In the News

December 2018

12-7-18 Roanoke Times. Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The company building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia violated environmental regulations more than 300 times, a lawsuit filed Friday by Virginia’s top lawyer alleges. Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing ‘the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations,’ according to a statement from Attorney General Mark Herring. Since work began earlier this year, inspections have found that crews failed to prevent muddy water from flowing off pipeline construction easements, often leaving harmful sediment in nearby streams and properties. Covering a span of seven months and nearly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route through five counties, the lawsuit is one of the most comprehensive summaries to date of the environmental toll taken by running a 42-inch diameter pipeline across rugged slopes and through pure mountain streams. Herring’s office filed the case on behalf of Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor and the State Water Control Board.”

12-7-18  Blue Virginia.  For the first time, Virginia officials reject Dominion Energy’s long-term #energy plans. “According to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), ‘BREAKING: For the first time, Virginia officials reject Dominion Energy’s long-term energy plans, including inflated energy projections.’ See below for the order by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC), which states that: ‘…the Commission finds, based on the record of this proceeding and applicable statutes, that the Company has failed to establish that its 2018 [Integrated Resource Plan – IRP], as currently filed, is reasonable and in the public interest. The Commission further finds that the Company shall correct and refile its 2018 IRP subject to the provisions of this Order.’ Among other problems, the SCC found that ‘The Company did not, however, model $870 million in energy efficiency programs, nor did it model a battery storage pilot required by Senate Bill 966,’ also that it ‘did not include costs associated with the Company’s Strategic Undergrounding Program (‘SUP’), Grid Transformation Plan, or Transmission Line Undergrounding Pilot, each of which was contained in, or modified by, Senate Bill 966.1.'”

12-7-18 WVNews. U.S. Fourth Circuit stays two Atlantic Coast Pipeline authorizations Friday, work halted until Dominion receives clarification. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a ruling Friday staying two important authorizations for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The ruling orders Dominion to halt all construction activities on the project immediately, except for stabilization activities needed to protect public safety and the environment, according to Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby. The two stayed authorizations came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The authorizations are the Biological Opinion, which covers the entirety of the pipeline project, and the Incidental Take Statement, which applies to roughly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route in West Virginia and Virginia.”

12-7-18 NBC News. How money stokes divide of historic black community in Virginia pipeline battle. “Neighbors and families are pitted against one another over a natural gas pipeline project in Union Hill. In the end, who stands to lose? …. As Dominion sought the proper permits for the pipeline and the station, the historically black community of Union Hill in Buckingham County joined a growing number of environmental groups concerned about the health and climate risks — and critics who say projects like it disproportionately burden minorities and lower-income people. But the energy company, in a push to win the hearts and minds of the county’s 17,000 residents, has taken a different turn, unveiling a series of long-sought benefits to residents who live closest to the compressor station site — a move that has further divided a populace already strained by an undercurrent of suspicion. ‘Dominion is an expert at the divide-and-conquer tactic,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, a leader of two historically black churches in Union Hill who was arrested in 2016 during an anti-pipeline protest outside of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, the state capital. ‘There’s a group of people who are even moving to get me out as pastor. Once you inject money into the conversation, it becomes a wedge.'”

12-6-18 Daily Progress. Letter: Northam shows lack of leadership. “The headline of The Daily Progress’ Nov. 20 editorial, ‘Air board appointments shock, surprise,’ captures the feelings of many around Virginia. Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — and associated projects like the huge, hazardous compressor station proposed in Buckingham County — have long been frustrated by Gov. Ralph Northam’s lack of leadership in protecting Virginia’s environment. However, the governor has at least assured us that scientific evidence and a transparent process would guide the state’s decisions. Citizens have believed that we can rely on the expert judgment of independent boards that operate outside of political motivations. Then the appearance of executive neutrality fell away. Gov. Northam used his discretionary power to replace Air Pollution Board members Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher after they had expressed reservations about approval of the compressor station, but before they could participate in the (mysteriously delayed and rescheduled) vote.”

