Category Archives: Dominion

FPO Hearings May Be Postponed

The Nelson Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) February 12, 2018, public hearing on ACP requests for variances to the Flood Plain Ordinance (FPO) will probably be postponed. Late on February 2, 2018, the Lynchburg News & Advance reported, “In a letter to the county’s planning and zoning department dated Jan. 31, Dominion’s Vice President for Pipeline Construction Leslie Hartz, on behalf of the ACP, requested a deferral of public hearings on variance applications for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson, currently scheduled for Feb. 12. The deferral request from ACP essentially would put a pause on the Nelson variance process.”

The request must be formally accepted by the BZA, which will address it during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday February 5. Stay tuned for a decision on rescheduling.

The variances, for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson County totaling 4.5 miles of floodplain, 3.5 for pipeline and one mile for access roads, are required because, under Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, pipelines qualify as “critical facilities” whose construction is not normally allowed in floodplains. “Critical facilities” are prohibited because even a slight chance of flooding poses too great a threat to public health, safety, and welfare. Critical facilities include “structures that store or transport highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic, and/or water-reactive materials,” as well as nursing homes, police stations, and public utilities. The ordinance also lists hazardous materials, including natural gas, which may not be stored in Special Flood Hazard Areas for longer than 30 days because they “would pose an unacceptable risk…during flooding”.

Secret Sellout or Pay to Play?

“Did Terry McAuliffe sell out Virginia right before he left office? Or did he do something even worse? Did McAuliffe accept $58 million (paid to various entities) in a pay to play scheme to guarantee Virginia would approve Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

“In late December, the then-outgoing Virginia Governor, a longtime cheerleader for the ACP, committed the state to a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion and its pipeline partners. This agreement, apparently never before reported in Virginia, let Dominion buy its way out of paying for damages to Virginia’s forests and water quality caused by construction of, and possibly by operation of, the ACP. And McAuliffe did this before the pipeline has even been approved – it still has not been approved – much less built.

“Let that sink in for a moment.

“Terry McAuliffe gave Dominion a full and complete release from any and all damage to Virginia’s forests and water from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Jon Sokolow, writing in Blue Virginia, exposes McAuliffe’s secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion, signed on December 28, 2017, by Molly Ward, McAuliffe’s outgoing Secretary of Natural Resources, includes the following:

  • Dominion agreed to pay $38,650,000 to three public and private entities, referred to as “Forest Mitigation Partners,” who are tasked with dispersing funds to others to restore or enhance forest habitats that are “similar to those adversely impacted by the pipeline. In return, Dominion gets a full release from any further liability: “The Parties further agree that such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets the direct or indirect forest-related impacts of the Project in Virginia.” This leaves Virginia without remedy if costs exceed damages!
  • In return for a payment of $19,200,000 (to a group of entities known as “Water Quality Mitigation Partners”), Dominion gets a full release for any damage to water quality: “The Parties agree that such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets all water quality impacts caused by forest fragmentation.” No definition of what those “water quality impacts” might be, no matter how much damage is done, as far as the state is concerned Dominion is off the hook!
  • Further, the agreement says, “this Agreement reflect the full extent of natural resources-related mitigation measures and investments contemplated for the Project by the Parties.” As Sokolow says, “That’s Dominion’s way of saying don’t ask us for another dime, no matter what.”

Note that there is no such release agreement in the North Carolina pay-to-play agreement between ACP and Governor Cooper. NC’s agreement says, “Nothing in this Memorandum shall be construed as precluding or otherwise barring the Governor of the State of North Carolina from recovering damages or equitable remedies from Atlantic for spills or leaks stemming from the ACP.”  McAuliffe decided not to extract this promise from Dominion.

Read the full article by Sokolow here.

Then demand that Governor Northam and the members of the Virginia’s legislature – regardless of where they stand on the pipeline – immediately revoke this reprehensible agreement.

Unprepared: Judge Faults MVP, Highland Planning Comm. Faults ACP

The February 1, 2018, Roanoke Times reports, “With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project. Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels. Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties. But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. At a hearing earlier this month, Mountain Valley presented appraisals for just nine of the nearly 300 properties, which Dillon said was insufficient information on which to base an appropriate bond amount. ‘Until MVP can provide a more fulsome basis on which the court can assure that just compensation will be paid, the court cannot allow immediate possession at this time to nearly all of the properties,’ Dillon wrote in a 52-page decision released shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday.”

Read Judge Dillon’s Opinion here and her Order here.

As reported by the February 1, 2018, Highlander, the Highland County Planning Commission at their January 25, 2018, meeting based their decisions on the many mistakes and unanswered questions in Dominion’s presentation requesting local permits for lay-down yards and crossing easements. This is the first time county planners have been given an opportunity to see what Dominion proposes – including heavy truck traffic for 10 hour/day on 6 and perhaps 7 days a week over steep, narrow, and winding roads, giant equipment traveling more than 10 miles on those roads, permanent access roads on steep mountain slope (with more mileage than the pipeline itself), unsecured construction yards, lack of reliable water sources for dust control, lack of a traffic study requested by Virginia’s Dept. of Transportation. “It was no surprise to anyone, except county staff, that the applications submitted were full of holes and mistakes. Landowners all along the pipeline’s proposed path in three states have found hundreds of errors made by the company over the last few years, from egregious omissions to simple math mistakes.”

“Citing numerous errors and inadequacies, the Highland County Planning Commission on Jan. 25 voted to set one public hearing, but tabled two other land-use applications for Dominion to establish proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction lay-down material storage yards.”

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.


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.”