Category Archives: Dominion

Dominion Spends Money – and More Money

Dominion vastly increased its political spending on lobbying and “communications” recently. A July 10, 2018, AP report says, “Recently filed disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. That’s about 10 times what the company said it spent in last year’s filing. The spending came during a period when the company successfully pushed through legislation that could lead to substantial increases to electric bills.

“Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the company’s stepped up ‘education outreach’ was needed ‘to break through the fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups.’ Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000. Dominion’s media blitz while lawmakers were debating the bill included a TV ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Dominion had 22 registered lobbyists this last session, a mix of full-time employees and well-connected hired guns. Dominion hired lobbyists from McGuireWoods, Reed Smith and Williams Mullen, three of the top lobbying firms in Virginia. The regulated monopoly also hired David Hallock, a close political advisor to Gov. Ralph Northam, as an outside lobbyist. The $1 million figure likely does not include the full scope of the company’s efforts, as Virginia law requires only that a narrow definition of lobbying expenses be made public.”

Dominion must be running scared if it needs to spend that much money to counter the increasing success of low- and no-budget groups fighting to protect land, forests, water, and private property – and consumers’ electric bills – from the actions of a company focused only on profit, a company accustomed for decades to doing whatever it wants.

An interesting side note:  the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on June 22, 2018, that “The highest-paid local CEO in 2017 was Dominion Energy’s Thomas F. Farrell. As chairman, president and CEO of the state’s largest utility company, Farrell earned $14.21 million, up 18 percent from $12.09 million in 2016.”

Service Authority Board Votes 2-2 on Selling Water for ACP

At their meeting on June 21, 2018, the Nelson County Service Authority Board voted 2-2 on the question of setting a rate for Dominion to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day from Lake Monocan for ACP construction, to be used primarily for the proposed HDD drilling at Reeds Gap. (George Miller, Executive Director of the Service Authority, stated that they cannot provide water for testing.)

There are normally 5 members of the Board, one from each district, but Russell Otis resigned last week and thus did not attend. Tommy Harvey and Robert McSwain voted against setting a rate for Dominion, Gary Sherwood and David Hight voted in favor of setting a rate. Since there was a tie vote, the matter will be discussed again at the July meeting, at which time the composition of the Board will have changed, with Justin Shimp, Ernie Reed, and Jesse Rutheford replacing Harvey, Otis, and McSwain.

According to the News & Advance, “with the contract, which could result in $3.5 million for the authority over two years, yet to be finalized, ACP indicated after the meeting it also is exploring other options for the water it needs for construction. ‘We’ll continue working with the service authority in the hopes of reaching an agreement,’ said Aaron Ruby, spokesman for leading ACP partner Dominion Energy, ‘but at this time we’re moving forward with our alternative solution to meet the project’s water needs.’ That alternative would be to truck in water each day for use in the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process that would bore a path for the pipeline under the Blue Ridge Parkway from Nelson County into Augusta County. HDD construction is planned to start this summer, with activity focused near Beech Grove Road and along the border with Augusta County. The trucking alternative would mean increased traffic in the Wintergreen area to at least 10 daily trips by trucks to and from the site.”

The Truth Is in the Proof



The Truth Is in the Proof
: excellent new video focusing on the Limpert property in Highland County.

What if anything can stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines? The level of frustration is growing as more people wake up to the reality that the pipelines pose significant danger to fragile ecosystems along their paths. Concerned citizens, landowners, lawmakers, environmentalists and many government officials continue to protest.  Join them!

Wintergreen Test Drill Site Capped and Filled


Friends of Wintergreen reports that on June 12, 2018, the day Wintergreen Property Owners Association submitted its comments to DEQ about the water gushing up from Dominion’s test drill site, the company hurried over and removed the evidence by capping the geyser and filling in the hole with grout. For the record, this is the photo of the gushing water WPOA filed with their comments.

WPOA Asks DEQ to Intervene


Wintergreen Property Owners Association filed comments with DEQ on June 12, 2018 asking DEQ not to accept the insufficient review the Army Corps of Engineers deemed acceptable as part of Nationwide Permit 12. Their comments relate specifically to VA AP-10237 (MP 158.7) and VA AP-10237 (MP 158.9} near the sole entrance/exit to Wintergreen. They state, “Wintergreen has already shared abundant information supporting the need for careful review, given the unique environmental and public safety challenges present where the ACP passes the only entrance and exit of our community. As required, this filing includes an analysis of the inadequacies of NWP 12 for this project and provides additional new information showing current site conditions, and clear evidence of pressurized ground water within the ACP route. This new evidence reinforces the need for DEQ to provide additional scrutiny of the environmental and public safety impacts of the ACP project near milepost (MP) 158.7, and for DEQ to not accept the previous insufficient review the Corps deems acceptable as part of NWP 12.”

