Category Archives: Press Releases

Court Allows West Virginia DEP to Start Over on MVP Review

A joint press release on October 17, 2017, from Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Appalachian Voices, and Appalachian Mountain Advocates:

Court Allows West Virginia DEP to Start Over on Necessary Review of Disputed Pipeline: DEP Must Conduct Comprehensive Review of Fracked Gas Pipeline After Previous Assessment was Incomplete

CHARLESTON, WV — The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today granted an unusual request from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – to throw out DEP’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and let them start anew. Under section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states must certify that proposed pipelines will not violate state water quality standards before construction can begin. DEP has the responsibility to determine whether or not to issue that certification for West Virginia. Although the MVP received FERC approval last week, pipeline construction cannot proceed until DEP issues a new decision.

DEP previously certified the MVP, but filed a motion to invalidate it after environmental groups challenged it in court. Attorneys with the public interest law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed that challenge on behalf of a coalition that included the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

In response, Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines issued this statement:

“We are pleased to see the court is giving West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection the chance to fulfill its responsibility and conduct a comprehensive and adequate review of the threats posed to our water quality by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. West Virginians, like all Americans, deserve access to clean, healthy water and DEP would fail at its most basic duty if it doesn’t protect us from fracked gas pipelines. This dirty, dangerous pipeline needlessly endangers West Virginia’s waterways, wilderness, and communities, and it should be rejected.”

Anne Havemann, General Counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said:

“With [today’s] action, the court has given the DEP a second shot at truly protecting hundreds of West Virginia streams and rivers from the impacts of the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline. We expect that DEP will take its responsibility seriously and do everything within its extensive power under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to ensure West Virginians have safe, clean water. Anything less would be an abdication of its duty.”

Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition said:

“It’s assuring that DEP is taking its obligations under the Clean Water Act seriously, especially on a project that is likely the largest the agency has ever reviewed under Section 401. The agency could have simply thrown up its hands and waived its authority, but it didn’t. It is up to this task. When FERC issued its certification of MVP last Friday, it expressly said that DEP still has the opportunity through this process to protect water quality. After investing considerable taxpayer resources in this process, if DEP were to waive its authority now and forego that opportunity, it would be an inexcusable breach of the public trust. Citizens of this state must rely on thorough efforts of DEP to make sure the over 600 streams impacted by this pipeline are not adversely affected.”

Judy Azulay, President of Indian Creek Watershed Association, said:

“MVP has charted a brutally challenging and destructive route across 200 miles of West Virginia mountains, forests and farmlands. It is clear in its order that FERC is relying on DEP to fill the holes that the FERC certificate does not address. We look to DEP to now make a close and careful analysis of the effects of pipeline construction on every stream crossed, as well as the critically important impacts of upland disturbances and “ridgetop removal”. If DEP abdicates its responsibility and rubber stamps MVP’s faulty application, how can our landowners and communities trust them to enforce any permit conditions to protect our water and the health of our citizens?”

Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager for Appalachian Voices said:

“The federal government has recently indicated it will not protect communities from the harsh environmental and public health impacts of a gas pipeline-building bonanza. Fortunately, states still have the power and the obligation under the Clean Water Act to ensure that projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline will not violate water quality standards. We are confident that the West Virginia DEP will take its duty seriously and use this opportunity to thoroughly evaluate all of the impacts this project will have on its citizens.”

Oil Change International Responds to FERC Approvals

Lorne Stockman, Senior Analyst with Oil Change International, released the following statement:

“In spite of FERC’s irresponsible action, these fracked gas pipelines still face massive opposition in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. FERC cannot sneak these mega-projects past the hundreds of communities in their path in the dead of night.

“Oil Change International and the many groups fighting these pipelines have documented the extensive damage these projects will do. Both projects are bad deals for ratepayers, and huge threats to our mountains, rivers, farms, and local economies. They threaten our climate and disproportionately impact our low-income and minority communities. FERC has ignored all the evidence and certified these destructive projects as ‘convenient and necessary’ – when in fact they are neither.

“There is no public convenience or necessity associated with either of these pipelines, and the only people they serve is shareholders. No assessment of actual need has been conducted for either of them, as noted by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur in her rarely-seen dissent opposing today’s approvals. Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley will cause irreparable harm to our climate, and to the communities and environment along their routes.

