From ABRA Update #213 for January 17, 2019: “A plan for stabilization measures on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route during cessation of construction activity on the project was approved January 10 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The plan had been submitted to the agency in the wake of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals December 7 decision to stay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the project. The Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Chesapeake Bay Foundation had written FERC on December 21 asking that the agency to require the company to remove strung pipe from the right-of-way rather than allow it to continue to install pipe along a route that is not authorized by law, but the request was ignored.”
Here’s Dominion’s approach to ground stabilization: putting new pipe into the ground on January 15, 2019. Note the right angle bend, something to remember when Dominion tells a landowner the ACP can’t divert around some important feature of property. Thanks to the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper [NC] for the photo.
The Nelson County Times reported on December 27, 2018, that “The Nelson County Board of Supervisors has agreed to sign an engagement letter to support the city of Staunton in backing the Southern Environmental Law Center’s challenge to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s 2017 decision to issue a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to permit the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to proceed. SELC is representing a number of groups in a lawsuit against FERC that challenges its decision to issue the certificate. SELC hopes to stop the construction of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project. In signing the engagement letter Nelson County agrees to help bring relevant matters to the attention of the D.C. Circuit Court where the case will be heard in the near future; it does not become part of the lawsuit. …. Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of putting together a brief, and not spending more than $1,000 on the effort. Reed, Harvey, and Rutherford voted in favor of the resolution. Thomas Bruguiere Jr., chairman of the board, and Larry Saunders, vice chairman of the board, voted against the resolution.”
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance reports that in a filing late December 13, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revoke the certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in light of the decision earlier in the day by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the U.S. Forest Service’s approval for the pipeline to cross national forest lands and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In its 65-page letter to FERC, SELC stated:
Crucially, the court held that the Forest Service does not have statutory authority to authorize the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. As a result, under federal law, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (“Atlantic”) cannot obtain authorization from federal agencies to cross the Trail as proposed. Thus, the Commission’s Certificate approves a project that cannot be constructed in compliance with federal law. Further, the proposed Appalachian Trail crossing is a linchpin in the Commission’s alternatives analysis—almost every alternative considered in the Final EIS includes this crossing point. See ACP Final EIS at 3-18 to 3-19. In light of the court’s decision, that analysis is not valid and cannot be used to approve a re-route of the project at this stage. The Commission must therefore revoke the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. Further, the Commission must issue a formal stop-work order, effective immediately, halting all construction activities because the court’s decision means that Atlantic continues to be out of compliance with a mandatory condition of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.
On November 27, 2018, a group of six ABRA members – Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, and Wild Virginia – asked the Federal Regulatory Commission to issue a stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). On November 9, the same organizations had requested a stop-work order. The new request, sent by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of the six organizations, supplements the November 9 request, noting that the project has recently lost permits from three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts (Norfolk, Wilmington and Huntington) to construct the ACP over streams under the Corps’ Nationwide 12 permit. FERC’s October 13, 2017 Certificate to the ACP requires all federal authorizations to be in place in order for construction to take place. The letter states:
As a result of the suspensions of those three authorizations, Atlantic no longer has the requisite federal approval to construct any stream or wetland crossing along its entire route. Atlantic also lacks NWP 12’s authorization for “temporary structures, fills, and work necessary for the remediation of inadvertent returns of drilling fluids to waters of the United States through subsoil fissures or fractures that might occur during horizontal directional drilling [HDD] activities,” meaning that Atlantic lacks the ability to promptly and legally control the all-too-common inadvertent releases from HDD operations that might be performed in lieu of in-stream crossings. Because those mandatory federal authorizations are now lacking, FERC must not allow pipeline construction to continue, not only in waters of the United States but anywhere along the pipeline route.
Natural Gas Intelligence reported on October 16, 2018, that FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s, in her speech to North American Gas Forum hosted by Energy Dialogues, discussed the natural gas industry’s “complicated relationship” with climate change. LaFleur has dissented on several recent pipeline decisions and “has critiqued FERC’s approach to assessing climate change impacts from gas projects.”
She spoke of the need for “more in-depth climate assessments as part of a broader desire to see FERC incorporate more information into the record when it analyzes project need, including the anticipated end-uses of the gas.”
She also “called for FERC to go beyond precedent agreements in evaluating the need for a pipeline project. She said basing FERC’s certificate decisions solely on precedent agreements could lead to pipeline overbuild.”
Read the full article here.
Photo by Marion Kanour
On October 3, 2018, Dominion, on behalf of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, asked FERC for permission to proceed with tree felling in certain areas of Virginia that FERC had not already authorized. On October 5, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a letter asking FERC to deny the request and to issue a stop-work order in light of the fact that the Fourth Circuit has issued a stay of the Forest Service permit. Because much of Dominion’s filing was “privileged” and not available to the public, SELC also urged the FERC to make publicly available the maps referenced in the ACP request showing where tree felling would occur.