In the News

June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2019

5-30-19 Washington Post. Take a big, deep whiff of those molecules of freedom. “Do you smell that? That aroma, like many spoiled eggs congregating in a hot locker room? That is the wonderful, pleasing scent of American freedom! A statement from the Energy Department, which I am not making up because satire has been overfished and is now extinct, described natural gas as ‘molecules of freedom.’ In the statement, Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes noted that ‘increasing export capacity . . . is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.’ The statement also included the profound remark from Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy, that he was happy ‘the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.’ …. Methane is patriotism! Freedom is CO2! The only good thing about the First Amendment is that when people speak, they release trace amounts of carbon dioxide, a cherished substance, into the beautiful American air! That is not smog. It is a lot of freedom proceeding toward heaven one molecule at a time. Hasten the day, I say, that we may join it!”

5-30-19 Vox. More natural gas isn’t a “middle ground” — it’s a climate disaster. “Expert opinion on climate change policy has been evolving quickly. The opinion of policymakers has not always kept up. One area where this split is particularly notable is around the role of natural gas in a clean energy future. …. All those arguments for natural gas that seemed so compelling during the Obama years have fallen apart. It’s now clear that if the world is to meet the climate targets it promised in Paris, natural gas, like coal, must be deliberately and rapidly phased out. There’s no time for a bridge. And clean alternatives are ready. Since climate policy promises to be a hot item this primary season, let’s quickly review the reasons natural gas has got to go. Helpfully, the think tank Oil Change International (OCI) has just put out a paper making those very arguments.”

5-29-19 Marketwatch. ‘Freedom gas’? That’s what Trump’s Energy Department is now calling natural gas. ” Remember freedom fries? The U.S. Department of Energy has apparently taken that rebranding concept one step further, referring to natural gas as ‘freedom gas’ and ‘molecules of U.S. freedom’ in a press release Wednesday.  The terms popped up in a statement announcing the approval of additional liquefied natural gas exports from a facility in Texas. ‘Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world,’ U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes was quoted as saying. ‘I am pleased that the Department of Energy is doing what it can to promote an efficient regulatory system that allows for molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world,’ added a second official, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg.”

5-29-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline urges judge to remove tree-sitters. “After staying up in the trees for nearly nine months, blockers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are facing an attempt to bring them down. Lawyers for the company said in a recent court filing that it needs to have two tree-sitters removed by Friday so workers can finish clearing a path for the massive natural gas pipeline. On Sept. 5, 2018, two protesters took up residence in a white pine and a chestnut oak that stand in a construction easement for the pipeline in eastern Montgomery County. While the tree stands have switched occupants a number of times, they remain standing — in what is now the longest active blockade of a pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. In December, lawyers for Mountain Valley asked federal Judge Elizabeth Dillon to issue a preliminary injunction against the tree-sitters, which would allow their removal by U.S. Marshals. Dillon had yet to rule on the request by 6 p.m. Wednesday. Mountain Valley said in mid-May it would like to have the tree-sitters removed by the end of the month ‘in order to avoid additional costs.’ Lawyers for the company filed a notice in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, including an affidavit from Jeffrey Klinefelter, director of construction engineering for Mountain Valley. Klinefelter said that later in the month, Mountain Valley would have a crew of tree-cutters near the protest off Yellow Finch Lane in the Elliston area. The company asked that the two occupied trees be cleared of protesters so they could then be timbered ‘from an efficiency standpoint,’ Klinefelter said. If Mountain Valley is forced to wait, it would cost an additional $22,000, he said.”

5-29-19 Virginia Mercury. Will they be built? Virginia’s contentious pipeline projects face major legal hurdles. “Warm weather has brought renewed activity to the Mountain Valley Pipeline in western Virginia, but the project and its equally contentious sibling, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, still face unresolved legal and regulatory hurdles that leave their completion uncertain. This year has seen new protests on the ground, as well as an escalation in charges against protesters. …. While protesters are placing their bodies in the way, legal and regulatory barricades related to the pipelines’ crossings of waterways, federal land and the Appalachian Trail stand in the way of completion. The developments have pushed back construction timelines, with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stopping work altogether after a federal court ruling in December. Officials with the Mountain Valley Pipeline have said it will be complete later this year, but, according to The Roanoke Times, at least two of the five partners in the pipeline have said in financial reports that the pipeline likely will be delayed longer.” [article has section on crossing AT]

5-29-19 Energy News. Q&A: Climate leader works to shape ‘environmenal awakening’ in Virginia. “Before Kendyl Crawford began her freshman year at Hampton University, she asked fellow students what was on their ‘must-pack’ list. ‘Rainboots,’ they all replied. And that was 11 years ago. The historically black university was often flooded because the campus is on a coastal Virginia peninsula particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. It’s where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, so residents of Hampton and neighboring Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach often wade through the realities of climate change. Today, Crawford still has her boots on. But the 29-year-old Hampton native is 115 miles south, in Richmond, leading an effort to educate Virginians about the nexus of environmental justice and climate change. In her 18 months as the director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, she’s advancing a piece of the climate change conversation that has lagged behind. Her nonprofit, formed in 2004 and relaunched in 2015, is a state affiliate of the national Interfaith Power & Light. It’s dedicated to mobilizing a religious response to climate change through energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

5-28-19 Allegheny Journal [Covington VA]. Attorney Wilson Contends Virginia DEQ Not Doing Its Job On Pipelines. “Several months ago, Bill Wilson, President of the Jackson River Preservation Association, Inc. (JRPA) wrote to every member of the Virginia General Assembly outlining the history of the JRPA’s opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) proposed by Dominion Energy outlining some of the milestones along the way. The text of that letter is set forth below.” [Also included in the article is Deed’s response, and Wilson’t reply on March 7, 2019]

5-28-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever. “The cost of renewable energy has tumbled even further over the past year, to the point where almost every source of green energy can now compete on cost with oil, coal and gas-fired power plants, according to new data released today. Hydroelectric power is the cheapest source of renewable energy, at an average of $0.05 per kilowatt hour (kWh), but the average cost of developing new power plants based on onshore wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), biomass or geothermal energy is now usually below $0.10/kWh. Not far behind that is offshore wind, which costs close to $0.13/kWh. These figures are global averages and it is worth noting that the cost of individual projects can vary hugely – the cost of producing electricity from a biomass energy plant, for example, can range from as low as $0.05/kWh to a high of almost $0.25/kWh. However, all these fuel types are now able to compete with the cost of developing new power plants based on fossil fuels such as oil and gas, which typically range from $0.05/kWh to over $0.15/kWh.”

5-28-19 E&E News. Justices reject pipeline eminent domain, utility cases. ‘The Supreme Court today rejected a challenge of a practice some pipeline developers use to seize private property before paying landowners. Five Pennsylvania homeowners listed as petitioners in Lynda Like v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC had asked the court to ensure they receive the ‘just compensation’ guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment. A team of lawyers from the Institute for Justice, the conservative law firm behind the landmark 2005 eminent domain lawsuit Kelo v. City of New London, represented the landowners in the case. The challengers said Transco and other pipeline companies had exceeded the eminent domain authorities conveyed in the Natural Gas Act by engaging in ‘quick take,’ or immediate possession of property. They said Transco has yet to pay for use of their property to build the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, which is now carrying natural gas from Marcellus Shale fields in the northern part of the Keystone State. Judges for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year dismissed the landowners’ claims. Transco wrote in its brief to the Supreme Court that it had followed standard eminent domain procedures and secured bonds to cover landowner payments. The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the case is a loss for property rights advocates concerned that pipeline development is encroaching on Fifth Amendment rights.”

5-28-19 Houston Chronicle. Export pipelines new front in eminent domain fights. “With growing volumes of natural gas from Texas and the rest of the United States sold abroad, developers are rushing to build new pipelines connecting oil and gas fields with border crossings and shipping ports. But a growing number of landowners and environmentalists are fighting those projects at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and in federal courts, challenging the notion that pipeline projects carrying gas destined for export are entitled to the same privileges granted infrastructure projects serving American customers.”

5-28-19 The Guardian. How eminent domain is blighting farmers in path of gas pipeline. “Compulsory purchase – or the threat of it – of property on the route of a pipeline for fracked natural gas has left a slew of grievances and lawsuits in West Virginia and Virginia. …. ‘Your plans, hopes, dreams for your property you worked for your whole life … All those things are gone now.'”

5-27-19 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Solicitor general, ACP seek more time to appeal pipeline case to Supreme Court. “The federal government and Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have more time to appeal a lower court’s ruling that halted the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, wrote to the U.S. Supreme Court asking to move the deadline to June 25 — one month after the initial deadline. The ACP subsequently filed a request for an extension to file a petition for a writ of certiorari, or a request that the Supreme Court hear the case. Chief Justice John Roberts granted the request. ‘The additional time sought in this application is necessary to permit the preparation and printing of the petition, and because the attorneys with principal responsibility for drafting and reviewing the petition have been heavily engaged with the press of other matters before this Court at this time in the Court’s term,’ Francisco wrote. At issue is the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ December decision to vacate two key approvals from the U.S. Forest Service.”

Spring 2019. Virginia Episcopalian. Toxic Injustice. The The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has featured environmental justice on the cover of its quarterly magazine. The article (pages 7-10) is called “Toxic Injustice: When Marginalized Communities Bear the Burden of Environmental Hazards.” It features the story of John and Ruby Laury, a Black family who live near the site of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It’s written by Robert Dilday, who just graduated seminary this month and is co-founder of the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice.

5-25-19 Blue Virginia. 21 Virginia Legislators Send Letter to DEQ Director Paylor, Call for Immediate Order of Compliance with Erosion and Sediment Controls for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “From Del. Chris Hurst (D-HD12) and “more than 20 of my General Assembly colleagues” (Delegates Charniele Herring, Alfonso Lopez, Kaye Kory, Sam Rasoul, John Bell, Danica Roem, Mark Keam, Patrick Hope, Debra Rodman, Karrie Delaney, Dawn Adams, Kelly Convirs-Fowler, Paul Krizek, Vivian Watts, Ibraheem Samirah, Lee Carter, Jennifer Carroll-Foy; Senators John Edwards, Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin): ‘This week, more than 20 of my General Assembly colleagues and I sent a letter to DEQ Director David Paylor calling for the Department to immediately issue orders of compliance with erosion and sediment control regulations for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. This call comes after violations of erosion and sediment control requirements continue to be reported to DEQ. Thank you so much to the co-signers who stand with me, my constituents, and landowners in the fight to stop this dangerous and unnecessary pipeline project.'” See the article for the full text of the letter.

5-24-19 Forbes. The FERC, An Under-the-Radar Federal Regulator, Is Key To U.S. Energy-Climate Balance. “The energy system in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the past 20 years and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the government agency charged with regulating much of the nation’s electricity and natural gas system, is struggling to adapt. The root of the FERC’s current challenges is two-fold.”

