8-19-18 Washington Post. The Baptists and the Yogis Fight the Pipeline. Discusses the shared concerns and joint actions of these two seemingly disparate groups. Pastor Paul Wilson and his two Union Hill congregations, along with Swami Dayananda and Yogaville residents, are leading the opposition to the Atlantic Coast pipeline and its massive compressor station in Buckingham. In a recent sermon, Wilson talked about the arrest of apostles Peter and John for healing a man. “Brought before the most intimidating authorities of the land, they were asked, how dare they defy the law? ‘There’s a turning point,’ Wilson said. Peter, filled with spirit, replied that he was acting with God’s authority. ‘Listen!’ Wilson said. ‘It does not matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from.’ If you speak with moral righteousness, he said, you can face anyone.”
8-19-18 Roanoke Times. As state board takes up pipeline permits, thousands of comments await. “The Mountain Valley Watch has seen enough. After three months of monitoring construction of the largest natural gas pipeline ever to plow through Southwest Virginia, the citizen watchdog group has reached a conclusion about the Mountain Valley Pipeline: ‘This project cannot be constructed through steep, mountainous, rocky terrain without causing severe water quality damages to downstream properties and communities,’ the monitoring group stated in a report sent to the State Water Control Board. When the board meets Tuesday in Richmond, the report urges it should rethink its earlier finding that construction of the pipeline will not pollute the more than 500 streams and wetlands it will cross. Filled with technical analysis, photographs and case studies, the Mountain Valley Watch report runs for 34 pages — yet represents just a tiny piece in a pile of reading material. More than 13,000 written comments have been submitted to the water board since it invited public comment on the sufficiency of federal permits granted to Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a similar project that will run through Central Virginia.”
8-18-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline cuts workforce, delays project completion to late 2019. “As construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline decelerates, the company says a temporary stop-work order has forced it to release half of its workforce and push back an expected completion date to late next year. The actions were taken ‘to address an idled workforce and protect the integrity of the project,’ read a statement posted to the company’s website. About 2,100 people were working on an approximately 100-mile stretch of the natural gas pipeline in Southwest Virginia earlier this summer. It was not clear how many remained Friday. …. ‘MVP remains committed to the earliest possible in-service date; however, under current circumstances a full in-service is now expected during the fourth quarter 2019,’ the company’s statement read.”
8-17-18 Daily Progress. Environmentalists want court to invalidate FERC permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Environmental organizations have widened their legal assault on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the federal permit that authorized construction of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline through three states. The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed suit in the 4th Circuit on Thursday, less than a week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied their longstanding request for a rehearing of its decision to grant the project a certificate of public convenience and necessity. Lawyers representing 14 environmental organizations urged the court to review FERC’s decision to issue the certificate on Oct. 13, 2017, and deny the rehearing on Aug. 10, the same day the commission ordered work to stop on the project because the 4th Circuit had vacated two federal permits necessary for its construction.”
8-17-18 Blue Virginia. Press release from Global Justice Ecology Project: Gov. Northam Dismisses Letter from His Environmental Justice Advisory Council Calling to Stay Pipeline Permits. “In response to a letter from his own advisory committee calling for a halt to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline due in part to its disproportional impact on poor and minority communities, the assistant for Governor Northam’s press secretary, Marissa Astor, told Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) that it is the Governor’s position that the letter is only a draft, and not final until voted upon by the committee ‘in the coming weeks.’ The letter, obtained by GJEP, was the subject of comment by various members of the Governor’s committee in a GJEP press release on 8/16. The committee is clear that the letter is a finished piece of work deserving of action by the governor.”
8-17-18 WOAY [WV]. Nearly 3,000 Employees Working On Mountain Valley Pipeline Laid Off. “Employees with the Mountain Valey Pipeline tells WOAY that nearly 3,000 workers have been laid off and they were notified at around 1:30 pm on Friday. The layoffs are in response to a Federal Court of Appeals ruling over permits for a 3 1/2 mile right of way in the Jefferson National Forest. A lot of the employees affected are in our area. Workers were told they would probably be brought back in the Spring.”
8-16-18 Blue Virginia. Gov. Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice Calls for Stay on All Further Permits for Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. “Governor Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (ACEJ) raised significant concerns and has called for a stay on all further permits for on the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The VA Governor’s Advisory Council also recommends an Emergency Task Force on Environmental Justice in Gas Infrastructure to review and address the evidence it has found of ‘disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations due to gas infrastructure expansion.'”
8-16-18 Natural Gas Intel. FERC Eases MVP Stoppage for 77 Miles in West Virginia; Jobs Cut. “FERC on Wednesday cleared the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) project to resume construction along the first 77 miles in West Virginia, enough to add an incremental 1 Bcf/d of service, but with much of the project still stalled, MVP on Thursday announced a massive workforce reduction.”
8-16-18 Record Delta [WV]. Workers asked to stay in area during stoppage. “The lead developer of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline said transient workers from out-of-state have been encouraged to remain in Upshur County [WV] and on standby, despite federal officials having ordered construction on the project to cease. Dominion Energy spokeswoman Samantha Norris said Tuesday both Dominion employees and the energy company’s contractors have been urged to stay in the state while Dominion works to resolve a Stop Work Order, or SWO, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Friday. ‘During this Stop Work Order … contractors have been encouraged to stay in the area and be ready to return to work at a moment’s notice,’ Norris said. ‘The local community should not see a significant impact to local businesses as long as the SWO is not unreasonably extended. We are confident these issues can be resolved quickly without causing unnecessary delay to the project.'”
8-16-18 The Recorder. Let it go, Dominion. “Need we point out the hypocrisy? Oh, let’s do. Read today’s story on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline carefully. What you find is that Dominion Energy has proposed ways to get its gas from the Marcellus shale down to South Carolina and out to Hampton Roads without crossing the ecologically sensitive Appalachian terrain, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Simply put, chopped-up pieces of the gas pipeline would do the job, admittedly at a lower volume of fossil fuel than advertised. …. More than a few energy experts must be rolling their eyes. This is a way to deliver gas they’ve pointed to for years, in asserting the ACP is unnecessary. Two of the four members of FERC agree. Dominion has worked tremendously hard to convince federal regulators and state agencies —and we regular citizens — that bringing its pipe through this part of Appalachia is the only way to serve all these customers clamoring for more gas. …. Now, Dominion argues, since its incidental take statement from the U.S. Forest Service, and the permit to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway from the National Park Service have been tossed out by the court, the company should be allowed to continue building “useful component(s)” of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If Dominion could quickly — literally, in two days — propose another way to get gas to these markets, why insist it could not be done any other way than through our precious mountains in Bath and Highland? That specious argument just died on the table. Dominion might not get all the gas it wants on its own line, but it just admitted it can get a fair amount of it to those in need without wreaking havoc here. And FERC gave its nod for the supply header project this week, so if the federal regulators also agree to let the company work on the ‘useful’ portions of the ACP, Dominion is still poised to make money, and keep shareholders happy. Ergo, there’s no reason for Dominion to keep fighting for the entire ACP, especially the sections through these mountains.”
8-16-18 Virginia Mercury. With pipeline projects halted, there’s a golden chance for the state to require more review. Northam doesn’t seem likely to take it. “Since before he took office in January, opponents of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, including a list of lawmakers and officials from his own party, have begged and cajoled Gov. Ralph Northam to get tougher on the contentious natural gas projects. Work on both pipelines is now at least temporarily stalled amid court rulings that have vacated key approvals from federal agencies, which appear to have left those permits vulnerable to legal challenge by rushing their way through the review process. And with the State Water Control Board meeting next week to consider whether it should require additional scrutiny for the spots where the pipelines will blast, trench or drill across and under Virginia waterways, it could be an opportune time, probably the last chance, for Northam to finally insist on the rigorous environmental review he promised on the campaign trail. Atlantic has yet to begin construction in Virginia, but the Mountain Valley project has already proven itself incapable of handling the sediment laden runoff from construction that opponents warned the Department of Environmental Quality and the board about during the water quality review last year. The exposure of the slipshod nature of how federal agencies handled the permitting process combined with the on-the-ground performance, or lack thereof, of measures intended to keep mud from running off the MVP work areas, have knocked big holes in the narrative that the pipeline developers have been spinning, which is that regulators have left no stone unturned in reviewing the projects. If past is prologue though, don’t expect Northam to seize the moment.”
8-16-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Dominion, environmentalists battle over scope of stop-work order for pipeline. “Dominion Energy is pushing federal regulators to allow continued work on portions of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia and North Carolina while awaiting new federal permits to resolve concerns the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals raised in a ruling that triggered a stop-work order on the $5.5 billion project. However, environmental organizations — that prevailed in the federal appeals court on Aug. 6 to overturn two permits for the project — urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the company’s request and require all work to cease on the natural gas pipeline’s 600-mile length through three states. “Rushing forward with construction now would not only violate federal law, the certificate [to build the project] and the Fourth Circuit’s … decision, but risk leaving incomplete pipeline infrastructure littered across the landscape in the event the ACP is not constructed at all or as originally proposed,” the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates argued in a letter to FERC on Wednesday [August 15].”
8-15-18 Roanoke Times. Head of Jefferson National Forest temporarily reassigned as pipeline controversy continues. “A switch is coming to the Jefferson National Forest’s top leadership, a job complicated by conflict over plans to run a natural gas pipeline up and down mountainsides and under the Appalachian Trail. Forest supervisor Joby Timm has been temporarily assigned to the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office in Atlanta, according to an agency spokeswoman. …. Although Forest Service officials declined to say whether recent events prompted the transfer, some pipeline opponents were quick to suggest they did. ‘Timm’s reassignment was inevitable once the court declared the Forest Service process a ruse,’ said Tammy Belinsky, a Floyd County lawyer who worked with the Sierra Club in a successful challenge of the agency’s approval for 3.5 miles of the buried pipeline to pass through the forest. After first expressing ‘grave concerns’ about Mountain Valley’s plans to control erosion during construction, the Forest Service later caved and accepted the company’s proposal, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found. ‘American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forest lands,’ the court’s opinion stated.”
8-14-18 Augusta Free Press. Pressure mounts on Northam to oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Today, 54 Virginia organizations and businesses sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam asking him to visit the land and communities at risk from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for fracked gas, and to oppose the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. The letter, signed by 54 Virginia organizations — including the Virginia State Conference NAACP, Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and many more — asks Northam to visit the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert at “Miracle Ridge” in Bath County. Their property, filled with hundreds of centuries-old trees, sits in the right-of-way of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ridge would need to be leveled by the equivalent of a two-story building to build the pipeline. The signers asks Northam to see for himself what’s at stake in the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines for fracked gas.”
8-14-18 Colorlibes. Racial Justice Groups Enjoy Tenuous Victory in Halting Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has hit a new obstacle—one that is giving environmental and racial justice advocates reason for cautious celebration. On Friday (August 10), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered Dominion Energy, ACP’s lead stakeholder, to stop all work on ACP until its ongoing permit problems are resolved. …. Alongside environmental activists who oppose the ACP, racial justice groups have been key opponents to the pipeline. In May, the Virginia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). ‘Consideration under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inadequate and grossly neglects to consider the magnitude of both projects and the massive disruptions to surrounding communities and the environment that will result,’ the letter reads. Prior to that, last February, the NAACP released a report, ‘Fumes Across the Fence Line,’ which concluded that building the ACP through lower-income earning Eastern North Carolina counties would be detrimental to Black communities that would bear a disproportionate burden of air contamination and pollution.”
8-14-18 WSLS10. Man spreads message that pipelines will hurt Va. economy. “A Virginia man who has a background in energy and business wants to spread a message that pipelines in the Commonwealth will hurt the area’s economy. Thomas Hadwin, who lives in Waynesboro, has worked for large gas companies in two states and has been a business consultant. …. Hadwin said many people in Roanoke will pay more for energy because of an unfavorable deal if the Mountain Valley Pipeline is built. ‘This is not a good economic deal for Virginia, so why should we sacrifice our mountains, our clean water and all those other issues, just so that we pay more,’ Hadwin said. He said the U.S. is producing plenty of gas without these two proposed pipelines and questions if there will be enough demand for the energy.”
