In the News

August 2019

8-21-19 Energy News Network. In North Carolina, novel legal maneuver deployed against Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline mired in federal lawsuits and its construction stalled indefinitely, North Carolina environmental advocates are attempting a novel legal maneuver to stop the gas project from ever coming to the Tar Heel State. Friends of the Earth and the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition have filed a petition with the administration of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, asking officials to revoke a key water quality certificate they issued for the pipeline early last year. The filing rests on a little-known administrative rule that allows state officials to cancel the certificate if the conditions around its approval change, or if the information justifying it turns out to be wrong. Petitioners say a revocation is warranted because — among other reasons — developers vastly understated the project’s environmental footprint, especially at its proposed terminus in Robeson County. A request like this hasn’t been made recently, if ever, and no one knows quite how it will proceed. At a minimum, it will reignite debate over the pipeline’s impacts in Robeson, one of the poorest and most racially diverse counties in the country. At its most successful, the petition could kill the project altogether.”

8-20-19 Energy News Network. Rural Virginia activist, 75, vows to ‘keep on fighting’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “It was the lyrical, three-note song of the whippoorwill that lured Ella Rose back home to retire in rural Buckingham County seven years ago. Now, she fears the bird’s mesmerizing call will be drowned out — and its natural habitat ruined — if Dominion Energy proceeds with construction of a natural gas pipeline compressor station it has permission to build roughly one-third of a mile from the house that has become her haven. …. The thought of losing that serenity prompted the 75-year-old to find her voice and articulate the threats Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline poses to this tiny rural community settled after the Civil War by free blacks and former slaves.

8-19-19 The Intercept. Oil Lobbyist Touts Success in Effort to Criminalize Pipeline Protests, Leaked Recording Shows. “The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a powerful lobbying group that represents major chemical plants and oil refineries, including Valero Energy, Koch Industries, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum, has flexed its muscle over environmental and energy policy for decades. Despite its reach, AFPM channels dark money and influence with little scrutiny. The group is now leveraging its political power to criminalize protests of oil and gas infrastructure. In an audio recording obtained by The Intercept, the group concedes that it has been playing a role behind the scenes in crafting laws recently passed in states across the country to criminalize oil and gas pipeline protests, in response to protests over the Dakota Access pipeline. The laws make it a crime to trespass on public land used for “critical infrastructure,” impose a fine or prison time for violators, and hold protesters responsible for damage incurred during the protest. Many of the laws also carry heavy fines to groups and individuals who support such demonstrations.”

8-19-19 Kallanish Energy. Agency finds Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction problem. “The troubled Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline has run into even more troubles, Kallanish Energy reports. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (Phmsa) has cited the pipeline, which originates in the Appalachian Basin, for ‘unsafe construction practices at work sites.’ The company failed to follow written specifications or standards in ditching and laying pipe, the agency said. Dominion Energy Transmission was ordered to correct the problems. The problems were discovered last December during federal inspections, but the agency released a four-page warning letter to the pipeline on July 25, E&E News reported. …. The letter to Dominion Energy Transmission warned of probable pipeline violations. It cites instances of the pipeline being placed within ‘a rock-laden ditch,’ which poses a risk. Another pipeline section was ‘abutting rock-laden trench walls’ and close to boulders that could cause pipeline problems in the future. The pipeline ditch was too narrow in another case to allow easy access for inspections and work.”

8-16-19 Richmond Times Dispatch. With Hurricane Camille in mind, Nelson County worries about potential steep price for pipeline. “The scope of Nelson’s vulnerability has become clearer in the early stages of a new federally funded study by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy that has already identified more than 5,900 landslides and debris flows, almost all caused by Camille. About 4,800 sites identified by the study represent debris flows —each a narrow flood of mud, rock, trees and other debris that moves quickly and crushes anything in its path. ‘They’re very dangerous,’ said Anne Carter Witt, a state geohazards geologist who is directing the study, focused on mapping landslide hazards in western Nelson and Albemarle counties. ‘Everything coming down Davis Creek was pretty much an enormous debris flow.’ …. [A] study by Blackburn Consulting Services relied on field testing of geology and slopes that focused on three areas vulnerable to landslides…. The pipeline company’s plans for reducing the threat of landslides ‘do not appear to fully take into account the potentially dangerous conditions that the project poses to Nelson’s slopes and residents,’ Blackburn states in the report, which raises concerns about the effect of removing trees, excavating soil and blasting rock on already unstable mountain ridges. …. Friends of Nelson estimates that the pipeline route passes through or near 60 debris flows and 10 debris slides documented from Camille in a new state study. …. Mervin J. Bartholomew, a North Carolina geologist who wrote a 1977 state guide to the geology of thearea that includes Reeds Gap, warned federal regulators more than two years ago that the planned pipeline route ‘is inadvisable and the risk of failure is high.'”

8-15-19 Progressive Pulse. Several members of Lumbee tribe, climate coalition ask DEQ to revoke Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit; EPA proposes to clamp down on states’ authority. “While the Trump administration proposed rules to strip states of some authority to reject natural gas pipelines, opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline petitioned state regulators to revoke the water quality permit for the controversial project. ‘We asked the department to consider the new information in the petition today,’ said Donna Chavis, a member of the Lumbee Tribe in Robeson County and Friends of the Earth, during a press conference at the legislature. ‘The cumulative impacts are worse than previously thought. We urge DEQ to reconsider its decision. We believe they want to do what is right.’ …. he petitioners, including the NC Climate Coalition, say ACP and FERC made math errors and failed to disclose ACP’s possible extension into South Carolina, also known as “segmentation.” ACP also failed to evaluate the cumulative impacts of nine natural gas projects on the Lumbee community, according to the petition. And since DEQ issued the 401 permit, there have been court rulings directing regulators to also consider the effects of energy projects on climate change. Ryan Emanuel, a hydrologist and Lumbee, said the ACP and FERC both erred in their environmental justice analysis because they compared the demographics of the affected census tracts with the rest of the county average, rather than the state.”

8-15-19 Think Progress. Appalachian pipelines face new setbacks amid renewed national scrutiny. “Two controversial pipeline projects in the South and Appalachia have hit new stumbling blocks regarding safety concerns and legal challenges that could further delay construction. Both the Atlantic Coast pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) have faced numerous setbacks and ongoing opposition from locals, even as developers have pushed ahead. But the latest complications come amid a resurgence of anti-pipeline sentiment, as some Democratic presidential contenders take aim at fossil fuel infrastructure more generally and national concern over climate change mounts. This week it was revealed that a ‘warning letter’ was sent by federal inspectors last month to Dominion Energy, the lead company behind the ACP, warning that the pipeline’s work sites in parts of West Virginia are unsafe. As E&E reported Thursday, the four-page document says that during a December inspection, they found workers laying parts of the pipeline in rock-lined ditches, posing a safety hazard. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sternly rebuked Dominion, stating that the pipeline’s positioning could leave it ‘susceptible to potential stresses and/or damage’ in the case of movement, as is common during hydrostatic testing (done to examine potential leaks and structural integrity). Moreover, the pipe was found to be in close proximity to unsupported boulders, which could impact the pipeline should they shift.”

8-15-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley suspends work on pipeline. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have voluntarily suspended work on parts of the embattled project, three days after a lawsuit raised questions about its impact on endangered species. In a letter Thursday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Mountain Valley said the suspension covers ‘new activities’ that could pose a threat to the lives of endangered bats and fish, or potentially destroy their habitat. Less clear was how much of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline will be affected. …. Most work will be halted on a 75-mile stretch, along watersheds in the counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania. Another 20 miles, including some streams and rivers in West Virginia, are also included. Mountain Valley also said it would cease tree-felling in areas populated by endangered bats. But with the exception of a wooded slope in Montgomery County — where two tree-sitters have been blocking work on the pipeline since last September — nearly all of the trees the company had planned to cut are already gone. ‘It’s a little disingenuous for them to say they’re taking these precautions,’ said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups that filed Monday’s legal challenge. ‘Because, guess what, they’ve already cut down all the trees that had Indiana bats in them.'”

8-14-19 News & Advance. Amherst council approves lease to Atlantic Coast Pipeline for storage yard, staging hub. “The controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is set to have a temporary home in Amherst for a storage yard and gathering spot for pipeline workers through a land lease arrangement Amherst Town Council approved Wednesday. Council voted unanimously after a public hearing to lease to Dominion Energy about 49 acres within the L. Barnes Brockman, Sr. Business and Industrial Park on U.S. 60 in Amherst. The Richmond-based company heading the pipeline is set to use the site at the end of Brockman Park Drive for a period of two years with possible extensions. According to the lease, Dominion Energy can use the leased property seven days a week, 24 hours a day throughout the two year-period for purposes that include storage of materials, a pipe yard, temporary offices, a staging area for pipeline workers, a parking area and any other activities or uses “reasonably associated” with the company’s activities.”

8-14-19 Roanoke Times. Ewing: Which side are you on?  “David Butterworth’s defense of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (“Pipeline protests are hurting workers,” Aug. 5 commentary) tears a destructive path through the truth in the same way that his beloved pipeline is destroying family farms, wooded hillsides, and mountain streams across Southwest Virginia. His misleading, false, and reckless criticism of protesters serves the interests of the corporate investors whose pursuit of profits ignores the realities of climate change, defies environmental standards, and endangers the citizens of Virginia. At the core of the stop the pipeline protests is a recurring question in American — and especially Appalachian — labor activism: Which side are you on? …. Everyone living in Southwest Virginia must ask this question: Are you on the side of an out-of-state corporation that’s destroying the local environment to serve the interests of investors, all while contributing to climate change? Or are you on the side of community members and environmental activists trying to stop this wanton act of destruction?”

8-14-19 American Prospect. Can the Appalachian Trail Block a Natural Gas Pipeline?  “The lawsuit over this section of the Appalachian Trail could determine the fate of some of the largest natural gas deposits in North America. In a landmark decision last December, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond axed the project—for now. That court found that the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine is part of the National Park System, blocking federal agencies from authorizing a pipeline crossing. The astonishing decision upended the U.S. natural gas industry and also jeopardizes other pipeline projects with proposed routes across the trail. Whether the pipeline construction ever goes forward ultimately hinges on the question of who has authority over the Appalachian Trail.”

8-13-19 NBC29. Groups Ask NC Regulators to Revoke 2018 Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit.  “Environmental groups that promote renewable energy want North Carolina regulators to cancel a key state water quality permit issued to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Leaders of the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition and Friends of the Earth announced Tuesday their petition with the Department of Environmental Quality asking that the January 2018 permit be revoked.”

8-13-19 WRAL. Environmental activists seek reversal of NC permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “Environmental activists called on Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration Tuesday to reconsider a key permit issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition and Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the state Department of Environmental Quality to revoke the permit the agency issued last year to the pipeline’s developers under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The groups say the facts that were presented in the application for the permit were incorrect and are no longer accurate. …. ‘We don’t’ always get a chance to have do-overs, and this is a major do-over,’ Donna Chavis, a Lumbee activist from Pembroke and a member of Friends of the Earth, said during a news conference to announce the petition. ‘It’s a do-over that affects not just an individual … it’s a do-over that affects all North Carolinians – I would even say all people in North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, specifically and the climate in general.'”

8-13-19 E&E News. Va. widow leads eminent domain fight at Supreme Court.  “Givens and a host of other residents living along the 300-mile Mountain Valley project have joined calls for federal courts to address a quirk in the pipeline eminent domain process that enables pipeline developers to gain access to private property before paying to use the land. Their plea is now before the Supreme Court, which will decide this fall whether to take up the case. Givens, whose name sits atop a long list of property holders on the Supreme Court challenge, has battled the pipeline on several fronts. She has attended court hearings. She has participated in protests. She has learned the ins and outs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which authorizes gas transport projects. While she vehemently opposes Mountain Valley on all fronts, Givens’ Supreme Court battle aligns her with more conservative landowners and legal minds who also say pipeline developers do not have the right to immediate possession, or ‘quick take,’ of private property.”

8-12-19 PV Magazine. Dominion is polling its customers for pro-monopoly arguments. “Under pressure by both corporations who want other options to buy renewables and a new coalition seeking to break its monopoly, Dominion is trying out some arguments with questionable factual basis. …. Those who have seen the repeated debunking of utility claims that there is a “cost shift” onto other customers who use solar know that there is nothing new about utilities using inaccurate arguments to control conditions and maximize their profit. But Dominion has even more reason to be concerned. The utility’s polling comes amid increasing calls by both corporations that want access to solar on their own terms, and an array of political, environmental and anti-poverty groups spanning the political spectrum that are seeking to break up the utility and provide full retail choice to consumers.”

8-12-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline faces new legal challenge, this one over endangered species. “Foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have filed another legal attack, this one over the pipeline’s impact on endangered species such as the Roanoke logperch. The petition, filed Monday, asks a federal appeals court in Richmond to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its earlier opinion that burrowing a 42-inch diameter pipe across rugged mountain slopes and through unspoiled streams will not significantly harm the threatened fish, bats and plants that live there. At the same time, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups sent a letter to the service requesting it immediately stay its permits pending legal review — a move that could bring work on the beleaguered project to a standstill.”

8-12-19 Chron. Interior rolls back endangered species protections, in boon for oil companies. “The Trump administration rolled back longstanding federal protections for wildlife under threat of extinction Monday, in a move that could expand oil and gas drilling and other development across America’s wilderness. More than 40 years after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the changes were necessary to make more efficient and transparent a bureaucratic process that oil companies, ranchers and other industries have long complained about. …. Attorneys General in California and Massachusetts, along with conservation groups, said they plan to file lawsuits challenging the legality of such moves when the Trump administration files the final rule in the federal register in the weeks ahead. ‘These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act’s lifesaving protections for America’s most vulnerable wildlife,’ Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, said in a statement. ‘For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end.'”

8-12-19 Virginia Business Daily. Military stands behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. “A group of high-ranking military members have appealed to Congress members, pointing out in a letter the importance of the ACP to military installations on the coast, including Naval Station Norfolk, Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, U.S. Army Fort Bragg, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. …. The letter points out that only one pipeline currently transports gas to the eastern region of the mid-Atlantic and it is already at full capacity. Were it to come under attack, this would cause intense disruption of military response. ‘Clearly ACP will serve the strategic interests of our armed forces,’ the letter states. ‘We urge you to be resolute and unwavering in your support of U.S. military readiness and thus resilient energy supplies.'”

8-12-19 Utility Dive. EPA moves to streamline permitting for power plant expansions, gas pipelines. “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Friday also announced a proposal to change the process through which states give Section 401 certifications for projects under the Clean Water Act (CWA), limiting state regulatory considerations for natural gas infrastructure. The proposed CWA rule was expected following an April executive order from President Donald Trump. …. Environmental groups also decried Wheeler’s proposal on the CWA and several states are expected to oppose that proposal as well, with both groups alleging the related executive order is an infringement on state’s rights. ‘We saw bipartisan opposition from the states when Trump issued the related executive order earlier this year,’ Emily Sansel, spokesperson for the League of Conservation Voters, told Utility Dive.”