5-24-19 Blue Virginia. Pipeline Greenwashing 101: We’re Rural, Not Stupid. “If the ‘Attorney General’s job is to enforce the terms of permits and put an end to violations when they are found,’ his ‘aggressive, wide-ranging lawsuit against the company building the Mountain Valley Pipeline’ is meaningless without a stop-work order. He knows this. His game of hot-potato with regulators that HIS OFFICE ADVISES is just that–a game. And he is playing games with people’s lives. We are rural, not stupid, Mark. And if you thought you could appease us with your toothless lawsuit, you gravely underestimated our ability to pay attention to the convoluted system designed for us to fail. We will not fail, though. Because we see through the blinders you try to apply to this atrocity and we have proven that we will stop this project from harming our communities through every means necessary: our own experts, our own documenting of violations, and even non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. We will not back down and we are not going away. We will win. If Secretary Strickler wishes to actually demonstrate that this “administration is protecting the environment,” he needs to insist upon a stop work order for the MVP immediately. He knows this. Herring knows this. Northam knows this. They must all take action to halt the abuse that is currently being committed by the MVP.”

5-23-19 The Intercept. Pipeline Opponents Strike Back Against Anti-Protest Laws. “Opponents of oil and gas pipelines in three states are fighting back against new anti-protest laws aimed at suppressing fossil fuel industry dissent. Two lawsuits in Louisiana and South Dakota, and a promised suit in Texas, are the first signs of a concerted pushback against a nationwide, industry-led effort to halt the most confrontational arm of the climate movement. Since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, at least 17 states have introduced laws that create new penalties for pipeline protesters.”

5-22-19 This federal agency is quietly, profoundly shaping climate policy. “Some of the most consequential decisions about how the US government deals with climate change are being made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an agency few people are aware exists and even fewer people track closely. But FERC sits at the heart of the clean energy transition, overseeing two key areas of frequent conflict. The first is bulk electricity — interstate transmission lines and regional wholesale power markets. The second is natural gas infrastructure; the agency licenses the siting and building of all new pipelines. …. Now [[Commissioner] Glick has taken a step back and, along with his adviser Matthew Christiansen, gathered his thoughts into an academic article, just published in the Energy Law Review. It’s called ‘FERC and climate change.’ Their conclusion, in a nutshell, is that FERC doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to address climate change. It doesn’t need a new regulatory regime or new authorities. It just needs to diligently obey its current mandates. …. When it comes to pipelines, they argue, FERC does have a clear mandate to take climate effects into account. Such decisions are supposed to be guided by the “public interest,” and, as they say, “it is hard to imagine a consideration more relevant to the ‘public interest’ than the existential threat posed by climate change.” This conclusion has been confirmed by several recent federal court decisions instructing federal agencies, indeed FERC itself, to take climate into account.” [Vox interviews Commissioner Glick]

5-22-19 Reuters. U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal. “The U.S. Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to extend the time the government has to file a petition in an appeal of a circuit court decision preventing Dominion Energy Inc from building the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is seeking a one-month extension until June 25. Without the extension, the time expires on May 28. Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have ballooned due to legal and regulatory delays. In December, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Cowpasture v U.S. Forest Service case vacated a permit that allowed the pipe to cross the Appalachian Trail on National Forest land. The court determined the Forest Service lacks authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across the trail on federal land. Dominion said it welcomed news that the Solicitor General would join the case, noting for decades that 56 other pipelines have operated across the Appalachian Trail. Earlier this month, Dominion’s Chief Executive Thomas Farrell said it would increase the chances the court will hear the case if the Solicitor General joins the appeal. …. “If the court declines to hear the case, we anticipate Dominion and Duke will decide to terminate the project as rerouting the pipeline would likely be cost prohibitive,” the Height Capital Markets analysts said, noting it will be “extremely difficult” for the utilities to pass on additional costs to ratepayers.”

5-20-19 Loudoun Now. Pipeline Protest Comes to Herring’s Hometown. “A fight in Appalachia came to the Leesburg courthouse lawn Saturday as people from southwest and northern Virginia came together calling for action on two planned fracked gas pipelines through Virginia. The 312-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline and the 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline both cut across Virginia’s mountainous west, transporting natural gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. And opposition to those pipelines has been fierce and sustained. In February, Dominion Energy disclosed that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has been delayed to 2020, and another $1 billion added to the estimated $6-$6.5 billion cost, in the face of ongoing lawsuits that have forced a stop to construction. But despite repeated problems with the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, such as construction materials and waste washing out into neighboring communities and streams, work continues. Both face ongoing lawsuits from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, but protestors came to Herring’s hometown of Leesburg to demand more—such as pushing for a stop-work order on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project that he has alleged has broken Virginia’s environmental laws more than 300 times already. More than 100 people gathered on the courthouse lawn for demonstrations, music, and speeches. ‘Attorney General Mark Herring, we need you,’ said southwest Virginia native and George Washington University Law School professor Emily Hammond. ‘Protect Appalachia. Protect the rule of law.'”

5-20-19 Virginia Mercury. Green energy and greenwashing. “Recently I criticized a Dominion Energy advertisement that boasted, misleadingly and inaccurately, about the company’s investments in solar energy. By contrast, the company’s investments in greenwashing are transparent and heartfelt. Dominion has had several bad months here in Virginia and would very much like to change the conversation. …. Fortunately, Dominion’s PR offensive was only just ramping up. A full-page newspaper ad, predictably light on detail, promises the company will cut its climate-heating methane emissions in half. That would be a nice trick from the company whose Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all Virginia’s power plants put together. In case you doubt the company’s sincerity, Dominion just joined a corporate coalition calling for a price on carbon. This must have been in the works about the same time Dominion was criticizing Virginia’s proposed entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which actually puts a price on carbon. Hey, The Washington Post fell for it. Greenwashing works.”

5-19-19 Blue Virginia. “Yesterday, the mountains in Southwest Virginia visited Richmond, and today, they came to Northern Virginia!” [Delegate Mark Keam]. “At the ‘Virginians for Justice: Progress Not Pipelines!’ rally in Leesburg, a huge crowd of activists from across the Commonwealth called on Attorney General Mark Herring to take stronger action to stop the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline from destroying Appalachia. These fierce grassroots leaders and tireless environmental champions have been fighting for years to stop more fracked methane gas extractions generally, and Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines specifically. I regret that I joined this fight only last year when I should have done so much earlier. But today, I was proud to stand with these warriors and with my friends and House colleagues Sam Rasoul and Chris Hurst whose legislative districts are much closer to the impact zones.”

5-17-19  ‘That’s part of our responsibility’: Faith leaders lead march in protest of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Communities continue to resist the 600-mile long Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project going through parts of the Commonwealth. This comes as the lead partner on the project, Dominion Energy, plans to appeal a hold on the pipeline’s construction later this month to the Supreme Court of the United States. Two hundred people marched across the Robert E. Lee Bridge in Richmond Friday, led by faith leaders, protesting the project. ‘That’s part of our responsibility,’ Pastor Paul Wilson of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church said. That responsibility, according to Pastor Wilson, is to tell Virginians about what’s happening in Union Hill, a historically black community in the pipeline’s path.

5-17-19 Blue Virginia. Yes Virginia, We Can Stop the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. Here’s How [Sam Rasoul]. “I am often asked what can Virginia do to stop these corporate boondoggles. I have heard some say the pipelines are “a done deal” and that there’s nothing the state can do. Neither is true. We have a wealth of options at our disposal and citizens can play an important role in urging us to take these actions.”

5-15-19 Bloomberg. Trump Likes Fossil Fuels. Investors Don’t. “Fossil fuel never had a better friend in the White House than Donald Trump. So why, two years into his presidency, are investors favoring public companies devoted to renewable energy and giving the Bronx cheer to the coal, gas and oil crowd? …. [F]ossil fuel is a rare loser in the stock market since Trump took office. And that’s after oil appreciated 15%. The 170 companies in the Russell 3000 Energy Index, most of which engage in oil and gas, are down 12% during the first administration to declare global warming a hoax. The Russell 3000, meanwhile, gained 27% and technology, its best-performing sector, rallied 53%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. As lucrative as the overall stock market has been for investors during the past two years, clean-technology shares have done even better. The 89 major publicly traded U.S. firms identified by Bloomberg New Energy Finance as deriving at least 10 percent of their revenue from the business of renewable energy, energy efficiency or clean technology have returned 50% since Trump’s first day in the Oval Office.”

5-15-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: Holding Dominion Energy accountable for actions. “If it seemed like the whole world was out to get Dominion Energy last week, it was for good reason. Locking Virginia into unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure, misleading regulators and cheating customers were just a few of the very valid complaints hurled at Dominion in legal proceedings, shareholder meetings and headlines. …. Responding to months of similar bad news, Dominion recently launched a (ratepayer-subsidized) advertising campaign with the tagline ‘Actions Speak Louder.’ Thankfully for Virginia, regulators and ratepayers are finally holding Dominion to account for theirs.”

5-15-19 Blue Virginia. Virginia Could Really Use a Hero These Days. Attorney General Mark Herring Could Be That Hero. “What are Virginians directly affected by the destruction caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline to do when their calls for accountable governance fall on deaf ears? What recourse do people have when a project that has received hundreds of environmental violations from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is still allowed to continue construction? What do you do when you have a scandalously corrupt Governor, but an Attorney General who might still have a future in Virginia politics? Answer: You make as much noise as close to the place people with power are. To that end, the mountains are coming to NoVA! On May 18, rally with us at the Loudoun County courthouse for Herring: Stand with Appalachia, Not Pipelines. This is the second day of a two-day event that starts with a march in Richmond to bring this fight to Virginia’s elected leadership once again. Virginia could use a hero these days. It needs someone who does the right thing even if it’s the hard thing, someone who puts others before himself or herself, someone who sees the big picture instead of the short term gains. Attorney General (AG) Mark Herring could be that hero.”

5-15-19 Morning Call. New York denies natural gas pipeline expansion permit. “State environmental regulators on Wednesday denied a water quality permit for a 24-mile underwater pipeline from New Jersey to Queens that backers say is crucial for meeting rising demand for natural gas in New York City and Long Island. The Northeast Supply Enhancement project would expand the Transco pipeline, which extends from Texas to the Northeast coast. It would allow National Grid to bring natural gas from Pennsylvania’s shale gas fields to the metropolitan region. …. In denying the permit, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said the project ‘fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards’ and ‘would cause impacts to habitats due to the disturbance of shellfish beds and other benthic resources.'”