8-12-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: State water board should suspend MVP’s permit. Hileman is an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues. “The Notice of Violation consists of eight “observations” made by DEQ, which correspond to eight project areas where the agency determined violations of one or more State laws occurred. I want to focus on only one of these violations here, Observation 8, which pertains to four intermittent streams that received sediment-laden runoff as a result of failed erosion and sediment controls. …. In Observation 8, DEQ specifically states “impacts to the four streams covered a distance of approximately 6,009 linear feet.” In information provided to the Corps as part of the permit process, MVP estimated the project would result in temporary impacts to 9,629 linear feet of intermittent streams. The impacts documented in Observation 8 represent over half (62 percent) of the total estimated temporary impacts on which the Nationwide Permit 12 is conditioned. Let’s put this into perspective. MVP will cross hundreds of streams in Virginia, and the impacts to only four streams during the early stages of construction represent 62 percent of the total estimated temporary impacts to intermittent streams in the project area. And this statistic doesn’t even account for all the impacts to streams documented in the Notice of Violation, including the Cahas Mountain Road catastrophe! That is, this back-of-the-envelope calculation is seriously low-balling the total impacts to Virginia streams to date. Furthermore, the citizen-led Mountain Valley Watch has documented dozens of additional violations, which DEQ has either overlooked or simply does not have the resources to address, as the scale of this rapidly unfolding environmental disaster has already overwhelmed the agency. …. Given MVP stands to move hundreds of billions of dollars of fracked natural gas through the pipeline, there is simply no monetary fine high enough to enforce compliance with State laws. DEQ issuing a Notice of Violation is little more than a slap on the wrist, a nuisance at best, and will not lead to improved practices as MVP single-mindedly continues its quest to build the pipeline as fast as possible. Only action that halts construction, such as the revocation of a permit, will force MVP to take its obligation to comply with State laws seriously. To each and every member of the Board, the meeting you convene on August 21 may be your last chance to get this right. Your legacy, and our lives, are on the line.”
8-10-18 Connection Newspapers. Letter to the Editor: Fracked Gas? No Thanks. “Mount Vernon residents — this affects you. Did you know that the 600-mile pipeline carrying “fracked gas” proposed to extend from West Virginia to North Carolina, and traverse our Blue Ridge mountains would be paid for by us? The $6.5 billion proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be largely financed by ratepayers of Dominion and Duke. The pipeline lobbyists have done a great job of selling this boondoggle to the public, regulators, and politicians, including Governor Northam and some of our local representatives. …. Dominion appears to be planning based on profit for executive salaries and stockholders, rather than the long-term health of our children, grandchildren, and the planet. Imagine what a $6.5 billion investment in renewables would do to create jobs, preserve our air, water, and environment, and reduce utility bills. Become informed and let your local county and state officials know that this is our business, and we do not want it. Refer to pipelineupdate.org for a well-organized, factual, science-based summary.”
8-10-18 WDBJ7. UPDATE: Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline resumes after FERC approves stabilization plan. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given partial approval to the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s stabilization plan, clearing the way for some construction activities to resume in the pipeline right-of-way. The Director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects issued a letter granting partial approval of the Temporary Stabilization Plan Friday. ‘As indicated in your plan,’ wrote Terry L. Turpin, ‘the shutdown presents challenges for stabilization and restoration, and we agree that there are some clear advantages to allowing some limited construction activities to proceed to prevent potential safety and environmental impacts.’ Saturday afternoon, crews were operating heavy equipment on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County, near the point where the pipeline crosses Route 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. …. This week, MVP submitted a stabilization plan it says will minimize erosion, protect sensitive resources and topsoil, secure fuels and equipment and address safety concerns, including those associated with open trenches, but pipeline opponents are saying not so fast. ‘MVP’s stabilization plan is really a continue-to-construct plan,’ said Tammy Belinsky, an environmental attorney who works with a number of groups fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline. She and other opponents view the stabilization plan as an attempt to get around the recent order stopping work. ‘They should not be allowed to continue to construct under the guise of a stabilization plan,’ Belinsky told WDBJ7 Friday. ‘Continuing to construct will do nothing but cause more harm to our water resources, especially if they are not allowed to use this route in the future.'”
8-10-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Regulators change the rules to ease pipeline approval. “A review by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in collaboration with ProPublica, shows that, over the past two years, federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have moved repeatedly to clear roadblocks and expedite the pipeline, even changing the rules at times to ease the project’s approvals.”
8-10-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. U.S. agency temporarily halts construction of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday ordered a temporary halt to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline all along its route. The agency cited a decision Monday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss out two key federal permits issued for the $5.5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline. Those were a National Park Service right of way permit for the pipeline to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties and a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the “incidental taking” of five threatened or endangered species in its path. FERC indicated that the stop work order is meant to give the parties time to resolve issues the three-judge panel cited in its unanimous ruling. ‘There is no reason to believe that the NPS, as the land managing agency, will not be able to comply with the court’s instructions and to ultimately issue a new right of way grant that satisfies the court’s requirements, or that FWS will not be able to issue an Incidental Take Statement that does likewise,’ Terry L. Turpin, director of the Office of Energy Projects, wrote Friday in notifying Matthew R. Bley, director of Gas Transmission Certificates for Dominion Energy Transmission Inc., of the stop work order. ‘However, commission staff cannot predict when [the National Park Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service] may act or whether NPS will ultimately approve the same route,’ he wrote. ‘Should NPS authorize an alternative crossing location, Atlantic may need to revise substantial portions of the ACP route across non-federal or federal lands, possibly requiring further authorizations and environmental review. Accordingly, allowing continued construction poses the risk of expending substantial resources and substantially disturbing the environment by constructing facilities that ultimately might have to be relocated or abandoned.’ Environmental groups hailed the decision.”
8-9-18 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Pipeline opponents and the governor are talking two different languages. “Environmentalists cannot fathom why one Democratic governor, namely Terry McAuliffe, endorsed the two natural gas pipelines cutting across Virginia and why his successor, Ralph Northam, has done nothing to stop them. It’s actually pretty simple, and has nothing to do with either governor being ‘in the pocket’ of ‘special interests,’ as some pipeline opponents claim. They simply see the world differently. …. What a governor of Virginia hears — be it Northam or someone else sitting in that chair — is that Virginia needs natural gas if it’s going to have any chance of being competitive. That’s what the business community typically says; the Roanoke Region Chamber of Commerce, for instance, was quick to endorse the pipeline. Yes, many local governments have passed resolutions against the pipeline, but governors probably discount those. They understand politics. They probably believe those local governments simply passed those resolutions to appease pipeline opponents. Maybe that’s not really the case, but we come back to the central point: Business leaders think their communities need natural gas, so that’s what governors believe, too. Perhaps someday we’ll have a governor who doesn’t listen to the business community, but historically we always have. …. Ultimately, though, if pipeline opponents want to sway Northam to their side, they’ll need to persuade the business community that pipelines are bad for business.”
8-9-18 Farmville Herald. Toxic gas compressor stations cause stress. Compressors required for moving gas in pipelines are responsible for a wide range of health impacts, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and endocrine damage and birth defects. Risks from compressor stations also manifests in mental health challenges, particularly in low-income populations without access to services. Emergency response in rural Buckingham is notoriously inadequate. During a forum last week, Dominion Energy representatives were unable to answer basic questions about evacuation plans for inhabitants located in the high impact blast zone. …. Pipeline developers determine pollution levels that could mean life or death for impacted residents with ‘cost effectiveness’ calculations weighing the cost of the pollution control divided by the amount of pollution reduction. Impacted residents are expendable. Is this how we make decisions that will impact public health and safety? In Union Hill, where residents face the highest toxic exposure surrounding the compressor station and pipeline, more than 60 percent of households include vulnerable, elderly residents or children. The anti-rural bias of government officials and regulators in Richmond demonstrates utter lack of concern for the well-being of Buckingham residents.”
8-9-18 WV Public Broadcasting. West Virginia DEP Proposes Changes to Stream Crossing Permit. “The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is reconsidering how it permits stream crossings for natural gas pipelines and other federal projects approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a notice published this week, the agency announced a set of proposed changes to West Virginia’s 401 Water Quality Certification specifically for federal water permits issued by the Army Corps, which accounts for the majority of certification requests. The 401 certification contains state-specific conditions that must be met in order to meet the state’s water quality standards before a permit or license is issued by the federal agency. …. WV DEP’s proposed changes to its water quality certification include striking a provision that requires water crossings, or construction that goes under or disturbs stream, rivers or wetlands to be completed within 72 hours. …. Other proposed changes in the 17-page order include a provision that would allow a stream crossing method that is more environmentally protective than currently allowed. The order also gives the head of DEP the power to ‘waive, change, or eliminate’ any of the conditions set out under the 401 Water Quality Certification if the project can provide proof ‘that it will employ a method or plan that will be more environmentally protective.'”
8-9-18 WSLS10. Pipeline fighters celebrate work stoppage with dinner on Bent Mountain. “Pipeline opponents are celebrating a week after construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was put on hold. They gathered on Bent Mountain for a potluck dinner and to protest. A spokeswoman for the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to say the natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to the North Carolina border will be online early next year. But as of right now construction is paused and pipeline opponents are taking the victories where they can get them. About two dozen people gathered Thursday night, protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline at its Blue Ridge Parkway crossing. And for the first time in the four-year fight, this protest feels a little different. ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment and it’s very gratifying to see it happen,’ Preserve Floyd co-chair Mara Robbins said. ‘I call it emotional whiplash, you get a victory and a defeat, a victory and a defeat, and at this point we’re getting victory after victory.'”
8-9-18 WVNews. New FERC filing claims Atlantic Coast Pipeline unnecessary, duplicative. “Environmental groups pointed to a recent filing to the South Carolina Public Service Commission as evidence in their request for rehearing on a key Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-issued certificate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In the July 16 filing to the Public Service Commission, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. claims that planned Dominion Energy infrastructure would be ‘duplicative.’ The company claims their own established and operational pipeline infrastructure is enough to meet the natural gas needs of the southeast United States ‘for many years.’ According to the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. filing, the costs for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline infrastructure would be passed off to ‘captive ratepayers.’ The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of several environmental groups, entered the filing into the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission docket in support of their request last Nov. 13 for rehearing on the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In submitting the new evidence, the Law Center reiterated its request for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rehearing on the certificate.”
8-9-18 News Leader. Staunton Tractor withdraws zoning appeal over Atlantic Coast Pipeline equipment storage. “Staunton Tractor has withdrawn its zoning violation appeal that argued it should be allowed to store Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard equipment on its parking lot. The company, which sits at 1029 Richmond Ave., withdrew the appeal July 27th, according to Rodney Rhodes, a senior planner for the planning and zoning division for the City of Staunton. The company sent a letter of understanding to the Board of Zoning Appeals stating it removed the equipment that caused the initial violation.”
8-9-18 Sierra [Magazine]. Resistance to Southeast Pipelines Gains Momentum. “Two controversial gas pipelines in the South are in trouble after federal judges and regulators questioned whether their impacts had been adequately studied. On August 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission halted construction along the entirety of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after agreeing with a federal court ruling that 3.6 miles of its route through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia hadn’t been properly considered. Then, just three days later, a three-judge panel with the the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals threw out two key permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to pass under the Blue Ridge Parkway, forcing a significant delay. Environmental groups are thrilled with the twin decisions.”
8-9-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to the Editor (Marilyn Shifflett): Stopping the ACP isn’t a pipe dream. “In response to the Aug. 2 opinion from the editorial board, I’m compelled to point out that while large environmental groups and clean energy advocates have provided much needed and appreciated legal and technical support in the efforts to stop the Atlantic Coast and the Mountain Valley pipelines, it has been largely impacted landowners and residents of impacted communities ‘fighting them tooth and nail.’ The overused media references to ‘environmentalists, protesters, greens’ etc. feels like an attempt to erase the human costs to landowners and communities in the paths of these pipelines. Residents in the Nelson County Times’ community are investing their savings and thousands of hours in this battle. …. If indeed the opinion of the editorial board is correct in the inevitable construction of both of these pipelines, it’s also correct that those of us ‘hoping against hope to stop them’ are proving to be invaluable in holding these contractors to the ‘highest standards of accountability.’ The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are welcoming citizen involvement, as both agencies have noted insufficient resources to oversee projects of this magnitude. Those of us in opposition are resolved to continue this battle in the courts and through key agencies, and we are also resolved to save what we can. It’s unfortunate that the editorial staff of our hometown newspaper recommends “what we must do going forward is hold the contractors to the highest standards” and suggests that ‘we should expect the state DEQ to significantly tighten oversight,’ yet fails to acknowledge that those ‘hoping against hope’ are doing just that.”
8-8-18 Utility Dive. Report: Trump to nominate DOE policy head McNamee to FERC. “President Trump will nominate Bernard McNamee, head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, to fill a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission set to open this Friday, Politico reports. McNamee will take the place of departing Commissioner Robert Powelson, who will step down to head the trade group for America’s private water companies, three unnamed sources told the outlet. The White House, DOE and FERC did not respond to requests for comment. McNamee helped roll out the DOE’s ill-fated coal and nuclear bailout plan that was unanimously rejected by FERC in January. That DOE bailout plan was a litmus test for potential nominees, according to Politico, but it remains unclear if McNamee’s vetting is complete or when he will be nominated. If confirmed to FERC, McNamee would likely fall more in line with the White House’s energy priorities than Powelson, who routinely criticized the administration’s efforts to save uneconomic nuclear plants from retirement.”