8-9-19 Inside Climate News. EPA Plans to Rewrite Clean Water Act Rules to Fast-Track Pipelines.  “The Trump administration is proposing changes to federal regulations that could fast-track the approval of natural gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure. Environmental advocates say the move will weaken the ability of states and tribes to protect their waters. The proposed changes to Clean Water Act permitting rules, announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would limit the amount of time states and tribes can take to review new project proposals to a “reasonable period” of no more than one year, with the definition of “reasonable period” left to federal agencies to determine and the clock starting from the inital request for a permit, with no pauses or restarts. It also would limit states to considering only water quality and allow the federal government to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in some situations. ‘This proposed rule change would hobble the most important tool that states have to protect significant waters, from prized trout streams to essential drinking water sources,’ said Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation. …. Once finalized, the proposed changes face inevitable legal challenges.”

8-9-19 Medium.com. Definition of Insanity: Mountain Valley Pipeline Asks for “Emergency Authorization” to Prevent a Life Threatening Landslide. “In a chilling passage in yesterday’s letter [to FERC], MVP made this stunning revelation: ‘The progression of the slide caused additional area outside the limits of disturbance to destabilize, uprooted numerous large trees, has the potential to impact an aquatic resource, and has progressed to the point where a residence directly downslope is unsafe to be occupied. Mountain Valley Pipeline must stabilize the slide before it causes damage or injury to the landowners and resources located down-slope of the slide.’ …. How many landslides is too many? How many workers or landowners will have to be hurt? How many residences will have to be made ‘unsafe to be occupied.’ This is not complicated. It’s an emergency.”

8-8-19 Nelson County Times. Atlantic Coast Pipeline could see more court action. “Both sides of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline debate are bracing for another potential trip to court, this time the United States Supreme Court. In December 2018, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Forest Service had no legal authority to grant a right-of-way for the ACP to cross United States Forest Service lands and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In June, Dominion Energy responded by filing an appeal, asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling. The Southern Environmental Law Center plans to submit an opposition paper, in the hopes that the Supreme Court will decide to not hear Dominion’s appeal. In the meantime Dominion has voluntarily stopped work on the Virginia portion of the pipeline, a proposed $7 billion, 600-mile natural-gas pipeline to be built through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Both sides are confident.”

8-8-19 News Leader. Letters: Ky. pipeline explosion highlights what could happen here. “Augusta County got an urgent wake-up call last week from Kentucky. On Aug. 1 there was a huge explosion from a gas pipeline in Jackson City, which killed one person and sent five to the hospital. Anyone concerned about the proposed pipeline for our county should look up the video photos of that terrifying event to see what all too easily could happen to us. The Kentucky pipeline was 30” in diameter. By comparison, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be 42” in diameter, which would carry twice the volume of gas.”

8-8-19 Wall St. Journal. The Leaks That Threaten the Clean Image of Natural Gas. “Energy companies are producing record volumes of natural gas, thanks in part to the U.S. fracking boom. They have ambitious plans to make the cleaner-burning fuel a big part of the global energy mix for decades to come by sending tankers of liquefied gas around the world. But growing public concern over leaks and intentional releases of gas and its primary component, methane, threaten to derail the dominance of gas in the new energy world order. Methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. That makes it particularly harmful to the environment when it is discharged into the atmosphere. In the U.S. alone, the methane that leaks or is released from oil and gas operations annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 69 million cars, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis using conversion formulas from the Environmental Protection Agency and emissions estimates for 2015 published last year in the journal Science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body, says methane is even more potent than the estimates the EPA uses. By its calculation the annual releases would be equal to those of about 94 million cars, or roughly a third of the nation’s registered vehicles.”

8-7-19 GreenTechMedia. Dominion Energy Plans to Build 4 Storage Pilots and Study Them for 5 Years. “The utility asked regulators for permission last week to build four battery storage facilities as pilots to test the technology’s functionality. After expected completion in 2020, Dominion will study the operations for five years. That’s a marked advance from Dominion’s position in its original 2018 integrated resource plan, which acknowledged the existence of battery storage but proposed no actions to take advantage of it. ‘The Company continues to monitor advancements in other energy storage technologies, such as batteries and flywheels,’ the IRP stated, while calling for at least 3,664 megawatts of combustion turbine capacity by 2033. Since then, Dominion has had more time to process Virginia’s Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, which authorized up to 30 megawatts of utility storage pilots. It was not a mandate, but conveyed legislators’ belief that storage has a role to play in the future of the grid. In May, data center giants including Apple, AWS and Microsoft wrote an open letter chiding Dominion for neglecting solar power and energy storage in favor of natural-gas capacity. Those companies wield economic clout when choosing where to site new data centers, which consume ample amounts of electricity.”

8-7-19 Roanoke Times. MVP tries again to remove 2 tree-sitters who have blocked work on the pipeline for nearly a year. “Mountain Valley filed a request Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court for a temporary injunction to have the protesters extracted from two trees they have occupied on a wooded slope near Elliston for nearly a year. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon denied a similar request on the grounds that the company had improperly gone after the two unidentified protesters as part of an eminent domain case used to take private land for the controversial pipeline. …. Mountain Valley asked a circuit court judge to order the tree-sitters to come down, and if they refuse, to ‘direct law enforcement to take all necessary action to remove defendants from the tree stands and easements.’ The request for an injunction also seeks fines of $400,000 each against the two current tree-sitters, three others who have previously occupied the stands and 11 members of a ground team that has provided food, water and support from a nearby camp.”

8-7-19 Cato Institute. Don’t Abuse Property Rights to Build Pipelines. “The demand for American energy independence and expansion of the natural gas industry have led to a marked increase in the construction of new gas pipelines. The Natural Gas Act empowers the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delegate to private pipeline companies the power to take private property to build these pipelines, so long as they pay the just compensation due under the Fifth Amendment. Not content with the power to begin construction after judicially authorized transfer of title, however, these companies have claimed the equivalent of government power—not mere delegated authority—by taking property before any adjudication by means of preliminary injunctions, with even fewer owner protections than statutory ‘quick takes’ (expedited title transfers).”

8-6-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents urge regulators to expand stop work order. “Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say a recent stop work order in Montgomery County should be extended to the entire project. Last week, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality halted work on a two-mile section, because it lacked appropriate erosion and sediment controls. During a news conference Tuesday in Roanoke, a coalition of groups said they have documented similar problems in many different locations. Russell Chisholm is Co-Chair of the POWHR Coalition. ‘We’re expected to take their word for what’s happening out there along the route, that things are going to be okay, when that’s simply not true,’ Chisholm told WDBJ7. ‘And until we know that they can do that, they should shut the whole thing down.'”

8-6-19 AP News. Regulators partially deny Dominion request for bill hike. “Virginia regulators have rejected Dominion Energy’s request to make its customers pay for long-term upgrades at power plants the company knew had a short working life. The State Corporation Commission issued a ruling Monday partially denying the state’s largest electric utility’s request to increase customers’ bills to pay for environmental compliance projects at certain power plants. The SCC said Dominion decided in 2015 to spend $18 million on long-term upgrades at two power stations in Chesterfield County the company expected to retire or retrofit within five years. Dominion permanently retired the two units earlier this year.”

8-5-19 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Too much rain is messing with pipeline operators’ infrastructure plans. “The problem is evolving faster than environmental regulations. Those don’t prescribe how companies should control rainwater and erosion, but rather establish “the guidelines for best management practices during construction and post construction,” said Lauren Fraley, a spokeswoman for the DEP. Costa Samaras, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said companies building energy infrastructure have to adhere to safety standards, but very few of the standards have been updated to account for how the climate is changing. As a result, most new infrastructure isn’t designed to withstand the conditions it will face decades from now.”

8-5-19 Politico. How McConnell’s coal guy is helping Trump remake federal energy policy. “Add the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the list of technocratic regulatory agencies thrown into turmoil as President Donald Trump’s appointees seek to steer its agenda. Current and former regulators, staffers and industry officials say Trump and his chosen chairman, former Mitch McConnell aide Neil Chatterjee, have politicized an independent agency typically known for nonpartisan rulemaking on issues including natural gas pipelines and regional power markets. The dissension has made it difficult to retain staff, fill a vacant commissioner post and issue rulings on critical issues facing the nation’s electricity supply.”

8-5-19 Utility Dive. Dominion’s 100% renewables tariff could kill Virginia’s retail choice ambitions. “Dominion Energy, the state’s dominant utility, in May filed an application with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for approval of its 100% renewable energy tariff. If approved, that tariff offering would prevent other retail electricity providers from competing in the market to give large and residential customers a 100% renewable option. Policy watchers say this fight between Dominion and the CSPs [competitive service provider] highlights a larger tension in the state — whether Virginia should move toward a competitive retail choice market, something customer advocates, environmentalists, corporate customers and others are advocating for.

8-4-19 Virginia Mercury. ‘Getting in the way:’ Inside the standoff over the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The roar of construction echoed through the hollow, as a bulldozer pushed dirt on an impossibly steep slope hundreds of feet up the ridge. At the bottom of the slope, a makeshift fence and stack of pallets marked a boundary — the edge of a support camp for tree-sitters who for 10 months have blocked the path up the other side of the hollow. These are the battle lines on the ground in the fight over the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile natural gas transmission line intended to transport gas from the fracking fields of northern West Virginia through the rugged terrain of eastern Appalachia to a compressor station in southern Virginia’s Pittsylvania County.” [Review article on MVP and efforts to stop it]

8-4-19 News & Advance. Editorial: Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Is It Still a Viable Project? “Right now, the odds that the pipeline will be built are still in Dominion’s favor. It’s one of the most powerful corporations in the state and has the political backing of both Democratic and Republican officials in Richmond. But with the rising costs, the courtroom setbacks and still-growing grassroots opposition to the project, you have to wonder if, at some point, the project simply becomes politically and financially unviable. That tipping point may be closer than you think.”

8-2-19 Roanoke Times. Regulators stop work on 2 miles of Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County. “Virginia regulators ordered Friday that all work cease on construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline along a 2-mile section of the route in eastern Montgomery County. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in stopping work on the project for the first time, cited lapses in compliance with an approved erosion and sediment control plan. Agency director David Paylor said in a news release that his agency is ‘appalled’ by findings during a Thursday inspection. …. Paylor’s reaction was to evidence ‘that construction priorities and deadline pressures would ever rise above the proper and appropriate use of erosion control measures,’ the government’s statement said.”

8-2-19 Medium.com. Breaking News: Federal Court Refuses Mountain Valley Pipeline Request to Remove Tree Sitters in Virginia. “In another stunning defeat for Mountain Valley Pipeline, a federal district court judge has denied the pipeline company’s request for an order removing tree sitters in southwest Virginia. Judge Elizabeth Dillon, in a fourteen page opinion, ruled that MVP had no right to add the tree sitters — who have been occupying trees in Elliston, Virginia for almost one year — as parties to an eminent domain case against the owners of the land on which the trees are located. Dillon noted that there was no evidence that the landowners were acting in concert with the tree sitters. She also noted that this is a condemnation proceeding to determine how much the landowners would be paid by MVP in return for the destruction of the land wrought by construction. The tree sitters, Dillon noted, are not seeking compensation. Rather, Dillon noted, ‘the tree-sitters clearly seem to be protesting the pipeline as a whole.'”

8-2-19 E&E News. Federal judge rebukes FERC’s ‘Kafkaesque regime’. “A federal appellate court today upheld another Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for a natural gas project — but not without a sharply worded judicial critique. Judge Patricia Millett said she was bound by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit precedent to join her colleagues in rejecting a challenge by environmentalists and landowners to the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In the same breath, she urged further review of a ‘Kafkaesque regime’ by which FERC can trap landowners in ‘administrative limbo’ while allowing pipeline developers to move full speed ahead. ‘In cases involving private property rights, the Commission has transformed this court’s decisions upholding its tolling orders into a bureaucratic purgatory that only Dante could love,’ Millett, an Obama appointee, wrote in her concurring opinion. ‘While I acknowledge that circuit precedent currently forecloses the Homeowners’ constitutional challenge to the tolling orders, this case starkly illustrates why a second look by us or by the Commission is overdue,’ she wrote.”

8-2-19 Washington Post. Letter: There’s nothing safe about pipelines. “Dominion Energy’s pipelines are needless projects that will only hurt Virginians economically. They’re not for us; they’re a vehicle for powerful fossil fuel interests to pilfer money from us while giving nothing in return. Dominion’s pipeline would be no more safe from landslides than TransCanada’s was in 2018 when it exploded in West Virginia just months after completion. On Thursday, a similar Enbridge pipeline exploded in Kentucky, killing one person and setting six homes on fire. Virginia farmers are seeing their water contaminated and their land ripped out from under them. Fracked gas pipelines are only a ‘safer’ mode of transportation of “natural gas” in the way that rubbing rat poison on your skin is better for you than rubbing it in your eye or swallowing it.”

8-1-19 WV News. Environmental group requests order halting Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. “Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline is potentially facing another setback. Following a ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday that vacated the biological opinion and incidental take statement issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking for an order ‘halting all construction’ of the pipeline project. The request, attributed to Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Virginia Office, urges the commission to stop work for four reasons.”

8-1-19 Medium.com.  Mountain Valley Pipeline Contractor Has a History of Killing its Own Workers. “We knew Mountain Valley Pipeline would always put profit ahead of people. We knew it the day they hired the contractor to build this corporate boondoggle, a Wisconsin based company called Precision Pipeline that was investigated for environmental violations on previous pipelines it had built. We knew that Precision Pipeline’s track record was so bad that it was sued by Dominion Energy — yes, that Dominion Energy — for causing 50 landslides on a 55 mile pipeline it built for Dominion. Fifty landslides. Precision Pipeline clearly does not care about the environment or the rights of people whose land they are desecrating. And, as it turns out, they don’t even care about their own workers. In fact, Precision Pipeline has left a trail of mayhem in its path. Mayhem to its own workers.”

8-1-19 CBS News. Deadly Kentucky gas pipeline explosion, fire felt “like an atomic bomb went off”  “A regional gas pipeline ruptured early Thursday in Kentucky, causing a massive explosion that killed one person, hospitalized five others, destroyed railroad tracks and forced the evacuation of dozens of people from a nearby mobile home park, authorities said. …. The 30-inch-wide pipeline moves natural gas under high pressure, so the rupture at about 1 a.m. caused a tremendous amount of damage in the immediate area, authorities said. Hours later, firefighters doused the flames, after trucks repeatedly refilled their tanks and returned to the scene. …. Emergency managers said the rupture involved the Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline, which is owned and operated by Enbridge. The pipeline stretches more than 9,000 miles, from the Mexican border in Texas to New York City. A statement from the company based in Calgary, Canada, said ‘Enbridge is aware of and is responding to a rupture on the Texas Eastern system in Lincoln County.'”