12-6-18 RTO Insider. Senate Confirms McNamee to FERC. “The U.S. Senate voted 50-49 on Thursday to confirm Bernard McNamee as a FERC commissioner, restoring the commission to full strength and Republicans’ 3-2 majority. Every Democratic senator voted against McNamee, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who had joined Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in its 13-10 vote Nov. 27 to advance the nominee to the floor. McNamee has served in the DOE Office of Policy since June. Prior to that, and after FERC’s rejection of the NOPR in January, he worked briefly as the director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Action, a group that files legal challenges over what it views as government overreach. It was in this role that McNamee promoted the center’s Life: Powered initiative — described as a project to ‘reframe the national discussion’ about fossil fuels — in a February speech captured on video. In the speech, McNamee described the effort to change public opinion about fossil fuels, which he called “the key not only to our prosperity [and] quality of life, but also to a clean environment.” He also attacked environmental groups, describing their activism against fossil fuels as a ‘constant battle between liberty and tyranny’ and criticized renewable resources. ‘Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole the physics of the grid,’ he said. ‘So, when people want to talk about science, they ought to talk about the physics of the grid and know what real science is, and that is how do you keep the lights on? And it is with fossil fuels and nuclear.’ The video — which was apparently taken down from the TPPF’s YouTube channel when McNamee was nominated — was uploaded to YouTube by the Energy and Policy Institute, a liberal advocacy group, on Nov. 20. The speech was a stark contrast to McNamee’s promise days earlier at his confirmation hearing to ‘be a fair, objective and impartial arbiter in the cases and issues that would confront me as a commissioner.””

12-6-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: Northam should reinstate air board members. “If we assume each board and commission member serving beyond his or her term has an equal chance of being removed on any given day by the governor, the odds of the two board members in question being randomly selected are 1 in 27,966. …. Around this same time, Gov. Northam also removed Roberta Kellum of the State Water Control Board. Ms. Kellum was similarly known for asking tough questions about both the ACP and equally egregious Mountain Valley Pipeline, and was also serving after her term expired. While these events are bad enough on their own, they are occurring against the backdrop of Gov. Northam threatening to shut down his own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice after it concluded he should not support either pipeline project. Notably, if one is to believe the current debacle is just terrible optics, no one on his public relations team has yet had his or her job axed. …. Until Gov. Northam invites Mr. Bleicher and Ms. Rubin back to vote on the air permit, which they have spent months studying, he will continue floundering in negative press of his own creation.”

12-6-18 Blue Virginia. Two Numbers: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would More than Double Dominion Energy Virginia’s Current Carbon Pollution. “24 million tons per year, total current carbon emissions from Dominion’s existing Virginia based power plants in 2018. 30 million tons per year, carbon pollution from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Today’s headline in the Washington Post, Global Carbon Reaches Record, begs the question in Virginia, what is Dominion Energy, our largest utility, doing about climate change? These two numbers tell you that Dominion Energy Virginia, a monopoly supposedly regulated by the state, is putting corporate profit over climate protection, aided and abetted by the Virginia political and business establishment. Many of these political and business leaders state that they understand climate change is real, but they have obviously not yet faced up to their responsibilities to take appropriate action.”

12-5-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline hits another speed bump in Nelson County.  “Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project hit a speed bump after the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Monday to deny four variance requests needed to construct part of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline through designated floodplain areas in Nelson County. The board’s denial in a 3-2 vote Monday means construction of the pipeline in certain areas of Nelson County will be on hold until ACP can gain the necessary approval to build through designated floodplain areas.”

12-5-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Air board controversy continues. “The Northam administration has decided not to seat two new members of the State Air Pollution Control Board until after a controversial vote next week on the Buckingham compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The governor faced intense criticism for failing to reappoint two members who had raised questions about the compressor. Instead, he announced that they were being replaced by two brand new appointees. The governor’s office said the action had nothing to do with the board members’ objection to the compressor station. The new appointments were merely the result of the natural progression of replacements and reappointments. Like some 230 other members of state boards and commissions, the terms of the departing Air Pollution Control Board members had expired several months ago, and they were continuing to serve until Gov. Ralph Northam took action. In standard operating procedure, the governor has rolled out numerous appointments over recent months. But either he was badly advised on the timing of these two appointments, failing to understand that removing compressor critics at such a significant juncture would appear to be politically motivated — or the decision actually was politically motivated. …. Gov. Northam’s office, in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explained: ‘Given the compressed timeline the governor’s new appointees face, as well as the level of attention trained on their willingness to serve the commonwealth, they will not be seated until after the upcoming meeting of the air board on Dec. 10.’ The obvious retort: Mr. Northam’s decision created ‘the compressed timelime.’ Mr. Northam’s decision created the unfavorable ‘level of attention’ — which was to some degree trained on the new members, but more accurately trained on the governor himself. …. Surely it would have been better to have left the board intact for a while longer, preserving a breadth and diversity of opinion in deciding an issue that will affect the residents of Buckingham for a long — a very long — time.”