8-8-18 Nelson County Times. Nelson pipeline opponents after court ruling: ‘We will never quit fighting’ “Nelson opponents believe the ruling paves the way for the possibility of preventing any further “damage” to the county and elsewhere. ‘In spite of the fact that the trees have already been felled, there is a tremendous amount still to be saved, and reevaluating this route is still critical,’ Shifflett said. In its ruling Monday, the court specifically noted a cleared right of way could harm the views from the parkway, despite the fact the pipeline itself will pass under the parkway. ‘If the pipeline is laid in that path or the drill goes through there, there will never be trees planted back there again. … They cut down some trees that will take well longer than my lifetime to replace, so the damage is grave already,’ Averitt said in the interview, but added he thinks the ruling could lead to more setbacks and further limit ‘injustice’ to residents in Nelson and along the path. Averitt drew hope from the ruling for other reasons, too, saying the language ‘arbitrary and capricious’ is a ‘really powerful’ reflection of opponents’ concerns. ‘It highlights exactly what all of the citizens have been saying,’ Averitt said, ‘which is the agencies whose job it is to uphold the standards and laws that we have simply just gave a rubber stamp and signed off on what ACP wanted. … You have to ask yourself, what is the point of a regulatory body or agency if they don’t uphold their own regulations?’ This [opinion] is really addressing, in my opinion, a much bigger fundamental issue: Are our agencies, who are charged with representing the people and citizens’ rights, doing the job that they’re put in place to do of protecting our natural resources?’ The ruling further strengthened Averitt’s resolve and belief that opponents ‘can still win this.’ ‘I hear every day that, “There’s nothing we can do.” I want to remind the public that that’s absolutely not true,’ he said. ‘This is clear evidence that the people’s voice, and continued voice, matters, and we’re not gonna quit. We will never quit fighting against this thing, because it is a grave injustice.'”
8-8-18 Blue Virginia. Audio: On WRVA, Ralph Northam Asked, “Does Dominion Energy have pictures of you or are they just giving you a blank-load of money for selling out our state’s environment?” “FINALLY, somebody in the news media actually asks Gov. Ralph Northam not just one pipelines question, but a followup, also about his views on Dominion Energy. Miracle of miracles, especially since the guy asking is WRVA’s John Reid, who is most certainly not a progressive, on this morning’s ‘Ask the Governor’ show. Check out the audio, below, and also my transcript of how this one went down – as well as my brief comments, in bold.”
8-7-18 Buffalo [NY] news. Federal ruling reopens door for controversial gas pipeline through WNY. “A new federal ruling has opened the door for National Fuel to revive a plan to build a 97-mile natural gas pipeline between northwestern Pennsylvania and Elma. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled Monday that the state Department of Environmental Conservation failed to act within its one-year statutory limit before it denied a water quality certificate needed to build the proposed Northern Access Pipeline. …. The ruling roiled some local environmental advocates who thought the issue was decided more than a year ago. ‘It’s like changing the goalposts in the middle of the game,’ Diana Strablow, vice-chair of the Sierra Club, Niagara Group. …. The DEC said it intends to appeal FERC’s decision by seeking a rehearing and a stay on the project. ‘If FERC fails to reverse its misguided decision, DEC will appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit and seek a stay of any construction and continue to vigorously use every legal avenue to protect our state’s resources,’ it added.”
8-7-18 Virginia Mercury. Another federal permit struck down? No big deal, Dominion says. “Dominion Energy, the lead partner in the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, says Monday’s decision by a federal appeals court stripping its authority to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway isn’t that big a deal. The company expects that the National Park Service ‘will promptly re-issue the permit. Ample evidence to support the requisite finding that the permit is consistent with applicable statutory purposes has previously been provided to the NPS,’ Dominion wrote Tuesday in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. ‘Atlantic is confident that the NPS will quickly issue a new permit resolving the court’s concerns. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that the NPS will consider any change in the location of ACP’s crossing under the Blue Ridge Parkway.’ However, opponents of the deeply controversial natural gas pipeline have called on FERC to order a halt to all construction, as it did last week with Mountain Valley Pipeline, a separate project that lost its authority to cross U.S. Forest Service lands, likewise at the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.”
8-7-18 Washington Post. Dominion: We have to destroy the Picasso to save the Picasso. “Dominion Energy likes to think of itself as a classy supporter of the arts. The state’s largest polluter paid good money — your ratepayer money — to buy the naming rights for the Richmond Arts Center, after all. So why is Dominion now asking government regulators for permission to destroy an entire museum of priceless masterpieces? The works of art, some 300 and 400 years old, have no equal in Virginia. They are located in Bath County. Dominion contractors plan to enter the museum, topple and shatter all the art, then blow up the museum itself. The masterpieces are ancient Appalachian trees. The museum is a patch of old-growth forest so rare there is nothing like it even in the famous Shenandoah National Park. The Bath County forest sits on the property of Bill and Lynn Limpert on a ridge appropriately named “Miracle Ridge.” If you walk the ridge, you will see the Mona Lisa of sugar maples. It’s nearly three centuries old, towers 100 feet high and has a 15-foot circumference. It hushes every human heart that enters its deep pool of shade. A few feet away is a Rembrandt of hickory oaks, older than the United States of America. And then a Picasso of basswoods and a Van Gogh of red oaks. On and on these ancient trees go. Dominion wants to chainsaw them all and dynamite the ground and bulldoze the entire 3,000-foot-long ridge. It then wants to lower the ridge itself equivalent of a two-story building. All this to make room for art’s opposite, something violent, ugly and corrosive to society’s health and soul: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The proposed pipeline would run 600 miles from the fracking fields of West Virginia to North Carolina and then likely to the coast for export overseas. Price tag: $6 billion. Damage to forests, rivers, farm land, drinking water and the climate? Incalculable. …. That’s like the Vietnam War line: ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it.'”
8-7-18 Triad Business Journal. Southern Environmental Law Center to feds: Construction on Atlantic Coast Pipeline must ‘halt’ “Hours after an appeals court vacated a pair of permits, attorneys for the Southern Environmental Law Center sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a formal letter demanding that construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stop. Referring to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinions released Monday, the SELC wrote that the $6.5 billion ACP ‘is no longer in compliance with the mandatory conditions of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, and the commission must halt all construction activities.’ That federally granted certificate grants permission for construction, but only if the project receives ‘all applicable authorizations required under federal law,’ according to the letter. Without the permits – involving endangered species impact and a Blue Ridge Parkway crossing – those conditions aren’t met, the SELC argued. Aaron Ruby, spokesman for Dominion Energy (which, along with Duke Energy, is responsible for the project), dismissed the stance in an email. ‘We do not believe a stop-work order is necessary,’ he wrote. ‘We’re already working with the key agencies to resolve the 4th Circuit Court’s concerns as soon as possible. We believe the court’s concerns can be promptly addressed through additional agency review and without causing unnecessary delay to the project.'”
8-6-18 WSLS10. Mountain Valley Pipeline responds to stop work order. “Only work on the MVP project in Virginia is site stabilization. Mountain Valley Pipeline officials are responding after a stop work order was issued over the weekend. Officials with the pipeline have released a statement saying they agree that the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management will be able to satisfy the circuit court’s requirements. …. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said on Monday afternoon that they will continue to inspect the project to ensure all erosion and sediment control measures are in place, installed properly and maintained throughout the stop work order. ‘The only work currently under way on the MVP project in Virginia is site stabilization,’ said David Paylor, DEQ. ‘Virginia’s laws give DEQ the authority to ensure the infrastructure is stabilized – and remains stabilized – for as long as the stop work order is in place.'”
8-6-18 E&E News. Mountain Valley pipeline’s undoing? Less than 4 miles. “Environmentalists finally stopped the Mountain Valley pipeline. For now, at least. In project opponents’ biggest win to date, federal regulators on Friday halted work on the 303-mile Appalachia natural gas project, citing a recent court decision that scrapped two federal approvals. ‘MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas must cease immediately,’ the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told developers. The EQT Corp. pipeline has been at the center of debate and litigation for years, drawing legal challenges focused on issues as varied as climate change, eminent domain and water permits. In the end, less than 4 miles of Mountain Valley’s route has thrown development off course.”
8-6-18 Triad Business Journal. Dominion: No plans to slow ACP construction, despite federal ruling. “Despite what appears to be another judicial roadblock when it comes to the long-planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy has no plans to slow construction in North Carolina. On Monday, a 62-page 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion vacated a pair of permits for the project – an ‘Incidental Take Statement’ which allows the project to impact endangered species and another with the National Park Service over the natural gas pipeline’s proposed crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway. ‘We will work with the agencies to resolve the 4th Circuit Court’s concerns and reinstate our permits as soon as possible,’ reads a statement sent late Monday by Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby. ‘We believe the court’s concerns can be promptly addressed through additional review by the agencies without causing unnecessary delay to the project. In the meantime, we will continue making progress with construction in West Virginia and North Carolina.’ Despite that statement, D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center that’s representing environmental groups Defenders of Wildlife Sierra Club and Virginia Wilderness Committee, called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to force pipeline construction to stop. In an interview after the opinion was handed down, he said the construction authorization FERC granted is dependent on the project attaining all required permits.”
8-6-18 Roanoke Times. Judges vacate two permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A three-judge panel has unanimously vacated two permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, finding the decisions by federal officials to be ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ …. [A]n an ‘Incidental Take Statement’ granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, authorizing the pipeline to ‘”take” —i.e. kill, harm, or harass—five species that are listed as threatened or endangered’ is arbitrary and capricious because the so-called ‘take limit’ cannot be enforced. The judges also found that a second permit is ‘arbitrary and capricious’ because the U.S. National Park Service did not explain how the pipeline route’s crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘is not inconsistent with the purposes of the Parkway and the overall National Park System.'”
8-5-18 Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Va. governor supports work on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he wants to see the Mountain Valley Pipeline move forward after all work on the project was halted Friday. Northam took a tour of Bluefield College Saturday afternoon and said he thinks any roadblock in building the 300-mile natural gas pipeline, which runs through several counties in Southwest Virginia, including Giles County, will be overcome. …. ‘I am supportive of moving forward (with the MVP),” Northam said. “We need energy, but we need energy responsibly.’ Northam said he understands the problems associated with the pipeline, including landowner rights and the recent rain and flooding that have dumped ‘too much sediment into waterways. All along the pipeline they need to be conscious of the land and take people’s property rights into account,’ he said. ‘Any compliance issue … we are looking and watching the streams and the rivers closely.’ Northam said any problems with permits to cross federal land should be resolved and the state is cognizant of the work and its impact. ‘We have agencies in Virginia, like the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),” he said. “I have confidence they are monitoring what is going on. If there is an issue or problem they will (with intervention) be in compliance.’
8-5-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Mountain Valley Pipeline Apparently Violating “Stop Work” Order; Gov. Northam Can’t Wait For It to Get Going Again. “Late Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a “Stop Work” order on the entire Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Yet, as you can see in the video below, MVP construction workers appear to have been ‘busy little bees,’ as the video’s narrator puts it, on SATURDAY AFTERNOON (at 3:45 pm) working away on the MVP. So what’s the deal with this? What are the penalties, if any, for violating the ‘Stop Work’ order? Meanwhile …. [a]ccording to our fine governor, ‘I am supportive of moving forward (with the MVP)…We need energy, but we need energy responsibly…'”
8-4-18 Roanoke Times. An order stops work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but for how long? “As construction of a mammoth natural gas pipeline grinds to a halt, there’s already talk of when it might restart. In a statement from Mountain Valley Pipeline late Friday night, several hours after the company was ordered to stop all construction for a review of environmental concerns, a spokeswoman expressed hopes for a quick turn-around. ‘We will continue to work closely with all agencies to resolve these issues and look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important infrastructure project,’ Natalie Cox wrote in an email. …. “We believe that the two agencies have the required information to address the issues related to the stop-work order and will work quickly to supplement their initial records,” Cox wrote. Pipeline foes say it won’t be that simple. Tammy Belinsky, a Floyd County attorney who joined lawyers with the Sierra Club in successfully challenging the Forest Service approval, said parts of the review process ordered by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could take six months to complete. Cox declined to speculate on the timing. But in earlier court filings involving a different phase of construction, Mountain Valley warned that an eight-month delay would cost the company more than $600 million. In a written declaration dated June 1, project manager Robert Cooper said that if the 4th Circuit stayed a permit allowing the company to cross streams and wetlands in West Virginia, it would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to the $3.7 billion project. A few weeks later, the appeals court granted the stay sought by the Sierra Club and other conservation groups, preventing Mountain Valley from starting work on more than 500 water body crossings.”
