In the News

December 2019

12-5-19 Bloomberg. D.C. Circuit to Review FERC Practice Called ‘Kafkaesque’ “The D.C. Circuit will take a closer look at a federal energy agency’s review practice that has long frustrated natural gas pipeline challengers and was recently derided by one judge as a ‘Kafkaesque regime.’ The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Dec. 5 agreed to rehear a case involving the Transcontinental Pipeline’s Atlantic Sunrise project, which cuts through Pennsylvania and connects to a broader East Coast network of natural gas infrastructure. …. At issue in the rehearing is FERC’s use of “tolling orders” to respond to administrative challenges to pipeline approvals. Under the Natural Gas Act, FERC has 30 days to respond to challenges. It uses tolling orders to extend that deadline. Challengers generally can’t go to court to oppose a pipeline until FERC issues a final decision on an administrative challenge. Tolling orders can drag out the timeline so long that construction on a project is complete before a landowner, environmental group, or other challenger has had an opportunity to go to court.

12-5-19 Virginia Mercury. In Virginia, Union Hill and racial tensions have put environmental justice back on the map. “For many activists and policymakers, no single event has done more to put environmental justice on the Virginia map than the state’s approval of a plan by Dominion Energy to site a natural gas compressor station for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the historic freedmen’s community of Union Hill. The decision, which made national headlines and is still being litigated in the courts, was described as ‘almost a symbol of racism’ by Robinson [Dawone Robinson, the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic director of energy affordability at the Natural Resources Defense Council], ‘a very in-your-face specific issue on environmental justice.'”

12-5-19 Utility Dive. Dominion suspends plan to add 1.5 GW of peaking capacity as Virginia faces gas glut. “Dominion Energy on Wednesday announced it suspended a request for proposals (RFP) that targeted up to 1,500 MW of dispatchable peak capacity in its Virginia territory, which observers said would have likely resulted in natural gas additions. Announced in November, the utility said the RFP aimed to replace retiring generation and provide system balancing needs as more renewables are added onto the grid. Dominion said it may reissue the RFP in the future, if it determines the capacity is needed. The utility’s announcement follows reporting from S&P Global that the company has been over-forecasting its demand for years in order to justify spending on new natural gas facilities.”

12-4-19 S&P Global. Overpowered: In Virginia, Dominion faces challenges to its reign. “‘Now, the times they are a-changing,’ said former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who served several years in the General Assembly and who is now the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Donald Trump. ‘There’s a political price now to be paid on both sides of the aisle for just doing what Dominion wants. They don’t get to just say what they want and go get it. It’s a fight now. And it’s a fight with political costs.'”

12-4-19 Rewables Now. OVERVIEW – US wind capacity exceeds hydro, while solar tops oil. “According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released – quietly – by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the first three-quarters of 2019, solar and wind provided nearly six times as much new generating capacity as natural gas in September. …. [T]he gap between gas and renewables for calendar year 2019 appears to be closing with additions by the latter outpacing gas during each of the last three months reported (i.e., July, August, September). Moreover, compared to its prior monthly report, FERC’s three-year forecast has reduced its projection of net new natural gas additions (i.e., “proposed additions under construction” minus “proposed retirements”) by 99 MW while increasing those from renewable sources by 1,040 MW.”

12-3-19 Grist.  A pipeline runs through it. “The pink ribbons start in northern West Virginia. Tied to flimsy wooden posts stuck a few inches into the earth, they’re easy to miss as they whip in the crisp, fall wind. Heading south, they dot landscapes for 600 miles, marking the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Over the past year, I’ve followed the path of the ribbons from West Virginia to North Carolina. I hiked along steep ridges where they were tied to trees; trudged through muddy cattle farms where they were stuck on fence posts. I drove past them as the route curved around churches and homes. Along the way, I spoke to more than 20 people who lived on or near the proposed route, in addition to scientists, activists, lawyers, and government officials. In some places, I learned that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has pitted neighbor against neighbor and sibling against sibling, that it has split church communities and broken friendships. In others, I found that it inspired folks to speak out at county meetings, to read every line in an environmental assessment, and to organize protests with strangers who became close friends. Here are a few stories about some of the humans, wildlife, and places in the pipeline’s path.”

12-3-19 Register-Herald [WV] Texas construction company no longer working on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A Texas corporation that has put down roots in Raleigh County is no longer working on a controversial natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, after the pipeline’s major stakeholder unexpectedly cancelled the Texas company’s contract last month. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint project of EQM Midstream Partners LP, Con Edison Transmissions Inc., NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October halted construction of the 303-mile, interstate pipeline in October, pending the outcome of a series of court challenges launched by environmental groups. In the last week of November, EQM Midstream Partners LP cancelled a work contract for Trinity Energy Services of Argyle, Texas, Trinity spokesman Bob McKibbon verified Monday.”

12-2-19 Bloomberg Environment. Trump Lawyers Defend Pipeline’s Route Across Appalachian Trail. “The U.S. Forest Service has full authority to allow natural gas pipelines to cross the Appalachian Trail, industry lawyers and the Trump administration told the Supreme Court in a pair of Dec. 2 legal filings. Government and industry lawyers say a lower court got it wrong when it ruled that only the National Park Service can oversee development across the trail. …. Environmental groups opposed to the pipeline have until Jan. 15 [2020] to respond to the briefs. Oral argument is set for Feb. 24 [2020]. The case is U.S. Forest Serv. v. Cowpasture River Pres. Ass’n, U.S., No. 18-1584, briefs filed 12/2/19.

12-2-19 Seeking Alpha. Duke Energy: More Dividends In The Pipeline. “One major area of focus for management has been the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Carolinas, which is an ongoing project to be completed over the next couple of years and should help with the firm’s natural gas revenue. To cover the cost of the pipeline, management recently held an equity offering of 25 million shares, priced at $86.45 per share, the proceeds of which (over $2 billion) were used to help pay for the roughly $7.5 billion cost of the joint venture (along with Dominion Energy (D) and Southern Company (SO)). The aforementioned investment costs and increasing regulatory hurdles will undoubtedly constrain profitability, and will, in all likelihood leave forward earnings growth below the industry average for the immediate future. If anything, the dividend has become more important than ever to existing shareholders, and as such, should be monitored very closely for any surprises, as any disappointments could lead to a dive in share price.”

12-2-19 Blue Virginia. Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy: Effects of Climate Change Are Here in Virginia Today; Now Is the Time for Bold Leadership. “Climate change is not some distant threat — we’re witnessing many of its effects today right here in Virginia. More notably, we are seeing that the immediate burden of our changing climate is disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. Union Hill, a predominantly African American community in Buckingham County, is being threatened by Dominion Energy’s effort to build a compressor station for a fracked-methane pipeline. Compressor stations enable gas to flow through the pipelines at high speeds. This pollutes the air and water with toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. These chemicals pose significant health risks, and are linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, impaired lung function, and premature death. Thankfully, we can do something about it. On Nov. 5, Democrats in Virginia won big — giving us a once-in-a-generation chance to implement real change. We need to lead with bold change in mind, and we can do this by fighting against the influence of big corporations like Dominion Energy who have controlled Richmond for far too long.”

12-2-19 Appalachian Voices. Fossil Fuels in Virginia. “Rural landowners and environmental justice advocates have united in opposition to Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And the fact that sinking billions of captive customer dollars into that fossil fuel project flies in the face of Governor Northam’s well-received call for 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2050 has not gone unnoticed. The next General Assembly, and the governor, have a clear mandate to put an end to the special favors that enrich monopoly utilities at great cost to Virginians.”

12-2-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents ask court to reject agreement between Virginia and MVP. “A coalition of groups that oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline are asking a court to reject an agreement between the pipeline company and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. …. Members of the POWHR coalition said the agreement ignores almost a year of violations, lacks adequate safeguards and fails to mitigate the damage effectively.”

November 2018

11-27-19 The Nation. Meet the Men Fueling the Climate Crisis. “Until there are courts willing to hold the titans of the climate crisis accountable, it’s up to people to begin calling them out by name. …. Earlier this year, the climate writer Kate Aronoff laid out the case for trying fossil-fuel executives for crimes against humanity. The effort, she argued, ‘would put names and faces to a problem too often discussed in the abstract’ and ‘channel some populist rage at the climate’s 1 percent.’ Not all of us anthropoids, after all, are equally responsible for anthropogenic climate change: More than 60 percent of all the carbon spat into the atmosphere since 1854 can be traced to 90 corporations and state-owned industries. Over the last half century, just 20 firms produced more than a third of all emissions.”

11-27-19 Daily Stock Dish. Duke scientist: Stop building natural gas infrastructure now. “A climate scientist at Duke University, in a letter backed by two dozen former officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called Thursday for a halt to natural gas development in North Carolina. Drew Shindell, an earth sciences professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment, said Gov. Roy Cooper should push back on Duke Energy‘s plans to build multiple new natural gas plants in the state, essentially asking the governor to back a moratorium in the fight against climate change. ‘The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel construction,’ Shindell, who is part of the United Nations‘ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said on a conference call with reporters.”

11-27-19 Nelson County Times. Nelson County looks to renewable energy. “Nelson County is looking toward the future by combining renewable energy and school curriculum. At the Nelson County Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 14, Jesse Rutherford, East District representative, announced plans for Nelson to get into the renewable energy game. ‘I have been part of a group that has been working on soliciting grant money for career and technical education in renewable energy. We have the potential of being the first high school in the state of Virginia to be offering training in that industry,’ Rutherford said.”

11-26-19 S&P Global. FERC takes more time for review of MVP Southgate after route changes. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has pushed back the environmental review schedule for the 73-mile, 375 MMcf/d MVP Southgate project, due to recently proposed route changes, and set the timetable for reviewing the 750 MMcf/d Cameron Expansion project in Louisiana. The natural gas project would connect the mainline of the Mountain Valley Pipeline near Chatham, Virginia, and extend to Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina. FERC now expects to release a final environmental impact statement for MVP Southgate on February 14, 2020, rather than December 19 of this year as previously proposed. FERC pointed to changes to the route and revised data for resource impact, filed October 23, in explaining the extension.”

11-26-19 Charlotte Business Journal. Duke Energy stock sale for pipeline funding comes in below anticipated price. Duke Energy Corp.’s stock sold below its hoped-for price in last week’s forward sale that’s designed to raise about $2.5 billion to finance the remaining costs of its share of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The shares sold to eight banks at $85.99, 46 cents per share lower than what the company announced when it priced the stock at $86.45 on Nov. 18. But the bank consortium involved in the transaction picked up an option to buy an additional 3.75 million shares above the 25 million basic proposal. With the sale of the additional shares, Duke raised $2.47 million. Spokeswoman Catherine Butler acknowledged the price was a little lower than expected. Still, the company raised what it needed out of the sale, she says.”

11-26-19 Daily Tar Heel. Governor’s office denies Republican allegation of misused natural gas pipeline funds. “A Republican investigation into [NC] Gov. Roy Cooper’s influence on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project concluded that he ‘improperly used the authority and influence of his office.’ The investigation was started in 2017 by Republican leaders in the General Assembly, which hired independent investigators to look into funds under the governor’s control that they say were used as leverage to influence the partners of the pipeline. …. The report alleged that the governor attempted to influence the ACP partners in a manner that benefitted solar energy companies. However, the report also said no information found in the investigation showed that Cooper ‘personally benefited’ from the creation of the mitigation fund or the nameplate dispute settlement. According to a press release from Cooper’s spokesperson, Ford Porter, the report further stated that no one in the governor’s office interfered with the issuance of permits, that Duke did not think their permits were contingent on the fund or settlement, and that the governor did not benefit from any of this.”