July 2019

7-31-19 S&P Global. Dominion to focus on Supreme Court to get Atlantic Coast Pipeline to finish line. “Dominion Energy will focus more attention in the months ahead on gaining a win at the US Supreme Court rather than publicly discussing administrative or legislative actions to get its stalled Atlantic Coast Pipeline completed, amid investor concerns about the project’s future. The game plan outlined by executives Wednesday during a conference call with analysts – and the promise for now to keep to its latest timeline and cost estimate — came as the company reported an 88% drop in second-quarter profit on a big jump in overall operational expenses. …. Some analysts are skeptical Dominion will be able to keep to its current timeline, regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court on the trail crossing dispute. The FWS authorizations issue may be just as pressing. ‘To the extent that Dominion had hoped to restart construction this fall, we view this adverse ruling as precluding such activity unless and until the failures identified in the permits are addressed through a new permit,’ industry research firm ClearView Energy Partners said in a note to clients Monday. ‘Absent new permits that can survive judicial muster, construction on this project cannot resume.’

7-31-2019 WV News. WV AG Morrisey details brief supporting Atlantic Coast pipeline project. “West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he believes legal precedent exists to back up the argument made in a 35-page legal brief supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The brief, written by Morrisey’s office in conjunction with the attorneys general of 15 other states, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that halted construction of the natural gas pipeline project.”

7-31-2019 WFAE.com. Despite Court Rulings, Atlantic Coast Pipeline Still On Track, Dominion Says. “Dominion Energy says it still expects to open the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2021, despite court rulings and ongoing appeals that have delayed key environmental permits and halted construction. Among the holdups is a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in February that the pipeline cannot cross the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia. Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell told Wall Street analysts Wednesday the company expects the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. ‘We expect that in October or November, the Supreme Court will schedule arguments to occur in the spring of next year, with a final decision no later than June 2020,’ Farrell said. ‘We are confident that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling will be overturned.’ Farrell also hinted at a possible deal that could allow the Appalachian Trail crossing. He said the company is exploring the possibility of a land swap, similar to one proposed by another project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That would trade private land near the trail for permission to cross.” Includes audio.

7-31-2019 Roanoke Times. Pipe coating is safe, Mountain Valley tells regulators. “A protective coating applied to the massive pipeline under construction in Virginia and West Virginia poses no known harms, developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have told federal regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked for information on the coating July 10, following concerns from some critics that prolonged exposure to the elements could cause toxins to degrade from the pipe and contaminate the surrounding air, soil and water. ‘To Mountain Valley’s knowledge, there is no evidence that the use of epoxy coatings present a risk to human health, aquatic life, or other environmental receptors through any foreseeable exposure pathway,’ Jeffrey Klinefelter, vice president for construction and engineering, wrote in a letter to FERC. It was unclear what steps the lead agency overseeing construction of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline will take next.”

7-30-19 E&E Energywire. Mountain Valley pipeline takes on Appalachian Trail battle. “The Atlantic Coast pipeline wouldn’t be the only project stymied by Supreme Court inaction on a question of whether the Forest Service can authorize crossings of the Appalachian Trail, another developer told the justices last week. Builders of the 300-mile Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia said they’ve already spent $3 billion on a project now in legal limbo, as they urged justices to take up recent petitions from Atlantic Coast backers and the federal government. Their Supreme Court petitions challenge a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the National Park Service, which is bound to a stricter land conservation mandate than the Forest Service, must authorize crossings of the more than 2,000-mile trail (Energywire, June 26). ‘If allowed to stand, the decision below eliminates federal [Mineral Leasing Act] authority to grant or renew rights-of-way for gas pipelines serving the millions of Americans living along the eastern seaboard if the pipeline crosses the Trail, a court-erected barrier from central Maine to north Georgia,’ attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC wrote in a Friday ‘friend of the court’ brief. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents groups facing off with Atlantic Coast in court, has noted that existing projects would not be affected if the Supreme Court preserves the 4th Circuit’s finding. More than 50 pipelines that currently traverse the footpath are located on state and private land or along existing rights of way, an attorney for the group wrote in a recent letter to the Forest Service.”

7-30-2019 Utility Dive. FERC staff drafts environmental ‘pass’ for Mountain Valley Pipeline expansion. “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued a draft decision Friday approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) proposed natural gas expansion from Virginia into North Carolina. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) determined “limited adverse” effects from the MVP project, named the Southgate natural gas pipeline. FERC staff also issued recommendations to further reduce the impact of the 73-mile project. Mountain Valley, a joint venture between NextEra Energy, EQT Corporation and others, would meet Dominion Energy’s growing natural gas supply needs by connecting the MVP project and another pipeline to two new delivery points in North Carolina. Dominion Energy also sought to bring more natural gas to the region through a 600-mile project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). …. ‘We determined that, for most resources, the construction and operation of the project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts,’ FERC staff wrote. The adverse impacts ‘would be reduced to less-than-significant levels through implementation of our recommendations and Mountain Valley’s proposed avoidances, minimization and mitigation measures.'”

7-28-19 Virginia Mercury. ‘Unjustified and unreasonable’: Navy, Walmart, attorney general and legal aid workers oppose Dominion’s profit push. “Federal and state agencies, Walmart and a group advocating on behalf of low-income Virginians have emerged as unlikely bedfellows in an effort to push back against a proposal by Dominion Energy Virginia to increase the profits that its shareholders can reap. The U.S. Navy, testifying on behalf of the federal executive agencies, called the proposal ‘excessive and unwarranted.’ The Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Counsel declared that it was based on ‘highly unrealistic assumptions.’ The Virginia Poverty Law Center described it as ‘unjustified and unreasonable.’ And Walmart, while taking a less strident stance, called it ‘counter to broader electric industry trends.’ The proposal in question was put forward by Dominion this spring, when the investor-owned utility asked the State Corporation Commission to increase its allowable return on equity from 9.2 percent to 10.75 percent.”

7-26-19 Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Judge Halts Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Land-Grab Attempt. “In a July 24th ruling, US District Judge Terrence Boyle extended a [North Carolina] stay on Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) request to use “quick-take” proceedings in order to gain access to properties along the route of the pipeline. ‘Quick take’ allows the company to gain access to land even though adjudication of compensation has not occurred. In his 2-page order Boyle wrote: ‘Defendants again cite ACP’s suspension of construction activities, the uncertainty of the pipeline’s route in light of ongoing litigation, and the burden of the expense of litigation if required to proceed at this time in support of their request for a continued stay. The Court again finds that any prejudice to ACP imposed by a brief additional stay does not sufficiently outweigh the burden imposed on the moving defendants.'” Court order here.

7-26-19 Reuters. U.S. court vacates Dominion Atlantic Coast natgas pipe permit. “A U.S. appeals court on Friday vacated a permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allowed Dominion Energy Inc to build its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species. Dominion suspended construction of the long-delayed project in early December after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, stayed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s permit, called an incidental take statement. The court on Friday found the Fish and Wildlife Service “fast-tracked” its decision to reissue an incidental take statement in 2018 a mere 19 days after federal energy regulators resumed formal consultation with the agency following the court’s decision to stay a version of the permit from 2017, Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory said in the court’s opinion.” This story was reported in many different media outlets.

7-25-19 Richmond2day. Richmond-area group marks 75 weeks of pipeline protests. “This week marked the seventy-fifth of weekly protests against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines outside of Governor Northam’s office. The protests, which started in February 2018 shortly after Northam’s gubernatorial term began, have continued as a result of Northam’s continued support for the two pipelines. Northam also continues to accept money from the pipelines’ corporate owners, doing so in light of the growing list of related violations, investigations, and lawsuits. Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) has accrued hundreds of violations during construction, has had several permits suspended or vacated, and is under criminal investigation. Despite continued damage to water quality, private property and personal livelihoods of residents along the pipeline’s route in Southwest Virginia and not having the permits in place to complete the project, pipeline construction continues. MVP offers proof of what activists have said all along regarding the pipelines: the terrain through which they would traverse is far too dangerous to harbor a pipeline, and the pipelines cannot be completed without substantial adverse impacts to water quality and the communities in the pipelines’ paths. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, not yet under construction in Virginia, has similarly lost necessary permits in the courts, giving more proof that regulatory agencies have erred in evaluating these pipelines.”

7-25-19. Bacon’s Rebellion. New Front In Dominion’s War Against Competition. “So to review the three fronts: 1) Dominion has cut off transfers of its customers to two competitive suppliers offering a renewable product and asserts to the SCC they are operating illegally, 2) continues to contest efforts by medium size retail customers to aggregate enough load to depart the monopoly, and 3) is working hard to offer a lower-priced alternative to those customer who already have enough load to leave. One question common to all of the cases is whether customers who choose to remain with Dominion, or who have no choice under the law, end up hit with additional costs because the others have left or because the large users will have this new, lower-cost rate alternative. That is the reason the SCC has cited for denying most petitions by retailers for aggregation of their load.”

7-25-19 E&E News. Battle lines form over pipeline cyberthreat. “Under pressure to ensure U.S. oil and gas pipelines don’t fall prey to hackers andpose a threat to public safety, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are puzzling over which agency should have cyber oversight. …. Top intelligence and homeland securityofficials have warned that new reliance on digital controls, online threats from adversaries like China and Russia, and cybersecurity workforce shortages collectively pose a huge risk to the hundreds of thousands of energy pipelines crisscrossing the nation. Though cyberattacks on control systems are extraordinarily rare, researchers have shown how pipeline networks could be disrupted by skilled hackers, potentially harming other sectors or even resulting in leaks or explosions.”

7-23-19 GreenTechMedia. The Battle for Virginia’s Corporate Renewables Market Heats Up.  ” Tensions are escalating in Virginia between Dominion Energy, rival electricity suppliers and the state’s growing list of big corporations demanding renewable power. Direct Energy and Calpine, two competitive service providers (CSPs) working in utility Dominion’s Virginia territory, alleged in separate motions filed Monday that Dominion has stopped processing their 100 percent renewable electricity enrollment requests for large customers in recent months. The two companies asked state regulators to swiftly intervene to restart enrollment. Virginia allows competitive service providers to offer 100 percent renewables to large customers as long as the regulated utility does not provide that option itself, which Dominion currently does not.”

7-23-19 Courthouse News Service. Third Circuit Raps Pipeline on Fair-Market Failures. “Natural gas companies can no longer rely on federal law to pay less than fair-market value for land seized by eminent domain for pipeline construction, the divided Third Circuit ruled Tuesday. The reversal comes two years after a federal judge denied a $3 million demand by King Arthur Estates in compensation for the 7 acres of land in Pike County, Pennsylvania, seized by Tennessee Gas Pipeline. In a 2-1 opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Greenaway Jr. noted that federal law is typically used to determine compensation value, but the law lacks real guidelines as to what constitutes just compensation. ‘Because federal law does not supply a rule of decision on this precise issue, we must fill the void with a common law remedy,’ Greenaway wrote for the majority. The 32-page opinion also emphasizes that, under Pennsylvania law, private property owners are able to get more money out of the condemned than they would under federal law. This would mean the pipeline would have to pay approximately $1 million more in compensation under state law than federal.”

7-23-19 WVTF. Pipeline Politics; MVP and ACP Face Rocky Road. “The long journey of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast natural gas pipelines recently got longer. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the appeal of a case that denied the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permission to cross the Appalachian Trail. Construction on the ACP is on hold, while work continues on the MVP. Several legal and environmental challenges have muddied the waters on pipeline construction in Virginia and one analyst says pipeline politics in this country are changing.” Includes audio.

7-22-19 Axios. Energy regulators divided over natural gas and climate change. “Regulatory decisions about America’s bounty of natural gas are in the hands of an obscure and understaffed federal agency with a limited mandate to think about climate change. Why it matters: With America’s production of oil and natural gas soaring and Congress not acting on climate change, the once-sleepy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is finding itself at the center of protests and lawsuits. Interviews with all 4 FERC members illustrate their division over how to handle greenhouse gas emissions. Driving the news: Democratic FERC Commissioner Richard Glick wants to require companies seeking approval for pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to offset significant greenhouse gas emissions, similar to the way companies compensate for more traditional environmental impacts like creating wetlands. …. The other side: ‘I just fundamentally disagree with Commissioner Glick on this matter,’ said Neil Chatterjee, the panel’s Republican chairman. ‘The approach the commission has been taking is what we are statutorily obligated to do.’ …. What’s next: Once LaFleur resigns at the end of next month, the two GOP commissioners will have a clear majority and be able to approve controversial projects over Glick’s opposition.”

7-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion Energy’s new programs are really about limiting choices. “[H]ere in Virginia, Dominion Energy expects to reduce carbon emissions less in the future than in the past, and it has no plan to produce 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. For all the talk here of solar, Virginia still had one-seventh the amount of solar installed as North Carolina at the end of 2018 and no wind energy. Dominion has developed a few solar projects and new tariffs to serve tech companies and other large customers, but ordinary residents still lack meaningful choices. So this spring, Dominion decided to do something about that. The wrong thing, of course.”

7-22-19 The Hill. Ditching fossil fuels can tackle affordable housing and climate change. “With the passage of one of the nation’s most ambitious climate policies earlier this year, D.C. has sparked an important conversation — how can all this new clean power be used to lower housing costs and reduce air pollution? The answer is clear: by replacing gas as the primary means of heating and cooling our buildings, and cooking our food, we can slash carbon pollution and lower the cost of new housing. At a time when the fossil fuel industry is doubling down on gas, Berkeley, California last week became the first city in the U.S. to ban the fuel source in new homes. This is yet another example of how, even while the federal government continues to prop up the pollution economy, local governments are pioneering necessary climate solutions. …. Using gas to power our buildings may have made sense when coal was our primary energy source and we ignored gas’s serious health and safety issues. But today it only remains the default thanks to the myopic business tactics of fossil fuel companies. They have misled the public on the impacts of gas, calling it ‘natural’ and ‘clean’— even though it is neither.”

7-20-19 Clean Technica. Speakers At DCD-San Francisco Ask, “Why Won’t Utility Companies Give Us The Renewable Energy We Want?” “At this year’s Data Center Dynamics conference in San Francisco, speaker after speaker took to the stage to lament how utility companies refuse to provide even the largest corporations with the renewable energy they want. Utility companies are accustomed to having things pretty much their own way. Their attitude is ‘It’s our electricity, damn it. We will decide how it is made, how it is distributed, and how much you will pay for it!’ The tech industry and its data centers want renewable energy for two reasons. First, there will be no need of data if a warming planet leads to the extinction of humans. Second, businesses crave predictability. Renewable energy power purchase agreements mean stable long term electricity costs with no fluctuations if a hurricane shuts down refineries in Houston (as happened last week) or Iran seizes a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz (as happened yesterday). …. The DCD – San Francisco panelists agreed that changes are coming — albeit slowly — in the utility business. But there’s one utility company — Dominion in Virginia — that has been particularly stubborn. The company is a strong proponent of the highly controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which has drawn the ire of residents and businesses along its proposed route.”

