In the News

June 2018

6-19-18 WRAL [NC].  2 more violation notices issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline. “West Virginia regulators have issued two additional violation notices to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the two additional violation notices to the pipeline project are for water pollution violations in Nicholas and Harrison counties. In all, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has cited the pipeline project four times for breaking water pollution rules. The most recent notice was issued June 6 for failing to comply with the project’s stormwater permit and general permit.”

6-19-18 WAVY10. Recent pipeline explosions worry Va. residents about Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “There were two natural gas pipeline explosions across the U.S. in the last two weeks, and that has some Virginia residents on edge about the construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Norfolk businessman Bob Wilson bought a Wintergreen Resort home with peace of mind that Wintergreen is a safe place for his family and for him. He doesn’t feel that way now since Dominion Energy chose a route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that is at the only entrance and exit on and off the mountain resort. Keep in mind that on June 7 in Moundsville, West Virginia, there was a newly installed natural gas pipeline that shot flames into the sky that could be seen for miles. Eight days later there was another natural gas pipeline explosion that rocked rural Kansas. There were huge flames that shot 100 feet into the air. Bob Wilson, who was playing Shipwreck Putt-Putt at Motor World with his grandson, Hunter, thinks about those explosions a lot. ‘My grandson likes to ski Wintergreen. What is going to happen, if we have an accident up there and we can’t get out?’ If you look at pictures of the only main entrance and exit on and off the mountain, there are cut down trees that are near the entrance off Wintergreen, and those chopped down trees are the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘When they say it can’t happen here, and then it happens within weeks of each other, the probability is it is going to happen, and it’s just a matter of when,’ Wilson said.”

6-18-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Del. Sam Rasoul Demands Stop to Pipeline Construction NOW While 11,000 (!) Citizen Comments Are Considered. “Virginia Del. Sam Rasoul speaking a bit earlier this afternoon [both video and transcript provided in article] about how it’s time to stop construction on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines while the 11,000 (!) comments already submitted to the state Water Control Board are ‘immediately considered.'”

6-18-18 Roanoke Times. 2 pipeline projects draw more than 13,000 public comments. “More than 13,000 written comments have been submitted to a state board that invited public input on how two huge natural gas pipelines will impact Virginia’s water bodies. It could take weeks to process the information and present it in a meaningful form to the State Water Control Board, a spokeswoman said Monday. Pipeline opponents are calling on the board to take swift action in reviewing a federal permit that governs how streams, rivers and wetlands will be crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Southwest Virginia and a similar natural gas transmission line to the east, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘It is clear that there is already damage occurring,’ Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, said at a news conference held Monday to push for a state-ordered stop to construction. …. About 2,600 emails were received about the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will cross streams and wetlands more than 500 times on its path through six Virginia counties. Approximately 7,100 emails involved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Ann Regn. Another 3,500 letters, reports and other paper records were submitted; it wasn’t clear Monday how many of those were related to each pipeline. Regn said that the board is currently scheduled to meet Aug. 21, and that the comments must first be reviewed by DEQ staff members in a process that could take weeks. Critics are calling for a meeting much sooner. Tree and land clearing by Mountain Valley have already caused environmental damage, they say, and more problems are expected when construction workers begin to blast bedrock and dig trenches for the 42-inch diameter steel pipe.”

6-18-18 Daily Progress. Wintergreen seeks to stop water permit for pipeline. “The South Fork of the Rockfish River and another tributary run down the mountainside past Wintergreen on either side of Beech Grove Road to cross under state Route 151. They are the bodies of water that Wintergreen landowners worry about when they think about the potential landslides of rock and sediment they fear would be loosened by drilling a 4,500-foot-long tunnel through the Blue Ridge beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. Those federally protected scenic byways were the reason Dominion moved the pipeline route 8 miles south to Reed’s Gap, where the company could tunnel under the trail and parkway with permission from the U.S. Forest Service — not an act of Congress. Roberts said the horizontal directional drilling Dominion plans would pierce faults buried deep in the mountain and release pressurized pockets of groundwater that could weaken already unstable rock and loose colluvial deposits. ‘That material is going to go where? It’s going to go into the streams,’ he said. The association’s comments to the DEQ include a picture of a test well bored by Dominion on a slope above the drilling site. The well had been capped, but Roberts said the water forced the pressurized cap off the boring tube. ‘This one penetration of the faults identified in the geology report provides clear evidence of significant groundwater under significant pressure,’ he told the DEQ.” [This article also appeared on June 17 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.]

6-16-18 Daily Progress. Letter to Editor: Is pipeline risk worth the damage? “We all know this 600-mile pipeline and what’s called its supply header project cross over 1,000 streams and wetlands, traversing steep slopes and mountaintops. We all know that damage to the environment will occur; some habitat will be destroyed; some water will be put in danger, and some will be drawn down to facilitate drilling through the Blue Ridge. The question is: Are the risks and damage acceptable, given the minimal benefits this pipeline will bring? …. Pipelines are expensive to build and are meant to last for 40-50 years. Will this pipeline, ultimately paid for by customers in Virginia and North Carolina, become a stranded asset, carrying very little gas while it is still being paid for? Probably not. Pipeline owners believe they can always sell the gas overseas where the price of gas is higher than here in the U.S. The losers are the pipeline’s utility customers and the landowners who are required to give their property to a project with no community benefit and a lot of acknowledged risk. This pipeline should not be built.”