11-25-19 Who.What.Why. The Latest Pipeline Battle: ‘Everyday People’ vs. Corporate Goliath. “It seems like a David vs. Goliath battle. Since 2014, a coalition of environmental, civil rights, and community groups, along with some local businesses, has fought in court to block a massive $8 billion pipeline. The anti-pipeline coalition, which is represented by an environmental law firm, is up against a politically connected corporation with 7.5 million customers in 18 states, 21,000 employees, and 2018 earnings of $2.4 billion.”

11-25-19 Virginia Mercury. Facing backlash, Dominion says it’s willing to have coal plant removed from green energy package. “Amid complaints from businesses and environmental groups, Virginia’s largest utility said it would be willing to let regulators remove a Southwest Virginia power plant that relies almost entirely on coal from a renewable energy portfolio it is aiming to sell to environmentally conscious consumers.”

11-21-19 Roanoke Times. Bondurant and Leech: The ‘public need’ argument for the MVP grows weaker. “As MVP falters, as state agency evidence negates the core constitutional requirement of public need, as the developer advertises its glut for export, why is any eminent domain process against landowners in federal courts actively proceeding? Where, in this mix, is ‘the interest of justice’?”

11-21-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Regulators reject request to boost Dominion’s profit rate. State utility regulators on Thursday rejected a request from Dominion Energy that would have increased the utility’s profit margin through small increases in Virginia ratepayer bills. The State Corporation Commission ruled that it would hold the rate of return at the current level of 9.2% — rejecting Dominion’s request for a return of 10.75%, a rate the SCC said is not ‘consistent with the public interest.'”

11-20-19 News & Advance. Letter: Time to pull plug on natural gas. “Is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline still a good investment? The pipeline will break the carbon budget and lock in long term emissions. Six lawsuits are still outstanding. Pipeline costs continue to rise. Several projected gas plants are canceled, and there are other resource choices that can replace those newly proposed gas “peaker” plants. Offshore wind combined with solar can meet all our summer ‘peak’ demand, and solar-storage or wind-storage are able to back up intermittent power. Those alternatives are already cheaper than new natural gas plants. So are potential demand response and efficiency savings reductions. It is time to pull the plug on gas. The natural gas bridge to the future is behind us.”

11-20-19 Charlotte Observer. There’s enough smoke for an official probe into the NC governor’s pipeline deal. “Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper set out in late 2017 to create a “mitigation fund” intended to offset environmental damage resulting from construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that is planned to roughly follow I-95 through North Carolina. But what resulted is a misbegotten fund that’s causing ongoing political damage — for him. The damage grew Wednesday with the release of a report by private investigators hired by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders. The report, based on research and interviews conducted by the firm Eagle Intel Services LLC, did not find the proverbial smoking gun, but it did find smoke — enough of it that an official investigation is needed to assess the legality of how the fund was established.”

11-20-10 Raleigh News & Observer. Advocates say the state is allowing environmental harm in low-income, minority counties. “The state is failing low-income communities with large African-American and Native American populations by allowing polluting industries to concentrate in their counties, a group of residents said Wednesday as they demanded that an environmental justice advisory board do more to advocate for them. Michael Regan, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality, set up the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board last year. The board has had a low profile even as the state deals with environmental issues that residents say heap harm on economically disadvantaged counties. Opponents of Enviva, a company that produces wood pellets by the ton for export, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, coal ash disposal sites, and industrial agriculture said the DEQ is watching out for industries and not the people who live near those operations.”

11-20-19 Raleigh News & Observer. Cooper ‘improperly’ used influence on pipeline, investigation started by GOP concludes. “An independent investigation started by Republican General Assembly leaders into the state’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ‘improperly used the authority and influence of his office’ but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released Wednesday, almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a ‘pay-to-play’ or ‘pay-for-permit’ after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.”

11-19-19 Utility Dive. Time to move away from old precedents in FERC pipeline reviews. “Since adopting its natural gas pipeline Policy Statement 20 years ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved 474 gas pipeline projects, representing 23,773 new miles of pipeline around the nation. It has rejected only two projects. This outcome, along with the significant changes that have occurred in the natural gas industry, led me two years ago to call on FERC to update its Policy Statement, which has guided how the Commission considers pipeline projects since 1999. In April 2018, FERC decided that it would consider changes and it requested stakeholder comment. The fact that more than 1,600 comments, from a broad spectrum of industry participants, were filed with the agency suggests the intense interest this debate is generating.”

11-19-19 NRDC. Reform Is Long Overdue for FERC’s Gas Pipeline Reviews. “It’s been almost two years since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced that it would take a fresh look at its 20-year-old policy that guides its reviews of new gas pipeline projects, and almost 18 months since NRDC and others filed more than 1,600 comments with the agency on this very question. Since that time, FERC has been silent on the status of its review. A new NRDC-commissioned report released today brings this important issue back into focus and highlights the key areas for reform.”

11-19-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents say erosion controls are inadequate. “Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say sediment and erosion controls approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality are not protecting water and endangered species. During a Roanoke news conference Tuesday afternoon, they cited conditions near Yellow Finch Lane in Montgomery County. They said citizen monitors documented problems there in the days after DEQ approved the controls.”

11-18-19 The Motley Fool. Is Dominion Energy a Great Dividend Stock?  “One of the largest utilities in the United States, Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) is currently offering investors a very attractive 4.6% dividend yield. That’s 1.8 percentage points higher than the average utility, as measured by Vanguard Utilities Index ETF, and about 2.6 percentage points higher than an S&P 500 Index fund. But a high yield isn’t enough to make Dominion a great dividend stock. Here’s a deeper look at Dominion to help you figure out if it belongs in your dividend portfolio. …. Add all of this up, and it’s hard to call Dominion a great dividend stock today. If the dividend were more secure, perhaps. Or if the dividend growth rate were more robust, maybe. Or if the valuation were deeply discounted, sure. But right now Dominion doesn’t really stand out in any material way other than a relatively high yield. That’s not enough to call it a great dividend stock.”

11-12-19 WITF [PA]   FBI eyes how Pennsylvania approved pipeline. “The FBI has begun a corruption investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to issue permits for construction on a multibillion-dollar pipeline project to carry highly volatile natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned. FBI agents have interviewed current or former state employees in recent weeks about the Mariner East project and the construction permits, according to three people who have direct knowledge of the agents’ line of questioning. …. The focus of the agents’ questions involves the permitting of the pipeline, whether Wolf and his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return, those people say. …. the construction has spurred millions of dollars in fines, several temporary shutdown orders, lawsuits, protests and investigations. When construction permits were approved in 2017, environmental advocacy groups accused Wolf’s administration of pushing through incomplete permits that violated the law.”

11-12-19 WMRA. Valley Activists Aid Mountain Valley Pipeline Opponents. “The proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines are slated to carry natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia, and in the case of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, on into North Carolina. Even as construction has been halted or limited by legal challenges, opposition to those projects remains strong among some residents. …. Opponents of the pipelines cite accelerated climate change, health and safety risks, ecosystem destruction, and the abuse of eminent domain as reasons for their activism.”

11-10-19 Kent County News. How a blind crustacean stopped a power company. “Dominion and Duke Energy in late July lost yet another federal permit to build the ill-conceived Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For the second time, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Dominion’s permit to take, kill and destroy habitat for federally listed endangered species. A bumble bee, a bat, a mussel and a tiny blind crustacean are in the proposed path of the 42-inch fracked-gas pipeline. All four species are on the brink of extinction. …. But, wait, aren’t there also hundreds of people in the path of the pipeline that don’t want Dominion to take their land through eminent domain? Won’t thousands of streams and rivers be damaged by sediment pollution during construction? And what about the environmental injustice in Union Hill, Va., where a toxic compressor station for the pipeline is planned in a community of descendants of freed slaves? Wasn’t all that enough to stop the pipeline? …. If a bee, a bat, a mussel and a crustacean can stop Dominion’s destructive pipeline, I’m all for it. I just wish the people in its path had as much standing in court as the critters.”

11-8-19 Virginia Mercury. Green power for suckers program gets SCC approval.  “Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has approved Dominion Energy Virginia’s request to offer a new product to electric utility customers who want to buy renewable energy at a discount but lack the knowledge to understand when they are being taken for chumps. ‘Rider REC’ is an ultra-cheap version of the company’s Green Power Program (itself of questionable value). For less than a buck a month on their electric bills, customers will be able to buy renewable energy certificates that cost Dominion next to nothing because no one else wants them. And for good reason: these are the dregs of the renewable energy category. You won’t find any wind or solar in Rider REC, but you might find paper mill waste, trees burned after clear-cutting or century-old hydro dams — all officially ‘renewable’ under the generous provisions of Virginia law. Dominion will scrounge up these old and dirty leftovers, package them up and put a green bow on them.”

11-8-19 New York Times. Natural Gas or Renewables? New Orleans Choice Is Shadowed by Katrina. “Is it wise to keep building fossil-fuel plants — even those powered by natural gas rather than coal — that will be in operation for decades? Or are wind turbines and solar farms now reliable and economical enough to take their place?” Article includes discussion of the rapidly dropping cost of renewables, utility company arguments about why renewables are not sufficient to meet needs, environmental justice issues – and the fallout from utility companies hiring of paid actors to stack public hearings in their favor.

11-8-19 Charlotte Business Journal. Sudden change of plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline surprises Duke Energy investors. “Duke Energy Corp. has changed its construction and financing plans for the still-stalled Atlantic Coast Pipeline, pushing off any operations to 2022 and issuing $2.5 billion in additional stock by the end of next year to cover costs. Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE: DUK) has been saying for some time that it did not anticipate issuing additional stock for the project. The sudden reversal, announced in conjunction with Duke’s earnings Friday, came as a surprise to investors, said analyst Andy Smith at Edward Jones. He suspects that it is the major contributor to a drop in Duke’s stock price.”

11-7-19 Utility Dive. Dominion Virginia plan for 1.5 GW new peaking capacity will lead to more gas plants, NGOs fear. “Dominion Energy Virginia is seeking up to 1,500 MW of new dispatachable peak capacity beginning in 2022, to replace generation retirements and to provide system balancing needs for the company’s growing renewables fleet. Environmental groups say the RFP aims to bring new gas-fired generation into the state, which is at odds with state policy targeting 100% carbon-free power by 2050. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, in September signed Executive Order 43 setting the state on a course to reach 30% renewables by 2030, along with the 2050 goal. Dominion says it is on track to meet the state’s clean energy goals, but the need for additional generation was identified in recent Integrated Resource Plans. Proposals for new generation are due to the utility by Dec. 19.”

11-7-19 Nelson County Times. Letter: Court’s decision a bump in the road. “The Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear Dominion’s appeal for reinstatement of the permit to cross the Appalachian Trail is a bump in the road, not the end of the story. However this case is decided, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) faces many more challenges. As the case goes forward, public appreciation of the weakness of the ACP proposal will continue to grow. …. Dominion’s appeal to the Supreme Court is a Hail Mary attempt to rescue a pipeline that is clearly in jeopardy. The ACP is two years behind schedule and close to $3 billion over the estimated cost. Dominion’s captive ratepayers are waking up to the billions of dollars they will be compelled to pay for the pipeline and the additional 15 percent ‘return on equity’ guaranteed by federal law. Investors are growing wary of fossil fuels; Moody’s has downgraded the ACP to a risky investment. Renewable energy continues its trend of increasing efficiency and declining cost. The myth of methane as a ‘bridge fuel’ has evaporated. Public concern about climate change is growing explosively worldwide.”

