Category Archives: Dominion

Natural Gas Industry Introduces A Fake Grassroots Group

A June 12, 2017, article in the Huffington Post describes how the natural gas Industry has introduced Your Energy, a fake grassroots group, to pipeline fights in the east.  “Amid intensifying fights over new natural gas pipelines in Virginia, New Jersey and New England, the gas industry is ramping up its defense with a new front group meant to appeal to East Coasters, who have mostly avoided the fights over oil and gas development that have rocked Western states. Your Energy launched quietly in Virginia last month, ahead of a November gubernatorial election that is shaping up to be a ‘referendum on pipelines,’ as one local newspaper put it. The group, which is funded by the American Gas Association [Dominion is a member], debuted as a co-sponsor of a conference at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce on May 24…. As the name implies, Your Energy paints itself as a grassroots organization, something akin to the Sierra Club or the American Civil Liberties Union, but for folks who support natural gas. Its Virginia chapter’s website features promotional materials about the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas and prompts visitors to join by submitting their names, email addresses and ZIP codes. The only indication that Your Energy is a public relations campaign paid for by a major industry association appears on the privacy policy page.”

Your Energy wants to position itself as representing the mainstream and paint opponents to pipelines as extreme candidates trying to inflame a small base in order to get publicity, or as radical outsiders and out-of-state extremists bent of spreading misinformation.  Jesse Coleman, a researcher on fracked gas for Greenpeace, points out that, “It’s crucial for the companies behind these front groups to portray normal community activism as somehow abhorrent or portray it as something other than what it is. You can’t really win when your opposition just wants to keep their kids healthy, so you have to make them into some sort of bogeyman.”

Friends of Nelson’s Ernie Reed, also quoted in the article,  says that if Your Energy wants to paint him as an extremist outsider, he wishes them luck. “I’ve been paying taxes in Virginia since 1979. Any claim that the people opposing these pipelines are uninformed is as far off the mark as it could possibly be.” And he suggests that the amount of time and energy Dominion and other companies are spending to promote pipelines indicates they have the weaker case.

The Washington Post also wrote about the front group, noting that Jim Cheng, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and industry under former governor Robert F. McDonnell, spoke about “these radical and uninformed elements within your communities that try to intimidate or shut down pro-energy supporters.”  The Post comments, “The emergence of the group and Cheng’s comments are especially curious given that the ‘radical and uniformed elements’ are, in many cases, landowners whose property is targeted by pipeline firms and electric utilities for surveying and perhaps takeover by eminent domain. In some cases, the property has been in the owners’ families for decades if not centuries. Some are working farms; others are retirement havens for older residents.  But in these days of faux news and alternative facts, up is often down and left is often right.  Peaceful homeowners are ‘radicals’ and ‘outsiders’ who need to have ‘their energy IQ’ score raised.”

So be aware: industry-funded Your Energy Virginia is trying to mobilize a movement to counter pipeline opposition.  Look for their telltale logo.  And follow the money: industry funded groups have only their bottom line at heart.

Read the Huffington Post full article here.

Read the Washington Post full article here.


The ACP Doesn’t Serve Virginian’s Best Interests

In a June 11, 2017, opinion piece in the Virginia Pilot, Michael J. Hirrel, a retired lawyer from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, discusses Dominion’s claim of “public necessity” for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a claim which would allow them to use eminent domain to seize private property for construction. He points out that, “Neither the consortium nor Dominion has ever pledged to the FERC or to the SCC that a Dominion energy plant would definitely use gas from the ACP. So how can the pipeline be a public necessity?”

Projections show demand for gas-generated electric power in Virginia to be flat for the foreseeable future, and even unexpected growth could be handled with adjustments to existing gas transport pipelines. “So perhaps Dominion doesn’t actually need the pipeline for its plants. Perhaps it’s hoping to sell the gas from the pipeline to export markets or to other industrial users.” If that’s the case it would (of course) bring profit to Dominion, but it would not be a public necessity and would not justify seizure of land by eminent domain. Furthermore, “If the export and industrial sales don’t pan out, the costs for the pipeline — $6 billion and rising — could be added to customers’ electric bills.”

Hirrel concludes that “every Virginian can get together behind one idea: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline doesn’t serve their best interests.”

Read the full article here.

Read earlier posts on our Web page about Mr. Hirrel’s 2016 requests that the Federal Trade Commission to investigate antitrust violations by Dominion and its partners:

Calls for Supplemental DEIS

A June 5, 2017, Roanoke Times article discusses the immense number of supplemental filings submitted to FERC by the Mountain Valley Pipeline after the December 22, 2016, closing date for public comment (10s of 1000s of pages) and the calls by watchdogs for a properly indexed (so “the average person can navigate and understand”) supplemental DEIS before the release of the MVP’s final environmental impact statement, currently scheduled for June 23, 2017. Speaking about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion’s Aaron Ruby said Dominion has “submitted about 10,000 pages since the close of the [ACP] comment period” on April 6, 2017.