6-15-18 Blue Virginia. Virginia State Legislators File Comments Urging State Water Control Board to Conduct Stream-By-Stream Analysis of Gas Pipelines’ Impacts on Water Quality. “On Friday, June 15, 2018, sixteen members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates jointly filed comments with the State Water Control Board in the pending regulatory proceeding on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposals. In an unprecedented move, the group representing more than ten percent of the 140 combined members of Virginia’s state legislature expressed ‘serious concerns about how these projects would have severe negative impacts on Virginia’s water resources.’ These legislators believe that the Commonwealth should fully utilize the legal authority it has under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to protect the water quality in Virginia, rather than simply rely upon the Nationwide Permit 12 issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nationwide Permit 12 are generally used by the federal government to handle routine projects that have only minimal effects on water quality. ‘Some supporters of pipelines assert that these projects are already approved by the federal government, and so our state has no role,’ stated Delegate Mark Keam who helped draft the public comments. ‘But the facts and the law are clear – the Commonwealth is responsible for protecting Virginia waters, not some bureaucrats in Washington who have never even visited the hundreds of rivers and streams that these pipelines will cross.'”

6-15-18 Roanoke Times. FERC upholds approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline project. “A federal agency that green-lighted construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline with a key approval last year has voted 3-2 to uphold its decision. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied a request for a rehearing filed by pipeline opponents in a 172-page order Friday. Although the ruling has no immediate impact on a construction project that is already well underway, it gives opponents the final decision they needed to pose a direct legal challenge. When the requests for a rehearing were filed late last year, the commission issued what’s called a tolling order that put the project in a state of legal limbo. By taking more time to consider the requests, the panel allowed construction to proceed while forestalling an appeal of its decision.”

6-15-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  FERC upholds approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline project.  “A federal agency that approved construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline with a key approval last year has voted 3-2 to uphold its decision. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied a request for a rehearing filed by pipeline opponents in a 172-page order Friday. Although the ruling has no immediate impact on a construction project that is already well underway, it gives opponents the final decision they needed to pose a direct legal challenge. When the requests for a rehearing were filed late last year, the commission issued what’s called a tolling order that put the project in a state of legal limbo. By taking more time to consider the requests, the panel allowed construction to proceed while forestalling an appeal of its decision.” [A direct legal challenge may now go forward.]

6-15-18 SoMd News [MD]. Residents protest water permit for Dominion compressor. “More than 100 residents of Bryans Road and the Moyaone Reserve attended a public hearing on Monday to urge the Maryland Department of the Environment to reject Dominion Energy Cove Point LLC’s request to drain water on the construction site of its proposed compressor station. Dominion has applied for a water appropriation and use permit from MDE to “dewater” up to 1.45 acres of land to a depth of up to 16 feet should it receive approval to install two large natural-gas turbines that would pump natural gas through an underground pipeline that runs through northern Charles County. Dominion environmental consultant Frank Cannetto told the audience that the process would lower the water table in the construction zone by approximately 6 feet during the construction phase, which would last approximately nine months. Drainage is necessary to ensure safe and dry working conditions for construction crews, Cannetto said.

6-15-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Firefighter, 4 others badly hurt in Oklahoma gas line blast. “An Oklahoma firefighter who was among five people injured in an explosion after a natural gas pipeline rupture in Tulsa was in stable condition Friday, a fire department spokesman said.”

6-15-18 KAKE [Kansas]. Natural gas pipeline explodes near Hesston [KS]. “Authorities say a natural gas pipeline exploded in a rural area in central Kansas on Friday, sending flames shooting more than 75 feet into the air. Emergency crews responded at around 7:30 a.m. the explosion near West Dutch Avenue and Hertzler Road, about five miles west of Hesston. No injuries were reported. The gas line belongs to Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline. Company spokesman Rob Southard says everyone is safe and that the gas supply had been shut off. Crews waited until the excess gas in the line burned off about three hours later. Southard said there’s no word on the cause of the fire or whether gas service was affected. There was no excavation work being done in the area beforehand.”

6-14-18 Farmville Herald. History, health at stake in Buckingham. Speakers at the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice “told the advisory council how Union Hill is being overlooked in the rush to build the pipeline and compressor station. Neither FERC nor the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing in the county, meaning few citizens could afford the time or expense to provide their comments in person. Dominion and FERC underreported the population density of the community, using a countywide average instead, so the pipeline can be built with thinner walls and fewer emergency shut-off valves. And although Federal Energy Regulatory Commission noted the compressor station would be in a census tract designated as a low-income, environmental justice population, it approved the project anyhow, and Dominion has made no plans to change locations. On May 30, the advisory council adopted a draft statement calling for a moratorium on new gas infrastructure in Virginia and a stream-by-stream analysis of the impacts of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. The council expects to finalize its recommendations to Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration soon.”

6-14-18 Utility Dive. LaFleur defies FERC majority, will consider broad climate impacts of pipelines. “Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur will consider the broad climate impacts of new natural gas infrastructure when voting on whether to approve new projects, the regulator announced Wednesday. FERC last month ruled in a 3-2, party-line vote that it will only consider greenhouse gas emissions from specific pipelines, rather than a project’s expected impact on production and consumption of natural gas. LaFleur wrote she will still consider those broader estimates as she evaluates new projects. LaFleur’s announcement, issued as a concurrence in a Tennessee pipeline case, comes as FERC undertakes the first review of its pipeline approval policies since 1999. The Democrat commissioner wrote FERC’s position on analyzing climate impacts should be ‘thoroughly reexamined’ in that review. LaFleur’s stance on climate is unlikely to change FERC decisions on pipeline approvals immediately, as the three Republicans on the five-member commission steadfastly oppose a broader emissions review. Her position, however, will shape at least one pipeline vote at FERC and could provide a model for how future commissions will approach the issue, should Democrats regain a majority.”