12-5-18 Virginia Mercury. Northam’s struggle to explain air board move suggests it’s exactly what it appears to be. “Can Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to yank two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board as it weighs a permit for the compressor station Dominion Energy plans for Buckingham County be seen as anything other than what it appears to be: a clumsy attempt to tip the scale for the influential utility? In the nearly three weeks since the decision, Northam’s administration has offered nothing in the realm of the remotely plausible that explains the move and its timing. In fact, he’s sunken deeper into this mess of his own making by preventing his handpicked replacements from voting on the contentious air permit next week, which, curiously, Northam now says was the plan all along. …. ‘It just was,’ is evidently the best answer the administration can muster for why it has now cast a deep shadow of illegitimacy over a vote on an ultra-contentious project already seen as a dubious power grab by an energy giant mainly focused on shareholder profit.”

12-5-18 Washington Post. ‘We are in trouble.’ Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018. “As nations assemble in Poland for climate talks, the figures suggest there is no clear end in sight to the growth of humanity’s contribution to climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing. Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent. The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent. As nations continue climate talks in Poland, the message of Wednesday’s report was unambiguous: When it comes to promises to begin cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the world is well off target.”

12-5-18 Nelson County Times. ‘Close to home’: Sarah Murphy rides to raise awareness of natural resources along pipeline’s path. “Sarah Murphy grew up in Augusta County and now has a small farm in Nelson County. Six years ago, she participated in a trail ride through Kentucky and West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal and soon realized the mountains in her area were in danger. Concerned the Atlantic Coast Pipeline may damage the mountains and waters she loves, Murphy again is on the trails to protest and bring awareness to as many people as she can about how the pipeline could endanger natural resources around its path. ‘All of this hits close to home as far as our natural resources and I wanted to bring attention to the situation,’ Murphy said. …. In September, Murphy and Rob Roy, her Percheron thoroughbred, completed over 100 miles of the ride from Staunton to West Virginia to raise awareness of the potential impacts of the pipeline on Nelson County. …. It was a huge eye-opener to actually see everything being built in West Virginia, Murphy said in the beginning of November. ‘It’s different to actually see the actual pipes and the meters in the yard and smelling the gas leaks,’ Murphy said. Murphy started her ride back on Nov. 3 and believed it would take about a month to complete. But the snow in West Virginia and the wind chill have been issues during the return ride home. On Nov. 30, Murphy was about 40 miles from the West Virginia, Virginia border.”

12-4-18 NBC29. Rutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Look at Lawsuit Regarding Pipeline Construction. A nonprofit in Charlottesville is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take a look at a lawsuit from Virginia landowners that challenges the Mountain Valley Pipeline after it was dismissed by a lower court. In October of 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave natural gas and energy companies the green light to begin obtaining private properties for the project. The lawsuit the Rutherford Institute is referring to asks for a hearing to argue that the government has violated property owners’ right by allowing pipeline companies to take their property.

12-3-18 KPVI6. Congress considers changing law for pipeline crossing of Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway. “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘Congress is considering a legislative amendment that would explicitly authorize the park service to grant a permit for such a crossing,’ Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an emailed statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The park service has twice issued permits for the pipeline to cross the parkway, the second one after the 4th Circuit vacated the original permit in early August as an ‘arbitrary and capricious’ exercise of the agency’s powers. The 4th Circuit has issued a stay of the permit the U.S. Forest Service issued for the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail on land within the George Washington National Forest, which is under appeal in the Richmond-based court. ‘It’s disappointing but not surprising that Dominion would try to bend the law to its will,’ said Austin ‘DJ’ Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has appealed both federal permits for the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline. ‘It’s already tried to bend the agencies to its will.’

