Category Archives: FERC

Continuing the Fight

Voices From Bath and Highlanders for Responsible Development co-sponsored a meeting in Highland County on February 1, 2017. at which speakers from five groups discussed the DEIS and offered ways for the many attendees to continue their involvement in the pipeline fight. Speakers included Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center; Rick Webb, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition program coordinator; Joe Lovett, attorney and founder of Appalachian Mountain Advocates; Lewis Freeman, Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance executive director; and Nancy Sorrells, with the Augusta County Alliance. The five agreed FERC had issued an incomplete and inaccurate DEIS.

Greg Buppert said the DEIS “glosses over important impacts. There’s missing information. There’s information that is deferred. But this is the type of impact statement that FERC produces.” He also said the need for the ACP has been exaggerated by a Dominion-created group of businesses. “Our first critical focus will be on the need for this project. There’s evidence that this project is not needed to meet the demand for natural gas. The arrangement of the entities, both building the pipeline and buying the gas, is that they’re all affiliates and subsidiaries of Dominion Resources. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that’s not an arm’s length transaction that’s accurately reflecting the market.”

Rick Webb pointed out an obvious falsehood in the draft EIS. “Here, it says the engineering status and the permitting status are done,” he said. “Both of those are completely false. The engineering is far from being completed and none of the permitting is done.” He also said FERC had dismissed concerns about the potential for water contamination in cavernous karst terrain. “It’s not just where the pipeline crosses. Dominion is only looking at karst features within a certain distance on either side of this corridor. It’s everybody downstream — their water supply is at risk…. Once you get that mud into the subterranean karst system, it takes a long time for it to work its way out.” Webb urged residents downstream from any proposed pipeline activity to write to FERC before the April 6 deadline and request thorough study of potential karst water pollution.

Joe Lovett also urged everyone to file comments to FERC prior to April 6, and asked that they provide copies of their comments and other information to his organization, Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “If you have some data and you think FERC isn’t going to consider it, please let us know, because FERC is obligated to consider all of the relevant information. If they fail to consider it, that’s a flaw and that’s how we win.”

Nancy Sorrells urged landowners to not sell easements and discussed tactics being used by Dominion’s land agents. “This is not a done deal. The land agents who approach you will tell you it’s a done deal and you’d better sign. It’s your right — you don’t even have to talk to them. The spin they put out is pretty incredible. What they try to do is divide and conquer. They’ll say ‘Don’t tell your neighbor, but we’re going to give you a better deal.’ They’ll say ‘If you don’t sign, you’ll be flagged as troublemakers,’ or ‘We’ll just move the pipeline off your property because your neighbors have signed.’ ”

Sorrells distributed an Augusta Alliance information sheet that explains, “Dominion does not have the right to an easement through your property unless FERC grants it the power of eminent domain. That has not happened. Even if FERC ultimately grants Dominion the power of eminent domain (still far from certain), landowners have significant rights involving protection of their property to insure that they are paid the true value of the highest and best use of their property.”

The Augusta Alliance formed the Virginia Easement Action Team, a non-profit education and legal defense group, to assist landowners who do not wish to sell easements to Dominion. More information can be found at www.augustacountyalliance.org.

High-Risk Proposal to Drill Through Blue Ridge at Reed’s Gap

[Photo by John Claman:  Piney Mountain,Three Ridges, Reed’s Gap]

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has submitted a report to FERC on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed ACP and the proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountains at Reed’s Gap, going under the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the National Forest.

The report, A High Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, points to the many ways in which the information provided in the DEIS is insufficient to support evaluation of the proposed Blue Ridge drilling operation. It details missing information as well as MISinformation. For example:

  • The scale of excavation is not fully disclosed or considered, and the results of critical geophysical investigations have not been provided.
  • Identification of geohazards and evaluation of mitigation measures have been deferred until later, precluding a meaningful opportunity for informed review of the project.
  • The published DEIS fails to meet the information needs of of the public or the governmental agencies that have responsibilities related to the ACP project.

DPMC says FERC must release a revised DEIS to:

  • prove that boring through the Blue Ridge is a practicable option, by providing reliable and complete geophysical data
  • disclose the real extent of land disturbance and water quality damage the proposal would create
  • include detailed, site-specific plans and pollution control measures for all alternatives for crossing the Blue Ridge

Norman Bay Calls for Review of Shale Gas Development

In a five-page statement accompanying FERC’s February 3, 2017, ruling approving a 99-mile pipeline through Pennsylvania and New York, Commissioner Norman Bay, whose resignation from FERC was effective at the end of that day, gave his perspective on the impact of the shale gas revolution, praising it for helping reduce electricity prices and carbon emissions but expressing concern about methane emissions and the potential for pipeline overcapacity.

RTO Insider reports that “Bay called on the commission to ‘analyze the environmental effects of increased regional gas production from the Marcellus and Utica’ shale regions.

” ‘Despite the growing importance of Marcellus and Utica gas production — it was 22.5 Bcfd in 2016 and is projected to surpass 44 Bcfd by 2050 — the commission has never conducted a comprehensive study of the environmental consequences of increased production from that region,’ Bay noted. He said FERC should consider ‘the downstream impacts of the use of natural gas and … a life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions study.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Time Change in FERC’s Nelson County Hearing


FERC has made a time change in the public comment session on the DEIS scheduled for Wednesday February 22, 2017, at Nelson County High School in Lovingston. Instead of 6:00-9:00 pm, the hearing will now be from 6:30-9:00. FERC says they will be bringing additional court reporters to make up for the lost time.  Come early to sign up for a number to speak!

Please note: comments will not be taken in public as they were at the scoping meeting. Speakers’ comments will be taken in a private room with a stenographer. It is therefore crucially important that everyone who gives comments brings a paper copy to give to the stenographer and that everyone ALSO submits their comments to FERC so that there is an irrefutable paper trail!

FERC Commissioner Resigns

Following the President’s decision to replace him as FERC’s chair with his fellow commissioner, Cheryl LaFleur, FERC commissioner Norman Bay filed his letter of resignation effective on February 3, 2017. FERC should have five commissioners, has been operating with three, and with Bay’s departure will no longer have the quorum needed to decide anything from controversial gas pipeline projects to contested utility mergers. A Bloomberg article noted that FERC “has a policy that allows two, or even one, commissioner to count as a quorum on a limited basis, though it’s unclear when that policy would apply.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is responsible for FERC, says she will make filling vacancies a top priority. But filling vacancies will take time, and even a speedy process could take 30-60 days. Cheryl LaFleur, now the FERC’s Acting Chair, says, “The commission is working to get as many orders out as we can in the time we have left with a quorum. I am confident that, with the strong team we have here at the commission, we can continue to do our important work.”

It is unclear what effect the lack of a quorum will have on the ACP.

Read the Bloomberg article here and an NPR report here.  A Washington Post article speculates on the effects of the lack of quorum on pending projects.