6-13-18 SELC. Pipeline explosion reignites concerns. “Dominion Energy is putting itself in danger of liability as it attempts to barrel ahead with construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline despite a recent ruling that raises the question of whether the developer holds a valid construction permit. SELC has now filed, on behalf of the environmental groups involved in the permit lawsuit, a request at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for stay of construction in Virginia and West Virginia. The request argues that, without a valid Fish and Wildlife permit, developers are at risk of violating the Endangered Species Act and are violating a FERC certificate that requires the permit. Dominion Energy attempted to get its construction underway last week in West Virginia against the backdrop of a massive explosion of a “best-in-class” 3-foot natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, West Virginia. The explosion, which incinerated 10 acres of forest near the pipeline and fortunately did not result in any deaths, highlights just what is at stake when undertaking these dangerous and costly projects. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be larger, at a three-and-a-half feet, and is meant to stretch 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The pipeline would flow through the backyard of residents and businesses all along the route, like that of the Harris Family in Churchville, Virginia. The Harris family home is a mere 250 feet from the pipeline, well within what is considered the blast zone.”

6-13-18 E&E News. Senate Dems take FERC to task for climate policy shift. “Democratic senators grilled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday on how it analyzes the climate impacts of natural gas pipelines. ‘The commission may be creating more uncertainty for the public and industry by not performing the hard look at projects [under] the National Environmental Policy Act,’ said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The panel held an oversight hearing yesterday with all five FERC commissioners (see related story). While debate over the Trump administration’s latest bid to boost struggling coal and nuclear plants dominated the conversation, a few lawmakers also zeroed in on FERC’s approach to climate analysis for gas projects. The agency’s position has evolved over the years — most recently moving in a direction opposed by environmentalists and many Democrats on Capitol Hill. Cantwell first raised the issue during her opening remarks, noting that she was concerned by the commission’s May 18 decision to limit analysis in some cases. “I’m struggling to understand how this squares with the D.C. Circuit court decision to conduct more climate analysis,” she said, referring to a 2017 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that ordered added climate review for a pipeline system in the Southeast. FERC complied with the court order and calculated the downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the Sabal Trail project. But more recently, the Republican commissioners have clarified that FERC won’t crunch those numbers for every natural gas pipeline.”

6-13-18 Charlotte Business Journal. Environmental groups file petition to stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. “Three environmental groups have called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop construction on the $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and hold a new hearing on whether the project can proceed. The groups allege that construction work in West Virginia, which the FERC authorized last month, violates the federal Endangered Species Act because of a court ruling that invalidated part of a required approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC — a joint venture of Dominion Energy Inc. (NYSE :D), Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) and The Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) — denies that the court ruling invalidates the Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval. It says the pipeline is free to proceed with FERC-permitted construction in areas not impacted by the endangered species requirements. The environmental groups contend that without the service’s ‘Incidental Take Statement,’ which set limits on the damage that can be done to endangered species along the 600-mile pipeline route, the FERC’s May notice to proceed with general construction in West Virginia is invalid. They ask the commission to revoke or suspend the notice and hold a new hearing after the service completes a new take statement.”

6-13-18 WV News. Federal agency approves some in-stream pipeline work during fish-spawning season. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday approved a June 8 request from Dominion Energy to conduct work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and supply header projects in some waterways before the July 1 end of warmwater fish spawning season. The variance request submitted by Dominion indicates developers had already secured fish spawning season restriction waivers for the work from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. In-stream activities outlined in the request include culvert work, installation of temporary span bridges and ‘exploratory drilling to determine presence of rock, followed by blasting if necessary, which will help with overall planning and reduce amount of time for in-stream work,’ according to the request.

6-13-18 Blue Ridge Life. Wintergreen Property Owners Request DEQ Intervention on Army Corps of Engineers Approval. “Wintergreen Property Owners’ Executive Director Jay Roberts says the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has a responsibility to take a detailed look at the proposed impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline being constructed through the mountains within a few hundred feet of the entry-exit of Wintergreen Resort. ‘The mountain has unique characteristics. There’s material that slides off a mountain relatively easy, just like at interstate 64 in Afton. And, when you denude the mountains for trees that hold the soil, and you introduce water you have the risk of debris avalanches. And those debris avalanches can take out the roadway, they can block the entrance and exit to the community. The material gets in the streams. It’s extremely important for DEQ to look at the engineering and study it and not rubber-stamp the project.’ Roberts went on to say that keeping underground water running along faults in the mountains has always been a challenge. It was often a problem at the resort when constructing other projects there. He expressed great concern about where the water would be diverted once construction gets underway. …. The new request to DEQ to take another look was filed early Wednesday morning. The new document is very detailed and provides significant history and engineering information in the new request.”

6-12-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Natural gas pipeline agrees to pay $430,000 penalty for water pollution violations. “Rover Pipeline LLC has agreed to pay the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection $430,000 for water pollution violations in the state, according to a consent order made public Tuesday. The natural gas pipeline project and the DEP made the deal May 15, documents show, but the public comment period for the consent order ends July 13. The agreement is in response to notices of violation and cease-and-desist orders issued to Rover Pipeline dating back to April 2017, said Jake Glance, spokesman for the DEP. In all, the pipeline has received 18 notices of violation and two cease-and-desist orders, the most recent of which was issued on March 5, when the regulators said crews left trash and construction partially buried on site and failed to clean the roads around the construction site. The DEP also issued a cease-and-desist order in July 2017 for similar violations.”