8-3-18 Inside NOVA. Republican in 8th District pledges not to take energy-company funds. “It’s a pretty fair bet that major corporate donors will not be beating down the door of Republican congressional candidate Thomas Oh between now and Election Day. But just in case, he is putting some limits in place. Oh has become the first Republican candidate to promise not to take campaign contributions from Dominion Energy or Appalachian Power as part of a pledge sought by Activate Virginia, an advocacy group that supports candidates – to date, almost entirely Democrats – who agree to eschew corporate financing, specifically from the two power companies.”
8-3-18 Roanoke Times. Giles County couple blames Mountain Valley Pipeline for runoff mess. “It was bad enough to see the driveway that leads to their blue and white-trimmed farmhouse converted to a construction access road for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “When you think you’re going to run out to the store and back, but you have to wait for three dump trucks to get out of the way,” Danny Gallagher said, his voice trailing off as his wife completed the sentence: ‘It’s frustrating,’ Sherri Gallagher said. More than frustrating was what happened during Thursday night’s pounding rainfall, when the same gravel road channeled a wave of muddy water down a hillside, through a chicken coop, across the yard and into their basement. …. In recent months, state regulators have documented uncontrolled erosion from multiple work sites along the pipeline’s path. Late Friday afternoon, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered a stop to all construction on the project. But that was too late for the Gallaghers, who spent Friday assessing damage to their farm. It was the first reported case of runoff from the project actually entering someone’s home, according to Jason Shelton, who works for Mountain Valley Watch, a citizen watchdog group that has been tracking the largest natural gas pipeline ever to cross Southwest Virginia. About eight inches of water covered their basement floor by the time the torrent subsided, the Gallaghers said. Much of it was still there Friday afternoon, causing a dank odor that spread through their circa-1890 house and a sense of unease that could last even longer. ‘Is the foundation compromised?’ Sherri Gallagher wondered. ‘Is it going to cause mold? How much time do you have to get it out before it starts affecting you?’ A spokeswoman for Mountain Valley Pipeline, a coalition of five energy companies building the 303-mile pipeline, did not respond Friday to emailed questions about what happened at the Gallagher farm.” The article continues with an account of the extensive additional damage to the road and other structures caused by runoff after MVP added grading and rock filling changed the road’s slope to lead away from a drainage ditch that had previously diverted runoff.
8-3-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Letter to Editor: Ruinous pipelines will harm lives and waters. “The recent news article, “Pipeline opponents say Va. water regulatory process is broken,” highlights deliberate obfuscation by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). By delaying the start of the open comment period the State Water Control Board requested for public input on the nationwide permit’s ability to ensure water safety, and by postponing the board’s meeting date, the DEQ made the board’s responsibilities more dire and public trust in this process weaker. At the board’s April 12 general meeting, those in attendance who live along the Mountain Valley Pipeline path provided disturbing evidence that their waterways had already been negatively impacted. That was almost four months ago and owing to additional actions from Precision Pipeline as it attempts to clear a construction path for the potential Mountain Valley pipeline, the route is now riddled with four more months of mud, sediment-soaked waterways, flooded pipeline trenches, and repeatedly failed erosion measures. Additionally, Dominion’s tree-felling that occurred on the path of the potential Atlantic Coast Pipeline racked up multiple water violations in early spring. Neither project can be built without impacting waterways. …. These ruinous and unnecessary fracked-gas pipelines would irrevocably damage the lives of those who live along their paths and the future safety of Virginia’s waterways.
8-3-18 Roanoke Times. FERC orders work to stop on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A federal agency ordered a stop Friday to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has run into repeated problems with erosion since it began its path through the Roanoke and New River valleys. In a letter to pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited an appeals court decision last week that reversed earlier-granted approvals for pipeline work in the Jefferson National Forest. With construction of that 3.6-mile segment of the natural gas pipeline now on hold, FERC determined that work on the rest of the 303-mile project should not proceed. ‘MVP is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas must cease immediately, with the exception of any measures deemed necessary…to ensure the stabilization of the right of way and work areas,’ the letter stated. The stop-work order appeared to be temporary, with FERC saying that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will likely be able to re-issue approvals that were struck down July 27 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Even so, it marked a huge win for opponents who have been fighting the massive pipeline for the last four years.”
8-3-18 News & Observer [NC]. Private pilots, drone operators to patrol [NC] Atlantic Coast Pipeline for violations. “They plan to deploy private planes, send in the drones and paddle canoes to remote locations along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that no outsider was intended to see. An all-volunteer army of citizen scouts, now being recruited by environmentalist organizations under the name N.C. Pipeline Watch, will be assigned to patrol the construction that is about to begin in North Carolina on the 600-mile interstate natural gas pipeline and spot environmental violations that could lead to fines or work interruptions. The Sierra Club and several North Carolina river keepers organizing the citizen patrols say that a similar effort in Virginia generated more than 150 reports of violations to regulators there….”
8-2-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. SCC trims Dominion transmission rate to give federal tax savings to customers. “State regulators have trimmed Dominion Energy Virginia’s requested transmission rates by almost $131 million, ordering the company to immediately share federal tax savings with customers. The State Corporation Commission dismissed the utility’s argument that it should wait up to two years to credit $118 million in savings from a 14 percentage point cut in the corporate income tax rate, citing decisions by Appalachian Power Co. and other utilities to reflect those savings in transmission rates now. ‘Importantly, this is customers’ money, not Dominion’s, as Dominion’s only basis to collect it is to pay its actual corporate taxes,’ the SCC said in its order on Thursday.”
8-2-18 Virginia Mercury. In Buckingham’s Union Hill, a center of resistance for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion brings in a ringer. “‘They want to shut us up,’ [The Rev. Paul] Wilson told the [Union Hill Baptist Church] congregation. ‘This church is too loud. It’s too vocal. It’s getting to be a problem for Dominion.’ Earlier this year, though, the formidable energy company, the biggest corporate donor to Virginia political campaigns and possessed of other levers of power to get its way, brought in a new ‘community liaison’ to work in Union Hill. He was a familiar face: former Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden, whose family has deep roots in the community and who is a member of Wilson’s congregation. ‘Dominion picked the right one because he’s trustworthy. He articulates Dominion’s position better than Dominion,’ Wilson said in an interview. ‘They’ve always tried to dismiss us as being nonexistent, that we really weren’t there. Dominion miscalculated plain and simple and they realize it. If there’s any entity that can stop the whole process, it would be the church and Dominion has started to realize it.’ Gooden says he was brought on as a paid consultant by the company in the spring, but doesn’t see it as his job to sell people on the project. ‘I don’t know if Dominion did everything right from the outset. I don’t know if they’re saying “Now we have a problem, let’s bring Basil in and he’ll smooth it over,”‘ Gooden said. ‘It’s not my role to smooth over anything Dominion is doing.’ …. On one thing, he and Wilson agree: If the community has to live with the compressor station, and the noise and emissions that come with it, they need to be compensated. Wilson said millions have already been offered through back channels. ‘It hasn’t been officially offered. It was presented to me through the back door,’ he said. The worst outcome, Gooden said, would be for the ‘community to have a compressor station there and nothing to show for it.'”
8-2-18 WHSV3. Anti-pipeline groups to build Defenders Anti-Pipeline Sculpture. “Anti-pipeline groups joined forces Wednesday night, teaming up to create a symbol of opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We’re trying to unite communities all along the pipeline paths in their opposition to these dirty fossil fuel projects,’ said Rosie Lynch. Many in the community against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline came together at Seven Arrows Brewery, to check out the 8-by-8 steel project. The gathering was hosted by Climate Action Alliance of the Valley. The sculpture will be moved and placed at several homes along the pipeline route in Nelson, Augusta and Bath Counties.”
8-1-18 NC Policy Watch. [NC] State Bureau of Investigation unit prepared ‘threat assessment’ of Atlantic Coast Pipeline protestors. “The state’s surveillance and counter-terrorism unit, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC), warned law enforcement officials that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could attract ‘violent extremists’ who are opposed to the natural gas project in North Carolina, a document obtained by Policy Watch shows. According to a December 2017 unclassified ‘threat assessment’ (see below), the ACP ‘has the potential to become a regional focal point for ideologically or politically motivated violent extremist actors inspired to commit acts intended to disrupt and halt ACP construction.’ The document was intended to be shared only with law enforcement, but it was included in attachments of emails among state environmental officials, provided as part of a public records request. It’s unclear who authorized the assessment or if there have been recent updates to the report. Patty McQuillan, spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation, told Policy Watch the agency could not comment on the document. …. Despite the possibility that the protests could become violent, the ISAAC document goes on to state that there is no ‘specific, credible information’ suggesting international or domestic terrorists, or ‘homegrown violent extremists,’ are actively targeting the ACP. …. However, the document does not mention that industry has tried to infiltrate and disrupt peaceful demonstrations at several pipeline sites. TigerSwan, a private security firm based in Apex, has been cited by North Dakota regulators for surveilling and conducting intelligence investigations on protesters without a private investigator’s license. …. Nor does it mention land agents’ tactics in trying to access private property for surveys related to the ACP. Many land owners have complained publicly, and in a related court case, that the agents, contracted by the utilities, have tried to intimidate them or even lied, to gain that access.”
8-1-18 Roanoke Times. Appeals court upholds Virginia’s review of water quality impact of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A federal appeals court has upheld Virginia’s water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, preserving a major milestone for the controversial project. In a decision Wednesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the Sierra Club and other environmental conservation groups that the State Water Control Board erred when it found a ‘reasonable assurance’ that streams and wetlands would not be harmed by the natural gas pipeline. …. The ruling applies to approximately 500 waterbody crossings the pipeline will make on its path through Southwest Virginia. As such, it is more sweeping than a decision last week by the same three-judge panel, which reversed the U.S. Forest Service’s approval for the 303-mile buried pipeline to burrow through 3.6 miles of the Jefferson National Forest. Critics said they were especially disappointed with Wednesday’s ruling, given that their predictions have been borne out by official warnings the project has since received from state environmental regulators. ‘We will continue to closely monitor construction and press DEQ to uphold the promises it made to the court to protect Virginia’s water quality,’ said Ben Luckett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a nonprofit law firm involved in the case. ‘We will also continue to pursue all other available legal avenues to oppose this harmful and unnecessary project,’ Luckett said.”
7-31-18 Herald-Whig. Shareholders of troubled SC utility approve merger plan. “Shareholders of SCANA agreed Tuesday to sell the South Carolina utility to Virginia-based Dominion Energy, which has agreed to swallow billions of dollars in debt from the company’s failed nuclear construction project and other operations. The deal gives Dominion — already one of the nation’s largest utility companies — more of a foothold in South Carolina. The Richmond company already operates a pair of solar farms in the state, as well as gas pipelines purchased from SCANA in years past.”
7-31-18 WSLS10. Grandmother in Ford Pinto protesting Mountain Valley Pipeline arrested. “The 64-year-old who was blocking Mountain Valley Pipeline construction in her 1971 Ford Pinto has been arrested. Authorities charged Becky Crabtree with obstruction and she was released on her own recognizance, according to a friend of Crabtree’s. A West Virginia woman is the latest to join the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Becky Crabtree, a 64-year-old author and retired schoolteacher, has blockaded herself in a 1971 Ford Pinto that is elevated off the ground at a pipeline worksite, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. The banners read, ‘defend what you love,’ ‘resist all pipelines,’ and ‘this is our home.'”
7-31-18 WHSV3. Environmental organizations hold meeting about pipeline water quality impacts. “Leaders from environmental organizations filled the Staunton Library Monday night to discuss concerns about water quality as construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets underway. ‘We fully believe that they’re going to cause environmental problems, water quality problems. And we don’t intend to let that pass without the citizens acting,’ said David Sligh, Conservation Director with Wild Virginia. Organizers showed those who came out how to detect and report water quality impacts. ‘They can find the problem, they can see what’s going on out there. They can communicate with groups like Wild Virginia, Trout Unlimited, Appalachian Voices, all of which are part of this training and we can help channel those complaints and those problems to the right place,’ said Sligh.”
7-30-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. WVDEP: Pipeline developers failed to control erosion, follow water quality rules. “Developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were cited by West Virginia regulators for failing to control erosion on an Upshur County construction site, among other things. It’s the first finalized Notice of Violation West Virginia state regulators have issued to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. A DEP inspector visited the site, near the Buckhannon River and Laurel Run, on June 28 after after receiving two citizen complaints, according to the inspection report. The inspector, Tim Castro, noted some sediment deposits offsite, and saw sediment-laden water leaving the site. He also noted “excessive erosion” of the fill slope. He issued a Notice of Violation that day, specifically for failing to maintain erosion control devices and failing to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving the site without going through the right device, according to the violation notice. The project was also cited for violating state water quality rules and allowing sediment deposits at the bottom of a tributary. Developers have 20 days to correct the problems.”
