Category Archives: FERC

Landowners Sue FERC to Stop Eminent Domain by ACP and MVP


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Carolyn Reilly, Bold Alliance, 540-488-4358, carolyn@boldalliance.org
Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson, 434-249-8330, lec@wildvirginia.org
Carolyn Elefant (landowners’ attorney), 202-297-6100, carolyn@carolynelefant.com

Landowners Sue Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Stop Eminent Domain by Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines

Press conference Wednesday morning outside FERC offices to feature landowner-plaintiffs and their attorney, and regional organizers

Washington, D.C. — Landowners whose farms and homes are in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines will hold a press conference on Wednesday outside the D.C. offices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to announce their filing of a lawsuit against FERC to end the abuse of eminent domain for private gain for fracked gas pipelines.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Washington D.C. federal district court, on behalf of 57 Landowners, Bold Alliance and Friends of Nelson, challenges the constitutionality of the eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act, and seeks to end the unconstitutional and unconscionable process of taking citizens’ private property via eminent domain for a corporation’s profits — and not for “the public good” as the Constitution intended.

The lawsuit targets FERC’s encouragement of pipeline companies to negotiate easement agreements with landowners in advance of the agency’s issuance of a “certificate of need,” which results in “irretrievable commitment of resources” to a particular route prior to a formal decision, and absolves the Commission of its responsibility to actually determine whether a proposed project is needed.

“FERC’s policy of encouraging pre-certificate easement negotiations between impacted landowners and the pipeline impermissibly biases the outcome of the certificate approval process, because FERC views pipeline proposals more favorably when the company has acquired most of the easements by negotiation,” the lawsuit states. “In so doing, FERC emboldens private companies to abuse eminent domain rights by duping landowners into signing an easement agreement by threatening them with eminent domain powers that the company does not have, or by refusing to agree to any protective measures in advance of construction until the landowner agrees to sign an easement, often for constitutionally inadequate compensation.”

The lawsuit also specifically challenges FERC’s issuance of “conditioned certificates” — which authorize a taking of property rights that are not, and may never be, necessary to construct the proposed project; and “blanket certificates” — which inappropriately grant a private company eminent domain power coextensive with that of the state, and strip future aggrieved landowners of their rights to formal administrative procedures.

Under the current regulatory regime, landowners are left without a forum to challenge eminent domain abuses. Meanwhile, virtually anything goes — with certificates conferring eminent domain issued by FERC to pipelines that do not serve a public use, but instead, facilitate gas for export or create opportunities for pipelines to monopolize the market for input to gas and electricity utilities, to be distributed in markets controlled by the pipeline’s affiliates.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Bold Alliance, Friends of Nelson, 26 individual landowners on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline route and 31 landowners on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Plaintiffs include 14 Nelson County landowners and others in Augusta and Bath Counties. Defendants include FERC, and, respectively, Atlantic Coast Pipeline backers Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources; and Mountain Valley Pipeline backers EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.

View the full text of landowners’ lawsuit online at: https://www.scribd.com/document/358098979/Landowners-vs-FERC

WHAT: Press Conference With Landowners Suing FERC Over Eminent Domain
WHO: Landowners’ attorney Carolyn Elefant; Bold Alliance’s Carolyn Reilly (also a landowner on the proposed MVP route); Ernie Reed (Friends of Nelson) and landowners on the proposed ACP and MVP routes.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 6, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), 888 1st St NE, Washington D.C.

Appeals Court Rejects Florida Pipeline Project on Environmental Concerns

In a 2-1 ruling the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found on August 22, 2017, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that the project would deliver to power plants.

Judge Thomas Griffin, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, wrote that the project’s environmental impact statement “should have either given a quantitative estimate of the downstream greenhouse emissions that will result from burning the natural gas that the pipelines will transport or explained more specifically why it could not have done so. As we have noted, greenhouse-gas emissions are an indirect effect of authorizing this project, which FERC could reasonably foresee, and which the agency has legal authority to mitigate.”

The ruling said, “Quantification would permit the agency to compare the emissions from this project to emissions from other projects, to total emissions from the state or the region, or to regional or national emissions-control goals. Without such comparisons, it is difficult to see how FERC could engage in ‘informed decision making’ with respect to the greenhouse-gas effects of this project, or how ‘informed public comment’ could be possible.”