6-12-18 Huffington Post.  DNC Quietly Adopts Ban On Fossil Fuel Company Donations. “The Democratic National Committee voted over the weekend to ban donations from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost has learned. The resolution ? proposed by Christine Pelosi, a party activist and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter ? bars the organization from accepting contributions from corporate political action committees tied to the oil, gas and coal industries. The executive committee voted unanimously to approve the motion. ‘We talk about how climate change is real and climate change is a planetary emergency, what we need to do is stop taking money from the institutions that have created this crisis,’ said RL Miller, president of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote Political Action and a co-author of the resolution. The DNC may consider a second resolution at a full board meeting in Chicago in August to ban contributions over $200 from individuals who work for the fossil fuel industry. Miller said the proposal ? which has not yet been submitted to the DNC ? will hopefully lead candidates to adopt similar policies.”

6-11-18 Axios. Cybersecurity threats to U.S. gas pipelines call for stricter oversight. “Foreign enemies are increasingly launching cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, including energy facilities. To protect against attacks that could compromise electric service, grid operators must comply with mandatory standards overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yes, but: The U.S. has no comparable standards for its network of pipelines. As abundant and affordable natural gas has become a major part of the fuel mix, the cybersecurity threats to that supply have taken on new urgency. The big picture: FERC has the authority to issue certificates for new interstate gas pipelines and to set their rates, but not to regulate their security. That charge falls to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the same agency that oversees 851 million aviation passengers per year, 138,000 miles of railroad track and 4 million miles of highway. In May 2017, TSA confirmed that it had just 6 full-time employees tasked with securing the more than 2.7 million miles of natural gas, oil and hazardous liquid pipelines that traverse the country. Moreover, despite having the authority to enforce mandatory cybersecurity standards, the TSA relies on voluntary ones.”

6-11-18 WDBJ7. Pipeline construction increases truck traffic and concern on rural roads. “One after another, large trucks carrying sections of pipe roll down Mount Tabor Road, on their way to the area where crews are building the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Last month, Air 7 captured a similar scene nearby on Catawba Road. People who live in this part of Montgomery County say the traffic has multiplied in the last six weeks, challenging drivers like Matthew Pickett who say they’ve narrowly avoided accidents. ‘I felt that the situation was very very dangerous given how far into the other lane he was,’ Pickett told WDBJ7, ‘and how little of a heads up that I had before seeing him around a curve.’ Robin Scully echoed the concern. ‘Everybody I’ve talked to, and I have neighbors that are 10 miles each way,” Scully said, “they have had issues being run off the road with a truck.’ The Montgomery County Sheriffs Office has received complaints, and deputies have responded, conducting speed surveys in the area,for example. So far, no accidents have been reported, but residents of the area along Mount Tabor Road say they need immediate help from VDOT, the state police and the sheriffs office, before someone is seriously injured in an accident.”

6-11-18 Bay Journal. New VA governor calls review of DEQ the first step in rebuilding it. “It’s been 25 years since four Virginia agencies coalesced to form the department charged with protecting the environment and public health. Now, one of the new governor’s first orders of business suggests it might be time for a makeover. In April, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order calling for an overhaul of the state’s beleaguered Department of Environmental Quality, which has seen its staff cut by 30 percent and its budget trimmed by nearly $60 million over the past decade. The agency and its director, David Paylor, have been the subject of increased public scrutiny, particularly over the recent approval of two major natural gas pipelines that will cross dozens of streams as they are erected across the state. A majority of the 20,000 comments the DEQ received about the pipeline projects opposed their construction, and hundreds of people attended the State Water Control Board meetings in December when they were approved. Northam said the yearlong review of the DEQ, which is already under way, is a first step toward rebuilding “a critically important state agency.” His executive order requires that Paylor inform the governor’s office within 90 days if ‘critical updates’ are needed to ensure the agency’s permitting process is protective of the environment. Paylor is also to monitor changes to federal regulations that could impact the state and submit quarterly reports to the governor for the duration of his term, the order states. Another aspect of the review calls for reports in six months to the secretary of natural resources, who will complete his recommendations to the governor by the end of April 2019. …. DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said that the agency’s deputy director, by the end of May, would present a plan to the governor’s office on how the overhaul should proceed. Stakeholder groups and a website to collect feedback from the public will be part of the process, and the agency is already collecting feedback from staff at every level on how their work could be improved.”

6-11-18 Record Delta [WV]  Commission hears pipeline concerns. “The state policy director for Dominion Energy on Thursday pledged to examine whether vehicles associated with Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction were in compliance with weight limits the West Virginia Department of Highways has set for bridges. In response to a handful of concerns raised by two members of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance — April Pierson-Keating and Tim Higgins — Bob Ordorff said he would make contact with the W.Va. DOH to ensure Dominion Energy, the primary operator of the 600-mile-long, 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline, was operating in accordance with the weight limits of bridges on rural roads, many of which are unlisted. The concern came up at Thursday’s Upshur County Commission meeting when Keating presented a slideshow of a various images of ACP construction in the county, including pictures of large tanker trucks and semi trucks crossing bridges on back roads. ‘I’ve been kind of keeping an eye on the construction activities,’ Keating told the commission, as well as Orndorff and ACP community liaison Mike Cozad, both of whom attended Thursdays meeting. ‘This bridge here does not have a sign for weight limits, and I talked to the bridge engineer for state roads, who said bridges on the back roads are [designed to hold] 65,000 pounds, and I’m not sure what the weight is on these trucks, but there are two of them on the bridge at the time.'”

6-9-18 MetroNews. Dominion says pipeline progress will go on, even with appeals court ruling. “A Dominion Energy spokeswoman says a federal appeals court ruling that vacated a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not halting the project’s construction. ‘We have committed from the very beginning to stand by our environmental practices as setting a best in class example,’ spokeswoman Samantha Norris said. ‘Dominion Energy, as the chief operator for ACP, has from the very beginning identified some of these sensitive areas, so we have already analyzed many of the habitats and the species that are coming into question with this court ruling.’ A three-judge panel from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond in May announced a ruling that would invalidate a key U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review.”