7-29-18 Blue Virginia. Dominion Energy Locking Virginia Into Super-Expensive, Natural Gas “Peaker Plants?” “Many Virginia elected officials are not well informed about energy topics, such as what natural gas ‘peaker plants’ are, so here’s a quick overview. Peaking power plants or ‘peaker plants’ are small natural gas-fired power plants that are used to help meet peak demand for electricity, which is from about 6-9am and 5-8pm on weekdays. “Peaker plants” are smaller than ‘baseload’ gas-fired power plants, and can be built closer to urban areas. The problem is that they are almost the most expensive option for electricity (see chart below). ‘Peaker plants’ are also a very profitable option for the company supplying the gas. If Dominion Energy continues to build natural gas pipelines, they will lock us into using that fossil fuel — and ‘peaker plants’ will be their only solution to ‘modernizing’ our grid. This could leave Virginia with the most expensive electricity in the world, as everyone else moves away from fossil fuels as fast as they can. Please take a look at the cost comparison chart [in the full Blue Virginia article], and keep in mind that wind and solar are expected to continue to drop dramatically in cost, while natural gas prices are expected to increase through 2050.”
7-29-18 News & Advance. Editorial: Subject Pipelines to Highest Level of Scrutiny. “What we must do going forward is hold the developers and their contractors to the highest standards of accountability to protect the environment. With the MVP, that means we should expect the state DEQ to significantly tighten oversight and impose hefty fines and other penalties for construction violations. And with the ACP, the DEQ should use that same level of scrutiny and enforcement powers.” This editorial also appeared in the Nelson County Times on August 2, 2018.
7-29-18 Blue Virginia. Who Supports/Opposes the Fracked-Gas Pipelines in Virginia? A Tentative List; Let’s “Crowdsource” This. “As far as I’m aware, every elected Republican in the state – other than perhaps Delegates Greg Habeeb (who is resigning) – is either supportive of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast fracked-gas pipelines, or at best neutral. Other than that, here’s where elected Virginia Democrats stand, as far as I can determine, based largely on signatories to several letters – ‘VERE’ (Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus ) on April 17, 2018; legislators’ comments to the State Water Control Board on June 15, 2018; the latest (July 26, 2018) letter to Gov. Northam; and the April 18, 2018 press conference in Richmond (“State Legislators Stand in Support of Peaceful Protesters in Mountain Valley and Raise Concerns on Impact of Pipelines on Virginia’s Water”). Re: those who are listed as supporting the pipelines, check out this March 11, 2016 letter from the Hampton Roads Caucus to Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.” Article includes listings of those who support one/both pipelines, those uncear/neutral, those expressing concerns on one/both, and those definitely agains one, with no one listed as definitely against both pipelines.
7-27-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Pipeline projects hit legal snags in federal court, work suspended in parts of Virginia, W.Va. “Two multibillion-dollar natural gas pipelines hit legal snags on Friday, as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline voluntarily suspended planned crossings of rivers in West Virginia and a federal appeals court rescinded federal permits that allowed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline across national forest land in Virginia.”
7-27-18 Virginia Mercury. State lawmakers again urge Northam to act on pipelines. “With a crucial meeting of the State Water Control Board looming next month on water-quality reviews for a pair of contentious natural gas pipelines, Democratic state lawmakers again urged Gov. Ralph Northam Thursday to halt the projects and insist on a stream-by-stream review of the hundreds of spots where they will cross Virginia waterways. ‘We believe that your clear and bold leadership on pipelines at this critical time can restore the faith that many of our constituents have lost in their governments’ ability to fight for the public’s interest, at a time when that faith is so desperately needed,’ the 14 lawmakers wrote. …. ‘We also ask you to direct the DEQ to stop work on all construction activities for these two projects until those analyses are complete,’ they wrote. ‘Stream-by-stream analysis is a commonsense solution that environmental experts agree is the appropriate process for these circumstances. You agreed with this standard and forcefully advocated for such analysis in early 2017. We hope you will agree that it is time for DEQ to do this robust study now.'”
7-27-18 ABC13 [Ohio]. NEXUS Pipeline drilling fluid spills into Wood County [OH] creek. “People living near the NEXUS Pipeline project in Wood County are unhappy. They say they were not notified about 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid that ended up in a waterway connected to the Maumee River. The drilling accident started a cleanup effort that the Ohio EPA was not happy with. Neither were neighbors that were left in the dark. …. According to a report filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), after the production pipeline was completed, during something called pipe pullback, ‘… an inadvertent return to the surface of drilling fluid occurred into an unnamed tributary of the Maumee River.’ …. NEXUS did notify the Ohio EPA about the spill on July 17th that affected about three-quarters of a mile of the stream. According to an EPA spokesman, the agency told NEXUS to continue cleanup throughout the night. The Ohio EPA says NEXUS did not and it left the site. So the EPA called in different contractors to do the work over night. EPA will be issuing a notice of violation and will bill Nexus the cost of the cleanup.”
7-27-18 WVNews. Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers ask for and receive river crossing permit suspension. “In an attempt to allay concerns raised by an environmental group, developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have asked for, and been granted, a temporary suspension of a key river crossing permit. The Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, has granted the suspension, giving developers more time to provide plans and additional information with regard to some of the river crossings covered under the permit. …. Attorneys for the Sierra Club argue that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can’t meet the requirements of Permit 12, which call for river crossings to be accomplished in a 72-hour period. …. The motion for a stay asked for the Fourth Circuit to grant the request to keep any permanent damage from occurring while the Army Corps reassesses the situation. But briefs filed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline attorneys on Friday say the stay isn’t necessary. While disagreeing with the fundamental basis of the Sierra Club’s argument, the developers say the stay isn’t necessary now that the permit has been suspended.”
7-27-18 WVTF. Appeals Court Sides With Environmentalists In Pipeline Case. “The unanimous ruling Friday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond cancels permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut through federal land. The judges accused the agencies of ignoring environmental regulations and acquiescing to justifications offered by the pipeline company on the project’s environmental impact.” This story was covered in depth in the July 27, 2018, Washington Post.
7-26-18 Blue Virginia. DOJ Official Comes to Historic Union Hill, Watches in “Astonishment” as Dominion/ACP Officials “Unable to Describe the Dimensions of the [Pipeline’s] Kill Zone” Reposting of an account on Facebook by Water Is Life. Protecte It about a meeting between Union Hill residents and Dominion/ACP.
7-26-18 Inside Climate News. 7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change. “FERC is considering revising how it approves natural gas pipeline projects. These states want it to focus more on costs to the environment and consumers. New natural gas pipelines may not be needed and may not justify damage to the environment, the attorneys general of seven states and the District of Columbia argue in comments filed Wednesday with federal regulators in charge of pipeline approvals. The comments came in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s request in April for comments on whether the commission should revise its current policy for pipeline approvals, set in 1999.”
7-26-18 RTO Insider. FERC Flooded with Comments on Pipeline Permitting. “Environmentalists and state officials called on FERC this week to broaden its review of natural gas pipeline applications while gas producers and electric generators said only minor changes are needed to the commission’s 1999 policy statement. FERC received about 2,000 comments in response to its Notice of Inquiry asking whether it should reconsider how it balances project benefits against adverse consequences in light of the shale gas revolution, global warming and other changes since it last considered the issue almost 20 years ago (PL18-1). …. The commission asked for comments on four topics: the reliance on precedent agreements to demonstrate project need; landowner interests and the use of eminent domain; the evaluation of alternatives and environmental effects under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act; and the efficiency and effectiveness of the commission’s certificate process.” Article continues with an overview of some of the comments made to FERC.
7-26-18 Daily Progress. Pipeline opponents say Va. water regulatory process is broken. “Virginia’s water regulation process is under scrutiny following a series of problems this year that include a meeting being delayed more than two months, a website going down, and struggles by the state to respond to a records request under the Freedom of Information Act. For people concerned about the effects that construction of two natural gas pipelines will have on water quality, it all symbolizes a broken state regulatory process that’s supposed to protect Virginia’s waterways. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality had authority to review hundreds of spots where the federally approved Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross Virginia waterways in order to ensure the water ways wouldn’t be contaminated, but has ceded that authority to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Gov. Ralph Northam, a supporter of the projects, has called for them to be held to high environ-mental standards. In the Democratic primary for governor in 2017, facing populist Tom Perriello, Northam called for DEQ to conduct a site-specific analysis of proposed pipeline water crossings. On April 12, under pressure from concerned property owners and environmentalists, the seven-member State Water Control Board approved a 30-day comment period to solicit public input on whether approvals the Corps of Engineers granted under what’s called Nationwide Permit 12 will adequately protect Virginia waterways. The pipelines would cross some of Virginia’s steepest landscapes and remove trees on mountains. The deadline to mail or email comments ahead of the water board’s June 11 meeting was Thurs-day, May 31. But then things started getting pushed back.” Article details the delays, “technical difficulties,” and other issues that prevented DEQ from doing its job.
7-26-18 Roanoke Times. Protester gets 2 days in jail for blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A woman who spent 11 days in an aerial blockade of the Mountain Valley Pipeline must now spend two days in jail. Catherine ‘Fern’ MacDougal was led from a Roanoke courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after pleading guilty to trespassing and blocking a U.S. Forest Service road. The case of MacDougal – a 31-year-old University of Michigan graduate student with a history of environmental activism – marked the first adjudication of nearly a half-dozen people who sat in trees or on suspended platforms to block construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline. …. On April 22, three men entered the closed area in an effort to provide food and water to a woman who spent 57 days in another aerial blockade, a platform suspended from pole blocking the Forest Service road. Known as Nutty at the time – and later identified in court records as Danika Padilla – the woman came down from her post in May and is scheduled to appear in court next month. Doug Chancey, 66, John Nicholson, 32, and Galen Shireman-Grabowski, 22, pleaded guilty to violating the closure order and were each fined $100.”
7-25-18 Energy News Network. Citizen group provides extra eyes on the ground for pipeline regulators. “On the frontlines of a fight to protect water and forests from pipeline risks, a volunteer-driven group documents potential environmental violations. …. Meet the Mountain Valley Watch, the volunteer-driven group serving as extra sets of eyes for state regulators as the 303-mile, natural gas pipeline is installed from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields of northern West Virginia to a compressor station in southern Virginia. The project crosses multiple waterways and lots of steep terrain like this along the way.”
7-25-18 Register-Herald [Beckley WV]. Virginia state senator asks Virginian governor to halt MVP. “In a published letter, Virginia State Senator John Edwards, a Democrat, has asked Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, to halt the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in his state. Edwards, who represents Virginia’s 21st Senate District which is made up of the City of Roanoke, part of Roanoke County, part of Montgomery County including Blacksburg and all of Giles County, cites environmental concerns in the letter and harkens back to a May meeting that he had with Northam along with a group of experts. Edwards states in his letter that numerous scientist believes that erosion control efforts along the pipeline will be in vain in areas where the pipeline will have to go over steep terrain. The state senator also mentions the fact that the pipeline will have to go over a large Karst formation that is prone to caves, sinkholes and landslides. ‘It is not an overstatement to say that science dictates that this pipeline cannot be safely built in this area,’ Edwards said in the letter.”
7-25-18 Langelle Photography. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Already Destroying Forests. Photojournalism used to expose the social, economic, and ecological injustice of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
7-25-18 Roanoke Times. Completion of Mountain Valley Pipeline delayed to early 2019, even with long work days. “Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue into 2019, longer than expected and sometimes with 15-hour workdays that are irking its neighbors. Shareholders of NextEra Energy, one of the pipeline’s developers, were told Wednesday that an anticipated completion date of late this year is no longer viable for the massive natural gas pipeline. Work on the pipeline ‘has faced some recent challenges,’ John Ketchum, executive vice president and chief financial officer of NextEra Energy, said during a quarterly earnings conference call. He cited a stay issued by a federal appeals court that put a hold on stream crossings the buried pipeline must make in West Virginia.”
7-25-18 NBC29. 4th Circuit sides with pipeline in eminent domain case. “A federal appeals court has sided with the Mountain Valley Pipeline in an eminent domain lawsuit brought by landowners in the project’s path. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the ruling of a lower-court judge who didn’t rule on the case’s constitutional issues but dismissed them, saying she lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Justin Lugar, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients are evaluating the opinion and possible next steps.”
