Category Archives: FERC

FERC Chairman Openly Admits Pro-Industry Bias

In an October 17, 2017, speech to the Energy Bar Association, Neil J. Chatterjee, current Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), stated he does not believe it is the agency’s responsibility or capability to question an applicant company’s claim that it needs to build a new pipeline. In an October 17 address before the Federal Energy Bar in Washington, DC, Chairman Chatterjee set forth as his most important priority the streamlining of FERC’s regulatory process.

“The FERC review process continues to get longer and longer due in large part to increased participation in the process by stakeholders, including numerous legal challenges. The Commission has historically prioritized precedent agreements in its analysis because those are clear, unequivocal statements of economic need by the market itself. The companies who are willing to enter into contracts to pay for transportation on the service on a pipeline have a much clearer understanding of the market need for the gas than we could develop through studies here in D.C.” (emphasis added)

In a response, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Executive Director Lew Freeman said. “FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee’s remarks on Oct. 17 to the Energy Bar Association portray a bias that is at decided odds with the even-handedness the public has the right to expect from a federal regulatory agency. His speech reflects a presumption that whatever an applicant company states to be the justification for a proposed project should be accepted by the agency because the applicant has — in Chairman Chatterjee’s own words — ‘a much clearer understanding of the market need for the gas than we could develop through studies here in D.C.’ Such blatantly voiced favoritism for an industry point of view is an affront to the regulatory integrity of the agency,”

The Fight Continues

Pipeline opposition and challenges continue, despite FERC’s October 13, 2017, rubber stamp approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, issued with a highly unusual dissenting opinion by Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur. The FERC permit is not the final word on the projects. VA, NC and WV must still issue environmental permits. The NC Department of Environmental Quality recently declined to issue water quality, soil erosion control permits for the project, requesting additional information from the pipeline. The WV Department of Environmental Protection recently vacated and remanded their water quality certification, saying they want to reevaluate the complete application. The VA Department of Environmental Quality has yet to make a decision, and will hold public hearings in December. Citizens still have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to express their concerns to DEQ (and may sign a petition to protect Virginia waters here).

The Wild Virginia Web page has concrete suggestions on how you can continue the fight against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

“It’s only being built because Dominion and Duke Energy will make $2 billion off of it even if it never comes into service,” said Friends of Nelson President Ernie Reed when interviewed at the Nelson Farmer’s Market the morning after the FERC announcement. “We only need one Federal Agency or one State Agency to do the right thing or one judge to force them to do the right thing to stop this runaway train.”

Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated “rubber stamp” and said his organization intends to challenge the decision. “The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers’ bills – and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come,” he says.

Bold Alliance and more than 50 landowners, have a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for private gain and intend to continue the fight for property rights in the court system.

Carolyn Reilly, impacted landowner and Pipeline Fighter with Bold Alliance, said, “Thousands of landowners and citizens have stood strong in the battle to defend land, protect water and preserve communities. FERC has, yet again, pulled out its rubber stamp and permitted two more risky, fracked gas pipelines that put our homes, our land, our water, and our communities at risk. But, our fight is far from over. The ACP and MVP are not a done deal; between the Bold lawsuit against FERC and water permits needed from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, we, the people, press on and persevere to defend and protect what is sacred.”

In an interview with WVTF, Reilly said, “I think it’s been an amazing thing to see people coming together despite many differences and political affiliations. This is not a partisan issue, this fight. There’s environmentalists and there’s conservative property rights activists that are united in this fight to protect our homes, our lands, the whole Appalachia, and especially water.”

Yes, we are all still here, and the fight goes on!

Oil Change International Responds to FERC Approvals

Lorne Stockman, Senior Analyst with Oil Change International, released the following statement:

“In spite of FERC’s irresponsible action, these fracked gas pipelines still face massive opposition in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. FERC cannot sneak these mega-projects past the hundreds of communities in their path in the dead of night.

“Oil Change International and the many groups fighting these pipelines have documented the extensive damage these projects will do. Both projects are bad deals for ratepayers, and huge threats to our mountains, rivers, farms, and local economies. They threaten our climate and disproportionately impact our low-income and minority communities. FERC has ignored all the evidence and certified these destructive projects as ‘convenient and necessary’ – when in fact they are neither.

“There is no public convenience or necessity associated with either of these pipelines, and the only people they serve is shareholders. No assessment of actual need has been conducted for either of them, as noted by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur in her rarely-seen dissent opposing today’s approvals. Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley will cause irreparable harm to our climate, and to the communities and environment along their routes.