7-20-19 WFXR-TV. Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters making their voices heard. “A group of 40 protesters descended upon the Mountain Valley Pipeline site in Montgomery County, Virginia Saturday morning. Many voicing their frustrations. ‘It’s an environmental tragedy really, and for the folks who live in Virginia as well,’ says pipeline fighter Amanda Tandy. Pipeline fighters from as far as Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. participated in the protest to make sure their voices were hear. They joined fellow demonstrators who were already stationed on Yellow Finch Lane. ‘All of these pipelines are going to affect all the rivers in Virginia The major rivers. The James, Potomac, and the Roanoke, so if people can’t live in a place where they can have clean water then what are they supposed to do,’ explains Tandy. For activist Tina Badger, this fight is about something greater. ‘There’s plenty of pipeline capacity already. We actually need to stop fracking and stop fossil fuel extraction and move toward smaller scale cleaner renewable energy,’ says Badger. As demonstrators lined the highway, Tandy says these protests show no sign of slowing down.”

7-20-19 Daily Progress. Letter – Wellman: Renewables deserve level playing field. “What is most needed now are breakthroughs in our public policies that will encourage a rapid transition to clean energy. A good place to start would be to stop using taxpayer money to subsidize fossil fuels. Since we’re now phasing out solar and electric car subsidies, so we should phase out direct subsidies (think tax breaks) and indirect subsidies (think air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions) for fossil fuels. These subsidies are huge; for the U.S., in 2015 they added up to $649 billion in direct and indirect costs paid by taxpayers. A level playing field for fossil fuels and renewables would more nearly represent true market capitalism than does the distorted energy market we now have. It would call forth the investment capital, scientific expertise and entrepreneurial creativity needed to develop cheaper and more efficient ways of producing and delivering electrical energy.”

7-20-19 Blue Virginia. Mountain Valley Pipeline Flips Another Excavator, Sends Huge Tree Stump Rolling Off Right-of-Way that Almost Hits Bystanders. Information “courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines, on the latest debacle with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) – this one yesterday on Yellow Finch Lane in Elliston (Montgomery County), Virginia. As Jonathan Sokolow writes, ‘MVP is gonna kill someone before this is done.’ The question is, will it take someone getting killed to prompt Virginia regulatory authorities to step in and deal with this situation? …. MVP has flipped an excavator above Yellow Finch Lane and knocked a huge tree stump off the ROW nearly hitting several bystanders monitoring construction. This company needs to be SHUT DOWN!!! Bystanders are shook up but ok. Excavator operator is banged up but ok.”

7-18-19 E&E News. LaFleur’s exit will leave 3 commissioners — and anxiety. “Today will be Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s last public meeting as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after nearly a decade of service. When the former New England utility regulator officially departs next month — after serving the third-longest tenure in the commission’s history — two of FERC’s five commissioner slots will be vacant. LaFleur, 64, will leave behind three commissioners who combined have less than half her years of experience. For former FERC officials who have managed with a skeleton crew and those watching from Capitol Hill and the White House, two empty commission seats is a source of anxiety given the billions of dollars of energy projects, market reforms and rulemakings that hang in the balance. …. The commission will still be able to make decisions as just three members are needed to constitute a quorum. And Chairman Neil Chatterjee will have a perceived ally in Commissioner Bernard McNamee, a fellow Republican. Commissioner Richard Glick, a Democrat whose top issue has been climate change, will round out the panel whose mission is serving as the independent economic regulator of the electricity and natural gas industries. But that lineup doesn’t necessarily guarantee a smooth future for major items on FERC’s plate, as McNamee has shown a disposition to think independently….”

7-18-19 Washington Post. Feds reconsidering permit for power lines near historic Jamestown, but there’s a hitch: They’re already built. “There was a catch to the public forum this week about whether Dominion Energy should be allowed to build a power line across the James River near historic Jamestown: The power line is already built. So while the Army Corps of Engineers painstakingly gathers public comment and studies aspects of the “proposed” project to see if it merits a permit, the 500,000-volt lines have already been strung across the James. Atop 17 new towers, some of them 300 feet high. Since February. ‘To my knowledge, we have not had an instance like this,’ said William ‘Tom’ Walker, regulatory chief of the Army Corps’ regional office in Norfolk. Opponents want authorities to order Dominion to tear down the towers. The utility argues that doing so would be disastrous for the power grid. It’s a fittingly strange final chapter for a project that has stirred strong feelings for years. …. Opponents argued that Dominion had viable alternatives, such as a right of way that it already owns down the middle of the peninsula or even burying the lines under the river. Building the crossing, even in the face of court challenges, ‘is just really the height of arrogance,’ said Glen Besa, 68, of Richmond, who retired in 2016 as Virginia director of the Sierra Club. Dominion has faced similar criticism in recent years for other projects, most notably its efforts to build the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the western and southern parts of the state. There, too, federal judges have halted work and chastised federal agencies for taking shortcuts in approving work permits.”

7-18-19 Utility Dive. Berkeley sets historic law banning natural gas from new buildings. “The Berkeley, California, City Council unanimously voted this week to ban natural gas infrastructure in new low-rise residential buildings, beginning Jan 1. 2020. The legislation also requires that all new buildings in Berkeley be ‘electric-ready,’ with proper panels and wiring conduits to support electric infrastructure. The natural gas ban does not apply to new industrial or commercial buildings, as the California Energy Commission (CEC) has not yet proven that it is cost-effective or plausible to make such buildings all-electric. ‘We’re doing this on a rolling basis as the CEC finds these things to be effective,’ said Councilwoman Kate Harrison, who sponsored the bill. The law also does not apply to renovations. The bill received unanimous public support during the city council meeting, particularly in comments from PG&E and Sierra Club, and members of the community. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also praised the move in a statement, noting, ‘cities are leading the way to a clean energy future, providing hope and optimism in the face of increasingly dire climate disruption.'”

7-18-19 WDBJ7. Northam announces broadband expansion, faces pipeline opponents. “Governor Ralph Northam visited Franklin County to announce a broadband expansion that will bring service to more homes and businesses there. He also encountered a protest by opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The broadband announcement Thursday morning brought Northam to the Summit View Business Park, one of the locations in Franklin county that will get broadband service because of the public-private partnership. A grant from the tobacco commission and investment by Shentel will provide service to more than 600 homes and 100 other customers. ‘You know Virginia is doing well. Our unemployment rate is very low right now. We’re bringing in a lot of capital investment, but we’ve got to do everything we can to lift up rural Virginia,’ Northam said. ‘And the one thing I hear every day is we need universal broadband.’ The business park is also a location where Roanoke Gas will tap into the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fact not lost on the pipeline opponents who gathered within sight of the tent where the Governor made the broadband announcement. They renewed their call for a stop work order on the controversial project.”

7-17-19 DC Media Group. Organic Farm in W.Va. Imperiled by Gas Pipeline Construction. “In the four years since finding stakes mysteriously implanted in the ground of their newly acquired farm, Neal LaFerriere and his family have worked as best they could with Mountain Valley Pipeline representatives to preserve the integrity of their organic farm. Having no choice but to sign an easement to allow the gas pipeline to go through his land, he and his wife Beth have tried to hold MVP to the management plan it filed with a federal agency. ‘We have always been willing to sit down at the table and meet with them to try to work out the issues,’ LaFerriere said. But even before clearing for construction started on the right of way on Monday, the effect of MVP’s actions on the family’s business have been catastrophic, he says, threatening the farm’s organic certification and bringing such financial hardship that their ownership of the farm is in jeopardy. And, already this week, a clumsy accident involving heavy machinery has resulted in a spill of contaminating fluids on the organic farm.”

7-17-19 Roanoke Times. Construction materials for pipeline washed into Smith Mountain Lake. “Large wooden mats, used as temporary roadways for construction equipment building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have been swept down the Blackwater River by heavy rains in recent weeks. At least two of the so-called timber mats made it into Smith Mountain Lake, where critics say they posed a public safety risk. …. At least a dozen of the timber mats placed on construction sites in the county were washed downstream by floodwaters in late June, according to an environmental compliance monitoring report filed this week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Two of the mats were found in the Blackwater channel, not far from the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center near Union Hall.”

7-17-19 Roanoke Times. Belinsky: Here’s how the pipeline is lawless. “Today a public servant questioned my description of the ongoing construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as lawless. Here’s an accounting.” Article discusses suspended authorizations, invalidated permits, and pending court cases.

7-16-19 Blue Virginia. Photos, Video: Excavator for Mountain Valley Pipeline Topples Over, Spills Fluids on Organic Farm. Information published in Blue Virginia from Preserve Floyd and Blackberry Springs Farm. “In Summer’s County WV, the [Mountain Valley Pipeline – MVP] flipped an excavator while trying to construct without consent on Blackberry Springs Farm. The driver is not severely injured (walked away with help of his own accord), they are attempting to clean up obvious spills (which are devastating to the organic status of this farm) and we will update as more information becomes available …. Sometime after three PM on Tuesday, July 16, the excavator that toppled over on Blackberry Springs Farm while trying to construct without consent from the landowners was returned to an upright position.” Article includes phtoos and video.

7-16-2019 DeSmog Blog. ‘We Can’t Sit on the Sidelines and Be Climate Deniers,’ Dominion VP Warns Natural Gas Industry. “Donald Raikes arrived at 2019’s DUG East conference, a major shale gas industry gathering in Pittsburgh, with a mixed set of messages for his fellow fossil energy officials. ‘We are faced with a lot of challenges in this industry,’ Raikes, senior vice president of gas infrastructure at Dominion Energy, said. ‘And this morning what I plan to do is use my time to carve out a call for action for all of us. We need to be very aware of the forces that are out there and how they are coming against us.’ What sorts of forces? Raikes warned specifically about opposition from environmental groups. But Raikes also warned that the oil and gas industry was doing itself no favors by denying that it affects the environment, and he even dipped his toes into the issue of climate science denial. ‘Regardless of how we feel about the term “climate change,” the one thing I hope we all agree on is that each of us individually, as companies, impact the environment,’ he said. ‘And it is our responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that we can be respectful in terms of that impact. The second thing I’ll tell you that I think is very critical when we look at these issues and communication is this: We can’t sit on the sidelines and be climate deniers. We can’t, because we disagree with what they’re saying, we can’t stick our head in the sand,’ he added. ‘We have to be a player at the table or this policy will be set without us.’

7-16-19 E&E News. Va. lawmakers oppose Atlantic Coast project. “A collection of 18 Virginia state lawmakers pressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today to stop the progress of the Atlantic Coast pipeline over fears that ballooning costs could fall on the state’s ratepayers. In a letter to FERC, the state lawmakers, largely Democrats, argued that the pipeline developer, Dominion Energy Inc., overestimated the demand for natural gas, potentially calling into question the viability of the project. At issue, the group said, is Dominion’s refiled 2019 integrated resource management plan, which altered the forecast for six proposed gas-fired power plants. The company’s plan now relies more on renewables, and Dominion’s demand for the ACP comes overwhelmingly from utility affiliates, the lawmakers said — a sign that there is not as much market demand as previously thought. ‘As confirmed by the rejection and refiling of the Dominion IRP, Dominion has historically overstated its load forecast, overemphasizing the need for additional gas supplies,’ the state lawmakers wrote. ‘The ACP is unnecessary to meet demand of power generation in the Commonwealth.'” Read the full letter here.

7-15-19 Virginia Mercury. MVP’s violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’ “In spite of the fact that MVP has been sued by both Virginia and West Virginia for hundreds of violations related to failed sediment and erosion control measures, MVP has insisted these are isolated events and largely “the result of unprecedented rainfall through the spring and summer of 2018.” However, new revelations from filings MVP has made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirm erosion is pervasive year-round, and occurring on a project-wide basis. …. Since March 18, 2018, FERC has approved 125 variance requests filed by MVP. Analysis of these variances reveals the extent of MVP’s existential erosion crisis. …. These variances prove that MVP is not only having to make substantial adjustments to its work plan in order to address widespread erosion problems, but that erosion events are actually responsible for a large fraction of all such adjustments MVP has made. The variances also suggest MVP may be portraying erosion differently, depending on whether it is addressing state agencies or FERC. Lastly, and perhaps most alarmingly, these variances are just the tip of the iceberg; they represent only those erosion events that required MVP to deviate from its work plan in order to address.”

7-14-19 WSLS10. Man arrested after blocking pipeline progression in Montgomery County. “Pipeline fighter Phillip Flagg was arrested after he locked himself in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline near Elliston on Saturday. Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, he was taken out from his blockade and arrested. He has been charged with misdemeanor obstruction and released on $1,000 bail.”

7-14-19 Augusta Free Press. Interfaith organization launches Climate in the Pulpits program. “Virginia Interfaith Power & Light hosted an interfaith worship service at the Bell Tower on Capitol Grounds on Thursday to launch Climate in the Pulpits, on the Bimah, and in the Minbar, an initiative to bring awareness about environmental justice, stewardship and creation care to houses of worship. ‘We have a moral call to speak up, to stop climate silence, and to shine a light on the ways we can move forward as an interfaith community in love and with hope.’ said Kendyl Crawford, Director of Virginia interfaith Power & Light. Crawford said, ‘Climate in the Pulpits is an exciting opportunity for faith communities across Virginia to raise up the moral concerns we have surrounding climate justice and the transition to a renewable energy economy. We hope that our Virginia decision-makers like Governor Northam will join with the faith community in raising up these moral concerns around global climate change and will address environmental injustice right here in Virginia.'”

7-12-19 Washington Post. Opinion: A coalition in Virginia is transcending polarization to take on entrenched special interests. “A vigorous drive to stand up to our most powerful institutions animates progressives, conservatives and independents alike and cuts across the geographic, racial and cultural lines that often divide us. The political establishment has learned the hard way that this grass-roots discontent cannot be belittled or ignored. Polarization, however, can prevent people from seeking redress of their grievances in a powerful, united way. When Americans are too paralyzed by animosity to work together, the privileged special interests that are the biggest reason for our ire remain unscathed by reform. But what if we were to channel our shared dissaffection in ways that transcend right and left? What if politically engaged citizens put more of their energy toward action on common values and interests — coming together across lines of division to confront some of our most powerful and privileged institutions? This can happen. In Virginia, a state often viewed as a national bellwether, citizens are proving the power of diverse, nontraditional coalitions by taking on one of the most blatant examples of legalized corruption: the government-granted monopoly on electricity sales that allows selected utilities to reap inordinate profits from their captive customers. …. Virginians understand it’s not a coincidence that their state’s dominant utility, Dominion Energy, is the single biggest corporate contributor to state candidates, and citizens have teamed up across ideological lines to counter the company’s inordinate power over our democracy.”