“Despite the certificates granted today, these fights are far from over. The responsibility to protect the climate, ratepayer interests, and the precious water in these states now rests squarely on the shoulders of Governors Terry McAuliffe, Roy Cooper, and Jim Justice. We will join our partners and communities in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia to increase pressure for the rejection of 401 water permits in these states and stop these reckless pipelines.”

ABRA Statement to Media on FERC Approval of ACP

The following statement from ABRA on FERC approval of the ACP was released to the media on Friday evening, October 13, 2017:

​”The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of 52 organizations in Virginia and West Virginia, is appalled at the action tonight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in approving the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Commission’s judgment has been made in advance of necessary and required decisions by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the state environmental authorities in the affected states of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina on critical environmental issues. We concur with the thoughtful dissent of Commissioner LeFleur’s, who has served on the Commission for 7 years, raising serious questions about the basis of need for both the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipeline and expressing concerns about environmental impacts that both projects present. The majority decision does not reflect an understanding of the issues at hand and is clearly not in the public interest. It calls into serious question the agency’s regulatory credibility.”

Press Release: Dominion Asks FERC to Approve ACP Ahead of Schedule


Friends of Nelson Press Release: Dominion Asks Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Approve Atlantic Coast Pipeline Ahead of Schedule

Contact: Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson, 434-249-8330, lec@wildvirginia.org

Yesterday [September 7, 2017], in a move to speed up the regulatory process, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline ahead of schedule.

The letter requested that FERC “issue an order granting the certificate for the project at the earliest possible time, consistent with the rules and regulations of the commission.” This action was taken unilaterally and on behalf of those companies who would make almost a billion dollars of profit on the project, even if the pipeline never comes into service.

“For 3 years Dominion has been bullying its way through this process, throwing its enormous weight at landowners, politicians and ratepayers,” said Ernie Reed of Friends of Nelson. “Nothing is more dangerous than a desperate bully. This action also clearly demonstrates Dominion’s vulnerability and how much it fears getting its comeuppance.”

On the same day that Dominion’s letter was submitted to FERC, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service submitted comments to FERC on an Endangered Species Act consultation, noting that their biological opinion has yet to be issued.

The letter also noted that “as a reminder, Section 7(d) of the ESA requires that after initiation of formal consultation, the Federal action agency and applicant shall make no irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources that limits future options. This practice ensures agency actions do not preclude the formulation or implementation of reasonable and prudent alternatives that avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of endangered or threatened species or destroying or modifying their critical habitat. “

“Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: Dominion will not have the last word on this,” Reed concluded.


Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) also issued a press release taking strong exception to ACP’s efforts to pressure FERC.  Read their press release here.

Landowners Sue FERC to Stop Eminent Domain by ACP and MVP


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Carolyn Reilly, Bold Alliance, 540-488-4358, carolyn@boldalliance.org
Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson, 434-249-8330, lec@wildvirginia.org
Carolyn Elefant (landowners’ attorney), 202-297-6100, carolyn@carolynelefant.com

Landowners Sue Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Stop Eminent Domain by Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines

Press conference Wednesday morning outside FERC offices to feature landowner-plaintiffs and their attorney, and regional organizers

Washington, D.C. — Landowners whose farms and homes are in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines will hold a press conference on Wednesday outside the D.C. offices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to announce their filing of a lawsuit against FERC to end the abuse of eminent domain for private gain for fracked gas pipelines.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Washington D.C. federal district court, on behalf of 57 Landowners, Bold Alliance and Friends of Nelson, challenges the constitutionality of the eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act, and seeks to end the unconstitutional and unconscionable process of taking citizens’ private property via eminent domain for a corporation’s profits — and not for “the public good” as the Constitution intended.

The lawsuit targets FERC’s encouragement of pipeline companies to negotiate easement agreements with landowners in advance of the agency’s issuance of a “certificate of need,” which results in “irretrievable commitment of resources” to a particular route prior to a formal decision, and absolves the Commission of its responsibility to actually determine whether a proposed project is needed.

“FERC’s policy of encouraging pre-certificate easement negotiations between impacted landowners and the pipeline impermissibly biases the outcome of the certificate approval process, because FERC views pipeline proposals more favorably when the company has acquired most of the easements by negotiation,” the lawsuit states. “In so doing, FERC emboldens private companies to abuse eminent domain rights by duping landowners into signing an easement agreement by threatening them with eminent domain powers that the company does not have, or by refusing to agree to any protective measures in advance of construction until the landowner agrees to sign an easement, often for constitutionally inadequate compensation.”

The lawsuit also specifically challenges FERC’s issuance of “conditioned certificates” — which authorize a taking of property rights that are not, and may never be, necessary to construct the proposed project; and “blanket certificates” — which inappropriately grant a private company eminent domain power coextensive with that of the state, and strip future aggrieved landowners of their rights to formal administrative procedures.

Under the current regulatory regime, landowners are left without a forum to challenge eminent domain abuses. Meanwhile, virtually anything goes — with certificates conferring eminent domain issued by FERC to pipelines that do not serve a public use, but instead, facilitate gas for export or create opportunities for pipelines to monopolize the market for input to gas and electricity utilities, to be distributed in markets controlled by the pipeline’s affiliates.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Bold Alliance, Friends of Nelson, 26 individual landowners on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline route and 31 landowners on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Plaintiffs include 14 Nelson County landowners and others in Augusta and Bath Counties. Defendants include FERC, and, respectively, Atlantic Coast Pipeline backers Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources; and Mountain Valley Pipeline backers EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.

View the full text of landowners’ lawsuit online at: https://www.scribd.com/document/358098979/Landowners-vs-FERC

WHAT: Press Conference With Landowners Suing FERC Over Eminent Domain
WHO: Landowners’ attorney Carolyn Elefant; Bold Alliance’s Carolyn Reilly (also a landowner on the proposed MVP route); Ernie Reed (Friends of Nelson) and landowners on the proposed ACP and MVP routes.
WHEN: Wednesday, September 6, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), 888 1st St NE, Washington D.C.

Reactions to ACP EIS


Reactions to FERC’s release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ACP were swift:

Oil Change International issued a press release titled FERC’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Review Shrugs at Climate Disaster, which begins by saying, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile project driven by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy that would carry fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. In the review, FERC continues its systemic failure to seriously assess whether the pipeline is needed, while appearing to shrug off the damage it would inflict on people’s land, water, health, and the climate. Oil Change International Research Analyst Kelly Trout had the following response: ‘With this sham review, FERC is teeing up Dominion and Duke to reap big profits on the backs of communities, their own customers, and the climate. FERC’s climate assessment is laughable. The agency grossly undercounts climate pollution by omitting fracking emissions, downplaying methane leakage, and wrongly assuming gas will replace coal when it increasingly displaces clean energy. It’s common sense that we can’t solve the climate crisis by digging a bigger hole of pollution. But that’s exactly what FERC is systematically helping the gas industry do.'”

7-21-17 News Leader. Dominion sees ‘clear path to approval’ for pipeline after FERC releases report. “In its environmental assessment, FERC concluded that the pipeline’s construction and operation ‘would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment’ and ‘would result in some adverse effects.’ However, the commission also wrote that if the pipeline developers follow through with ‘impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures’ and heed FERC recommendations to ‘further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts, most project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.’ Dominion Energy sees this conclusion as favorable — it ‘provides a a clear path for final approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this fall,’ said Leslie Hartz, Dominion’s vice president of engineering and construction, in a press release…. Lew Freeman, executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, an organization that’s vocally opposed the pipeline, said FERC’s environmental review ‘reveals significant gaps in information and woefully inadequate analysis’ in a press release.”

7-21-17 Washington Post. Environmental report on pipeline favorable for developers. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday for the proposed 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is staunchly opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners. The assessment is a major milestone in the approval process for the project that will cross hundreds of bodies of water, mountainous terrain, national forest, and the Appalachian Trail. Its findings were largely favorable for developers. The impact statement did find that construction in steep terrain could increase the potential for landslides and that the project was likely to adversely affect seven species protected under the Endangered Species Act. It found that the greatest impact on vegetation would be on forested areas, with more than 3,400 acres having long-term or permanent effects.”

Additional media reports on the release of the EIS: