Category Archives: FERC

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the MVP Released

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, released by FERC June 23, 2017, has been posted to the home page of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) website (http://www.abralliance.org/, pdf version, 930 pages). [Thank you, ABRA, for saving us from negotiating the unfriendly FERC Web site!] News stories and other items of interest on the FEIS will be posted on ABRA’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/abralliance/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel).

Those primarily interested in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline should spend some time reading portions of the MVP’s document to get an idea of what we might expect when the FEIS for the ACP is released on July 21, 2017.

SELC Files Motion Asking for FERC Hearing on Legitimacy of Gas Demand

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on on behalf of its clients, has filed a motion asking that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hold a hearing on the legitimacy of Dominion and Duke Energy’s natural gas demand claims as a basis for building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They note that FERC repeatedly and routinely has rubber-stamped pipeline projects relying solely on contracts and never examining the actual market demand for a new natural gas supply.

SELC’s June 21, 2017 motion asks FERC to hold a hearing to ensure consumers and landowners are protected from an unnecessary pipeline and resolve the following disputed issues:

  • Agreements between Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC and its own affiliates are insufficient evidence that there is a growing demand for natural gas.
  • New forecasts from the Energy Information Administration and the regional grid manager show no growth in demand for natural gas needs in Virginia and North Carolina through 2030.
  • Already existing and planned pipeline capacity in the region is adequate to meet any demand that does exist.

SELC’s Senior Attorney Greg Buppert comments, “If you look behind the claims that this pipeline is needed, what you’ll find is that Dominion and Duke subsidiaries are contracting with each other to manufacture a need for natural gas in Virginia and North Carolina. This pipeline will provide Duke and Dominion with an exceptionally high rate of return at little to no risk. That risk falls on the shoulders of utility customers who will have higher power bills and be stuck paying for a pipeline for decades to come.”

SELC filed the motion on behalf of Shenandoah Valley Network, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, and Winyah Rivers Foundation.

A story in the June 22, 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch, Environmental groups: Justification for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline has ‘eroded,’ covers the SELC filing.

See also the Thomas Hadwin video below.

Kaine, Warner Introduce Bill to Make FERC Pipeline Process Fairer and More Transparent

June 7, 2017 press release from Senators Kaine and Warner:

Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner will introduce legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith will introduce similar legislation in the House. This bill makes it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used. Among other guidelines, this bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment.

While Congress does not decide on the merits of individual gas pipeline projects, Congress provides the legal authority under which FERC is tasked with evaluating the benefits and drawbacks to energy infrastructure proposals.

Each of the FERC reforms outlined in this bill is directly based on input submitted by Virginia residents to Kaine and Warner during FERC’s consideration of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

“For two years now, Virginians have been sharing their views with me on the MVP and ACP,” said Kaine. “Many oppose these projects — some support them — but from listening to all sides, what is clear to me either way is that FERC’s public input process needs improvement. Driving two hours through the mountains to a public meeting at which you can speak for two minutes is not public input. Having 90 days to read and comment on 2,000 pages while a dozen other 400-page supplements are trickling out is not public input. FERC’s job is to adjudicate the public interest — especially when eminent domain is involved — and this requires taking public input more seriously. My bill does not mandate MVP and ACP be built, nor does it block them. It simply takes 8 steps — all based on ideas I heard directly from Virginians – to provide a fairer and more transparent basis for the federal government’s decisions about energy infrastructure.”

“I’ve heard from many Virginians with concerns about the complicated and cumbersome FERC public engagement process, and it’s clear to me that the current process needs to be made a lot more accessible and transparent,” said Warner. “Public participation in an agency’s public proceedings is one of the cornerstones of our democratic process, and our bill sets up a system that ensures that every resident in every locality within the path of a proposed pipeline has a say at each step of the way.”

“This legislation is a big step in the permitting process for new interstate natural gas pipelines as it assures that the public has access to complete information on siting decisions. Moreover, the legislation provides improved direction to federal regulators in their decision-making regarding national scenic trails like the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail and other public and private lands,” said Ron Tipton, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • State that it is the policy of the United States that eminent domain be limited to situations in which the taking of property is for public, not private, use. This language is from a 2006 Executive Order by President George W. Bush clarifying the scope of federal eminent domain authority;
  • Require a single programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) if two gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another;
  • Provide that if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS than is in a draft EIS, FERC must do a supplemental EIS, with another public comment period;
  • Mandate public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes, at every stage in the process (draft EIS, final EIS, supplemental EIS) so members of the public do not have to drive long distances to meetings where they are only able to speak for just a few minutes;
  • Specify that eminent domain takings of land under conservation easement be given fair compensation not just for the land value but for the lost conservation value of the land;
  • Ensure that plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts be subject to public comment so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate;
  • Require cumulative analysis of visual impacts on National Scenic Trails (including the Appalachian Trail) for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles;
  • Prohibit any downgrading of National Scenic Trail scenic integrity requirements in current law if the project represents a net degradation to the trail.

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.

FERC Shows Its True Colors


Doug Wellman’s letter to the editor, published in the Roanoke Times on May 29, 2017, discusses FERC’s rubber-stamp approval of pipeline projects despite evidence against them. “The draft environmental impact statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is massive — over 2,300 pages. Reviewing it is a daunting task. But in their one and a half page treatment of the ‘No Action Alternative’ required by law, FERC’s bottom line is clear: the pipeline proposal will be approved. In justifying their cursory dismissal of reasons why the Atlantic Coast Pipeline should not be built, FERC brushes aside the many well-documented comments submitted by pipeline opponents. At least three of their explanations for dismissing ‘no action’ are highly questionable.”  He goes on to list FERC’s three “explanations” and the strong case against each of them. Read the full letter here.