11-6-19 Clean Virginia. Virginia Candidates Refusing Dominion Money Win Nearly 50 General Assembly Seats. “In a decisive rebuke to Dominion Energy’s unprecedented electoral spending, voters in Virginia overwhelmingly rejected the monopoly’s attempts to influence Virginia’s political system in statewide elections yesterday. All seven flipped seats in the House of Delegates and State Senate went to candidates who refused campaign contributions from the utility monopolies they will regulate in the General Assembly — Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company. This issue resonated with Virginian voters across party lines, as two Republican incumbents who also refused these campaign contributions kept their seats in highly contested races.”

11-6-19 S&P Global. Virginia’s legislative shift could tighten RGGI market, impact gas pipeline development. “The Democratic Party winning control of both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly in Tuesday’s elections paves the way for the state to join a regional emissions cap-and-trade program, thus tightening that oversupplied market, and could have natural gas pipeline development implications. …. Virginia wrote and finalized a regulation to cap carbon dioxide emissions earlier this year, but the budget did not allocate any money for it. The regulation is designed to cap emissions from 32 fossil fuel-fired power plants with more than 25 MW of generation capacity starting in 2020, and then require a 30% emissions reduction over the next 10 years. ‘With the election results, we are very hopeful the Assembly will fully fund Governor Northam’s carbon regulations,’ Will Cleveland, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a phone call Wednesday.”

11-6-19 The Intercept. Democratic Sweep Sets Up Confrontation With Corporate Giant That Has Loomed Over Virginia Politics for a Century. “The stunning victory on Tuesday by Virginia Democrats, seizing control of both chambers of the state legislature and bringing the state under unified party control, sets up a new confrontation with a powerful adversary: Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy, the privately owned utility company, has long cast a shadow across the state, buying favor in both parties as the most generous donor in state history, writing its own lax regulatory rules, and funneling consumer bills into billions of dollars of investor dividends and executive compensation.”

11-5-19 Progressive Pulse. [NC]DEQ staff to investigators: We knew nothing about the governor’s deal with Dominion over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Ten NC Department of Environmental Quality staff, including Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman, told investigators earlier this month that they did not communicate with the governor’s office in advance about a $57.8 million mitigation fund related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Nor was there a quid pro quo involving a key water quality permit for the natural gas project and the fund, DEQ staff said.”

11-5-19 Virginia Mercury. Report: Department of Defense ‘precariously unprepared’ for climate change risks. “If the stalwart presence of the U.S. military in Virginia makes you feel safer in an uncertain world plagued by sea level rise and climate change, a recent report by the U.S. Army War College would like to disabuse you of that sense of security. According to ‘Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army,’ the Department of Defense is ‘precariously unprepared for the national security implications’ of climate change, while the U.S. Army has fostered an ‘environmentally oblivious’ culture. ‘In short, the Army is an environmental disaster,’ the authors write.”

11-5-19 Pittsburgh Business Times. Mountain Valley co-owner puts cap on investment in pipeline. “Con Edison, the large New York-based utility company, is scaling back its investment in the troubled Mountain Valley Pipeline. Con Edison (NYSE: ED) revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that its subdiary CET Gas will cap its investment in MVP, the 300-mile pipeline that has been mired in legal cases on the state and federal level, to $530 million. Con Edison has already spent about $488 million.”

11-4-19 NBC29. Environmental Nonprofit Studies Potential Impact of ACP on African American Community. ” The potential impacts of a proposed compressor station in Buckingham County were explored Monday night. One group is determined to explain how the planned placement of that part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline contributes to racism while harming the environment. A report released Monday night by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League goes into detail about how black people and minorities would see the most harm from that compressor station. The problem it says is not new, because according to this report, it stems from a history of racist practices.”

11-4-19 Raw Story. Meet Trump’s ‘see no evil’ energy commission nominee.  “The attorney Trump nominated for a seat on a federal commission that oversees pipeline construction and other energy projects wants to impose the legal equivalent of the three monkeys that see no evil in assessing how oil and gas companies are destroying our planet. James Danly, a relatively inexperienced attorney who was an associate at the mega-lobbying and law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom before the White House named him the general counsel for the commission, prefers the benign-sounding phrase ‘humble regulator.'”

11-3-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: Jorge Aguilar on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The concession that Union Hill is a predominantly African American community is confirmation of what Virginia’s environmental justice advocates have known for years: Communities of color are disproportionately targeted when it comes to fossil fuel infrastructure projects, in this case the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s dirty compressor station, scheduled to be built in the midst of a community descended from former slaves. …. After the race-related scandals of the past year, Northam and state officials have sought to address some of the long-term racial inequities that have been prevalent in Virginia. This is a clear moment when Northam can act to do the right thing and demand that agencies revoke the state permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and accompanying compressor stations.”

11-1-19 Virginia Mercury. On nation’s biggest proposed offshore wind farm, Dominion plans to fly solo. “Dominion Energy intends to move forward alone with developing the nation’s largest proposed offshore wind farm, an enterprise estimated to cost $8 billion, top utility leaders indicated to investors in a third-quarter earnings call Friday morning. ‘The project will be developed and owned by Dominion Energy Virginia, with regulated cost recovery subject to approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission,’ said Dominion CEO, Chairman and President Tom Farrell during the presentation. The company’s approach bucks the dominant trend among East Coast utilities, which have otherwise partnered with private developers to add offshore wind energy to their portfolios.”

11-1-19 NRDC. Virginia: Remember, and Protect, Union Hill. “Dominion Energy was in court again on Tuesday for its unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is proposed for Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia and would cross the Appalachian Trail as well as several historic and vulnerable communities. The case highlights what has long been known—and ignored—by regulators: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a textbook case of environmental injustice.”

11-1-19 S&P Global. In face of litigation, Dominion reiterates Atlantic Coast Pipeline timeline, cost estimate. ” Despite ongoing federal environmental litigation, Dominion Energy expects to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on its previously released timeline, with full project construction resuming by the end of 2020, and with full commissioning of the project in early 2022, company officials said Friday. In the company’s third-quarter 2019 earnings conference call, Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell also said that the company does not anticipate that the court cases would add to the estimated $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion cost of the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project.”

October 2019

10-30-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion’s green energy package comes with a catch: coal. Businesses aren’t happy. “Dominion Energy’s newest plan for a renewable energy package that environmentally conscious customers can buy is causing some big businesses, including Walmart, to push back against what they call ‘an unattractive offering.’ Why? Companies and an industry group that represents some of Virginia’s and the nation’s largest employers have two complaints. First, the portfolio of renewable energy resources assembled by Dominion includes numerous carbon-emitting facilities, some decades old, including one in Southwest Virginia that derives 93 percent of its energy from coal and is listed by Dominion on its website as a coal asset. Second, if the utility succeeds in winning approval for its plan, that will deal a blow to the state’s fledgling renewable energy market, leaving nowhere else for most customers in the commonwealth to turn if they want to buy renewables.”

10-30-19 Motley Fool. This High-Yield Utility Just Raised $2 Billion. “Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) is one of the largest utilities in the United States. It also has one of the highest dividend yields in the sector at around 4.4%. That isn’t a market oddity — investors have looked at the utility’s balance sheet and correctly surmised that Dominion has a leverage problem. That said, the U.S. utility giant is working hard to fix that. Here’s the lowdown on what’s going on, including a recent deal that will result in a $2 billion cash inflow. There’s no way to sugarcoat Dominion’s current financial state. Its financial debt to equity ratio isn’t out of line with those of its closest peers at around 0.65 times. However, its financial debt to EBITDA ratio of more than 6.5 times is well above those of similarly sized utilities. Meanwhile, as you might expect, its ability to pay its interest expenses is among the weakest of its peers, with the company sporting a times interest earned ratio of less than two. And, to add to the list of problems, its payout ratio in 2019 is expected to be close to 90%, compared to an average of around 70% for peers.”

10-29-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Under questioning by 4th Circuit at pipeline hearing, state concedes Union Hill’s racial status. “[A]n attorney for the State Air Pollution Control Board conceded in federal court Tuesday that Union Hill, a community established by freed slaves in Buckingham County after the Civil War, is indeed overwhelmingly populated by African Americans. Deputy Solicitor General Martine Cicconi made the concession under sharp questioning by Chief Judge Roger Gregory in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It came during a hearing on the legality of an air pollution permit the state board issued in January for a natural gas compressor station on the site of a former plantation where the forebears of some Union Hill residents worked as slaves. The outcome remains uncertain, but two environmental organizations’ appeal of the state air permit represents yet another hurdle at the 4th Circuit for the 600-mile, $7.75 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

10-29-19 Virginia Mercury. At compressor station hearing, sharp questions on environmental justice. “Virginia state agencies and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came under sharp questioning by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Tuesday concerning whether environmental justice concerns had been adequately heard in a controversial decision to site a compressor station in the predominantly African American community of Union Hill. Repeatedly, Chief Judge Roger Gregory pushed attorneys representing the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the State Air Pollution Control Board and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to explain why the state compared air quality in Union Hill to air quality around the state rather than in surrounding Buckingham County to determine whether the compressor station would have a disproportionate impact on the community. ‘Environmental justice is dealing with people who live and who are impacted,’ said Gregory. ‘The people who live in the county, I’d think you’d start there.'”

10-27-19 WV Metro News. Expenses and delays continue for Mountain Valley Pipeline, where work has halted again. “Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of the major construction projects crossing West Virginia, has extended the timetable and price for its expected completion. The pipeline’s developers announced last week that construction now isn’t expected to concluded until late next year at a cost of $5.3 to $5.5 billion because key aspects of the giant project have been challenged by federal regulators and in the court system. The original cost estimate when work began in February 2018 was $3.7 billion. The original estimated completion date was the fourth quarter of 2019 — now. …. Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s cost has boomed up to $7.75 billion, up an extra $3 billion from original estimate. And construction of Atlantic Coast is about two years behind schedule, with completion not expected until late 2021.”

10-26-19 Blue Virginia. New “Climate in the Boardroom” Report: Dominion Energy Needs “independent chair policy to provide additional oversight” “Thanks to Activate Virginia for the ‘heads up’ on this new report, by Majority Action (‘a non-profit, non-partisan organization that empowers shareholders to hold corporations accountable to high standards of corporate governance, social responsibility, and long-term value creation’), posted earlier this month at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, entitled ‘Climate in the Boardroom.’ …. [O]ne of the ’28 companies with critical climate resolutions’ noted in this report was none other than our old friends at Dominion Energy.”

10-25-19 Virginia Mercury. Virginia is again at the center of a major civil rights battle: Once again, it’s on the wrong side. “On Tuesday [October 28, 2019], the 4th Circuit will hold oral arguments in Richmond on the Union Hill case. The Lawyers Committee brief is one of three friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of Union Hill. A second brief was signed by 28 members of the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP and the Center for Earth Ethics. A third brief was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, the Kairos Center and Union Grove Baptist Church, which is one of the two historic African-American churches located in the heart of Union Hill — within a mile of the proposed compressor station. Dominion Energy chose Union Hill over a nearby alternative location it bought that is larger, more sparsely populated and predominantly white. That fits the national pattern highlighted in Fumes Across the Fence-Line. …. Dominion bet that Union Hill would go silently into the night. Dominion bet wrong.”