6-8-18 News Leader. Letter to Editor: Governor’s minion expresses contempt for anti-pipeline public. “Gov. Ralph Northam and his communications director Brian Coy recently took questions from the public on WTOP radio. During a break, Mr. Coy was inadvertently recorded on an open mike. Although most of the questions were about the gas pipelines, Mr. Coy told WTOP that he wanted only one question about the pipelines and that citizens opposed to the pipelines were not acting in good faith. These comments show a disregard for public opinion and contempt for those who are opposed to the many negative impacts these pipelines would bring to hard working Virginians. …. These pipeline impacts are now known to most Virginians. Rather than close his eyes and hope they go away, Mr. Coy should explain to all of us why he thinks they are OK. Without doing this, he is the one who is not acting in good faith.”

6-8-18 Colorlines. Activists, Attorneys Say Government Ignored Data on Negative Impact of Pipeline on Natives, Blacks. “The number of Indigenous people who could be negatively impacted is larger than those living near the Dakota Access pipeline. Nearly one year ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), stating that it posed no environmental justice concerns. Now, a group of academics and attorneys say that FERC used data from unreliable statistical methods in an effort to disregard the impact that the pipeline will have on Black and Indigenous communities.”

6-7-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Officials: W.Va. explosion was along newly installed natural gas line. “No injuries were reported Thursday after an explosion in a newly installed natural gas line near Moundsville, W.Va., shot flames into the sky that could be seen for miles. …. TransCanada said in a statement that the cause was unknown and that it had a crew on the scene. The company said there was “an issue” with a pipeline on its Columbia Gas Transmission system in Marshall County. …. The pipeline, known as the Leach XPress, was put into service in January. It’s 36 inches in diameter and has a maximum operating pressure of 1,440 pounds per square inch. …. In announcing its start in January, TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling said: “’This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.'”

6-7-18 Pacific Standard. Are the Feds Cherry-Picking Data to Force Pipelines Through Vulnerable Communities? “The government’s energy regulator is facing allegations of cherry-picking data to approve pipeline projects that would disproportionately harm communities of color. According to academics, attorneys, and non-governmental organizations, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission used unreliable statistical methods in its analysis of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, masking its high cost to African-American and Native-American communities. While the Commission concluded that the pipeline poses no environmental justice concerns, these minority groups say that their environment, health, and culture will be disproportionately imperiled if the development goes ahead as planned. FERC faced similar accusations over the Sabal Trail pipeline in 2016, indicating a pattern in how the federal government manages to force unwelcome energy infrastructure through vulnerable communities. …. FERC’s doubtful statistical analysis is not unique to this pipeline. Nor was it unforeseen: In its guidance to agencies on environmental justice, the EPA warns government analysts against selecting inappropriate geographical units that might “artificially dilute or inflate” the affected minority population. Indeed, it warns explicitly against the precise distortions that FERC committed in its analysis of the ACP. ‘Pockets of minority or low-income communities, including those that may be experiencing disproportionately high and adverse effects, may be missed in a traditional census tract-based analysis,’ the EPA’s guidance document says.”

6-7-18 Roanoke Times. Regulators cite Mountain Valley Pipeline a second time for erosion problems. “For the second time since work began on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, regulators have put the company on notice that it is breaking rules meant to protect the environment. Crews building the natural gas pipeline failed to prevent sediment-laden water from running off at a work site in Wetzel County, West Virginia, according to a notice of violation issued last week by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. …. After receiving their first notice of violation, pipeline officials wrote in a letter to regulators that the issues had been ‘fully addressed and resolved.’ Yet just a few weeks later, they were facing more problems in Wetzel County, the starting point for a 303-mile buried pipeline that will pass through Southwest Virginia.”

6-7-18 Roanoke Times. Charge dismissed against pipeline protester after arresting officer accused of lying. “A charge that a pipeline protester blocked a U.S. Forest Service road was dismissed this week after the protester’s lawyer argued that it was based on a lie by the arresting officer. Prosecutors agreed that the charge should be dismissed. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou did so in an order entered Tuesday.”

6-6-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Northam can stop the pipelines right now. “The tree-sitters have come down, and all the permits have been issued by state and federal agencies. Bulldozers and chainsaw crews are already clearing sections of the the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. Is there anything that can stop them? Actually, yes. Governor Ralph Northam has the power to halt pipeline construction, but so far, he has chosen not to act. Instead, in April, Northam issued an executive order that allowed the pipelines to proceed through Virginia. Originally, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality had planned to conduct a project-specific reviews of each pipeline, called a 401 permit review. This would have required regulators to analyze the pipelines’ impacts on every stream and body of water that they cross. However, regulators later decided to skip the 401 permit review and instead use a blanket Nationwide 12 permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve the entire process. Most of the streams crossed by these pipelines were never properly analyzed to determine the health and environmental impacts of pipeline construction. Despite the inadequate review process, and despite the agency’s acknowledgment that they have never reviewed a project this large, Governor Northam has continued to stand by the review process. The truth is this: Governor Northam has the power to halt the pipelines right now. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the primary authority over interstate gas pipelines, but states also have the authority to approve or deny certain permits under the federal Clean Water Act. FERC’s role does not supercede state power when it comes to stopping projects that pose a threat to the state’s water quality. In August, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state of New York’s denial of a Clean Water Act Section 401 permit for the Constitution Pipeline. Northam could do the same in Virginia.”