5-15-19 Grey Area News [NC]. Virginia Senators Urged to Protect Appalachian Trail. “On May 16, 2019, more than 50 organizations from across the state called on Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Virginia’s members of the House of Representatives to push back on Dominion Energy’s political pressure seeking legislation allowing it to get around a decision by a federal court. ‘Dominion’s permitting problems for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are entirely self-inflicted—it never made sense to force this project through a national park, two national forests, and some of the steepest mountains in Virginia. But rather than rethink its plans, Dominion wants political favors to get around the laws in place to protect our public lands,’ said Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. ‘Congress should not open the door for Dominion’s last ditch effort to build this destructive and unnecessary pipeline.’ …. The letter to Senators Kaine and Warner also outlines mounting evidence of a lack of public need for the project in Virginia, where the pipeline will cut through more than 300 miles of mountains, forests and private property. …. Dominion wants to put its pipeline across the Appalachian Trail at a place where the Trail enjoys its highest protection—national forest lands in Virginia. It would permanently harm the Trail’s scenic vistas with a clear-cut swath as wide in places as a seven-lane highway.”

5-14-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley agrees to pay $266,000 for pollution problems in W.Va. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have agreed to pay a fine of nearly $266,000 for violating environmental regulations in West Virginia. The agreement, outlined in a consent order from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, marks the first financial penalty for problems with storm water runoff caused by building a 303-mile pipeline that will also cross the New River and Roanoke valleys. Photographs included in the 179-page document show a ‘drastic change’ in streams since work on the buried pipeline began last winter, said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. ‘These are clear-running streams and they have been forever,’ Rosser said. ‘And you look at the photos now and they are just brown.’ Mountain Valley faces similar issues in Virginia. A lawsuit filed in December by the Department of Environmental Quality alleges more than 300 violations of erosion and sediment control measures. Online court records indicate the case is still pending. …. Rosser said the fine, which represents well less than 1% of the project’s cost, is unlikely to lead to significant change. ‘The concern is that paying the fine is cheaper than doing it right in the first place,’ she said.”

5-13-19 Forbes. The Supreme Court Should End Pipeline Companies “Build First, Pay Later” Use Of Eminent Domain. “All across the country, pipeline companies are using court orders to take land before—long before—they pay the owner a penny. But now, the Institute for Justice is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to end the free lunch and make companies follow the proper legal and constitutional process for taking land. …. Few Americans ever deal with their property being taken by eminent domain, but most probably imagine that they would be justly compensated if the government demanded their homes. But in recent years, pipeline companies have been getting court orders to take land immediately and figure out payment and compensation later—much later in some cases. …. The Institute for Justice has long defended the rights of property owners in eminent domain proceedings, but not typically when land is being taken for infrastructure. But in this case and hundreds more documented by IJ, the process that pipeline companies are using is far from the one established in law. Congress granted pipeline companies the power to acquire land through eminent domain, but not the power to take first and pay later.”

5-13-19 DeSmog. Energy Regulators May Reconsider Rules Critics Say Fueled America’s Oil and Gas Pipeline Glut. “A little-noticed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announcement could have an outsized impact on the oil and gas pipeline industries — if the commission decides to snap shut loopholes that analysts say create financial incentives to build too many new pipelines in the U.S. The way the rules are currently written can allow unusually high profit margins for new pipeline projects. Since 1997, FERC has allowed certain new pipelines to rake in 14 percent profits — a rate far higher than the returns presently generated by, say, corporate bonds — with little eye to how that compares to profits available from other investments. …. FERC’s March 21 notice of inquiry requests comment from the public on how it should calculate rates of return in the future. Energy lawyers say that billions of dollars could be on the line. …. Market analysts — and even a former FERC commissioner — have highlighted FERC’s responsibility for allowing unnecessary pipeline construction projects, which critics say will leave the United States criss-crossed by newly built fossil fuel infrastructure despite falling renewable energy prices and growing concern about the climate crisis. Critics add that because utilities can pass along costs to consumers in their monthly bills, FERC has effectively allowed them to use other people’s money to build pipes that may never be fully used. …. Comments from the public on FERC’s new inquiry are due on June 26. ”

5-12-19 WVNews. Atlantic Coast Pipeline ruling not expected until August. “A representative of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline says the company doesn’t expect a federal court ruling that could greatly impact the project’s future until at least August. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit held a hearing Thursday regarding its December ruling that stayed authorization of a key permit previously issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said ACP spokesman Karl Neddenien. The court will now take several months to consider the facts of the case before issuing a decision, Neddenien said. ‘We look forward to seeing the court’s opinion,’ he said. ‘Based on past practice, we expect that the court would issue its opinion by August.'”

5-10-19 Daily Progress. Editorial: SCC needs full report from utility. “Judges on the State Corporation Commission say Dominion Energy was less than transparent in recent dealings with the commission. But the utility outed itself by being more forthcoming with Wall Street investors under rules set by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Did Dominion think the SCC wouldn’t notice? At issue are Dominion’s long-term plans and their effect on ratepayers. The SCC is tasked with the job of ensuring that the utility, as a virtual monopoly, plays fair with its customers — at least, within the parameters set by the General Assembly, which has been somewhat lenient with Dominion in recent years. To make good judgments about whether Dominion is safeguarding its customers, the SCC needs information about the utility’s expansion plans and how they might affect rates as Dominion seeks to recover costs. …. Dominion discussed its proposed new projects for generating more electricity; SCC judges and staff noted that virtually all of them could also generate higher bills for ratepayers. Judges also noticed that a plan submitted to the SCC in early April was somewhat different from a plan submitted to investors two weeks earlier. The investor plan included $16.4 billion in projects that are not reflected in the version submitted to the SCC. A Dominion official acknowledged the difference, but said it was due to the fact that the recent plan sent to the SCC, in an attempt to answer the commission’s earlier questions, was simply a revision of the one that ran into difficulties in December. …. As we noted, the SCC needs the information — the full information — in order to do its job of protecting ratepayers’ interests.”

5-10-19 Blue Virginia. Interview with Former Virginia Air Board Member Sam Bleicher, Who Was Removed by Gov. Northam Ahead of Vote on Union Hill Compressor Station. “I had a chance to sit down yesterday with Sam Bleicher, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a strong environmentalist, who was a member and vice chair of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board from June 2014 to November 2018, when he was removed by Gov. Northam ‘less than a week after they raised concerns about a natural gas compressor station planned for a historic black community in Buckingham County and ahead of the board’s vote on the project.’ What spurred our meeting was that Bleicher is now out with an excellent new novel, The Plot to Cool the Planet, which we discussed for a while…. After talking about his book, we then proceeded to a lengthy discussion about Virginia environmental issues, particularly the fracked-gas pipelines, Bleicher’s service on and dismissal from the Air Board, the Union Hill compressor station issue, Dominion Energy, DEQ director David Paylor, environmental racism, etc, etc. By the way, many of the questions I asked Bleicher were ‘crowdsourced’ from folks I respect in the anti-pipeline community. See [the article] for highlights from that part of our discussion – lots of interesting comments by Bleicher.”

5-10-19 Charleston Gazette-Mail.   ACP, Fish and Wildlife defend pipeline permits in US court.  “Building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could endanger four threatened species, and a federal agency’s approval also jeopardizes the species, lawyers for a coalition of environmental groups told a panel of federal judges Thursday. ‘There’s no question this project is going to wipe out this population, and the Incidental Take Statement authorizes that,’ D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, told judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, referring to a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that describes the impact pipeline construction might have on endangered or threatened species.”

5-9-19 Free-Lance Star ( Editorial: Dominion’s latest ask: higher profits. “Dominion Energy Virginia is asking the State Corporation Commission to raise its guaranteed return on equity so that it can attract the $11 billion in capital the utility says its needs over the next three years for upgrades under the Grid Transformation and Security Act, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2018. The state law removed a 2015 rate freeze, but allowed state-regulated utilities to use ‘overearnings’ (i.e. excess profits) to modernize the grid, increase energy efficiency, and invest in renewable energy projects instead of returning the money to their customers. …. The SCC spokesman explained that when the commission next reviews the utility’s earnings in 2021, ‘the ROE set in this case will be the number by which to determine the company’s earnings position. Under Virginia law, if the company overearns, a portion of the overearnings may be refunded to customers. Or, in lieu of a refund, the company may invest those overearnings in certain qualifying projects as determined by legislation adopted during the 2018 General Assembly session.’ But ‘overearning’ simply means that the company takes in more profit than is guaranteed by the SCC. If Dominion’s guaranteed return on equity is increased, that would mean more money for investors, but less money for refunds or grid investments that directly benefit the company’s 2.6 million captive customers—who incidentally just got stuck paying up to $5.7 billion to clean up decades’ worth of toxic coal ash. It’s up to the SCC, which will hold a public hearing on Sept. 10 in Richmond on the utility’s application, to decide whether that’s fair.”

5-9-19 Courthouse News Service. Fourth Circuit Urged to Block Pipeline Threatening Bees. “The Fourth Circuit was abuzz Thursday morning as environmentalists asked for a second time that a three-judge panel stop a natural gas pipeline from being constructed through the Appalachian Mountains, specifically raising concerns about its impact on an endangered bumblebee species. …. Other concerns from environmental groups included the impact pipeline construction could have on the Madison Cave isopod, a threatened subterranean freshwater crustacean native to the area where the pipeline would be built.”

5-9-19 Southern Environmental Law Center. SELC argues problematic pipeline permit again in federal court. “Today SELC was before a federal court in Richmond for oral arguments in the case addressing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s impacts to endangered species. These species, which are facing unprecedented threats, require intact habitats and occupy some of the wildest remaining areas in Virginia and West Virginia—areas unsuitable for the destructive, unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Since May 2018, a federal court or the federal agencies themselves have vacated, stayed, or suspended seven required permits for the ACP, and Dominion was forced to halt all project construction indefinitely in December 2018. Without these permits, the proposed route lacks a lawful path forward. Dominion and its partners have yet to show that the pipeline is necessary to meet natural gas demand in the region. If constructed, utility customers in Virginia and North Carolina will foot the hefty bill while the energy companies collect a yearly 15 percent profit.”

5-8-19 Internet Giants Reject Dominion’s Plan for More Fossil Fuels in Virginia. “At Dominion Energy’s integrated resource plan hearings in Virginia today, cloud computing and internet giants delivered a letter demanding the company shift away from planned investment in natural gas infrastructure and instead invest in renewable energy and energy storage capacity to meet growing data center energy demand in the state. Greenpeace Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook said, in response to the letter: ‘Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech giants have now clearly and publicly rejected Dominion’s plan to meet their energy needs with fracked gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. These tech companies and their customers are demanding the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions. This pipeline has been rejected by the public, the courts, and now the very customers Dominion claimed it was for.'”

5-7-19 Washington Post. Coalition of unlikely allies calls on state to break up utilities, deregulate energy. “Nine organizations from across the ideological spectrum have formed an unlikely alliance to call for change in the way Virginians get their electricity, including breaking up the state’s monopoly utilities and letting customers choose their power providers. Former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and others from conservative or libertarian groups stood alongside representatives from such left-leaning groups as the Virginia Poverty Law Center on Tuesday to announce the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition. The coalition highlights what a lightning rod the political power of Virginia’s electric utilities has become. …. The coalition’s slogan makes its target clear: ‘It’s Time to Take Back Our Dominion.’ Its members said the state should allow monopolies only for the network of wires that distributes energy. Power production should be open to competition, they say.”

5-7-19 Seeking Alpha. Dominion CEO says will take Atlantic Coast Pipeline fight to Supreme Court. “Dominion Energy (D -0.7%), fighting to resume construction on the $7.8B Atlantic Coast Pipeline, plans to take its case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, CEO Tom Farrell says. The regulatory process has been ‘very frustrating’ but the company will not back down from the project as planned, which would pump fracked natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina, Farrell says. But environmentalists – represented in court by the Southern Environmental Law Center – also say they will not back down, but SELC attorney Greg Buppert notes the Supreme Court takes less than 1% of cases presented to it and typically hears cases involving constitutional issues or conflicts between lower courts. ‘Neither of those issues are present here… So I think Dominion has a very steep hill to climb,’ Buppert says.”

5-6-19 NRDC. Could “Liking” an Anti-Pipeline Facebook Post Soon Be Illegal? “Thanks to the foresight of those who framed our Constitution, public protest has become a key component of our democratic process, a means by which the people can make their voices heard and effect real, even historic, change. The right to assemble played a crucial role in the women’s suffrage, civil rights, and antiwar movements, to name just a few. Still, in each of those instances, mobilized citizens had to contend with powerful, entrenched forces who fought back aggressively and did whatever they could to stifle these movements and preserve the status quo. This same struggle is playing out again today. As the American and global communities grapple with the mounting climate catastrophe, the fossil fuel industry is holding nothing back in its attempt to silence its critics and those who assemble to protest their destruction of our shared climate. In a surprising number of states, antidemocratic legislation is being pushed through state legislatures with the backing of fossil fuel companies, conservative think tanks, and industry-tied mega-donors. …. Bt the Riot Boosting Act is different. It creates a fund specifically dedicated to going after individuals, groups, and organizations outside of the state that it believes are ‘riot boosting.’ Could someone leading 500 people in a chant at a pipeline protest where five people end up getting in an altercation with police be considered to have ‘encouraged’ a riot? Could someone sharing details of a protest—time, place, what to wear, etc.—on his or her Facebook page be seen as ‘advising’ rioters? Those are exactly the sorts of questions that South Dakota and TransCanada want pipeline opponents to be asking themselves. Their hope is that fear of legal repercussions, no matter how tenuous, will keep these people silent, at home, not watching as projects like Keystone XL further degrade our environment and threaten the health and heritage of entire communities.”

5-5-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion Keeps Trying to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes. “When your kid greets you at the door with the cheery news that he’s swept the floor for you without being asked, you are probably right to wonder which breakable item is no longer in its usual place. I have the same feeling about the series of full-page ads Dominion Energy has taken out in newspapers over the past few weeks bragging about the company’s investments in solar energy. The ads are misleadingb — I’ll get to that in a minute—but the more interesting question is what the company is up to that it hopes we’re too busy looking at solar panels to notice. Here are some possible answers.”

5-6-19 WV Metro News. Protester arrested after barricading himself inside Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The latest protest-related arrest at the construction site of the Mountain Valley Pipeline occurred Monday, after a man barricaded himself inside a section of the pipeline that was nearly ready to be placed underground. The unidentified protester was taken into custody at the scene in Pence Springs near Hinton by West Virginia State Police and charged with two misdemeanors, obstruction and trespassing, and a pair of felonies, property destruction and threats of terrorist acts. According to an officer, a second person was detained on suspicion of trespassing but later was released. A banner on the pipe section read ‘MVP: THE TRUE TERRORIST,” in reference to a felony charge recently brought against another protester at an area of construction in Monroe County.”

5-5-19 DeSmog. With Renewables so Competitive, Big Plans for Oil and Gas Investments Look Risky. “However, despite industry propaganda, the economic reality is that renewable energy and storage capacity is already competitive with natural gas for electricity. That fact should be a flashing warning sign to investors making long-term bets on natural gas as a “bridge fuel.” The U.S. has already crossed the bridge to a point where renewables are cheaper than coal and often cheaper than gas for power generation. …. However, the rapidly declining costs of renewables and storage now offer what is often a cheaper alternative to gas-fired plants. This makes the investors warning that oil and gas are a bad long-term investment look quite prescient. At a recent power industry conference, the last line of the last slide from one presentation summed up the prospects for natural gas power: ‘While natural gas generation remains favorable in the near term in many markets, there appear to be more risks than opportunities.’ Plenty of money is still lining up to take on those risks, but the rapidly changing economics of renewables and battery storage — along with the global goal of averting climate catastrophe — mean those investments increasingly run the risk of becoming stranded assets.”

5-4-19 Washington Examiner. FERC allays climate change worries to approve pipeline to move natural gas from Pennsylvania to Northeast. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission managed to allay concerns about greenhouse gas emissions to issue a long-sought permit Friday to build a pipeline to move natural gas from the shale fields of Pennsylvania to utilities in the Northeast. The regulators issued a 3-1 majority decision with two Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor of Transco’s pipeline project to connect New York and points north, furthering President Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda. The two Republicans, Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioner Bernard McNamee, voted in favor of the project’s certificate approval, which looked at a range of environmental factors, but didn’t go far enough for Democrats. Yet, despite their differences on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, they managed to gain the vote of Democratic Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, who concurred in full with the pipeline’s approval.”

5-3-19 Charlotte Business Journal. Piedmont Natural Gas to start soon on $250M storage project in NC, names contractor. “Piedmont Natural Gas has chosen Matrix Service Inc. as its principal contractor for the $250 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage project it proposes to build in Robeson County. Construction could start as early as the end of this month, says Piedmont spokeswoman Tammie McGee. The company now estimates that about 150 workers will be employed during construction of the facility. When the facility is completed in 2021, it will employ as many as 12 full-time employees. The project is designed to store natural gas for use during peak demand on cold winter days, particularly as a hedge against the polar-vortex events that sent temperatures to record lows in the Carolinas over the last few years. The project is being built about 15 miles northwest of where the $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline is supposed to end near Lumberton. That pipeline is designed to transport natural gas collected in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields from West Virginia to southeastern North Carolina. The pipeline is on hold for now, with construction blocked in federal courts. But Piedmont says the projects are not related. The Robeson facility can store gas shipped by either the ACP, if it is completed, or the Transco Pipeline running through central and western North Carolina, which is currently the only interstate pipeline transporting gas here.”

5-3-19 Reuters. Dominion to resume work on U.S. Atlantic Coast natgas pipe in 3rd qtr. “Dominion Energy Inc said on Friday it expects to resume construction of the $7.0 billion-$7.5 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina in the third quarter and complete it by early 2021, despite legal and regulatory challenges. ‘It’s been a very frustrating process, but we are winding our way through it … and we’re making progress,’ Dominion Chief Executive Thomas Farrell said on Dominion’s first-quarter earnings call. The company still needs to resolve two major legal cases before it can complete the project, which has been on hold since late last year. …. Dominion suspended construction in early December after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that authorized building the pipe in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species. The company said oral arguments in that case will be presented on May 9, with a decision expected about 90 days later. Dominion said a positive decision would allow it to restart partial construction in the third quarter. Dominion is also seeking an order from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a Fourth Circuit decision that invalidated the U.S. Forest Service’s authorization to build the pipe across the Appalachian Trail. That case, if the Supreme Court takes it up, would be heard in 2020, so full construction would resume after that decision, Dominion said.”

5-3-19 Roanoke Times. New questions raised about pipeline’s impact on endangered species. “Another legal battle could be brewing with the Mountain Valley Pipeline, this one over whether endangered species of fish and bats might be jeopardized by building the massive project through the waters and mountains they inhabit. In a letter this week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sierra Club said that ‘ample’ new information has come to light since the agency determined in 2017 that endangered species would not be significantly harmed. The environmental organization asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its earlier opinion — a move that could stop work on the beleaguered pipeline. If that does not happen, the Sierra Club will ‘evaluate next steps’ a spokesman said, with one option being a lawsuit. Joining in the May 1 letter were Appalachian Voices and Wild Virginia, two other conservation groups that in the past have been part of coalitions that filed legal actions that have hampered the pipeline with cost overruns and construction delays.”

5-2-19 Reuters. House backs Paris agreement in first climate bill in a decade. “The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed its first climate-change bill in a decade, voting 231-190 to require that Trump administration keep the United States as a party to the Paris Climate Agreement. The Climate Action Now Act would require President Donald Trump to develop a plan for the United States to meet the goals it committed to in the Paris agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and block federal funds from being used to advance the formal U.S. withdrawal from the pact. Trump has stood by his 2017 decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 climate accord and has been dismissive of regulations aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions. The bill, which passed along party lines, as expected, with three Republicans backing the measure, was meant to signal to the international community that many Americans support the Paris agreement regardless of Trump’s decision to abandon it. …. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not take up the legislation, dismissing the bill as ‘political theater’ by Democrats.”

5-2-19 Washington Post. Property owners protest pipeline procurement process. “Much to Gary Erb’s chagrin, a natural gas pipeline now cuts across his 72-acre homestead in Conestoga Township, Pennsylvania. To his even greater chagrin, he remains unpaid for the 6 acres (2.4 hectares) of land that were taken from him under eminent domain to build the pipeline. With the help of a Virginia-based legal group, he is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to end what he and his lawyers say has become a common practice in the pipeline industry: taking the land first, and paying later. …. In Virginia, pipeline companies building the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines have similarly been able to take land needed for construction before paying for property, said Chris Johns, a Texas-based lawyer who represents some of the affected landowners.”

5-2-19 Clean Virginia. Governor Northam Fails to Veto General Assembly’s Roadblock to Cutting Carbon. “In response to Governor Northam’s failure to veto language from Republican lawmakers in the state budget blocking Virginia’s ability to cut carbon emissions, Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said, ‘Governor Northam missed a critical opportunity today to address Virginia’s harmful emissions by not vetoing the General Assembly’s regressive climate legislation. The Governor’s inaction has set Virginia back in our collective, urgent endeavor to mitigate climate change, which disproportionately impacts Virginia’s communities of color and low-income communities.'”