7-12-19 Roanoke Times. Regulators ask Mountain Valley Pipeline about the safety of pipe’s coating. “A federal agency is asking Mountain Valley Pipeline officials about the safety of a protective coating on the 42-inch diameter steel pipe being buried through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Delays in construction of the natural gas pipeline have led to some sections of pipe being stored above ground for more than a year, generating concerns that the coating could degrade over time and contaminate nearby air, soil and water. In a letter Wednesday to Mountain Valley’s corporate attorney, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requested ‘toxicological, environmental and health information’ on a coating used to prevent corrosion of the pipe. …. William Limpert, a retired environmental regulator from Bath County, has raised concerns similar to Smusz’s about Atlantic Coast’s use of the same kind of coating. Last week, FERC requested information from the developers of that pipeline, which include Richmond-based Dominion Energy. Mountain Valley was given 20 days from Wednesday’s letter to respond.”  [Related story on ACP:  7-8-19 E&E News. FERC presses Atlantic Coast developer to answer critics. ]

7-11-19 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, TransCanada 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. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration incident report, provided to the Post-Gazette by environmental activist organization Climate Investigations Center, indicates that officials inside Columbia’s control room got an alert about low pressure on the line at 4:16 a.m. on June 7 and sent someone to investigate. Marshall County 911 reported getting calls just a few minutes later reporting an explosion. At 4:37 a.m., the emergency agency called Columbia to report the news. …. 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.'”  [For more on landslides on pipeline routes, see A Landslide Study of the ACP in Nelson]

7-11-19 WVTF. Standing Their Ground in the Path of the MVP. “Construction continues on the Mountain Valley Pipeline in southwest Virginia, but several challenges to it remain unresolved. One that is still up in the air– tree sitting protestors in Elliston. They’ve managed to hold their ground in an encampment along its route for almost a year, preventing construction, at least for now, in one small mountain hollow. There’s been a loud silence since last winter when the Mountain Valley Pipeline company asked federal Judge Elizbeth Dillon to remove protestors camping out on a steep ravine in the path of the pipeline. Tammy Belinski is an environmental lawyer who has been following the legal challenges. ‘The absence of a ruling so far, in my view, means that she doesn’t have a way to rule in Mountain Valley Pipelines’ favor.'”

7-11-19 ProPublica. A Resolution Condemning Pipeline Challengers Passed Easily. A Pipeline Lobbyist Wrote It. “It was getting late on March 7 [2019] in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber. …. But one resolution seemed different from the others, Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, said. He asked that House Resolution 11, titled ‘Recognizing the importance of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ be read and voted on separately. ‘I understand this is just a resolution and that it’s late, but I just want to make sure people have read this resolution,’ said Hansen, one of two delegates to speak up against it. House Resolution 11, sponsored by nearly half the delegates, praised the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a major natural gas project. Then, the resolution sharply condemned the citizens’ groups that challenged the project in court, calling their legal challenge an ‘all-out assault’ with the goal of ‘forcing its cancelation.’ The resolution passed 80 to 17. What wasn’t mentioned on the House floor that night was that the resolution was drafted by the pipeline company itself. Bob Orndorff, a lobbyist for Dominion Energy, wrote the resolution and sent it to the House of Delegates, according to documents obtained through a public records request filed by the Charleston Gazette-Mail with the clerk of the House of Delegates.”

7-11-19 News Advance. Official: Atlantic Coast Pipeline seeks to lease Amherst site for storage, transporting workers. “Amherst Town Council is set to hold a public hearing next month on a proposal by Dominion Energy, the Richmond company backing the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to lease an area in a town industrial park for storing equipment and transporting workers to pipeline construction sites in other localities. Council voted 4-0 Wednesday to advertise the hearing for leasing the property within the L. Barnes Brockman Sr. Business and Industrial Park on U.S. 60 in Amherst for a two-year period. The vote followed a closed session during which council met with a Dominion representative behind closed doors, Town Manager Sara Carter said. The meeting agenda listed the reason for that portion of the closed session as ‘discussing a possible lease of [town] property for an economic development prospect where no previous announcement has been made.’ …. Carter said the lot Dominion proposes to use is about 45 acres in the back of the industrial park, which is a short drive from U.S. 29 Business in Amherst and directly on the U.S. 60 corridor. The use of the land is for storage, placing equipment and mobilizing workers to bus to Nelson and Buckingham counties, which are among about 30 localities on the pipeline’s route through Virginia and North Carolina. …. Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the county was aware of Dominion’s plans and it was a reason the county last summer didn’t stage its first fair in many years at the Brockman park and opted instead to have the event at another location. Rodgers said the lease with Dominion is an excellent short-term revenue generator for the town. The hearing is expected to take placed during council’s 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Amherst town hall meeting room, 174 South Main St., Amherst.”

7-11-19 Nelson County Times. Letter: Needed change in pipeline policy. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) policy guaranteeing a high return on equity (ROE) for gas pipeline builders should be revised. It is a subsidy that incentivizes pipeline overbuilding and is increasingly out of step with the times. As FERC policy now stands, utilities are guaranteed ROEs of up to 15 percent, far exceeding the returns the private market would normally provide (Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC has claimed a 14 percent ROE). When this policy was established in 2005, it could have plausibly been argued that a high incentive was needed to strengthen the U.S. energy system against over-reliance on foreign sources of oil and gas. The fracking revolution changed all that, and the U.S. is now a major exporter of both oil and natural gas (as liquified natural gas). FERC is now reviewing the ROE policy. Growing scientific evidence about the looming threat of global climate change, coupled with the rapid advance of renewable energy, make FERC’s review of ROE policy timely and important. …. Energy independence, the key justification for the 2005 amendments, can best be achieved by exploiting our abundant, free wind and solar resources. For the shift we must make to a clean energy economy, our most critical human resources are scientific and technological knowledge, and to bring this knowledge to bear most effectively, we must update our policies. Changing FERC’s ROE policy is just one of many such changes, but it is an important one.”

7-10-19 Forbes. Cheap Clean Energy Makes New Natural Gas A Risky Bet Utility Regulators Should Avoid. “The math of recent solar-plus-storage projects, particularly Nevada’s June NV Energy procurement, signals that clean and dispatchable energy is available for less than the cost of new natural gas – a death-knell for new gas plants and harbinger of future economic concerns. …. With potentially tens of billions in stranded assets already from uneconomic coal plants, regulators who approve massive investments in new gas plants could be facing a new wave of junk assets on utility books sooner rather than later. New natural gas is extremely risky in this context, and regulators would be wise to question its prudence.”

7-10-19 Christian Century. A church is fighting back against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “You’ve probably heard the statistics: the earth’s surface is more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was a century ago. Scientists predict that with the current upward trend in greenhouse gas emissions, the increase could more than double by 2050 and might reach as high as 10 degrees by 2100. At that point, Virginia temperatures will be like those of Florida. You can’t have that kind of temperature hike and the climate changes that go with it—droughts, floods, soil erosion, and rising seas pushing salt water onto fertile coastal plains—without affecting agriculture. By the end of the century, studies predict, worldwide vegetable crop yields could drop by more than a third, and production of corn—which feeds much of the planet’s livestock—could be cut in half. What can any of us do about it? How do we force big business to move toward solar and wind energy rather than continuing to burn coal, oil, and shale gas? If you’re John Laury and his neighbors in Union Hill, Virginia, you fight like hell. They’re up against some of the biggest energy companies in the world and the fracked gas pipeline these companies want to run through town. Laury, Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, and their neighbors in Union Hill—which was settled by freed slaves 150 years ago—are on the front lines of the climate struggle. They’re vying to preserve the health of their community and the health of the planet. They’re aware that over the years communities of color have been disproportionately afflicted with the consequences of environmental degradation.”

7-10-19 Roanoke Times. Seriff: Pipeline hurts, not helps, our economic growth. “Despite citizen and environmental groups best efforts to halt these plans, the Mountain Valley Pipeline became a reality. In a blitzkrieg attack MVP mowed down hundreds of miles of forest, forever scared farms and fields, and destroyed many landowners lives in the process. However, during this ill-conceived quest for quick profits, reality suddenly hit. Gold rushes historically result in a small group of people getting rich at the expense of numerous others. They also cause long lasting environmental degradation. In this case dozens of experts had warned about the treacherous mountain slopes and karst terrain in the pipeline’s path. They were ignored. The dire predictions came true in the form of erosion, mudslides, and water contamination. …. Meanwhile renewable energy has become a cheaper cleaner smarter alternative to fossil fuels. Our leaders fail to comprehend this reality. Gov. Northam lacked awareness in the 1980’s of the negative impact that blackface might have in the future. Northam will eventually experience far more embarrassment and regret over his role in allowing this pipeline’s sting impact on our environment. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is the last gasp of a dying industry. Continued construction stands as an ongoing crime against our environment and the citizens of Virginia. MVP is unneeded. It will add little value to Virginia’s economy. It is highly destructive to our planet. Sadly, government leaders are ignorant to this truth.”

7-9-19 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Woman rides horses across three states to protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Sarah Murphy and her two horses, named Rob Roy and UFO, are slowly making their way along the country roads of North Carolina to protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 600-mile, $7 billion natural gas pipeline is to run from the mountains of West Virginia to eastern Virginia and to the flatlands of Robeson County south of Fayetteville. Murphy has been traversing the route on foot and on horseback from her home near Charlottesville, Virginia, on and off since September. She reached Cumberland County northeast of Fayetteville this week and expects to finish in the next week or so at the terminus site near Pembroke.”  This story appeared in many news outlets, including the New York Times.

7-8-19 Energy News Network. Energy audit inspires Virginia yogis to ‘stand up for something that’s important’ “Yogaville leaders were heartened when they learned five years ago that Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be buried a few miles from their property line in Buckingham County. They figured having access to a cheap and abundant natural gas supply to power their 660-acre spiritual center along the banks of the James River would provide significant utility bill relief. Their enthusiasm abated, however, when they found out locals weren’t allowed to tap into the energy resource. That discovery prompted them to organize a team that dug relentlessly into the carbon footprint of fossil fuels, their retreat’s own energy footprint and the far-reaching impact of pipeline infrastructure. ‘It was eye-opening and prompted us to take a stance against a pipeline we didn’t want near us,’ said Jeeva Abbate, director of Yogaville Environmental Solutions, an internal group abbreviated as YES. ‘But some of our visitors said they saw all of this no, no, no to the pipeline and the compressor station and asked if we could find a solution we could say yes to.’ That key question spurred not only the birth of YES, but also a link to the group Green Faith and an energy audit that revealed Yogaville’s campus was ideal for solar installations. ‘When we saw the possibilities, that audit kind of became our Bible,’ Abbate said. ‘This whole process has activated us to protect this pristine land.’ ‘It turns out that adversity is a blessing in disguise,’ said Swami Dayananda, part of YES at Yogaville. ‘The pipeline made us realize how climate change is upon us and made us move into making solar a priority.'”

7-8-19 E&E News. FERC presses Atlantic Coast developer to answer critics. “Federal regulators have asked the builders of the Atlantic Coast pipeline to answer project opponents’ questions about the durability and potential toxicity of protective coating on the pipes. Critics in the pipeline’s path, along with environmental groups, have raised suspicions that anti-corrosion coating on the steel could have deteriorated from exposure to sunlight during months of storage, and that chemicals from the pipes could leach into groundwater.If the concerns are true, degraded materials could leave the pipeline prone to corrosion and ruptures, potentially contaminating nearby communities’ water supplies. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week passed on those questions to Dominion Energy Inc., the lead company on the pipeline. The agency wants answers within 20 days.

7-8-19 WhoWhatWhy.org. Will Corporate ‘Clout’ Kickstart Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Will Dominion Energy, Inc., Virginia’s largest investor-owned utility, be able to use its political clout to push through its long-delayed, controversial 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)? …. Environmental and civil rights groups, small businesses, and many homeowners in its path all oppose the project, charging that the pipeline is not needed and would jeopardize environmentally sensitive lands, fell hundreds of trees, and harm water quality. Initially, Dominion was able to secure permits from federal, state, and county regulators. Last year, however, environmental lawyers won key victories in federal court that have prevented the pipeline from moving forward. But late last month, Dominion scored a victory of sorts. The Trump White House stepped into the fray; its solicitor general joined the corporation in a request that the Supreme Court hear Dominion’s appeal of a federal court’s decision blocking the ACP from crossing the Appalachian Trail. Dominion lobbyists also are prowling the halls of Congress, environmental advocates charge, urging lawmakers to pass a law that would allow the project despite the court rulings.”

7-8-19 The Guardian. ‘Protesters as terrorists’: growing number of states turn anti-pipeline activism into a crime. “From the Standing Rock camps in North Dakota to tree-sits in Texas, activists have attempted to stop pipeline construction with massive shows of civil disobedience. Now they could be forced to change those tactics, or face heavy penalties under a wave of new anti-protest laws that civil liberties advocates say violate the first amendment. Conservative lawmakers have put forward laws criminalizing protests that disrupt the construction and operation of pipelines in at least 18 states since 2017. Seven states have passed laws that ratchet up the penalties for activists protesting or even planning protests of oil and gas pipelines and other ‘critical infrastructure.’ At least six more states are considering such laws. In each case, misdemeanors are elevated to felonies, and criminal and civil punishments are escalated drastically. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights have mounted challenges against such laws in Louisiana and South Dakota. ‘This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing, let alone stopping,’ said Elly Page, who has been tracking anti-protest legislation for more than two years as a legal adviser for the International Center for Non-Profit Law. The laws purport to only criminalize violence and property damage in service of pipeline safety, but critics say their greater intent appears to be to deter nonviolent civil disobedience by framing it as potentially violent in itself.”

7-6-19 Appalachian Voices. Front Porch Blog: Mountain Valley Pipeline soils all in its path. “It can often seem as if government and business are on the same side. In the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the agencies that exist to safeguard the health of citizens and the environment have decided to take a back seat, remaining quiet while industry, at the wheel, plays loose with the law. In the absence of government help, organizations like Mountain Valley Watch take up the regulatory slack. Their trained volunteers carefully track construction on the MVP. As of an April 2019 report, the Watch’s monitors have found 562 problems. …. The court may still hit the MVP with a civil penalty, with the money going to the state. However, the state is not required to use this money to help those affected by the pipeline’s violations. There is little suggestion that MVP has learned from its mistakes. Mountain Valley Watch volunteers continue to document environmental degradation along the pipeline’s route with its data tool, the Dashboard. Nothing short of a work stoppage will provide relief to those who live in the MVP’s path.”

7-5-19 Blue Virginia. STILL Confused Why Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines Must Be Stopped? New Paper Explains Why We Need to Cancel All New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. Immediately. “At this point, given the overwhelming amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence (e.g., the current heat waves in Alaska and Europe; another hottest month ever worldwide in June; the ‘precipitous’ decline in Atlantic sea ice) available, all pointing to climate catastrophe if we don’t act immediately, there’s simply ZERO excuse for anyone to deny, minimize, or to be ‘skeptical’ about the man-made climate crisis. …. Here in Virginia, what that means is very clear and urgent: we can not and *must not* build the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Mountain Valley Pipeline. How bad are these two pipelines from a climate perspective? VERY bad, as in ‘together contribut[ing] as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants — some 158 million metric tons a year.'”