10-25-19 Bloomberg. After Decades of Fracking, We Finally Know How the Fluid Spreads Underground. “Given how profound an effect hydraulic fracturing has had on the U.S. economically in recent years, it can come something of a shock to discover how little we know about it. Blasting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock formations deep underground has unlocked vast hydrocarbon reserves previously considered almost impossible to exploit. Over the past decade, fracking, as the technique is also known, has transformed the country into the world’s largest oil producer, adding supply equal to all the black gold pumped by Saudi Arabia. It has remade America as an exporter both of crude and natural gas, something once unthinkable. It’s also sparked controversy over environmental concerns that have long dogged the industry. Fracking has been blamed for causing earthquakes in Oklahoma and poisoning groundwater in Pennsylvania. New York and Vermont have banned it. Much of the controversy is driven by mystery surrounding the fracking fluid itself. Oil-services giant Schlumberger Ltd. once described fracking as employing “brute force and ignorance.” But for the first time, we have a clear picture of how the fluid used in fracking travels underground.” [Article has interesting graphics]

10-22-19 WSLS10. Local woman wins national award for conservation efforts. “A local woman has won a national award that brings with it money to help maintain the beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Diana Christopulos is the national winner of $60,000 in total grant money, which she will hand over to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to go toward conservation efforts in Virginia. She takes the top prize of the 2019 National Cox Conserves Heroes program, announced Tuesday.”

10-22-19 Roanoke Times. Another delay, cost increase for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The projected cost of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline has gone up by another half a billion dollars. And the expected completion date, most recently slated for mid-2020, has been pushed back to the end of that year. In an announcement Tuesday, Mountain Valley attributed the latest delay and revised cost estimate — now at between $5.3 billion and $5.5 billion — to ‘various legal and regulatory challenges.'”

10-22-19 Roanoke Times. Reynolds: Virginia chambers should renounce pipelines. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce … announced that it was forming a climate change task force to ascertain just how their members and consumer/customers are positively responding to the huge global challenge of mitigating the horrendous consequences to humanity and Mother Earth of rapidly advancing climate change. Here’s a more urgent message to Barry DuVal, President and CEO Virginia Chamber, the Northam Administration and regional chambers across the state: Given the recent actions by your national chamber, yet shackled with your tone-deaf and vision-less unmitigated support of the private profit Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, it is regrettable that your organizations are clearly out-of-step with the global mobilization to fight the problem of our changing climate. Global implementation of ‘renewable energy’ to replace fossil-fuels and their associated environmentally damaging pipeline infrastructure is the new energy economic redevelopment driver of our generation, yet your statewide chambers remain firmly lodged in the past, in lieu of embracing the state and region’s economic future.”

10-22-19 Natural Gas Intel. Federal Pipeline Permitting Process Overdue for Renovation, Insiders Say. “The federal natural gas pipeline permitting process favors either the industry, or landowners and environmental groups, depending on who you listen to, but one thing both sides seem to agree on is that process hasn’t kept up with the changing energy landscape. FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in opening the Envision Forum in Lexington, KY, Monday that he wanted ‘candid, frank, passionate discussions’ about energy issues facing the United States and its international partners, and he certainly got them as members of a panel skirmished from separate sides of the pipeline permitting issue.”

10-21-19 Nation of Change. Natural gas vs. renewable energy: Beware the latest gas industry talking points. “The natural gas industry is on an aggressive public relations tear to convince Americans that for decades to come, it is the ‘bridge’ between coal and renewable energy. …. It is no coincidence that the PR blitz comes amid an avalanche of unfavorable developments that should make us question whether natural gas should still be considered a natural choice for power generation. …. With the plummeting costs of renewable energy now calling even the modest benefit of natural gas into question, along with its risky methods and risks to the climate, it should be debated whether gas should be called ‘natural’ at all. What we do know is that the industry is trying to lead us blindfolded towards its imaginary bridge. When the blindfold is taken off, the so-called bridge is likely to look more like a chasm, with clouds of dust rising from the rubble of stranded assets.”

10-21-19 N.C. State University Technician Online. Opinion: Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an energy pipedream. “As with the other pipelines, activists in opposition to the project raise concerns over environmentally damaging leaks, as well as the project’s capacity to make fossil fuel mining more economical. Meanwhile, proponents assert that access to gas will boost industry in a rural area, and that gas is an effective “bridge fuel” to transition from coal to carbon-free sources. In general, both arguments are sound and invoke a richer discussion about how to balance the economic needs of present people with our descendants. However, for the case of the ACP, arguments in favor fail to fully capture the specific harms this project would likely create. …. For the ACP, high costs and dubious climate benefits indicate that it may not be the low-carbon industry-grower we were promised.”

10-21-19 Roanoke Times. Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline is winding down. “Winter is coming early for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Although construction is winding down for the season, it’s not just because of the coming freezing temperatures that will make it difficult to dig trenches along mountain slopes for the buried natural gas pipeline. Even if it was being built in the tropics, this project would be stalled. Mountain Valley has lost three sets of key permits — all suspended because of the pipeline’s impact on the environment — that have fallen like slow-motion dominoes for a project that was supposed to be done by now.”

10-20-19 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]. Editorial: Will SC need gas pipeline like it needed abandoned coal, nuclear plants? “In 2007, Santee Cooper said it would run out of electricity to power Myrtle Beach within five years if it didn’t build a $1.2 billion coal plant on the Great Pee Dee River. The next year, SCE&G and Santee Cooper said they wouldn’t be able to keep powering most of South Carolina unless they built two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County. The year after that, Santee Cooper acknowledged that, well, no, it didn’t really need the coal plant after all. It walked away from the nascent project after spending $242 million. And in 2017, after spending $9 billion on the unfinished reactors, Santee Cooper and SCE&G walked away from them as well, citing massive cost overruns and delays — and a precipitous drop in current and projected energy demand. …. [I]t’s important to keep our expensive recent history in mind as Dominion, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance start laying the groundwork to argue that we have to have another natural gas pipeline extended through South Carolina to meet our future energy needs. …. It might turn out that we really do need additional natural gas capacity. Or it might turn out that we need another natural-gas pipeline about as much as we needed the coal plant and the nuclear reactors.”

10-18-19 WSET13.com. Dominion Energy to power all state-owned buildings, facilities with solar and wind energy. “State-owned buildings and facilities in Virginia will soon be powered with solar and wind energy under a new agreement between the Commonwealth and Dominion Energy. According to a press release, the agreement represents the largest procurement of renewable energy by a state to meet its own renewable energy needs, a significant step in accepting Governor Ralph Northam’s challenge to power state government with clean energy sources.”

10-18-19 WRAL.com [NC]  Investigators plan Atlantic Coast Pipeline questioning in November. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will take center stage again at the statehouse next month when private investigators plan a public questioning of key Cooper administration officials about the pipeline permitting process. It’s been a back-and-forth political fight to get here, with Gov. Roy Cooper and his leadership team accusing the Republican-controlled legislature of dragging out a sham investigation to score political points. Republicans say they want to know what the administration promised Duke Energy and other pipeline partners before announcing, on the same day, the pipeline’s key state permit and a $58 million fund the governor would have controlled.”

10-16-19 Washington Post. Letter: Virginians will defeat the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Regarding the Oct. 5 Metro article ‘High court to hear Va. pipeline dispute’: Can Virginia resist the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? Yes, we will. …. Protesters have stymied the project, allowing the zeitgeist to shift in our favor. Our children are flooding the streets to save their future as politicians pledge to refuse Dominion’s influence. Even if the Supreme Court sides with Dominion on this case, the project faces myriad court challenges. The improving profitability of renewable energy sources counters Dominion’s moral bankruptcy as it is now planning wind infrastructure on a significant scale. The people will win.”

10-15-19 Houston Chronicle. Has the peak of the shale revolution come and gone? “The shale revolution transformed the United States into the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas in a little more than a decade. But now the industry is facing the prospect that the shale boom has peaked and the best days are behind it as drilling activity declines, jobs dwindle, and many of the prime oil-producing spots are depleted. Shale’s future is still a matter of debate, but there’s little doubt the energy sector has suffered through a weak 2019 with a more challenging 2020 on the horizon amid middling oil prices, abundant supplies, rising bankruptcies, growing climate change concerns and historically low Wall Street sentiment. The trends are dire enough that energy analysts at the New York investment research firm Evercore ISI this month declared, ‘The oil “shale revolution” is over. Finally.'”

10-15-19 PaintSquare. Pipeline Acceleration Plans Backfire. “The current administration’s attempts to fast-track energy projects, namely pipelines, have been met with increasing levels of resistance, according to reports. Most recently, plans for three of the biggest pipeline projects have taken a hit, resulting in delays and increased costs totaling millions of dollars. According to Reuters, the delays apply to two gas pipelines—Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley—as well as the crude oil Keystone XL pipeline that would start in Canada.”

10-14-19 NC Policy Watch. Governor’s office agrees to allow employees to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Employees from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office soon could publicly testify before lawmakers about details of a voluntary $57.8 million mitigation fund involving the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The employees could appear before a subcommittee as early as the week of Nov. 4.”

10-14-19 The State [SC]. Mud pollution clogged a drinking water system. Now, Dominion Energy is in hot water. “Since acquiring one of South Carolina’s major power companies this year, Dominion Energy has worked to improve the negative image SCE&G had developed for high electricity bills and a failed nuclear project. But Dominion, a Virginia-headquartered energy giant, recently had to explain why the company’s pipeline division broke South Carolina’s pollution control law when it let muddy, sediment-filled water run into a creek and an Upstate river that thousands of people rely on for drinking water.”

10-11-19 Washington Post. Appeals court puts Mountain Valley Pipeline permits on hold. “A federal appeals court has put a hold on two permits needed for construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday issued a stay of permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while it reviews a lawsuit filed by environmental groups in August. The Sierra Club said in a statement Friday that the suspension effectively means that construction must stop on the 300-mile natural gas project. …. The lawsuit alleges that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval of the project failed to adequately protect endangered species along the pipeline’s path.”

10-11-19 Virginia Mercury. On energy efficiency, unfortunately, utilities remain in the driver’s seat. “Virginia consumers share in the benefits of federal energy-saving programs for lighting, appliances and other equipment (advances that are now under attack from the Trump administration). These national standards, pretty much painless for consumers, have kept residential electricity usage from growing even as the population grows. Yet Virginia makes little effort to build on these savings, and it shows. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranks Virginia 29th in the nation overall in its 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard; in the narrower category of electricity savings, Virginia came in a dismal 47th.”

10-11-19 Virginia Mercury. Mountain Valley Pipeline agrees to pay Virginia $2.15 million for environmental violations. “Virginia and Mountain Valley Pipeline have resolved a lawsuit brought by the state against the company for environmental violations that caused significant erosion in the southwestern part of the commonwealth, with the natural gas pipeline developer agreeing to pay a $2.15 million civil penalty. The payment was described by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring as ‘one of the most significant financial penalties ever imposed in Virginia for this kind of case.’ Under the terms of the consent decree, the Henrico Circuit Court, where Virginia’s original suit was filed, assumes supervision of Mountain Valley Pipeline’s compliance with state environmental laws, a move that broadens the range of consequences the company will face in the event of violations.” [Similar articles appeared in the Daily Progress and Roanoke Times.]

10-11-19 Washington Post. Will Virginians be able to resist the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Backers of projects like the pipeline frame [the Supreme Courth consideration of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s effort to cross the Appalachian Trail] as a chance to get the government out of the way of private industry operating for a public good (energy independence). But for people in central Virginia, the push for a pipeline is a story of government interference, part of a century of struggle between government authorities and vulnerable populations that have been displaced from the land. …. Urban and rural communities alike have their own collective memories of the encroachment of government-backed industry. Those memories are reflected in the diverse coalition that has come together to fight the pipeline.”

10-10-19 WFAE [NC]  Experts’ Letter Asks Gov. To Halt Construction Of New Gas Plants And Pipelines. “A Duke University climate scientist and 27 former federal environmental officials are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to order a halt on building new gas pipelines and power plants in North Carolina. In a letter to the governor Thursday, Duke earth sciences professor Drew Shindell and the former officials said carbon from burned natural gas and leaking methane from wells and pipelines contributes to climate change and endangers public health and the economy.”

