In the News

March 2018

3-20-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Court denies environmental groups’ request for preliminary relief in MVP case. “A request for preliminary relief in a pipeline case filed by a coalition of environmental groups has been shut down in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The pipeline, which will run from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, will require nearly 600 water crossings in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District in West Virginia, court documents state. The motion for preliminary relief was filed in a case in which environmental groups argue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erroneously granted the Mountain Valley Pipeline project a streamlined construction permit that required another certificate the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection previously waived. The motion, filed Feb. 23, asks that the 303-mile-long pipeline stay out of stream and water crossings until a judge hears the entire case. But Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond denied that motion.”

3-20-18 Register-Herald. A morning with the pipeline protesters (with VIDEO). “Since Feb. 26, Crabtree and other residents of the Peters Mountain area have been joined by visitors who have also learned the sounds and sights of the mountain. Those visitors are protesters who have installed themselves high up in the trees near the summit of the mountain in order to place themselves in front of a swath of downed trees that makes it way up the mountain. The trees have been cut for the installation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) up the side of the mountain before it is planned to run through a borehole to be drilled just below the ridge and the Appalachian Trail and down the Virginia side. The protesters’ aim is prevent MVP from cutting any more trees. From their high perch, those protesters have a panoramic view of the limestone-rich valley below and of Crabtree’s home, barn and pastures. ‘We have a sheep field there where the red barn is, and the pipeline will be bisecting our sheep field,’ Crabtree said from the top of the mountain Monday morning as she was there to share her support with the protesters. ‘They are standing up for us when our own government is letting us down,’ Crabtree said. ‘FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has let us down; the governor let us down. We have no sanity when it comes to protecting the land.'”

3-20-18 Roanoke Times. W.Va. judge denies injunction to remove pipeline protestors from trees. “An attempt to flush pipeline protesters from their stands in trees atop Peters Mountain fell short Tuesday. Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons denied a preliminary injunction requested by Mountain Valley Pipeline, which sought the court’s intervention to remove what has become a troublesome obstacle to its plans to build a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Although Irons said last week that he was inclined to grant the injunction, his view changed during a hearing Tuesday when William DePaulo, an attorney for the tree-sitters, argued that Mountain Valley has failed to prove they are actually in the route of the proposed pipeline.”

3-19-18 WVTF. Bird Lovers Protest Dominion’s Tree Cutting Plan. “Dominion is still waiting for state permission to start work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but it got the green light to start taking down trees along the proposed route in January. Federal regulators considered the likely environmental impact and said the company should stop from mid-March through August to protect migrating birds, but Dominion says it needs to keep cutting. ‘Biological monitors are going to survey all the work sites before we begin any tree felling, and if we find any bird nests we’ll place a protective buffer around those nests,’ Ruby explains. ‘We’re not going to damage the nests, we’re not going to cut down the trees where we observe inhabited nests.’ That promise does not impress ornithologists like Ashley Peele. She’s coordinating production of the Breeding Bird Atlas at Virginia Tech. ‘Once the leaves are out it becomes really difficult to spot nests, and even prior to that time, if we’re talking about small species,’ she says. ‘They build pretty small nests and they tend to build them very high in trees.’ And even if trees are saved there’s no guarantee that birds will stick around as crews work nearby. Everything from a hawk to a small songbird is going to be potentially very disturbed by that type of activity, especially if it’s near the nesting site,’ Peele explains. ‘Research has shown that a number of declining migratory species nest within the interior of forests, and they’re very sensitive to how close the edge of that forest is to their nesting site.'”

3-19-18 WDBJ. Bent Mountain dig raises new concerns from pipeline opponents. “A crew working for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is now conducting an archaeological dig on Bent Mountain. The work has raised fresh concerns from landowners in the area who object to the operation and want to know more about what’s happening there.”

3-19-18 WVTF. Monitors Mobilize Along ACP Route. “State regulators have not yet approved construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, although they have signed off on removal of trees along its proposed path. More than 160 people have volunteered to keep an eye on crews, and those monitors are already mobilizing and calling attention to possible violations in three counties.”

3-18-18 WSET. Grassroots groups mourn tree fall, commit to continuing fight against pipeline. “The demonstration comes after the company building the pipeline, Dominion Energy, was issued 15 violations by DEQ for cutting trees in areas they were not permitted to. ‘We need to make sure that things like these get noticed and that we don’t let DEQ or anybody else turn the other way,’ said Burton. She said that violations like these will be what helps the grassroots groups slow down and eventually stop the pipeline’s construction. ”

3-18-18 Roanoke Times. The imminent pipeline danger to the Greater Newport Historic District. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens the Greater Newport Rural District (and seven other historic sites/districts as well) with irreparable harm by its very construction and, more seriously, it endangers human life by placing our homes, our churches and community centers within the blast and evacuation zones. This is an issue that MVP has refused to discuss when I or someone else has brought the subject up. …. My/our very real concerns are not being heard or not taken seriously. I hope that our legislators will hear us and you will take us seriously. Our historic district is located in the middle of a seismic area, our mountains and valleys are karst in nature, both of which are detrimental to safe placement of a 42 inch pipeline carrying natural gas at 1,400 psi. This pipeline, the MVP, will place many of our historic building, as well as other buildings, and many of us within them in the blast zone, or the evacuation zone. It is unethical for our government to allow this to happen, and it defies all logic as well. We ask that our legislators please freeze further permitting actions until there have been thorough assessments of both the threats the MVP is imposing on our community, as well as an assessment of an alternative route, such as Hybrid Alternative 1A.”

3-18-18 Daily Progress. Commentary: Restore funding for Virginia conservation. “During the recent regular session of the General Assembly, Virginia citizens from all across our commonwealth called their legislators and asked them to increase funding for land conservation. But instead of heeding these well-reasoned pleas from constituents, on Feb. 18 legislators proposed cutting funding for statewide conservation programs. Official documents indicate that this decision was based on a flawed rationale regarding recent mitigation agreements. Our legislature is making a terrible miscalculation in trying to substitute these agreements, which the commonwealth negotiated with companies building natural gas pipelines, for statewide conservation funding. The mitigation agreements are intended to provide financial compensation to the state for forests that will be affected by pipeline construction. They are absolutely not a replacement for statewide conservation funding. …. Rather than honoring the purpose of pipeline mitigation funds, the General Assembly is mistakenly attempting to use their existence as a justification to cut funding for statewide conservation programs.”

3-18-18 Daily Progress. Letter: Pipeline mitigation inadequate. “Now we learn that on Dec. 28 of last year, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s secretary of natural resources signed an agreement that basically lets Dominion off the hook for the environmental damage the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is going to cause. Specifically, Dominion pledges $38.65 million to remedy forest impacts and a pitiful $19.2 million to cover damage to our precious water resources. The agreement states that these two potential payments discharge “any and all mitigation responsibilities” for “direct or indirect forest-related impacts of the Project” and “any and all … water quality impacts.” Not just during construction, but for the full life of the pipeline, which is projected to be around 40 years. And McAuliffe did this before the ACP has even gained full approval. Think about this. A paltry $58 million could easily get eaten up by a single explosive incident, or over time by the steady trickle of chemicals into our groundwater. After that, Dominion walks and we bear the burden of further costs. In perpetuity. If this were such a good deal, then McAuliffe, never shy about self-promotion, would have praised it to high heaven, not hidden it from the public for over a month.”

3-16-18 WV Public Broadcasting. ‘Somebody’s Up There Sittin’ in a Tree’ – A Look at the Ongoing Pipeline Protest on Peters Mountain. “Since late February, a small group of people have been quietly perched in two trees atop Peters Mountain in Monroe County. They are so remote, few have seen or heard directly from the protesters, but still there’s plenty of people noticing. It’s not known exactly who or how many people are in the trees, protesting a planned pipeline in the area. Two trees have wooden platforms suspended by ropes and covered in plastic. They creak in the wind. Five-gallon plastic buckets and some bottles dangle on the sides. Signs, made from sheets hanging down like sails from the tree limbs, state ‘Water is our Future,’ ‘Stop MVP,’ and ‘Fight back against frack pipelines.’ A notice from the Mountain Valley Pipeline is taped to the trunk of one tree. It claims the right to cut trees and build a pipeline and notifies the sitters that court papers have been filed.”

3-16-18 Progressive Pulse. BREAKING: Federal judge rules in favor of two landowners in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case. “US District Court Judge Terence Boyle ruled today that Winstead and fellow defendant Ron Locke do not have to allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractors on their property to begin tree-cutting — at least for now. Earlier this week in Elizabeth City, Judge Boyle heard arguments from both attorneys for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, a company formed by co-owners Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, and lawyers for the landowners over tree-cutting and access to land. ACP, LLC had asked Boyle to force Winstead and Locke to allow them access to their properties, even though they had not yet negotiated payment for the condemned land. ACP wants to exercise eminent domain on 2.27 acres of Locke’s farm and more than 11 on Winstead’s — including the family’s 100-year-old pine tree that lies in the pipeline’s path. In his 14-page ruling, Boyle, a George H.W. Bush nominee, determined that neither Winstead nor Locke had not been given a reasonable opportunity to negotiate with ACP, LLC. In Winstead’s case, surveyors allegedly trespassed on his property. Although Winstead did receive an offer from ACP, LLC in January 2016, he testified Wednesday that a surveyor’s crew chief subsequently told him his land wasn’t even on the pipeline route. Locke testified that he had tried to communicate with ACP, LLC about compensation, but that the company had failed to contact him.”

3-16-18 NC Policy Watch. Two days after contentious court hearing, Dominion asks FERC for more time to cut trees for pipeline. “The trees had to be cut down immediately. In fact, it should have been done yesterday. There was no wiggle room, attorneys for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline argued to a federal judge on Wednesday, and delays would cause “irreparable harm” to the utilities. But now Dominion and Duke Energy, co-owners of the ACP, have decided that, well, maybe the issue isn’t so urgent after all. According to documents filed today, ACP, LLC has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a deadline extension to cut trees that are on private property in the path of the pipeline. This is a major about-face, because earlier this week, ACP, LLC had taken several landowners to court, asking a federal judge to force them to provide access to their property for tree-cutting.”  This story was also reported in the Herald Sun and the Washington Post.

3-16-18 Roanoke Star. DEQ Takes Enforcement Action Against Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) on March 16, 2018, for failing to maintain adequate limits of disturbance during tree felling operations in violation of Virginia’s State Water Control Law. These limits forbid work within buffer zones to protect stream and wetland crossings during pipeline development, and are instrumental to the protection of Virginia’s environment and natural resources. The NOV identifies violations on 15 separate sites resulting in an estimated 0.84 acres in impact to wetlands and streams.” This story was also reported by The Recorder and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

3-16-18 NBC12. Virginians rally statewide against pipeline construction. “A coalition of activist groups throughout Virginia rallied Thursday against natural gas pipelines scheduled for construction across the western part of the state, North Carolina and West Virginia. While rallies were held in Blacksburg, Floyd, Roanoke and Franklin County, 10 members of the coalition made their presence known outside the gates of the Executive Mansion on Capitol Square, singing songs and chanting.”

3-15-18 Pipeline News. Atlantic Coast, Supply Header Construction in West Virginia Approved. “FERC has approved Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s and Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc.’s request to commence the following construction activities associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Supply Header Project in West Virginia: Full construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Marts Compressor Station and the Kincheloe Meter and Regulating (M&R) Station in Lewis County; Mechanized tree clearing and site grading at the Supply Header Project’s Mockingbird Hill Compressor Station in Wetzel County.”

3-15-18 LittleSis. Scandal-Ridden Wells Fargo Rips Off Customers While Funding the Gun Industry & Carceral State. “According to a recent Oil Change International report, Wells Fargo has been the world’s 20th biggest financier of fossil fuels from 2014 to 2016. In that time, the bank gave access a total of $4.82 billion in funds to fossil fuel companies and projects, including $3.21 billion for coal power, $449 million for LNG, $307 million for Arctic oil, and $81 million related tied to Canadian Tar Sands. Wells Fargo is also part of the credit arrangements to the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines – with $120 million to the latter – and to Dominion Energy, the driving force in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It should also be noted that Warren Buffet, the bank’s largest beneficial owner, owns the BNSF Railway Company – a major transporter of coal and crude oil – and Berkshire Hathaway Energy – whose utilities are huge sources of coal emissions.”

3-15-18 Nelson County Times. Crews begin cutting trees near Wintergreen Resort to make way for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline took another step toward construction Tuesday, when crews began cutting down trees in Nelson County to make way for the interstate natural gas project. Tuesday marked the first time pre-construction activities took place in Nelson County, though tree-felling has been happening for several weeks elsewhere along the 600-mile route that runs through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, including about 27 miles in Nelson. Crews from ACP began felling trees with non-mechanized equipment Tuesday morning near Wintergreen Resort on property owned by Wintergreen Property Owners Association.”

3-15-18 Bloomberg. Pipeline Stocks Plunge After FERC Kills Key Income-Tax Allowance.
“Dominion Energy Midstream Partners LP dropped as much as 11 percent to $22.70, the most in more than two years, while Dominion Energy Inc., parent of the publicly traded partnership, dropped as much as 3.5 percent. Company spokesman Ryan Frazier declined comment on the FERC announcement.”

3-15-18 Greenwire. FERC splits on climate review, reapproves Sabal Trail. “Federal regulators last night reinstated permits for a major Southeast natural gas network at the center of an unprecedented climate battle that almost shut the project down. In a late-night order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reinstated a certificate for the Sabal Trail pipeline and a broader network known as the Southeast Market Pipelines Project. The network delivers gas through Alabama and Georgia to Florida power plants. The reauthorization comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year ruled that FERC failed to adequately consider climate impacts before approving the project. The court’s August 2017 decision would have required the project to shut down until the agency supplemented its analysis, but government and industry lawyers successfully maneuvered for more time. …. wo FERC commissioners — Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick — say the agency’s climate analysis is insufficient. In dissenting statements, the Democratic appointees argue that FERC’s approach to analyzing downstream greenhouse gas emissions falls short of the National Environmental Policy Act. Glick’s dissent was particularly biting, slamming FERC for failing to ‘provide a reasoned answer’ to the D.C. Circuit’s order.”

3-15-18 NC Policy Watch. Landowners in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline look to federal judge for relief. “‘What is the harm in giving us access now or later?’ Richard D. Holzheimer, Jr., an attorney with McGuireWoods, the firm representing the ACP, asked the court. He acknowledged the project would inflict ‘irreparable harm’ but ‘not from early access.’ Landowners say harm has already been done, and there’s more in store. Unlicensed land agents and surveyors working on behalf of ACP have allegedly tried to hoodwink them, changing the amount of acreage to be condemned and low-balling them on the price. Their contractors have allegedly trespassed on private property. The pipeline would cross Winstead’s field, making part of it unable to grow robust crops. The ACP has failed to communicate with them for months at a time, they say, and now wants to rush the process. This purported crisis, the landowners and their attorneys argue, is of ACP’s own making. …. Lawyers for the landowners noted that there could be more delays because 10 cases are pending against the ACP in various federal courts. If the ACP loses any of those cases, the route changes, or in the unlikely event that the project were scrapped altogether, ‘landowners would be irreparably harmed if the trees are felled and [FERC’s] order is reversed,’ said attorney Catherine W. Cralle-Jones, who is representing Winstead. Every day that Winstead can hold off the ACP from building the pipeline, which will run 275 feet from his house and affect 11 acres of his farm, is another day his tree can stand, his fields can be fully planted and his property will retain its value.”

3-14-18 50 States of Blue. Pipeline fight escalates along Virginia/West Virginia border. “Earlier this month, the company attempting to construct the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline began cutting trees along the route in the Jefferson National Forest — and in response, landowners and activists are ratcheting up efforts to block or delay construction.”

3-14-18 Marcellus Drilling News. Big Green Makes Desperate Attempt to Stop Atlantic Coast Pipe. “Big Green groups opposed to Dominion Energy’s $6.5 billion (up from $5 billion due to delays) Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina are about out of options in their holy mission to stop the project. They’ve tried multiple lawsuits, protests, bullying state environmental agencies–the whole bag of nasty tricks. And yet ACP is now under construction. What’s left to try to stop it? The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of a mishmash of second tier radical groups, have filed a “hail Mary” request with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop construction of ACP until a lawsuit sitting before the Fourth Circuit questioning the validity of the permits granted for the project is played out. In other words, back to the tried-and-true playbook: delay, delay, delay–until eventually you deny….”

3-13-18 Daily Progress. Charlottesville releases Aug. 12 police plan to journalists; judge to rule on state police document. Why is this relevant to the ACP?  Because “State police 1st Sgt. Christopher Clark helped author the police plan and said it contained a lot of sensitive information about tactical plans and a roster of the names and contact information for state troopers. Clark said the document is being used as a framework to create a plan in case protests pop up after construction begins on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He said that during the protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline, protesters learned the last names of police officers and were able to find out personal information, including addresses and bank information.”

3-13-18 NRDC.  Are Appalachian Pipelines Being Built to Increase Exports? “There are at least 15 massive new fracked gas pipelines planned or under development in the Appalachian region, with more proposed for other regions. These new pipelines are expected to lead to enormous increases in fracking and new threats to clean air, clean water, and the climate. They would also increase consumer costs and the use of eminent domain, whereby pipeline companies are allowed to seize private property from individual Americans. Even if a pipeline has not been proven necessary, and even if it ends up transporting gas for export rather than domestic use, the owners can make a guaranteed 14% profit, pass on their on their costs to consumers, and take land from families and farms. The owners of most of these new proposed pipelines claim they will provide natural gas to domestic customers, but there’s no proven need for them….  Some pipelines have attempted to prove they have domestic customers by producing contracts with corporate affiliates–but such contracts don’t offer that proof. And once these pipelines are in operation, it’s impossible for the public to determine how much of the gas is ending up at LNG export terminals. While pipeline companies have to post their flow data, it’s very arcane and companies can post the data in different formats. Only industry number crunchers with sophisticated proprietary models can figure out where gas is flowing. An industry executive recently summed this issue up, stating that, when it comes to where future natural gas production will end up, ‘…exports are key for everything…'”

3-13-18 Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk approves gas pipeline construction beneath drinking water reservoirs. “The [Norfolk] City Council approved an easement Tuesday night that will allow Dominion Energy and its partners to build a natural gas pipeline underneath two of Norfolk’s drinking water reservoirs in Suffolk. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is expected to run between West Virginia and North Carolina, would include a spur through Hampton Roads to a terminal in Chesapeake. To get there, the pipeline would run beneath the Lake Prince and Western Branch reservoirs in Suffolk, which are on property owned by Norfolk and supply much of the city’s drinking water. …. Opponents of the plan, from activists to the city’s own environmental commission, have criticized the pipeline. They argue the project could leak toxic chemicals into the reservoirs or further increase dependence on fossil fuels, which contribute to the climate change and sea level rise affecting Norfolk.”

3-13-18 Roanoke Times. W.Va. judge to grant injunction to prevent protesters from sitting in trees. “A judge said Tuesday he will grant an injunction to prevent two protesters from sitting in trees, where for the past two weeks they have complicated plans to build a natural gas pipeline. But after half a day of testimony in Monroe County Circuit Court, there was no clear picture of how the tree-sitters will be removed. ‘We don’t have the resources to do anything to get these people out of the trees,’ Judge Robert Irons told attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline, who sought the preliminary injunction. ‘That’s on you.’ Irons said he was reluctant to have the county sheriff’s office get involved in what is a civil matter. However, he agreed to set a bond of $10,000, which Mountain Valley will post to cover the expenses incurred by the tricky question of how to extract two pipeline protesters from their perches in tree stands about 60 feet off the ground. The tree-sitters occupy a spot along the pipeline’s planned route across Peters Mountain, preventing tree cutting in what would be the first phase of building a 303-mile pipeline through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

3-13-18 Roanoke Times. Majors, Chisholm and Bondurant: A dispatch from the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The abuses of federal eminent domain for private pipeline profit coupled with ‘environmental mitigation’ schemes set frightening precedent for our commonwealth and nation. Since the Mountain Valley Pipeline appeared in 2014, Virginia state and federal courts have avoided decisions against the gas industry, including the question of ‘public need,’ rationalizing it as administratively determined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).”

