Category Archives: Dominion

From the ABRA Update: ACP in Highland County

ABRA Update #174 for March 29, 2018, highlights the excellent reporting of The Recorder on Dominion’s efforts to ram the ACP through the problematic terrain of Highland County:

    • Pipeline, comp plan at issue tonight – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  Highland County tonight will stage its first effort to give citizens a local face-to-face encounter with Dominion over the $6.5 billion interstate gas pipeline project, rife with delays and setbacks, and how it could affect the county’s future.
    • Valley Center is central proof ACP must move – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  In all the hundreds of thousands of confusing bits of information pushed from Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Valley Center gets consistently and, might we offer, intentionally, overlooked.
    • But wait, there’s more … – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  Need more evidence Dominion’s pipeline will cause irreparable damage?

FERC Denies Dominion Request to Extend Tree-Cutting

On March 28, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today issued a denial of the request by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to extend for two months the right to fell trees for the ACP. Read the FERC denial here.

In March 2017, based on consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dominion had agreed to the tree-felling restrictions as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental review process, saying they planned to “comply with these time-of-year restrictions by clearing trees outside of the migratory bird nesting season, and outside of the Indiana bat summer season in occupied habitat.”  Tree felling in Virginia would be restricted from March 15 through August 30 for the migratory bird nesting season.  For Indiana bats, if a tree-felling site is within five miles of a known hibernacula, restrictions apply for April 1-Nov. 15; if a site is not within five miles of a known hibernacula, April 15-Sept. 15.

But then on March 15, 2018, Dominion told FERC that despite their best efforts, they would “be unable to complete the scheduled tree felling … before the existing time-of-year restrictions go into effect,” and they therefore sought “approval to continue tree felling until May 15, 2018, except in U.S. Forest Service lands and in areas where Indiana bats are present or where tree felling would be within five miles of known Indiana bat hibernacula, within a quarter-mile of known Northern long-eared bat hibernacula, or within 150 feet of occupied Northern long-eared bat maternity roosts.”

As an article in Highland County’s The Recorder noted, “Dominion’s request for the extension had generated a tidal wave of protests asking FERC to deny it because the intent was to avoid winged species migration patterns, something an extension would make meaningless.”

FERC denied that request, effectively delaying further preparation for pipeline construction for several months in Virginia.

David Sligh, a former DEQ engineer, now conservation director for Wild Virginia, commented, “Even FERC could not swallow the company’s weak and transparent claims that they’d provide the same level of protection while still cutting far into the period when protective measures are most important.”

Greg Buppert, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said, “Those restrictions were put in place for an important purpose, which was to protect migratory birds and bats.  And we think FERC made the right decision and held Dominion to its promise to implement those restrictions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

Highland County Public Meeting wth Dominion

The public in Highland County will finally get a chance to have a face-to-face meeting with Dominion to express opinions about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. At a meeting on Thursday, March 29, 2018, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Highland County high school gymnasium, the County Planning Commission will take questions and comments from the public regarding the proposed ACP. Representatives from project majority-owner Dominion will be on hand.

According to The Recorder, “The stated purpose of the hearing is ‘to determine if the application to construct and operate a natural gas pipeline is substantially in accord with the Highland County Comprehensive Plan.’ About 55 Highland tax map parcels would be affected by the pipeline’s construction in some manner. The actual pipeline would cross 16-20 parcels. The remainder of the affected parcels have easements for access, construction, or other project related needs.”

To review the application, contact the Highland County Zoning Office at (540) 468-2323 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Copies are also available for review in the county administrator’s office and in the office of county attorney Melissa Dowd, 282 Mountain Turnpike. Address written comments to Highland County Department of Building and Zoning, P.O. Box 188, Monterey, Virginia 24465.

Long Term Pipe Storage

Thanks John Cobb, Ireland, WV, for the photo

The photo shows ACP pipe stored in West Virginia in early August, 2016 (19 months ago). Manufacturers recommend no more than 6 months exposure to the sun and elements and supports between layers to ensure “true round.” Now, Dominion proposes to haul this pipe into the mountains further damaging the coating; they intend to make the necessary bends required to traverse mountainous terrain, and they expect to get “good welds” from pipe that has changed shape under its own weight.

Groups Ask Court to Halt Pipeline Construction

Roberts Mountain is one of several mountain ridges that will be flattened to create a 125′ work area under ACP construction plans.

On March 9, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of their clients, filed a request asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to halt construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until the court decides whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permit is valid.

The challenge to the permit is based on the lack of evidence demonstrating the pipeline is needed in Virginia or North Carolina, as well as data and analysis showing the region already has sufficient pipeline capacity to meet future needs.

This filing comes as the cost of the pipeline has ballooned to $6.5 billion and when there are growing questions about Dominion’s plans for the natural gas as it eyes South Carolina for a possible expansion of the pipeline. The groups contend that the overwhelming evidence shows the true purpose of the ACP is to provide profits for the shareholders of the pipeline’s financial backers, Duke and Dominion, at the expense of those utilities’ ratepayers. The effect of the filings would be a halt to the construction of the ACP until the court considers the coalition’s existing challenges to the FERC certificate that authorizes construction. FERC and ACP have ten days to respond.

On the same day, the U.S. Forest Service and FERC gave pipeline developers the right to begin cutting down trees in the George Washington National Forest. If the court grants SELC’s request to stay the project, developers will be required to stop all work, including tree cutting, in George Washington National Forest and other federal properties.

Press release from SELC is here.  Press release from Appalachian Mountain Advocates is here.

“If you want fair media coverage you need to pay for it.”

“If you want fair media coverage you need to pay for it.” So says Bruce McKay, senior energy policy director for Richmond-based Dominion, who oversees the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s public affairs.  Apparently the only media coverage he considers “fair” is coverage favorable to Dominion.

An analysis released on March 8, 2018, by Associated Press discusses Dominion’s largest-ever outreach program that has included 225,000 direct-mail pieces; community meetings; TV, radio and print ads; and social media use to reach more than 35,000 followers, all in an effort, according to McKay, to “create and maintain a political environment which allows permitting agencies to do their work.” McKay also denies “quid pro quo for campaign donations, saying Dominion simply gives to candidates who support sound energy policy” and he insists that “grants to health foundations, land trusts, charities and other local groups shouldn’t be considered lobbying.” But, says the article, in at least four cases, “grants have gone to organizations run by or affiliated with pipeline boosters.”

The article notes that “Other emails obtained through a public-records request show an administrator in Buckingham County, Virginia, frequently alerted a Dominion employee to news or complaints. In one, the administrator predicted an outspoken pipeline critic would ‘be a problem.’ Another email says Dominion wrote a letter for a county supervisor to sign supporting the conversion of conservation easements — which are supposed to forever protect land from development — for use for the pipeline. The emails suggested printing it on Buckingham County letterhead for a Dominion worker to hand-deliver to the decision-making agency. McKay says opposition from organized, well-funded environmental groups made all this outreach necessary.

“David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, said that’s a false comparison. He said: ‘What ties all of these stories together is, Dominion is trying to con people, trying to con their own customers and policymakers and legislators, because the arguments don’t stand up on the merits.‘”

Read the full AP article here.