6-6-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline resistance sees parallels with civil rights tactics. “Since work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline began, opponents from all walks of life — including a Virginia Tech professor, a former candidate for the Roanoke City Council, a substance abuse counselor, a speech pathologist, a local artist and a Harvard University graduate — have been charged with a variety of non-violent misdemeanor offenses. More than 20 activists have been arrested or given citations for occupying tree stands that blocked the pipeline’s route, attempting to provide food and water to a protester on an elevated platform in the Jefferson National Forest and sometimes for simply standing too close to the pipeline right of way while they shadow construction crews. …. The resistance has been likened to the non-violent tactics employed during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Just as those advocating equal rights for blacks saw fit to break unjust laws of the Jim Crow era, the argument goes, pipeline opponents are being arrested for resisting laws allowing a project that they say will ruin individual lives and the environment at large.”

6-6-18 Pocahontas Times [WV]. Commission hears proposal for environmental oversight. “At the request of the Pocahontas County Commission, representatives of Core Environmental Services, Inc. of Lewisburg, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s meeting as to their capabilities in assisting the county with monitoring and managing any environmental problems associated with Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. Commission president Bill Beard and commissioner Jesse Groseclose both mentioned that the company comes highly recommended as the best local company doing this kind of work. It is the company which handled the cleanup of the Liberty Industries Elk River chemical spill into the Elk River in Charleston in 2014. Matt Ford, General Manager of West Virginia Operations and Audrey Sampson, Project Manager, outlined Core Environmental’s expertise and experience in the field of environmental protection. They described the professional oversight that they could provide for the county, focusing on erosion and sediment control, stormwater, construction inspection, and inspections following a significant rainfall. The contract proposed by the company would have Environmental Services, Inc. acting as an agent for the county in handling inspections, citizen reports and complaints, acting as a go-between for the county with Dominion and reporting any environmental violations to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.”

6-6-18 C-Ville. Compressor anxiety: Historic African American community alleges environmental racism. “About 50 miles south of Charlottesville, in the small, quiet community of Union Hill, there are far more ‘No Pipeline’ signs than traffic lights. The historic town of weather-faded homes and churches in bucolic Buckingham County could soon be sliced by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and in what residents say would add insult to injury, it could become home to one of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline’s three proposed compressor stations. Residents are calling it ‘blatant environmental racism,’ and allege Dominion intentionally erased a large percentage of their population in its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the pipeline. In the final environmental impact statement on the ACP, FERC stated that, on average, there are 29.6 people per square mile in the area surrounding the pipeline’s path in Buckingham—that number was provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Residents say that number was off by about 500 percent.”

6-6-18 C-Ville. Pipeline parallels? Eminent domain: the movie. “One of the least popular Supreme Court decisions this century would have to be Kelo v. New London, a case that resulted in 45 states, including Virginia, passing laws or, in the Old Dominion’s case, constitutional amendments to prevent the seizing of private property to benefit other private owners under the guise of economic development. The story of Susette Kelo’s struggle to keep her home in New London, Connecticut, is documented in the film Little Pink House, starring Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Afton writer Doug Hornig sees a parallel with the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its use of eminent domain to cut a swath through private property. ‘I think there’s a lot of interest,’ says Hornig, who will screen Little Pink House June 28 at Regal Stonefield and follow the movie with a brief panel discussion. …. The film had a limited release in five cities April 20, and through the website Tugg, people who are interested in screening it can bring it to their local theater. That’s what Hornig did. He made a request for a screening and Regal okayed it if he sold 90 tickets. Hornig met that minimum and was upgraded to a larger theater, which he hopes to sell out before the screening. And he’ll have 25 minutes for a panel discussion that includes Jeff Redfern from the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo; Chuck Lollar, a Virginia Beach attorney representing several of the people fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline; Richard Averitt, a Nelson County entrepreneur whose business is threatened by the ACP; and Joyce Burton, a Friends of Nelson board member.”

6-6-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Environmental groups call on Northam to stop surveillance of anti-pipeline protesters. “Two environmental groups on Wednesday called on Gov. Ralph Northam and relevant state leaders to order an end to surveillance of Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters done by a state entity tasked with fighting terrorism. A statement from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Preserve Floyd, citing a Richmond Times-Dispatch report, said there was no need for the Virginia Fusion Center, which has a primary mission of preventing terrorism, to use its resources to monitor activities of peaceful environmental groups and report information to the developer of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both environmental groups are among those whose Facebook meeting activities were monitored by law enforcement for dissemination in ‘pipeline situation reports. In our America, you should be able to participate in a protest about an issue you care about without having to worry that government operatives are watching you and reporting your activities directly to a private company that is building an unwanted and unneeded pipeline through Virginians’ waterways, beloved mountains, and treasured forests.’ The statement said the groups’ activities include prayer vigils, peaceful sit-ins and concerts.”

6-5-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Capitol Police, more than two dozen other agencies train in Richmond for large-scale response. “More than 27 agencies from across the Richmond metro region trained together Tuesday for a large-scale civil unrest event. The scenario was realistic, but fictional: two opposing activist groups planned demonstrations attracting thousands to Richmond’s Capitol Square on the same day. One group is protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-plus-mile natural gas pipeline planned to be built from West Virginia through the southwestern part of Virginia, saying it will destroy thousands of acres of natural land; the other group rallies in favor of the pipeline because with it comes jobs. Police from nearly every department in the region including Richmond and Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties, as well as Capitol, Virginia State and Virginia Commonwealth University police participated in the training. State and local departments of fire and EMS, emergency management, transportation and general services were also on-hand, as were officials from CSX Transportation, Central Virginia Healthcare Coalition, Greater Richmond Transit Co., Virginia Fusion Center, and the Virginia National Guard — all of which may play a role in a large-scale emergency response.”