5-2-19 The Recorder. Little Valley resident presses federal regulators for pipeline coating information. Letter sent by Bill Limpert on April 25, 2019, to Kimberly D. Bose, secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, regarding the threat to public health from the 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 coating (FBE) on the pipes used for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

5-1-19 Energy and Policy Institute. Global Climate Coalition documents reveal the electric utility industry’s role in notorious climate denial campaign. “Electric utilities played a prominent role in the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group that worked for over a decade to sow doubt about climate change and block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new collection of documents released last week. The collection represents the largest publicly available compilation of Global Climate Coalition (GCC) documents to date. The Climate Investigations Center, in collaboration with DeSmog and Climate Liability News, published the documents, which show disturbing new evidence of the GCC’s efforts to influence and undermine the scientific research of the International Panel on Climate Change. The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) officially shut down in 2002, after many of its industry backers quit amid public opposition to its misleading attacks on science, but it remains relevant today. It was an early source of the climate denial that remains an obstacle to efforts to address climate change in the U.S.”

5-1-19 Sludge. Reps Overseeing Pipeline Safety are Profiting From Pipeline Companies. “The laws regulating the pipeline industry, including the cost-benefit analysis requirement, fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. The subcommittee, part of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, is responsible for legislation reauthorizing the PHMSA every few years and establishing laws governing its operation and rulemaking process. So far the subcommittee has not passed legislation to address the agency’s stalled rulemaking process. According to a Sludge analysis of financial disclosures, the members of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee have as much as $2.8 million invested in fossil fuel companies that own and operate oil and gas pipelines, presenting significant conflicts of interest. Many of the companies in which the representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, are personally invested are members of trade groups that oppose the PHSMA’s proposals to regulate natural gas gathering pipelines.”

April 2019

4-30-19 Reuters. EQM says ‘unlikely’ to complete Mountain Valley natgas pipe in 2019. “EQM Midstream Partners LP said Tuesday it was “unlikely” to complete the long-delayed $4.6 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia during 2019 due to ongoing legal and regulatory challenges.”

4-30-19 WV Public Broadcasting. W.Va. DEP Changes State-Imposed Regs for Stream Crossing Permits. “West Virginia environmental regulators have changed some state-imposed conditions to a federal permit issued for stream crossings for natural gas pipelines approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a letter sent to federal regulators last week, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) officials submitted a series of changes to the state-imposed conditions for the Nationwide Permit 12. The changes include the removal of a 72-hour time restriction for construction of interstate natural gas pipelines under waterways in certain cases. …. The WVDEP previously required interstate pipelines must be built under major rivers within 72 hours. This caused problems for the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. Last year, a federal court threw out the project’s Section 404 permit after environmental groups argued pipeline developers’ own planning documents showed they couldn’t meet that 72-hour waterway crossing deadline. Currently, the project is awaiting new Section 404 permits and can’t do construction under waterways. The new modifications clarify that stream crossing methods that are done when streams are flowing must be completed within 72 hours, but that stream crossings where waterways are damned, also called the “dry ditch” method, are exempt from the 72-hour requirement.”

4-30-19 WMRA. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Won’t Be Finished Until 2021 – If At All. “The headlines can get confusing quickly: Court A stays Permit B; Party C appeals Ruling D; Agency X reissues Permit Y. In this feature, WMRA’s Andrew Jenner brings us up to speed on the complicated landscape of environmental challenges to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” Audio link included.

4-30-19 Blue Virginia. Four Years Fighting Dominion, a Company that Shows Gross Disdain for What We Love, and Gross Disdain for Us. “The Fourth District Court of Appeals found that Dominion’s plan to cross the Appalachian Trail at Reed’s Gap near Wintergreen was illegal, and overturned the United States Forest Service’s approval for that proposed crossing. Instead of taking a day or two to hastily draw up another route, Dominion now has highly paid lobbyists in Washington, DC, actively chasing elected officials in order to get them to change the law to allow this crossing. No matter that Dominion could cross the Appalachian Trail on private land, or at other utility corridors, where several pipelines have crossed the Appalachian Trail in recent years. The folks at Dominion want it their way, the easy way, the cheap way. And they want it now. …. Victims in the path of the pipeline, Dominion ratepayers, and all Virginians, as well as all citizens of West Virginia and North Carolina need to let their federal officials know that we don’t want them to cave in to Dominion’s attempts to selfishly change the law so the company can once again have its way, and shortchange due process in doing so. Please give your elected officials a call, send them an e-mail, write them a letter, or go to a local office or town hall to tell them face to face that they shouldn’t let Dominion pull a fast one, and get away with this dirty trick.”

4-29-19 PV Magazine. Renewable energy will surpass coal in April & May. “King Coal is dying, and this month will see a new milestone in the decline of what was the largest source of electricity generation for the 20th century and even the first fifteen years of the 21st. According to an analysis of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), renewable energy sources including hydroelectricity are set to generate more electricity than coal, for the first time ever. The analysis shows that renewables generate 2.32 and 2.27 terawatt-hours (TWh) in April and May, ahead of the 2.00 and 2.24 TWh anticipated to be generated by coal.”

4-29-19 Democracy Now. Pipeline Protester in West Virginia Faces Terrorism Charge for Civil Disobedience. “In West Virginia, a 22-year-old protester is facing a felony terrorism charge and other misdemeanors after he was arrested in a nonviolent civil disobedience action aimed at stopping the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Holden Dometrius was arrested Thursday about five hours after he chained himself to welding equipment, slowing construction of the fracked gas pipeline.”

4-25-19 Roanoke Times. Letter: Gov. Northam ignored pleas of small businesses. “In response to ‘Gov. Ralph Northam, in Roanoke, hails agritourism as force for revitalization’ (April 5 news story): Gov. Northam and I finally agree on something. In the above Roanoke Times article, he stated: ‘For small towns and rural communities, agritourism can be a driving force for revitalization and resurgence….By creating more opportunities for on-farm income, more families are able to keep their agricultural land in their families, and by creating more opportunities for visitors to embrace and enjoy that experience we’re creating more partners in land conservation.’ I am deeply invested in agritourism on my family farm and have been building on this for several years. Unfortunately, Mountain Valley Pipeline has been encouraged by Mr. Northam to plow through the middle of my farm and revitalization dreams. Citizens tried to get through to both Gov. Northam and his predecessor and every legislator who should have protected our budding agritourism industry when the Mountain Valley Pipeline decided to threaten the very opportunities he now touts.”

4-25-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline gets good and bad news on court challenges. “A state regulation that delayed a key part of work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline — the crossings of more than 1,000 streams and wetlands in the two Virginias — has been revised in a way likely to benefit the project. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection wrote in a letter Wednesday to federal regulators that it has modified about 50 conditions to permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the conditions was that the pipeline needed to be built across four major rivers in West Virginia within 72 hours. The Army Corps improperly bypassed that rule when it issued what’s called a Nationwide Permit 12 to the natural gas project, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in throwing out the authorization in October. Although several more steps need to be taken before water body crossings can resume, a revised condition doing away with the time restriction in certain cases was seen as a victory for Mountain Valley. However, complications from another court challenge involving a different pipeline in Virginia led one of the five partners in the joint Mountain Valley venture to say this week that completion of the project by the end of this year now ‘appears unlikely.’ …. But she expressed concerns about a 4th Circuit decision last year that prohibited the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail. The Mountain Valley pipeline would also cross the scenic footpath, and backers worry that the project could be jeopardized by the Atlantic Coast ruling.”

4-25-19 The Nation. Ralph Northam Says He’s Committed to Racial Equity. So Why is He Ignoring Union Hill? “Environmental and racial-justice advocates have been fighting for more than four years to keep the compressor station and pipeline out of Union Hill, a small community located in Buckingham County south of Charlottesville. With state and federal permits already granted, all that currently impede the project are the courts, which have vacated several permits and continue to hear appeals. But after a scandal erupted over a photo on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook, which showed a man in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, Northam pledged to devote the remainder of his term to racial equity. Now activists in Union Hill are calling on him to live up to that promise by reevaluating the permits granted to the project. ‘Governor Northam, if you want to right a wrong, you can start with Union Hill,’ Walker said earlier in the day, introducing the Black Caucus members at Union Grove Missionary Baptist, another tiny, historic church where 30 people had gathered inside on the first Sunday afternoon in April. ‘He’s never even come here.'”

4-25-29 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Pipeline opponents put cause into song at fundraiser. “Opponents of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines will unveil a new anthem to the cause at a benefit concert on Friday night in Charlottesville. The SUN SiNG Collective, a multidisciplinary arts project, will perform “To the River” at the Jefferson Theater in a concert to support the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, a nonprofit group based in Fauquier County. The concert will begin at 6 p.m. The collective represents musicians, visual artists, videographers, designers and puppet masters who use their work to protest construction of the two natural gas pipelines from shale fields in West Virginia through parts of Virginia to southeastern markets.”

4-25-19 The Recorder. Bath EMS meets with Dominion over safety concerns.   “The head of the Bath County Fire and Rescue Association and the county’s emergency services coordinator say valuable information came from a meeting with safety representatives from Dominion Energy last Tuesday with regard to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Dominion representatives attended a BCFRA meeting, and association president Harold King said all emergency services departments in the county were represented. ‘We had a lot of questions. We got a lot of good data,’ emergency services coordinator Andy Seabolt said. ‘We are getting better ideas and more understanding on how to respond during construction. It was good information. It really was. It was an excellent discussion forum. I’m really glad we had that meeting.'”

4-24-19 Friends of the Earth. Atlantic Coast Pipeline protesters target Bank of America’s shareholders. “Environmental and social justice protesters today demonstrated outside of Bank of America’s annual general meeting, demanding that the bank halt any further funding for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects. Protest sponsors were Friends of the Earth U.S, Charlotte, North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition, NC Clean Path 2025 Charlotte and the NC Poor People’s Campaign Ecological Devastation. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is economically and environmentally reckless,’ said Donna Chavis, senior fossil fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. ‘The pipeline is just one example of how Bank of America is fueling the climate crisis. Investors should be aware that Bank of America’s pumping of finance into fossil fuel infrastructure is accelerating climate catastrophe and community destruction. This is bad for the Earth, and bad for investors’ bottom-line.’ The protests come shortly after over 100 groups sent a letter to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, which called on the bank to refrain from any further financing of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

4-24-19 C-Ville. ARTS Pick: Sun Sing. “In a evening of art-inspired protest that includes puppetry, music, and video, Water is life. Protect it. and ARTivism Virginia members unite as the Sun Sing collective to premiere the song “To The River,” aimed at stopping the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. The activists recently focused their creative energies around original songs dedicated to endangered creatures in the YouTube video series,“Who Will Sing For Me?” Vocalist Bernadette ‘BJ’ Brown, who sings for the cerulean warbler, says ‘I’m choosing to use my voice to empower others as well. To stand against brutality and harms being done to this earth and our water.'”