3-13-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. WV DEP orders Rover Pipeline to stop construction, citing multiple violations. “State regulators have slapped a cease and desist order on a natural gas pipeline, citing multiple water pollution violations, according to a letter made public by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The 713-mile-long Rover Pipeline, which would transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from processing plants in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania per day, received a cease-and-desist order March 5 from Scott Mandirola, director of the Division of Water and Waste Management, documents show. According to the order, DEP officials conducted inspections on four different days in February, during which they cited 14 violations in Doddridge, Tyler and Wetzel counties. The offenses include leaving trash and construction debris partially buried on site, improperly installing perimeter control and failing to inspect or clean public and private roads around the construction site. The pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, has been ordered to halt construction until state regulators inspect the site and determine Rover Pipeline LLC is complying with the Water Pollution Control Permit, issued Dec. 15, 2016. Rover is also tasked with submitting a plan of ‘corrective action’ due March 25 and installing devices to control erosion and sediment water release.”

3-13-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion fails in attempt to bar testimony on pipeline’s potential $2.3 billion hit for ratepayers. “Utility regulators at the State Corporation Commission have refused Dominion Energy’s request to strike expert testimony that claims its contentious Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cost its Virginia ratepayers as much as $2.3 billion extra on their bills. In an order released Monday on Dominion’s integrated resource plan, the long-range forecast on how the company will meet customer needs between 2018 and 2032, the commission allowed testimony by natural gas industry analyst Gregory Lander to remain part of the record. Lander, retained by environmental groups opposed to the 600-mile project, which Dominion has said will cut utility bills and boost employment, used the company’s own data to predict the pipeline will increase bills for Dominion’s nearly 2.5 million ratepayers between $1.6 billion and $2.3 billion. ‘We deny any objections we took under advisement and admit all evidence, including the testimony of … Lander,’ the commission said. ‘We have given this evidence the weight due when making our finding herein.'”  See also NBC29 coverage.

3-12-18 S&P Global. Court backs FERC on Millennium project, finds New York review exceeds a year. “A court Monday let stand a US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision that booted New York out of the permitting process for a Millennium Pipeline natural gas lateral to a CPV Valley power plant in New York, affirming rulings that allowed the gas project to move past a delay at the state level and into the construction phase. A decision Monday by the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that had asked the court to vacate two FERC orders that allowed Millennium to start building the 127,200 Dt/d Valley Lateral project. The court agreed with FERC that the state agency had waived its authority to review Millennium’s request for a Clean Water Act Section 401 certificate by failing to act on the company’s application within one year.”

3-12-18 Technician. Controversial pipeline brings economic promises, environmental justice concerns. “Ryan Emanuel, an associate professor within the College of Natural Resources and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, talks about the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline while in his office in Jordan Hall Addition on Thursday Feb. 18. If completely approved, the natural gas pipeline will start in West Virginia and run through Virginia and into eastern North Carolina. According to Emanuel, the addition of the pipeline would adversely affect nearby low-income residents, especially people of color and Native Americans.”

3-12-18 Roanoke Times. Letter: Natural gas is bad for Virginia. “A ruinous public policy is described in the Jan. 26 commentary ‘Expanding access to natural gas is smart public policy.’ Instead of carbon, liquid natural gas (LNG) emits methane, a dangerous heat-producing greenhouse gas. The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would produce Instead of carbon, liquid natural gas (LNG) emits methane, a dangerous heat-producing greenhouse gas. The fracked ‘natural’ gas that would flow in the proposed MVP and ACP will not be available to the 20 counties along their paths. It will be used for existing and new export contracts. …. Natural gas is not ‘safe, clean, reliable, affordable and abundant.’ …. You need only look to the coffers of any politician that support these projects: you will find Dominion and EQT as donors. No, it is not a good public policy to introduce 1,000 miles of sediment dumps and herbicides into waterways, miles of mountaintop removal, abuse of eminent domain, loss of tourism revenue and pollution-emitting compressor stations into our Commonwealth.”

3-11-18 Roanoke Times. Forest service imposes emergency closure along Mountain Valley Pipeline route. “In what it described as an emergency, the U.S. Forest Service said Saturday it was closing parts of the Jefferson National Forest where a natural gas pipeline is planned. The order ‘was enacted to protect public safety due to hazards associated with constructing the Mountain Valley Pipeline,’ according to a news release issued late Saturday afternoon. With the exception of authorized personnel, the order prohibits anyone from being within 200 feet of either side of a right-of-way established for the pipeline to pass through the national forest in Monroe County, West Virginia, and Giles and Montgomery counties. Also off-limits to the public are access roads that Mountain Valley will use during construction of the pipeline.”

3-10-18 Augusta Free Press.  Conservation groups file request to stay construction on Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “The Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of their client conservation and environmental groups asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt construction by Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers until it decides whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permit is valid.  ‘We know this pipeline is unneeded by customers along its path. If construction is allowed to go forward and the Court later decides this permit is invalid, it will be impossible to undo the damage to mountain ridges, mature forests, and sensitive rivers and streams,’ said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. ‘The damage will be done.'”

3-10-18 News Virginian. Waiting in the wings: ACP pipe ready to roll. “While regulatory hurdles remain for the construction start of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, production of the needed pipe was completed months ago — and stands ready to be installed as soon as the ACP earns a final stamp of approval from regulators. Aaron Ruby, a spokesman for Dominion Energy, noted that the pipe production for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline was finished last fall. All of the pipe was manufactured at American mills in Pennsylvania and Alabama. An agreement was reached in 2015 with Dura-Bond, a Pennsylvania steel mill, on a $400 million contract to produce the pipe. The company hired additional employees to meet the pipe construction schedule. Dura-Bond manufactured the large-diameter pipe of 36 and 42 inches in Steelton, Pennsylvania. American Steel produced the smaller-diameter pipe of 16 and 20 inches at its mill in Birmingham, Ala. In a 2016 video for the pipeline project, Dura-Bond President Jason Norris said the pipeline created 250 jobs for his company, and also added work for machine and welding shops. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is bringing manufacturing back to the United States,’ said Norris, who speaks of the historic nature of the pipeline. Ruby said half of the steel plate for the project was purchased from American suppliers, and the remaining half came from South Korean producers. The larger diameter, thicker-walled steel plate was not domestically available, the spokesman said.”

3-9-18 WVNSTV-CBS59. Parts of Monongahela Forest to close during Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. “The USDA Forest Service has issued a closure order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project right of way and access roads on National Forest System lands in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, on the Marlinton Ranger District. The closure order is in place due to public safety hazards associated with constructing the ACP Project. The order prohibits going into or to be upon National Forest System lands within 200 feet of the centerline of the pipeline right of way. The order also prohibits nonmotorized and motorized use of the following roads due to hazards associated with the ACP Project during construction and when closed by a sign, gate or barricade. …. More information on the ACP Project on National Forest System lands can be viewed at”

3-9-18 CNBC. Pipeline CEOs vow to fight back against environmental activism and sabotage. “Executives from major pipeline companies say environmental activists have become more intense, coordinated and sophisticated in their campaigns against energy infrastructure. The industry needs to anticipate challenges from activists and leave no room for projects to be appealed in courts or in the halls of regulatory agencies, one CEO said. Pipeline companies are also losing the battle of public opinion on social media, according to another executive.”

3-9-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Governor signs sweeping utility overhaul affecting 3 million Virginia ratepayers. “Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday signed into law a dramatic overhaul of regulations for Virginia’s two large electric utilities, a change that includes big boosts for grid modernization, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs but also one that opponents contend will make it difficult for state regulators to police billions in utility spending and issue customer refunds. ‘Today I signed legislation ending the freeze on energy utility rates, returning money to customers, and investing in clean energy and a modern grid,’ Northam said on Twitter. ‘I am proud that my team and I improved this bill significantly and thank the General Assembly for its continued work on the measure.’ The law was spearheaded by Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest utility with about 2.5 million residential and commercial customers. With increased focus on its lobbying clout this session, the company shepherded the law through a series of committee and floor debates and assembled a wide coalition of business and environmental advocates. …. The bill was pitched as a crucial mechanism to move Virginia to a modern grid and more renewable energy while keeping base rates stable. But critics blasted it as another end run around regulation that was more about preserving the base rates and regulatory model that make Dominion’s Wall Street analysts swoon. …. Opponents, including a pair of state senators who unsuccessfully urged Northam to amend the bill, said it would lock in base rates that are already too high and make it practically impossible for the commission to lower rates and issue refunds by sanctioning utility spending that would keep that from happening. The commission and others, including Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, argued that the law would erode protections for ratepayers even as it encouraged big spending from the utilities.”

3-9-18 Popular The Lives Destroyed By The Mountain Valley Pipeline. “It’s a frightening thing to realize that despite spending years in one place, despite working hard over decades to make your house a home, despite being dutifully on time with property taxes and mortgage payments, someone could rip your home away to build a pipeline. RVA Mag traveled to Giles County, Virginia to document the lives and stories of some of the people most affected by the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

3-9-18 Moneyweb. Batteries will kill fossil fuels – it’s only a matter of time. “Three weeks ago, a US agency sent the clearest signal yet that fossil fuels’ days are numbered. True enough, the carbon-burning economy has been declared to be on its death bed umpteenth times before. But this came with a time frame related to the ultimate killer: the battery. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that so-called energy-storage companies such as Tesla and AES can compete against traditional power plants in US wholesale markets by the end of 2020. ‘This is a watershed event,’ said Joel Eisen, an energy law professor at the University of Richmond, not unlike the time when regulators opened up the telecommunications market in the 1970s with rulings that ushered in the digital age by giving computers fair access to phone lines.

3-8-18 E&E News.  Shutdown averted for Sabal Trail pipeline.  “Yesterday’s decision is a major blow to environmentalists whose legal challenge to Sabal Trail was set to make history by shutting down a major gas pipeline for climate concerns.”

3-8-18 E&E News. Pipeline builders, gas drillers fret about protesters. “Along with the normal delays in permitting pipelines, the gas industry is facing pushback from environmentalists, landowners and a handful of state governments. The opposition has blocked some projects and slowed down others dramatically, and it’s getting more traction in the federal courts. …. Coping with the pushback to new infrastructure has been a key theme at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, a gathering of oil, gas and utility executives held in Houston each year. It comes at a time when the industry is recovering from price shocks that led to bankruptcies and layoffs across the energy.”

3-8-18 US News. The South’s Pipe Dreams. “Appalachia’s buried treasure in natural gas means pipelines, and the controversy that comes with them, are headed south. The largest gas field in the world lies deep below the shimmering Persian Gulf, surrounded on all sides by wealthy OPEC nations. The second-largest sits largely beneath rural Appalachia. And as political opposition to fracking and pipelines builds in the Northeast, that gas glut is increasingly heading one direction: south. …. Outside of the official process, however, the project has faced fierce opposition. Environmental groups have criticized the project’s reliance on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, whereby underground shale is blasted with a combination of water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas. Then there’s the pipeline itself: Building an underground pipeline over steep mountainous terrain, within porous limestone formations, under protected forests and through productive valleys presents another set of environmental concerns, according to critics. …. ‘I’ve been around long enough to see these things don’t work out in process as they are on paper. A lot of times the communities are on the receiving end on the failed promises,’ says Emanuel, the professor. ‘These arguments about meeting the needs of energy customers during cold snaps or energy independence, these are ancillary arguments to the main reason to build these things which is to make as much money as they can.'”

3-8-18 Washington Post. The giant company that could: How Dominion turned scorn into a big payday.  “A new generation of Virginia lawmakers won office last year in part on promises to reduce the influence of the state’s most powerful corporation, Dominion Energy. Now the legislature is poised to recalibrate the relationship between consumers and the electric utility by subjecting Dominion to new state regulation and returning $200 million in overcharges to ratepayers. But the force driving this turnabout is not populism; it’s Dominion itself, in an exercise of raw power that both acknowledges the new political landscape and demonstrates the company’s ability to maneuver through it. …. There’s an old line in Richmond that Dominion writes everything but the law of gravity. In fact, the company was so instrumental in shaping the utility legislation that its top lobbyist, the former delegate Jack Rust, testified during a hearing alongside the patron of the bill, instead of during the time set aside for supporters and opponents. …. Petersen said he’s already planning a strategy for next year: A constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote before the General Assembly could restrict the powers of the SCC. ‘I’ll be happy to go to the voters to say you cannot trust the people in this building on this issue,’ he said.” [When will the oath made by our Governor and our elected officials to serve the people override their allegiance to Dominion?]

3-8-18 APnews. Documents reveal immense outreach on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Civic leaders in town after town along the 600-mile (966-kilometer) route of a proposed natural gas project have posed for similar photographs, smiling and accepting poster-sized checks from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion Energy says it’s being a good neighbor by handing out $2 million in grants of around $5,000 to $10,000 in communities affected by its joint venture with fellow energy giants Duke Energy and Southern Co. But critics say Dominion is buying support on the cheap to outflank opponents of the project, which would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia, North Carolina, and potentially further south at a cost that’s swelling to as much as $6.5 billion. ‘It continues to astonish me how tiny these grants are and how ready people are to sell their souls,’ said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina, a nonprofit fighting the pipeline. Documents obtained by The Associated Press as well interviews with company officials, supporters and opponents, show the considerable lengths Dominion has gone to as it builds support for its largest capital project. The company says its grant program is charity, and not part of what it calls its largest outreach program in Dominion history.” Bruce McKay, senior energy policy director for Richmond-based Dominion, who oversees the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s public affairs said, “If you want fair media coverage you need to pay for it.”

3-7-18 C-Ville. Dominion’s win: Bills reduce refunds, thwart SCC regulation. “It was a bill that had its own meme. ‘When Dominion writes the law: We pay twice. They get richer,’ said a post that swept the web…. ‘SB966 requires Dominion to refund ratepayers just pennies to the dollar of what we are owed,’ says Elaine Colligan, director of the Clean Virginia Project…. As for future overcharges, Colligan says the bill postpones SCC review of base electricity rates until 2021, and if the organization finds that consumers have been overcharged, it can only order refunds up to $50 million. In 2016 alone, Dominion overcharged customers an estimated $395 million, she adds. ‘This is simply a bad deal,’ she says. ‘Consumers should be refunded 100 percent of what we are owed.’ Dominion Energy, a private corporation, owns the publicly regulated electric monopoly in Virginia and, according to Colligan, it is permitted to spend unlimited amounts in campaign contributions and political gifts. ‘The passage of SB966 is symptomatic of Virginia’s unique style of political corruption,’ she says. ‘In the absence of publicly financed elections, a full-time and well-funded state legislature and checks and balances on Dominion’s influence on our representatives, we can only expect that the company would try to ram a utility bill through the General Assembly that is a windfall for their profits.'”

3-7-18 Blue Virginia. North Carolina Document Dump Proves Terry McAuliffe’s Pipeline Immunity Deals Are McAwful. “When your attorney writes you a lousy contract, there’s only one thing worse: another attorney telling you that your attorney screwed up. If you are former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and the lousy contract concerned Dominion Energy and its now $7 billion and growing fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, you might feel embarrassed when the agreement – which was signed in secret – becomes public and Virginians learn that you agreed to cap Dominion’s liability for damages before the pipeline was even built. And the only thing worse than that? When the attorney for the Governor of North Carolina realizes just how awful Terry McAuliffe’s deal was – and that also becomes public. …. North Carolina, while negotiating its own $58 million pay-to-play deal with Dominion, could not stomach agreeing to the same liability waivers to which Virginia agreed. In fact, the General Counsel for Roy Cooper, the Governor of North Carolina, insisted on including language specifically to prevent the very waivers that now bind Virginia. We now know this because those drafts – and the handwritten notes of Governor Cooper’s attorney – have just been released publicly. …. All of these protections for future claims against Dominion were included in the final agreement signed by Governor Cooper in North Carolina on January 25, 2018. None of those protections are in Virginia’s deal with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline companies. Nor are they included in the Mountain Valley Pipeline agreements.”

3-7-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Sinkholes prompt Pa. regulators’ move to stop gas flow on Sunoco pipeline. “After a series of sinkholes made the ground in a Philadelphia suburb feel like a waterbed, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission granted an emergency order Wednesday to stop the flow of natural gas liquids on the Mariner East 1 pipeline. The agency believes that Sunoco’s construction of two sister pipelines, Mariner East 2 and 2X, is to blame and that keeping the 87-year-old Mariner East 1 pipeline active while Sunoco and regulators assess its integrity creates a serious public safety hazard. ‘Permitting the continued flow of hazardous liquid through the (active) pipeline without the proper steps to ensure the integrity of the pipeline could have catastrophic results impacting the public near or adjacent to the path of (the pipelines),’ the agency’s inspectors wrote in a petition for an emergency order on Wednesday. Sunoco will be required to perform a series of tests on a two-mile portion of the line and submit the results to the PUC. It is expected to stay off-line for up to two weeks, the agency said, and cannot be restarted without the PUC’s approval.”  [It’s shameful it had to come to this, but we’re glad to see regulators taking action to stop dangerous pipelines. Governor Ralph Northam, is this what’s in store for VA?]

3-7-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Pipeline may be a boondoggle. “Dominion Energy and its partners are going down. For years, they have been promising to deliver cheap energy to the region. Duke Energy, Dominion’s partner in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, recently said that the cost of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline could rise by as much as $1.5 billion. The final cost of the energy produced therefore would go up. This is just an estimate before the fact. Projects of this scope are known to be plagued with building snags and huge cost overruns. One can only guess the final price tag. It’s time for smart investors to pull out. If this abomination is ever started, it will be plagued by court orders, close monitoring and heavy protesting and hopefully will be stopped by a new group of politicians who see the pipeline for the mistake that it really is. If this pipeline is ever completed, the name Dominion Energy will go down in history as the land-stealing, environment-destroying, polluting money-grabber that they are. They will rank up there with the Ford Edsel, a popular symbol for a commercial mistake. Dominion Energy stock will be worthless. The names Dominion Energy and Duke Energy are already perceived as evil by a growing portion of this region’s population. The smart money is on renewable energy. Investors, you have been warned.”

3-7-18 WSET. Hearing scheduled for pipeline protestors believed to be up in a tree. “A temporary restraining order has been granted against a group of people believed to be sitting in a tree soon to be cut down. The group Appalachians Against Pipelines has said they’re doing it to save the trees in the Jefferson National Forest from being cut down by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Despite the temporary restraining order, the group says they are going to stay in the trees regardless. In a statement, a member said ‘From the beginning, MVP has tried to strong arm people all along the route to get their way. They’ve intimidated people with constant letters, surveyors, and private security. When that hasn’t worked they threaten and pursue law suits against people who don’t want this pipeline.’ The statement continued, saying ‘MVP issues letters and notices to intimidate and scare people. However, this notice tells us that MVP is scared. MVP is scared because they are learning that people are tired of their intimidation all across the region. We remain unwilling to stand down in the face of their destruction.'”

3-6-18 Style Weekly [Richmond]. More Details Emerge on Dominion’s $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Here’s the latest on where things stand with the project, whose partners include utilities Duke Energy and the Southern Co., and that starts in northern West Virginia and is set, at least for now, to terminate near the North and South Carolina border.” The review article covers the current status of legal trench warfare, whether Dominion customers need the project, what’s doing in South Carolina, the increase in ACP size and price, and whether Virginia ratepayers will get stuck with the bill for the ACP.

3-6-18 NBC29. Tree-Felling for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Begins on Property in Wintergreen. “Crews are taking down trees by the entrance to Wintergreen Resort in the first sign of work for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The work began the morning of Tuesday, March 6, on land belonging to the Wintergreen Property Owners Association.”

3-6-18 News & Advance. Update: Trees begin to fall, making way for pipeline through Nelson County. “Tuesday marked the first time pre-construction activities took place in Nelson County, though tree-felling has been happening for several weeks elsewhere along the 600-mile route that runs through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, including about 27 miles in Nelson. Crews from ACP began felling trees with non-mechanized equipment Tuesday morning near Wintergreen Resort on property owned by Wintergreen Property Owners Association.”

3-6-18 Daily Progress. PVCC to offer training on pipeline construction. “Piedmont Virginia Community College is partnering with the Laborers’ International Union of North America to train Virginians to work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The union and the Virginia Community College System signed a memorandum in January. As many as 2,400 pipeline workers will train at six community colleges, including PVCC, that are near the pipeline. They will have guaranteed wages of $20 per hour, a $5 per diem and free family health care, according to a news release. Training will provide local residents with skills necessary for a range of pipeline work and construction careers, officials said.