The Sierra Club had sued FERC, saying that under the National Environmental Policy Act, the law governing all environmental reviews of federal decisions, FERC must consider climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The decision overturns the project’s approval and returns it to FERC to complete the necessary greenhouse gas analysis.

Read the full article here.

Blue Virginia Articles: Doing the Math, Approval Process a “Sham”

Two recent articles from Blue Virginia are particularly interesting:

  • 8-10-17  Dominion Fracked Gas Pipeline Approval Process All a Big “Sham”; “The propaganda of big business is just overpowering.”  The article includes full audio of an August 10, 2017 conference call organized by Interfaith Power and Light about Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with Rev. Laura Martin, Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (Arlington), Jamshid Bakhtiari, Virginia Field Coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), Rev. Morris Fleischer, Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (in the path of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline), and Pastor Paul Wilson, Union Hill & Union Grove Baptist Churches (Buckingham County, in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline). The article summarizes the comments of the participants and includes a link to the full audio.
  • 8-11-17  Doing the Math: Dominion’s and FERC’s Own Numbers Tell Us the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a Budget Buster. “You don’t need to rely on environmentalists’ climate calculations to know the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is carbon budget buster. Just look at the numbers provided in the past month by Dominion Energy Virginia and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On July 14th, Dominion responded to interrogatories filed in the matter of the power company’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) now being considered by its regulator, the State Corporation Commission. In its responses, Dominion provided estimated carbon-pollution emissions through the year 2042 for eight different scenarios, Plans A – H. Dominion disclosed that its 2017 carbon pollution emissions will be 40 million tons per year, and that every one of its eight alternative plans will increase carbon pollution over the next 25 years.”

Trump Nominees to FERC Confirmed


On August 3, 2017, the Senate voted to confirm Donald Trump’s nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson. They join Cheryl LaFleur, who had been the sole member of the five member commission, so FERC now has a quorum. Chatterjee has been a long-time advocate on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, and, while Powelson has at times supported clean energy, he has shown deep allegiances to the gas industry throughout his tenure on the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, and has recently compared anti-gas activists to terrorists. Lena Moffit of the Sierra Club stated, “It is disappointing to see the Senate confirm FERC Commissioners who have lengthy track records of prioritizing the interests of the fossil fuel industry over those of the American people.” FERC can now begin to act on the $50 billion of energy ventures under consideration by the agency.

Trump has formally nominated Kevin McIntyre, an energy lawyer at the firm Jones Day, and Richard Glick, a Democratic Senate aide. A Senate hearing on the two new nominees is scheduled for September 7, 2017.

FERC Issues FEIS on ACP


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21, 2017. FERC has 90 days to make a decision on issuing a certificate of approval for the project.

The full statement can be found here: https://ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp

The summary statement from FERC staff includes this paragraph:

“The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects, such as impacts on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies and associated aquatic resources; forested vegetation; Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, Roanoke logperch, Madison cave isopod, clubshell mussel, small whorled pogonia, and running buffalo clover; and karst, cave, subterranean habitat and the species associated with these habitats. Implementation of Atlantic and DETI’s respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to staff’s recommendations in the EIS would further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts. Most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. These determinations are based on a review of the information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders.”

We note that the FERC staff makes little mention of input from the large number of experts in varied fields who have presented evidence of severe consequences, relying instead on “information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests.”

Note also that these are a staff recommendations only; actual FERC permits need approval by the Commissioners (there is only one at the moment, with three more nominated but not yet approved by the Senate). and the ACP must receive other permits as well, e.g. from DEQ and the USFS.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA, of which Friends of Nelson is a member) issued a press release saying the EIS fails to assess whether the project is even needed (relying solely on the project developer’s claims of need), that numerous studies in recent years show the gas and utility sector is overbuilding natural gas infrastructure, and that the EIS glosses over the profound and permanent harm to water resources and drinking water supplies, forest ecosystems, wildlife and endangered species habitat, historic sites, agricultural resources, public lands including the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, and local economies. A significant red flag for the ABRA is FERC’s reliance on Dominion’s pledges to mitigate harm to water resources rather than requiring the company to provide upfront detailed plans to be shared with the public prior to granting federal certification and the power of eminent domain. The press release also lists nine key points the EIS fails to adequately address.