4-23-19 Blue Virginia. SUN SiNG Concert: Our Hope Is Not a Luxury. “The SUN SiNG Concert on Friday, April 26, 6 pm at The Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA will gather its audience and its performers from the entire Virginia environmental and pipeline resistance community. At the concert, the SUN SiNG Collective will premiere a new No Pipeline anthem, song video and perform a theatrical concert evening for their community and anyone else who needs positive inspiration for their climate change concerns. Think good music and circus like spectacle. Think puppets bigger than cars by All the Saints Theater Company director, Lily Lamberta. All proceeds benefit the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice”

4-23-19 NBC29. Pipeline Challenge Submitted to Federal Appeals Court on Behalf of Staunton. “A friend of the court brief to challenge the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has been submitted on behalf of the City of Staunton and Nelson County to a federal appeals court. City Council voted unanimously six months ago to join Nelson County in submitting an amici curiae brief to present its concerns about the CAP to a federal appeals court. The court will hear legal challenges to decisions of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. An amicus brief is provided by non-litigants in appellate court cases who have a strong interest in the subject matter and provides supplemental information and arguments for the consideration of the court. The City will not become a party to the litigation but act as a friend of the court.” [Article includes background information on how the City came to join the challenge.]

4-22-19 ArlNow. Arlington’s Delegate Candidates Drop Dominion Energy Money. “Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates have made good on promises to eschew Dominion Energy money, according to recent campaign finance reports. Arlington’s six candidates for the House of Delegates shared financial reports indicating their campaigns took in no money from the utility company this year. However, most candidates are still relying on contributions from advocacy and labor groups, political action committees, and businesses, as opposed to running campaigns based only around individual contributions.”

4-21-19 Daily Advance [NC]. Area’s future at stake in speed of transition to clean energy. “Last year Gov. Roy Cooper entered an executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent statewide by 2025. He formed a Climate Change Interagency Council to recommend specific actions to achieve the goal. The Interagency Council held public meetings in Elizabeth City on Feb. 19 and April 11 to seek comments about ways to transition to clean energy and to provide updated information about actions the council is considering. …. The key to limiting rise of the Atlantic Ocean is a speedy transition to clean energy. I suggest Gov. Cooper should, at a bare minimum, take the following actions: …. Oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will lock in an estimated 30 million to 68 million metric tons per year of C02 emissions for the lifetime of the project. If it is built, measures implemented via the executive order will largely go toward canceling greenhouse gases caused by the pipeline. The pipeline is now stalled by court orders. Costs are escalating. Clean energy is cost competitive with fossil fuels and will soon have a cost advantage. Development of clean power instead of the ACP would create more jobs for North Carolinians, generate no greenhouse gases, improve health and safety by improving air quality, and protect North Carolina’s waters and aquatic species.”

4-18-19 The Recorder. What we have here is a failure to communicate. “Wow. Just when we think Dominion Energy couldn’t possibly make any more missteps than we’ve already covered, here the company comes with yet another example of its inability to pay attention. The company proposing to take our citizens’ land for an unneeded $7.5 billion gas pipeline has shown us time and again that it doesn’t listen to those who live here. We’re coming up on five years of this utter ignorance. From the moment Dominion announced its plans in May 2014, we have witnessed its almost comical inability to get anything right. And now, as reported in this week’s Recorder, we find Dominion has completely ignored landowners again, and is prepared to condemn property in Bath County’s Little Valley for an access road without going through proper channels, and no one is finding it funny at all. Especially the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. …. So, if you think your land is safe, and you can negotiate fair terms with this company, think again. We don’t think this is a simple matter of Dominion’s left hand being unaware of its right. If that’s the case, incompetence is the right word, but it puts no one’s mind at ease. Considering the hundreds of ways this pipeline would cause damage to our citizens, our environment, our water quality, and the sensitive species here in the Highlands, we have no faith Dominion can get this built in any reasonable, conscientious way. When will this untenable, unjustified, preposterous project get shelved for good? Not soon enough.”

4-18-19 The Recorder. State tells feds condemnation lawsuit improper. “Dominion Energy caught landowners and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation unaware by filing a land condemnation lawsuit involving an open-space conservation easement. The VOF told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that Dominion affiliate Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC wrongly filed the eminent domain lawsuit for a proposed pipeline access road. In what VOF deputy director Martha Little described as an error, the pipeline company failed to consult VOF before attempting to route the access road across the conservation easement. The VOF easement was not included in the land swap of 10 conservation easements for Hayfields Farm in McDowell between Dominion and VOF. ‘VOF strongly urges FERC to require that an alternative access road be found since this route has never been authorized by the VOF Board of Trustees,’ Little said in an April 9 letter to FERC. ‘VOF would also argue that this access road was presented as an error in fact and should never have been included in the FERC certificate issued on Oct. 13, 2017. The fact that Atlantic is currently moving forward with condemnation proceedings without any consideration or decision from the VOF Board of Trustees is particularly alarming,’ Little said.”

4-17-19 Virginia Mercury. After Union Hill compressor station permit battle, DEQ issues request for environmental justice study. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is seeking a consultant to perform an environmental justice study for the agency aimed at recommending regulatory and statutory changes ‘to promote equity in environmental decision making.’ In a request for proposals Tuesday that closes on May 10, the DEQ says ‘there exists an immediate need to respond to the emerging public expectation that environmental justice be considered and addressed in a meaningful way,’ adding that the agency seeks ‘to develop a clear process for incorporating environmental justice principles into its strategic planning and program implementation.’ …. ‘DEQ’s environmental justice study will help ensure the agency’s programs benefit all communities, especially those that have historically been the most burdened by pollution,’ said Gov. Ralph Northam in a statement that appears blissfully unaware of the existence of irony. [emphasis added] …. Northam’s administration drew condemnation over its handling of the compressor station project — which had become a rallying point for environmental justice advocates — including yanking two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board who had voiced concerns about the siting of the massive project and its emissions. And in February, former Vice President Al Gore and the Rev. William Barber II, a civil rights leader, said Northam was missing a chance to show his newfound support for racial equity in the aftermath of his blackface scandal by keeping quiet about the project. Northam has also dissolved the former Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice in favor of creating a new body called the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice. The members of the old council, who had called for a halt to Virginia’s contentious natural gas pipeline projects and were ignored by the governor, were invited to apply for the new body.”
Blue Virginia (April 16, 2019) asks, Is This a Perverse Joke? Virginia DEQ Issues Request for Proposals for Environmental Justice Study.

4-16-19 WDBJ7. Energy conference sparks debate in Roanoke. “The Chief Executive of American Electric Power said the company continues to reduce its carbon footprint and expand the use of renewable energy, but must rely on fossil fuels to meet the needs of its customers. …. A block away, opponents of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects provided counterpoint, calling for a rapid shift to sustainable energy sources that don’t contribute to climate change.”

4-16-19 Bacon’s Rebellion. Is Winter Coming For Virginia Pipeline Projects? “The building season is here, but for developers of Virginia’s two hotly-contested natural gas pipelines, activity is back in the government agencies and courthouses. The construction sites remain largely silent, delays running up the ultimate cost of the projects, including the cost of failure. Here is my (probably flawed) attempt at a status report. And you thought Game of Thrones is a complicated plot.”

4-16-19 Blue Ridge Outdoors. 214 Days: Tree sitters have blockaded the Mountain Valley Pipeline for seven months. Here’s what motivates them to persist. “For many along the MVP route, hope was reignited with the Peter’s Mountain sits and all of the direction action that followed. Emily Satterwhite, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, was so motivated by what transpired on Peter’s Mountain that in June of 2018 she locked down to an excavator located on the pipeline easement, successfully blocking construction for 14 hours. She says that the most inspiring thing to her throughout this movement has been the way in which people have shown up for each other again and again. ‘People say that the system is rigged and that there is no point in trying to fight it,’ she states, ‘but it has been life-changing to witness the number of people willing to fight and to show up for their communities over and over again.'”

4-15-19 Virginia Mercury. With variance, FERC allows Mountain Valley Pipeline to play it by ear. “In May 2018, Mountain Valley Pipeline confessed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that its plan for stream crossings along its proposed 303-mile fracked gas pipeline had been based on ‘theoretical desktop analysis’ that ‘did not take site specific constructability issues (elevations, terrain and workspace) into account.’ …. [O]n September 24, 2018, MVP requested a project-wide Variance-006 that would allow pipe to be buried more shallowly on either side of streambeds and that the variance was granted the very next day. In requesting a variance, MVP admitted that if it followed its original vertical scour and lateral erosion plan, construction ‘would pose increased environmental or landslide risks or be unsafe or impractical due to terrain or geology.’ FERC staff approved the massive changes, essentially allowing MVP to fabricate its own construction standards on the fly, despite reservations from within both FERC and the corps. Documents indicate that Chris Carson, a corps project manager for the Huntington district, cautioned that ‘no information is provided indicating whether any of the changes would result in additional discharges of dredge or fill material into waters of the United States.'”

4-15-19 Blue Virginia. Citing Environmental Justice Concerns, Virginia State Conference NAACP Urges Federal Appeals Court to Stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Virginia State Conference NAACP once again has reaffirmed its longstanding opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a court brief filed on April 12, the state NAACP has urged a federal appeals court in Washington to revoke the key federal permit for the pipeline. Without that permit, the project will never be built. The state NAACP was part of a group of ten religious, social justice and civil rights organizations that signed onto a ‘friend of the court’ brief filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. …. The 50-plus-page court filing states that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) violated federal law and ‘ignored significant minority populations that live along the proposed route.’ It argues that the permit issued by FERC should be revoked because FERC ‘did not take a hard look at the health and environmental effects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” on “environmental justice communities.'”

4-15-19 NRDC. Pipeline Case Brief: FERC Enables Environmental Injustice. “Tragically, the ACP is also an example of FERC’s facilitation of environmental injustice. NRDC and an extensive group of environmental, civil rights, faith-based, and other organizations and initiatives filed a brief with the court on Friday highlighting how FERC’s analysis of the ACP failed communities of color in Virginia and North Carolina. Federal law requires that federal agencies undertaking environmental justice reviews account for impacted minority communities and prevent inequitable environmental outcomes. But FERC’s methodology largely overlooked their existence and, as a direct result, prevented FERC from analyzing the ACP’s adverse and disproportionate effects on communities of color.”