“Despite the certificates granted today, these fights are far from over. The responsibility to protect the climate, ratepayer interests, and the precious water in these states now rests squarely on the shoulders of Governors Terry McAuliffe, Roy Cooper, and Jim Justice. We will join our partners and communities in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia to increase pressure for the rejection of 401 water permits in these states and stop these reckless pipelines.”

ABRA Statement to Media on FERC Approval of ACP

The following statement from ABRA on FERC approval of the ACP was released to the media on Friday evening, October 13, 2017:

​”The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of 52 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia, is appalled at the action tonight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in approving the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Commission’s judgment has been made in advance of necessary and required decisions by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the state environmental authorities in the affected states of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina on critical environmental issues. We concur with the thoughtful dissent of Commissioner LeFleur’s, who has served on the Commission for 7 years, raising serious questions about the basis of need for both the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline and expressing concerns about environmental impacts that both projects present. The majority decision does not reflect an understanding of the issues at hand and is clearly not in the public interest. It calls into serious question the agency’s regulatory credibility.”

FERC Grants Certificate for ACP and MVP

After 7:00 p.m. on Friday October 13, 2017, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted certificates of public convenience and necessity to both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.  Recently appointed FERC Commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Robert F. Powelson voted in favor of certification, Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur dissented.

In its 157-page approval statement for the ACP, the Commission said:

“As explained herein, we find that the benefits that the ACP Project, Supply Header Project, and Capacity Lease will provide to the market outweigh any adverse effects on existing shippers, other pipelines and their captive customers, and on landowners and surrounding communities. Further, as set forth in the environmental discussion below, we agree with Commission staff’s conclusion in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that, if constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and with the implementation of the applications’ proposed mitigation and staff’s recommendations, now adopted as conditions in the attached Appendix A of this order, the projects will result in some adverse and significant environmental impacts, but that these impacts will be reduced to acceptable levels. Therefore, we grant the requested authorizations, subject to conditions.”

In her 5-page dissent, Ms. LaFleur said, “I recognize that the Commission’s actions today are the culmination of years of work in the pre-filing, application, and review processes, and I take seriously my decision to dissent. I acknowledge that if the applicants were to adopt an alternative solution, it would require considerable additional work and time. However, the decision before the Commission is simply whether to approve or reject these projects, which will be in place for decades. Given the environmental impacts and possible superior alternatives, approving these two pipeline projects on this record is not a decision I can support.  For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.”

Read the approval statement for the ACP here.  Ms. LaFleur’s dissent begins on page 151

Read the approval statement for the MVP here.  Ms. LaFleur’s dissent begins on page 136.

New Motion Filed to Supplement DEIS

A group of about 25 organizations together under the name of “the Public Interest Groups” has filed a new motion with FERC to supplement the Atlantic Coast Pipeline DEIS based on new filings.

The October 9, 2017, filing argues that. “As stated in the Public Interest Groups’ earlier joint motion and two supplements, the Commission is required to rescind and supplement the DEIS in this matter because ‘[t]here are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.’ At the same time, a new public comment period and hearings should be held after a supplemental DEIS is issued. To not allow the opportunity to comment on an application before it is complete makes a mockery of both the FERC and the NEPA processes.

“Dominion’s practice is to frequently supplement its application without regard for an orderly process and by flaunting FERC and NEPA rules. This has been supported by FERC in its failure to supplement its environmental documents, and allow public review and comment. The application was supplemented some 18 times after the comment period on the DEIS was ended, and even another 5 times after the FEIS was issued. Many of these supplemental filings are not simply de minimus changes but are significant modifications to routes and impact analysis.”

The motion also states that, “Two additional matters require the environmental documents to be supplemented: the impacts of greenhouse gases on the climate crisis, and the plan to extend the ACP into South Carolina.”

The motion asks that, “The Public Interest Groups respectfully renew their joint motion. In this matter, the Commission must take a ‘hard look’ at the new information, review it in the context of the application and current public comments, and then supplement the DEIS to incorporate the new information. At the same time, the Commission should rescind the DEIS and hold the public comment period in abeyance until it issues the supplemental DEIS. Lastly, the Commission should require Dominion to file all additional supplemental information before proceeding further, with full disclosure of all plans to extend the pipeline into other states.”

Read the full motion as filed here.