7-24-18 Virginia Mercury. Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets permission to begin North Carolina construction. “The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the more than $6 billion natural gas project led by Dominion Energy, won approval to begin full construction in North Carolina today. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes amid a federal court challenge that seeks to halt construction of the hotly contested pipeline following a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond in May. The court invalidated a key environmental review — finding it too vague to be enforced — that dealt with risks to sensitive species, a decision opponents of the project argued should have stopped it in its tracks. However, FERC has allowed the pipeline, which will run from West Virginia through much of central Virginia and the eastern third of North Carolina to plow ahead in certain areas where it already has state approvals.”
7-24-18 Roanoke Times. Letter: High pressure pipeline energy poses danger. “The destructive capability of the mechanical energy in a 1,440 psi pipeline is realized by finding that a two foot break in the pipeline analyzed above would release mechanical energy sufficient to propel a small (3,000 lb) car 2,816 feet in the air. A fully loaded (80,000 lb) tractor-trailer truck would be blown 106 feet upward. The energy released could raise the 494,000 lb J611 locomotive 17 feet above the track. The mechanical energy stored in a pressurized pipeline is significantly reduced by reducing the pressure. For example, if the pressure is reduced 30 percent, from 1,440 psi to 1,000 psi, the mechanical energy is reduced 55 percent. This may or may not reduce the failure damage by 55 percent but does lead one to question the necessity of operating a 42-inch pipeline at 1,440 psi. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will clearly pose extreme danger to those living nearby.”
7-23-18 Public News Service. WV Groups Sue Pipeline Companies for “Abuse” of Permitting Process. “Clean water groups say getting a single, general permit to cover work at hundreds of separate sites by gas pipeline companies is an abuse of the permitting process. A coalition of six citizen and conservation groups is asking federal courts to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from using one, nationwide permit for its work at all water crossings. The issue has already stalled some work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Cindy Rank, a longtime advocate with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, says this type of general permit is intended for small projects, like building a single road over a single creek. ‘However, with the giant pipelines, we’re crossing hundreds and hundreds of these small headwater streams with a nationwide permit, without looking at the overall impact on watersheds,’ she points out. The pipeline companies argue it would be too much red tape to get separate permits for each water crossing.”
7-23-18 Roanoke Times. Photos: A pipeline’s progress. “These aerial photos track the development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline route across Southwest Virginia, including areas of Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery counties.”
7-23-18 Roanoke Times. Environmental regulators cite Mountain Valley Pipeline again. “For the sixth time, environmental regulators have cited Mountain Valley Pipeline for failing to contain muddy water flowing from construction sites. A notice of violation was recently issued against the Pittsburgh company by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, according to a filing Thursday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Four similar actions have been taken in West Virginia since early April; a single notice of violation that addresses problems in six Southwest Virginia counties was filed July 9 by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.”
7-22-18 Daily Progress. Historic black community in Buckingham among groups worried about pipeline. “[T]he future of this pastoral community — dotted with family plots and churchyard burial grounds, with some families who trace their lineage to local plantations — is clouded by Dominion Energy’s plan to build a gas-fired compressor station in Union Hill that would pump fracked natural gas through the proposed $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Opponents say the station will emit toxins that cause respiratory problems, allergies, fatigue and other health issues and that its depressurizing “blowdowns” will be as loud as a jet engine. They contend that the pipeline and compressor station — still winding their way through the permitting process — represent an assault on a historically significant black community and an environmental injustice that would leave Union Hill’s properties worthless to sell or pass down. Preservation Virginia agrees, citing Union Hill among its endangered places in 2016. ‘Post-Emancipation African-American settlements and burial sites, like those at Union Hill in Buckingham County, reveal the successes and struggles of generations of African-Americans in Virginia,’ the nonprofit wrote. Advocates for Union Hill detect a pattern, citing a civil rights complaint by North Carolina advocacy groups that federal regulators failed to assess the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s disproportionate impact on people of color.”
7-20-18 Daily Progress. Nelson County Service Authority denies pipeline proposal. “A month after the Nelson County Service Authority’s Board of Directors deadlocked on a vote related to a rate and connection fee that would be used in the sale of water to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the board voted to deny authorizing the figures Thursday. The board, which consists of three new members appointed since last month’s meeting, voted unanimously against setting a rate of more than 10 cents per gallon and a connection fee of $500,000 for ACP. All five members — Gary Sherwood and David Hight and newly appointed members Jesse Rutherford, Ernie Reed and Justin Shimp — voted against the measure. If approved, it would have allowed ACP to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day for the horizontal directional drilling method, sourced from Lake Monacan in Stoney Creek, and would have resulted in about $3.5 million in revenue over two years for the service authority. Instead, ACP is obtaining water from a different source.”
7-19-18 NBC29. Group Files Appeal Against Buckingham Supervisors and Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A group opposing the Atlantic Coast pipeline has now filed an appeal in Virginia’s Supreme Court over a compressor station planned for Buckingham County. This is the next step in the fight for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, who originally filed the suit in February of 2017. The league’s chapter, Concern for the New Generation, was also a part of the appeal. A Circuit Court judge had dismissed the case against Buckingham supervisors in January, who approved the plans for the compressor in the Union Hill area. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League says environmental issues have been overlooked by the group in planning the compressor station.”
7-19-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Mountain Valley Pipeline cited 5th time by state regulators for violations. “For the fifth time since April, state regulators are citing the Mountain Valley Pipeline for water quality violations along the project’s construction route in West Virginia. The notice of violation was issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection after inspectors visited construction sites in Doddridge and Harrison counties. The violation notice is for construction in Doddridge. The inspection report and violation notice were made public Thursday afternoon when they were filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Although the report is dated July 6, the inspection actually happened June 6, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the DEP.”
7-19-18 The Robesonian. Tribal Council again rejects pack with ACP. “For the second time in two months, the Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday rejected a resolution regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The council voted 10-7 to kill a resolution calling on tribal administration to form a committee of community members, legal experts, council members and others to come up with a ‘Plan of Action’ to address the pipeline’s effect on health, the environment and cultural resources, and establish better communication between the tribe and the builders of the pipeline that would carry natural gas from West Virginia to a point near Pembroke.
7-19-18 WVTF. Tent Pitching Protest Against the ACP. “Camping is a popular summer activity, and some opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are hoping to capitalize on that – inviting those who’d like to pitch a tent in a beautiful place to come on down. Sandy Hausman reports on this novel approach to protest.” Audio and images of the campout on the Limpert’s Miracle Ridge property in Bath County VA.
7-19-18 Wall Street Journal. Pipeline Builders Abuse Eminent Domain – How FERC denies landowners the right to meaningful appeal. “When FERC approves the use of eminent domain to build a pipeline, landowners have the right to appeal to a federal court only after they have asked the agency to reconsider its decision and had their request denied. But FERC has developed the habit of granting these requests so that it can draw out the time it spends “thinking” about them. While FERC dawdles, the pipeline companies use eminent domain to snatch thousands of landowners’ properties free from judicial review. Furthermore, FERC’s approval comes with eminent domain authority, allowing pipeline companies to seize property before seeking other necessary approvals. In one instance, a company seized part of a Pennsylvania family’s property to build a FERC-authorized pipeline only to have the project fall apart when officials in New York refused to grant a permit to build another part of the pipeline. The taking, which also involved cutting down more than 500 of the family’s trees, was ultimately for nothing. …. As rotten as these procedural shenanigans are, FERC is guilty of a more consequential deception. Under current law, the agency can approve a pipeline without telling property owners that decisions will be effectively unreviewable unless they file an immediate appeal. When states have behaved this way, federal courts have deemed it unconstitutional. Yet FERC continues to harm eminent-domain victims by failing to inform them how to protect their rights.
7-18-18 WDBJ7. DEQ investigates pipeline concerns on Bent Mountain. “Staffers from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were in Roanoke County Wednesday investigating complaints involving construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Some residents of the area say they believe the work has affected their water supply, and they’re calling on the state to stop construction. The complaints are currently focused on the area where the pipeline crosses under Route 221. Some neighbors on Rocky Road have reported sediment in their drinking water supply, a problem they attribute to pipeline construction.”
7-18-18 WV Public Radio. How Would You Improve the Natural Gas Pipeline Process? “Seventy-five-year-old farmer Curtis Johnson doesn’t object to pipelines, but does take issue with some of their construction practices. Johnson sold easements to the nearly completed 713-mile Rover Pipeline, which originates in the Ohio Valley and is designed to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Michigan and Canada. In May, he submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency in charge of approving interstate natural gas pipelines. In his comments he described problems he encountered during pipeline construction where good topsoil got mixed up with sub-soils like clay on his Ohio farm. ‘I do not think the pipeline should be given certificates to proceed without all the land owners knowing and agreeing to what is going to happen with the installation process,’ he said in his letter.” Includes links to comments of people mentioned in the article and instructions on how to file with FERC.
7-18-18 Roanoke Times. Pipeline explosion in W.Va. cited by opponents of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “An explosion of a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia was triggered by the same conditions — steep slopes prone to landslides — that exist along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a conservation group is warning. Work on the Mountain Valley project, which is cutting a swath through the mountains of Southwest Virginia, should be suspended pending a review of the potential danger of a similar explosion, the Indian Creek Watershed Association wrote in a request filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”
7-18-18 Highland Recorder. Dominion CEO urged to consider fellow citizens, environment, justice. “After four years of evaluating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it is abundantly clear the negative impacts this project would bring far outweigh any benefits. This conclusively shows it is not in the public interest. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to the public interest. I am confident, Mr. Farrell, that you are fully aware of this, despite your statements to the contrary, and those of your lobbyists, and well trained public relations staff. There is no question this project would bring windfall profits to your company, and increased wealth to your shareholders. However, these profits would not be earned through the free market system. They would be guaranteed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is fully funded by the energy industry. Worse yet, they would be obtained at the expense of your fellow citizens, and our environment. Let me count the ways….”
7-18-18 Virginia Mercury. Local and state cops have already spent nearly $126,000 policing pipeline protests. “Construction has begun on one of two major natural gas pipelines in Virginia and state and local officials have already reported spending almost $126,000 responding to protests aimed at halting work. It’s a number that is only likely to rise this year as construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline progresses and work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins, raising questions among some local officials about just who should pay for all that policing. At least two counties have discussed seeking reimbursements from the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s lead developer, EQT Midstream Partners. Other governments and agencies, including the Virginia State Police, said they’re planning to shoulder the cost themselves.”
7-17-18 Before It’s News. Mountain Valley Pipeline impacts halt construction; rollbacks for Atlantic Coast Pipeline revealed. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline announced today that they are suspending construction activities of the project in Virginia. Citizens have repeatedly called on the state to order a halt of construction due to dozens of documented violations of the state’s water quality standards. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of news yesterday that, at Dominion Energy’s request and without public input or knowledge, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries rolled back key protections of trout and endangered species habitats from impacts of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction.”
7-17-18 WSLS10. More complaints against pipeline as construction continues. “Construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues this week, after the company got approval to resume working on many sites in southwest Virginia. More Franklin County landowners are complaining of runoff onto their property. One family, who lives on Cahas Mountain Road, said Tuesday that mud in one of their creeks came from a nearby construction site after heavy rain in May. They didn’t see it until this week because they don’t often walk through all 60-plus acres of their property. …. After the company voluntarily stopped work last month, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has since given approval for construction to begin at most of the work sites, 33 in total, including three sites in Franklin County. A DEQ spokeswoman told 10 News Tuesday the agency has not yet heard back from MVP officials after asking for a meeting when it delivered a notice last week that the company violated erosion prevention laws.”
7-14-18 Los Angeles Times. A pipeline cutting through the iconic Appalachian Trail sparks a fight over natural gas expansion. “The stretch of Appalachian Trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains here is prized by hikers from around the world for its open ridgelines, spectacular geologic formations and challenging slopes. But one of the country’s most iconic viewsheds could soon be changed forever to make room for an energy project favored not just by fossil fuel industry boosters like President Trump, but also Virginia’s Democratic governor. …. ‘Everybody, not only in the East, but around every national scenic trail, should be concerned about this,’ said Andrew Downs, regional director with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the 90-year-old nonprofit organization entrusted by the National Park Service decades ago with the task of managing the trail. The conservancy has never found it necessary to get involved in a pipeline fight in this way, but times have changed. ‘We’ve never seen pipelines of this size and magnitude,’ Downs said.”