6-5-18 UtilityDive. FERC splits again on affiliates, climate in Florida pipeline approval. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Okeechobee Lateral pipeline project in a 4-1 vote that demonstrated the agency’s divide over assessing pipeline need and climate change impacts. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented, writing FERC should have more closely scrutinized the need for the pipeline because its owner and offtaker are both owned by the same holding company. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur issued a concurrence, writing FERC could have better evaluated the carbon emission impacts from building the pipeline. The FERC majority said it cannot judge the significance of carbon emissions resulting from the pipeline and that the relationship between pipeline owner and offtaker ‘does not call into question the need for the project.’ FERC’s latest split pipeline decision highlights a growing partisan divide over pipeline approvals at the commission. LaFleur and Glick, the two Democratic commissioners at FERC, have regularly issue dissents or concurrences based on affiliate relationships and carbon impacts since the agency’s quorum was restored last year. The three Republican commissioners, meanwhile, typically vote to approve applications.”

6-5-18 Power for the People VA. Dominion won’t build new baseload gas plants. So why is it still building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Utility giant Dominion Energy and gas turbine maker General Electric reportedly agree on a startling fact: there is no market for new baseload gas plants. As recently as two years ago, Dominion’s utility subsidiary in Virginia had as much as 8,000 megawatts (MW) of new combined cycle gas plants on the drawing board. Combined cycle plants, designed to run most of the time, have become the dominant source of power generation in Virginia. This year, new combined cycle plants are noticeably absent from Dominion Energy Virginia’s Integrated Resource Plan. Proposed instead are a series of smaller, peak-serving combustion turbines. Although the utility is proposing a bunch of them, they will have to compete with increasingly-competitive storage options for regulatory approval. …. A new study from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) shows why utilities are smart to avoid building new gas plants. RMI says that as early as 2026, cost declines for wind and solar will make it more expensive to operate natural gas infrastructure than to abandon it and replace it with new wind and solar facilities. When that happens, gas plant owners will be left with stranded assets. Even in today’s market, RMI concludes gas is a risky investment. …. All this is very bad news for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

6-4-18 WSLS10. Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters lock themselves to drilling equipment. “Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline tried a new tactic Monday: chaining themselves to construction equipment. West Virginia state police arrested three people who were trying to slow down workers in Lindside, a community in Monroe County, West Virginia. They delayed construction for a few hours on Route 219. Police cut them out around 10 a.m., about two hours after they received a call.”

6-4-18 Blue Virginia. Pipeline Bombshell Part 2: Worse Than We Thought – 50 Landslides Show Mountain Valley Pipeline Contractor Is REALLY Incompetent. “Last week, we revealed that the contractor hired to construct the Mountain Valley Pipeline is so incompetent that even Dominion Energy says so. Yes, THAT Dominion Energy. …. The crux of our story was that Precision’s work — on a 30-inch diameter, 55-mile pipeline, (far smaller than the 42 inch diameter, 300 mile proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline) — was so bad that it led to 13 landslides. Yes, landslides. Those terrifying details were included in an expert report that we published last week for the first time. But it turns out things were far worse than we thought. There were more than 50 landslides! Yes, >50 landslides. In a 55-mile pipeline project. With a 30-inch diameter. In non-mountainous terrain. The expert report we published last week only looked at 13 landslides because those were the only ones that the experts had reviewed as of the date of their report. But it turns out that there were a total of more than 50 landslides – which includes larger landslides as well as smaller scale landslides, called ‘slips’ in the industry. That’s an average of one landslide, or slip, every mile. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline is 300 miles long. Do the math. These new details of Precision’s work on the Appalachian Gateway Project are included in a second expert report – published here for the first time – from an engineering firm hired by Dominion’s attorneys, McGuireWoods, LLP”

6-2-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gas wells not allowed on land zoned for homes or farms, high court rules. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Friday that drilling and operating multiple Marcellus Shale gas wells in a section of Fairfield Township, Lycoming County, that is zoned for residential and agricultural would not be a compatible land use. The case, Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township v. Inflection Energy, is important because of its potential application to, and influence on, shale gas development in non-industrially zoned areas throughout the state. ‘The decision means that shale gas development has to be recognized as an industrial land use that has impacts and must be located with other uses with which it is compatible,’ said George Jugovic Jr., chief counsel for PennFuture who represented the four Fairfield Township residents that brought the case. He said the court rejected an argument by the township that it granted Inflection Energy a conditional use permit on the basis that shale gas development is a ‘public services’ use that benefits residents and is allowed under the township’s zoning ordinance. The court ruled that the board failed to show that the proposed natural gas drilling ‘is in any respect for the benefit of the (local) residents. . .'”

6-2-18 Roanoke Times. Environmental watchdogs: A citizens’ group monitors the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The group of environmental watchdogs [Mountain Valley Watch] — concerned citizens, technical experts and landowners in the pipeline’s path — has been patrolling the pipeline’s linear construction zone through six Southwest Virginia counties since work began earlier this year. More than 300 miles long and 42 inches in diameter, the buried steel pipe will cross mountainsides, rivers and streams as it follows a temporary construction right-of-way as wide as 10 interstate highway lanes. Checking its potential damage to pristine land, water and air — combined with that of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a similar project that will pass through Central Virginia — represents the largest such challenge to ever face the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. ‘DEQ has told us in meetings that they will not have the ability to be everywhere,’ said Shelton, who as co-owner of New River Geographics brings his drone-flying and online-mapping expertise to Mountain Valley Watch. ‘This is our backyard,’ he said. ‘This is the environment we care about. All we want to do is watch and get the information to DEQ so our regulators can get to the spots we care about in a timely manner.’ …. About a half-dozen legal challenges of the project are also pending in three courts. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard oral arguments in early May in three cases: one that seeks the reversal of a water quality certification by Virginia regulators, a second that challenges a decision allowing the pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest, and a third that questions FERC’s ability to give a private company the power to take land through eminent domain. Decisions in those cases are expected in the coming weeks. At the same time, the 4th Circuit is considering a motion to stay a key permit for the pipeline that was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

