Category Archives: FERC

FERC Commissioner LaFleur Speaks on Natural Gas

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.

SELC Asks FERC to Deny Dominion’s Tree Cutting Request

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.

5th FERC Commissioner Nominated

On October 3, 2018, the White House announced the President’s intention to appoint Bernard L. McNamee of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for the term expiring June 30, 2020.  He would fill the seat vacated by Commissioner Robert Powelson, who resigned from FERC in August to accept a position in the private sector.

According to the White House announcement, Mr. McNamee currently serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Policy for the U.S. Department of Energy. Previously, he served as Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy and practiced energy law with McGuireWoods LLP. Additionally, Mr. McNamee served four Attorney Generals in two states (Virginia and Texas), was a policy advisor to a Virginia governor, and served as a senior domestic policy advisor to a United States Senator. He earned his B.A. from the University of Virginia and J.D. from Emory University School of Law.

Cart Before the Horse

In her guest column in the September 21, 2018, Staunton News Leader (West Augusta pipe yard is putting the ‘cart before the horse’), Nancy Sorrells discusses Dominion’s request to the Augusta Board of Zoning Appeals for a proposed pipe yard in West Augusta. She notes that when FERC was contacted to verify Dominion’s Emmett Toms’ statement to the BZA that they had approval to “leave the thousand dump truck loads of contaminated gravel from the parking area in a pile in the field after construction, rather than take the cleaned gravel to an approved landfill as is standard procedure,” they were told by FERC that “the contractor/pipe yard you referenced below has not been proposed to FERC.”

Further, the area where Dominion proposes the pipe yard (that FERC doesn’t know about) is one that has paved roads of “less than minimum design standards” because the county agreed in 2010 that the area is not to be the target of any development, and therefore should certainly not “have the kind of traffic and heavy equipment that would occur on this road for two years or more with ACP’s proposed construction yard.”

She concludes, “So there you have it: Dominion has proposed something that both DEQ and FERC are unaware of in an area that the county has legally promised never to develop. Cart before the horse? In reality there never should have been a cart or a horse proposed here.”

FERC Lifts Stop Work Order on ACP

Early afternoon on September 17, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lifted the stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline it issued on August 10. The FERC Notice was based on the issuance of new permits by, respectively, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • On September 11, 2018, the FWS issued a revised Biological Opinion (BO), which included a modified Incidental Take Statement for the ACP
  • Additionally, on September 14, 2018, the NPS issued a new right-of-way permit for crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Earlier versions of these permits had been vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had prompted FERC to issue its stop work order.
 

In its press coverage, the Virginia Mercury quotes D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, N.C., who said, “The Park Service right of way is almost the same document,” Gerken said. “It’s very disappointing. … It sure looks like more of the same, which is these agencies making political decisions rather than fact-based ones. All of these federal agencies with responsibility to protect public resources moved too fast on a political timetable. This is entirely consistent with that approach. And that’s what got them in trouble last time.” Gerken added, “There is no question that these pipeline developers deliberately race the courts. So no matter how bad the legal violations are, the project is well under way before the courts have an opportunity to review it. This is baked into their business model. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong as long as it’s fast.”

Motion Submitted to Rescind ACP Certificate and FEIS

On September 4, 2018, Friends of Nelson and Wild Virginia submitted a motion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “rescind and place in abeyance the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline issued by the Commission staff on October 13, 2017, to rescind the Final Environmental Impact Statement (“FEIS”) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (“ACP”) issued on July 21, 2017 in the above captioned dockets, to and to initiate a new DEIS/FEIS NEPA process in this matter.”

The motion states, “Pursuant to NEPA Section 102, 42 U.S.C. § 4332, and its implementing rules, specifically 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9, Friends of Nelson and Wild Virginia move that the Commission rescind and place in abeyance the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity in this matter in accordance with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. and National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. and in violation of FERC conditions placed upon the issuance of the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity. This is necessary because 1) the DEIS published on December 30, 2016 is deemed “so inadequate as to preclude meaningful analysis,” id., § 1502.9(a), as demonstrated by the copious amount of new and crucial information that has been submitted to FERC and emerged after the release of the DEIS, 2) the subsequent vacating of the United States Fish and Wildlife takings permit upon which the FEIS is based on August 6, 2018 and 3) the necessary rerouting of the ACP which will require a full NEPA analysis in lieu of the vacating of the right of way permit by the National Park Service on August 6, 2018.

“Therefore the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity issued on October 13, 2017 should be rescinded and placed in abeyance until 1) a new route has been determined, 2) a revised DEIS is issued that fully addresses and provides the public an opportunity to comment on the significant new information that has been submitted to FERC since the release of the original DEIS, 3) a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been issued, and 4) the project and its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis is in full compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as required by NEPA.”

The motion is followed by 19 items of supporting facts and law, and concludes, “Friends of Nelson and Wild Virginia respectfully request that the Commission grant their motion and rescind and place in abeyance the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply Header Project, CP15-554-000, CP15-555-000 et.al. and also rescind the FEIS upon which the Certificate relies. In this matter, the Commission must take a “hard look” at all new information and review it in the context of the application. This must include all information required by NEPA including full review of new information by USFWS and NEPA compliant ITS for all required species. It must also include information relating to any route changes required by the vacating of the NPS authorization of the right-of-way permit that NPS had issued to ACP. At such time that a new DEIS is completed, the commission shall initiate a new public comment period for the intended completion of a FEIS. Lastly, the Commission should require Dominion to file all additional information that is vital to the NEPA environmental review before proceeding further.”

The full motion is here.

Appendix 1 contains a motion to rescind or revise the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (“ACP”) issued on December 30, 2016.

Appendix 2 contains “a partial list of important information that was submitted by Dominion in an untimely manner, too late to be considered in the NEPA analysis for the ACP and should be considered in a new DEIS/FEIS process. All of these are available on the FERConline website for Docket #CP15-554-000 et.al.”

Appendix 3 is the August 23, 2018, Richmond Times-Dispatch article, State scientists confirm more sightings of endangered bumblebee along pipeline route.

Appendix 4 is a copy of FERC’s August 10, 2018 denial by Commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Robert F. Powelson of requests for rehearing and Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur’s dissent.