Category Archives: Legislation

Legislators Introduce Pipeline Legislation

Delegate Chris Hurst, Delegate Sam Rasoul, and Senator John Edwards held a joint press conference on January 11, 2018, to discuss legislation they’ve introduced to the 2018 Virginia General Assembly aimed at protecting water quality and landowner rights from the construction of fracked-gas pipelines, such as the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. The bills would require the Department of Environmental Quality to perform robust water permitting and impact review, and restrict the ability of pipeline companies to access private property,

The bills are (click on the links to see the full bill):

  • HB 1187 (Curtails the ability of a natural gas company to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities) and HB 1188 (Requires the operator of any natural gas pipeline of a certain size, prior to operation, to commission an independent test of the quality of ground water for each property in the right-of-way and to file a gas discharge contingency plan that is approved by the State Water Control Board (the Board), introduced by Delegate Chris Hurst)
  • HB 1141 (Directs the State Water Control Board (the Board), regarding interstate natural gas pipeline projects, to (i) require both a Virginia Water Protection Permit and an Individual Water Quality Certification under § 401 of the federal Clean Water Act; (ii) review water body crossings, construction through karst terrain, and plans for control of erosion, sediment, and stormwater; (iii) prohibit any land-disturbing activity, including tree felling, prior to the issuance of a Water Quality Certification; and (iv) require horizontal directional drilling for certain crossings of large water bodies) and HB 1294 (Requires any company that plans to construct an interstate natural gas pipeline in Virginia to post a performance bond with the State Water Control Board (the Board) in an amount sufficient to ensure that the Board could address and remediate any adverse water quality impact that arises out of the construction) introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul
  • SB 324 (Curtails the ability of a natural gas company to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities – a companion to HB 1187 above) introduced by Senator John Edwards.

10 Actions to Oppose Dominion’s Stranglehold on VA Politics

Writing in Blue Virginia on November 14, 2017, Josh Stanfield says, “The power dynamics in Virginia are in flux; now’s the time for everyday citizens to go all in, to insist that our representatives put our interests above those of corporate donors. Over the next several months, this struggle can and should be focused on combating the political influence of Dominion Energy in particular. … [I]n the aftermath of last Tuesday – since 13 candidates won who have pledged never to accept Dominion contributions – we have the momentum. Virginians who’ve had enough of Dominion’s stranglehold over our politics should act now, so I’ve put together a set of short-term actions below.” Thanks to Josh Stanfield and Blue Virginia for this action list covering inaugural committees, the transition, pipelines, and legislation. Read the full article for more detailed information and background.

Here is the condensed list of actions:

(1) If you want to keep Dominion money out of the inaugural committees, perhaps because you understand for-profit entities don’t give money without some expectation of return, send your concerns to:

Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff, LG Ralph Northam: Clark.Mercer@ltgov.virginia.gov, 804.786.2078.

(2) If you want a Secretary of Natural Resources and a DEQ Director without Dominion ties, send your concerns to the head of the transition team:

Marianne Radcliff: mradcliff@kemperconsult.com, 804.649.7945.

(3) Also send your concerns to Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and DEQ Director David Paylor:

Molly Ward: molly.ward@governor.virginia.gov, 804.786.0044.

David Paylor: david.paylor@deq.virginia.gov, 804.698.4020.

(4) Attend the Water is Life Rally & Concert on Saturday, December 2nd, in Richmond. Event details here.

(5) Show up in solidarity and protest at the Virginia Water Control Board final hearings on the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines:

Mountain Valley Pipeline: 9:30 a.m.Wednesday, December 6, 2017, and Thursday, December 7, 2017. Location: Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline: 9:30 a.m.Monday, December 11, 2017, and Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Location: Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA 23222.

You can find the agendas here.

(6) Contact Governor McAuliffe and appeal to his presidential ambitions (because appeals to principle, the environment, property rights, public health, and consumer protection have been insufficient):

Paul Reagan, Chief of Staff, Gov. Terry McAuliffe: paul.reagan@governor.virginia.gov, 804.786.2211

(7) Contact Tom Perriello and urge him to use his platform to combat the proposed pipelines. Though Tom deserves a respite after months of campaigning for our amazing House of Delegates candidates, now is the time for him to rejoin the fight.

(8) Contact your representatives in the House of Delegates and State Senate. Implore them to support both a ban on contributions from public service corporations and a repeal of the 2015 “rate freeze” bill.

(9) Contact your local party officials, candidates who fell short last Tuesday, and advocacy groups. Implore them to push these ten actions.

(10) Thank the 13 Delegates-elect who pledged never to accept contributions from Dominion Energy or Appalachian Power. Remind them of the importance of supporting a ban on contributions and a repeal of the 2015 “rate freeze” bill.

Distraction: “Hey, look over there!”


Our colleagues near the Richmond area tell us Dominion has been hitting the TV commercial circuits pretty hard in the evenings lately. (To the point of distraction ad nauseum.) Seems you can’t even sit and peacefully watch Jeopardy without being inundated with lies about cheaper power bills and how much we need their safe gas pipeline. Thankfully, there are the ads like this one, from the hard-working folks at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This video was created by a nonpartisan partnership of clean energy, conservation, consumer and social justice organizations from around Virginia to highlight Dominion’s favorite pastime: distracting you from some of the things you might not like about them, something they do every single day to their customers and to lawmakers alike.