7-3-19 Roanoke Times. Landowners ask U.S. Supreme Court to bar taking their property for pipeline. “A group of Southwest Virginia landowners whose property was taken for a natural gas pipeline is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the use of eminent domain. The appeal challenges a decision by a Roanoke-based federal judge who gave the Mountain Valley Pipeline immediate possession of about 300 disputed parcels in a decision that cleared the way for tree-cutting to start last year. Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s ruling applied to the Virginia portion of the pipeline. The Supreme Court is being asked to review her decision along with that of a West Virginia federal judge who made a similar decision for the section of the 303-mile pipeline that passes through his state. A decision on whether the high court will consider the appeal is expected in the fall.”

7-3-19 WV Public Radio.  Jobs and Risk — Atlantic Coast Pipeline Shutdown Divides W.Va. “Along the ACP’s route, there are dozens of communities like it that were taken by surprise when construction suddenly ground to a halt. According to pipeline developer Dominion Energy, which has a majority stake in the project, an estimated $478.7 million in total economic impact was put at risk when the pipeline shut down. That figure includes taxes and other spending on equipment and lodging. Across West Virginia, the company said the project intends to employ more than 2,000 workers, of which 600 positions are allocated to local residents. The jobs and tax revenues associated with the construction of multi-billion dollar natural gas pipelines are significant during their months-long construction. In Appalachia, there have been multiple pipeline projects, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. But environmental groups and a growing number of citizen activists argue that the environmental risks associated with these projects outweigh the temporary economic benefits. Installing large natural gas pipelines encourages the extraction and use of natural gas, a fossil fuel, at a time when the window for taking action to curb carbon emissions and prevent the worst climate change predictions is narrowing, the groups argue. They also say pipeline construction negatively affects communities and the state’s natural resources. ‘There’s not at all long-term economic benefits for the communities,’ said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels program. ….’There is long-term pollution associated with the construction of the pipelines and with the fracking for the gas that feeds them,’ she said. ‘The risk here is that communities are left with the cleanup and with the pollution, but without the economic benefit.'”

7-2-19 E&E News. Landowners ask justices to nix companies’ ‘quick take’ power. “The Supreme Court will soon have a new shot at examining an unusual wrinkle in pipeline land seizures that some legal experts say saps private landowners of their constitutional rights. Unlike standard eminent domain proceedings, which require just compensation in exchange for acquiring land, immediate possession or ‘quick take’ power allows developers to take private property months or years before paying. Although Congress did not convey quick-take authority to pipeline developers in the Natural Gas Act, several appellate courts have interpreted the law to allow those firms to take property to build their projects before landowners ever receive a dime. ‘The courts seem to think this is inevitable, that eminent domain is one of those things that’s going to happen whether the property owner wants it or not,’ said Robert Thomas, a land-use and appellate lawyer at Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. ‘That may be true in many cases but not necessarily true under the law,’ he said. The distinction is important, legal experts say, because immediate possession of property can rob landowners of their ability to negotiate a fair price, which the condemner then has the option to either pay or decline.”

7-1-19 Forbes. New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear. “Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin. Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city’s electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries. ‘This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States,’ said James Barner, the agency’s manager for strategic initiatives, ‘and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today. So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry.’ It’s half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant. Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor who developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent renewables, hailed the development on Twitter Friday, saying, ‘Goodnight #naturalgas, goodnight #coal, goodnight #nuclear.'”

7-1-19 E&E News Energywire. Dominion cancels gas pipeline, blames FERC. “Dominion Energy Inc. on Friday abandoned a pipeline project to bring Marcellus Shale natural gas to market, faulting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its failure to act on the application. “The project has been adversely impacted” by FERC’s inaction, Dominion said in a statement, informing the commission that customers for the project had pulled out. FERC’s processing of pipeline applications has been bumpy since the agency in May of last year ended its practice of considering the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas impacts of gas projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Dominion’s cancellation of the Sweden Valley Project comes days after FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said after an agency meeting that the gas industry is “largely satisfied” with the way the agency is moving to advance projects. The $48 million project inOhio and Pennsylvania called for less than 5 miles of pipeline, modifications to an existing compressor station and construction of two measuring stations. It would have delivered 120 million cubic feet per day into the Tennessee Gas pipeline in eastern Ohio.

June 2019

6-30-19 Roanoke Times. Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous. “The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for this material lists carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic properties. Scientific data indicates that chemicals that leach from epoxy resins, like this FBE, contain carcinogenic compounds, including benzene, and other compounds that cause significant health threats. A 3M company position paper states that some of the FBE degradation products are toxic to aquatic life. Since FBE is degrading off the pipes, it presents both public safety and health threats.”

6-30-19 The Wilson Times [NC]. Activist rides Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in protest. “A Virginia woman is riding the entirety of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed path on horseback to protest the natural gas project. ‘If there is a time to fight, it’s now,’ said Afton, Virginia resident Sarah Murphy. ‘That’s why I am doing this. The more I talk to people when it is under construction and it is being put in the ground, they are kind of unhappy. I feel like I need to be Paul Revere, letting people know down the line.’ Murphy is currently riding through Wilson County [NC], where 12 miles of 36-inch wide natural gas transmission pipeline are to be installed between Sims and the Buckhorn community. The 605-mile project begins in West Virginia, comes through Virginia and has about 180 miles in North Carolina. Murphy has already ridden the pipeline’s path through West Virginia and Virginia, including the spur that runs from Northhampton County, North Carolina to Chesapeake, Virginia. By the time Murphy arrives at the pipeline’s terminus in Robeson County, she will have meandered a total of 875 miles.”

6-28-19 Roanoke Times. Pipeline protester removed from perch atop MVP excavator. “The person clinging to an excavator parked in the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was barely visible. …. Around midday Friday, Virginia State Police used a mechanized lift to remove Michael James-Deramo from the boom of the excavator, to which he had chained himself about six hours earlier. He was charged with two misdemeanors: entering private property to damage it and preventing the operation of a vehicle. James-Deramo, 26, of Blacksburg, is a former community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and has been active in fighting the 303-mile natural gas pipeline, which is under construction in West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. In a statement released by Appalachians Against Pipelines, James-Deramo said he grew up in the area, playing in the forests as a child and hiking the mountains as he grew older. ‘We have watched as this pipeline has wreaked havoc — from Brush Mountain to Peters Mountain, from Four Corners Farm to Bottom Creek — not just havoc on the land, but on the lives and mental well-being of individuals, and the sanctity of place and safety,’ he said. Mountain Valley has been accused of violating regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation more than 300 times, according to a lawsuit filed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board.”

6-28-19 Roanoke Times. Request to stop work on Mountain Valley Pipeline remains in limbo. “A complaint that seeks to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline is in a state of limbo. Last week, Wild Virginia and other environmental groups filed what they called a formal complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They expected that the action would start an official process, and they asked the State Water Control Board to join in their request that FERC halt construction. But after the board met Thursday in a closed session with an assistant attorney general, member James Lofton said it had been advised that the complaint has yet to be docketed with FERC. The 24-page document — which cites hundreds of environmental violations and the loss of two key sets of federal permits — was filed with FERC on June 21. ‘At this time, the filing is under review by the Commission who will determine how to address the issues raised,’ spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said Thursday by email.”

6-27-19 Clean Virginia. SCC Warns Dominion’s Energy Plan Will Cost Customers an Extra $30 in Monthly Bills. “The State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved Dominion Energy’s revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) today, but it issued a warning that the utility’s long-term energy plan will cause customer bills to increase by nearly $30 a month in the next four years. The approval of Dominion’s IRP comes after months of controversy. In March, the SCC rejected the filing for the first time ever because it failed to be ‘reasonable and in the public interest.’ In April, SCC staff filed motions demanding Dominion explain an $8.14 billion discrepancy between what it told government regulators it planned to spend and what it told investors two weeks later. The approved IRP details $25.4 billion in long-term spending to be paid for by Virginia customers, nearly $6 billion of which was dictated by the General Assembly through new legislation in 2018. The SCC further noted that the $29.37 monthly bill increase ‘does not include the monthly bill impact of several billion dollars of costs for the 2019 coal ash removal legislation that will be recovered from customers.'”

6-27-19 LittleSis. Virginia Legislators Promoting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Have Big Personal Investments in the Pipeline’s Owners. “These State Senators and Delegates have written op-eds in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, signed letters backing the pipeline that were sent to U.S. Senators or federal regulators, or are officially listed on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s website as endorsers – all this, even as they individually own thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in Dominion stock. Dominion is also a top donor to many of these elected officials. That state legislators, some quite prominent, are invested in the pipeline’s main owners, even as they use their elected offices to advocate for the pipeline, raises serious concerns over conflicts of interests. The legislators are using their platform, given to them by voters, to advance a contentious project that they stand to personally profit from.” Article includes “a table of Virginia’s General Assembly members who all officially support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and stand to profit from it because of their personal investments in the companies that own the pipeline. The table also contains donations they’ve received from Dominion and its CEO Tom Farrell as well as some pro-pipeline actions they’ve taken.”

6-27-19 Virginia Mercury. Regulators approve Dominion Energy’s long range plan but warn of coming costs. “More six months after an unprecedented rejection, Dominion Energy’s long-range plan for meeting future electric demand for its 2.6 million Virginia ratepayers was endorsed Thursday by the State Corporation Commission. However, the approval of the utility’s integrated resource plan came with a warning: ‘While the SCC said that Dominion’s revised plan met the minimum filing requirements of Virginia law, it also warned that the IRP “may significantly understate the costs facing Dominion’s customers,”‘ the commission said in news release, adding that it projects an increase of $29.37 a month for the average residential customer by Dec. 31, 2023. The commission, fighting back against past legislative attempts to diminish its relevance, has taken a stronger stance on the company’s efforts to push through big spending on grid projects and criticized it for leaving billions in spending that was included in a presentation to Wall Street investors out of its filings with the commission. ‘This information is essential to developing an accurate picture of what Dominion’s customers most likely face in terms of costs in the years to come,’ the commission noted in its order published Thursday. ‘The cost of Dominion’s investment plans is substantially higher than even the highest cost scenario contained in its amended 2018 IRP.'”

6-26-19 Inside Climate news. Former FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to End Nine-Year Term in August. “Cheryl LaFleur, who has served at FERC since 2010 and headed the Commission twice, and who had planned to step down as early as June 30, said Thursday she would remain at the agency 60 days longer. ‘After nine amazing years, I will be leaving FERC at the end of August,’ LaFleur said in a Tweet. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s open meeting scheduled for July 18 will be her last, she said.”

6-26-19 Reuters. U.S., Dominion Energy ask Supreme Court to hear Atlantic Coast natgas pipe case. “The U.S. Solicitor General and Dominion Energy Inc asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a decision that stopped Dominion from building the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Dominion argued in their filings on Tuesday that the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Cowpasture v. U.S. Forest Service case impedes energy infrastructure development on the East Coast. In December, the appeals court vacated a permit that allowed the Atlantic Coast pipe to cross the Appalachian Trail on National Forest land because the court said the Forest Service lacks authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across the trail on federal land. ‘After reading the Solicitor General’s arguments, we’re increasing our odds to just under 50% that the Supreme Court decides to hear the case,’ Josh Price, senior analyst at Height Capital Markets in Washington said in a note on Wednesday. ‘We believe the Court may view this as an issue of national importance,’ Price said, noting ‘if the court declines to take up the case or upholds the ruling, we anticipate (Atlantic Coast) owners may cancel the projects.'”

6-25-19 Virginia Mercury. Water board should support call for federal action to halt pipeline damage. “On Thursday the State Water Control Board has another chance to act on the good intentions its members have expressed – that Mountain Valley Pipeline’s violations and the resulting damages to Virginia waters and landowners must stop. A federal agency can make that happen. We just need the board to tell those federal officials: ‘do your job.’ Our seven fellow citizens on the water board have an awesome responsibility. They have the ultimate authority to see that proper state regulations to protect Virginia’s waters are in place and that those rules are enforced. …. The State Water Control Board can and must intervene in the FERC process citizens have started and it must call for a stop to the abuse being heaped upon state waters and landowners by MVP.”

6-24-19 Virginia Mercury. Change Virginia’s ‘hush and hurry’ tendency on environmental regulation. “Last week, New York passed legislation committing the state to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and net-zero carbon emissions throughout the economy by 2050. This progressive environmental policy stands in stark contrast to the shenanigans of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Last Friday, our Air Pollution Control Board granted a new permit for the largest natural gas power plant in Virginia, and one of the largest in the United States. …. Based on Balico’s own projections, the Chickahominy power plant will emit nearly six and a half million tons of carbon every year. Virginians are already threatened by sea level rise and extreme weather from climate change; investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure will accelerate this crisis. …. When Virginia officials make decisions that will impact our air and water quality and the future of our climate, they should look for more citizen involvement, rather than adopt a policy of ‘hush and hurry.’ They should not veil the regulatory process in secrecy, while working to support corporations that intend to pollute our air and water. The emissions projections make it clear that building the Chickahominy Power Plant will be a catastrophe for Virginia, and especially for Charles City County. The decision to permit this project was unethical and definitely undemocratic. Virginia’s citizens deserve better from our regulatory process.”

6-23-19 CBS 60 Minutes. The climate change lawsuit that could stop the U.S. government from supporting fossil fuels. “A lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 kids alleges the U.S. government knowingly failed to protect them from climate change. If the plaintiffs win, it could mean massive changes for the use of fossil fuels. Of all the cases working their way through the federal court system, none is more interesting or potentially more life changing than Juliana versus the United States. To quote one federal judge, “This is no ordinary lawsuit.” It was filed back in 2015 on behalf of a group of kids who are trying to get the courts to block the U.S. government from continuing the use of fossil fuels. They say it’s causing climate change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. As we first reported earlier this year, when the lawsuit first began hardly anyone took it seriously, including the government’s lawyers, who have since watched the supreme court reject two of their motions to delay or dismiss the case. Four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real.”

6-23-19 Forbes. U.S. Natural Gas Prices Have Collapsed. “U.S. natural gas prices have collapsed since Memorial Day. The prompt month NYMEX gas contract is down over 16% so far in June. Natural gas is at its lowest price level since May 2016. Now around $2.20 per MMBtu, gas this time last year was ~$3.00. Nobody saw this coming, especially when prices in mid-November spiked to nearly $5.00. In addition, the ~$2.53 level had offered strong technical support for the past three years, making this collapse utterly unpredictable. There are no contracts on the forwards curve above $3.00 until January 2024.”

6-23-19 Roanoke Times. The insanity of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Pipeline companies speak proudly of ‘only 0.03 percent events per year per thousand miles of pipeline.’ At that rate, the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline should have one leak every three years. By 2006 the pipe thickness was eroded more than 50 percent, shipping of oil was down 50 percent because of pipe weakness, and there were already more than 500 leaks each year, according to the Christian Science Monitor. By industrial 0.03 percent admitted leaks, the 301-mile MVP line should have only one ‘event’ every ten years. By Alaska Pipeline experience, there should be 188 leaks/year. However, remember that Alaska is under low pressure and Virginia will be under high pressure. Even if there is only one leak/month instead of 15, where would you want it to occur? Franklin County real estate values have already started to decline and home insurance rates to climb. National insurance companies know what happens around pipelines. All of this for a pipeline that is not even necessary.”