10-9-19 Reuters. Trump’s fast-tracking of oil pipelines hits legal roadblocks. “The Trump administration’s effort to cut red tape and speed up major energy projects has backfired in the case of the three biggest U.S. pipelines now planned or under construction. All three have been stalled by successful legal challenges by environmental groups alleging the administration failed to apply the regulatory scrutiny required under the law. The Republican administration tried to accelerate permits for two multi-billion-dollar natural gas lines and jumpstart the long-stalled Keystone XL crude oil pipeline that would start in Canada. Judges halted construction on all three over the past two years, ruling that the administration granted permits without conducting adequate studies or providing enough alternatives to protect endangered species or national forests. The delays have caused the two giant gas pipelines – Dominion Energy Inc’s Atlantic Coast and EQM Midstream Partners LP’s Mountain Valley – to increase their cost estimates by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the companies.”

10-9-19 Wall Street Journal. Natural-Gas Producers Hard Hit by Tanking Prices. “Dragged down by a supply glut, U.S. natural-gas futures recently suffered their longest losing streak since at least 1990, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The front-month gas futures contract fell 12 consecutive trading sessions through Oct. 2, a period in which it declined around 16%. Prices are down 30% from their levels a year ago. ‘We are viewing today’s selling as the beginning of a more sustained price decline,’ trade advisory Ritterbusch & Associates told clients in a note late Monday. Analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., an energy focused investment bank, warned clients recently that gas might fall below $2 per million British thermal units before prices hit a floor.”

10-8-19 E&E Energywire. Supreme Court deals blow to ‘quick take’ challenges. “The Supreme Court’s decision to reject a challenge to the Mountain Valley natural gas project could signal the end of the road for disputes over an unusual quirk in pipeline eminent domain procedures — at least for now. Legal experts see few immediate avenues for landowners to continue to fight the use of “quick take,” a process that allows pipeline companies to begin building on private land before paying for access. The issue was central to Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline, a landowner lawsuit over the 300-mile pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia that the high court tossed yesterday. Those property owners will now go through trials over compensation, but the justices’ rejection leaves little additional recourse on the quick take issue, said attorney Chris Johns, who spearheaded the attempt at a Supreme Court review.”

10-8-19 LttleSis.  Dominion PR Director Spins Through Revolving Door into Northam Administration. “Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced last week that Grant Neely will become his new Communications Chief. Neely has been the Director of Strategic Communications for Dominion Energy since August 2016. Dominion is an energy utility that is one of the most powerful corporate forces in Virginia. The appointment reinforces concerns over the revolving door between Dominion and state governments and potential conflicts of interests of government officials regarding Dominion, which is pushing the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a proposed 600-mile fracked gas pipeline that would run through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Neely is not new to the revolving door between industry and government. Before going to work for Dominion in 2016, Neely was chief of staff to Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. He resigned from the Jones administration to go work for Dominion as the company’s media point person. Neely will now serve in an administration that has regulatory oversight over his immediate former employer. This comes at a time when Dominion’s power and influence has come under increasing scrutiny.”

10-7-19 Then New Republic. The Next Standing Rock Is Everywhere. “The fight to stave off pipeline projects across the country is being led by tribal nations and marginalized communities. It’s time to listen to them before it’s too late. …. Demographically, Robeson County [NC], which the ACP will cut through, is 40 percent Native. But it’s also 25 percent black and 33 percent white, standing out as both one of the most diverse counties in America and the poorest and most unhealthy in North Carolina. The ACP’s northern route also cuts through black communities throughout Virginia, with ACP developers proposing a compressor station in Buckingham County, a rural community that was settled by free blacks and former slaves following the Civil War. Speaking with Energy News Network, 75-year-old Ella Rose [from Union Hill], who recalled nostalgically the whippoorwills that fill the trees of her childhood, was candid when asked why ACP developers chose her town. ‘I do believe that this location was selected because we are African Americans,’ Rose said. ‘People need to know our lives count, too […] I feel abandoned by a process that does not serve me. This pipeline is intruding on our life and we’re not benefiting at all.'”

10-7-19 E&E Energywire. What to watch in the Appalachian Trail pipeline fight. “Parties on either side of a newly picked Supreme Court case on the Atlantic Coast pipeline see starkly different consequences of justices weighing in on the legal conflict. …. Critics of the 4th Circuit decision —the pipeline developers, a coalition of states and other industry groups —see a ruling by the Supreme Court as having significant repercussions for natural gas pipelines on the East Coast by potentially making the Appalachian Trail a barrier to pipeline development. Some groups argued the decision could also have ripple effects for public lands management across the country. But environmental groups and others supporting the 4th Circuit decision say it would not be the only impediment to a pipeline already stymied by revoked permits and inadequate environmental assessments by the federal government. They warn the case was not ready for the justices to consider. They also say the ruling does not prevent pipeline developers from rerouting the project on state or private land, though that would delay the project and make it much more expensive.”

10-4-19 Washington Post. U.S. Supreme Court to hear case of gas pipeline seeking to cross Appalachian Trail in Va. “The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether a lower court was correct to block a major natural gas pipeline from crossing underneath the Appalachian Trail in the mountains of Virginia. The high court’s intervention could remove a barrier for construction of the $7.5 billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which has been halted for nearly a year because of various permitting woes. Builders of the pipeline, led by primary stakeholder Dominion Energy, and the Trump administration appealed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that said the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant a permit to tunnel under the popular hiking trail. …. Environmental groups who brought the original challenge to the permit vowed to continue fighting. ‘We will defend the lower court’s decision in this case,’ the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club said in a joint statement. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dangerous, costly, and unnecessary project and we won’t stand by while Duke and Dominion Energy try to force it on our public lands, threatening people’s health, endangered species, iconic landscapes, and clean water along the way.'” [This story appeared in many, many other media outlets.]

10-3-19 Energy and Policy Institute. Dominion buys pipeline support at Supreme Court through GOP Attorneys General. “With the US Supreme Court poised to decide this month whether it will review a ruling key to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s future, majority-owner of the project Dominion Energy has received support in its case from Republican state Attorneys General and the US Department of Justice. Both US Attorney General William Barr and the state Attorneys General have close financial ties to the utility – including through a GOP group that funneled millions to one key proponent. Barr served on Dominion’s Board of Directors from 2009 until his confirmation as Attorney General in February of this year.”

10-2-19 Inside Climate News. Courts Question Pipeline Builders’ Use of Eminent Domain to Take Land. “A recent federal court ruling could give states more authority to oppose natural gas pipeline projects by limiting the controversial use of eminent domain—the mandatory sale of private or state-owned land for public use. That ruling and two others involving eminent domain come amid growing opposition to pipeline projects, whose benefits to the public and risks to the environment and climate are increasingly being questioned. As the Trump administration tries to clear the way for more fossil fuel pipeline construction, a diverse coalition of environmental advocates and landowners are gaining traction in their efforts to fight new pipeline projects by focusing on property rights. They argue that pipeline developers should not be allowed to take land through eminent domain because the developers are private companies and the shipment of oil or gas shouldn’t be considered a public use or benefit.”

10-2-19 Washington Post. The Energy 202: Trump breaks with tradition by tapping only a Republican for key energy panel. “President Trump finally chose a new Republican commissioner for a key panel of federal energy regulators. But he did so without naming a Democrat to go with him, setting off a potential battle with Senate Democrats over the future of renewable energy and gas pipeline projects across the country. On Monday, the White House announced the president intends to nominate James Danly to be a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Danly, a Republican, currently serves as the panel’s general counsel and would fill a vacancy left by the death in January of former FERC chairman Kevin J. McIntyre. If confirmed by the Senate, Danly would serve until 2023. But Trump’s White House broke with decades-old tradition by not nominating a Democrat along with Danly, provoking the ire of Senate Democrats who charge Trump with potentially tilting the balance of the normally bipartisan commission.”

10-1-19 Preserve Craig. MVP Filed False Data to Get Permits. “Preserve Craig filed a powerful new motion in September, asking that all pipeline construction work be halted until faulty core data is corrected. The motion documented that the underlying information Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) originally filed was fundamentally flawed and must be redone or serious damage will continue to occur if the project is built as designed. MVP responded that the motion should be dismissed on procedural grounds, notably ignoring the factual issues. Today Preserve Craig and the twelve neighboring county organizations that joined in the original motion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) replied with harsh criticism of MVP and pointed to the proven damage and continuing risks to our water unless the original motion is granted. It asks that FERC coordinate with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps), to direct Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP) to undertake revised analysis of changes to peak stormwater discharge due to construction of the MVP in accordance with scientifically accepted methods.”

September 2019

9-30-19 Roanoke Times. Forest conservation grants awarded to offset damage from Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Forest conservation grants totaling nearly $4 million have been awarded as part of an effort to offset environmental damage to Southwest Virginia caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation announced the six grants Monday to restore and protect woodlands in Bland, Botetourt, Charlotte, Roanoke and Rockbridge counties. It was the latest disbursement from a fund established last year, when Mountain Valley agreed to pay a total of $27.5 million to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution that was expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe.”

9-30-19 S&P Global. Protestors gain support from Sanders, Warren for idea of recasting FERC. “Opponents of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s role in approving natural gas infrastructure have picked up support from two leading Democratic presidential contenders for their idea of recasting FERC to become an agency dedicated to advancing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse emissions.”

9-30-19 Roanoke Times. Sligh: Clean water rule change threatens state powers. “The Trump administration is proposing changes to Clean Water Act regulations to limit the abilities of states and local communities to protect their waters from harmful federally-licensed projects. This would encroach on Virginians’ rights to protect and preserve our natural treasures and must be met with strong opposition. Attorney General Mark Herring must speak and act against this assault by strongly objecting during a formal administrative process now underway and, if necessary, going to court to protect and defend our interests. …. The Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are examples that foreshadow how much harder it would be to protect environmental resources and maintain water quality standards, if we lose any 401 authority.”

9-30-19 E&E News. 4 pipeline fights to watch this term. “The Supreme Court could decide to wade into the natural gas pipeline wars this term. As the court begins its 2019 session, energy experts are watching whether the justices will weigh in on federal permitting, eminent domain and state sovereignty issues around pipeline construction. So far, the justices have opportunities to consider the Forest Service’s authority to permit the Atlantic Coast pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and to decide whether developers of the Mountain Valley project can lawfully seize private property before paying. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has urged the justices to hear the Atlantic Coast dispute, which significantly boosts the case’s odds of review. ‘Natural gas and oil pipeline infrastructure is not getting less controversial and the Supreme Court may find it appropriate to issue a ruling that definitively settles the matter,’ ClearView Energy Partners LLC wrote in a recent analysis. A third possible case involving state lands takings for the PennEast pipeline may also be brought before the Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still mulling a request to reconsider its decision to block developers’ access to New Jersey-owned acreage. Experts also expect that challenges over gas exports from pipelines could soon make their way to the nation’s highest bench. Those exports are problematic, challengers say, because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority to delegate eminent domain power to pipeline builders is limited to projects in service of interstate commerce.”

9-29-19 Blue Virginia. New Studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute: New Natural Gas Pipelines Are a Very Bad Investment from Environmental, Economic Perspectives. “The bottom lines, as the website DeSmog Blog writes, are that: 1) ‘Much like coal, the economics of natural gas production in the U.S. and Canada are unsustainable, and the writing is on the wall for all those willing to read it.’; 2) ‘…not only is natural gas bad for the climate and environment, but like coal, it’s a bad investment. Whether and how quickly society at large comes to terms with these realities could mean all the difference for the future of a livable climate.’ So, given all this, when the hell is Virginia going to do everything it can to cancel the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggles? Clearly, the governor, state legislators, State Corporation Commission, Department of Environmental Quality, etc., don’t need any additional information to know what a disaster these projects are and will be. So again, what on earth are they waiting for? Remember, there’s no Planet B, so we’d better not screw this one up.”

