Category Archives: Legislation

The ACP and the Appalachian Trail

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, thwarted in its intent to cross the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the George Washington National Forest (GWNF), now wants special treatment from the U.S. Congress — a law that would force through its proposed AT crossing in the GWNF. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has prepared a set of maps and documents with the most current facts, legal status, and research. The documents are intended to help groups and individuals facilitate conversations with elected officials (and others) about the threat to the Appalachian Trail,

Resources include:

  1. ACP Factsheet (this is a colorful one pager that you can distribute and take to meetings)
  2. The Case Against the ACP (this is a longer 2 page memo on the facts including citations; good background reading for you prior to a meeting)
  3. Contact Info (all 13 Virginia members of Congress with DC and District office contact info)
  4. Letter House (the letters that were sent to our Congressional Representatives–good to distribute and take to meetings)
  5. Letter Senate (the letters that were sent to our U.S. Senators–good to distribute and take to meetings)
  6. Map US House (this shows Congressional districts and the MVP & ACP routes)
  7. Map VA House (this shows state delegate districts and the MVP & ACP routes)
  8. Map VA Senate (this shows state senate districts and the MVP & ACP routes)

With many permits revoked or in court, Dominion now wants to legislate the ACP route. We urge everyone to use SELC’s materials and contact elected officials, community members, and the media to educate them with up-to-date information, including the many reasons why the proposed AT crossing is unlawful and should not receive special treatment from Congress – and why the ACP is simply not necessary!

Legislation Introduced to Boost Public Participation in FERC Processes

From ABRA Update #230:

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation on May 15 to create an Office of Public Participation and Consumer Advocacy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Public Engagement at FERC Act, S. 1477, will assist residential and small commercial energy consumers in participating in FERC proceedings, ensuring the public has a strong role in shaping the nation’s energy future. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (DMD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are co-sponsors. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Shaheen introduced a similar bill in the last Congress, which was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as was S. 1477, but there were no hearings. It remains to be seen whether this new version will have a more positive fate.

Virginia Senators and Representatives Urged to Protect Appalachian Trail

On May 16, 2019, more than 50 organizations from across the state (including Friends of Nelson) sent a letter to Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and to Virginia’s members of the House of Representatives calling on them to resist Dominion Energy’s political pressure seeking legislation allowing it to get around a decision by a federal court.

Their letter says, “Congress should not legislate the permits or routes for gas pipelines through national parks in Virginia,” and asks the legislators to “protect the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the interests of our many members in Virginia by opposing any federal legislation that would exempt the Atlantic Coast or Mountain Valley pipelines from normal process or clear the path for the building or siting of these controversial projects.”

Write your own letters! Use the letters linked above as models for yours, or go to the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley’s “No Passes” page and use the links there to send email to your legislators.

West Virginia House Votes to Condemn Opponents of the ACP

In early January 2019, energy lobbyist, Bob Orndorff, state policy director for Dominion Energy, speaking to the WV legislature’s Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development on behalf of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been halted because “rogue environmental groups” were getting in the way. He urged lawmakers to “stand up to these rogue environmental groups” and pass a resolution to condemn them.

In an editorial on January 11, the Gazette-Mail asked, “Who are the real rogues?” The editorial says, “In reality, Dominion Energy has halted construction after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found environmental regulatory groups were bypassing rules meant to protect people, wildlife and the environment in the path of such large-scale projects. No doubt Dominion will continue to pursue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once these legal hurdles are cleared, but for representatives of the industry to blame ‘rogue’ environmentalists is dishonest and simply wrong.” The editorial concluded, “The suggestion to the Legislature offered up by lobbyist Bob Orndorff that the body pass a resolution condemning the environmental groups pursuing litigation is insulting. These groups trying to protect their rights are made up of actual West Virginians who want to preserve what they have and avoid being steamrolled by big industry. Their government should be watching out for them, but it’s not, so the only way to stand up for themselves is through the courts. Remember it’s the people who are the David in this scenario, not the Goliath.”