12-3-18 News Leader. Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard will be in Fishersville, avoids need for review. “Dominion Energy secured its Augusta County location for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard. The storage yard will be located at Wilson Trucking Corporation in Fishersville. Since the area is already zoned for industrial use, Dominion does not need to obtain a special-use permit from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals, said county planner Leslie Tate. The storage yard won’t need oversight from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals, the governing body that denied two special-use permit requests from Dominion this year. There will not be a public hearing for this storage yard, due to the fact that Dominion did not need to get a special-use permit for the location. Tate said the lot’s zoning gives Wilson Trucking Corporation a ‘use by right,’ so it’s not subject to special review and approval by a local government. …. Wilson Trucking Corporation confirmed Monday that Dominion Energy is one of its tenants. But it would not discuss the terms of the lease and declined to comment any further on the project.”

12-1-18 Daily Progress. $5M in pipeline funds to support new Albemarle park. “Though the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route does not cross through Albemarle, $5 million in pipeline mitigation money is earmarked for the future Biscuit Run Park in the county. Portions of the 600-mile pipeline that spans from West Virginia to North Carolina will cross into Nelson and Buckingham counties, which border Albemarle. Virginia entered into a memorandum of agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which includes Dominion Energy, in late 2017 for mitigation of forest fragmentation impacts of the ACP. The controversial agreement allocated $57.85 million to six organizations, including $5 million to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to be used for forest conservation and water quality protection. In an agreement letter dated and signed Jan. 12, CACF agreed to accept the $5 million to distribute to Albemarle for ‘infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park. The infrastructure investments that Albemarle County will make at Biscuit Run include the following: access roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic shelters and trails for both walking and biking,’ the letter states. ‘Additional infrastructure investments may also include sporting fields and related facilities if funding permits.'”

November 2018

11-30-18 Virginia Mercury. Governor won’t ‘seat’ new air board members, but still plans to swear them in, precluding participation of former members. “Under fire from environmentalists, Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this week he wouldn’t seat two new appointees to the State Air Pollution Control Board until after a critical vote next month on a pipeline compressor station. So what exactly does ‘seat’ mean? The semantics, it turns out, could be important, because some environmental groups argue that under state law the current members serve until the moment their replacements are sworn in, meaning they could still potentially participate in the meeting barring further action by Northam — an interpretation backed by a 2013 attorney general’s opinion. And at least one of the members Northam has slated for replacement was holding out hope she’ll still be allowed to vote. Northam’s administration, however, says it’s planning to go ahead and swear in the new members even if they’re not going to participate in the next meeting. ‘They’ve not been sworn in yet, but I expect they will be sworn in shortly,’ said Northam’s spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, in an email Thursday. Northam’s announcement that they would not be seated ‘was a formal way of saying they would not join the upcoming meeting.’ As for the members slated for replacement: ‘Their service ended when their successors were appointed.'”

11-30-18 News Leader. Editorial: Northam’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline interference disappointing, but not really surprising. “Virginia politicians, regardless of their political bent, must do almost daily calculations of winners and losers. One huge question: What does Dominion Energy want? Dominion lobbies, pays taxes and plays a role in coveted economic development projects. They make campaign contributions and wield power proportionate to the size of their wallets and infrastructure. And what Dominion wants these days is an end to regulatory delays for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 42-inch high-pressure pipeline that will carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, across the mountains, through Central Virginia and – mostly – into North Carolina. But just such a delay seemed likely after the state’s Air Pollution Control Board voted to delay a permit for a compressor station in rural Buckingham County. …. Rather than approving the compressor station, board members delayed action until Dec. 10, saying they wanted more time to review. Union Hill residents considered it a sign that someone was listening to their pleas for environmental justice. After the vote, Gov. Ralph Northam removed two panel members who favored the delay, drawing condemnation from environmental groups. …. The action also reminds us of the reality of politics in Virginia: Rule 1: Dominion eventually gets what it wants. Rule 2: When someone disagrees, refer to rule 1. …. There just aren’t enough people to make Northam or others in the state government care about them more than they care about Dominion. Dominion’s influence is pervasive, and it’s people like Northam who reliably do their bidding. We can be disappointed, but shouldn’t be surprised.”