The WPOA filing discusses debris flow and rockslides, ground water, soil and geologic concerns, and drilling under Reeds Gap, and includes detailed diagrams and LIDAR mapping. Wintergreen engineers and geologists use underground radar to show DEQ and FERC that ACP’s pipeline is not safe to build on on unstable land, fault lines, and underground aquifers. One result — water gushing from ACP soil borings.

The filing says, “In the interest of getting this project approved, the ACP has not carefully studied the geologic conditions present in and around MP 158. Had the ACP presented all of the evidence to FERC and DEQ at the time of permitting, it would have triggered additional review/discussion about; the steep slopes, the unstable colluvial material, the large volume of groundwater present, the potential for debris avalanches, catastrophic damage to the headwaters of the Rockfish River, and the public safety concerns over the entrapment of an entire community. None of the evidence presented to date suggests there has been careful review of the existing conditions and the potential problems this project may cause to Virginia Water. As part of the 401 certification, the Commonwealth should force transparency of the engineering plans related to this project, and in doing, will greatly reduce the negative, and possibly catastrophic, consequences that could result from a lack of oversight.”

In conclusion, the filing notes, “As this project gets underway, more and more evidence is coming to light that, the ‘best practices’ and ‘best in class’ approach to pipeline construction is inadequate. Environmental disasters recently occurred on a Dominion project near Spartanburg SC and on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Franklin County VA. The news coverage of contaminated spring fed waters in Montgomery County VA and the pipeline explosion last week in Marshall County WV, should give additional cause for serious concern. The pipeline that exploded in Marshall County was put into service in January of this year and was described as ‘best in class’ for safety, reliability, and efficiency by the company who built and is currently operating this brand-new pipeline. It is important to note that Dominion Energy regularly uses the phrase ‘best in class’ to describe the construction, operation, and safety of the ACP. With failures mounting on similar projects, DEQ should recognize the need to scrutinize the engineering and construction plans more carefully and make sure the ACP is in fact constructed in a way that protects the citizens of Virginia and the water we depend on.”

Read the full WPOA filing here, with copies of their previous relevant filings as attachments.

Blue Ridge Life news coverage includes photographs, discussion with Jay Roberts, Executive Director of WPOA, and a brief video of water pushing out around a locked cap on a test well within a few hundred feet of the entry-exit of Wintergreen Resort.  The story was also covered in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 6-17-18 (for digital subscribers only) and in the Daily Progress on 6-18-18.

Why Utilities Shouldn’t Build New Gas Plants

And shouldn’t build pipelines either?

A May 21, 2018, press release from Rocky Mountain Institute says, “US electricity generators may be committing their customers and investors to as much as $1 trillion in future investment and fuel costs through 2030 as they rush to build new gas-fired power plants. Yet advances in renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) offer lower rates and emissions-free energy while delivering all the grid reliability services that new power plants can, according to a new Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) report, The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios. According to the analysis, in addition to beating proposed gas-fired power plants on a levelized cost basis, ‘clean energy portfolios’ of renewables and DERs will also increasingly threaten the profitability of existing gas plants.”

Writing in Power for the People VA on June 5, 2018, Ivy Main asks, “Dominion won’t build new baseload gas plants. So why is it still building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?” She points out that, “Utility giant Dominion Energy and gas turbine maker General Electric reportedly agree on a startling fact: there is no market for new baseload gas plants,” and notes that new combined cycle plants are noticeably absent from Dominion Energy Virginia’s Integrated Resource Plan this year. She discusses RMI’s report, and says that, “as early as 2026, cost declines for wind and solar will make it more expensive to operate natural gas infrastructure than to abandon it and replace it with new wind and solar facilities. When that happens, gas plant owners will be left with stranded assets. Even in today’s market, RMI concludes gas is a risky investment.” The RMI report’s conclusions are “very bad news for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

She concludes, “The problem for Dominion Energy is that the ACP is the only big trick it has now, after the failure of its own ambitions for new nuclear. Dominion doubled down on natural gas in 2016 when it paid 4.4 billion dollars for natural gas distribution company Questar, paying a 23% premium on the deal. It can’t back down from gas now. Either it has to spend 6 billion dollars (and rising) on this new pipeline, or admit its entire growth plan was based on a serious mistake. Abandoning the ACP could make Dominion’s stock price tumble, giving it something else in common with GE. But as the saying goes, if you find yourself in a hole, you should really stop digging. In this case, literally.”

Read Ivy Main’s Power for the People VA article (article was reproduced in The Daily Kos and in Blue Virginia)

Read Utility Dive’s article commenting on the Rocky Mountain Institute report.

Read the Rocky Mountain Institute press release on the report .

Report: The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios.