Category Archives: Virginia government

The Fight Continues

Pipeline opposition and challenges continue, despite FERC’s October 13, 2017, rubber stamp approval of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, issued with a highly unusual dissenting opinion by Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur. The FERC permit is not the final word on the projects. VA, NC and WV must still issue environmental permits. The NC Department of Environmental Quality recently declined to issue water quality, soil erosion control permits for the project, requesting additional information from the pipeline. The WV Department of Environmental Protection recently vacated and remanded their water quality certification, saying they want to reevaluate the complete application. The VA Department of Environmental Quality has yet to make a decision, and will hold public hearings in December. Citizens still have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to express their concerns to DEQ (and may sign a petition to protect Virginia waters here).

The Wild Virginia Web page has concrete suggestions on how you can continue the fight against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

“It’s only being built because Dominion and Duke Energy will make $2 billion off of it even if it never comes into service,” said Friends of Nelson President Ernie Reed when interviewed at the Nelson Farmer’s Market the morning after the FERC announcement. “We only need one Federal Agency or one State Agency to do the right thing or one judge to force them to do the right thing to stop this runaway train.”

Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated “rubber stamp” and said his organization intends to challenge the decision. “The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers’ bills – and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come,” he says.

Bold Alliance and more than 50 landowners, have a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for private gain and intend to continue the fight for property rights in the court system.

Carolyn Reilly, impacted landowner and Pipeline Fighter with Bold Alliance, said, “Thousands of landowners and citizens have stood strong in the battle to defend land, protect water and preserve communities. FERC has, yet again, pulled out its rubber stamp and permitted two more risky, fracked gas pipelines that put our homes, our land, our water, and our communities at risk. But, our fight is far from over. The ACP and MVP are not a done deal; between the Bold lawsuit against FERC and water permits needed from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, we, the people, press on and persevere to defend and protect what is sacred.”

In an interview with WVTF, Reilly said, “I think it’s been an amazing thing to see people coming together despite many differences and political affiliations. This is not a partisan issue, this fight. There’s environmentalists and there’s conservative property rights activists that are united in this fight to protect our homes, our lands, the whole Appalachia, and especially water.”

Yes, we are all still here, and the fight goes on!

Outsized Influence of Dominion Energy

Dominion rules: How the Richmond-based utility company became one of the most influential political forces in Virginia, a special report published on October 13, 2017, by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Last month, in a decision that could allow the Richmond-based monopoly to reap an estimated $1 billion windfall, the Virginia Supreme Court confirmed that the General Assembly can constitutionally freeze electric rates. The series explores the utility’s transformation and political power – and what that means for the company’s 2.5 million customers.

  • Part 1: After epic corporate feud, energy giant Dominion emerges to dominate regulators, legislators, including attempted coup, Dominion takes control
  • Part 2: Virginia’s regulatory landscape turns upside down, as SCC loses sway at General Assembly, including ‘They attacked the messenger,’ ‘They’re not the problem – it’s the General Assembly’
  • Part 3: Is Dominion’s grip on political power at a crossroads? including ‘A policy area with massive implications,’ A changing landscape for a power player
  • The People: A man of influence, Dominion Energy chairman and CEO’s reach is long in state, regional affairs
  • Dominion executives political donations
  • Dominion: Who’s who?

The link to the series includes links to the different parts of the report as well as to a podcast of reporters Michael Martz and Robert Zullo discussing their series of stories about Dominion Energy, tracing the company’s rise from its creation by Virginia Power in the early ’80s to its growth into one of the most powerful forces in Virginia politics.

ACP Expansion Into South Carolina

Dan Weekley, Dominion Energy’s vice president and general manager of Southern pipeline operations, told attendees at a recent energy conference ‘everybody knows’ the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — currently slated to pass through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina — is not going to stop there, despite what the current plans say, and that it will be extended into South Carolina. (See our story below)

On September 30, 2017, Blue Virginia discussed the revelation (Dominion’s Lie About Atlantic Coast Pipeline Caught on Tape: How will Terry McAuliffe and DEQ Respond?) and discussed the math: “Dominion’s vice president in charge of Southern pipeline development has just admitted that two thirds of the natural gas that allegedly was “needed” in Virginia may actually go to South Carolina. How much of the rest will go to North Carolina? How much will be exported? The answers to these questions are not clear because the data comes from Dominion and Dominion has lied. And now they’ve been caught.”

Additional questions: “Will McAuliffe’s DEQ require Dominion to explain why its official filings have now been contradicted by Dominion’s own chief of Southern pipeline operations? Will other Virginia political leaders – and candidates – who have thus far stayed silent, allow Dominion’s latest lie to go unanswered? Will Attorney General Mark Herring open an investigation into what Dominion said in its public filings with a state agency and whether they were truthful?”

On October 4, 2017, WUNC aired a 12-minute audio segment in which host Frank Stasio speaks with Triangle Business Journal reporter Lauren Ohnesorge, and Ryan Emanuel, professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, an enrolled member of Lumbee Tribe, and a member of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs Environmental Justice Committee Member about the economic and cultural impact of the potential expansion beyond North Carolina.

Also on October 4, the Roanoke Times published a story on ways in which the expansion to South Carolina might change things in Virginia.  Greg Buppert, lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says the talk of expansion “underscores this issue that we’ve been focusing on: that there’s not demand for new gas-fired power plants in Virginia or North Carolina that will justify the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  That sounds like companies looking for a market for their products because the market they’ve been banking on isn’t materializing.”

Pipeline Crunch Time: Call Gov. McAuliffe

It’s crunch time. Call VA Governor Terry McAuliffe and urge him to reject the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines for our air, water, and climate future.

After weeks pressure from farmers and environmentalists, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared that Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline could not enter his state without lots more study. Specifically, Cooper ordered “site-specific” reviews for each spot where the 600-mile pipeline crosses a fragile creek, river or wetland in North Carolina. This is the exact same review that farmers and landowners have been asking for in Virginia — but Terry McAuliffe refuses. And now West Virginia – where both pipelines would begin in the fracking fields there – has hit the pause button too on approval.

North Carolina and West Virginia agencies are working to protect its citizens from these massive pipelines. Virginians deserve the same protection. Please phone Governor McAuliffe today and tell him to STOP the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.

Call 804-786-2211.

A suggested script from Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) (which you can paraphrase in your own words: “Hello, my name is ____ and I live in _____[city/town]. I am calling to request that Governor McAuliffe exercise his authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to reject the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. Due to significant health and environmental threats related to these pipelines, West Virginia and North Carolina officials announced significant delays in their permit process. There is no reason why Virginia should be behind North Carolina and West Virginia when it comes to protecting our climate, waterways, and communities. I ask that Governor McAuliffe exercise his full authority and direct the Department of Environmental Quality to conduct site-specific permitting for each waterway crossed by the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, and ultimately deny these permits. Thank you.”

CCAN wants to track the number of calls made to Gov. McAuliffe, and any responses you receive. Go to their Web page to record your call.

DPMC to Governor McAuliffe: Are Virginians Equal to Our Fellow Citizens?

An announcement from Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) about their September 21, 2017, letter to Governor McAuliffe asking him to treat Virginians fairly and put our interests on the same plane with those of the people of New York, North Carolina, and West Virginia:

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has sent a letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe restating questions we asked him in a previous letter dated July 25, 2017. The lack of a response from the Governor forces citizens to guess at his attitudes, based on the actions of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on the two huge natural gas pipelines proposed to cross the state. Unfortunately, DEQ’s continued mishandling of regulatory reviews for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) proposals provides a disheartening hint to the Governor’s position. The questions DPMC continues to ask:

Do Virginian’s deserve less protection than our fellow citizens? Will you accept DEQ’s proposals to forego its responsibilities where others have fully exercised their authorities to protect their citizens and environments?

These questions become more relevant by the day. Since that July 25 letter was sent, a federal appeals court has upheld New York’s action to strictly regulate a natural gas pipeline and deny certification under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Our neighboring states have judged the information and analyses supposed to justify CWA section 401 water quality certification (WQC) of each major pipeline to be inadequate. These judicial and state actions further illustrate that Virginia has all necessary authority to reject pipeline projects unless it is proven that water protection standards will be met and that the evidence now before the State fails to meet that requirement for either ACP or MVP.

In DPMC’s letter, David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory Systems Investigator, noted that the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New York State’s denial of a WQC for the Constitution Pipeline, rejecting pipeline company claims that New York had exceeded its authority. In stark contrast to New York’s defense of its citizens and environment, now justified in court, “[r]ecords show that [Virginia] environmental officials have so far refused to even seriously consider recommending denial of WQCs in these cases, apparently willing to cede the powers reserved to states in the CWA,” as noted in the letter.

Other recent decisions, by West Virginia and North Carolina officials, have revealed serious gaps in the information and analyses presented, respectively, for MVP and ACP. Faced with a lawsuit by citizens over its issuance of a WQC for MVP, the West Virginia DEP was compelled to admit it did not have sufficient evidence to uphold its decision and remanded that decision for further analysis. The North Carolina DEQ recently determined it needed a significant amount of new information to properly assess waterbody impacts from ACP.

The flaws in Virginia’s evidence to support draft WQCs for the two damaging pipelines are even more serious than those identified by North Carolina and Virginia must follow the wise path North Carolina has chosen – not continue to continue in flawed processes, such as that West Virginia was forced to abandon for MVP. Rick Webb, DPMC Coordinator, stated: “Governor McAuliffe must recognize that Virginia’s reviews of these pipelines are fatally flawed. We can only hope he’ll insist DEQ abandon its rush to judgement and restore integrity to these processes; that he not burden Virginia taxpayers with the expense of defending the indefensible in court.”

DPMC Letter to Governor McAuliffe, 9/21/17
DPMC Letter to DEQ Director, David Paylor, 8/28/17
DCR Letter to FERC, 8/21/17

Shifting Legal Terrain

A lengthy article in Blue Virginia, picked up by the Huffington Post for national distribution, discusses the way the legal terrain has shifted following the September 7, 2017, decision by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to revoke its previous approval of the proposed 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the decision on September 15, 2017 by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) to delay its decision on the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Both the WVDEP and NCDEQ have requested additional information and say they need additional time to consider the requested approvals of Water Quality Certifications required by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. The article is an excellent review of the issues as they stand at this moment. Words like “stunning” and “bombshell” are used to describe the effect of the WV and NC decisions.

The article notes that “if Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Department of Environmental Quality continues its present course, he and his department likely will suffer the same embarrassment as West Virginia. Here’s why: Virginia DEQ’s Draft Water Quality Certifications for both the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline suffer from precisely the same defects as the certification that West Virginia has now conceded could not hold up in court – only worse.”

The full article appears in Blue Virginia, the Huffington Post, And on the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition Web page.   DPMC states, “Although Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states the authority to block federally approved projects that threaten water resources, implementation of Section 401 for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines has been marked by state agency denial, evasion, reversal, and outright misrepresentation.” They reprint the article on their Web page with permission of the author, saying the widely cited article “brings clarity to a confusing but critical topic.”