3-5-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Judge allows Mountain Valley Pipeline work to proceed on private property. “Work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia could soon encroach upon private property owned by people who want nothing to do with the project. A federal judge on Friday granted Mountain Valley Pipeline immediate possession of the parcels, which it gained through the laws of eminent domain after nearly 300 landowners refused the company’s offers to purchase easements through which the pipeline will pass. Although U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon ruled Jan. 31 that Mountain Valley had the right to use eminent domain, she effectively put the company’s plans on hold by requiring it to present more information on the value of the properties it sought to condemn. Based on appraisals and other data submitted since then, Dillon ruled the company can use land it does not own — as long as it posts a bond and makes deposits to ensure that property owners will be compensated for their losses in future proceedings.”

3-5-18 Roanoke Times. Letter to Editor: The Mountain Valley Pipeline disaster. “Despite numerous efforts to stop this unnecessary project, Mountain Valley Pipeline will be built. This was a forgone conclusion – proposed by wealthy energy companies, supported by bought-off elected officials, and approved by the corrupt agency FERC. MVP already knew the outcome. They paid in advance for property rights, stockpiled massive amounts of pipe and hired hundreds of workers all before various agencies gave approval. It was a fraudulent process from the start. If we look back five years from now, what are possible outcomes besides MVP owners getting rich? Here are some likely scenarios: US and international gas prices continue to fall due to oversupply. MVP (already unstable financially) begins building but goes bankrupt. The land is ravaged yet the pipeline remains unfinished. Workers and neighbors are accidentally killed or injured due to massive equipment, rugged terrain and inexperienced builders. Women are molested and drug use rampant near ‘man camps’ filled with out-of-state workers. While crossing 300 springs, creeks and rivers, many are fouled with chemicals or silted thereby destroying water quality and wildlife. Heavy rains cause landslides on steep slopes eroding the right-of-way and destroying the properties below. Blasting in karst terrain uncovers unknown caves containing endangered species so the pipeline path must be moved. Chemicals and drilling lubricants spill into groundwater and pollute municipal water systems used by thousands. Landowner’s wells are destroyed or polluted and their property becomes worthless. The pipeline shifts due to sinkholes and repeated repairs must be made. One of the tens of thousands of welds fails on a rugged mountain crossing. Invisible odorless gas escapes and fills the air. A hunter lights a cigarette and a massive explosion ensues. Every tree for 2000 feet is flattened and a raging wildfire burns down nearby homes and kills dozens of people. MVP, an LLC shell company, files for bankruptcy. Victims never see a dime in compensation. The pipeline is forever shut down. Similar scenarios have already happened elsewhere. How many will we see repeated here? Virginians will soon suffer massive pain for very little gain.” [The same things are true for the Atantic Coast Pipeline.]

3-5-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. As Atlantic Coast Pipeline moves to construction, groups urge Northam to act. “More than a year ago, as he was attempting to fend off a primary challenge from an opponent dead set against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, then-Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam called for the contentious projects to ‘be held to the highest environmental standards’ in a letter to the state’s environmental agency. Last week, armed with a new report warning of the hazards the pipelines’ construction poses to drinking water, trout streams and wetlands, a trio of environmental groups sought to hold Northam to that pledge. …. ‘There is a limited window in which you must exercise the state’s right to conduct the evaluations you’ve called for,’ the groups wrote in the letter to Northam. ‘Only in this way can you ensure that Virginia’s authority over its waters is not ceded to a flawed federal blanket permitting process and that our clean water will be protected.'”

3-3-18 WHSV3. Group plans to keep watchful eye on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “As the Atlantic Coast Pipeline inches closer to final approval, people concerned with its development are looking at ways to keep track of it. A meeting of Pipeline CSI on Saturday in Staunton drew more than 100 people. The group discussed the possibility of members of the community serving as whistleblowers if the pipeline does get built, using drones and planes to monitor construction.”

3-2-18 Franklin News-Post. Boones Mill residents weigh in on pipeline. Article about landowners in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline – but what they say about the MVP and how they have been treated by its builders could be said by anyone on the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as well. “‘The more that you know about this, and we have been going to meetings for three-and-a-half years, the more frightening it is,’ she said. ‘And it’s all negative. Every single bit of it is negative.'” Another landowner said, “‘They said they had the right to do anything they wanted any time they wanted and tried to make it out like they were our friends and they were working in the best interest of everybody,’ he said. He said the letters were full of legal jargon and that ‘it takes a lawyer to figure out what they were talking about and to understand it.’ He and his wife got so fed up that they told MVP any further correspondence has to go through their attorney.”

3-2-18 Facing South. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces Native American resistance. “Two American Indian tribes in North Carolina are among the groups seeking to join a court challenge to federal regulators’ decision to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion project proposed by utility giants Dominion and Duke Energy. The 600-mile pipeline would carry fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia to eastern North Carolina, which is home to many Native Americans. On Feb. 23, the state-recognized Haliwa-Saponi and Lumbee tribes along with 17 public-interest groups led by climate watchdog NC WARN formally asked to join an appeal of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the pipeline issued last fall. The appeal was originally filed in January with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of 11 conservation nonprofits. The tribes’ move came one day after the Lumbee Tribal Council held an emergency meeting where it unanimously passed a resolution calling on FERC to formally consult with it about the pipeline’s impacts. ‘North Carolina tribes have been left out of the Environmental Impact Study,’ said Jan Lowery, chair of the Lumbee Tribe’s Health Committee. ‘The study did not include the concerns of tribes, and the goal is to get a structured consultation.'”

3-2-18 News Leader. The only good byproduct of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Citizen activism in our region. “In the nearly four years since we began reporting and writing about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, never did it seem unlikely that Dominion Resources would eventually get its way, ripping up our mountainsides, sawing through forests, bulldozing across streams and digging its way through the Shenandoah Valley. Perhaps Dominion has its own version of the state seal, with a motto beneath a vanquished opponent that’s edited to read, ‘Thus always to those who oppose Dominion.’ If they do, it’s because they bought it and paid for it, along with the rest of our state government. …. But they’ve created something else, unintentionally. Their project has given rise to a group of citizen activists who are not likely to stand down any time soon. …. And there’s no sign they’re going away, which is a good thing as Dominion’s plans move forward. Someone needs to be watching, and we have no confidence that the state agencies will assure that Dominion’s promises, as weak as they have been, actually line up with their actions.”

3-2-18 Franklin News-Post. Pipeline causes major concerns. “Some unintended impacts of the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline are coalescing into sharp and jagged relief: The temporary wave of workers and traffic into Franklin County will cause serious problems for local law enforcement and put a worrisome strain on emergency services. County leaders need to put an emphasis quickly on finding more resources for the public safety agencies.”

3-2-18 Power for the People VA. Grid Transformation for the 21st Century: why Virginia needs to get this right (by Thomas Hadwin). “Instead of putting us on the path to an effective modern grid, the legislators have given the utilities permission to spend billions over the next 10 years with diminished regulatory involvement. This will add significantly to utility bills in Virginia that are already the 10th highest in the nation. There are no specifics in the bill that identify how this money will be spent or whether the money paid by customers will actually result in a modern grid similar to what is being developed in other states. Virginia can do much better than this. We should immediately embark on a program to get this right in the next legislative session in a way that is fair to the regulated utilities and their customers. Bringing in objective outside specialists could guide us toward an innovative, lower cost, clean, efficient and reliable energy future.”

3-1-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline granted ‘immediate access’ for tree-felling on 16 Virginia properties. “Thanks to a federal court opinion issued Thursday, tree-felling along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline now will begin on more than a dozen properties in Virginia. Following two days of arguments in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Virginia Lynchburg court Monday and Tuesday, Judge Norman K. Moon issued an opinion Thursday allowing the 600-mile, interstate natural gas project “immediate access” to 16 properties in Buckingham, Bath, Augusta and Highland counties. …. A total of 27 cases were considered by Moon this week. ACP was not granted immediate access to 11 properties because of notice issues, meaning parties were not served the lawsuits or did not have adequate time to respond. Moon said in the opinion he will defer ruling on those cases, which include some properties in Cumberland County, until proper notice is achieved, which could happen in the next two weeks. …. Landowners represented during this wave of suits still have not signed easement agreements, and just compensation for the land still must be determined in court. …. In response to landowner testimony Monday and Tuesday from property owners in Buckingham and Bath counties, Moon wrote, ‘These harms, and the harms that the unrepresented Landowners will face, are real. … The Landowners’ harms must be balanced with the equally real harms that ACP will face if its construction is delayed. I find the balance of the equities tips in ACP’s favor.’

3-1-18 News Leader. Zoning board nixes permit request for Dominion storage yard. “After three months of discussion, the Augusta County Board of Zoning voted down a special permit request from Dominion for its pipeline storage yard. Thursday afternoon marked the third meeting brought before the Augusta County Board of Zoning regarding a potential Dominion storage yard. The board voted 4-1 to deny the request on the basis that it is incompatible with the neighborhood and there is a potential for traffic hazard and damage to water quality.”

3-1-18 News Observer. Lumbees tell their side in Atlantic Coast Pipeline documentary. “Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are deploying an increasingly common weapon in advocacy campaigns: a documentary film. Their 19-minute production, “Robeson Rises,” features Lumbee Indians and an African American who live near the route of the planned 600-mile natural gas pipeline that is set to run through eight North Carolina counties. At times resolute and tearful, the local residents are shown organizing against the interstate energy project that they say threatens their ancestral land and their cultural identity.”  Watch the trailer.

February 2018

2-28-18 Blue Virginia. Call Ralph Northam and Urge Him to Stop Destruction of African-American Community of Union Hill in Buckingham County! “Dominion Energy is about to start the process of destroying the African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. Call Ralph Northam today at 804-786-2211 and urge him to stop Dominion from building its compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of an 85% African American community.”

2-28-18 The Recorder. Highland County plans Dominion public hearings. “On Thursday, Feb. 22, the planning commission voted to ratify a decision to indefinitely postpone a public hearing on proposed pipeline storage yards in McDowell and Monterey until the required information is received. …. The specific purpose of the March 29 public hearing will be to see how Dominion’s proposed plan fits with the county comprehensive plan, Dowd explained. As of Feb. 22, Dominion’s land use applications for the storage yards were incomplete. The company agreed to pay for Darren Coffey and the Berkley Group to consult the county. ‘Dominion has more homework to do,’ Coffey told the planners, adding he expects another Dominion-related public hearing to be set for April 26 concerning the storage yards because Dominion had not yet provided necessary documents from the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

2-28-18 Spectrum News Central NC. Pipeline gets air quality permit for [NC] compressor station. “A proposed pipeline to bring fracked natural gas from West Virginia to points east and south has won another North Carolina state permit. The Department of Environmental Quality issued Tuesday an air quality permit to Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers for a Northampton County compressor station. The agency approved a key water permit last month.”

2-28-18 Roanoke Times. Pipeline protesters are sitting in trees along its route in an effort to stop construction. “Chainsaw crews are cutting trees in Giles County, clearing a path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. On a ridgetop high above them, protestors are waiting. Since Monday, two self-described pipeline resisters have been sitting on platforms in two trees on Peters Mountain — about 60 feet off the ground and directly in the proposed path of the natural gas pipeline — with hopes of preventing the project from moving forward. ‘We’re hoping to delay it, at least,’ said Ashley Brown, speaking Wednesday by cellphone from one of the trees. ‘And I think we have the power to stop it.’ Brown is part of a loosely organized group of opponents who have taken a stand where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail in Monroe County, West Virginia. The “tree sit” is being held just across the state line from Giles County, where Mountain Valley recently began cutting trees along a right of way for the 303-mile buried pipeline.”

2-28-18 Progressive Pulse. Company surveying Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in NC lacks a current state license. “The Thrasher Group, which has been surveying areas in Nash County along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, is not licensed to practice in North Carolina. Andrew Ritter, executive director of the state’s Board of Examiners for Engineers & Surveyors, confirmed that the firm allowed its license — No. C-4054 — to lapse in 2016. …. This is at least the second time an unlicensed company has done work associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In 2015, the board sent a letter to Doyle Land Services, based in New Orleans, notifying the firm it had also been surveying without a license. A search of the board’s database shows that Doyle is still not licensed here. …. Therese Vick, sustainable communities campaign coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, is asking the state Attorney General’s office to investigate why Duke and Dominion, co-owners of the pipeline, are allowing the companies to do work on their behalf. In addition, Vick said Thrasher’s licensing status ‘calls into question every single survey” the firm did for the ACP, “or any other company that did not have the proper credentials.'”

2-27-18 Roanoke Times. Roanoke County supervisors hold off on pipeline inspection agreement. “The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors opted not to sign onto a pipeline inspection agreement with state regulators Tuesday. The agreement, offered up by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, would allow local officials to accompany state inspectors on field visits once the Mountain Valley Pipeline starts construction. The county would wield no enforcement power over the controversial natural gas pipeline project but would be able to observe the conditions and share comments with the state. Pipeline opponents urged the supervisors to hold off on considering the agreement offer. In a series of passionate remarks, they argued in part that the pipeline project hasn’t yet answered questions on key issues such as how erosion and sediment control will be handled. They also said the agreement didn’t specify what, if any, follow up will be done if the county raises concerns or whether landowners will have the right to be notified before an inspection takes place. …. The supervisors said they were persuaded by the concerns raised by the community speakers and noted the issue could be revisited later if needed. No other Virginia counties along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route have accepted the inspection offer yet, according to local officials. Eight communities along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have signed on.”

2-26-18 Blue Virginia. Rep. Don Beyer Requests Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Re-Hearing On Virginia Pipelines. “Rep. Don Beyer today sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asking for a rehearing on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Congressman Beyer is deeply concerned that an incomplete, divided Commission rubberstamped the pipelines despite three significant issues: there was a lack of verified need for the infrastructure, there is potential for the pipelines to ruin the ANST and its environs, and finally, the proposals considered were not fully vetted nor did they allow stakeholder input.” See the article for the full text of the letter and a link to the signed copy, as well as a copy of the February 8, 2018, letter from Reps. Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin making a similar request of FERC.

2-26-18 Robesonian. Tribe has ACP questions. “The Lumbee Tribe wants its concerns regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to be heard. That’s why the tribe, along with 18 other organizations, on Friday joined an appeal filed Jan. 19 in federal court by the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Jan Lowery, a Tribal Council member and chairman of its Health Committee. ‘It’s not for or against the pipeline,’ Lowery said. ‘It’s about, ‘\”Hey, come sit down and talk to us.”‘ The legal action grew out of a desire to have someone representing the builders of the pipeline sit down with Tribal Council members. The Tribal Council members were not aware of all the ‘pieces of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ Lowery said. So, Dominion Energy was asked to send a representative to speak with them. …. ‘Dominion Energy has not sat down with the tribe in a full consultation capacity,’ Lowery said.”

2-23-18 Virginian-Pilot. Virginia Natural Gas files lawsuits in Chesapeake to acquire land for pipeline. “Virginia Natural Gas is pressing forward with its plan to build a roughly 9-mile pipeline from Norfolk to Chesapeake that company officials say will fill a gap between two main supply lines that service Hampton Roads. Officials say it’s on track to be operational by next winter. The gas company is seeking permanent and temporary easements in Circuit Court, claiming the right of eminent domain, against Alston and other Chesapeake property owners. Company officials said 33 cases have been filed.”

2-23-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Pipeline shouldn’t have access to streamlined permit, environmental lawyers say. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline isn’t eligible for a streamlined construction permit because state regulators waived a crucial certification, according to a motion filed by a coalition of environmental groups in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday. The motion for preliminary relief asks that a dredge-and-fill permit for the 300-mile-long natural gas pipeline be suspended until a judge can hear the case filed last week in its entirety. The petition, filed by Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, argues that the streamlined permit, called the Nationwide 12 permit, was unlawfully issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the state waived a necessary certification needed for construction on the pipeline.

2-23-18 Roanoke Times. State regulators promise ‘vigilant’ inspections of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “State regulators outlined a strategy Friday to monitor construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which opponents fear will leave a trail of environmental damage through Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said it will dispatch a team of inspectors, augmented by outside contractors, to conduct routine audits, stream evaluations and water quality tests as part of its oversight.”

2-23-18 State Impact Pennsylvania. FERC order effectively denies appeals of PennEast approval, critics say. “Federal regulators have effectively denied a request to reconsider their approval of the planned PennEast Pipeline, the agency’s critics say. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday issued a ‘tolling order,’ which gives it more time to consider requests for a rehearing of its ‘Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity’ for the pipeline. But the order likely means that the agency will simply avoid making a decision on the requests for about six months and then summarily deny them, activists say. Jennifer Danis, an attorney who represents the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said FERC has used a tolling order for 99 percent of requests for rehearing over the last eight years, and that it dismisses the requests after an average of 175 days. The data were used in a federal appeals court case against FERC over its approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, Danis said. FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen did not dispute those numbers but could not confirm them. She said the agency does not compile data on the history of rehearing requests. …. ‘This is an incredible abuse of power and miscarriage of justice, and yet it is very literally standard operating procedure for FERC,’ she said in a statement. ‘While FERC has used this strategic tactic to place organizations and communities challenging PennEast into legal limbo, they have done nothing to stop the advancement of the PennEast pipeline, such as place a hold on the power of eminent domain.’ Van Rossum said that she has never known a rehearing request to succeed at FERC since DRN began monitoring the process in 2010. ‘The denial of the rehearing request is a foregone conclusion, it’s just a matter of when,’ she said.”

2-23-18 Roanoke Star. DEQ Approves Final Atlantic Coast Pipeline Stormwater Methodology. “The Virginia Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) has received a final document detailing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s (ACP) proposed compliance methodology for meeting Virginia’s post construction water quality and quantity requirements. The methodology was said to be “subjected to a thorough review” and DEQ rejected several earlier versions of this technical document before approving the final release. The DEQ also received similar technical documents from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) describing MVP’s proposed engineering methods that will be used before drafting detailed site plans for stormwater management. Both documents are available at: The DEQ is continuing to review detailed, project-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans that the agency has required ACP and MVP to submit for every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction. Once approved, these requirements, contained in Virginia’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) regulations will manage runoff during and after construction to protect water quality. In response to the DEQ’s comments, ACP continues to submit revisions to ESC and SWM plans to address deficiencies and concerns identified during the agency’s review.”

2-23-18 RVA Mag. ACP Protesters Rally Outside Governor’s Mansion. The group delivered “a sachet of postcards and a letter, which asked the governor to take several concrete steps. They asked that construction preparations and the felling of trees cease until the state has finished its certification process for the pipeline. Along two sections of pipeline, construction workers have already begun clearing sites. They asked that the citizen appointed State Water Control Board’s oversight be reinstated. They argued that this board was the body which legally ought to have oversight and not the politically appointed DEQ. They asked that public input to the Water Control Board be allowed before the already approved but delayed certification becomes effective. They demanded that he bolster his opposition to offshore oil drilling by also opposing fracking. One protester pointed out the basic hypocrisy of opposing offshore drilling when it affects his own tidewater backyard, but supporting fracking which threatens the water wells, air quality, and backyards of the rest of Virginia. They also demanded that Northam rescind a secret agreement reached between ACP and the McAuliffe administration. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in December, but only discovered after North Carolina announced they’d made a similar agreement. Under the memo, the pipeline companies agree to pay $57,850,000 for mitigation of unavoidable damage to the state’s water and forests. In return, critics say, the state has provided ACP with a liability shield that protects them from lawsuits.”

2-22-18 Outside. Will Pipelines Destroy Our Thru-Hikes? “A proposed 300-mile natural gas pipeline would cut a swath across the Appalachian Trail and could undermine protections for other National Scenic Trails across the country.”

2-22-18 Farmville Herald. Letter to Editor: Floodplain Ordinance Variances. “I also requested the BOS send the ACP FPO Variance request to the planning commission for further study and recommendations. Cobb informed me that, to date, affected and adjacent landowners have yet to be informed by Buckingham County that Floodplain Variances are being applied for on their properties and/or adjacent properties and therefore had no knowledge that the ACP’s application would be presented for consideration Monday night. The ACP has also not informed property owners. The ACP application is not on the Buckingham County website for the public to view.”

2-22-18 Augusta Free Press. Group: Property values plunge along pipeline route in Highland County, Nelson County. A property records search conducted in Highland County and Nelson County by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League reveals property values plunged on parcels whose owners sought relief through the reassessment hearing process. Three properties in Nelson County with signed easement agreements with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) for pipeline construction and/or roads to access the pipeline route, received reductions in property values averaging 32.5%. ‘The construction of the proposed pipeline and resultant losses in property value are devastating for directly affected landowners,’ stated Sharon Ponton, a Nelson resident and the Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. ‘It is also important for every property owner to understand these reductions will affect them, too. The governing bodies of these localities will be forced to increase real estate tax rates for every property owner to offset the difference in lost values caused by the proposed ACP. Lower property values will cause higher tax rates for all,’ Ponton stated.”