Carolyn Elefant, whose law firm often represents pipeline opponents, said substantial filings with FERC after the release of a draft environmental impact statement are not uncommon and are sometimes warranted, but that “her experience suggests the bulk of supplemental filings relate to requests by FERC for more information about known impacts. ‘Often, companies will wait until after the draft EIS deadline to file these materials to prevent landowners from commenting — and that is unfair,’ she said. She said that even though pipeline companies sometimes blame federal and state agencies and the public for project delays, the companies themselves often delay submission of information.”

Meanwhile, many commenters continue to call for a “programmatic environmental impact statement, which would provide, they say, a more comprehensive review of the environmental and other cumulative impacts of several interstate pipelines designed to transport natural gas extracted from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Appalachian Basin.” Such a programmatic EIS would include both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

Read the full article, As filings pile up, pipeline watchdogs call for supplemental draft environmental impact statement.

New Report Looks at Powerful Corporate Interests Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Public Accountability Initiative has released a new report, The Power Behind Pipelines: Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Four energy corporations – Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas Company, and Southern Company Gas – are behind the proposed pipeline, though Dominion is the driving force.

The ACP has raised intense opposition from environmentalists and communities that stand to be impacted by it. Its proposed route will run through environmentally fragile land, threaten land values and nearby residents, and potentially involve mountain ridgeline reduction. Opponents claim abuse of eminent domain laws for private gain and argue that the ACP is not needed to meet regional energy demands, but is rather an attempt to raise profits to please shareholders.

The new report maps out some of the powerful interests behind the ACP.

Key findings include:

  • Vast corporate power behind the pipeline. Dominion Energy, the biggest stakeholder in the ACP, is a huge economic and political powerhouse in Virginia and beyond. The company and its powerful CEO have used their deep pockets and political ties to advance their interests generally and around the pipeline.
  • An army of revolving door lobbyists. Dominion and its surrogates have deployed a band of private lobbyists who have backgrounds in government – including a former EPA official from the Obama administration.
  • Pro-pipeline politicians cash in. State politicians in Virginia and North Carolina who have been publicly vocal about their support for the pipeline have been some of the biggest recipients of donations from its corporate backers.
  • Conflicts of interests at regulatory agencies. Key members of regulatory boards tasked with approving the pipeline in Virginia have backgrounds that raise conflict of interest concerns. For example, the Virginia DEQ’s Water Permitting Division Director was once a lawyer for Dominion, according to minutes from a county board meeting.
  • Banks invested in the pipeline. Nearly three dozen banks have credit agreements for almost $15 billion in total to Dominion and Duke. Many of these banks are also funding the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline

Read the full report on the Web or download a pdf version.

Dominion Targeting Low-Income Communities with Pipeline

This Letter to the Editor by Bill Limpert was published in the Waynesboro New Virginian and the Staunton News Leader on May 31, 2017.

“Twenty-four of the 25 counties that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would impact are below the median income level for their state. These low income counties will suffer further if the pipeline is constructed, through lowered property values, reduced revenue to local governments, and reduced tourism.

“Here is an example of economic hardship from the ACP even before it is built. We have an elderly neighbor and friend who recently lost his wife. His health is in decline, and he needs to pay for additional care at this time. His meager savings are being rapidly depleted, and he would like to sell his small piece of property to keep from going bankrupt. His property is in the blast zone of the ACP, virtually eliminating any chance of him being able to sell it. No one is going to buy property near the pipeline with so many other properties available elsewhere.

“Dominion and their tail-wagging Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have stated that property values will not be negatively impacted by the ACP, that local economies will prosper and that jobs will be created.

“The truth is that property values have already fallen significantly, and will fall precipitously if the pipeline is built.

“Local economies will suffer, and few jobs will be created. Even Dominion and FERC admit that only 39 permanent jobs would be created in Virginia, and 25 of them would be in Richmond, leaving only 14 jobs in the impacted communities. No permanent jobs would be created in Western Virginia. Other jobs will likely be lost due to the pipeline, leaving a net loss. Temporary construction jobs will be filled mostly with out-of-state workers who will send their money home.

“I believe that the ACP is intentionally aimed at low-income communities because they are more vulnerable, and less able to resist a corporate attack. Dominion can seize their property more easily than in more affluent areas. This is typical predator behavior, and this will be the legacy of the ACP if it is built as proposed. We should not tolerate this in America.”