7-13-18 EnergyWire. Explosion triggers safety notice for TransCanada. “Federal regulators yesterday said that land movement may have triggered a natural gas pipeline explosion at a remote West Virginia site last month and that similar conditions exist at a half dozen other spots along the line. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warned TransCanada yesterday that it intends to impose new safety-related requirements on a portion of the Leach XPress pipeline in response to the risk of land subsidence, which might have been responsible for an explosion last month that blew an 83-foot section of pipe into the air, released 165 million cubic feet (mmcf) of natural gas and triggered a fireball that burned for several hours. The incident took place in a remote area and no injuries or damage to private property was reported. PHMSA’s notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, points to geological factors in the incident and could pose a challenge for other projects proposed for construction in similar steep, unstable Appalachian terrain. The pipeline that failed was constructed last year and went into service early this year, raising questions around why it failed so quickly and dramatically. ‘The preliminary investigation suggests that the failure was the result of land subsidence causing stress on a girth weld,’ PHMSA said in the notice. An initial report on the incident filed by TransCanada and released earlier this week notes the cause of the failure as a landslide not related to heavy rains or floods. ‘Since the failure, TransCanada has identified six other points along the pipeline that, based on their geotechnical flyover, are areas of concern to the existence of large spoil piles, steep slopes, or indications of slips,’ it said. Those six additional locations, combined with the fact that the pipeline was operating well below its maximum rated pressure when the explosion took place, led PHMSA to conclude that ‘the continued operation of the affected segment, without corrective measures, poses a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property and the environment.'”
7-13-18 WV Public Broadcasting. Feds Say Land Shift Likely Caused Explosion, Pipeline Still at Risk. “A natural gas pipeline explosion that occurred last month in Marshall County was likely caused by land subsidence, or movement, according to federal regulators. In a notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. this week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said shifting land likely triggered the explosion of the Leach Xpress pipeline. ‘The preliminary investigation suggests that the failure was the result of land subsidence causing stress on a girth weld,’ PHMSA said. …. The full federal investigation is still ongoing, but PHMSA’s proposed safety order states TransCanada should conduct extra surveillance and analysis on a 50-mile section of the pipeline that is buried in terrain geologically similar to where the explosion took place. …. In the order, the federal safety agency also said it identified six other locations where similar geography could cause the pipeline to fail. It outlines a series of additional corrective actions the company should undertake.”
7-13-18 Blue Virginia. Dominion Remains in Extremist ALEC as ExxonMobil Joins “exodus of firms from lobbying group” “How horrible is Dominion Energy? Here are a few recent news items that basically answer the question, but you can decide for yourself. Enjoy! First off, yesterday Reuters reported that ExxonMobil just ‘ended its association with the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a conservative political group that several other prominent U.S. corporations have left in recent years.’ Reuters added that ALEC ‘has lost dozens of members, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell Group, Ford Motor, and Expedia Group’ over the past few years, in part over ‘its stance on climate change, tort reform and gun control.’ Those stances, by the way, are uniformly far right, way out of the mainstream of the American public, not to mention science in the case of man-made climate change. Reuters further noted that ‘Exxon’s decision not to renew its membership followed a split with the lobby group last year over the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.’ In other words, ALEC is so crazy and awful that even ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, etc. can’t take it any more…but Dominion is comfortable remaining a member of this group? That, my friends, is what is known as ‘seriously f’ed up.'”
7-13-18 E&E Daily. Murkowski warns of FERC impasse without quick pick. “Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said yesterday she wants the Trump administration to quickly nominate a replacement for Robert Powelson, who recently announced he would resign in August from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wary of the potential pitfalls stemming from the 2-2 partisan split that will remain at the five-member independent agency once Powelson leaves, the Alaska Republican said she is going to ‘put a fire’ on the issue. Powelson’s departure to lead the National Association of Water Companies will upend FERC, giving Democrats at the agency the opportunity to wield more influence on a number of issues. Particularly important will be pipelines, as Democrats Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur have dissented on FERC’s approval of several recent natural gas projects, citing their disagreement with the Republican majority’s decision to limit consideration of greenhouse gas emissions. With the 2-2 split, any natural projects up for final approval at FERC could be delayed until a new Republican commissioner is confirmed.”
7-13-18. PublicNewsService.org. White House, Congress Take Aim at Environmental Review Law. “A law for evaluating the environmental impact of infrastructure projects is being targeted for changes by the White House and Congress. The National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA lays out the review process for federal agencies when considering major projects. Western Environmental Law Center staff attorney Susan Jane Brown says NEPA allows agencies to ‘look before they leap.’ But it’s garnered criticism from Republicans, including Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who says the NEPA process paralyzes activity in the West. Brown says the Trump administration wants to follow his lead. ‘There are many in the administration that have taken the House’s willingness to gut NEPA as a green light to proceed with larger policy initiatives coming from the executive branch that have the same sort of impact,’ says Brown.”
7-12-18 State Impact – NPR. A company cut trees for a pipeline that hasn’t been approved. The landowners just filed for compensation. “A Pennsylvania family that lost more than 500 trees to make way for the stalled Constitution Pipeline project asked a court on Thursday to dissolve an injunction that gave the company access to their property, and to determine compensation that remains unpaid. The Hollerans of New Milford Township in Susquehanna County argue that the pipeline will never be built after it was blocked by New York state environmental regulators, and say they have not received compensation more than two years after chain-saw crews felled the trees before the natural gas pipeline received all its needed permits. The family received widespread media attention when federal marshals armed with semi-automatic weapons and wearing bulletproof vests patrolled the isolated 23-acre farm in early March 2016 in an attempt to protect the tree-cutting crews from a handful of protesters. Twenty-eight months later, the Hollerans are asking a judge to overturn the injunction that allowed Constitution, operated by the Williams Companies, possession of about five acres of their property on which to build the pipeline. ‘The continued injunction has, and will continue to, wreak severe hardship on the landowners who continue to play involuntary host to a … company that has not paid a dime of compensation for the occupation and destruction of the landowners’ trees, land and business, or the retaliatory harassment inflicted on them for exercising their First Amendment rights to oppose occupation of their property,’ the family said in a document filed in federal court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.”
7-12-18 News Leader. Gov. Northam: These natural gas pipelines aren’t being done ‘right’ “‘If we are going to this, we are going to do it right,’ Dr. Ralph Northam said on the campaign trail to become governor of Virginia, referring to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, two, 42-inch diameter gas pipelines planned to be built across Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Gov. Northam, it’s not being done right, and without the right steps forward from your administration, Virginia’s water resources and everyone in the path of these projects will remain at risk. I hear from the opposite side that these pipelines have been through the most rigorous environmental review process in history. If this is true then we have a flawed system. Various permits have been revoked by the courts, there are more lawsuits than I can count, landslides and soil-covered roads, yards, and driveways, repeated Notices of Violations and the Virginia DEQ has shut down the MVP because the state’s Erosion and Sediment Control standards are not adequate to handle the siltation from a project of this magnitude. The pipeline builders, EQT and Dominion, are not “doing it right.”
7-11-18 StateImpact – NPR. Federal appeals court dismisses pipeline case that charged FERC with bias. “The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed a case brought by environmentalists that charged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with bias in pipeline cases. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a federal lawsuit in 2016, alleging FERC favored industry in disputed pipeline cases. The lawsuit, brought by the organization and its director, Maya van Rossum, asserted that FERC is incapable of making objective decisions regarding pipeline projects because its funding, set by Congress, is recovered by fees imposed on the industries it regulates, including pipeline companies. DRN argued that ‘the Commission is insulated from Congressional budgetary oversight,’ and therefore deprives individuals opposed to new pipelines of their 5th Amendment right to due process. The three-judge panel rejected that argument and upheld a lower court’s decision, saying FERC’s pipeline approvals are not tied to its budget.
DRN also argued that FERC approves all pipeline projects that come before it, fails to enforce terms and conditions of its certificates, and issues “tolling orders” that allow construction of pipelines despite appeals of the agency’s decisions that leave challengers in ‘legal limbo.’ Although the federal Natural Gas Act requires the agency to issue a decision on appeals within 30 days, FERC can extend the deadline indefinitely by issuing a ‘tolling order.’ Meanwhile, construction can continue. The court affirmed its previous decisions, saying the Natural Gas Act allows for the practice, and stating this case did not challenge a particular tolling order.”
7-11-18 WSLS10. MVP wants ability to work longer hours on pipeline, landowners react. “People living along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have new concerns about construction noise. MVP filed a request Tuesday asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if its workers can begin before 7 a.m., the typical start time for construction work in close proximity to residential areas, and work later than 7 p.m. …. Jacki Lucki remembers conversations about work hours during the pipeline’s planning stage. ‘We had discussed this over a year ago when they were trying to say they could come and go on our properties at any time. I thought it had been resolved,’ Lucki said. Roanoke lawyer and pipeline opponent Tom Bondurant says workers have already been on-site outside of those hours. ‘It’s just unconscionable to work before they go to school or work and to have them working outside your window late at night when you get home,’ Bondurant said. MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in a statement that the company made this request because it wants to work quickly to minimize environmental impacts.” [We’ve already seen the disastrous environmental impact of MVP’s quick work.]
7-11-18 E&E News. Court order favoring FERC avoids ‘tolling order’ challenge. “A federal court’s rejection yesterday of environmentalists’ claims that pipeline regulators are biased sidestepped another contentious issue the litigants raised: tolling orders. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission routinely issues tolling orders to give itself more time to consider rehearing requests from pipeline critics and others concerned about various FERC approvals. According to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and other groups, the orders are unfair because they block pipeline opponents from the courtroom until it’s too late. Parties generally must wait until rehearing requests are fully resolved by FERC before filing a lawsuit, and pipeline construction can move forward in the meantime. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday avoided digging into the issue in a decision on broader allegations about whether FERC’s funding structure makes it biased in favor of pipeline developers. The court rejected the primary claims and also ruled that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network had not properly raised the question of whether tolling orders are constitutional.”
7-11-18 Blue Virginia. Alert: West Virginia’s Pipeline Explosion Caused by a Landslide on Steep Terrain. Virginia’s Mountain Valley Pipeline, Being Built by a Serial Landslide Perpetrator, is Next. “The landslide risks at issue in the Dominion/Precision Pipeline lawsuit are terrifying because the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are proposed to be built through some of the steepest terrain in Virginia, with slopes as steep as 78% in places. This mountainous terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides when fill material generated by construction is deposited on slopes after the pipelines are buried.”
7-11-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, Columbia Gas reports. “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”
7-10-18 WSLS10. DEQ: MVP broke the law, has inadequate erosion controls: DEQ announces notice sent to pipeline company, could involve fines. “The company building a natural gas pipeline through southwest Virginia now faces penalties for breaking erosion control laws. The Virginia Department of Environment Equality announced Tuesday that it has served Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC with a notice explaining how it violated Virginia law. The letter said MVP failed to install proper erosion controls. The company could face up to $32,500 per day and up to an additional $100,000 for the violations, and the DEQ has the authority to deliver an injunction, meaning it could ask MVP to stop construction at certain sites. In a statement, a DEQ spokeswoman said of the notice of violation: ‘The issuance of an NOV is the first step toward generating enforcement action by DEQ.’ In the letter, the DEQ asks MVP officials to respond with 10 days to set up a meeting with DEQ staff.” This story was also reported by the Roanoke Times.
7-10-18 APnews.com. Dominion increased political spending while pushing for law. “Recently filed disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. That’s about 10 times what the company said it spent in last year’s filing. The spending came during a period when the company successfully pushed through legislation that could lead to substantial increases to electric bills. Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the company’s stepped up ‘education outreach’ was needed ‘to break through the fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups.’ Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000. Dominion’s media blitz while lawmakers were debating the bill included a TV ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Dominion had 22 registered lobbyists this last session, a mix of full-time employees and well-connected hired guns. Dominion hired lobbyists from McGuireWoods, Reed Smith and Williams Mullen, three of the top lobbying firms in Virginia. The regulated monopoly also hired David Hallock, a close political advisor to Gov. Ralph Northam, as an outside lobbyist. The $1 million figure likely does not include the full scope of the company’s efforts, as Virginia law requires only that a narrow definition of lobbying expenses be made public.”
7-10-18 News Leader. Pipeline equipment moved from Staunton Tractor lot ahead of zoning appeal hearing. “On the same day that the Staunton Board of Zoning Appeals was supposed to have a hearing over the zoning violation it gave Staunton Tractor for housing Dominion Energy equipment in its parking lot, the equipment was moved. Citizens saw the Dominion Energy equipment being moved from the lot around 9 a.m., said Marilyn Shifflett, who is on the board for Friends of Nelson, a Dominion Pipeline monitoring coalition. The hearing was supposed to take place Tuesday afternoon, but it was rescheduled last week to meet requirements as described in the Code of Virginia for the appropriate advertisement of such hearings.”
7-10-18 E&E News. Unorthodox [FERC] chief of staff speaks out — to Breitbart. “The chief of staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a former White House adviser, gave an unusual interview to a Breitbart News Network radio show this weekend. Anthony Pugliese’s arrival at the agency in August raised eyebrows because of his background in partisan politics and lack of experience in energy policy and law were unusual for a chief of staff pick (Energywire, Dec. 13, 2017). In the ‘Breitbart News Sunday’ appearance, Pugliese mostly stuck to explaining FERC and its role, but he also bashed Democrats and praised President Trump.