4-15-19.  The Nation.  A Broken Land – Ecological devastation in the American heartland. [Review of Eliza Griswold – Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America] “Haney signed what was meant to be a lucrative lease with Range to allow the company to build a fracking-waste pond nearby. Not only could she buy better shelter for her farm animals, but Range agreed to provide her with potable water in case the site affected the quality of her well—a point of pride for Haney, who’d grown up hauling water back to the family home. Then her animals started to die, and her children became sick. A prize goat gave birth to a kid in three pieces and then died. A neighbor’s beloved boxer puppy died from what seemed to be poison, its insides “crystallized, as if it had drunk antifreeze.” One of Haney’s children, Harley, suffered from mouth ulcers, nosebleeds, and personality changes, and a cut on Haney’s foot refused to heal. Something was clearly wrong—the air stank, and strange liquids leaked from the waste pond—but it was hard to link either the human or animal sickness to environmental contamination. And the burden of proof fell on Haney. This grim story is at the center of Eliza Griswold’s Amity and Prosperity. There are other characters in Griswold’s book, and she expands the focus to include the neighboring town of Prosperity, but Haney’s fight against Range Resources forms the spine of her narrative. A single mother with deep roots in the area, Haney has been forced to become a detective. She tracks her veterinarian bills, her medical expenses, and the family’s lab-test results, and through her travails Griswold documents an ever-widening gap between old fantasies and new realities for many families in western Pennsylvania.”

4-14-19 Roanoke Times. Cathcart: Mountain Valley Pipeline is a Titanic mistake. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline is an economic disaster on par with the Titanic. The same arrogance, ignorance and incompetence that led to the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic is at the foundation of the impending doom for the MVP. While there has been much focus in the press on the protesters and legal challenges for obstructing the construction of the MVP, the predominant obstructionists have been nature and the weather. MVP would like to claim last year’s rainfall was historic and have tried to blame it for their failure to protect our streams and rivers from erosion. A climate hydrologist with TerraPredictions did an analysis proving the 2018 rainfall in the area of the MVP was not historic. MVP refused to heed the many warnings from experts about why it would not be possible to build a 42 inch pipeline through the mountains without incurring extreme damage to our environment and astronomical costs. …. The Titanic was a catastrophic loss of life and a huge financial loss for Lloyds of London. The Lutine Bell tolled to warn Lloyd’s insurers of the terrible loss that fateful day. MVP is an LLC and the project isn’t required to be insured. FERC told landowners that pipelines companies self-insure. There will not be any bell tolling for the impending financial disaster slowly unfolding in Southwest Virginia. The shareholders, property owners and government will bear the cost of the ill conceived MVP.”

4-13-19 CBS19. Community continues initiatives to stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “People in Nelson County are continuing to share their mission to stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this weekend. …. Sarah Murphy, a resident of Nelson County, left for the final part of her journey Saturday to travel through the proposed site of the pipeline with her two horses. …. An anti-pipeline workshop was also held at Spruce Creek Farm Saturday to bring awareness about the pipeline project. The event featured several speakers, who talked about topics related to the possible construction of the pipeline and the impact it could leave in the area.”

4-12-19 Booneville Daily News [MO]. Pipeline rupture incident report released; Rupture caused by pipe corrosion. “A stress corrosion crack caused the massive natural gas explosion March 3 north of Mexico, according to an incident report. The report, filed by Energy Transfer Partners with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, was released April 2. Energy Transfer is the owner of the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline, which ruptured approximately one mile north of Mexico near Missouri Highway 15. The company had 30 days to submit a report to the safety administration. The 30-inch diameter pipe is comprised of carbon steel, with a specified minimum yield strength of 60,000 pounds per square inch. Pressure inside the pipe did not exceed the maximum allowable operating pressure. The investigation did not find evidence of human error or control room malfunctions. The widest part of the rupture was 94 inches and the entire rupture’s circumference was 864 inches in a pipe buried five feet underground. Two people were evacuated from the incident area, but no injuries or fatalities were reported. Approximately $1.14 million of property damage occurred within the 621-foot potential impact radius. Highway 15 was cooked by the fire, approximately 50 to 75 yards away. A house under construction by Matt and Shawna Penn was destroyed. Total incident cost — property damage and the estimated cost of the released gas — is $1.4 million.”

4-11-19 Utility Dive. Dominion gas explosion kills 1, injures 17 in North Carolina. “One person is dead and 17 have been hospitalized after an explosion stemming from a Dominion Energy subsidiary’s natural gas line in downtown Durham, North Carolina, late Wednesday morning. At approximately 10:26 a.m., a gas leak was reported after a contractor drilled under the sidewalk, rupturing a two-inch gas line. The following explosion destroyed one building and damaged several others, according to local police. Firefighters had contained the fire as of around 2:30 p.m. and buildings near the explosion had been evacuated. Downtown Durham customers noted muddied water following the explosions, attributed to demand on the water utility’s system as firefighters responded to the blaze”

4-11-19 Nelson County Times. Pipeline opponents create an educational workshop in Nelson. “Pipeline opponents are gearing up for a nine-hour workshop in Nelson County on April 13 to discuss the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, and where they are in the fight to stop it. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is a 600-mile-long natural-gas pipeline proposed to be built through parts of Nelson County. Different groups in Virginia and other states like West Virginia and North Carolina have been protesting the ACP since it was proposed four years ago. To continue the fight, Friends of Nelson, an anti-pipeline organization, is holding its third all day workshop on April 13 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The purpose of the event is ‘to update interested citizens on the current status of the fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ according to a news release. The event is free to the public, but registration is required.”

4-10-19 NBC-2. Trump-appointed energy official: Climate change is real and we must lower carbon emissions. “A top federal energy regulator appointed by President Donald Trump is calling for urgent action to address climate change. Wednesday’s comments by Neil Chatterjee mark a striking contrast with Trump, who has voiced skepticism about climate change and recently suggested wind power causes cancer — despite no evidence to support that. ‘I believe climate change is real. I believe man has an impact,’ Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said at a conference in New York. ‘And I believe that we need to take steps to mitigate emissions urgently.'”

4-10-19 Washington Examiner. Trump escalates war on states’ environmental powers with order to spur pipelines. “President Trump’s move Wednesday to limit the power of states to block oil and gas pipelines is representative of what critics say is his administration’s hypocritical approach to ‘cooperative federalism.’ The Trump administration has rejected former President Barack Obama’s muscular approach of using federal government power to combat climate change — deferring action to states to plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector. But in other cases, Trump has bristled at what he views as overly aggressive efforts by progressive states to enforce and set environmental rules that impose barriers to his ‘energy dominance’ agenda.”

4-10-19 New Yorker. The Renegade Nuns Who Took On a Pipeline. “In 2015, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a congregation of nuns, learned that an energy company planned to build a pipeline on their land. So they started a resistance movement.”

4-10-19 Bay Journal. Court overturns permits for transmission line built over James. “Mere days after Dominion Energy powered up its new transmission line across the James River from Surry to Jamestown, VA, a ruling by a federal court of appeals cast the controversial infrastructure’s future in doubt. On March 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued an opinion overturning the project’s key permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the grounds that the agency did not meet its obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act and directing the Corps to prepare an environmental impact statement on the 17-tower, 500-kilovolt line. ‘Congress created the EIS process to provide robust information in situations precisely like this one, where, following an environmental assessment, the scope of a project’s impacts remains both uncertain and controversial’ the three-person court’s opinion, penned by Judge David S. Tatel, reads. Furthermore, it states: ‘Important questions about both the Corps’ chosen methodology and the scope of the project’s impact remain unanswered, and federal and state agencies with relevant expertise harbor serious misgivings about locating a project of this magnitude in a region of such singular importance to the nation’s history.'”

4-9-19 Appalachian Voice. Pipelines Plagued by Lawsuits and Delays. “As spring arrives in the Appalachian Mountains, construction remains frozen on a majority of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed route due to a slew of court decisions. Work is also halted at water crossings and national forests along the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s intended route.”

4-19 Blue Ridge Outdoors. A volunteer army of citizen scientists is watching pipeline construction and safeguarding waterways. “More than 50 residents pack into the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nellysford, Virginia, to learn how to fight pipelines even as they begin going into the ground. Coordinators of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) are teaching this group how to analyze aerial photographs shot by airplanes and drones and report construction violations that they expect to see along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 600-mile path through their little corner of Nelson County. ‘Government officials have said that they don’t have the resources to investigate this stuff and that they are only going to be responding to direct complaints,’ explains Joyce Burton, Friends of Nelson’s landowner liaison. ‘If construction continues, it’s going to take a lot of bodies on the ground and sitting at computers to keep up.’

4-9-19 Washington Examiner. Trump to issue executive order limiting states’ power to block pipelines. “President Trump will announce a pair of executive orders on Wednesday to help U.S. energy companies more quickly build pipelines and other infrastructure projects by expediting the environmental review process and by weakening states’ ability to block them. The Trump administration, acting at the behest of the oil and gas industry, aims to stop liberal states like New York from halting pipeline projects using Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which requires applicants to prove that potential leaks from an energy infrastructure project would not harm nearby streams or lakes. …. The second executive order seeks to streamline the approval process for energy infrastructure projects that cross U.S. borders, by giving the president direct authority over issuing permits, instead of delegating the permitting to the State Department, which currently handles the licensing of cross-border energy projects. …. It’s unclear how much of an effect Trump’s new orders will have. ClearView, an energy research firm, says substantial changes to the Clean Water Act provision require action by Congress.

4-8-19 Eagle-Tribune [North Andover MA]  Sen. Markey unveils federal pipeline safety legislation named after Leonel Rondon, killed in Valley gas disaster. “U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has unveiled new federal pipeline safety legislation named after Leonel Rondon, the 18-year-old Lawrence man killed during the Merrimack Valley gas disaster last September. The legislation, called the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, calls for tighter regulations and stricter penalties on natural gas companies across the country, in the wake of the Sept. 13 over-pressurization incident that rocked Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. “‘ot only did Columbia Gas not prioritize safety, it made safety an afterthought. The residents of these three communities paid the price,’ said Markey at a fire station in South Lawrence, where he conducted a press release announcing the legislation late Monday morning. ‘The responsibility for safety failures does not stop with Columbia Gas and parent company NiSource,’ Markey said. ‘Federal safety regulations, set by PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), are a testament to deficiency.’ Markey was joined by Congresswoman Lori Trahan, as well as members of the Merrimack Valley delegation to the statehouse; local leaders from Lawrence, Andover and North Andover; and first responders. He called the natural gas infrastructure a ‘ticking time bomb’ that must be reformed to avoid ‘systematic failures’ locally and across the country.”

4-7-19 Pittsylvania County farmer sheds light on how pipeline project will affect land for years to come. “While Pollok’s not against the construction of pipelines, he said this particular pipeline — Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Southgate extension project — has the potential to limit the use of at least 55 acres of his farmland during construction and have a detrimental effect and do lasting damage to some of his crop and soil production due to the nature of his operation, among a litany of other issues due to the highly regulated nature of the certified seed industry. …. Pollok said the question of project’s necessity is above his pay grade. He’s more concerned about how he’ll be able to get his own farm equipment across MVP’s work zone during construction to reach not only part of his own land but one of the fields his family has leased from a neighbor for decades. The project will require a 100-foot wide of right-of-way — half as a permanent easement and the other half as a temporary workspace — and the only way to access his neighbor’s land is through his own property, the part that will be cut off during construction. The pipeline’s route also is expected to run through another property that Pollok leases in the area, splitting the land. It would render the area under construction and land adjacent to the construction out of commission. Between his own land and leased land, Pollok estimates that at least 55 acres of crop land could be inaccessible during the pipeline’s construction, which could span two growing seasons. …. Beyond inhibiting his ability to get his farm equipment to parts of his fields, Pollok said the harm to the land caused by construction in the temporary workspaces will take years to reverse. …. ‘So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something,’ said Pollok. ‘And that just doesn’t happen that way.’ He imagines it would take him at least five years after construction ends to heal the land, limiting its yield in that time. And right now, efficiency is everything for farmers.”