9-29-19 Cavalier Daily. Calhoun: Stop the U.Va. to Dominion career pipeline. “Within the deluge of on-Grounds internship and job recruitment opportunities streaming into my inbox, one company keeps reappearing: Dominion Energy. To most students this name wouldn’t particularly stand out, but for me it elicits a strong feeling of disgust. I’m from Charlottesville. As a high schooler, I attended a meeting hosted by Virginia Organizing, Clean Virginia and Appalachian Voices. Only then did I learn about how Dominion Energy abuses its monopoly power and takes advantage of Virginians, all while maintaining a facade of being energy efficient and eco-friendly. If the University wants to achieve its stated purpose of ‘developing responsible citizen leaders,’ it shouldn’t encourage students to work for an organization which has environmentally irresponsible and damaging practices.”

9-29-19 Blue Virginia. Hundreds Celebrate Fourth Annual “Hands Across the Appalachian Trail.” “Events in three locations hosted attendees from VA & WV, Youth Leaders and State Officials. On Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29, hundreds of community members, youth leaders, environmental groups and protectors of the Appalachian Trail, including State Delegate Chris Hurst and State Senator Creigh Deeds, gathered for the fourth annual ‘Hands Across the Appalachian Trail.’ This two-day community event featured speakers, music, artmaking and calls for attendees to protect and preserve the Appalachian Trail, currently under threat from the fracked-gas Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, and to take immediate action on the climate crisis.”

9-28-19 Roanoke Times. Plans for pipeline work area atop Poor Mountain draw objections from Roanoke County. “Roanoke County is objecting to a temporary workspace for the builders of a natural gas pipeline, saying its location at the top of Poor Mountain could be seen for miles. Mountain Valley Pipeline has yet to make a formal request for the workspace, which would involve clearing about an acre of woods where Honeysuckle Road runs along a row of television and radio towers. But tentative plans call for water tanks to be placed on the land for hydrostatic testing, which involves pumping large amounts of water through the 42-inch diameter pipe to check for leaks before it begins to transport natural gas. Once the testing is completed, the area will be ‘revegetated to facilitate its return to pre-construction conditions,’ Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox said. Based on the company’s interest in the land, outlined in documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Roanoke County asked the commission in a letter Thursday to deny any request it may be asked to consider. ‘The top of Poor Mountain is one of the most visible locations in Roanoke County,’ Assistant County Administrator Richard Caywood wrote in the letter.”

9-27-19 Virginia Mercury.  A closer look at a cascade of clean energy announcements in Virginia. “Is Virginia off to the clean energy races? Last week saw a cascade of clean energy announcements in Virginia. On Tuesday, Governor Northam issued an Executive Order aimed at achieving 30 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050, and with near-term state procurement targets. On Thursday, Dominion Energy announced it would fully build out Virginia’s offshore wind energy area by 2026, in line with one of the goals in the Governor’s order. Then, Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Virginia unanimously passed resolutions endorsing the Virginia Green New Deal and a goal of net zero carbon emissions for the energy sector by 2050. Finally, on Saturday Arlington became the first county in Virginia to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, and economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. So is Virginia off to the clean energy races? Well, maybe we should take a closer look.”

9-26-19 E&E News. Inside the Supreme Court showdown over Atlantic Coast. “The drive up to Three Ridges Overlook is decorated with little blue signs that read “No Pipeline,” emblems of a looming courtroom battle that could alter the face of this prized recreational area. …. In the coming weeks, the high court will announce whether it will review a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Forest Service did not have the power to authorize the 600-mile project to cross the Appalachian Trail. Many more federal and state permits for the pipeline hang in the balance.”

9-26-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: What shade of green is Northam’s energy plan? “Why no mention of natural gas pipelines? It’s easy for the governor to set a goal for something 31 years in the future. Northam curiously overlooks the present, and the two big natural gas pipelines in the works – the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ACP is a project of Dominion Energy. If Virginia’s electric grid is really going to be carbon-free, then in theory Dominion won’t need the ACP for its own needs, but we don’t exactly see Dominion cancelling that project. That’s one of the important things to keep in mind about Northam’s executive order: It’s more aspirational than actionable. Simply because he’s signed it doesn’t really make any of these things happen. Regulating utilities is a lot more complicated than that: When the General Assembly mandates that the State Corporation Commission require utilities go carbon-free, well, then things might happen. …. Make no mistake: Northam’s move is a good one, but it’s not the deepest shade of green available.”

9-25-19 Maplight. Energy Giants Spend Big on Lobbying to Clear Pipeline Path Through National Forests, Appalachian Trail. “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure ‘to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

9-25-19 Huffington Post. The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures. “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long project that has been compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

9-24-19 Virginia Mercury.  Virginia can’t reach its 2050 climate goal if it keeps allowing natural gas infrastructure. “On Sept. 16, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a forward-looking objective of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for Virginia by 2050. Unfortunately, Virginia cannot reach this goal if the governor, the General Assembly, and the state air and water control boards continue rubber-stamping natural gas pipelines and electric power plants that will further disrupt our climate and exacerbate environmental and public health problems in Virginia. Just last November, the authors of this article were purged from our positions as members of Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board and State Water Control Board by Northam after we questioned the approval of new pipelines for fracked natural gas that, in addition to having serious impacts on public health, air and water quality, would drastically increase Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis.”

9-23-19 RTO Insider. Stalled Pipeline Overshadows Dominion’s OSW Project. “Dominion Energy proposed the largest offshore wind project in the U.S. last week on the heels of Virginia’s policy turn toward clean energy, but environmental groups see the announcement as a hollow gesture given the ongoing development of the company’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘“It’s really a stretch to believe anyone at Dominion is concerned about a transition to clean energy as long as it’s pursuing close to an $8 billion fossil fuel project that would lock Virginians into fossil fuels for many decades to come,’ Tom Cormons, executive director of Appalachian Voices, told RTO Insider. ‘The company now has two very expensive proposals on the table, and one of those is completely antithetical to any state commitment to clean energy.'”

9-23-19 WSLS10. Climate change protesters take to downtown Roanoke, make case to stop pipelines. ” Hundreds of protesters came together Monday morning to continue their fight against the pipeline. The Climate Emergency: Tri State Pipeline Strike Rally was a part of Global Climate Strike Week that took center stage in the Star City Monday with a focus on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. ‘I’m a native of Roanoke, was born and raised here, so what’s happening to the area around here in Southwest Virginia and Roanoke’s water is of great personal heartache and concern to me,’ said Kay Ferguson with Artivism Virginia. The rally was a different style from previous protests, taking place in the shadow of pipeline investor Wells Fargo and the most colorful call to action yet. Activists used artwork to send a clear message on a complicated issue. The cause brought together politicians, more than 40 organizations and activists from all across the commonwealth, West Virginia and North Carolina.”

9-20-19 Daily Progress. Climate change protest led by children draws hundreds to Downtown Mall. “Hundreds marched to the free speech wall on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall on Friday as part of the global Youth Climate Strike movement. Organized locally in part by Gudrun Campbell, the 12-year-old co-founder of the Cville Youth Climate Strike Network, the protest largely focused on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, the former of which involves a proposed compressor station in the historically black Union Hill community of Buckingham County.”

9-19-19 Sandusky Register [Ohio]   Court questions pipeline land grab. “Why was building a pipeline that exported some of its natural gas to Canada enough to justify taking property away from land owners using eminent domain? The decision to construct the NEXUS natural gas pipeline is still being challenged, even though the pipeline has been operating in Erie County and across much of Ohio since 2018. Earlier this month, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the landowners who opposed the pipeline. On Sept. 6, the court ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to answer why the pipeline was needed that it required the use of eminent domain, a government power to seize land for public use. Robert Wheeler of Milan, one of the local landowners who battled the pipeline, said he hopes the ruling will help other landowners defending their rights. ‘Obviously, the pipeline’s there to stay,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to go away.’ Property rights are a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, but using eminent domain to take property is one way around that. ‘We fought this as hard as we could,’ Wheeler said. ‘Maybe it will help people in the future.'”

9-19-19 E&E News. NPS to superintendents: Opposed to drilling? Call us first. “Any national park superintendent who fears the effects of nearby energy development may want to think twice before speaking out. David Vela, the acting deputy director of operations for the National Park Service, has ordered superintendents to flag Washington before making any official comments on projects that pertain to Interior Department priorities, including energy development. In a memo made public today, Vela said it’s important that the Washington office be notified in advance ‘to ensure that NPS comments receive appropriate senior level awareness and coordination.’ Critics denounced the plan as another example of how the Trump administration has sought to silence experts who manage parks and public lands. ‘The administration is touting this guidance as a way to provide coordination and engagement between federal agencies, but in reality this is nothing more than an intimidation tactic, deterring park experts on the front lines from expressing views that might contradict the administration’s aggressive pro-fossil fuels energy policy,’ said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association.”

9-19-19 E&E Energywire. Judge bars ‘riot boosting’ law aimed at Keystone XL protests. “South Dakota must halt enforcement of a “riot boosting” law the state passed earlier this year, a federal court ruled yesterday. The law targets those providing aid to demonstrators who become violent, and was enacted after high-profile protests over the Keystone XL pipeline in neighboring North Dakota. The legislation passed earlier this year in anticipation of a similar response to expansion of the pipeline into South Dakota. It drew sharp criticism for wording that criminalized advising, encouraging or soliciting certain protests. Plaintiffs in the case said such broad language would make individuals who gave directions to a protest, donated to a cause or offered food to protesters liable if a peaceful protest ever became violent. The U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Western Division, issued an injunction preventing the enforcement of the rule yesterday afternoon as the legal challenge to the law continued.”

9-19-19 New Republic. How Energy Companies Corrupt State Politics. “The ripple effects of corporate donors like Dominion steering legislative agendas also have far-ranging consequences for other political battles. Massive political spending by utility companies has kept incumbent Republicans and conservative Democrats in charge in statehouses across the country. For years that has meant not only regressive environmental policies but also no Medicaid expansion, no gun reform, no increases in education spending, and more. The incumbents’ control over election districts then perpetuated these trends. This November, Clean Virginia’s supporters say, could be the moment that signals what will be possible in the state, and for campaign finance and climate change activists nationwide. Virginia has ‘tremendous potential’ if the right changes are made, Hernandez told me. ‘I would be so proud if in the coming years we could emerge as a center of excellence for resilience and clean energy. It will take work to get there, but I can see that future.'”

9-18-19 IEEFA.org.  IEEFA update: Low natural gas prices – a negative outlook for energy sector. “With the news from IHS Markit that natural gas prices in the United States will drop below $2 MMBtu in 2020 and remain low through at least 2024, if not longer, heads must be exploding in the board rooms of oil and gas producers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The profit picture is now imploding. The ramifications run deep, far and wide. The mantra that more pipelines will rationalize the market has been upended. This view from the oil and gas industry never made sense. As IHS Markit makes clear, new pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.”

9-18-19 Oil Price.com  Natural Gas Could Be Replaced Within 15 Years. “The share of renewables in the U.S. in the overall power production differs from state to state. While gas has become the primary source of electricity production, technological advancements are about to make fossil fuels more expensive and therefore uneconomic compared to renewables. The tipping point could come much sooner than certain utilities and investors are expecting, which could hit current investment plans for gas-fired power plants. …. The transformation of the U.S.’ power sector is coming much sooner than incumbent producers were expecting. Currently, the combination of solar, wind, storage, and demand response are already more efficient, and therefore cheaper, than the use of fossil fuels. This should have a profound impact on investments plans. However, there is an estimated $90 billion reserved for new gas-fired power plants in the coming years until 2035. According to the report from the Rocky Mountain Institute, U.S. consumer could save $29 billion if renewables and additional technologies such as storage and demand response replace the proposed gas plants.”