2-21-18 Other Words. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness. “A gas pipeline would put a gash the size of a 12-lane highway along the Appalachian Trail. Is nothing sacred? …. The thing is, these pipelines often aren’t even necessary. Even without the MVP, Virginia’s existing natural gas infrastructure would cover our energy needs well into the future. But even if this wasn’t the case, the tradeoffs simply wouldn’t be worth it — not in Virginia, and not anywhere else. I’m an Eagle Scout from Virginia, and I know that more pipelines aren’t what America needs.”

2-21-18 Washington Post. Pending Va. law will affect utility bills for a decade. Here’s what you need to know. “One of the most sweeping pieces of legislation before this year’s General Assembly involves the state’s regulation of its monopoly electric utilities – Dominion Energy, which services some two-thirds of the state, and Appalachian Power Co., which services customers in the Southwestern part of Virginia. …. When the General Assembly convened in January for its 2018 session, lawmakers worked with Dominion to create legislation that would enact a sweeping overhaul of utility regulation. Nearly identical versions have passed both the House and Senate and are now working their way through committees. Here are the key consumer impacts of the bills”

2-21-18 DeSmog. Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests. “On the heels of Iowa and Ohio, Wyoming has become the third state to introduce a bill criminalizing the type of activities undertaken by past oil and gas pipeline protesters. One of the Wyoming bill’s co-sponsors even says it was inspired by the protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access pipeline, and a sheriff involved in policing those protests testified in support of the bill at a recent hearing. Wyoming’s bill is essentially a copy-paste version of template legislation produced by the conservative, corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

2-20-18 Charlotte Business Journal. Atlantic Coast Pipeline price tag could hit $6.5B, Duke Energy CEO says. “The latest estimate is about 30% more than the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline was projected to cost when Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. announced it in September 2014.”

2-20-18 The Bitter Southerner. A Pipeline in the Sand. “If its developers succeed, the 594-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline will run from West Virginia to a terminus in Robeson County, North Carolina — the ancestral land of the Lumbee tribe, the largest Native American community east of the Mississippi River. For centuries, the Lumbees have united to face invasive forces from man and industry. But with their home county looking for any source of jobs, the tribe is wrestling with itself over whether the pipeline should come through.”

2-20-18 The Robesonian.  Letter to Editor: ACP owners pick a path that will devastate scenic landscapes. “A recent Facebook posting from a resident along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stated that she was looking out at the mountain near her home, and wondering if this was the last time she would see the beautiful view. The ugly scar of tree clearing is starting for the ACP, and for her, for us, and for tens of thousands, some of our most beautiful views will be lost forever if this project continues. The ACP didn’t have to do this to us. They could have collocated the pipeline with existing cleared rights of way, some of which they already own. In fact, they ignored a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission directive to do just that, and the commission still approved the project.”

2-19-18 State joins groups to ask feds to rescind PennEast decision. “The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with state legislators, has joined conservation groups in asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its decision to certify the need for the PennEast natural gas pipeline. …. FERC’s ruling paved the way for PennEast to start the condemnation proceedings for the 36-inch diameter pipeline that would enter Hunterdon County north of Milford then run parallel to the Delaware River, east of Frenchtown and Lambertville. PennEast has filed more than 120 lawsuits in federal court seeking to condemn land under the federal power of eminent domain to acquire the easements for the pipeline. The state is asking FERC to stop the condemnation process, saying that the environmental impacts to two-thirds of the route are still unknown. The DEP are also argues that there are ‘fundamental flaws’ in the FERC approval.”

2-19-18 StateImpact Pennsylvania. Landowners brace for eminent domain loss in PennEast pipeline cases. “[A]nother Carbon County landowner who has refused PennEast’s compensation offers, said he doesn’t object to eminent domain if it’s used for a project that is clearly in the public interest, but he argued that doesn’t apply to PennEast. ‘If you’re building a turnpike and someone says, ‘You can’t come through here,’ you have to have a mechanism to get that land,’ Christman said. ‘The difference between the turnpike and this pipeline is that everybody gets to use the Pennsylvania Turnpike if they pay their toll. Here, the people who will benefit are the companies.'”

2-19-18 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]  S.C. lawmakers call for law enforcement probe of bogus pro-utility emails. “Lawmakers have demanded an investigation into a pro-utility email lobbying campaign that used people’s names and addresses without their knowledge. The push for an investigation comes less than a day after The Post and Courier revealed a string of cookie-cutter, pro-utility emails that impersonated average South Carolinians. The fake messages appear geared to pressure lawmakers to support Dominion Energy’s proposed $14.6 billion takeover of SCANA Corp.”

2-19-18 Washington Post.  Judge refuses to delay hearing on pipeline land acquisition. “A federal judge has refused to postpone a hearing in a lawsuit brought by developers seeking possession of land in several Virginia counties for a controversial pipeline project. Atlantic Coast Pipeline is seeking possession of several properties in Augusta, Bath, Buckingham and Cumberland counties for the natural gas pipeline, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The judge declined Monday to postpone a Feb. 26 hearing regarding land in Bath County, but he ordered developers to turn over more information and gave property owners more time to respond. Disputes over land in other counties also will be addressed at next Monday’s hearing.”

2-18-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Commentary: Tide is turning on Dominion Energy. “At first, it looked like the same old Richmond ritual that has played out ad nauseam over the past several decades. Dominion Energy was back at the General Assembly last month with its latest attempt to defang regulators and keep electricity rates artificially inflated for the more than two-thirds of the commonwealth’s residents in its monopolized territory. …. But here’s where the company miscalculated, apparently forgetting that it isn’t 2007 or 2015 anymore. This year, Virginians have mounted a forceful response, and if our elected leaders see the writing on the wall, Dominion isn’t going to get away with this. Perhaps Dominion did not notice that 13 of the freshman legislators elected in November took a pledge not to accept any Dominion campaign contributions, an indication of the public relations nightmare that the company’s ruthless push for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has become.

2-18-18 Roanoke Times. MVP’s contractor ran into environmental problems during construction of other pipelines. “A construction company hired to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline worked on three similar projects that were cited by environmental regulators, who found mountainsides turned to muddy slopes and streams clogged with sediment. The three developers of the natural gas pipelines, two in West Virginia and one in Pennsylvania, failed to comply with plans to control erosion, sediment or industrial waste, according to enforcement actions taken by state regulators. Precision Pipeline, a Wisconsin company that is a primary contractor for Mountain Valley, played a role in the construction of the earlier projects. Opponents of the Mountain Valley project fear that the pipeline will bring the same problems to Southwest Virginia, which features mountainous terrain similar to that in West Virginia and Pennsylvania where pipelines were built. Those worries were heightened by news that the same contractor will be doing the work.”

2-18-18 The quagmire of eminent domain and pipelines. “We all know the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence with its resounding proclamation that all men are created equal and possess the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ But in early drafts on the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson leaned more explicitly on the writings of political and economic philosopher John Locke, declaring we all possessed the ‘unalienable’ rights of ‘life, liberty and property.’ Which may explain why Americans view private property rights almost as an article of faith today. Two major infrastructure projects in Virginia — the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast pipelines — have brought the issue of private property rights into sharp focus as the giant energy companies pushing construction of these natural gas pipelines have turned to the weapon of last resort to obtain the easements and rights of way needed before construction can begin: eminent domain. In plain English, the governmental power to take private property, with ‘just compensation,’ for a public purpose.”

2-17-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Letter to editor: Dominion deserves its villainous reputation. “I commend your reporters Robert Zullo, Patrick Wilson, and Graham Moomaw for their excellent work on Dominion Energy. Their news stories have been like a tutorial on the company and Virginia legislators. The news article that stuck with me was, ‘Senate committee kills bill to ban campaign donations from public service corporations.’ Senate Bill 10, if it passed, could have ended campaign donations to lawmakers from public service corporations such as Dominion. …. In the past two years, Dominion has donated more than $2.2 million to Virginia legislators. Wouldn’t that money have been better spent updating and improving the power grid? Perhaps it’s time Dominion’s shareholders step up and ban or limit the amount that may be donated to political campaigns. Perhaps the shareholders can restore some public trust and dignity to Dominion Energy. Otherwise, it’s politics as usual.”

2-16-18 NBC29. Dominion Energy Introduces Interactive Map for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy introduced an interactive map for people to stay updated on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s construction. The map shows the current route and timeline of construction project within specific regions.”

2-16-18 News & Observer. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not bring the jobs that it claims. [This article focuses on NC, but the same analysis holds true for Virginia.] “It doesn’t take much to pull the curtain back on the economic projections conducted by the pipeline to realize its promises are a fantasy. And, yet, here we are. The analyses used to determine economic development rely solely on broad-sweeping assumptions that, once unpacked, do not hold water. …. A spokesperson for Dominion Energy admitted that Dominion customers may end up paying between $1.6 billion and $2.36 billion more after the ACP is built, in testimony to Virginia. This points to an alarmingly inadequate evaluation of a multi-billion dollar pipeline that will cost ratepayers billions of dollars, could result in epic environmental disaster, and creates false hopes for struggling regions….”

2-16-18 Power for the People. After losing a vote on the double dip, is Dominion losing Power? “An earthquake shook Richmond, Virginia on the afternoon of Monday, February 12, rocking the House of Delegates just as it was supposed to be passing HB 1558, Dominion Energy’s Ratepayer Rip-Off Act of 2018. The bill was intended to help the utility lock in stupendous unearned profits for its parent company, courtesy of the monopoly’s captive customers, under the guise of supporting clean energy and grid investments. And the bill did pass the House, but only after delegates adopted an amendment offered by Minority Leader David Toscano stripping away a lucrative provision that Dominion both desperately wanted and swore didn’t exist: the infamous “double dip” that the SCC has said would allow Dominion to charge customers more than twice over for a large portfolio of infrastructure projects. With billions of dollars worth of projects on the drawing board, the double dip meant serious money. …. The earthquake could be felt over at Dominion headquarters, where reporters could be seen inspecting the foundation for damage. CEO Tom Farrell called in his damage control specialists, heavy-hitting lobbyists Eva Teig Hardy and Bill Thomas, to persuade legislators to support the Senate version of the bill over the House version—or failing that, to lard it up with new favors to the utilities. …. In the past, good arguments were not a requirement for Dominion to get what it wants; political power has always been enough. It will be interesting to see now whether Dominion emerges with some semblance of its omnipotence intact, or whether this earthquake presages new shocks that could crack the fortress.”

2-16-18 The Inter-Mountain [WV]. Elkins votes on camping ordinance. “Elkins City Council is considering an ordinance that would outlaw ‘unauthorized camping,’ just as an influx of workers for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to descend on Randolph County. Council approved on the first of two required readings Thursday a proposed ordinance that defines ‘unauthorized camping’ and would make it illegal on both public and private property within city limits.”

2-15-18 Blue Virginia. Here comes the sun … though Virginia remains solar straggler.  “Former Governor Terry McAuliffe exclaimed, more than once, that Virginia was a true leader in solar power, with growth rates that should amaze one and all. …. Pulling back the curtains on Virginia solar left one scratching one’s head trying to figure out the justification for this. ”

2-14-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: BZA stands up to Dominion. “On Feb. 5, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals did something very unusual: Unlike many other Virginia governmental bodies, its members actually stood up to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and insisted that Dominion play by the rules instead of running roughshod over local citizens’ rights. …. To every member of the BZA: Thank you. Your neighbors are grateful to you for having the rare courage to prioritize our interests — and the law — over Dominion’s profit-seeking.”

2-14-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Dominion didn’t do homework. “In regard to the recent article in the Nelson County Times about the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals’ actions on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s application for variances to cross more than four miles of Nelson floodplains, I commend the diligence of the BZA and the Department Planning & Zoning staff. I am most grateful for their attention to detail. However, I find myself left with more questions than answers regarding the ACP’s quoted responses in the article.”

2-14-18 Groups file legal challenge to PennEast’s federal OK. “The battle against the PennEast pipeline is ramping up, with two conservation groups formally requesting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reverse its decision to certify the need for the $1 billion project. The action comes after PennEast filed more than 120 lawsuits in federal court seeking to condemn land under the federal power of eminent domain to acquire the easements for the pipeline. FERC’s ruling paved the way for PennEast to start the condemnation proceedings for the 110-mile pipeline from northeastern Pennsylvania to Mercer County. The 36-inch diameter pipeline would enter Hunterdon County north of Milford then run parallel to the Delaware River, east of Frenchtown and Lambertville, before connecting with another pipeline near Pennington in Mercer County. But the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook–Millstone Watershed Association are asking FERC to rescind its decision that the pipeline is needed. ‘FERC ignored volumes of evidence from experts demonstrating that the region PennEast purports to be serving has more than enough gas and that the PennEast pipeline is not needed,’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, NJ Conservation. ‘There is clearly no benefit to this proposed project, yet PennEast has already started the eminent domain process to take property from more than 100 landowners in New Jersey alone.’ The group are challening the Jan. 18 ruling because significant amounts of data concerning environmental impacts still have not been provided by PennEast. ‘FERC failed to consider the magnitude of the damage that PennEast would cause to our water, land and natural resources — and acted before New Jersey had its chance to review the project’s harm to natural resources — and we will not stand by while these natural resources are lost for a project that is unneeded and unwanted by the people of New Jersey,’ said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association.”

2-14-18 [Raleigh NC]. $11M in environmental mitigation for pipeline permit. “The two power companies behind a controversial pipeline that will run through ten counties in North Carolina agreed to pay $11 million in environmental mitigation costs as part of the permitting process through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, WBTV has learned. The $11 million of mitigation funds is separate from a second fund that was made public hours after DEQ announced the pipeline permits had been approved.”

2-14-18 E&E News/Energywire. Libertarian group eyes eminent domain reform on Capitol Hill.  “A libertarian think tank is looking to Congress for stronger protections for landowners in the path of natural gas pipelines. The Niskanen Center is launching a lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill to push amendments to the Natural Gas Act that would tweak the way eminent domain is used for interstate gas pipelines, among other changes. ‘We’re going to aim to get a nonpartisan group together to say, “We’ve got some problems here. How do we protect or enhance the protection for property owners without adversely affecting the permitting for energy infrastructure?”‘ Niskanen chief counsel David Bookbinder told E&E News. ‘We think it’s possible.'”

2-13-18 Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Clean Water Advocates Challenge Army Corps of Engineers on Fracked Gas Pipeline Water Quality Review. “Today, a coalition of clean water advocates filed a suit contending the United States Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued a crucial permit for the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. Under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps is charged with issuing a permit for the pipelines’ stream crossings that allows the project’s builders to trench through the bottom of those streams, including the Greenbrier, Elk, and Gauley Rivers, and fill the crossings with dirt during construction of the pipeline. Before the Army Corps can issue this permit, the state in which construction will occur must certify the pipeline’s construction will not degrade the state’s water quality. The permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline by the Army Corps is commonly known as a ‘nationwide’ permit, which takes a one-size-fits-all approach that can only be used when a state has done the necessary water quality analysis. Since West Virginia waived its right to do that analysis, the Army Corps can not legally issue the section 404 permit for construction of the pipeline in West Virginia. If successful, this suit will require the Army Corps or the state of West Virginia to do another water quality impact review before the pipeline can be built through that state.”

2-13-18 Huffington Post. Virginia Democrats Score A Surprising Win Against Powerful Utility Monopoly. “It was supposed to be an uneventful Monday evening in Virginia’s House of Delegates ? another moment for lawmakers from both parties to come together in the spirit of bipartisanship to give free rein to the state’s two electric power monopolies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power. Instead, six House Republicans joined all 49 Democrats to pass an amendment that placed a serious check on the monopolies’ power mere days after their colleagues in the Senate decided to give them a blank check. The vote demonstrated the desire of a Democratic caucus that has sometimes been criticized for its coziness with the monopolies to heed the populist appeals of its constituents. ‘It’s clear that the grassroots will not stand for business as usual. Now is the time to continue pushing to ensure … that the regulated do not become the regulators,’ said Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul (D), a leading monopoly critic in the House. For Dominion, which, as the larger of the two utilities and top campaign donor, is sometimes considered the most powerful force in Virginia politics, the defeat was especially humbling.”

2-12-18 Backpacker. The Fight Against a Pipeline Along the Appalachian Trail. “A lawsuit hasn’t been enough to stop construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a proposed 300-mile natural gas pipeline that would cross the Appalachian Trail and some of the region’s largest national forests on its way, from starting as soon as this month. …. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal calls for drilling through the Blue Ridge Mountains, in areas that have a history of landslides and debris flows, and along narrow ridgelines. If they’re able to achieve that technically challenging feat, says David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, the changes to those ridgelines and aquatic habitats will be irreparable. In 35 years of working on conservation in Virginia, he can’t recall a project that has promised to so deeply transform the state’s forests and waterways.”

2-12-18 Bloomberg Business Week. A Powerful Mix of Solar and Batteries Is Beating Natural Gas. “Natural gas is getting edged out of power markets across the U.S. by two energy sources that, together, are proving to be an unbeatable mix: solar and batteries.”

12-12-18 Huffington Post. What A Battle Over Virginia’s Most Powerful Monopoly Can Teach Democrats Everywhere. A long but excellent analysis and summary of Dominion’s dominance in Virginia. “Consumer advocates were amazed that a utility monopoly had successfully shepherded a law that shielded it from regulation ― even temporarily. ‘What Dominion was able to accomplish in 2015 is pretty remarkable,’ said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, senior policy counsel at the Washington-based Consumer Union. It has little if any precedent in other states, where utilities are also frequently powerful political forces, according to Baker-Branstetter. ‘I’m not aware of another case where this has happened on this scale ― certainly not in recent memory,’ she said. John Howat, senior energy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center, offered a damning assessment. ‘In most states, the regulator has at least the option of doing its job. They can issue orders and decisions and open their own proceedings. There are all kinds of avenues to accomplish the regulatory duties that these statutorily authorized agencies have,’ Howat said. ‘In Virginia, that’s out the window, and the ratepayer is left holding the bag as a result.'”

2-10-18 Daily Progress. Pipeline sues Wintergreen property owners citing eminent domain. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC is suing Nelson County property owners to gain land for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, which is set to emerge from the mountain and pass along a ridge right next to the popular Wintergreen Resort. The company, which is majority owned by Dominion Energy, sued the Wintergreen Property Owners Association Friday in the United States Court for the Western District of Virginia for seven and a half acres. The suit cites eminent domain, or the governmental power to take private property for public use. The company has made several efforts to buy the land, but it and the association have never been able to agree about adequate compensation, according to the lawsuit. In a release on Friday, the association repeated its opposition to the location of the pipeline. The association represents 3,700 property owners in Nelson County, and the proposed pipeline would pass right next to the resort and the association’s front gate. ‘However, based on the law of eminent domain and the history of these cases in Federal Court, we expect that a court of law will grant the access necessary for the project to proceed,’ the association said in the release. In the release, the association said it would pursue a mediation process. Federal court filings show that the pipeline has sued nearly 50 property owners since December in Highland, Bath, Augusta, Buckingham and Nelson counties. On Jan. 31, the pipeline also sued the owners of the Fenton Inn, a Bavarian-style bed-and-breakfast near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen Resort, for less than one acre.”

2-9-18 Blue Virginia. More on the McAuliffe-Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline Mitigation Agreement. “The agreement between Dominion Energy and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a liability waiver for the inevitable harm to water resources that will result from construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In exchange for paying for water monitoring, it seems that the State will exempt Dominion from liability for damage to water resources that might be revealed by the water monitoring. …. ‘Enhanced Water Quality Monitoring. Atlantic agrees to transfer funds in the amount of $700,000 to the United States Geological Survey (“USGS”) to pay for water quality monitoring requirements of the Commonwealth.’ This $700,000 is part of $19,200,000 to be distributed among Water Quality Mitigation Partners (including the USGS), in exchange for which, the parties, including the State, agree that ‘such amount fully satisfies any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets all water quality impacts caused by forest fragmentation that are not otherwise avoided by Atlantic’s construction methods and environmental protection measures.”Finally, it should be recognized that the water monitoring in question is limited. It only involves 7 streams, among the many that will be impacted by the ACP route in Virginia.’ …. Finally, it should be recognized that the water monitoring in question is limited. It only involves 7 streams, among the many that will be impacted by the ACP route in Virginia.”

2-9-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Virginia Senate passes utility regulation overhaul. “Despite floor speeches from lawmakers from both parties calling it a mistake, the state Senate voted 26-13 on Friday to pass the utility regulatory reform package endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam and spearheaded by Dominion Energy, Virginia’s biggest utility. ‘Let’s be honest,’ said Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City. ‘This bill is being written to benefit … an industry giant.'”

2-9-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline files eminent-domain suit against Nelson County family. “The right of way sought by the ACP contains land on which the Fenton Inn sits. The Fenton Inn, a Bavarian village-style bed-and-breakfast off Virginia 664 near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wintergreen Resort, opened nearly two years ago. …. ACP has not yet reached agreements with all landowners on the route in Nelson County, but no eminent domain suits have been filed against other Nelson landowners. Most ACP construction in Nelson is slated for 2019, Ruby said. In the case of the Fentons, the company seeks the easements because it plans to start construction on the land this year, Ruby said. Construction in the area focuses on horizontal directional drilling that will be used to bore beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway. ACP’s suit seeks ‘immediate possession of the Easements prior to the determination of just compensation.’ Such a judgment by the court would allow ACP to move toward construction without having to wait for a final determination on how much a landowner deserves for the easement on his or her property. In all eminent domain cases, if ACP is granted easements or immediate entry onto properties, ACP still would only be allowed to perform permitted activities. In Virginia, ACP cannot conduct full-scale construction yet and is allowed only to fell trees in upland areas with handheld equipment. …. The Fentons’ case is set for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26 in Lynchburg.”

2-8-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Major Democratic donor in Virginia aims to counter Dominion donations with his own money.  “A major Democratic donor is planning to counter what he calls “legalized corruption” at the Virginia General Assembly by putting up his own money to fund candidates who swear off donations from Dominion Energy. Michael D. Bills, a Charlottesville investor who was one of the top donors to Gov. Ralph Northam’s campaign in the 2017 cycle, says he’ll offer thousands of dollars to sitting delegates and state senators who sign a pledge to refuse any money or gifts from Dominion and divest any personal investments in the company.”

2-7-18 The Recorder. Editorial: U.S. Forest Service: Watchdog or unfaithful servant? “We’re glad the Southern Environmental Law Center and The Sierra Club acted on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups and filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Forest Service over a grant recently issued to developers of the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Political pressure forced approval of this boondoggle through steep slopes and landslide-prone areas on a treasured national forest, a SELC senior attorney noted. Forest service staff warned of the impacts this project would have, but the agency ignored them and granted special exceptions to let these pipeline developers get their way. Let’s unpack this for a minute. Before the current administration took charge in January 2017, the forest service seemed much more pro-active when it came to environmental protection and the proposed pipeline. That’s when the warnings were issued. Nowadays, the forest service is playing the role of the devoted unquestioning servant to a boss entrenched by the fossil fuel industry and unmindful of the vast, pristine natural treasures our region possesses. We’re convinced that’s why the forest service is now ignoring its previous cautions.”

2-7-18  New US Renewable Energy Capacity Beats Natural Gas For Fourth Year Running, Renewables Now Account For Over 20%. “For the fourth year in a row, new US electricity capacity from renewable energy sources surpassed those from natural gas, and accounted for half of all new capacity additions, according to recent figures published by the country’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. New electricity capacity from renewable energy sources — including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind — accounted for 49.85% of all new capacity installed during 2017, which totaled 24,614 MW (megawatts), meaning that there was 12,270 MW worth of new renewable energy capacity. New natural gas capacity accounted for 48.67%, with the remaining new capacity being served by waste heat (0.89%), nuclear (0.41%), and oil ( 0.16%). There was no new coal capacity added during 2017. These are the key statistics from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) latest issue of its Energy Infrastructure Update (PDF) which includes data through to the end of 2017. Ken Bossong’s Sun Day Campaign highlighted these statistics in an email on Wednesday.”

2-7-18 Roanoke Times. Hadwin: No, cold wave doesn’t show need for pipeline. [Hadwin served as an executive for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York. He lives in Waynesboro.] “Dominion Energy recently claimed — in several news stories and in an op-ed that ran in the January 15 Roanoke Times (“Extreme cold shows need for new pipelines”) — that the “recent cold spell demonstrated a need for new pipeline infrastructure in Virginia.” This misrepresents what really happened and proposes a solution that is wholly unnecessary and very expensive for the people of Virginia…. Dominion made it sound as if we had gas shortages throughout Virginia. What really happened was that 10 industrial customers of Virginia Natural Gas volunteered to cut back on some of their gas usage in exchange for lower rates. This voluntary curtailment involved 90 fewer industrial customers than during the polar vortex in 2013-2014. Virginia Natural Gas is owned by Southern Company, an owner of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Transco, the nation’s largest pipeline, runs through our state. During this winter’s severe cold, Dominion said it relied on Transco for about 75 percent of its gas supply, including service to its newest power plant in Southside Virginia. Public utilities in North Carolina relied on the Transco system for 100 percent of the state’s supply during the cold spell, according to Dominion. Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the owners of the Transco system, said their pipelines ‘performed remarkably’ during the cold weather. ‘It’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s a testament to the system that we have,’ he said. The nation has more than enough pipeline capacity. In the past ten years, the U.S. added pipeline capacity that is 60 percent greater than our average national gas use, and 30 percent greater than our peak usage. Transco intends to add more than the capacity of Dominion’s proposed ACP to its existing system before the end of this year. And Columbia Gas, a pipeline that has reliably served Virginia for decades, will add almost as much capacity as the ACP in West Virginia and Virginia this year.”

2-6-18 New York Times. Why a Big Utility Is Embracing Wind and Solar. “In parts of the country, wind and solar plants built from scratch now offer the cheapest power available, even counting old coal, which was long seen as unbeatable. …. Across its eight-state system, Xcel predicts that well over half its electricity will come from renewable sources by the mid-2020s. It will be one of the cleanest large utility companies in the country.”

2-6-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Del. Lee Ware (R) Quotes Gimli from Lord of the Rings, Calls for Heroic Fight Against “Dominion Bill” and For the “Little Guy”. “Check out the video below for a great speech earlier today by Del. Lee Ware (R), quoting the dwarf Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movie and utterly demolishing the so-called “Dominion bill.” As Gimli said, before taking on the forces of Mordor, “Certainty of death, small chance of success– what are we waiting for?” Well, the same question can be asked, Del. Ware suggests, about Virginia’s own dark lord, Dominion Energy, and its legion of orcs…er, lobbyists. The question is, Del. Ware asks, whether the General Assembly will have the courage to stand up to Dominion’s dark army and to fight for the “little guy” for a change. We’re going to find out soon enough…”

2-6-18 CBS19. Atlantic Coast Pipeline files first lawsuit. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline recently filed a lawsuit against the Fenton Inn, according to documents from the Friends of Wintergreen. This the first eminent domain lawsuit filed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Fenton Inn is located near the Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County.”

2-6-18 NBC29. Environmental Activists React to McAuliffe, Dominion Energy Deal. “A $58 million deal between Dominion Energy and the state in regard to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will help cover costs to address some of the pipeline’s impacts. …. But something people might not know about it is that this particular deal was made during the final days of Terry McAuliffe’s time in office, and some are not happy about it. ‘It was not a good deal, it was really not transparent and clean government,’ says Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club. The deal was made as Governor Terry McAuliffe’s time in office drew to a close. Bowers says that McAuliffe also signed two deals with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. ‘These agreements were supposed to protect our water and our historic resources, and both reasons of the state, but he didn’t tell anybody that he was going to make these agreements,’ says Bowers. …. The money is going to a number of state environmental organizations. ‘Albemarle County actually receives some of this money that’s being paid to the state, but the pipeline doesn’t go through the county,’ says Bowers.”

2-5-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Wall Street’s losing faith in Dominion Energy’s $8 Billion takeover of South Carolina utility. “For the clearest sign yet that Dominion Energy Inc.’s $7.9 billion takeover of South Carolina utility SCANA Corp. is in trouble, check out the stock price. The gap between SCANA’s share price and the price that Richmond-based Dominion has offered to pay for the utility is the widest since the companies announced the merger in January. On Monday, the stock traded even lower than it did before the takeover. SCANA shares closed at $37.44, down 4.42 percent. The company’s stock had closed at $38.87 the day before the deal with Dominion was announced. That demonstrates that Wall Street has lost all confidence in the deal getting done as is, according to analysts.”

2-5-18 News Virginian. Opinion: It’s about more than ‘just’ a pipeline. “At this month’s [Augusta County] Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Dominion proposed a 34-acre contractor yard off Route 42/Scenic Highway in Churchville, which is currently zoned agriculture. This proposed site was not discussed with neighboring property owners, including the family-run organic farm, Dancing Star Farm. This site was not included in any submitted plans to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as other contractor yard sites have been. …. Dominion has not completed a traffic study to determine how 400 to 600 workers and heavy machinery coming and going would affect the two-lane, curvy country road. This location is not appropriate, regardless of how you feel about the overall project. It is not close to the highway or freight so every pipe and piece of machinery will be brought in by truck. We don’t have answers on whether Dominion will repair any roads that are degraded. This is just another example of Dominion’s disrespect not only to the landowners who will have their land seized and have to live with a massive, dirty, explosive pipeline every day, but the disrespect to our community as a whole. It is disrespectful of them to think our community is not worth the appropriate studies and research. Even if you are supportive of this project, don’t you want it to be done in a safe, responsible manner? We should demand detailed plans on how exactly we will be impacted and how issues will be resolved when things go wrong. Even the best planned project will have issues and currently we don’t have answers on who is responsible and how things will be mitigated.”

2-5-18 News & Advance. Nelson board dismisses seven pipeline permitting requests, grants deferral on four others. “During its meeting Monday night, the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed “for lack of standing” applications for variances from the ACP to cross seven properties in floodplain areas in the county. Seven of the 11 total variance applications submitted by the ACP were dismissed Monday because the ACP has not obtained easement agreements yet for those seven properties. The lack of easement agreements constitutes the ‘lack of standing’ required by Virginia law for such variance applications, according to the BZA’s legal counsel, David Shreve. The BZA unanimously approved each of the seven dismissals following a closed session Monday with Shreve. …. For the four properties for which the ACP has obtained easement agreements, the BZA unanimously granted a request for deferral by the ACP.”

2-5-18   Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners, seeking to build on holdout properties, file court motion.  “There’s a new push to speed up the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) moving into Hampton Roads. This development comes in the form of federal court filings, which ask the federal court to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline partners immediate entry onto private property through easements, even if those holdout landowners haven’t reached an agreement with the pipeline. ‘The ACP wants the court to say they have the power of eminent domain, and second that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction that would mean the property owners can’t stop them from coming on the properties, clearing trees, clearing the right of way, trenching and installing gas transmission lines,’ said Steve Clarke, an attorney who represents landowners who have refused to settle with the ACP. Dominion Energy says that approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval gave them a green light for the 600-mile pipeline, even though they don’t have all the permits yet. Clarke says Dominion shouldn’t go onto anyone’s property until all the ACP permits are in hand”

2-5-18 Press release from Governor Northam. Governor Northam Statement on Rate Freeze Repeal Legislation. Includes key details of the suggested changes the Governor’s working group made to the bill’s patrons.

2-5-18 Blue Virginia. Three-Time Sellout: Terry McAuliffe’s Secret Mountain Valley Pipeline Deals and The Smoking Gun They Reveal. “On Friday, February 2, we published “Secret Sellout or Pay to Play?,” a Blue Virginia exclusive. Our article exposed what until then in Virginia had been a secret Memorandum of Understanding signed in December by the administration of then Governor Terry McAuliffe with political power broker Dominion Energy regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. But Friday’s Blue Virginia piece was only half of the story. It turns out the full story is much worse. Because we now know that McAuliffe made not one, not two, but three secret pipeline agreements in late December. A second agreement, which Blue Virginia is now publishing here exclusively for the first time (see below), gives the builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline the same full waivers for damage to Virginia’s forests and water resources as were given to the ACP. …. A third secret agreement, which we also now publish here exclusively (also see below), concedes that the Mountain Valley Pipeline “will result in an adverse effect to historic properties” and has the MVP companies paying $2.5 million (possibly a bit more) in return for – you guessed it – a full release from any future responsibility. But that’s not even the worst part of this story. For anyone who cares about clean and transparent government, for anyone troubled by the outsized influence Dominion Energy has over politics – and politicians – in Virginia, you need to sit down and take a deep, deep breath. Because the real scandal is what the Mountain Valley agreements, both signed on December 22, tell us about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline agreement that was signed six days later, on December 28. And what they tell us is this: Terry McAuliffe sold Virginia’s permit approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for $58 million in a blatant pay-to-play scheme.”

2-4-18 Virginian-Pilot. Editorial: A bad mix of politics and electricity. “Dominion Energy Virginia is as close to a monopoly as exists in the commonwealth. The company provides electricity to about 2.5 million customers in Virginia, easily the largest market share among utility companies, and its involvement in public affairs extends almost as far as its power lines. There are a great many things that Dominion does well, but its penchant for throwing its weight around in Richmond is not among them. …. So much of this debate — the wrangling with lawmakers, advocacy groups and members of the public — is due to a lack of faith in the company’s behavior. The distrust is painfully evident and should be deeply troubling to Dominion. As it proceeds, the company would do well to consider how its actions have poisoned the atmosphere. If it uses this opportunity, this debate, to repair its relationship with customers, Dominion may find that outcome more valuable than any piece of legislation.”

2-3-18 Gas pipeline opponents charged with trespassing during sit-in at Cooper’s office. “Fifteen activists demanding the state rescind a permit allowing construction of a natural gas pipeline in eastern North Carolina were charged with trespassing Friday evening during a sit-in at Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. …. Activists complained that the permit was issued before Duke and Dominion supplied all the required information, a decision they claim was influenced by the utilities’ agreement to put $57.8 million into a fund to expand renewable energy in the state and to ensure communities near the pipeline have access to the natural gas for economic development. ‘We campaigned for [Cooper], but little did we know that he would sell us out for $57.8 million,’ Northampton County resident Belinda Joyner said. ‘Little did we know that supporting him would get us a slap in the face for standing up for what’s supposed to be rightfully ours.’ Eastern north Carolina has been a dumping ground, they said, for dangerous substances for years, from PCBs to coal ash to the planned gas pipeline. They also compared Cooper’s opposition to offshore drilling with the approval for the pipeline. ‘You chose to stand against drilling off of our coast. At the same time, you allowed an unwanted, unneeded, unsafe fracked gas pipeline to tear through our farms, our dreams, our homes and, most of all, our families….'”

2-2-18 How Pipelines are Changing the Dynamics of PA Forests. Fragmentation from pipelines is a major problem. PA is seeing the effects on birds and other species. “Some migratory birds need the deep, dark cover of Pennsylvania’s forests to breed. But natural gas development has cut into their habitat. And it’s prompting a call for a mindful approach to pipeline construction. Lillie Langlois is a researcher and instructor at Penn State University, and she studied aerial images to map natural gas development in Lycoming County over a number of years. Langlois and her colleagues found that linear infrastructure like pipelines and roads had a bigger impact on carving up forests — and affecting the wildlife habitat within them — than the drilling well pads themselves.”

2-2-18 News & Advance. Nelson pipeline hearings this month may be put on hold. “Permitting discussions for Atlantic Coast Pipeline floodplain crossings that began in Nelson County in January may be put on hold following a request this week from the project developer. In a letter to the county’s planning and zoning department dated Jan. 31, Dominion’s Vice President for Pipeline Construction Leslie Hartz, on behalf of the ACP, requested a deferral of public hearings on variance applications for 11 floodplain crossings in Nelson, currently scheduled for Feb. 12. The deferral request from ACP essentially would put a pause on the Nelson variance process. Securing the variances is a necessary step before the pipeline can be constructed in the designated floodplain areas, and pipeline opponents had been expected to turn out en masse for the hearing. If the request is accepted by the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals — the body considering the variance requests — the Feb. 12 hearings would not take place, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Sandy Shackelford.

2-2-18 Blue Virginia.  Secret Sellout or Pay to Play? Terry McAuliffe’s Parting Gift to Dominion Energy and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Did Terry McAuliffe sell out Virginia right before he left office? Or did he do something even worse? Did McAuliffe accept $58 million (paid to various entities) in a pay to play scheme to guarantee Virginia would approve Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline?  In late December, the then-outgoing Virginia Governor, a longtime cheerleader for the ACP, committed the state to a secret Memorandum of Understanding with Dominion and its pipeline partners. This agreement, apparently never before reported in Virginia, let Dominion buy its way out of paying for damages to Virginia’s forests and water quality caused by construction of, and possibly by operation of, the ACP. And McAuliffe did this before the pipeline has even been approved – it still has not been approved – much less built.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Terry McAuliffe gave Dominion a full and complete release from any and all damage to Virginia’s forests and water from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ”  This story was reported on February 2, 2018, in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

2-1-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Beth Little: Only way around law for Atlantic Coast Pipeline is to trample over it. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could not be built through the Monongahela National Forest without violating the law, so the law has been suspended. I will explain. I say ‘suspended’ because the amendments to the forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan included in the permit issued by the Forest Service are ‘project-specific plan amendments.’ They apply only to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The Construction Operations & Maintenance Plan wasn’t available for comment when the draft environmental impact statement was issued. When the final statement was issued on July 21, 2017, it was labeled a draft with critical sections missing. It wasn’t until October 27, 2017, three months later, that a final version was identified in the Forest Service Record of Decision. How could Federal Energy Regulation Commission properly evaluate the environmental consequences of the pipeline, when they didn’t have all the pertinent information? This has been the basis of media reports that several agencies have issued postponements after requesting more information. Why didn’t the commission postpone the environmental impact statement until they had a completed COM Plan? The Land Management Plan for the Monongahela National Forest took several years and thousands of hours of Forest Service personnel to develop at taxpayer expense. You might question whether it is appropriate that a private, for-profit company can arrange for a federal law to be brushed aside because they can’t abide by it. Dominion will tell you that their substitution is better; but, if so, why do they have to suspend the existing regulations? And why wasn’t the Construction Operations & Maintenance Plan available for public comment?”

2-1-18 News and Observer [NC]. The hidden dangers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Like a snake in the grass, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would threaten Eastern North Carolina with dangers that tend to go unseen until it is too late to stop them. The people who expect to make money off the fracked gas pipeline – Duke Energy and their corporate partners – are hoping that their ‘out of sight, out of mind’ strategy will allow them to slide the project by local residents until it is built. A corporate monopoly is ripe for abuse, especially when given the power of eminent domain.”

2-1-18 WHSV. Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals once again tables pipeline permit. “In Augusta County, the Board of Zoning Appeals once again tabled their decision on a special use permit request by Dominion Energy until their next meeting. The permit would allow Dominion Energy to set up a construction staging area on farm property in Churchville for two years while the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being built. Although the meeting was closed to public comments, it was heavily attended by opponents of the pipeline. With approximately 400 vehicles traveling through the 34-acre site each day, the board said they need to learn more about how traffic can safely access the site. ‘Those workers are going to be leaving there,’ said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of Augusta County Alliance, ‘traveling our roads, mixing with our school buses and our work traffic to get to wherever the pipe yard is, to get to wherever the work site is, and so we need to know what those impacts are.’ The board said that although representatives from Dominion did provide them with some answers to their questions, they still do not have enough information to make a decision on the permit. Major concerns brought up by the board were the lack of visibility at the approved entrance site, the volume of traffic traveling through the area, and the ability to screen around the site. ‘Why are we getting one little piece of the puzzle without the puzzle box that has the picture on it?’ asked Sorrells. ‘We need to know what Dominion’s plans are for the impacts in this county to our people.’ When the board discusses the permit again next month, they said they hope to have a VDOT representative attend to answer their questions. Citing several requests they received, the board said the next meeting will be open for public comment.”

2-1-18 E&E News. D.C. Circuit ruling could shut down pipeline. “A federal court may shut down a Southeast natural gas pipeline in a stunning rebuke of government regulators who approved the project. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday refused to revisit its 2017 ruling that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should have taken a closer look at climate impacts from the Sabal Trail pipeline. As soon as the court issues a formal mandate finalizing the decision, Sabal Trail’s federal certificates will be void, and operations will come to a halt. The D.C. Circuit is expected to issue the mandate next week. It’s unclear, however, what FERC and pipeline backers could do to attempt to stall the process, and it’s possible any interruption in pipeline operations would be short-lived. Still, the court’s decision is the strongest legal rebuke of FERC’s oversight since the rush to build out natural gas pipelines began several years ago.”