6-23-19 Roanoke Times. Pipeline opponents, spurned by the state, ask federal agency to stop work. “It’s hard to count how many times Virginia environmental regulators have been asked to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Since construction of the natural gas pipeline began last year — and was quickly followed by problems with storm runoff clogging nearby streams with sediment — state lawmakers, advocacy groups and individuals have asked the Department of Environmental Quality to halt work on the project time and time again. What is easier to count is the number of stop-work orders issued by DEQ on any construction project since 2002: Zero. …. Frustrated by DEQ’s lack of action on repeated requests to stop Mountain Valley from causing additional pollution, Wild Virginia and other environmental groups are taking a different tack. A complaint filed late Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the lead agency overseeing construction of the 303-mile pipeline, asks that it rescind its earlier approval of the project. The 24-page filing also asks for a stop-work order.”

6-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Massive new Charles City natural gas plant, which will emit millions of tons of carbon, approved by state air board. “The State Air Pollution Control Board has approved a permit for a massive new natural gas-fired power plant in Charles City County. The board voted 6-1 to approve the pollution permit for the Chickahominy Power Station after a marathon meeting Friday over calls from opponents and one board member to delay the decision. If built, the power plant, developed by Chickahominy LLC, a subsidiary of Balico, LLC, would be the largest fossil-fired power plant in Virginia. A second large natural gas plant is also proposed for Charles City near the Chickahominy project. …. Some locals and conservation groups opposed the plant, with many questioning whether there had been adequate public notice of the project.”

6-20-19 Energy News Network. After pipeline feud, Virginia nonprofit aims to reunite community with solar. “A weeklong boot camp in Union Hill, Virginia, trained 10 area residents on the basics of installing rooftop solar. …. Neighbors in this tiny rural community 70 miles west of Richmond have fractured over Dominion Energy’s plan to build a compressor station on wooded acreage off Highway 56. It’s a crucial piece of infrastructure for the giant utility’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would bisect Virginia for roughly 300 of its 600 miles to move hydraulically fractured natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. ‘We’re family, and we’ve allowed Dominion to let us have a family feud,” Walker said. “We’re going to have to agree to disagree — without animosity.’ The human rift over the fossil fuel project gnaws at his heart because eight generations of his family have called Union Hill home since free blacks and former slaves settled in Buckingham County after the Civil War. Walker, who lives in Richmond, views a united effort toward solar as an energy balm that could heal a schism that has deepened over the last five years as the pipeline — now on hold — has dominated the conversation. Instead of waiting for a solar Superman to soar into Union Hill, the mental health counselor cobbled together a program through his longtime nonprofit, Bridging the Gap in Virginia.”

6-20-19 Virginia Mercury. Virginia isn’t making the grade for environmental justice. “Gov. Ralph Northam has just announced the formation of a new commission charged with identifying and recommending fixes for racial inequities in Virginia law. This would be a long-needed and utterly critical step by the commonwealth; however, the true success of such an initiative is far from certain — especially based on this governor’s record on environmental justice. The Northam administration likes to give itself an “A” when it comes to initiatives on environmental protection. Virginia state officials frequently point to legislation that has passed pertaining to clean energy, energy efficiency, conservation strategies and environmental justice. While it is true that the state has made some incremental progress, we believe this administration is grading on a curve and rose-tints its overall environmental record. We rated this same administration and gave it a failing grade.”

6-19-19 Mail Tribune [Medford OR]. Carrying risks. “A proposed natural gas pipeline through Southern Oregon could expose people to explosions, toxic emissions and contaminated water, while also contributing to global warming, according to a new report by doctors. Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility released ‘Fracked Gas Infrastructure: A Threat to Healthy Communities’ Wednesday. …. The report says communities targeted for gas infrastructure projects have lower incomes, higher unemployment rates and worse health than areas that can mount a stronger fight against the projects. The new projects would further erode health in vulnerable communities, the report said.”

6-19-19 Environmental Health News. 84% of fracking studies show the industry harms human health. “A group of doctors and scientists have released a report showing that 84 percent of studies published from 2009-2015 on the health impacts of fracking conclude the industry causes harm to human health. The report, published by two groups, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, found that 69 percent of studies on water quality during the same time period found evidence of or potential for fracking-associated water contamination, and 87 percent of studies on air quality found ‘significant air pollutant emissions’ associated with the industry. The report looks at 1,778 articles from peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals, investigative reports by journalists, and reports from government agencies on fracking.”

6-17-19 Washington Post. Land swap may allow pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail. “A land swap with the federal government could allow a developer to install a natural gas pipeline that crosses the Appalachian Trail. The Roanoke Times reports details of the deal were disclosed Monday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The U.S. Department of the Interior could allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in exchange for property that Mountain Valley owns next to the Jefferson National Forest.”

6-17-19 NC Warn. ACP Would Cost NC $20 Billion, A Cruel Hoax — News Release from Energy Justice NC Coalition. “If ever completed, a stalled and controversial fracked gas pipeline would cost North Carolinians over $20 billion due to ongoing cost overruns, make energy bills soar and amplify statewide climate impacts, the Energy Justice NC Coalition* told Governor Roy Cooper today. In addition, they say Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, have played a cruel hoax on economically depressed counties along the proposed route by promising natural gas for new industry while planning to use nearly all of it in Duke’s own power plants. …. In a letter sent today, the coalition detailed how North Carolina would be saddled with two-thirds of the ACP costs because they would be passed on through the fuel pricing system.”

6-17-19 Roanoke Times. Letter: Corporations should be held accountable for violations. “The Roanoke Times recently announced the $266,000 settlement between West Virginia and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for environmental violations that have despoiled many miles of streams. The article stated that the settlement came to less than 1% of the project cost. The settlement is much less than 1%. It comes to less than .0058% of the project cost. It is less than the proverbial drop in the bucket, and is an incentive for the MVP to continue, to pollute West Virginia waters. In fact, the MVP may have saved money under this deal by not installing the required environmental controls. …. The MVP and other wealthy corporations need to be held truly accountable for their crimes, and a slap on the wrist like this doesn’t come anywhere close to reasonable accountability. A public comment period regarding this settlement is open until June 22. West Virginia citizens should demand a more substantial enforcement action against the MVP. Virginia citizens should tell Attorney General Mark Herring as well, that they will not accept a closed door sweetheart deal for the more than 300 MVP violations that were documented in Virginia last year.”

6-17-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline will take longer and cost more to complete, company says. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline may have found a way to cross the Appalachian Trail, but it will delay the project’s completion until the middle of next year and boost its cost to as much as $5 billion. The disclosure was made Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by EQM Midstream, the lead partner in the joint venture. Previously, Mountain Valley had said it would spend $4.6 billion to have the natural gas pipeline finished by the end of this year. The latest plan relies on a land swap in which the U.S. Department of the Interior would allow the company to keep its current crossing of the trail —– at the top of Peters Mountain along the West Virginia-Virginia line — in exchange for a piece of private property that Mountain Valley owns adjacent to the Jefferson National Forest, according to the filing. Boring under the trail was cast in doubt in December, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service had improperly allowed a similar project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to cross the national scenic footpath farther to the east, in the George Washington National Forest. …. The land swap would have to be approved by several federal agencies, which is one reason Mountain Valley made official its latest delay — which had been predicted for some time by partners in the project and a financial analyst following the project.”

6-16-19 Roanoke Times. Delays raise new questions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Of the two types of steel pipe that snake through their land, Anne and Steve Bernard are not sure which scares them more. One they can’t see: the portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that construction crews buried last summer. The other is in plain sight: an approximately 120-foot-long section of the pipe floating in water that fills a trench.” Article discusses at length the hazards of pipes sitting in water-filled trenches for months in uncompleted sections of the MVP, coating degradation of pipes sitting in open air for far longer than expected, and potentially weakened welds.

6-15-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Is Now The Cheapest Option – Even Without Subsidies. “In recent years, the world has marched towards renewable energy. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory. …. These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry.”

6-15-19 Forbes.  United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education. “The fossil fuel lobby has actively worked in many countries to protect their subsidies and avoid the imposition of carbon taxes. Doing so protects their profits. US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers. Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding.”

6-14-19 NAtural Gas Intel. Lower 48 Associated Gas, Market Forces Seen Muscling Out Appalachian Growth. “Growth prospects for Appalachian operators remain limited as the natural gas outlook continues to dim on a variety of factors, according to a panel of analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML), which recently shared its forecast at the LDC Gas Forums Northeast in Boston. …. In Appalachia, a slowing pipeline buildout, cutbacks in spending and weaker longer-term demand are part of the reasons activity is being curbed. As the strip faces downward pressure, operators are expected to spend even less. ‘We got the pipes here, we got the growth,’ said BofAML analyst Clifton White, who led the panel. ‘Looking ahead, we see a transition from the Northeast on the growth trajectory to associated gas plays — it’s West Texas, Oklahoma, the Bakken, Rockies and Western Canada. We’ve seen that transition play out over the last year or two,’ with growth in both the Northeast and associated gas. Appalachian growth is expected to be more restrained, however. Pipeline capacity has grown at an astounding rate in the Northeast in recent years to about 23 Bcfe/d, with about 6 Bcf/d of takeaway under construction, according to a recent analysis by Moody’s Investor Service. Basis has improved in the process, and White said stronger local prices aren’t likely to spur an expanded infrastructure buildout. ‘That’s kind of going to be it,’ he said. ‘In our view, basis doesn’t really support a further wave of pipelines.’ Additionally, three of the region’s major pipeline projects — at more than 1 Bcf/d each — are facing consistent challenges from environmental groups. Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline has been hindered by repeated court challenges and the PennEast Pipeline has had difficulties obtaining permits.”

6-13-19 S&P Global. Gas-fired generation could see more battles under Bloomberg campaign. “Proposals for new gas-fired generation are likely to face mounting opposition under Bloomberg Philanthropy’s new Beyond Carbon campaign that aims not only to retire remaining US coal plants but also to ‘stop the rush’ of new gas-fired units. Bloomberg last week announced plans to put $500 million toward moving the US economy to 100% clean energy by supporting state clean energy policies, backing the climate movement, electing state and local representatives, and moving beyond coal and gas. Bloomberg officials declined to disclose a breakdown of how funds would be allocated, but said the cash infusion could come over the next several years, although that could be extended. The focus on the gas side will be on fighting proposals for new gas-fired generation at public utility commissions and environmental agencies that issue permits, said Jeremiah Baumann, program lead for Beyond Carbon at Bloomberg Philanthropies, ‘especially in many places in the country where a combination of energy efficiency, wind, solar and storage can actually be more cost-effective and cheaper for ratepayers than a new gas plant.’ The effort will include partnerships with national groups like the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as with state and local groups and frontline communities, he said.”

6-13-19 CleanTechnica.com. Trump v. Earth: Who Put The Appalachian Trail In The Way Of The Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “In a December ruling that put the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on hold, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the National Park Service has jurisdiction over the Appalachian Trail. If that’s true, the pipeline’s proposed route is likely unworkable, because the law requires the NPS to keep its lands ‘unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.’ Building a natural gas pipeline certainly seems incompatible with that mandate. …. Trump administration lawyers argue that the Appalachian Trail is actually under the control of the Forest Service. The Forest Service is allowed to grant rights of way to energy projects on any lands not within the National Park System. Rather than delve into reams of dusty legal history, I suggest we all take a step back and ask a simple question: How should we treat the Appalachian Trail? It has been a place where returning soldiers could gradually reintegrate themselves into society, where the disabled have accomplished amazing feats, and where great writers have gone for inspiration. The Appalachian Trail is obviously far more like a national park than the average plot of federal land. Even if the administration finds a footnote buried in a typewritten document from 1971 that suggests the trail is under the control of the Forest Service, it still deserves national park–level treatment.”

6-12-19 Virginia Mercury. ‘They care about corporations:’ Landowners demonstrate pipeline project’s toll. “Two dozen people trudged through the mud and muck, surveying what was once a key pasture for Four Corners Farm, now gashed and treeless in anticipation of the pipeline. ‘We’re walking along an open trench with a huge pipe that’s been sitting in it for about 10 months that is eroding away slowly as the trench is getting deeper and wider,’ said Carolyn Reilly, one of the owners of the farm, during a tour last weekend. ‘This was the lowest and flattest part of our 58-acre farm, and right now a quarter mile of it has been trenched and plowed through by the MVP.’ …. Four Corners Farm is emblematic of the struggles of landowners along the pipeline route. …. ‘The people, the agencies and the organizations that are supposed to be out there to protect us don’t really care about us,’ Coles said. ‘They care about corporations. Corporations have more rights than individual people do. And it’s all about the bottom line. It’s all about money.'”

6-12-19 Roanoke Times. Munley: Seven ways to stop the pipeline. “What should happen? 1. Virginia’s top law-enforcer, Attorney General Herring: Don’t negotiate MVP crimes. Stop work! 2. Banks: Divest from pipelines. 3. Voters: Rid Virginia of corporate Democrats. 4. Equitrans (ETRN): At your Pittsburgh stockholder meeting: Recognize that your MVP “engineering marvel” is an investors’ black hole and cut your losses. 5. Federal courts: Respect environmental rights over corporations. 6. FERC: Transform to “FREC” (Federal Renewable Energy Commission). 7. Congress: place fracking under the Clean Water Act. MVP advanced with dependence on and faith in corruption but did not count on the following: Appalachians’ tenaciously waging multi-front battles against despoliation and robbery; the fast-evolving energy markets overtaking expensive fracked gas; a few good local and federal judges (excepting Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s initial action granting MVP’s ‘quick-take’ theft of private property); and the power of the Endangered Species Act. MVP epitomizes failed democracy. As we fight to end this corporate takeover of our future, we implore empowered leaders, federal courts, legislators and agencies to help stop pipeline injustice while ‘We the people’ struggle in our now dangerously-fragile and significantly-diminished democracy to retain clean water, safety, and a habitable earth. Virginia leaders abdicate in protecting Virginians over thieving corporations. ‘Stop-work’ is long overdue. MVP and accomplices have no rightful place in our democracy. Our plea: Help end the MVP siege of Appalachia!”