9-18-19 Virginia Mercury. Renewable energy providers cleared to operate in Virginia. “Two renewable energy providers will be allowed to operate in Virginia after the State Corporation Commission ruled Wednesday that they meet state standards for selling renewable energy and don’t need to measure up to more stringent benchmarks proposed by Dominion Energy, the commonwealth’s largest utility. The ruling means that Virginia consumers will continue to be able to purchase fully renewable energy from Direct Energy and Calpine, the competitive service providers challenged by Dominion.”

9-17-19 PBS News. Virginia governor sets renewable energy goal of 100 percent by 2050. ” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he signed an executive order setting a goal for the state to produce 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. Such a shift will help address climate change, a challenge that ‘poses potentially devastating risk to Virginia,’ the order said. …. Virginia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has previously thwarted attempts to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Control of both the House and Senate are up for grabs in November’s elections. The state’s largest electric power producers, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, said they were willing to work with the administration on the proposal. ‘Challenge accepted,’ said Dominion spokeswoman Audrey Cannon. Environmental and clean-energy advocacy groups largely applauded the move. …. But others said the order didn’t go far enough and suggested the state’s sign-offs on two major natural gas infrastructure projects currently under development were at odds with the goals of the executive order.”

9-17-19 The Hill. Dangerous oil and gas industry exemption slipped into highway bill. “A landmark five-year, $287 billion highway bill moving in the Senate contains a poison pill provision that must be eliminated. The measure — which would be the largest highway legislation in history — is noteworthy for its inclusion of the first climate title in a surface transportation bill. The climate provisions are an important step toward addressing the urgent need to reduce transportation emissions and invest in infrastructure engineered to be more resilient to the increasingly severe effects of climate change. Unfortunately, buried in this 510-page bill is an unrelated toxic provision that would establish a sweeping environmental exemption for thousands of natural gas, oil and wastewater pipelines — known as “gathering lines” — compressors and pumps on federal or Indian lands. The provision would exclude such facilities from environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If this provision becomes law, these pipelines could be built without public input or sound environmental review meant to analyze their potential impacts.”

9-17-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents raise more concerns about environmental impact. “Opponents of the project question whether work that continues, and inadequate erosion controls along the route, are doing just that.”

9-15-19 DeSmog. Cheap Renewables Could Make 90% of Proposed Gas Power Plants — and Many Pipelines — Obsolete by 2035. “A pair of reports released this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a nonprofit that supports the transition away from fossil fuels, outlines some of these ongoing changes. ‘The analysis presents compelling evidence that 2019 represents a tipping point,’ RMI concluded, ‘with the economics now favoring clean energy over nearly all new U.S. gas-fired generation.’ That, however, assumes that utilities, regulators, and investors all respond to rapidly changing market dynamics and build the right kind of infrastructure in time — with tens of billions of dollars on the line.”

9-15-19 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Biscuit Run Park: Show us the money. “To develop the park, Albemarle was to receive $5 million from a “mitigation fund” supported by money paid to the state by developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The idea was to somehow counterbalance environmental damage elsewhere in our region by creating the new park here and protecting much of its land as perpetual forest. The pipeline’s future is in doubt, however. And if the pipeline doesn’t go through — a result devoutly desired by many — then the mitigation fund money won’t go through, either.”

9-13-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion, Navy, Walmart and government groups spar over utility’s request to boost profits. “Over seven hours of testimony spanning two days, Virginia’s largest utility and a diverse array of consumer protection, business and government groups battled before the State Corporation Commission over whether Dominion Energy investors should get a bump in their guaranteed profits. The case, which Dominion attorney Joseph Reid noted had sparked ‘a lot of charged comments,’ concerned whether the return on equity guaranteed to Dominion Energy Virginia investors should be raised from 9.2 to 10.75 percent for projects paid for through rate adjustment clauses, more commonly known as riders. …. The average bill for a Dominion customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month has gone up more than 25 percent since 2007, largely as a result of riders, the SCC reported last month. The commission will have until Nov. 30 to rule on the case. Because the SCC opted to have participants file closing briefs rather than make closing arguments and set a deadline for those briefs of Oct. 18, a decision isn’t expected until November.”

Fall 2019 Save the Bay Magazine. The Fight for Environmental Justice at Union Hill. “Richard Walker has been visiting his family’s ancestral home since he was growing up. The homestead is under threat from a proposed compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

9-11-19 Utility Dive. Renewables, storage poised to undercut natural gas prices, increase stranded assets: RMI. “Carbon-free resources are now cost competitive with new natural gas plants, according to a pair of reports released Monday by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Wind, solar and storage projects, combined with demand-side management, have reached a “tipping point,” one report finds, meaning they’re now able to compete alongside natural gas on price while providing the same reliability services. But unlike the fluctuating price of fuels, these technologies’ prices are expected to continue dropping, the reports’ authors told Utility Dive. This reality could leave many natural gas investors and utilities with stranded infrastructure assets, the second RMI report finds, and new gas investments should be made with caution.”

9-10-19 NRDC. Planned Gas Plants & Pipelines Likely “Stranded” in Future. “A new Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) study finds that most proposed gas power plants—and the pipelines that are being built to serve them—are likely to become uneconomic and unnecessary by 2035, as cheaper, cleaner energy alternatives outcompete them. In many cases, the captive customers of monopoly utilities would be the ones stuck footing the bill for these ‘stranded’ assets.”

9-10-19 WSET. Climate activists to hold ‘Circle of Protection: Bent Mountain’ in Roanoke. “Sept. 20 to 27 is Global Climate Strike Week. According to officials, millions of people from across the world will join climate strikers to demand climate justice and an end to the age of fossil fuels. There will be multiple events in Roanoke during the strike week. On Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., ‘Circle of Protection: Bent Mountain’, produced by ARTivism Virginia, will bring awareness to the climate emergency and what can be done to stop it.”

9-10-19 CleanVirginia.org. Dominion Asks Regulators to Ignore the Voices of Virginian Customers and Legislators in Boosting its Profits. “In one remarkable intervention, Dominion’s lead attorney argued to the SCC judges that the Commission should make a decision on its return on equity ‘regardless’ of the voices of the hundreds of Virginians who wrote in opposition to the increase and the comments of 36 Virginian legislators also opposed. [Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan] Gilmore said, ‘while bold and arrogant action from Dominion is all-too-common in Virginia, trying to silence the voices of sitting legislators and hundreds of Virginian consumers is a new low.'”

9-9-19 WRIC. Activists demand refund from Dominion Energy during Monday rally. “Activists rallied Monday outside Dominion Energy’s offices in Richmond to demand a refund for customers after the utility company made hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profits. A new report from the State Corporation Commission revealed Dominion Energy collected nearly $380 million in over-earnings in 2017 and 2018. Due to a new Virginia law, Dominion Energy isn’t obligated to return the money to customers as refunds. The company can reinvest the money into projects, like updating the state’s electrical grid. Activists say customers are hurting.”

9-9-19 WFPL [Kentucky]  Bill Pre-Filed In Kentucky Legislature Would Make Pipeline Protests A Felony. “Acts of civil disobedience against pipeline operations in Kentucky would be considered a felony under legislation filed ahead of the 2020 regular session. …. The bill makes trespassing on “key infrastructure assets” including pipelines a second degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.”

9-8-19 WVNews. Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains halted as developers wait on court decisions. “The developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline remain at a standstill as they wait for court rulings that could impact the future of the project. There are currently two federal permits under review — one issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and one issued by the U.S. Forest Service — that are needed if construction is to continue.”

9-8-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Can the Appalachian Trail block pipelines? “Who owns the Appalachian Trail? Sometime this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will have something to say on that, even if only indirectly. The immediate question is a procedural one: Will the nation’s highest court decide to hear an appeal of the case styled Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. U.S. Forest Service? Behind that, though, is a practical question that hits home in this part of Virginia — and beyond: Who owns the trail? Here’s why that matters: One possible answer could make it difficult, if not impossible, to build either the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Do we have your attention now? The case certainly has the attention of those who care about the pipelines, both pro and con.”

9-6-19 Richmond Times Dispatch. Dana Wiggins column: Dominion doesn’t need more profits. “Virginia is once again faced with a demand from its largest energy monopoly to increase the amount of our power bills. Dominion Energy is asking the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for an increase in its authorized rate of return on equity (or allowed profit level), which would, in turn, increase your electric bill. Dominion’s latest push for more profits is not justified and would result in real harm to its Virginia consumers. Before the SCC hears this case on Sept. 10, our state regulators and elected officials should tell Dominion Energy, ‘No. Enough is enough.'”

9-6-19 Fortune. Why Solar Execs Say the Game Is Already Over for Non-Renewable Energy. “Solar power may currently make up less than 2% of the world’s energy mix, but the outlook of solar company executives is, uh, sunny. ‘What’s important is new [energy] generation, and in the US, renewables are 70% of new generation. It’s game over,’ said Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower, the California-based solar company, speaking at the Fortune Global Sustainability Forum on Thursday in Yunnan, China. ‘That’s why big companies in electric distribution, oil and gas are flooding into renewables.’ Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Statkraft, the Norwegian renewable producer, was similarly bullish. ‘Solar will be the biggest source for electricity on the planet from 2035,’ he said, adding that his calculations show renewables accounting for 80% of electricity production by 2050. …. What about the argument that you can’t power things when the sun isn’t out and the wind isn’t blowing? Werner conceded storage is a challenge—particularly going from summer to winter—but argues that’s a tired argument. He points to ongoing innovation around storage and energy distribution, and says a flexible grid will be a large part of the solution.”

9-6-19 Daily Progress. With pipeline money in question, Albemarle seeks $15M from state for Biscuit Run Park. “Albemarle County is asking the state for $15 million over three years to help fund Biscuit Run Park. County staff and the Board of Supervisors on Thursday presented the county’s legislative priorities for the 2020 General Assembly session to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath; Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle; and Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville. ‘This is one that we have to make happen,’ Deeds said about the request in relation to discussions with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and other localities in his 25th District. In 2018, $5 million of Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation money was allocated to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to distribute to Albemarle for ‘infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park.’ …. After realizing the $5 million in mitigation money may never be available, the board included about $2 million in the fiscal year 2020 capital budget for a portion of the first phase of Biscuit Run.”

9-6-19 E&E Energywire. Utility to feds: No unsafe construction on Atlantic Coast. “The builders of the Atlantic Coast pipeline are contesting federal officials’ allegations of unsafe construction practices on the line. Dominion Energy Inc., which is leading construction on the $7.5 billion project, said inspectors looked at the pipeline at a time when a court had suspended all construction activities and before construction was finished. Dominion is asking the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to withdraw a warning letter it sent to the company in July (Energywire, Aug. 15). ‘This misunderstanding could lead the public to conclude that there are problems with [Dominion’s] construction practices, a claim that is not supported by the record,” Dominion executive Brian Sheppard wrote in a letter received by PHMSA on Aug. 26 and posted yesterday. PHMSA reported finding two West Virginia worksites where crews had laid pipe in ditches lined with rocks, which make the line more vulnerable to damage or stresses as a result of movement or settlement. The agency decided against seeking a fine, instead sending a warning letter.”

