Category Archives: Legislation

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.

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.