2-1-18 WWALS Watershed Coalition. Court rebukes Sabal Trail in pivotal case, may shut it down next week. “Yesterday FERC rubberstamped Sabal Trail’s five-month construction delay, but that same day the DC Circuit Court rejected all arguments by FERC and the pipeline company, and could mandate vacating the pipeline’s permit next week. Meanwhile, Sabal Trail already has been shut down, shipping mostly zero gas since mid-November, when it apparently lost one of its only two customers. According to an industry publication the case by Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is ‘the strongest legal rebuke of FERC’s oversight since the rush to build out natural gas pipelines began several years ago’ and ‘a pivotal moment in the evolution of pipeline opposition and broader climate accountability.'”

2-1-28 News Observator. Atlantic Coast Pipeline stirs mix of hope for jobs, leeriness by Native Americans. “U.S. Senator Tim Kaine wants a do-over. The Virginia Democrat has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will ferry fracked natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina. Two of five commission seats were vacant when the panel approved the project by a 2-1 vote in October 2017. Noting the commission is back at full staff, Kaine wants a re-vote saying ‘there is a real concern about whether the divided rulings by a partial Commission fairly reflect the FERC position.’ A handful of environmental groups, property owners and even a North Carolina state agency also want FERC — for various reasons — to reconsider their approval of the project. Along with issues related to greenhouse gasses, eminent domain and damage to wetlands and rivers, opponents also question whether a legitimate economic need exists for the ACP, and numerous other pipelines, that FERC has greenlighted to move natural gas from the Marcellus-Utica shale basin in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The project also reflects another growing dispute in America: Whether economic development projects have a disparate impact on communities of color.”

2-1-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Attend BZA’s Feb. 12 hearing. “Nelson County residents should be aware of what’s been happening in Pennsylvania regarding the Mariner East 2 natural gas pipeline. It may be a harbinger of what will happen here if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project isn’t stopped. An upcoming public hearing called by the Board of Zoning Appeals on Feb. 12 gives all of us a chance to weigh in on how to protect our county. …. However good Dominion’s promises of best practices and environmental sensitivity may sound, its own record and that of the industry indicates on-the-ground results that fail to match their promises. The process needs our constant scrutiny. The next significant opportunity to exercise that scrutiny is coming up. The Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing Monday, Feb. 12, on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s applications for 11 variances from the provisions of our local Flood Plain Ordinance in order to cross water bodies and flood plains. Friends of Nelson urges the public to attend this hearing and ask the BZA to strictly enforce the provisions of our local ordinance, designed to protect the citizens of the county from the practices cited above. The hearing will be held in the auditorium of Nelson County High School at 7 p.m.”

2-1-18 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor: Dominion’s empty promises. “Dominion’s pipeline plunder has entered a new phase now that trees are being cut in Buckingham County. The mega-corporation missed a grand opportunity on Day 1, when photographs taken on site showed every truck had out-of-state licenses. So much for their “local jobs” claim. If Dominion can’t find locals to fell trees, they certainly won’t be looking locally for skilled labor to do the more specialized work. …. Across the country, citizens’ property, livelihoods and safety are being stolen by corporations intent on one purpose only: profit. Empty promises of low energy costs and jobs never come to fruition. Explosions, polluted streams, stolen land and undrinkable water are left behind. Dominion is a prime example of corporate raiding of our environment and property: They bribe politicians with ‘contributions,’ refuse to invest in renewable energy because of the huge windfalls to be made by building pipelines for which they are guaranteed a 14 percent return and scam the “independent” State Corporation Commission into further rate freezes despite their already windfall-level profits from us, the ratepayers.”

2-1-18 Natural Resources Defense Council. Natural Gas Industry Admits New Pipelines Aren’t Needed. “Some proponents of new pipelines point to the recent cold snap and claim that more fracked gas pipeline capacity is needed to meet winter spikes in natural gas demand. However, the facts don’t back this up. Even in 2014, when the infamous “Polar Vortex” occurred, additional pipelines were not needed. On January 22, 2014, gas prices in the mid-Atlantic region exceeded $100/dekatherm when the 2014 average was only $4/dekatherm. Power prices reached $1000/MWh, when the 2014 average was $40/MWh. But the increased fracked gas prices weren’t due to too few pipelines. There was unused capacity on several pipelines supplying the region from production areas in the Marcellus and Utica basins. Rather, the price spike was the result of pipeline owners being allowed to restrict gas flow on their pipelines. They are not required to accept frequent changes in the amount or timing of gas scheduled to be delivered. This reduces the flexibility in the system needed to adjust to high demand. Skip to 2018, when we had another severe cold wave in the same region. This time, despite the so-called ‘bomb cyclone’ leading to some increasing demands on fracked gas, a natural gas price index lost more than 4.6 percent of its value. This calls into question any claims that more natural gas supply is needed in times of deep cold. My colleague Montina Cole has blogged about the over-capacity in the U.S. pipeline system: the United States now has enough pipeline capacity to carry 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day, but last year, average daily U.S. consumption was just 75 billion cubic feet. …. [A] spokesman for Williams, owner of the Transco pipeline, a would-be competitor of ACP, indicated ‘the infrastructure is in place right now to meet the current demand.'”

2-1-18 Roanoke Times. Federal judge puts a pause on Mountain Valley Pipeline construction plans. “With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans. The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon came during a proceeding in which Mountain Valley had sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to surrender their land for the controversial project. Although the laws of eminent domain give Mountain Valley the power to obtain forced easements for its buried pipeline, Dillon ruled, she rejected the company’s request for immediate access to the parcels. Facing a tight deadline to have trees felled along the pipeline’s route by March 31 to meet federal wildlife protections, Mountain Valley executed what’s called a quick-take condemnation. That process might have allowed the company to start work by Thursday on the disputed properties. But first, Mountain Valley was required to demonstrate it could pay the property owners just compensation for the easements — at prices to be determined at trials later, likely well after construction had begun. Such a demonstration would have included paying a bond or deposit with the court. At a hearing earlier this month, Mountain Valley presented appraisals for just nine of the nearly 300 properties, which Dillon said was insufficient information on which to base an appropriate bond amount.”

2-1-18 The Recorder. Planners slam pipeline permit applications. “Citing numerous errors and inadequacies, the Highland County Planning Commission on Jan. 25 voted to set one public hearing, but tabled two other land-use applications for Dominion to establish proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction lay-down material storage yards. Dominion calls them ‘satellite’ yards, even though there would be an estimated 30 big-rig trips in and out six days a week. Staff recommended planners proceed with a public hearing on rezoning applications for a proposed storage yard south of Monterey, in the former location of Jack Mountain Village, which was a worker camp for the Bath County Pumped Storage Station project decades ago. But zoning administrator Joshua Simmons noted there were numerous errors in the applications, particularly with respect to incorrect mailing addresses and partial omission of surrounding landowners. Citing errors, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s demand of a traffic study and unanswered questions about the application for a McDowell storage yard, planners tabled considering the rezoning and conditional use permit applications.”

January 2018

1-31-18 Carolina Journal. Virginia, N.C. pipeline deals differ greatly. “On its face, the agreement between the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Commonwealth of Virginia looks similar to the deal the pipeline operators signed with Gov. Roy Cooper. Both allow the pipeline to cross private and public property in each state and deliver natural gas to communities along the way, so long as the ACP follows federal and state environmental laws. Both involve payments of nearly $58 million. Leslie Hartz, a vice president of Dominion Energy, one of the pipeline’s partners, signed both documents. But the similarities largely end there. The Virginia agreement says ACP will pay to ‘mitigate’ any environmental impacts from the pipeline’s construction and operation. It spells out in detail the share of money addressing forest conservation and water quality (including wildlife protections). The agreement is between the pipeline operators and the state. Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward signed the document for the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Read the Virginia agreement here.) In contrast, the North Carolina deal merely states the money will go into an escrow account, and the governor ‘has the authority to direct the disbursement of funds contemplated in this Memorandum of Understanding … on behalf of the state of North Carolina.’ The money can go toward mitigation, but also for economic development and renewable energy projects — uses having nothing to do with environmental protection. The details will be spelled out in an executive order once the pipeline gets final approval by federal and state officials. The deal is between the pipeline operators and the governor of North Carolina. Cooper attorney William McKinney signed North Carolina’s memorandum. (Read the North Carolina agreement here.)”

1-30-18 NBC29. Lawsuit Filed Against FERC Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline Approval. “On January 29, 2018, attorneys representing Wild Virginia and ten other citizen groups filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, asking the court to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Members of the public have revealed gross deficiencies in the evidence and analysis supposedly justifying FERC’s issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity but the Commission has failed to acknowledge or correct those deficiencies. …. FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur echoed criticisms of the Commission’s analyses that have been presented by independent experts and citizens over the last three years, when she voted to deny approval for ACP. She judged that the purported benefits of the pipeline were not proven to outweigh the costs, the standard by which FERC is required to review such projects.”

1-30-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Regulators say Dominion’s legislation could lead to billions in additional costs charged to ratepayers. “State regulators say the package of utility legislation Dominion Energy is pushing this General Assembly session would keep customers from getting any refunds for at least six years, make it more difficult to lower base rates and potentially result “in billions of dollars of additional costs” for ratepayers. Delegates and senators of both parties asked the State Corporation Commission to weigh in this month on the raft of legislation to undo the controversial 2015 rate freeze law, which locked in base rates that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of ‘overearnings’ for Dominion and Virginia’s other large regulated utility, Appalachian Power, while preventing the commission from ordering refunds. Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam also expressed reservations about provisions of the legislative package. In a letter Monday, the commission said the main House and Senate bills effectively extend the current rate freeze six years into the future by switching from the biennial review system in place prior to 2015 to a triennial review. That means the earliest date Appalachian customers could get a refund is in 2024. Dominion customers could receive refunds in 2025.”

1-30-18 Bladen Journal [NC] Experts debate legality of Cooper’s pipeline deal. “Is a financial agreement between the governor of North Carolina and a private party legal just because the governor says so? That’s the gist of the memorandum of understanding hammered out between Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration and the four utilities building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Under the deal, announced Friday, the pipeline operators would pay $57.8 million for projects the governor wants, and, in exchange, the operators get to build the multibillion-dollar pipeline across eastern North Carolina. Former N.C. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, a Wake County attorney in private practice, says the deal violates the state constitution and would take away the rights of North Carolinians to challenge terms of the agreement in court. In contrast, Gerry Cohen, the General Assembly’s former special counsel, said the agreement seems unusual because it didn’t go through normal budget channels. But Cohen thinks it could survive a possible legal challenge.

1-29-18 Augusta Free Press. Rasoul renewable energy bill puts moratorium on new pipelines, fossil fuel projects. “One of the most aggressive and ambitious renewable energy bills was announced today in Virginia. HB 1490, officially introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, calls for the state to make a swift and just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2035. Just as notably, the bill establishes a moratorium on state agency approval of any fossil fuel projects like the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. HB 1490 is one of five state bills across the country expected to be introduced this year modeled on the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act, a federal bill introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Like the OFF Act, it mandates a clean energy transition by 2035, while prioritizing environmental justice and protections for displaced workers in the fossil fuel industry.”

1-29-18 CBS19. Dominion turning to old friends as faces scrutiny of influence in Richmond. “Dominion Energy is relying on longtime allies in the Virginia General Assembly as it faces unprecedented scrutiny of its political influence and hard questions about whether most Virginians’ monthly electric bills are higher than they need to be. Lawmakers, lobbyists and others at the General Assembly say there’s been a noticeable change in attitude toward the company this year compared to three years ago, when Dominion had little trouble passing legislation that has resulted in a windfall for the utility. The company is turning for help to friendly lawmakers who have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. That includes legislation that would allow it to continue charging rates that currently produce what regulators call excessive yearly profits of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

1-29-18 CBS19. Judge dismisses lawsuit over proposed pipeline compressor station. “A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors over a proposed compressor station, which is part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On Jan. 5, 2017, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a special use permit for the compressor station, which would be built in the Union Hill area. Lou Zeller, a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, filed a ‘notice of appeal’ on Feb. 6 without the help of an attorney. ‘I wish I would have gotten better advice,’ said Zeller. Buckingham Circuit Court Judge William Alexander ruled Zeller’s appeal was not filed correctly, comparing it to a ‘letter to the editor.’ ‘It was specious to compare a letter to the editor to a filing which was done not only to the court, but delivered to all the necessary parties,’ said Zeller. Attorney Charles Lawler eventually took the case and filed another appeal on Mar. 8. Alexander dismissed it since Lawler’s appeal was filed more than 30 days after the board’s decision. He said he was uncertain about parts of the case, arguing the plaintiff had good arguments, and he hopes the case will be reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

1-29-18 Roanoke Times. Crawford: Still time to fight pipelines. “In the recent U.S. District Court proceedings where property owners and Mountain Valley Pipeline squared off, I was struck by a stark contrast. MVP claimed “irreparable harm” through the loss of millions of dollars if the project is delayed, while property owners faced even more profound losses. Already, lives have been disrupted, shortened by stress and cast into limbo. This is the true irreparable harm, and the destruction hasn’t even begun. How do we weigh this human toll against the money MVP will lose if the project doesn’t proceed as hoped? Is anyone in MVP really going to suffer? No one asked them to put their millions at risk on such an unprecedented, monumental gamble. The engineering challenges alone leave me aghast. A giant in the opposition efforts taught me that not everything the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves gets built, and not everything begun gets finished. Now is the time to pour it on, to find your strong suit, to realize we have impact. By the time you read this, we may have prevailed for the time being in district court. Regardless, this monster has a long way to go, and we have reasons to keep fighting. For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently stopped construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, citing the discharge of industrial waste without a permit and the spilling of drilling fluids. The company has 30 days to indicate how they will address these problems. Also, the Constitution Pipeline through New York State and Pennsylvania had been approved by FERC but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that Constitution did not provide enough information to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act, thereby stopping the project. The company appealed NYSDEC’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit and lost. An attitude of ‘Why fight, they’ll build them anyway?’ will send pipeline developers chuckling to their bulldozers. If not engaged yet, don’t think, ‘too late.’ Think: ‘Just in time.'”

1-28-18 CBS19. Buckingham judge to hear arguments over proposed ACP compressor station. “A judge in Buckingham County will hear arguments over a proposed compressor station a part of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is suing the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors for granting a special use permit for a compressor station in the Woods Corner area. The Buckingham County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the permit previously. The environmental group alleges the board violated an existing zoning law. Besides the threat of constant noise and pollution, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said the compressor station will be built in a historic African American community. ‘That’s kind of the typical place that they’re put, and are put there because the people don’t have the resources to fight back,’ said Sharon Ponton, of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.”

1-27-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. As pipeline moves closer to construction, Virginia officials brace for confrontations. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the deeply contentious, $5.5 billion Dominion Energy-led project planned to run from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, moved closer to construction Friday after winning a pair of key approvals from environmental agencies in West Virginia and North Carolina. And with tree clearing already approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission along some portions of the 600-mile route, state officials in Virginia are preparing for protests and confrontations between activists and workers, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran and State Police Superintendent Gary Settle told legislators this week.”

1-26-18 WRAL. West Virginia issues permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “West Virginia’s environmental regulators have approved a construction stormwater permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would carry natural gas southeast from the center of the state. The permit covers stormwater discharge associated with the disturbance of approximately 2,500 acres (about 1,000 hectares) of land for the natural gas pipeline along with a compressor station, meter stations, access roads and interconnects, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. It gives the state agency inspection authority along the entire route in West Virginia including water crossings and uplands, the department said.”

1-26-18 Appalachian Voices.  Appalachian Voices slams N.C. approval of Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “The massive pipeline would run through eight rural eastern North Carolina counties, and cross streams, rivers and wetlands 326 times, posing unacceptable long-term risks to drinking water sources, fisheries and watersheds.”  Amy Adams, North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, said, “The governor acted in the best interest of North Carolina’s coastal families and businesses when he opposed offshore drilling, but his action today abandons the people who live and work in one of the most disenfranchised regions of our state and whose private property would be sacrificed for this unnecessary pipeline.  Gov. Cooper cannot dress up this pipeline approval by throwing a few million dollars for environmental mitigation, which in itself acknowledges there will indeed be severe impacts to communities and our natural resources. And while his support for renewable energy and cutting climate pollution is commendable, his action today allowing this pipeline utterly undermines those very goals.”  She also noted, “It will be impossible for the agency to do all of the monitoring and enforcement to prevent widespread damage, and they know it. The pressure must have been very intense to make senior DEQ staff and the Governor cave in and accept a deal ahead of permit deadlines.”

1-26-18 NC Policy Watch.  Over widespread opposition, DEQ approves key water quality permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “Over the past week, there were rumors that Duke Energy was cutting a deal with the Cooper administration for a permit approval. Under the terms, Duke would establish a environmental mitigation fund, which included money for renewable energy. That rumor proved to be true, as within minutes of DEQ publicizing its approval of the ACP permit, Cooper’s office announced that Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives. These include efforts to “reduce the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources.”

1-26-18 Charlotte Observer. NC approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit through 8 counties. “A key state permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was approved by state regulators Friday, clearing a major hurdle for the interstate natural gas project to move ahead in North Carolina. The state Department of Environmental Quality announced its long-awaited decision more than a year and a half after Duke Energy and other partners filed their application. Opponents immediately vowed legal challenges to try to block the project. The approval for the underground pipeline comes with a number of conditions for testing, monitoring and inspections.”

1-25-18 The State [SC]. How the Dominion-SCE&G deal could trample your property rights. “Dominion’s offer to purchase SCANA is a bad deal for the entire state, not just SCE&G customers, who will stay on the hook for the abandoned nuclear plant. Ultimately, this deal could trample property rights and strangle the opportunity to develop an energy mix that supports efficiency and renewables while increasing our long-term commitment to the price volatility and environmental impacts of fossil fuels. I am convinced that Dominion’s interest in SCANA has to do with only one thing: bringing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into South Carolina. Dominion and Duke Energy are co-owners of the pipeline, which Dominion has said it wants to bring to South Carolina, but Dominion is the operator and stands to profit the most. …. And, because FERC has consistently refused to scrutinize pipeline need in its approval process, Dominion can ‘self-deal’ on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once it controls SCANA: Ity can sign a contract with itself for a “need” that doesn’t exist. This is what critics say has happened with this pipeline in Virginia and North Carolina: The end customers are the pipeline developers themselves, but the ratepayers wind up paying for it while shareholders profit.”

1-25-18 NC Policy Watch.  Duke Energy, ready to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, goes to the top: Gov. Cooper.  “Anxious to begin cutting trees and clearing land to build the North Carolina portion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Duke Energy has approached Gov. Roy Cooper’s office about the status of its permits, Policy Watch has confirmed.  However, the utility did not use litigation as a cudgel to expedite the permitting process, as has been rumored, according to Ken Eudy, senior advisor to Gov. Cooper.  Eudy acknowledged that the utility has ‘asked about the permits,’ but that Duke did not threaten to sue. Duke Energy did not respond to an email asking about possible litigation.”

1-25-18 Roanoke Times.  Casey: The Virginia legislature’s long, sordid saga of electric-utility ‘regulation’ “If the General Assembly approves a new regulatory scheme promoted by power companies and their legislative lackeys, it’ll be the fourth time in 11 years ratepayers have been screwed. Why are voters putting up with it? In 2015, the General Assembly enacted legislation that froze electric rates and allowed electric monopolies to get away with overcharging customers. Last week, Del. Sam Rasoul took to the House floor and blasted that law as ‘corrupt.’ In politics, those are fighting words. But, if anything, Rasoul, D-Roanoke, understated the problem. Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, sponsored that shameful, dishonest law. Already, it’s cost electric ratepayers an estimated $400 million. The price tag could top $1 billion if the law stays on the books. Passing it was no isolated incident. It was part of a long-running effort by electric monopolies and their pusillanimous patsies in the General Assembly to defang a regulatory framework that protected consumers. Now, there’s more Richmond treachery in the works. Virginia electric customers are about to get royally screwed for at least the fourth time in 11 years. This year, the proposed swindle is even worse. It’s being orchestrated to benefit Dominion Energy and (to a lesser extent) Appalachian Power, the commonwealth’s dominant electric-power monopolies. The former gets special consideration in Richmond because Dominion (by far) is the top corporate donor to political campaigns. That raises blunt questions. Why do voters put up with this? Why haven’t they revolted? Don’t they care that their elected representatives repeatedly have cheated them? The breathtaking fraud foisted upon Virginia consumers goes back to 1999. To understand it, one has to begin in the late 1990s.”