Despite the editorial, a resolution condemning the “assaults on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” (ACP) from citizen groups was approved by the Rules Committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates on March 6, 2019. On March 7, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved House Resolution 11 by a 80-17 vote (3 members did not vote). All Republican members voting supported the measure, plus 21 of the 40 Democrats in the House. (The resolution as introduced is available here.) An identical resolution was introduced in the West Virginia Senate in mid-February. Senate Resolution 42 is pending before the Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining, which to date has taken no action on the measure.

It is amazing that the West Virginia legislature continues to think it is a valid legislative action to condemn the many citizens who, for a wide variety of reasons based on a wide variety of reliable data, continue to oppose Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

WV Legislature Considers Bill to Condemn ACP Opponents

In mid-January we reported on the Charleston Gazette-Mail article about energy lobbyist, Bob Orndorff, state policy director for Dominion Energy, who, when speaking to Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development on behalf of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been halted because “rogue environmental groups” are getting in the way. “It’s on hold because the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a rogue environmental group to contest various permits that we have on the project.” The Gazette-Mail said, “Orndorff urged lawmakers to ‘stand up to these rogue environmental groups’ and pass a resolution to condemn them.”

In an editorial on January 11, the Gazette-Mail asks, “Who are the real rogues?” The editorial says, “In reality, Dominion Energy has halted construction after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found environmental regulatory groups were bypassing rules meant to protect people, wildlife and the environment in the path of such large-scale projects. No doubt Dominion will continue to pursue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once these legal hurdles are cleared, but for representatives of the industry to blame ‘rogue’ environmentalists is dishonest and simply wrong.”

Now a resolution condemning the “assaults on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” from citizen groups has been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. House Resolution 11, introduced February 6 and just recently made public, is co-sponsored by 49-members of the 100-member House, including the Speaker.

That January 11 Gazette-Mail editorial concluded, “The suggestion to the Legislature offered up by lobbyist Bob Orndorff that the body pass a resolution condemning the environmental groups pursuing litigation is insulting. These groups trying to protect their rights are made up of actual West Virginians who want to preserve what they have and avoid being steamrolled by big industry. Their government should be watching out for them, but it’s not, so the only way to stand up for themselves is through the courts. Remember it’s the people who are the David in this scenario, not the Goliath.”

It was amazing in January that the legislature would think condemning opposition to Dominion was a valid legislative action, and it is just as amazing a month later.

Crossing the Appalachian Trail

Many have worried that Dominion Energy would make a concerted effort to convince Congress to grant permission for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found the Forest Service did not possess the right to allow the crossing. At this time (February 11, 2019), there is no Dominion amendment attached to any piece of pending legislation in the Congress. However, it now appears it would be useful and important to express concerns to relevant members of Congress.

If you are worried about this unwarranted attempt by Dominion, we urge you to contact your Representative within the next several days. Ask the Representative to contact Congressional leadership to make clear their ACP concerns and opposition, including opposition to the idea of Congress stepping in to help the ACP sidestep fundamental permitting problems that are currently being sorted out in the normal regulatory process and in the courts, and opposition to and concerns about ACP in general. Many of these members have voiced concerns about or outright opposition to ACP in the past; others are new to Congress.

This congressional “fix” is a problem because it would:

  • Imply a congressional endorsement for the ACP, stacking the deck for building the ACP as proposed, on its current route.
  • Set the wrong example for special congressional exceptions to the federal law that otherwise disallows pipelines across national parks.
  • Limit the otherwise-required further analysis of alternatives to the ACP.
  • Leave decisions about key ACP permits entirely in the hands of federal agencies, which already have short-changed public and environmental review of ACP permits.

As a resource for your communication, see this set of talking points, with supporting citations, with detailed information about the fundamental lack of need for the ACP, and about the Fourth Circuit’s Forest Service decision and the Appalachian Trail.