Save the date: Saturday January 5, 2018, Friends of Nelson annual meeting (with potluck and party!) at Rockfish Valley Community Center. More information to come.
Join Friends of Nelson for the longstanding and ongoing No Pipeline Vigil, 11:30-12:30 on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, Dominion Energy headquarters in Charlottesville. See our Events calendar for more details.
The September 30, 2018, Friends of Nelson public meeting featured two excellent speakers, Ivy Main (Sierra Club and Power for the People) and Rick Cornelius (environmental lawyer).
Ivy gave us an update on Virginia’s energy future and the effort to move toward renewable energy that would decrease the need for fossil fuels, including the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, which most economic studies show are not needed to meet either current or future energy needs. See her PowerPoint presentation here. She also discussed how to remove barriers to customer solar by supporting 8 reforms to open the market, create jobs, and save money:
Virginia law contains numerous restrictions on the ability of local governments, residents and businesses to install solar facilities for their own use. Legislation is required to remove barriers and create a stronger market for distributed solar.
The 2018 “grid mod” legislation supported utility solar, but did not address the barriers that hold back private investment in the distributed solar market.
Local governments and residents are coming together around legislation in 2019 that will support customer solar.
The “Easy 8” reforms include:
- Lifting the 1% cap on the total amount of solar that can be net metered in a utility territory
- Making third-party financing using power purchase agreements (PPAs) legal statewide for all customer classes
- Allowing local government entities to install solar facilities of up to 5 MW on government-owned property and use the electricity for schools or other government-owned buildings located on nearby property, even if not contiguous
- Allowing all customers to attribute output from a single solar array to multiple meters on the same or adjacent property of the same customer
- Allowing the owner of a multi-family residential building to install a solar facility on the building or surrounding property and sell the electricity to tenants
- Removing the restriction on customers installing a net-metered solar facility larger than required to meet their previous 12 months’ demand
- Raising the size cap for net metered non-residential solar facilities from 1 MW to 2 MW
- Removing standby charges on residential facilities sized between 10-20 kW
Enacting these reforms will give local governments more opportunities to install solar on government property as well as help residents and businesses invest in solar. This can create savings for taxpayers, decrease the need for fossil fuels, help meet local sustainability goals, and support local jobs and economic development.
Rick reviewed the salient points of a number of current cases before the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals, including:
- the challenge to the December 13, 2017, decision by the Virginia State Water Control Board to grant a water quality certificate for the ACP (pursuant to requirements of Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act)
- the challenge to the decisions of the U.S. Forest Service to amend the Forest Plans of the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest and to accordingly issue a Special Use Permit for the ACP to cross the two forests
- the challenge brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia to both the “quick-take” authority federal regulators granted to Mountain valley Pipeline and a lower court ruling saying MVP could go forward even though property owners have not been compensated
- SELC’s recent challenge to the new permits issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service re: the “incidental take” of endangered species and the crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway, respectively
- the challenge in West Virginia brought on July 3, 2018, by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and others regarding the time frame for crossing the Greenbrier River not following the stipulations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act re: discharges of sedimentation into waterways at stream crossings
- the challenge recently filed by Appalachian Voices arguing that FERC didn’t adequately adhere to stipulations in the Natural Gas Act (including addressing the need for the project)
News coverage of the meeting and of the unveiling of The Defenders sculpture earlier in the afternoon:
The Friends of Nelson public meeting, originally scheduled for September 16, 2018, will be held September 30, happily with the same two dynamic guest speakers! Join us from 6:30 to 9 pm at Rockfish Valley Community Center to hear our speakers, with time for questions and answers.
Rick Cornelius – Rick has been practicing environmental law for over 45 years, and has worked with Friends of Nelson and the Southern Environmental Law Center on the pipeline issues since he first heard about them 4 years ago. Rick will give us overviews and updates on key cases before the courts.
Ivy Main – Ivy works with the Sierra Club and is a columnist with Power to the People. She’ll give a brief overview of the Virginia Energy Plan and updates on Virginia’s energy future, and give suggestions about actions we can take to push toward a carbon-free electric energy system for Virginia.
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.