1-25-18 WHSV3.  Anti-pipeline group wants more support from board of supervisors towards pipeline. “In Augusta County, some people who are against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are upset with the board of supervisors, after they say certain comments were made in a previous meeting. On Wednesday night, more than a dozen people showed up to the Augusta County board of supervisors meeting with anti pipeline signs and shirts, speaking against comments they say were made in a board meeting on Monday. They say those comments referred to the pipeline being a done deal. Becci Harmon, who is against the pipeline said they want the elected officials to do what’s best for Augusta County. ‘We still want their support by all means, but we definitely want them to tighten up and be extremely strict about regulations,’ said Harmon.”

1-24-18 Washington Post. Lawmakers from both parties raise alarm about rush to redo Dominion oversight. “A bipartisan group of delegates has called for a timeout on a massive effort to redraw the state’s oversight of its biggest electric utility, asking for more information to safeguard the interests of ratepayers. Three Republicans and three Democrats, including senior leaders, have asked the State Corporation Commission to review several pieces of legislation aimed at replacing a rate freeze that Dominion Energy has enjoyed since 2015. …. But critics warn the measure could be worse for consumers in the long term than the existing rate freeze. It would limit the state’s ability to order rebates to consumers for years to come, subject the utilities to state oversight reviews every three years instead of every two, and return to ratepayers only a portion of the excess profits the companies have reaped during the freeze. Lawmakers acknowledge that Dominion’s lobbyists helped craft the bill.”

1-24-18 Aberdeen News [Ohio]  Gas pipeline told to halt drilling under river after spill. “Federal regulators have again told a company building twin natural gas pipelines across northern Ohio to stop drilling under a river because of concerns over a spill. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says in the stoppage ordered Wednesday that it wants the builders of the Rover Pipeline to answer questions about the spill and look at whether there are other options to cross the river. Ohio officials say 200,000 gallons of drilling fluid down have been lost in a drilling hole. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is developing the $4.2 billion pipeline across Ohio and into West Virginia and Michigan. It’s also was behind the Dakota Access oil pipeline.”

1-23-18 Yahoo Finance. Renewable energy may be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. “Electricity from renewable sources will soon be cheaper than power from most fossil fuels, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In its new report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, the agency revealed that technology improvements, government take-up and proactive project development has pushed the costs associated with renewable energy to a new low, and that by 2020 renewable power will largely undercut fossil fuel.”

1-23-18 Indy Week [NC]. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Unlikely to Bring Economic Development to Three Eastern North Carolina counties, Report Finds. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion infrastructure project, is unlikely to bring economic development to three eastern North Carolina counties, according to a new report by the North Carolina-based energy consultant Nancy LaPlaca. The report contradicts earlier predictions by pipeline developers that the project will encourage development in Johnston, Cumberland, and Robeson counties, three of eight eastern North Carolina counties the six-hundred-mile pipeline is slated to run through. …. LaPlaca’s findings push back on a December report submitted by Dominion to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, which is responsible for issuing water- and air-quality permits for the project, that concluded the ACP would yield a net positive economic impact and minor cumulative impacts.

1-23-18 The State [SC]  Gov. McMaster to veto any bill that keeps the Dominion-SCANA deal alive. “Pass a law that blocks SCE&G from continuing to charge its customers for two abandoned nuclear reactors, and I’ll sign it, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster told state lawmakers Tuesday. The Richland Republican, up for election in November, wrote a letter to the General Assembly asking lawmakers for a proposal ‘that ensures SCANA ratepayers will not pay a single additional dollar towards the failed V.C. Summer reactors.’ He also threatened to veto any bill that ‘continues to place the financial burden of this corporate failure on South Carolina ratepayers.’ The proposal McMaster wants, which the S.C. House and Senate already are considering, effectively would kill Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s deal to buy SCANA and refund its electric customers about $1,000 per household. …. Dominion has said it will walk away if it can’t charge SCE&G’s customers another $2.8 billion for the scuttled project over the next 20 years. That money is necessary to make the acquisition of debt-laden SCANA palatable for shareholders, Dominion officials have said.”

1-22-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline construction start OK’d in West Virginia. “The federal government gave its go-ahead Monday for construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to start in West Virginia. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval was limited to work on access roads and construction yards in five West Virginia counties, it marked the first time Mountain Valley has met all the requirements for preliminary construction to begin anywhere along the 303-mile route of its natural gas pipeline. FERC has yet to take a similar action for the Virginia section of the interstate pipeline, which would pass through the Roanoke and New River valleys.” Article continues with a summary of current status of MVP and ACP activity in WV and VA.

1-22-18 Augusta Free Press. Chesapeake Bay Foundation appeals Atlantic Coast Pipeline certification. “The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Friday filed an appeal of the Virginia State Water Control Board’s water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. CBF has long been concerned about the serious threats to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed posed by the proposed pipeline. The petition for review, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, is the first step in the appeal, which is anticipated to address many issues related to the protection of water quality. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has the potential to damage Virginia waterways from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, so its construction and operation must be held to the strictest environmental standards possible,’ said CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller. ‘We have always maintained that the Water Control Board cannot have reasonable assurance that water quality will be protected unless it evaluates the adequacy of the pipeline company’s plans to prevent construction-caused erosion, dirty stormwater, and other impacts.'”

1-22-18 CBS19. Dominion Energy continues tree felling for proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Hundreds of trees are falling as Dominion Energy started tree felling over the weekend for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. People who live in Buckingham County were surprised to see the work starting so soon, not even a day after the utility company received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. ‘We’ve had crews standing by so that they’re ready to begin as soon as we received approval from the agency,’ said Aaron Ruby, a Dominion spokesman. Ruby said tree felling is different from the actual construction of the pipeline itself. He also said Dominion is not trespassing. ‘We’re not uprooting the stumps, we’re not disturbing the soil or the land, we’re not removing the trees from the right of way,” said Ruby. “We’re only doing this on land where we’ve reached an agreement with the landowner.’

1-22-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Tom Cormons column: This time, our elected representatives must tell Dominion ‘No’   “On Friday, [Dominion] put forth an ambitious legislative package designed to keep electricity rates artificially inflated by circumventing appropriate oversight from Virginia’s independent consumer protection agency, the State Corporation Commission. …. It’s high time for our elected representatives to finally say “no” to Dominion when it comes to its demanding more power over our lives and future for the sake of shareholder profits.”

1-20-18 CBS19. Tree felling for Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins in Buckingham County. “Tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has begun in parts of Buckingham County. Aaron Ruby, a spokesperson for Dominion Energy, confirmed crews are working in areas where they have received approval from the landowner.”

1-20-18 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline points the wrong way to energy’s future. “Institutional investors, concerned about climate change, are threatening to withhold investments in the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters that are not moving away from fossil fuels. …. Jim Warren of NC WARN, a utility watchdog group that has long challenged Duke Energy’s pricing, pollution issues and plans for new plants, has turned his criticism to a kind of helpful cajoling. He opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as a potential burden on ratepayers and an environmental hazard, but he also sees it as not in Duke Energy’s best interests. If the utility doesn’t aggressively convert to alternative energy sources, he said it risks being locked into an obsolete business model and ratepayers may have to cover the losses. ‘It’s this old guard mentality thinking the monopoly will support them, but the ground is shifting under everybody’s feet,’ Warren said. ‘We’ll find out if they are agile enough to make that transition.” He added, “Right now they are going headlong in the wrong direction.'”

1-19-18 Record-Courier [Ohio].  State asks feds to stop Rover work.   The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants federal regulators to halt Rover Pipeline from boring beneath the Tuscarawas River until the company can show it won’t lose drilling fluid underground. Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler made the request Friday in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after Rover’s attempt to stem the loss with casing and cement failed at the Bethlehem Township drilling site. Rover had lost 146,000 gallons of drilling fluid down the pilot hole as of Jan. 11, according to Ohio EPA. ‘Obviously, they’re in a problem area and the approved fixes were not successful and, then, these temporary fixes were not successful,’ Butler said. ‘Rather than just continue to put a Band-Aid on this, we think they need to stop (and) come up with a permanent solution before they’re allowed to proceed.’ There is no evidence of drilling fluid leaking at the surface or contaminating private wells, but Rover’s underground losses put at risk a nearby wetland and groundwater, Butler said. ‘Just because it’s not coming to the surface does not mean it’s not a problem,’ he said.” [NB: Dominion plans to drill under the James for the ACP.]

1-19-18 Houston Chronicle. U.S. becoming net exporter of natural gas. “U.S. becoming net exporter of natural gas in 2018 for the first time since 1957 due to increased sales to Mexico, the opening of new markets through liquefied natural gas and declining imports from Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States is shipping LNG to at least 20 foreign markets, the Energy Department said, and exports of LNG will continue to grow as terminals on the Gulf Coast reach capacity and companies expand or develop new terminals.”

1-19-18 Daily Progress. Agency grants request to begin tree cutting for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a request by the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin cutting down trees along parts of the 600-mile pipeline route in West Virginia and Virginia, despite the fact that the project still lacks some regulatory approvals. In a letter Friday, Dave Swearingen, a FERC official, gave the green light to cutting down the trees using handheld equipment such as chain saws. The approval is limited to spots where easements have been obtained for land access, where surveys have been completed and where no additional state or local permits are required for the activity.”

1-18-18 Kallanish Energy. Constitution Pipeline files petition with U.S. Supreme Court. “Constitution Pipeline Co. is taking its fight with New York state to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kallanish Energy reports. The project sponsors, in a Tuesday statement, said, ‘We continue to believe that this federally-approved project has been unjustly prohibited from construction.’ The $1 billion, 121-mile natural gas pipeline is a joint project of Williams Cos., Cabot Oil and Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings. The company has petitioned the nation’s highest court to review the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Last Aug. 18, that court denied Constitution’s challenge after the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation denied the company’s application for water-quality certification. A rehearing request was denied by the appeals court on Oct. 19. On Jan. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld the New York decision, even though FERC had approved the project.”

1-18-18 NJSpotlight. A Few Cold Days Should Not a Pipeline Make. “Most natural gas used by residents and businesses is bought under long-term contracts unaffected by sudden jumps in spot-market prices. As New Jerseyans shivered through the recent cold spell, PennEast tried to use our discomfort with the wintry weather outside as one more opportunity to make a bogus case for an expensive and dangerous pipeline that isn’t needed to meet the state’s energy demands — today or in the future. It is a knee-jerk reaction to claim that more pipelines are needed because prices increase during periods of cold weather. The industry knows better, which explains why Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG, told investors in November, ‘You don’t want to build an interstate pipeline capability for a polar vortex. It’s unnecessary. It’s expensive. There’s no need to do that …'”

1-18-18 Nelson County Times.  Wellman – Letter to the Editor:  Cold snap brings hot PR,  “Ruby fails to mention that, if the ACP is built, its captive ratepayers will be paying for it for decades. So the question for consumers is whether to pay now — $5 billion to $6 billion direct cost of construction plus Dominion’s 14 percent return on equity — or to pay later if and when there are short-term spikes in gas prices.  There are good reasons to opt for the ‘pay later’ approach. If producing electricity is the main reason for the ACP proposal, as Dominion officials claimed when they announced their plan, there is ample pipeline capacity now and more is coming. Independent analyses have shown that existing pipelines have sufficient capacity until 2030. Later this year, modifications of the huge Transco pipeline serving the East Coast are scheduled to be completed, thereby greatly expanding available supplies well before the ACP would become operational.  More broadly, Dominion’s relentless push to build the ACP runs against the global tide — a shift in energy production from fossil fuels to renewables. This shift is necessitated by the threat of devastating climate change and facilitated by the falling cost of solar and wind energy, both of which have reached or are approaching parity with natural gas. Rather than being a bridge to the future, gas is becoming an anchor in the past.  If the ACP were truly in the public interest, Dominion would be stating its case directly and openly, rather than relying heavily on politics and PR. Building the pipeline truly is not for ‘public use and necessity,’ but just another instance of public pain for private gain.”

1-18-18 Nelson County Times.  Recent cold snap fuels argument in favor of Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Aaron Ruby, Dominion’s ever-present ACP cheerleader, wants to convince us that our recent cold weather is a justification for the ACP, telling us the cold “demonstrated in dramatic fashion the real and urgent need for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”   Ruby says that because they used more electricity and gas to run heating systems, customers will see higher utility bills. Yes, we may see higher utility bills for January, but that doesn’t justify the immense long-term cost of the ACP ($2.3 billion more than existing sources, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center) which will be passed to Dominion customers – on every month’s utility bill for years to come.  Ruby cites “severely limited capacity” of existing pipelines serving Virginia and North Carolina as the cause for a spike in gas costs passed on to customers. Yet in the same article, Chris Stockton, spokesperson for Williams Partners, which operates the Transco System that Dominion relies on, said the pipelines “performed remarkably” during the cold weather. “We were able to meet all of our firm capacity contracts. The system delivered a record amount of gas,” said Stockton, noting that the system delivered about 10 percent of the natural gas consumed in the country on that day, Jan. 5. “It’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s a testament to the system that we have.”

1-17-18 News Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline permitting process unfolds in Nelson. “A chapter of the ongoing permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline began unfolding in Nelson on Tuesday, when the Board of Zoning Appeals took a first swing at reviewing applications for the project to cross a number of floodplains in the county. As a result of updates to the General Floodplain District article of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance passed in September, the ACP is required to go before the BZA to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in the county. According to ACP’s variance applications, the project would cross 4½ miles of floodplain in the county — 3½ miles of which are the pipeline itself and 1 mile is constituted in access roads. ACP is required to seek variances for the floodplain crossings because under the updated ordinance, the pipeline would qualify as a ‘critical facility’ that normally would not be allowed to be constructed in a floodplain. State law mandates a decision on the applications must be rendered within 90 days of the application date, which was Tuesday. …. The BZA is scheduled to meet next Feb. 5, but discussion during Tuesday’s meeting signaled the BZA would use the meeting to convene a closed session to go over application details with Shreve and Draper Aden Associates. Public hearings for the applications were set for 7 p.m. Feb. 12. The board said Tuesday it plans to hold the meeting in the General District Courtroom of the Nelson County Courthouse but in anticipation of large turnout left open the possibility of moving it to a different site. That information will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.”

1-16-18 The State [Columbia SC]. Dominion is ‘bluffing’ over doomsday scenario in deal to buy SCANA, lawmakers say. “South Carolinians will face a dark and uncertain energy future if state lawmakers block Dominion Energy’s buyout of Cayce-based SCANA, the Virginia-based utility told a state Senate committee Tuesday. But state senators promptly called Dominion’s doomsday scenario a ‘bluff,’ some adding they don’t support the $14.6 billion deal offered ‘with a gun’ to lawmakers’ heads. ‘There’s a lot of spin going on. There’s a lot of bluffing,’ said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, who co-chairs the special Senate committee. ‘This is high-stakes poker.'”

1-16-18 Utility Dive. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces another setback in North Carolina. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces setbacks in North Carolina after the state’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources rejected the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern portion of the pipeline’s route across the state. Developers can make changes and refile the application.  The Division of Air Quality in December also requested additional information from the pipeline developer, and is now reviewing an air quality modeling report provided by ACP.”

1-16-18 Farmville Herald. Commission approves ACP yard. “Members of the Cumberland County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Jan. 8 to the Board of Supervisors for a temporary construction yard for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on Salem Church Road following a public hearing where three provided public comment. …. ‘The intended use is a temporary yard for storage of equipment and material for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ the board packet cited about the property, which would use 75 acres out of a 337-acre lot. …. In a presentation, Ron Baker, project manager with the ACP, said this portion of the pipeline that would use the construction yard stretches 59 miles, from Route 626 in Nelson County and will extend south to Route 607. ‘It’s slated for 2018 construction,’ Baker said. ‘Peak use of this yard would be from April to November of 2018. The new yard will be incorporated into the FERC filing.'”

1-15-18 Roanoke Times. Senate panel kills electricity rate freeze bill, promises bipartisan solution to come. “A Senate panel voted Monday to scrap a bill that would undo a utility rate freeze and lower electricity rates for most Virginia residents. For the second year in a row, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee killed a measure to undo a controversial rate freeze that locked customers of Appalachian Power Co. and Dominion Energy into base rates that earned the companies millions. But this year, several committee members said they’re working on alternative legislation to get at the same issue. The bills will be filed later this week, said committee Chairman Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. Sens. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, and Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, pushed the bill that would undo a controversial 2015 law that locked in base rates for most Virginia energy consumers. SB 9 would have allowed the State Corporation Commission to once again review and adjust utility rates, including ordering Dominion and Appalachian Power to issue refunds when necessary.”

1-15-18 EcoWatch. All Renewables Will Be Cost Competitive With Fossil Fuels by 2020. “Generating electricity from renewable energy sources is not only better for the environment compared to fossil fuels, but it will also be consistently cheaper in just a few years, according to a new report. According to a cost analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the best onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects could deliver electricity for $0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2019, much lower than the current cost of power from fossil fuels, which ranges from $0.05 to $0.17 per kWh.”

1-13-18 Roanoke Times. Efforts to take land for the Mountain Valley Pipeline challenged by property owners. “Even as it asks a federal judge to allow it to run a natural gas pipeline through land it does not own, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is considering changes to the pipeline’s route. …. The 11th-hour tweaks show that plans for the buried pipeline are too uncertain, and are changing too fast, for Mountain Valley to obtain the injunction it seeks that would provide immediate access to the land for tree cutting and other preliminary construction, attorneys for the landowners argued. ‘MVP has rushed to use eminent domain without ensuring that they got it right,’ said Norfolk attorney Stephen Clarke. A marathon, two-day hearing ended at 7:45 p.m. Saturday with Judge Elizabeth Dillon saying she will decide later on whether the company is entitled to the easements. ‘These have been long days, and I know this case is emotionally charged,’ Dillon said in asking attorneys to submit brief s before she issues a written opinion.”

1-12-18 The Guardian. New York City just declared war on the oil industry. “Over the years, the capital of the fight against climate change has been Kyoto, or Paris – that’s where the symbolic political agreements to try and curb the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions have been negotiated and signed. But now, New York City vaulted to leadership in the battle. On Wednesday, its leaders, at a press conference in a neighborhood damaged over five years ago by Hurricane Sandy, announced that the city was divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, and added for good measure that they were suing the five biggest oil companies for damages. Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry. And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial. …. Smart money has been pouring into renewables; dumb money has stuck with fossil fuel, even as it underperformed markets for the last half-decade. Just two months ago Norway’s vast sovereign wealth fund began to divest, which was a pretty good signal: if even an oil industry stalwart thought the game was up, they were probably right.”

1-12-18 WAMC. FERC Denies Constitution Pipeline Petition. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dealt a blow to Constitution Pipeline Thursday, rejecting the company’s petition that asked FERC to find that New York state wrongly denied the project a key permit. The pipeline company plans to fight the decision. Constitution Pipeline’s planned 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York hit another major roadblock with FERC’s decision. In April 2016, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation denied Constitution Pipeline a water quality permit, which is required for the project to progress. Constitution challenged the DEC denial and in August 2017, a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the company’s argument that the DEC was “arbitrary and capricious” in denying a water quality permit. In its petition to FERC, Constitution argued that the DEC waived its authority by failing to act on the permit with a certain time period.”

1-12-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley begins legal efforts to take private land for its pipeline. “An overflow crowd packed a courtroom Friday for a hearing in which attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline are attempting to obtain access to private land for the natural gas pipeline. Many of the owners of nearly 300 rural properties the pipeline would cross are fighting the efforts — leading to a shortage of seats in the largest courtroom in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. Some spectators were forced to stand or wait in a hallway. At midday, court officials were making arrangements for a video feed to a second courtroom to accommodate the crowd. Attorneys for Mountain Valley are arguing that the laws of eminent domain give them the authority to obtain easements through the land even though the owners object and have refused to accept payments from the company. Mountain Valley is also seeking an order from Judge Elizabeth Dillon that would give them immediate access to the land, while the issue of how much the property owners should be paid is delayed until another day in court.”

1-11-18 Roanoke Times. Roanoke, Blacksburg Democrats roll out pipeline-related bills. “Spurred by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, Democrats from the Roanoke and New River valleys introduced a slew of pipeline-related bills this week, but the legislation is unlikely to stop the projects. Sen. John Edwards and Del. Sam Rasoul, both of Roanoke, and Del. Chris Hurst of Blacksburg introduced a package that increases landowners’ rights, adds pipeline safety measures and increases oversight of natural gas projects. ‘We are tired of being bullied, we are tired of being pushed around,’ Rasoul said Thursday at a news conference in Richmond.”