And while the enthusiastic Byron from Distraction Energy might not be an actual lineman, what he’s saying about Dominion is 100% true.

Kaine, Warner Introduce Bill to Make FERC Pipeline Process Fairer and More Transparent

June 7, 2017 press release from Senators Kaine and Warner:

Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner will introduce legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith will introduce similar legislation in the House. This bill makes it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used. Among other guidelines, this bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment.

While Congress does not decide on the merits of individual gas pipeline projects, Congress provides the legal authority under which FERC is tasked with evaluating the benefits and drawbacks to energy infrastructure proposals.

Each of the FERC reforms outlined in this bill is directly based on input submitted by Virginia residents to Kaine and Warner during FERC’s consideration of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

“For two years now, Virginians have been sharing their views with me on the MVP and ACP,” said Kaine. “Many oppose these projects — some support them — but from listening to all sides, what is clear to me either way is that FERC’s public input process needs improvement. Driving two hours through the mountains to a public meeting at which you can speak for two minutes is not public input. Having 90 days to read and comment on 2,000 pages while a dozen other 400-page supplements are trickling out is not public input. FERC’s job is to adjudicate the public interest — especially when eminent domain is involved — and this requires taking public input more seriously. My bill does not mandate MVP and ACP be built, nor does it block them. It simply takes 8 steps — all based on ideas I heard directly from Virginians – to provide a fairer and more transparent basis for the federal government’s decisions about energy infrastructure.”

“I’ve heard from many Virginians with concerns about the complicated and cumbersome FERC public engagement process, and it’s clear to me that the current process needs to be made a lot more accessible and transparent,” said Warner. “Public participation in an agency’s public proceedings is one of the cornerstones of our democratic process, and our bill sets up a system that ensures that every resident in every locality within the path of a proposed pipeline has a say at each step of the way.”

“This legislation is a big step in the permitting process for new interstate natural gas pipelines as it assures that the public has access to complete information on siting decisions. Moreover, the legislation provides improved direction to federal regulators in their decision-making regarding national scenic trails like the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail and other public and private lands,” said Ron Tipton, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • State that it is the policy of the United States that eminent domain be limited to situations in which the taking of property is for public, not private, use. This language is from a 2006 Executive Order by President George W. Bush clarifying the scope of federal eminent domain authority;
  • Require a single programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) if two gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another;
  • Provide that if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS than is in a draft EIS, FERC must do a supplemental EIS, with another public comment period;
  • Mandate public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes, at every stage in the process (draft EIS, final EIS, supplemental EIS) so members of the public do not have to drive long distances to meetings where they are only able to speak for just a few minutes;
  • Specify that eminent domain takings of land under conservation easement be given fair compensation not just for the land value but for the lost conservation value of the land;
  • Ensure that plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts be subject to public comment so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate;
  • Require cumulative analysis of visual impacts on National Scenic Trails (including the Appalachian Trail) for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles;
  • Prohibit any downgrading of National Scenic Trail scenic integrity requirements in current law if the project represents a net degradation to the trail.

Dominion Defends Political Handouts, Squashes Dissent

In commenting on February 7, 2017, about recent activity in the Virginia Legislature, Ivy Main says, “Dominion Power defends its billion-dollar handout from ratepayers; squashes dissent; asks for more.”

She discusses bills that have been proposed this session that could have brought an early end to a five-year prohibition on regulators’ ability to review Dominion Virginia Power’s earnings and to order refunds where warranted (SB 1095), would have prohibited campaign contributions from public service corporations like Dominion Power (SB 1593), and HB 2291 which allows Dominion to seek approval to charge customers for billions of dollars in nuclear power plant upgrades.

As she says, it “is hard to see the 9-2 vote in Commerce and Labor to kill Petersen’s SB 1095 as anything but a blatant, bipartisan gift to Dominion.”

“Legislators themselves publicly reject the idea of a causal relationship between the steady stream of campaign cash and their votes in favor of the bills, while privately acknowledging the sway Dominion holds over the General Assembly. Indeed, the comfortable fiction that campaign donations don’t affect a politician’s votes is such an insult to voters’ intelligence that the wonder is why it took so many years to become a campaign issue.”

Read the full article here.

VA Sierra Club Statement: Executive Order on Infrastructure

The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club issued a statement on January 26, 2017, on the inclusion of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the President’s executive order on infrastructure.

“Once again, Donald Trump is looking to take credit for something he had no part of, only this time, it’s a dirty and dangerous project that will deliver pollution to our communities. There is no need for this project, and it is baffling to include an enormous 42-inch fracked gas pipeline in a proposal of general infrastructure projects. Clean energy investments would create more long-term career jobs in our communities throughout Virginia and wouldn’t require large swaths of private property to be taken through eminent domain.

“Dominion Resources’ stranglehold on Virginia’s energy policy has been unacceptable for decades, and Dominion should not be given the opportunity to dictate our national energy policy as well.”

See our earlier post on the executive order here.