6-2-18 Gazette-Mail. WV DEP suggests it might pull or change part of MVP permit. “After lawyers for citizen groups and environmental organizations questioned a condition on a river-crossing permit issued to the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection suggested it might modify or waive the condition altogether. The Clean Water Act Permit, called the Nationwide 12, is at the center of a legal challenge against the Army Corps of Engineers, which approved the permit for the pipeline. The 300-mile-long pipeline is designed to run natural gas from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, crossing 600 streams and 400 wetlands. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is ineligible for the Nationwide 12 permit because four major river crossings don’t comply with one of the permit’s conditions, lawyers for the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the Indian Creek Watershed Association and others argued in a motion for preliminary relief filed May 22. The ‘Special Condition C,’ added to the Nationwide 12 permit by the DEP, stipulated that stream crossings be completed within 72 hours. But the Mountain Valley Pipeline told the Army Corps of Engineers in 2017 that construction on the Elk, Gauley, Greenbrier and Meadow river crossings could take between four and six weeks to complete.”

6-2-18 Roanoke Times. Letter: Mountain Valley Pipeline and the curse of Cassandra. “Events like the mudslide on Cahas Mountain Road in Franklin County were predicted to happen by many scientists and concerned citizens. For almost four years, our legislators and agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality have been warned that the Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens our environment and water. Like Cassandra’s prophecies, those warnings went unheeded and scientific evidence was ignored. Erosion and sedimentation from recent torrential rains and flooding have exposed the truth, however – that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is wrong for Virginia, its water, environment and citizens.”

6-1-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Appalachia’s $84 Billion Secret. “China and the U.S. are planning a massive petrochemical hub in West Virginia. The biggest energy project you’ve never heard of commonly goes by the acronym ASTH—the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub. This massive petrochemical hub in West Virginia and Pennsylvania would be the largest infrastructure in the region’s history, consisting of hundreds of miles of pipelines, fracked gas processing facilities, and underground storage of petrochemicals and fracked gas liquids. Once completed, ASTH would stretch along the Ohio-West Virginia border from Pennsylvania to Kentucky along the Ohio River. Its powerful backers—including the Trump administration, the Chinese government, and Shell Oil—claim it will revitalize a region torn apart by a fizzling coal industry. President Trump and Xi Jinping, the president of China, met this past November on a trade mission, during which Xi Jinping signed on to invest nearly $84 billion in the ASTH over the next two decades—that’s more than West Virginia’s entire 2016 GDP. …. Opponents say it will be the country’s next Cancer Alley.”

6-1-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Anti-terrorism agencies involved in monitoring protesters of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “[P]rotesters who took to the trees to try to delay tree cutting for the pipeline earlier this year didn’t know it, but the law enforcement response they were about to encounter was coordinated by the Virginia Fusion Center, an entity tasked with fighting terrorism. And local sheriffs were recruited to informational meetings of the Fusion Center by the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia’s western district. …. [According to State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller], the primary role of the Fusion Center is to coordinate counterterrorism and ‘criminal intelligence resources’ from local, state, and federal agencies – as well as private industry – ‘in order to better defend the Commonwealth against terrorist threats and/or attack and to deter criminal activity.’ But she said the role has expanded. ‘Since its inception in 2005, the VFC has evolved to its current status of aiding local, state and federal public safety agencies [to] address all crimes and all hazards, including threats posed by violent extremists regardless of ideology.’

6-1-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Anti-terrorism agencies involved in monitoring protesters of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “[P]rotesters who took to the trees to try to delay tree cutting for the pipeline earlier this year didn’t know it, but the law enforcement response they were about to encounter was coordinated by the Virginia Fusion Center, an entity tasked with fighting terrorism. And local sheriffs were recruited to informational meetings of the Fusion Center by the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia’s western district. …. [According to State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller], the primary role of the Fusion Center is to coordinate counterterrorism and ‘criminal intelligence resources’ from local, state, and federal agencies – as well as private industry – ‘in order to better defend the Commonwealth against terrorist threats and/or attack and to deter criminal activity.’ But she said the role has expanded. ‘Since its inception in 2005, the VFC has evolved to its current status of aiding local, state and federal public safety agencies [to] address all crimes and all hazards, including threats posed by violent extremists regardless of ideology.'”

6-1-18 Daily Progress. Letter to Editor: 17,000 pipeline jobs? Try 271. “The notion that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will result in 17,000 jobs in Virginia is so utterly misleading that when pressed, even Dominion Energy admits it arrived at this number by taking the approximately 2,800 jobs expected during the development and construction phase across three states, multiplying it by six years, and calling it “cumulative jobs” (‘Group sour about input,’ Page A1, The News Virginian, May 31.) In fact, Dominion’s own 2014 economics report shows that when all is said and done this project will result in only 271 jobs — and that’s across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Here is what we do know about this risky and unnecessary boondoggle: the pipeline will amount to very few permanent jobs for Virginians; it will result in a $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion increase to Virginians’ electricity bills to pay for the construction; and it will reward Dominion shareholders with 15% return on the company’s investment. That’s the math, plain and simple.”

 


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