1-11-18 Rigzone. Natural Gas Survey Outlines Effects of Anti-Pipeline Fervor. “The majority of participants in a recent natural gas industry survey reported that they have encountered resistance to pipeline projects from activist groups, bureaucrats and others. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the 338 utility, municipal, commercial and community stakeholders polled by the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm Black & Veatch reported at least one type of project impediment from pipeline foes. As the list below implies, respondents often selected multiple negative impacts.”

1-10-18 The Guardian. New York City plans to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue oil companies. “New York City is seeking to lead the assault on climate change and the Trump administration with a plan to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming. City officials have set a goal of divesting New York’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in what they say would be “among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date”. Currently, New York City’s five pension funds have about $5bn in fossil fuel investments. New York state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels.”

1-10-18 Southeast Energy News. Atlantic Coast Pipeline hits more delays in North Carolina. “North Carolina regulators Wednesday announced the latest round of setbacks for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline — delaying a decision on the project’s clean water certificate until as late as February and postponing several other environmental permits. Virginia-based Dominion Resources had hoped to break ground last year on the $5.5 billion pipeline, slated to transport natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and the Tar Heel state. Duke Energy, which seeks fuel for its gas-fired power plants, is the venture’s second major investor. The feds approved the project in October, and just a few regulatory hurdles remain in the Virginias. But in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has moved more slowly — soliciting nearly 24,000 citizen comments on the pipeline and repeatedly asking for more information about its impact on air and water quality. So far, regulators here have issued only one of several licenses Dominion needs to begin construction.” The article lists the status of five tests the pipeline must pass to become reality in North Carolina, tests on air quality, rivers and streams, sedimentation and erosion, polluted runoff, and environmental justice.

1-10-18 The Recorder. Dominion applies for permits to create pipeline yards in Highland County.  “The Highland County building and zoning department has accepted conditional use permit applications from Dominion proposing to allow land in west of Veterans Bridge in McDowell and at Jack Mountain Village in Vanderpool to serve as satellite storage yards for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If the planning commission approves a public hearing for the permits, the hearing would take place Feb. 22. Both proposed construction laydown yard sites are more than 10 miles from Dominion’s proposed pipeline route, raising concerns over severe damage to the southern halves in Highland of two north-south arterial highways by heavy equipment during the yearlong project. The highways are Route 671, Bullpasture River Road, and U.S. 220, Jackson River Road. Zoning administrator Joshua Simmons noted project plans for McDowell incorrectly labeled the site zoning as industrial instead of agricultural. Simmons entered initial review of the proposals for the commission’s Jan. 25 meeting agenda. He noted the planners will not receive public comment at that meeting and would defer comment to a public hearing in February if scheduled then.”

1-10-18 The Recorder. Dominion Energy ignores protections for water quality over pipeline project.  “The requirements set forth in the amended Water Quality Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for additional water quality testing within 1,000 feet of the centerline in karst terrain do nothing to assure water quality violations will not occur, and do little to protect private water supplies. Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Health sent a memo to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in response to DEQ’s request for comments on the ACP. The Virginia Department of Health advised DEQ that protecting water quality for property owners who are reliant on springs and wells is a paramount concern, and recommended a complete sanitary survey at least 1,000 feet along each side of the pipeline’s path be performed by a team of persons with expertise in geology, hydrogeology, epidemiology, and public health. They also recommended the team contact local health departments to obtain records to assure appropriate separation distances will be maintained between the proposed pipeline and private wells and springs serving nearby properties. DEQ apparently disregarded this advice, and conjured up a smokescreen of useless regulation in the amended WQC as follows.” The letter continues with discussion of why these amendments are inadequate in protecting private drinking water sources in karst terrain, and how they should be corrected.

1-10-18 The Recorder. State DEQ bending over backward for Dominion Energy. “At the December 2017 hearings before the Virginia State Water Control Board, over 100 speakers argued to the SWCB that those issues had to be considered by DEQ as part of a proper analysis. DEQ had to ‘eat crow’ on that one, so DEQ is now, by order of the SWCB, in the process of determining how hurricanes and other large water events would affect the proposed ACP. The JRPA and CRPA believe that any proper analysis of those issues will dictate a conclusion that there can be no reasonable assurance that Virginia’s water quality will not be damaged. We have asked for DEQ’s schedule and volunteered to guide their people throughout the Allegheny Highlands as they do their study. So far, we have no response. Dominion now wants to cut trees in the proposed rights of way so it can stay on schedule and — guess what? — DEQ agreed with Dominion’s request, saying the cutting of trees has nothing to do with erosion and sedimentation! Does the reader get the impression that DEQ is bending over backwards to do Dominion’s bidding?”

1-10-18 News Leader. Letter to the editor by Ryan Blosser [Blosser’s organic farm borders DOminion’s proposed construction yard]  Dominion, you are killing my farm, crushing my dream. “An open letter to Dominion and the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals: It was a tough weekend in the Blosser household. I am the owner of Dancing Star Farm. Just five days ago my wife and I discovered the full breadth of the proposal for an Industrial Materials Management Yard to be built one hundred feet from our property boundary, uphill and upwind from us. Your decision was to table the vote until next month’s meeting on Feb 1st. I am worried. My wife and I view the project as an assault on the safety of our family and a threat on the viability of our small business. I have not heard one word from you, Dominion, with the exception of that folksy aww-shucks half-step of a presentation you made to the BZA. Your lack of preparation was shocking. There have been some heartbreaking moments in the last few days. Like when my 4-year-old son woke up Saturday morning with tears in his eyes. He ran to the window looking out on the field next door and frantically asking ‘Is the pipeline coming? Is this our last day at our home?’ This home is one we’ve been working on for 13 years. Today as I write this, construction is beginning on two more high tunnels that will allow us to produce lettuce and greens year-round. I initiated the project months ago. This infrastructure investment is now money I can’t get back that may prove obsolete in a month. January is the month I typically start to market and receive income for our CSA program. It’s important to me that you both know that my customers take food very seriously. Now, shares are not selling. Just the possibility of this project moving forward is already costing me thousands. Dominion, you are killing my farm, you are crushing my dream. I’m aware that this venue is one that favors brevity. So I’ll finish-a yes on this decision will ruin my business and threaten my family. We are already being financially and emotionally impacted and I’m heartbroken that you are asking me to accept this.”

1-10-18 Chesterfield Observer. Letter to Editor: Pipeline project won’t benefit county. “While attending the State Water Control Board hearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Dec. 11, I listened to Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and former state Sen. John Watkins give misguided praise to the project, citing vague claims of benefits it would bring to Chesterfield. What they claim will help the county will actually endanger the James River, one of three major drinking sources for Chesterfield residents. The ACP would choke the headwaters of the James, allow sediment dumps and herbicides into the river, alter the water’s temperature through removal of forest tree cover and introduce lubrication chemicals into the historic waterway as they drill under the James River for construction. Chesterfield’s representatives should have the health and welfare of its citizens in mind, not the perspective of the state’s utility monopoly presenting an unneeded and destructive 600-mile-long project. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bring no benefit to Chesterfield. It will not bring employment opportunities as Dominion’s own report listed less than 50 permanent jobs from the project. It will not bring natural gas availability to the county, as the fracked gas’ eventual use will be for export, via connections to existing pipelines and its secondary path into Tidewater. What it will bring is ruinous results to a drinking source. …. Our representatives should not tout new ways to threaten the James. The county and state’s water supply should be protected, not exploited as an expendable resource.”

1-10-18 Roanoke Times. Wilson: Pipeline endangers outdoors-based economy. “I testified before the State Water Control Board on Dec. 11 and told them basically the same thing I have been telling the Department of Environmental Quality for the past several years as president of the Jackson River Preservation Association, Inc., and that is that the proposed ACP cannot withstand a flood like the one that hit the Alleghany Highlands in 1985. …. The environmental community is up in arms and just about every environmental organization I know is against the ACP and MVP. They have formed coalitions and have hired experts who have rendered the opinion that the ACP and MVP will do horrendous environmental damage. Sadly, the state and federal agencies we depend upon to protect our environment are paying them little heed. People in more populous areas do not understand that our future in the Alleghany Highlands is tied to recreation and the quality of our rivers, mountains and streams. Once those assets are seriously damaged, so is our future. The time for us to defend our quality of life and our future is now. It will be too late when the floods come and the damage is done. We can’t put ‘Humpty Dumpty’ back on the mountainsides.”

1-10-18 News Leader. Letter to Editor: Dominion tramples roughshod over landowners. “Two important areas of concern from the application document did not appear in the article and should be highlighted. First, VDOT did not recommend approval due to the lack of sightline distance and lack of safe ingress and egress along Rte. 42. …. the second area of concern refers to the Augusta County Zoning Ordinance Section 25-74I, which reads, ‘The business and anticipated enlargements thereof will be appropriate for agriculture areas.’ …. It’s easy to see that rather than being appropriate for this area’s agriculture zoning, the ACP’s storage yard conflicts with that zoning…. This special use permit application from ACP again highlights the incompatibility between a very large pipeline and our agricultural county. Dominion Energy will not gain any customers here in Augusta County. Perhaps, because we don’t rank as potential customers, Dominion tramples roughshod over landowners, big and small, along the proposed pipeline route.”

1-9-18 Washington Post. Some birds are so stressed by noise pollution it looks like they have PTSD. “[I]n a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Guralnick and his colleagues say there is a clear connection between noise pollution, abnormal levels of stress hormones, and lower survival rates. This is the first time that link has been established in a population of wild animals, they argue, and it should make us all think hard about what our ruckus is doing to the Earth. ‘Habitat degradation is always conceived of as clear-cutting, or, you know, changing the environment in a physical way. But this is an acoustic degradation of the environment,’ Guralnick said. ‘We think it is a real conservation concern.’ …. A human is likely to experience cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal issues, extreme fatigue. Meanwhile, the western bluebird — a common, hardy species that is generally considered to be noise-tolerant, was smaller, its feathers bedraggled. ‘The body is just starting to break down,’ Lowry said. To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.” Or families in the Union Hill area living in close proximity to the proposed ACP compressor station.

1-9-18 Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk delays decision again on gas pipeline that would run under drinking-water reservoirs. “The City Council again postponed a vote on whether to let a controversial natural gas pipeline run beneath the city’s reservoirs in Suffolk. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run between West Virginia and North Carolina, is slated to include a spur that would run through Hampton Roads to a terminal in Chesapeake. To get there, the pipeline would run beneath the Lake Prince and Western Branch reservoirs in Suffolk, which are on property owned by the city of Norfolk and supply drinking water. The pipeline is being built by Dominion Energy and other companies through a firm called Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which is asking Norfolk for an easement to run the pipeline under the reservoirs. The project has won federal approval and a tentative state certification, pending further study from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. That state review is why the Norfolk council delayed its first scheduled vote on the pipeline in November. It’s also why City Manager Doug Smith recommended Tuesday that the vote be delayed again. The council voted Tuesday evening to put off the decision.”

1-9-18 WVMetroNews.  Environmental groups try to halt Mountain Valley Pipeline in federal appeals court.  “Environmental groups have filed a federal appeal to try to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  The groups filed a motion asking for a stay of the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The motion was filed late Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The motion argues that the federal court system needs to act immediately to stop ‘irreparable environmental harm’ that would occur once construction of the natural gas pipeline begins. The motion to stay contends property owners along the pipeline’s path would suffer damage to their property and lifestyles.  ‘Petitioners, whose members reside near, recreate on, and own land that will be taken and degraded by the MVP, seek the stay to prevent irreparable injury to their property, environmental, aesthetic, and recreational interests pending the Court’s review.’  The motion contends FERC’s didn’t critically evaluate the purpose and need for the MVP.  The environmental groups also contend FERC lacked substantial evidence to support its finding of public convenience and necessity.”

1-8-18 Blue Virginia. Thoughts on the Pipelines…and How to Disagree Respectfully.   Carrie Pruett discusses the January 4, 2018, letter State Water Control Board member Peter Wayland wrote to the Richmond Times Dispatch, a letter which did not discuss substantive questions about the pipeline permits or explain his votes on them, but focused instead on what Mr. Wayland called “schoolyard behavior” from attendees.  After commenting on the heavy police and private security presence at the ACP hearing, and the photographing by security people of the faces and license plates of citizens attending the hearings, Ms. Pruett says, “If Mr. Wayland is truly concerned with civility and respect, he should not ignore the power dynamics that were at work during these hearings. This is not an excuse for those who behaved poorly, but it does begin to explain their frustration. The circumstances of the hearings, in which permit opponents were set up as adversaries to state officials, were not calculated to produce a harmonious outcome.”

1-6-18 News Virginian. Letter to editor by Bill Limpert: FERC’s faulty data there for all to see. “Highland County reassessment office records show a very large drop in land values within a half mile of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. I’m sure that virtually all properties on or near the proposed pipeline have lost value as well. We knew this would happen, although both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in their environmental impact statements, and the ACP told us that natural gas pipelines do not lower property values. This is a real blow to affected property owners. It is also a blow to our communities, as lower property values mean lower tax revenues, and reduced community services. We all worked hard to buy our properties and our homes, and to make our community a place where we all prosper together. FERC and the ACP used faulty data. They cherry-picked industry studies that were without scientific merit. Almost all of the studies were located in urban or suburban areas. One study was claimed to be a rural study in Katy, Texas, but which is described elsewhere as the fastest growing suburb of Houston, with a population over 15,000. That’s about twice the population of Bath and Highland Counties combined, and hardly rural. FERC also stated that they contacted real estate appraisers who confirmed that property values would not fall. An examination revealed that FERC consulted with only one appraiser, in Pennsylvania, and he could not determine if natural gas pipelines affect property values. Despite comments to the FERC record citing numerous non industry studies and legal precedent indicating substantial loss of property value, FERC maintained its erroneous opinion throughout the ACP application process. Despite comments to the FERC record demanding that they contact real estate professionals in rural Virginia, or conduct an independent study of Virginia property values, they refused to do so. FERC then approved the ACP, dooming over 10,000 property owners, and many communities to economic hardship. FERC and the ACP are responsible for these financial losses, and their apparent ignorance and disregard for the facts, as well as their faulty data, are in the public record for all to see.”

1-5-18 News Leader. Farmer Ryan Blosser takes stand against Dominion pipeline yard. “More than 30 acres of land next to his farm could potentially be rezoned, which would allow Dominion to utilize the property as a storage yard for pipeline construction materials, equipment, fuel and worker trailers. Armed security would patrol the premise 24 hours a day, a tall barbed wire fence surrounding the storage yard, large fuel tanks along with pipes and pipe fabrication equipment. Blosser said it could be used to store large machinery being used to dig the pipeline through Augusta County. That could result in major hazardous runoff to his farm, smoke and fumes and who knows what, Blosser said. The western winds head directly to his home, so anything that happens at that site would be carried over to their property. …. He hasn’t been able to advertise for his upcoming CSAs because he’s uncertain of what will happen. Quite frankly, he said, he can’t sell food with the storage yard next to his farm. ‘I can’t tell my customers that it’s safe,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to eat that. My family will not eat the food that I grow if that’s next door. I can’t ask my customers to.'” Blosser has yet to be contacted by Dominion.

1-5-18 News Leader. Letter to editor: Outlaws are more ethical than Dominion’s pipeline company. Letter regarding Dominion’s proposed Churchville construction yard. “Dominion made their plans without negotiating with adjoining property owners, except the farmer whose land they would rent. Dominion representatives initially stated at the meeting that they have “no responsibility” to their neighbors. Later, when pressed by the board, Dominion said they could take actions such as preparing erosion and sedimentation plans (which would in any case be required prior to construction) and conducting water tests. It was not clear to me what steps, if any, Dominion might take to make amends for damage and inconvenience they cause, nor whether they were truly prepared to be good neighbors.
Shame on you, Dominion! I can only conclude that outlaws are more ethical than the pipeline company. I call on Dominion to withdraw their zoning appeal application, and to select another site with safer highway access, on land that is already in industrial zoning, where they will not threaten their neighbors’ families and businesses.”

1-5-18 Think Progress. Utility giant prioritizes fossil fuel projects over renewables in merger proposal. “Acquisition would clear way for extending the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A proposed merger between two major energy companies could have offered the promise of accelerated renewable energy growth in the Southeast. Instead, the deal between Dominion Energy and South Carolina-based SCANA Corp. is expected to prioritize expensive fossil fuel projects, a move that could have long-term implications for millions of utility customers. South Carolina electricity customers and lawmakers are still reeling from the demise of a major nuclear power expansion project in the state. The project’s failure means SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) — and Dominion, if the merger succeeds — will need to find alternatives to the 2,200 megawatts of electric generating capacity that will not be coming online. Nowhere in their Wednesday merger announcement did Dominion officials mention a commitment to building new renewable energy projects to replace the electricity from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. Energy efficiency also wasn’t proposed as a way to help avoid the construction of new fossil-fueled power plants.”

1-4-18 News Leader. Augusta County residents pack meeting to oppose pipeline storage yard in Churchville. “The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals voted to delay making a decision Thursday on whether to issue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline a special use permit for a storage yard in Churchville. …. The marathon meeting lasted nearly four hours and drew over 250 people, nearly all of whom were in opposition to the permit. Over 40 people addressed the board to speak against the project, whereas less than five people spoke in favor of it. The board will take more time to consider the proposal and where to go from here and revisit the request at its meeting in February….”

1-4-18 Think Progress. An Oregon court just dealt local climate action a huge win. “The Oregon Court of Appeals dealt one of the most progressive climate policies in the country a major victory on Thursday when it ruled that Portland’s fossil fuel infrastructure ban does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The ruling overturns an earlier decision by the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals — an administrative body charged with deciding land use conflicts — which found that the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure within city limits violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. …. The ban, which was finalized in December of 2016, changed the city’s zoning code to create a new class of regulated land use for bulk fossil fuel terminals, which was defined as anything with a storage capacity in excess of 2 million gallons — things like massive storage facilities for natural gas, or export terminals for fossil fuel. And while it allowed current fossil fuel infrastructure to continue operating, it prohibited the construction of new infrastructure within city limits. …. The Oregon Court of Appeals did not completely overturn the Land Use Board of Appeals’ earlier decision, finding that the city of Portland failed to make the plan consistent with Oregon’s statewide planning goal that requires a city to submit an “adequate factual base” when creating land use changes. Specifically, the court found that the city failed to provide enough evidence that future use of fossil fuels would likely decline throughout the state; the city now has the option of submitting a body of evidence to satisfy this requirement. Until then, the ban cannot go into effect. It’s also likely that opponents of the ban will appeal the court’s decision, volleying the issue to federal court. Still, proponents of the ban cheered Thursday’s decision as a crucial win for local climate action, which has emerged in the last year as a powerful tool to counter the Trump administration’s federal deregulatory agenda.”

1-3-18 Bloomberg. Dominion to Buy Scana for $7.9 Billion After Nuclear Flop. “Dominion Energy Inc. will buy Scana Corp. for $7.9 billion in a stock-for-stock deal, scooping up a utility battered by a failed nuclear project that’s drawn scrutiny from federal and state regulators. …. Scana, based in South Carolina, made an attractive target as the company’s market value plummeted after the utility halted expansion of its V.C. Summer nuclear plant in late July. …. ‘Dominion acquiring Scana makes a lot of sense,’ Shahriar Pourreza, a New York-based analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said by phone Wednesday. Dominion is building a major natural gas pipeline, the Atlantic Coast line, to the South Carolina border, and state officials want it extended, he said. The line could serve Scana customers.”

1-3-18 NBC29. Augusta County Reviews Proposal for Dominion Energy Construction Yard. “An Augusta County board is reviewing a proposal by Dominion Energy to build a construction yard for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline on 34 acres of farmland near Churchville. Pipeline opponents are rallying against the proposed site. The energy company needs to get a special use permit from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals to allow a construction yard on agricultural land. …. Opponents worry it will add too much truck traffic on winding, country roads and damage the farmland. …. The Virginia Department of Transportation recommends the board deny the permit if Dominion can’t find a safe entrance for traffic to the site.”


Note:  This page contains recent news articles from the past two months.  For older news articles regarding Friends of Nelson, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, anti-pipeline advocacy, and pipeline-related news, please visit our archived news pages:

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