Category Archives: FERC

CSI Seeks FERC Investigation of Potential ACP Violations

Apparent equipment staging area and new or reconstructed road and bridges observed during Pipeline Air Force surveillance flights. (3/11/18)

On March 14, 2018, we reported on the first incident report from the Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), apparent unauthorized access road and staging area construction in the MP158 area, the Augusta County Horizontal Direction Drilling area. A request was filed March 22 on behalf of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate potential violations by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) of the Commission’s Certificate and Virginia’s water quality certification. Aerial photographs taken earlier in March by ABRA’s CSI showed what appears to be substantial construction work in an area of Augusta County, near the site from which ACP proposes to bore through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The photographs show new and improved roads, new bridges, and what appear to be equipment parking and staging areas.

The observed activities do not appear to have been authorized under any of the limited Notices to Proceed FERC has issued, which allow tree cutting by non-mechanized means. The request explains that these actions will impact water quality in a number of ways and that, since the State of Virginia has not approved erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans and its water quality certification is not effective, possible land disturbance, changes to stormwater flows, and other effects must not be allowed. The submittal to FERC also notes that ACP’s weekly status reports have not provided notice of any of these activities and that environmental compliance reports indicate these sites have not been inspected.

The submitters also asked that the Commission report on its investigative proceedings and findings to ABRA, the CSI, and the public and that it not invoke regulatory provisions to keep this information from citizens.

Federal Court Dismisses Challenges to FERC Decision on ACP

From the ABRA Update for March 22, 2018:

Legal challenges to the October 13, 2017 the approval and permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were dismissed on March 21 by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

On January 29, Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sued FERC on behalf of 11 groups (most of them ABRA members) challenging the agency’s decision to approve the ACP. On March 8, a second lawsuit was filed by SELC and Appalmad against FERC under the All Writs Act to stop pipeline construction. The All Writs petition was filed as an alternative basis on which the Court could stop the project, if it determined that the direct challenge to the FERC approval was premature.

The panel rejected the All Writs argument and apparently accepted FERC’s position that it could indefinitely postpone a decision on the merits of our rehearing request to the agency even though the pipeline goes forward (known as a “tolling order”). Thus, in the Court’s view, it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case now, and the plaintiffs must wait until FERC issues an order on the rehearing request. It is unclear when the agency will act. The FERC certificate can still be challenged once the agency makes its final decision. Until then, other pipeline permits will be subjected to litigation.

Tell FERC to Say NO to Dominion

Monday, 3/19/2018, is the first business day since Dominion’s request for an extension for tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline went public. Let’s tie up FERC’s phone lines and flood their inbox to tell them to say NO to Dominion’s request to extend the deadline for tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline! Call, email, or both – as many times as you like.  Reference the ACP docket number in you calls and emails, CP15-554-000; CP15-554-001 and CP15-555

phone: 202-502-6088, 1-866-208-3372 (toll-free)
Additional numbers/email that FERC reps are required to catalog and pass on to reference ACP (thank you to Marilyn Shifflett for providing)-
Phone: 202-502-8390, 1-888-889-8030 (toll-free)
Fax: 202-208-0057

Dominion submitted a request to FERC asking to have the tree felling deadline extended from this month to May 15, citing the delay in construction that would be caused by them not finishing the felling before the current deadline. The company would not be able to resume felling until November if they miss the current deadline. This is a vital delay in construction of the pipeline!  (More info here.)

Not only that, but the day the request was made public, Virginia’s DEQ issued a notice to Dominion for having already committed 15 violations while felling.  (More info here.)  According to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, violation notices are typically resolved with the payment of a fine and required action to correct the violation, but fines are irrelevant to the ACP – and once the trees have been cut, even if improperly, there is no action that will put them back.

The permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not complete, and the tree felling up to now should not have been authorized. Please contact FERC and tell them any extension is unacceptable – there is absolutely no justification they can give to extend a deadline in place to protect wildlife simply to avoid inconveniencing Dominion’s shareholders, especially since Dominion has already been cited for 15 violations during the felling to date. Conceding to Dominion would set a terrible precedent that the MVP applicant, EQT, would likely exploit.

Let’s tie up their phone lines, flood their inbox, and make sure they hear us in saying they cannot extend the deadline for tree felling for Dominion’s convenience!

Dominion Wants More Time to Cut Trees

Photo by Marion Kanour

As reported on March 16, 2018, by the Durham NC Herald Sun and by Progressive Pulse, Dominion has asked FERC for additional time to cut trees.

The ACP is seeking an extension to May 15 for tree felling outside of the limitations they agreed to for bats and migratory birds. They say they can’t finish the work by the mandated deadlines. The Herald Sun article says, “Developers initially agreed to the tree-felling restrictions to protect migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species — two types of bats, in this case. The time restrictions vary from state to state but generally prohibit tree cutting between mid-March or early April through mid-September or mid-November. The earliest restriction to kick in was Virginia’s migratory bird window, which started Thursday.”

“It would be unconscionable for FERC to allow Dominion to slide around an important protection merely for the company’s convenience,” said David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, which is fighting the pipeline. “Too much destruction has already been caused. It must not be allowed to continue,” he said.

As NC Policy Watch points out, “The trees had to be cut down immediately. In fact, it should have been done yesterday. There was no wiggle room, attorneys for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline argued to a federal judge on Wednesday, and delays would cause “irreparable harm” to the utilities. But now Dominion and Duke Energy, co-owners of the ACP, have decided that, well, maybe the issue isn’t so urgent after all.

“According to documents filed today, ACP, LLC has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a deadline extension to cut trees that are on private property in the path of the pipeline. This is a major about-face, because earlier this week, ACP, LLC had taken several landowners to court, asking a federal judge to force them to provide access to their property for tree-cutting.”

Should we be surprised by the ACP request? No.

Should we fight back? Yes.

Please make a comment on the FERC web site today! Docket Numbers are: CP15-554-000; CP15-554-001 and CP15-555

Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed this letter in FERC’s dockets opposing extension of tree cutting restrictions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

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.