commission approved both the MVP and ACP Projects. Although the decision on those projects was not unanimous, it was a Commission approval that remains valid without regard to the number of commissioners present today.”

The requested clarification on “tolling orders” is not very clear. FERC suggests that the tolling order does not necessarily help the pipeline developer because, after all, should the developer go ahead and continue work, it “bears the risk that the Commission will revise or reverse the initial decision or that the Commission’s order will be overturned on appeal.” Of course, the risk of irreversible damage being done to a landowner’s property is not even mentioned.

Groups Ask Court to Review FERC’s ACP Approval

On January 29, 2018, attorneys representing Wild Virginia and ten other citizen groups filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, asking the court to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

FERC’s October 2017 decision to approve the pipeline (by a 2-1 vote) was was accompanied by a strong dissent from commissioner Cheryl LaFleur who critiqued her own agency for failing to look behind agreements put forth by utilities meant to skew demand needs and justify unneeded projects. her criticisms echoed those of independent experts and citizens over the last three years, and testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission revealed that about $2 billion in costs associated with the pipeline would be passed on to Dominion utility customers.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit in the 4th Circuit Court on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Wild Virginia, and Winyah Rivers Foundation.

 

No, Not a Done Deal


Despite what Dominion wants you to think, the ACP is NOT a done deal. Thanks to Mara Eve Robbins for this reflection on where we are now.

Several people, over the past couple of days, have approached me with regret–and even apology–about the recent decisions by the NC DEQ and the WV DEP and the FERC to issue water permits for the ACP and federal construction “approval” for the MVP in WV. They’ve said things like “I’m so sorry that the pipeline has been approved.” As if we are going to simply accept these certifications at face value and quit fighting. As if they mean we have to swallow what lies they throw our way. NOPE. Spit them out and keep pushing back, moving forward, showing up. Please.

The corporations and regulatory agencies play this card exactly how you might expect them to, by jumping on the media bandwagon to shout their “victory.” To assure us that they are taking all the necessary precautions.

Please do not believe them.

There are many landowner lawsuits still pending. There are legal challenges to the very application of eminent domain and the natural gas act. There are inherent contradictions in the scope of the permits issued by the VA DEQ regarding erosion and sedimentation, wastewater treatment and the ludicrous assertion that the DEQ is supposed to oversee the removal of trees but not the cutting of trees. Classic “chicken or the egg” scenario. Utterly ridiculous. Please do not fall for it.

Remember: THIS IS NOT A DONE DEAL.

So please, ask someone who has been fighting this for nearly four years how we will keep fighting. Ask us what there is to be done NOW. Keep speaking out about the value and worth of our clean water which is a far more precious commodity than fracked gas will ever be. Keep saying NO PIPELINES. Because we are not stopping until we STOP THE PIPELINES and there are still so many things we can do. Are doing. Will do. Will CONTINUE to do.

Try this instead: “Wow, there’s been some discouraging news this week regarding the pipelines. That must be difficult. How can I help?” We need support, not sympathy. We need hands on deck, not to be thrown overboard. We need you to believe US, not Dominion or EQT or Duke or NextEra and their PR clowns. We need you to challenge the powers that be side by side with us, relentlessly: Governors, congress, senators, delegates, local government, regulatory officials, industry, corporate media.

We must not give up, give in, or slow down. Now is the time to fight harder, combat and contrast the ridiculous media window open briefly to these perceived “approvals.” Because the people united will never be defeated. And the people overwhelmingly oppose these fracked gas monstrosities breathing down the necks of those who care about our region, our neighbors, our water, our mountains and our climate.

Water is Life. Protect it. STOP THE PIPELINES.

NC DEQ Issues ACP Certification

On January 26, 2018, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality issued a 401 water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project to move forward in North Carolina. Their press release lists the requirements in the certification as well as certifications the ACP “must still obtain from DEQ an air quality permit for a compressor station in Northampton County, two general stormwater permits for impacts in Nash and Cumberland counties, an individual stormwater permit for a contractors’ work yard in Cumberland County and approval of the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern segment of the pipeline’s North Carolina route.”

Immediately following the NC DEQ announcement, NC Governor Roy Cooper announced a fund for clean energy and rural development.  The Governor’s Web page says, “ACP and its partners Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives such as reducing the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources. Funds can also be used to ensure that local communities benefit economically from the pipeline by having access to natural gas from the pipeline. ACP did not guarantee affordable access to natural gas for communities through which the pipeline will run. Details on how the fund will operate are underway.”  (Read the Memorandum of Agreement for the new fund.)

NC Policy Watch reported on January 25, 2018, that Duke Energy approached the Governor’s Office about the status of the ACP permitting process. On January 26 Policy Watch reported, “Over the past week, there were rumors that Duke Energy was cutting a deal with the Cooper administration for a permit approval. Under the terms, Duke would establish a environmental mitigation fund, which included money for renewable energy. That rumor proved to be true, as within minutes of DEQ publicizing its approval of the ACP permit, Cooper’s office announced that Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives. These include efforts to ‘reduce the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources.’”

Condemnation from community groups and environmental organizations was swift, especially given that the announcement of the Dominion/Duke donation of $57.8 million came suspiciously soon after the DEQ approvals.

Speaking of the $57.8 million, the Washington Post reported, “The two utilities and the pipeline company agreed that the money will go first toward ‘mitigation for the unavoidable effects’ of the pipeline on ‘interior forest habitats, open-space lands, water bodies, and natural resources’ in communities along the pipeline’s route. The deal doesn’t bar North Carolina from recovering damages if the pipeline leaks or causes fuel spills.” In other words, Duke/Dominion agree the ACP will do lots of damage, but they will make huge profits and will graciously donate a bit of money towards fixing the damage.

In a press release immediately after the NCDEQ announcement and that of NC Governor Cooper, Appalachian Voices slammed the approval, saying “The massive pipeline would run through eight rural eastern North Carolina counties, and cross streams, rivers and wetlands 326 times, posing unacceptable long-term risks to drinking water sources, fisheries and watersheds.”

Amy Adams, North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, said, “The governor acted in the best interest of North Carolina’s coastal families and businesses when he opposed offshore drilling, but his action today abandons the people who live and work in one of the most disenfranchised regions of our state and whose private property would be sacrificed for this unnecessary pipeline.  Gov. Cooper cannot dress up this pipeline approval by throwing a few million dollars for environmental mitigation, which in itself acknowledges there will indeed be severe impacts to communities and our natural resources. And while his support for renewable energy and cutting climate pollution is commendable, his action today allowing this pipeline utterly undermines those very goals.”

She also noted, “It will be impossible for the agency to do all of the monitoring and enforcement to prevent widespread damage, and they know it. The pressure must have been very intense to make senior DEQ staff and the Governor cave in and accept a deal ahead of permit deadlines.”