4-6-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: FERC’s assessments must be more thorough. “That it is newsworthy when a single commissioner for the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues a dissenting opinion on a pipeline project shows how routine this approval process is. FERC has only rejected two pipeline plans in more than 30 years and hundreds of applications. Recently, Cheryl LaFleur, the dissenting commissioner, was quoted as saying ‘people were shocked’ by her decision. She acknowledged why, stating it’s ‘because we don’t say no very often.’ Supporting this sentiment, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly urged FERC to do a more thorough job with its assessments. …. I applaud LaFleur for taking a stand that is far too uncommon. She saw that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline did not, in combination, serve the public interest, and decided to act.”

4-5-19 Roanoke Times. After 212 days, tree-sitters are still standing against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The 212th day was a lot like the first, which for foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was a good thing. Since Sept. 5, 2018, two people have occupied tree stands in a white pine and a chestnut oak, perched about 50 feet off the ground while supporters camped on the ground sent up food and water in plastic buckets and kept watch over the peaceful protest. On Thursday, they celebrated another day of blocking tree-cutting for the controversial natural gas pipeline, which is destined to run across this wooded slope in eastern Montgomery County on its way from northern West Virginia to Chatham. One thing new to the scene was 69-year-old Scott Ziemer, who earlier in the week climbed up the white pine to replace another protester. He joined Phillip Flagg, a millennial who has been living in the oak tree since October. For Ziemer, Flagg and the protesters who preceded them, the tree-sit is now the longest active blockade of a natural gas pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines, a group that has helped organize the effort.”

4-5-19 Blue Virginia.   Video: No Mountain Valley Pipeline – From a Grandfather’s Heart (Scott Ziemer). “Powerful video from Water Is Life. Protect It. and “69 year old Scott Ziemer,” who “explains his emotional journey from a moment of awakening at age 10 to his present stand 50′ aloft where he has joined Appalachians Against Pipelines‘ aerial blockade of the Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline in Elliston, VA.” Impressive; thank you for this, Scott Ziemer!”

4-5-19 The Collegian UR. Protesters interrupt B-school event with Dominion Energy CEO. “As business people from both the University of Richmond campus and Richmond community made their way into the Jepson Alumni Center to hear Thomas Farrell, the CEO of Dominion Energy, speak, they passed two protesters standing in the parking lot, holding a banner that read, ‘Tom Farrell — Why do you put profit over people?’ Farrell engaged in a conversation with Richard Coughlan, associate professor of management, at this semester’s final C-Suite Conversation on Thursday, April 4. …. About 10 minutes into the conversation, after Farrell discussed Dominion’s recent efforts in renewable energy, a loud, alarming noise startled the sizable crowd, and several protesters rose from their seats. ‘I was sitting with my friends, and we were all so shocked,’ junior Rachael Glackin said. ‘You should not be listening to this man!’ one protester shouted. ‘He’s poisoned our waters, he’s poisoned our air. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Union Hill Compressor Station, The Navy Hill Development project, exploit communities of color for profit.’ …. ‘The only people who benefit from the pipeline are Dominion shareholders and executives,’ Caroline Bray, one of the protesters who disrupted the talk, said. ‘The most volatile and dangerous part of the pipeline is planned to be constructed in a historically black, elderly community called Union Hill.’ ‘Do not aspire to be like Tom Farrell,’ another protester continued. ‘He does not care about the people of Virginia.’ The protesters, who are part of a group called The Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, were escorted out of the event.”

4-4-19 The Recorder. Dominion Energy is fooling no one. “‘Nothing new here.’ That was the Dominion Energy CEO’s rather smug remark to company investors recently, about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its progress. Or lack thereof. Tom Farrell has been leading his company through myriad hairballs related to that gas transmission project for more than four years. And now, after all he’s put thousands of landowners through already, he is saying there are alternatives to ‘get the job done’ if the U.S. Fourth Circuit’s ruling stands and Dominion cannot use its currently proposed pipeline route through our region. Gee, thanks. Tell us something we didn’t already know. Residents and experts for years have strenuously pointed out the chosen route was unnecessary and hazardous, while Dominion continuously said it was the only way to go. And now, with flippant statements reflecting a lack of concern for the years of tortuous work by landowners to show Dominion how wrong it was, Farrell appears to have known there were other options all along. He just didn’t want to take them because they might cost more money and alter the plan Dominion spent not-enough time developing. Now that Dominion’s project has ballooned to $7.5 billion, and faces dozens of roadblocks, most importantly in the courts, he’s ready to talk ‘alternatives.’ We note, of course, that he didn’t say what those alternatives might be.”

4-4-19 Nelson County Times. Pipeline opponents protest outside Northam’s office. “Pipeline opponents gathered outside Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s office last week for an entire day to show the public they aren’t interested in violence but are interested in their voices being heard. The event, called “Stop the Pipelines 24-hour Vigil for Justice” was held in front of Gov. Northam’s office in Richmond from March 27 to March 28 to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC. …. ‘A prayerful, spiritual vigil is what I thought was appropriate to show we aren’t interested in hurting anyone, but we want to be respected and listened to,’ Ponton said.”

4-4-19 Charleston Gazette-Mail. With pipeline permits on hold, Dominion Energy shares news of methane emissions. “Amid court losses and mounting costs for its natural gas pipeline, Dominion Energy is traveling around the region to share news of plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. The company plans to reduce methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure in half over the next decade, the company announced last month. ‘It’s the right thing to do,’ said Brian Sheppard, vice president for the company’s Eastern Pipeline Operations, Gas Infrastructure Group. On Wednesday, the Virginia-based energy company met with reporters, editors, publishers and owners of the Charleston Gazette-Mail and its parent company, HD Media, to talk about the company’s initiative to cut down on methane emissions by half across its system in the next decade, based on figures from 2010. That includes emissions from the 600-mile-long Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which Dominion Energy is involved in building. Company officials said Wednesday they aren’t sure how much methane the natural gas pipeline might emit.”

4-3-19 Exponent Telegram [WV]. Slip remediation in Lewis County, WV, to begin in two weeks. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC and Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. have gained approval for slip remediation at milepost 15 in Lewis County [WV], and officials say the work will begin in the next two weeks. The slip was caused by the pipeline activity in the area. …. ‘We will remove some of the soil and material at the slip location to prevent any additional slip,’ [the Dominion spokesman] said. ‘The material will be transported along our certified right of way to an area where we will temporarily hold it while permanent remediation actions take place. No details yet on just what those actions will be, but we will use our best-in-class measures.'” [Dominion will apply “Best-in-Class” construction methods to clean up slope failure that was allowed by those same “Best-in-Class” construction methods.]

4-3-19 Reuters. Trump to sign order seeking to clear gas pipeline hurdles: Kudlow. “White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Wednesday said the Trump administration would soon issue an executive order that would open the door for more natural gas pipelines and exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG. The administration, which is pushing a policy it calls energy dominance, has been considering an order that would push back against states, including New York, that have blocked interstate natural gas pipelines. Kudlow said the executive order would open the way for pipelines and LNG at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor news outlet. …. It was unclear how the order would overrule the authority of states to rule on pipelines.”

4-1-19 Virginia Mercury.  Va. pipelines set off ‘an alarm bell’ for skeptical energy regulator. “Most Americans have no idea who Cheryl LaFleur is. The wonkish attorney, a Massachusetts native and electricity expert, has spent nearly a decade as a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a federal agency that regulates the transmission of oil, electricity and natural gas pipelines, among other responsibilities. …. ‘LaFleur has been an important voice in mobilizing the conversation for a comprehensive approach to analyzing climate impacts,’ said Gillian Giannetti, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. LaFleur, appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in 2010, made waves a couple of years ago when she split with her Republican colleagues over the approval of the controversial Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines, massive projects slated to run through Virginia. The GOP-led commission approved both pipelines, but LaFleur wrote in her Oct. 2017 dissent that she couldn’t conclude that either project was in the public interest. ‘I am particularly troubled by the approval of these projects because I believe that the records demonstrate that there may be alternative approaches that could provide significant environmental advantages over their construction as proposed,’ she wrote at the time. That dissent marked a significant moment for LaFleur and for the commission, which has long been criticized as a rubber stamp for industry when it comes to approving interstate pipeline projects. ‘It was not an easy decision,’ LaFleur told the Mercury. ‘I had been voting on pipelines for seven years before this came up. I had had dissents on cases before, infrequently.’ But ‘this was unusual.’ The decision ‘crystallized a lot of the issues that had been troubling me,’ she said.”

4-1-19 Suffolk News-Herald.  Letter to Editor: Pipeline coating harmful. “We’ve heard of the many negative impacts from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Nevertheless, like the TV ads say, ‘But wait, there’s more.’ The ‘more’ is more public risk. Both pipelines are coated with a fusion bonded epoxy to reduce pipe corrosion and risk of explosion. Fusion bonded epoxy degrades in sunlight, and it is chalking off the pipes, and becoming progressively thinner. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline admits that the pipes have been stored longer than the manufacturer’s recommendation. Experts advise me the pipes may be safe for up to two years, but their safety is questionable thereafter. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline pipes have already been stored outside for three years and counting, since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is now on hold. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has testified in court that they are concerned about fusion bonded epoxy loss as well.”

4-1-19 Desmog.  NAACP Reveals Tactics Fossil Fuel Industry Uses to Manipulate Communities of Color. “The fossil fuel industry regularly deploys manipulative and dishonest tactics when engaging with communities of color, often working to co-opt the respect and authority of minority-led groups to serve corporate goals. That is according to a new report, ‘Fossil Fueled Foolery,’ published today by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which outlines the top 10 manipulation tactics that the group’s members and partners routinely observe. Some of the tactics are broad and political, like investing in efforts to undermine democracy through voter suppression and other means, or like financing political campaigns and “investing in” politicians at local, county, and state levels. Other tactics are even more discreet and deceitful, like claiming that regulations that would benefit heavily polluted communities will cause these same communities economic harm. Or, in other instances, denying the reality of air and water pollution, or even shifting the blame for this pollution to those disadvantaged communities that are suffering the impacts of fossil fuel projects.”


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