7-9-18 Greenwire. Pipeline foes turn up the heat on Va. Gov. Northam. “Getting elected governor of Virginia didn’t solve Ralph Northam’s pipeline problems. In fact, it added a new layer of difficulty for the Democrat, who was challenged by pipeline opponents during his campaign and has faced continued criticism for what some say is a failure to take action against two controversial natural gas projects being built in the Old Dominion. Since becoming governor in January, Northam’s critics say he should be doing more to slow or halt the construction of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, two hotly debated projects approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2017. …. Northam had promised that construction of the pipelines would meet the highest environmental standards, but the Mountain Valley project, in particular, has been hit with complaints over water pollution and last week the company behind it halted construction after a consultation with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (Greenwire, June 29). ‘People are seeing how inadequate the DEQ oversight is, they’re seeing how haphazard and irresponsible the companies are being,’ said Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter. ‘I think Gov. Northam is underestimating the political significance of this issue.'”
7-9-18 WSLS10. Roanoke County asks MVP for reimbursement as construction resumes. “Work has resumed at some of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction sites in southwest Virginia, and now there’s a new debate over construction concerns. Two local governments are asking the pipeline company to pay them back for police activity. Roanoke County leaders said Monday that they want the company to reimburse them for police involvement around the extended protests. They’re including out-of-the-ordinary situations, like police spending weeks monitoring tree-sitters Red and Minor Terry in Bent Mountain, but not normal calls for service. A county spokeswoman said the activity has cost the department $91,955. More than $53,000 of that is overtime pay. County attorney Ruth Ellen Kuhnel told 10 News Monday that the county will be sending an invoice in one to two weeks. ‘It shouldn’t be fair for our average citizen who’s just paying their real estate tax bill to shoulder that burden if MVP, who stands to profit from this, could reimburse us for those costs,’ Kuhnel said.”
7-8-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Mountain forest becomes classroom camp in pipeline fight. “The trees — mostly oak and hickory — aren’t as big as the massive sugar maples on the lower slopes, but they’re just as old, surviving hundreds of years on shallow, rocky soil in high winds. Loggers haven’t touched this forest, nor have non-native plants invaded what Virginia’s Division of Natural Heritage has declared a conservation site of ‘very high significance.’ Now, the mountain ridge is becoming a classroom camp in the escalating battle over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would level the forest and more than 3,000 feet of ridgeline on its 600-mile path from the West Virginia shale fields to natural gas markets in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. ‘We anticipate people camping right where the pipeline is proposed,’ said Bill Limpert, whose 120-acre property includes the mountainside he began calling Miracle Ridge after he and his wife, Lynn, purchased it nine years ago. The Limperts have opened their land to an anti-pipeline encampment, beginning Friday and extending to Sept. 9, about a week before a seasonal window opens for tree cutting to resume on the pipeline route planned by Dominion Energy and its partners.”
7-7-18 Roanoke Times. Franklin County wants pipeline company to reimburse it for public safety costs. “Franklin County plans to ask the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cover public safety costs it has incurred as a result of the project. The idea to bill the pipeline’s builders stemmed from a meeting between pipeline and county officials to discuss public safety. After concerns were raised that an influx of calls to law enforcement during construction would pose a financial burden to the county, a pipeline representative suggested such costs be passed on to them, according to multiple county officials in attendance. Supervisors Ronnie Thompson and Mike Carter, both opponents of the pipeline, attended the meeting. Thompson recalled being told the pipeline ‘was to never cost the municipality anything when it came down.’ He took that to mean Franklin County can bill Mountain Valley for associated costs, and directed county staff to look into doing so.
7-7-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. One week after suspension, some work resumes on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Eighty-one complaints have been logged through the first week of July, according to a summary on DEQ’s website. Of those, 73 have been closed. The most common reasons listed for closing a complaint were that it was not substantiated, it did not fall under DEQ’s purview, or the problems with runoff had been corrected by Mountain Valley. Eight cases remain under review. So far, DEQ has not issued any notices of violations. State environmental regulators in West Virginia, where the pipeline will originate and run for about 200 miles before entering Virginia in Giles County, have issued at least four notices of violations to Mountain Valley in the past two months.”
7-6-18 News-Leader. Staunton delays zoning appeal over Staunton Tractor’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard. “A hearing by the Staunton Board of Zoning Appeals regarding an Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard on land owned by Staunton Tractor will be rescheduled. It was originally planned for Tuesday, July 10. The Board of Zoning Appeals will still meet as scheduled on July 10 to set a new date and time for the hearing. The hearing has been postponed to meet requirements as described in the Code of Virginia for the appropriate advertisement of such hearings.”
7-6-18 Roanoke Times. One week after suspension, some work resumes on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “After coming to a brief halt, construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is resuming piecemeal along its approximately 100-mile route through the New River and Roanoke valleys. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which said the temporary suspension began June 29 after Mountain Valley failed to control runoff from work sites, identified two segments this week where improvements by the company were sufficient for work to restart. …. Critics said the brevity of the suspension, and the scarcity of details provided by DEQ, call into question the agency’s commitment to addressing problems and concerns that reached a critical mass as work on the interstate pipeline ramped up in May and June. ‘We believe that this was all a public relations stunt,’ said Rick Shingles of Giles County, a volunteer for Mountain Valley Watch, a citizens group that has been monitoring pipeline work and making reports to DEQ. ‘This was not a serious cessation of work until they dealt with the serious problems that we were reporting.’”
7-6-18 WDBJ7. Water in pipeline trench raises concern on Bent Mountain. “One week after the Mountain Valley Pipeline suspended construction to correct problems with erosion and sediment control, pipeline opponents say water in a pipeline trench on Bent Mountain is raising concerns. Ground water has seeped into a trench at the point where the pipeline crosses under Route 221. Opponents say it raises questions about the integrity of pipeline construction, and the potential for contamination of drinking water. Bruce Coffey is a Bent Mountain landowner. ‘We hope DEQ definitely gets involved in this and comes out and inspects the sites,’ Coffey told WDBJ7 Friday afternoon. ‘I have not seen a DEQ inspector out here on property itself. We’re hoping they will finally get the word that this is probably not the best thing to do.'”
7-6-18 Daily Progress. Virginia Supreme Court upholds pipeline survey law, but with dissent. “The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld, for the third time, a hotly debated state law allowing natural gas companies to enter private property without landowner permission to survey possible routes for new pipelines. But the court delivered the 6-1 decision on Thursday after a linguistic battle with Justice Arthur Kelsey in a biting dissent that challenges the 2004 law’s central premise of allowing gas companies to enter private property without permission and a federal permit that allows them to exercise eminent domain. While the majority opinion written by Justice Cleo E. Powell said the General Assembly clearly intended ‘to grant natural gas companies access to private property for the purpose of conducting certain activities related to the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline,’ Kelsey’s 23-page dissent contends the ruling turns private property rights upside down. ‘It subordinates the ancient common-law rights of private property owners to the commercial interests of a pipeline company that is under no legal requirement to enter onto another’s land,’ he said. The case arose from a legal challenge by William Barr and five other landowners in Nelson County who opposed use of the law to survey their properties for the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5.5 billion project to move natural gas from West Virginia shale fields to markets in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina.”
7-5-18 News Leader. Dear Dominion: Your Staunton pipeline parking lot proves you’ve learned nothing. “And in an America so divided, we are united on the issue of your pipeline. We don’t want it. This is not a partisan issue for us; we are the party of the people and within our ranks standing shoulder-to-shoulder are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, and those from both the Green Party and the Tea Party. …. We play by the rules. We recognize that we live in communities where the rules help us all prosper and get along. If we have to follow the laws and ordinances so should you. In a letter to Staunton Tractor, the city of Staunton made it clear your ‘contractor’s equipment storage area’ is not a permitted use at that site. The city’s letter reads ‘as we understand it, this [Dominion’s] equipment is not part of your inventory for sale and is not present for repair work to be done on it. This part of the property is being used essentially as a contractors’ establishment, serving as an operation staging site for a contractor.’ Staunton Tractor has appealed the notice of violation, claiming that the equipment is being stored there so that it can be repaired and maintained. That sounds to us like typical Dominion doublespeak. We are asking the community to come out on Tuesday, July 10 in order to reiterate that rules are there for a reason and everyone has to play by the same rule book.”
7-4-18 PBS News Hour. The U.S. natural gas industry is leaking way more methane than previously thought. “Natural gas is displacing coal, which could help fight climate change because burning it produces fewer carbon emissions. But producing and transporting natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas that also contributes to climate change. How big is the methane problem? For the past five years, our research teams at Colorado State Universityhave made thousands of methane emissions measurements at more than 700 separate facilities in the production, gathering, processing, transmission and storage segments of the natural gas supply chain. This experience has given us a unique perspective regarding the major sources of methane emissions from natural gas and the challenges the industry faces in terms of detecting and reducing, if not eliminating, them. Our work, along with numerous other research projects, was recently folded into a new study published in the journal Science. This comprehensive snapshot suggests that methane emissions from oil and gas operations are much higher than current EPA estimates. …. All told, based on the results of the new study, the U.S. oil and gas industry is leaking 13 million metric tons of methane each year, which means the methane leak rate is 2.3 percent. This 60 percent difference between our new estimate and the EPA’s current one can have profound climate consequences.”
7-3-18 Belt Magazine. In Appalachia’s ‘Alcohol Alley,’ booze purveyors say a pipeline is threatening their industry. “Whether it’s a glass of estate Chardonnay on the grounds of Afton Mountain Winery or a Full Nelson IPA on Blue Mountain Brewery’s sprawling patio, the breathtaking Shenandoah views are a common ingredient in the region’s various alcoholic beverages. Terrific views sell booze, and many of Nelson County’s producers have capitalized on the landscape to power on-site appeal at their facilities. Virginia doesn’t track tap room & tasting room sales volumes across categories of alcoholic beverage, and besides, it’d be impossible to extrapolate how much of that revenue was directly due to the scenery. But on-site sales are a crucial source of revenue for small alcohol producers across the country, and the ACP’s impending construction in the Rockfish Valley may threaten that.” The article discusses the importance of unspoiled scenery to the alcohol beverage industry in Nelson County – employing 425 locals directly, and helping to bring in almost $200 million in tourism expenditures in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available). All this would be threatened by Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
7-3-18 Huffington Post. Fighting Climate Change Means Fighting Inequality And Intolerance. “Intersectionality is a big word with a simple meaning: social, economic and political issues are all connected. Climate change is emblematic of this truth. Though it’s usually regarded as a technological or scientific issue, climate change’s disproportionate impact on minority communities makes it an issue of racial inequality. The fact that those who have the fewest resources are the least capable of rebuilding after a disaster renders it an issue of economic inequality. Climate change also disproportionately hurts women, people with disabilities, the elderly and the very young. Furthermore, widespread discrimination mars efforts to study the rise in temperature and advocate for solutions. Dealing with climate change means dealing with inequality and intolerance.”
7-3-18 WVPublic Broadcasting. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Under Fire from Environmental Advocates. “Environmental advocates asked a federal court Tuesday to review a federal permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a law firm representing a coalition of environmental and citizen groups, filed a petition with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The groups, which include the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, are asking the court to review a federal permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.” Includes audio.
7-3-18 Blue Virginia. At 5:30 PM on Fourth of July Eve, Virginia DEQ and Their Mountain Valley Pipeline Masters Pull a Fast One. “When this news came the other day (‘Based on issues identified during inspections and complaint inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project team has agreed to temporarily suspend pipeline installation in Virginia.’), some of my friends and allies were gleeful…. Now, though, the Virginia DEQ has done almost exactly what the cynical, suspicious side of me always felt would happen,” with two areas released for resumption of pipeline construction, “at 5:30 pm the evening before the Fourth of July, clearly for minimal public attention.” See the MVP Suspension Update on DEQ’s Web page.
7-2-18 Roanoke Star. Pipeline / Eminent Domain Debate Strikes A Nerve With Grandin Theatre Audience. “In late June the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy helped sponsor the screening [in Roanoke] of a film based on the Kelo case, Little Pink House, starring Catherine Keener and Jeanne Trippelhorn. It drew an almost full house and afterwards a panel discussion on eminent domain and its relationship to the pipeline followed. As for the ‘massive interstate pipelines [like MVP], those weren’t even on the radar screen when the [Virginia law regarding use of eminent domain for utility projects] was passed,’ says David Perry, executive director for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.”
7-2-18 E&E News. Powelson’s departure means fallout for pipelines, policies. “Robert Powelson’s decision to exit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission less than a year into his term could leave natural gas pipeline developers in the lurch and policy critics scrambling for how to approach the commission’s coming 2-2 partisan split.”
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