6-11-19 Bloomberg Environment. Virginia Pipeline Projects Could Drive Voters to the Polls. “Increasing attention to pending natural gas pipeline projects in Virginia may drive opponents as well as supporters to the polls in the state’s critical state legislative elections this fall. Control of legislatures is politically vital in states like Virginia, where it is central to redrawing voting district maps after the 2020 census. Primaries for legislative seats in the Commonwealth are set to be held June 11. Opposition to the pipeline projects—the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—is strongest in the areas directly impacted by their routes, but the issue is taking hold in other parts of the state. In addition to environmental impacts, opposition has cropped up over taking of land that is needed to build the pipelines, as well as concerns about potential gas leaks and explosions. But the industry and its supporters say natural gas is an abundant and affordable fossil fuel that is cleaner than coal and oil. They say the pipelines are needed, and that their construction and operation help boost local economies. ‘I have no doubt it will affect’ participation in the upcoming elections in Virginia, Richard Shingles, a professor emeritus with Virginia Tech’s political science department and an anti-pipeline activist, told Bloomberg Environment.”

6-11-19 Virginia Mercury. SCC considers ‘prudence’ of Dominion’s 2015 Chesterfield investments. “Dominion Energy faced pointed questions from a State Corporation Commission judge Tuesday over whether the utility should have spent several hundred million dollars in 2015 to retrofit two of its coal-fired units to comply with new state and federal environmental regulations. ‘Dominion moved forward that spring on retrofitting these plants knowing that [under] the Clean Power Plan, these plants were going to be the first on the list for the executioner,’ said Judge Mark Christie. ‘[These units] were not going to be viable under that scenario, so why spend money on a retrofit?’ Christie posed the questions during a hearing on whether Dominion should be allowed to recoup $302 million it spent beginning in 2015…. The company is seeking to recover those costs through a rate adjustment clause known as Rider E that would add an estimated $1.62 to the monthly bill of a residential customer that uses 1,000 kilowatt hours.”

6-11-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Should pipeline tree-sitters get 20 years in prison?   “What penalty should be paid by pipeline protestors who try to block construction? …. So far, that 14-day sentence against “Nutty” remains the most severe. The Trump administration, though, has different ideas. It proposes that that penalty for the types of anti-pipeline protests described above be up to 20 years in prison. While everybody was pre-occupied last week with whatever it was President Trump tweeted that morning, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asked Congress to make several changes to the laws governing her department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The most significant: To dramatically stiffen the penalties for those who try to interfere with pipelines. There’s already a federal law against ‘knowingly and willfully damaging or destroying’ natural gas pipelines and related facilities — that penalty is a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Or, if someone dies during the vandalism, a life sentence for the perpetrator. The Trump administration wants to expand that definition from ‘damaging or destroying’ to include ‘vandalizing, tampering with, impeding the operation of, disrupting the operation of, or inhibiting the operation of’ a natural gas pipeline. …. If the pipeline project collapses, it’ll be either because the courts rule against it or the underlying economics change. If the tree-sitters really want to help their cause, they’d be out raising money to pay for the lawyers — or buying stock in the pipeline companies to work against the project from within. Or working to elect politicians who will reform the whole system for approving pipelines —although that’s a long-term project that won’t stop this one in time. Does sitting in a tree to block pipeline construction merit 20 years in prison? Of course not. But it shouldn’t merit adoration, either, not even from pipeline opponents, because ultimately it’s a distraction from things that might really make a difference.”

6-10-19 Virginia Mercury. Democratic legislators call on court to overturn Union Hill permit. “Twenty-eight Virginia General Assembly members are urging a federal court to overturn a controversial permit granted by the State Air Pollution Control Board for a compressor station key to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on the grounds that it would irreparably harm Buckingham County’s historic freedman’s community of Union Hill. ‘Placing the industrial site in that community runs the real risk of doing what 150 years of slavery, war, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow could not do: tear apart Union Hill and disperse the descendants of its founders,’ an amicus brief says. The brief, filed Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, is also signed by the Virginia State Conference NAACP and the Center for Earth Ethics, an institute within the Union Theological Seminary founded by Karenna Gore that seeks to combat ecological destruction.”

6-10-19 NBC29. Buckingham Community Gets Help in Fight Against Compressor Station. “People in Buckingham County are getting support from a nonprofit in their legal fight against a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The historic African American community of Union Hill is appealing the State Air Pollution Board’s approval of the plan. On Friday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a brief, saying the station would erase Union Hill’s history and hurt the environment. The group also argues industrial pollution and its impacts unfairly target African-American communities.”

6-10-19 LawyersCommittee.org. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Files Brief Supporting Environmental Justice for Historic African American Community in Virginia. “On Friday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus curiae brief or ‘friend of the court’ in the case Friends of Buckingham, et al. v. State Air Pollution Control Board, et al., a case pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the potential harms facing Union Hill; an African American community in Buckingham County, Virginia. The brief was filed in support of the community’s challenge to a permit granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the construction of a compressor station on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The suit alleges that the compressor station will have disastrous effects on the community’s environment and threaten to erase the community’s history and culture.”

6-9-19 WVNews. WV Gov. Justice issues response to Bloomberg’s ‘Beyond Carbon’ initiative. “Gov. Jim Justice on Sunday issued a statement in response to the recently announced ‘Beyond Carbon’ initiative. Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg pledged $500 million to support the effort, which his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is spearheading along with the Sierra Club, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The goal of the initiative includes putting the country on track to shift to a completely green-energy economy through the closure of all remaining U.S. coal-fired power plants by the year 2030 as well as ‘(stopping) the rush to build new gas plants,’ according to a press release from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Justice called the initiative ‘short-sighted, nonsensical’ and said it would be severely detrimental to West Virginia and its workers. ‘West Virginia is an “all-in” energy state,’ Justice said. ‘We mine coal, produce natural gas and we have a growing renewable portfolio. These industries provide life-sustaining jobs and have made our economy one of the fastest growing in the country. Michael Bloomberg and the radical Sierra Club organization have declared war on the American worker. If this campaign is successful, massive numbers of West Virginians will lose their livelihoods and the U.S. economy will suffer greatly,’ he added.”

6-7-19 Blue Virginia. Virginia NAACP, 28 Members of the General Assembly, Center for Earth Ethics File Amicus Brief: Union Hill “deserves our protection and our respect.”   “[A]micus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. According to the brief. …. Here’s a key excerpt from the conclusion: For the African-American community of Union Hill, the marker of belonging is both life and death: the place where the first generation of free people came to life, and where now their ancestors rest in the ground. Union Hill is a unique, living, breathing community where the American history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction resides both in the cemeteries of former slaves and the memory of their descendants. It deserves our protection and our respect. For the above reasons, amici respectfully ask the Court to vacate and remand the permit order for further consideration.”

6-7-19 WMRA. Key Pipeline Case May Get Supreme Court Appeal. “After a federal court invalidated a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, lead partner Dominion Energy has said it intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. As WMRA’s Andrew Jenner reports, the deadline to file that appeal was recently extended to the end of June. …. An initial deadline for that appeal was in late May, but both parties on the losing end of the 4th Circuit’s decision – Dominion and the U.S. Forest Service – asked for an extension. The Supreme Court agreed, setting a new appeal deadline of June 25th.”

6-7-19 Green Tech Media. Bloomberg Commits $500M to Close All US Coal Plants by 2030, Halt New Natural Gas Plants. “Michael Bloomberg unveiled a $500 million “Beyond Carbon” campaign on Friday, aimed at closing every U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030 and halting the construction of any new natural gas plants. The new campaign will direct its funding toward environmental groups’ lobbying efforts in state legislatures, city councils and public utility commissions, as well as to elect local politicians with pro-clean energy policies, a Bloomberg spokesperson told The New York Times. The campaign expects to spend the $500 million in the next three years, although that time frame could be extended, the spokesperson said. The campaign’s goals exceed even the most aggressive clean energy and zero-carbon mandates set by states such as Hawaii, California, New York and a growing roster of others. But it’s unclear how the push will ultimately affect either the coal industry’s accelerating decline, or the current plans in much of the country to rely on natural gas-fired electricity for decades to come.”

6-7-19 Phys.org. Industrial methane emissions are 100 times higher than reported, researchers say. “Emissions of methane from the industrial sector have been vastly underestimated, researchers from Cornell and Environmental Defense Fund have found. …. The use of natural gas has grown in recent years, bolstered by improved efficiency in shale gas extraction and the perception that natural gas is a less dirty fossil fuel. ‘But natural gas is largely methane, which molecule-per-molecule has a stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide,’ Albertson said. ‘The presence of substantial emissions or leaks anywhere along the supply chain could make natural gas a more significant contributor to climate change than previously thought.'”

6-5-19 Common Dreams. Not ‘Freedom Gas’ But ‘Failure Gas’: First-of-Its-Kind Report Details Planetary Perils of US Fracking Infrastructure Boom. “A first-of-its-kind report [Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos] released Wednesday by Food & Water Watch details the more than 700 new U.S. facilities that have been recently built or proposed for development ‘to capitalize off of a glut of cheap fracked gas,’ and the consequences for the planet and its inhabitants if these projects are allowed to continue. The report comes a week after top Energy Department officials, in a press release about natural gas exports, referred to fossil fuels as ‘molecules of U.S. freedom’ and ‘freedom gas.’ Climate campaigners characterized that widely ridiculed language as just another example of the Trump administration’s demonstrated commitment to planetary destruction. ‘The Trump administration calls it “freedom gas,” but what we’re really talking about here is failure gas,’ Food & Water Watch’s Seth Gladstone told Common Dreams about the report. ‘Continuing to invest in fracked gas would represent a failure to address plastics pollution, a failure to prioritize human health and safety, and a failure to protect future generations from climate chaos.'”

6-4-19 E&E News. Landslides, explosions spark fear in pipeline country. “TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling pledged “years of safe, reliable and efficient operation” last year when his company launched the Leach Xpress natural gas pipeline. Five months later, it blew up, snapped by a landslide. …. The blast was one of at least six pipeline explosions caused by landslides and similar hazards since early 2018 in Appalachia. They’re piling up just as companies work to export the bounty of the Marcellus Shale by planting a new crop of pipelines across the region’s valleys, ridgetops and hillsides. The blasts are alarming federal pipeline safety regulators and inspiring fear along the paths of the big, high-pressure gas lines. ‘We have those same steep slopes,’ said Tina Smusz, a retired physician fighting the Mountain Valley pipeline being built through the area where she lives near Roanoke, Va. ‘I don’t know what they’re thinking. This is such a setup for ruptured pipelines.’ The Moundsville blast even contributed to the Atlantic Coast pipeline getting put on hold by a federal appeals court, which cited it in a ruling.”

6-4-19 S&P Global. DC Circuit upholds US FERC orders in GHG case, offers ‘misgivings’ on NEPA effort. “The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday upheld on procedural grounds Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders in a case testing the agency’s greenhouse gas considerations in natural gas pipeline reviews, but the court expressed ‘misgivings’ about FERC’s ‘less-than-dogged’ efforts to obtain information for its National Environmental Policy Act review. …. Commissioner Richard Glick, who has dissented in gas project cases, said the ruling ‘unambiguously affirms FERC’s obligation under NEPA and the [Natural Gas Act] to consider the reasonably foreseeable upstream and downstream GHG emissions caused by an interstate natural gas pipeline. Although the court denies the petition on procedural grounds, the opinion puts to bed any suggestion that NEPA and the NGA do not permit FERC to seriously consider the GHG emissions caused by a pipeline,’ Glick said.”

6-4-19 New York Times. Companies See Climate Change Hitting Their Bottom Lines in the Next 5 Years. “Many of the world’s biggest companies, from Silicon Valley tech firms to large European banks, are bracing for the prospect that climate change could substantially affect their bottom lines within the next five years, according to a new analysis of corporate disclosures. Under pressure from shareholders and regulators, companies are increasingly disclosing the specific financial impacts they could face as the planet warms, such as extreme weather that could disrupt their supply chains or stricter climate regulations that could hurt the value of coal, oil and gas investments. Early estimates suggest that trillions of dollars may ultimately be at stake. Even so, analysts warn that many companies are still lagging in accounting for all of the plausible financial risks from global warming.”

6-3-19 National Parks Traveler. Appellate Court Chastises Corps Of Engineers, Dominion Power Over James River Towers. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Dominion Energy subsidiary were chastised by a unanimous appellate court for asking that a line of transmission towers in the James River be allowed to remain even though the Corps was found to have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by letting the nearly 300-foot-tall towers be put in place without first conducting an environmental impact study. That the Corps and Dominion had promised to remove the towers had they lost the legal battle brought by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation over the NEPA requirement wasn’t lost on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in its ruling Friday [May 31].”  See the petition for removal of the towers from National Trust for Historic Preservation.

6-3-19 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Mac Legerton: No public need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects. “There are many reasons why the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Facility in Robeson County and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are unneeded, highly dangerous and a burden to all ratepayers and consumers of energy in North Carolina. The reasons include….”

6-3-19 Politico. Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown on pipeline protests. “The Trump administration is joining calls to treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country. The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a proposal Monday calling for Congress to expand a law that threatens fines and up to 20 years’ prison time for ‘damaging or destroying’ pipelines currently in operation. The expanded version would add ‘vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting or inhibiting the operation of’ either existing pipelines or those ‘under construction.’ …. PHMSA insists it doesn’t want to inhibit legitimate protests, but free speech advocates worry that efforts to impose massive fines and years in prison for ‘impeding’ pipeline construction could also infringe on activists’ First Amendment rights. ‘The proposed penalty is far and away more extreme than what we’ve seen at the state level,’ said Elly Page, attorney for International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, a nonprofit group that has tracked anti-protest bills through state legislatures. ‘When you combine provisions that vague to penalties that extreme, that creates uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.'”

6-3-19 Star Tribune [Minnesota]. Court throws replacement of Enbridge Line 3 into limbo; judges rebuke state agency. “The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by state utility regulators on the environmental impact statement for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, throwing new uncertainty on the controversial project. The court ruled Monday that the statement was ‘inadequate because it did not address the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.’ The decision to omit this issue was ‘arbitrary and capricious,’ the appeals court ruled. The court, acting on appeals from two environmental groups and three American Indian tribes, remanded the adequacy decision back to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and, it would appear, to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which conducted the environmental impact statement, or EIS. Redoing even a small part of the voluminous EIS could take months, raising questions about more delays in Enbridge’s schedule for Line 3. The PUC granted Enbridge a ‘certificate of need’ for Line 3 last June, the company’s most critical approval. Still, Enridge needs several other state permits and the blessing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those permitting decisions aren’t expected until November at the earliest. And the remaining state permits now can’t be issued until Line 3’s EIS is retooled, the appellate court ruling notes.”

6-2-19 Washington Post. Costco, Walmart and other big retailers try to break Dominion Energy’s grip in Virginia. “Some of the nation’s biggest retailers have been waging a regulatory war against Virginia’s powerful utility monopoly, Dominion Energy, saying the state gives it too much freedom to raise electricity rates and earn profits. Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Target and Cox Communications have all petitioned the State Corporation Commission for permission to buy energy from sources other than Dominion. The commission denied Costco’s request this week and denied Walmart’s in February, ruling that if those big companies leave the network, costs will only go up for everyone who remains. The other requests are likely to meet the same fate. But in their rulings, regulators have included a surprising message: The complaints are legitimate, and the companies should take their battle to the state legislature.


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