On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ranked number 20 in the 50 top projects.
Michael Hirrel has filed a new response to FERC on anti-trust questions.
In May 2016 lawyer Michael Hirrel, who retired last year from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “whether ACP’s project constitutes a prohibited monopolization by Dominion, Duke and Piedmont, under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, and an unfair method of competition, under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.” Hirrel’s original filing is here.
On June 23, 2016, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted a letter (with numerous attachments) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) detailing the harm to consumers and competition stemming from the role of Dominion Resources, LLC and Duke Energy as partners in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The letter says its purpose “is to support a complaint filed by attorney Michael Hirrel on May 12, 2016. Mr. Hirrel stated his concern that the activities of the utility investors in the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline violate Section 2 of the Sherman Act and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. We believe Mr. Hirrel has identified potential antitrust violations that merit investigation by the FTC.”
Dominion filed an answer to Hirrel in August 2016.
New info: November 7, 2016, Hirrel filed a response to the response that ACP had made to his original filing. In it, he characterizes ACP’s filing as firing “a series of aimless scattershot arguments…The result (of which) is a lot of noise and no useful information.”
With a press release issued on September 22, 2016, Friends of Nelson has joined more than 180 organizations representing communities across America calling on leaders in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold congressional hearings into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) extensive history of bias and abuse. The groups are also requesting reform of the Natural Gas Act, which the groups say, gives too much power to FERC and too little to state and local officials.
A letter to Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairwoman Lisa Murkoski (R-AK), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), signed by 182 community organizations representing communities in 35 states argues that FERC’s review and approval process for jurisdictional pipeline projects is infected by bias; and that it is resulting in uncontrolled and irresponsible proliferation of unneeded natural gas pipelines. Finally, the letter charges the agency with misusing provisions in the law to strip people and states of their legal rights, to prevent fair public participation in the pipeline review process, and to improperly use the power of eminent domain to take private property and public lands in a way that inflicts unforgivable harm to rights, jobs, and communities.
The letter details how FERC has implemented the Natural Gas Act in ways that deliberately undermine public input. FERC has prevented communities from challenging projects before the exercise of eminent domain and pipeline construction, made decisions to benefit its Commissioners, and used conflicted consultants to handle much of the review process.
Other regional groups endorsing the letter include the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Buckingham, Wild Virginia, Free Nelson, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Augusta County Alliance, Appalachian Voices, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, the Pipeline Education Group of Nelson County, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and Southern Shenandoah Chapter of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
Read the full press release here.
Read the letter to Senate and House leaders here. Includes full list of supporting organizations.
This week, the White House released new guidance that directs federal agencies to consider climate change when conducting environmental reviews. Federal agencies that conduct National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Bureau of Land Management, should now include quantitative assessments of climate impacts when considering the environmental impacts of proposed projects. The new guidance states that federal agencies should assess direct and indirect climate impacts–how many carbon dioxide emissions a new project, permit, or other agency action would cause–as well as the effects of climate change.
For citizens and environmentalists who have been urging FERC to include climate impact assessments in its environmental reviews of natural gas pipeline projects and other infrastructure, the new White House guidance is welcome news. The new guidance specifically backs some of the modeling tools that the Sierra Club has been telling FERC to use when conducting environmental impact statements for natural gas pipelines and export terminals. The new guidance should likely have an immediate impact on the way in which FERC conducts environmental impact statements, and it may also have positive long-term effects on the rulings of the courts in cases, such as the recent case regarding the Cove Point export terminal, that challenge FERC’s approval of natural gas infrastructure projects without weighing direct and indirect climate impacts.
For more information about the new White House guidance on government agencies and climate change, you can read articles at The Washington Post, ThinkProgress, and InsideClimate News on the topic, as well as the White House press release about the guidance.
An article recently published in The Intercept, “A fracking pipeline puts Tim Kaine’s fossil fuel industry ties to the test,” talks about Tim Kaine’s position regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and his conflicted history of support for or against the fossil fuel industry and various pipeline projects. The article states that “Kaine’s record on energy is mixed. He’s been supportive of offshore drilling in the Atlantic and introduced legislation to speed up liquid natural gas exports…. [but] he helped pressure the federal government to lower Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions goals under the Clean Power Plan.” Kaine has also accepted political contributions from Dominion: “more than $300,000 in total since 2001.”
Kaine has made some moves toward supporting Virginia landowners in the path of the ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline but has shown no real commitments toward opposition of the pipelines in his state: “He’s held private meetings with landowners in the pipeline’s pathway; he’s asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to strengthen the consultation process for residents; and he introduced an amendment to a federal energy bill that would encourage regulators to carry out a review of the cumulative impact of the region’s four planned pipelines. But he hasn’t ruled the pipeline out, making environmentalists worry that he ultimately shares the quietly fossil fuel-friendly politics of the Democratic Party.”
Given that Kaine opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, some opponents of the ACP are hopeful that he will ultimately oppose the ACP and other proposed fracked gas pipelines in Virginia: “Nancy Sorrells, who sits on the steering committee of the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, which is organizing against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said she believes that Kaine will come around to rejecting it. ‘He has a strong moral sense,’ she said. ‘I think he can look at it, and it will be the logical thing.'”
Read the full article here.