9-5-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents celebrate first anniversary of Montgomery County protest. “On September 5th, 2018, Montgomery County resident Lauren Bowman and another protester climbed onto wooden platforms suspended about 50 feet off the ground. They told reporters that protecting the environment, especially the region’s water supply, was their goal. ‘Educate yourself about what’s going on, because you might be in a position right now where you can ignore these issues,’ Bowman said, ‘but sooner or later we’re all going to deal with them.’ Days stretched into weeks, and other tree sitters took their place. …. Today, Mountain Valley Pipeline says the project is 90% complete. In a written statement Friday morning, the company said the best way to protect the environment and minimize potential erosion and sedimentation is to ‘complete construction and finalize restoration activities on the project’s right-of-way.'”

9-5-19 The Recorder.  Letter: The pipeline, national security, and Dominion’s PR machine. “‘Military Stands Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline.’ This attention-grabbing headline appeared as an ‘announcement’ — likely orchestrated by Dominion — in a recent issue of Virginia Business Daily. It turns out that the ‘military’ is not the Pentagon, but seven retired officers who think the ACP should be built for national security reasons. They claim an attack on the only pipeline now supplying gas to four eastern Virginia bases might lead to an ‘intense disruption of military response.’ The article raises questions. …. Rather than admit the ACP is a bad idea, Dominion continues to crank out public relations pieces like the “announcement” from the retired officers. It’s time for Dominion’s leaders to shift their focus from quarterly profits to building the new energy economy we must have.”

9-1-19 News & Record [Greensboro NC]. David Seriff: In Virginia, we’ve been there and done that with gas pipeline. “I consider the Greensboro area my second home since I lived there about 10 years ago before moving to Blacksburg, Va. Therefore, I was distressed to learn the area faces the same disaster we’ve confronted in southwest Virginia. …. The Aug. 19 News & Record article, ‘We have some homework to do …,’ expressed local residents’ concerns and questions about the project’s extension into North Carolina. In fact, these questions have already been answered by our experience with MVP in Virginia. We’ve discovered that, despite numerous public hearings, citizens’ comments and concerns have been swept aside in the rush to build this monstrosity. Expert opinions that decry profound environmental consequences have been ignored.”

August 2019

8-31-19 Lynchburg News & Advance. Letter: Amherst caved to Dominion. “I am writing in response to The News & Advance’s Aug. 15 article, ‘Amherst council approves lease to ACP.’ This is disappointing news to hear that Amherst will support Dominion Energy in its crusade to destroy our environment. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a colossal waste of time and money. It is incredibly unpopular project and costs Virginians land, money and resources for clean energy. By allowing Dominion to set up in Amherst, the town is compliant with the power companies efforts to undermine a clean energy future.”

8-31-19 Washington Post. Editorial: Even the fossil-fuel industry doesn’t like the EPA’s methane rollback. “Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency moved Thursday to lift limits on potent greenhouse gas emissions from the drilling and transportation of natural gas, a major fuel source for electric power plants, heating systems and industrial processes. Not only would this be bad for the environment, but also it might well do more harm than good for the fossil-fuel industry. …. [I]ndustry should have welcomed President Barack Obama’s moves to require methane emissions control in natural gas production and transportation, rules that came into force in 2016. In fact, several major fossil-fuel players have embraced the regulations. For relatively inexpensive upgrades and procedures that enable natural gas producers to capture and sell more product, the rules allowed the industry to argue that methane leakage across the industry would be minimized and that natural gas could be, at least for a time, part of a serious climate strategy. Yet others opposed the new rules. This is no surprise, given recent research on methane leakage, which found massive leaks from relatively few “superemitters” in the business. The regulations would have hit bad actors hardest; the bad actors did not like that. And the Trump administration just sided with them. The EPA’s proposal would substantially weaken the Obama-era rules and keep natural gas’s reputation tarnished — all to save the industry a mere $17 million to $19 million a year. It is counterproductive in every conceivable sense.”

8-29-19 S&P Global. Green groups say no high court review needed on Atlantic Coast Pipeline hurdle. “Environmental groups weighed in against US Supreme Court action to free up the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline, countering assertions that an appeals court ruling left unchecked could have widespread implications for eastern US energy projects. …. Disputing that sense of urgency for the Supreme Court to hear the case, environmental groups in a brief to the Supreme Court Wednesday noted that there are three remaining bases for the 4th Circuit judgment that threaten to make a Supreme Court decision irrelevant to the pipeline.”

8-29-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion claimed excess profits of $277 million in 2018, according to SCC report. “Dominion Energy claimed excess profits of $277.3 million in 2018, a return of 13.47%, topping the 9.2% approved by regulators for most of Dominion’s spending, according to an update on the state of electric regulation published Thursday. The report compiled by the State Corporation Commission also shows that typical residential bills of Dominion Energy customers in Virginia have increased 26% since 2007 — from $90.59 to $113.76 — but are down $2.76 from last year. …. According to Thursday’s report, the combined overearnings from 2017 and 2018 that would qualify for customer refunds amount to $379.7 million — though that’s not what Dominion is planning to do. In explaining Thursday’s excess earning figures, Dominion Energy spokeswoman Audrey Cannon said the company has ‘already identified more than $750 million to spend on our offshore wind pilot and smart meters,’ that will improve energy generation and delivery. Environmental and consumer advocacy groups criticized the regulatory system and business model that they say overcharges ratepayers without hope for a refund.”

8-29-19 WV Public Radio. As Pipeline Construction Booms, Citizens Take Inspections Into Their Own Hands. “‘Pipeline construction releases a lot of sediment and sediment-laden water — muddy water — into what would otherwise be clear and pristine streams,’ said Autumn Crowe, senior scientist with West Virginia Rivers. ‘That sediment, when it gets into the water body, it has multiple negative impacts on aquatic life and water quality.’ West Virginia Rivers collects the complaints and submits them to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The group worked with WVDEP’s enforcement department to develop the training materials. Crowe said citizen monitoring, including this most recent ‘violations blitz,’ fills an enforcement gap in West Virginia. ‘What the vio-blitz was showing us is that there were multiple issues along the entire route that were not being addressed,’ she said. ‘And if not for our volunteers, a lot of those issues would have gone unnoticed.'”

8-29-19 New York Times.  E.P.A. to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas. “The Trump administration is set to announce on Thursday that it intends to sharply curtail the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change, according to an industry official with knowledge of the plan. The Environmental Protection Agency, in a proposed rule, will aim to eliminate federal government requirements that the oil and gas industry put in place technology to inspect for and repair methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. The proposed rollback is particularly notable because major oil and gas companies have, in fact, opposed it, just as some other industries have opposed the Trump administration’s other major moves to dismantle climate change and other environmental rules put in place by President Barack Obama.”

8-29-19 Politico. A step too far for the Appalachian Trail. “Dominion Energy wants to run a massive pipeline across America’s treasured Appalachian National Scenic Trail and some of the least developed wildlands remaining in the East. This isn’t just a bad idea, it’s an unprecedented one. Dominion, the Virginia-based power giant that serves customers in 18 states, wants to do something that has never been done in the half century since the iconic hiking path was enshrined in law: force a pipeline across the Appalachian Trail on federal land managed by the Forest Service. To get its way, the company must persuade lawmakers to overturn a federal court decision and change a law that has protected important parts of the trail for almost 50 years. Congress should say no. …. Dominion’s pipeline would permanently affect the trail experience on these protected federal lands, carving up a largely forested mountain landscape with a cleared right-of-way the width of a multi-lane highway. To achieve its goal, Dominion has courted Trump appointees eager to promote the administration’s energy-at-any-cost agenda.”

8-28-19 Virginia Mercury. Federal agency reopens review of key permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The federal agency tasked with overseeing natural gas pipeline construction reopened the review process Wednesday for a key permit underpinning the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a letter dated Aug. 28, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it will ‘reinitiate consultation’ to assess the project’s impacts on four endangered or threatened species. The move follows an Aug. 15 decision by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, the developer behind the project, to voluntarily suspend all construction activities that could negatively harm two freshwater fish species, the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter, as well as the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat. Reinitiating consultation does not on its own stop work on the project, but it does open the possibility that the permit — which is essential to the completion of work — will be withdrawn or that regulators will impose significant new restrictions on the project.”

8-27-19 Sierra. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Risky and Costly . . . and Unnecessary. “Dominion Energy is determined to complete the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which if built would carry more than a billion cubic feet of fracked gas 600 miles from the mountains of Appalachia to North Carolina and the Virginia coast daily. But so far, Dominion and its partners are batting 0 for 4 when it comes to securing key construction permits for the project. A string of court decisions have stopped construction on the ACP, and the pipeline’s backers are hemorrhaging cash. Adding insult to injury, some energy analysts say it might not even be necessary. …. The serial setbacks have cost Dominion, which is building the pipeline with Duke Energy and Southern Company, money and its reputation. Each week that goes by without felling a tree or digging a trench costs up to $20 million. The project is now estimated to cost almost $8 billion—more than 50 percent higher than originally thought—with full operation pushed back to 2021. In February, Moody’s Investor Service changed its rating of the ACP to “credit negative,” citing the project’s ballooning costs and delays.”

8-25-19 Power. FERC’s LaFleur Decries Partisanship and Politicization. “‘I hate to see things going out along party lines,’ Cheryl LaFleur, outgoing commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), told POWER during an exclusive interview. ‘During my 35 years of watching FERC, that has not been the pattern.’ During the early years of the Obama administration, “we didn’t think of ourselves as [partisan],” she said. The first whiff of partisan politics she detected was in the second Obama administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ambitious agenda to clean up coal plant pollution through the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Clean Power Plan. Congressional Republicans tried to use FERC and reliability issues to foil Obama’s plans, but the commission avoided an inter-agency collision. …. LaFleur said she hopes the administration moves swiftly to fill the two vacancies on the five-member commission. One Republican seat is vacant along with LaFleur’s Democratic seat, leaving a bare three-member quorum. If any one of the current members recuses himself during a proceeding, the commission will be unable to decide the case.”

8-25-19 Blue Virginia. Failure of Our Regulatory, Political and Legal Systems on Stark Display with Mountain Valley Pipeline Debacle in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “The failure of our regulatory, political and legal systems is on spectacular display in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, with the destructive, fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) now forced onto its landscape. This environmental calamity called MVP is a 100-mile destruction zone, whose completion is mightily challenged not only by steep mountains, dogged opposition and several endangered species, but also by the U.S. natural gas glut created by the industry itself, as pipelines race to convey fracked gas to coastal LNG markets. That race is creating an oversupply. Now, low natural gas prices, paired with a historically-expensive/way-over-budget MVP, spells unmarketability for its gas. Yet construction accelerates trying to outpace justice. The devastating result of Virginia corruption’s baby, MVP, is now on display from the air, mountaintops, valleys, local roads, I-81, rural homes, communities, farms, streams and rivers and the imminent danger of spectacular gas explosions escorts all those places.”

8-24-19 Roanoke Times. Report outlines improvements for an underfunded, struggling DEQ. “Virginia’s environmental agency has a daunting to-do list: dealing with climate change, offsetting regulatory rollbacks at the federal level, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and monitoring work on the largest natural gas pipeline ever built in the state, to name just a few. Yet the Department of Environmental Quality is being asked to do more with less state funding, fewer employees, and an outdated set of regulations. That’s according to a report issued by Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. In April 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam commissioned the report as part of an executive order that called for the ‘revitalization’ of DEQ.”

8-24-19 Blue Virginia. Mountain Valley Pipeline, EQT Not Having a Good Day…Week…Month…Year…etc. “Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit just told MVP, LLC that it has seven days (by 8/29) to convince the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals not to shoot them down on a motion for a stay, filed yesterday, by a coalition of environmental groups led by Sierra Club, CCAN and Defenders of Wildlife.”.


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