Press release from Chesapeake Climate Action Network on August 14, 2018:
Fifty-four Virginia Organizations Call on Gov. Northam to Visit “Miracle Ridge,” Pristine Forest in Path of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and Oppose Pipelines
Leaders from environmental advocacy, justice, and business organizations send letter to Northam one week ahead of key State Water Control Board hearings on the controversial pipelines.
“Miracle Ridge has been designated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as one of the finest oak-hickory forests they have ever seen in all of Virginia,” said Joan Maloof, Executive Director of the Old-Growth Forest Network. “It is imperative that Governor Northam and the Virginia State Water Control Board visit this land first-hand to fully appreciate the magnitude of devastation that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have on this old-growth forest.”
The Limperts have been hosting a summer-long “encampment” on their property in Bath County dedicated to stopping Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This pipeline is slated to go right through their property, destroying hundreds of old-growth trees — some as old as 300 years — and decapitating much of the 3000-foot-long ridge known as “Miracle Ridge.”
“Our property is a natural treasure, and we wish to preserve it for future generations,” said Bill Limpert, landowner at Miracle Ridge. “There are countless other properties in the cross hairs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that are treasures as well. We wish to draw Governor Northam’s attention to these lands which should be preserved under his own criteria for protection of high quality natural resources. We hope that the Governor can join us on our property and visit other properties as well that would be lost to the unneeded and destructive Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The signers also ask Northam to direct the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to require an individual review of the 1,000 water crossings these pipelines will cross. The DEQ has the authority to do so under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, but it has instead relied on a “blanket” permit from the Army Corps of Engineers that approved crossings for all waterways.
“As a pediatrician, I know that every child needs clean water, clean air, and a safe and stable climate to be healthy and thrive,” said Samantha Adhoot, Chairperson of the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. “This pipeline threatens the health and safety of all children in Virginia, particularly those living in communities directly affected by large scale environmental destruction for pipeline infrastructure. We should not be sacrificing the health of Virginia’s families, children and natural heritage for the sake of corporate profits.”
This letter comes amid setbacks for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit threw out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The same court revoked a different permit from the U.S. Forest Service for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued stop-work orders for both the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until their respective multiple permit issues are resolved.
Reverend Kevin Chandler, Branch President of the Virginia Conference NAACP, stated: “Currently, both Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines are steeped in regulatory challenges. Due to the adverse impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on African-American communities, particularly in Buckingham County and the Georgetown community in Chesapeake, all construction activities along the route of the pipeline should cease immediately.”
During his campaign for governor, Northam pledged to look at the scientific evidence and use a transparent process to ensure that Virginia’s environment would be fully protected from any pipelines. He also called for site-specific permitting for every water crossing of these pipelines, instead of blanket permits.
One week from today, the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) will hold a hearing on the pipelines. This is the first SWCB meeting since the opening of a comment period re-examining the ability of the Nationwide Permit 12 to provide sufficient protections for Virginia waterways threatened and currently being impacted by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.
“Governor Northam must see first-hand what is at stake for the people whose lives are being so profoundly harmed by work already been done for these pipelines and the threats that loom over them,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director, Wild Virginia. “He can’t possibly see the forests and waters in Little Valley and what Dominion wants to do there and think the science supports it or that Virginia citizens are being treated fairly. He has pledged to be guided by those principles.”
Kendyl Crawford, Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, stated: “As communities of faith, it is our duty to be conscientious stewards of our planet and treat all of creation, including members of the human family, with respect and dignity. Miracle Ridge and the Limperts stand to be part of the sacrifice zone of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Within minutes of visiting their land one is immediately struck by the immense immorality of fossil fuel infrastructure that destroys so much in its wake.”
Jamshid Bakhtiari, Virginia Field Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated: “Together, the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines threaten to chain Virginians to another generation of dangerous and unnecessary fracked-gas fossil fuel extraction. Additionally, the construction of these pipelines threatens numerous endangered species, ridgelines, waterways and vulnerable communities across the Commonwealth. Governor Northam and the Water Control Board need to bear witness to the unconscionable sacrifices Virginians are being asked to make for pipelines that aren’t needed.”