11-30-18 Washington Post. Letter to Editor: Dominion Energy’s dominion over Virginia goes beyond Ralph Northam. “By giving millions of dollars in political contributions to the vast majority of Virginia legislative and statewide political candidates, Democratic and Republican, and showering even nonelected public officials with gifts, Dominion has the appearance of controlling the Virginia government as a whole. …. the governor went forward with the very abnormally timed removal of two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board after it appeared they may threaten the approval of a Dominion permit for a pumping station. Virginians should ask themselves if they approve of the money they give in (overcharged) utility bills to Dominion being used to donate to officials of all political alignments and to secure enough government influence to interfere with even our citizen regulatory boards. Then all Virginians should demand that the removed board members, Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, be allowed to vote at the air board’s meeting on Dec. 10.”

11-29-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Christmas Carols, Courtesy of Virginia Pipeline Resisters, at VA Governor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony. “Virginia Pipeline Resisters having some fun at the Governor of Virginia’s tree lighting ceremony at the Capital this evening- until they asked us to leave. Was it our singing?”

11-28-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘Working papers’ exemption claimed to shield governor’s calendar amid pipeline permit uproar. “Last week, environmental activists circulated a video of Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell leaving Gov. Ralph Northam’s office. The timing raised eyebrows, coming on the heels of Northam’s much criticized decision to replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, which was due to vote on a key permit for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Asked last week by the Mercury about the meeting, Northam’s spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, said the governor’s calendar falls under the working papers exemption of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act and wouldn’t be released. She did not respond to a question seeking details of the meeting. …. Wild Virginia, a Charlottesville-based environmental nonprofit, filed two FOIA requests last week with the governor’s office seeking information about the meeting with Farrell and more information about the former board members’ removal.”

11-28-18 WVTF. Charlottesville Protest Air Quality Board Changes. “Two dozen people braved a cold, windy afternoon to protest in front of Dominion’s office in Charlottesville. Standing along one of this city’s busiest streets at lunch time, protesters demanded Governor Northam re-instate two opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline who were recently removed from the Air Quality Board. Freeman Alan took the occasion to compose an epic poem. ‘Environment justice laws are being ignored. Now Northam’s fired his air pollution board. Governor Northam, your science board said STOP. You ignored their warning. Corruption at the top.'”

11-27-18 Washington Post. ‘Ugly episode:’ Northam allies slam his decision to alter board before Dominion vote. “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) promised to be a different kind of politician, one who would never lie and always operate aboveboard. But his interference in a controversial vote by air pollution regulators has caused some to question those claims. Observers were shocked when Northam swooped in two weeks ago and replaced two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, which was considering whether to approve a natural gas facility in a historic black community. The board had planned to vote on the project Nov. 9 but delayed after expressing concerns about harming nearby residents. Environmental advocates said Northam used the delay to gut the agency and rig the vote for Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility and one of his political donors. What made it so shocking was that Northam styles himself as an environmental advocate who won’t engage in political tricks. …. This week, Northam tried to defuse the situation by delaying the seating of two new air board members until after the controversial vote, now scheduled for Dec. 10. But that hasn’t cooled the criticism. ‘The awkward lurch to now yank Northam’s new board members does not right the original wrong,’ Shepherd [NRDC] said. …. ‘We believe Governor Northam has made a huge mistake and one that has immensely marred his standing and reputation in the conservation community and one that should impact overall public trust in this administration, as well,’ said Michael Town, head of the [Virginia League of Conservation Votors].”

11-27-18 Community Idea Stations. Air Board Appointees Interviewed Days Before Appointment.  “Governor Ralph Northam’s office has offered a more detailed timeline of his controversial removal of two State Air Pollution Control Board members. Speaking on background, administration officials say the governor was already planning on replacing two board members before a crucial vote on Friday, November 9, and was indifferent to the outcome to the vote. The board’s decision to delay a vote on permits for the Buckingham Compressor Station surprised the governor, the administration says. They said the governor was wary of the possibility of future delays, and opted to make his replacements immediately. The next week, his office interviewed candidates on his short list and named the new appointments on November 16, one week after the air board meeting. …. Activists said that it would be impossible for the new picks to get up to speed on the complexities of the compressor station, which would sit in a historic African American community, before the board meets again on December 10. …. Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said that decision didn’t allay his concerns. ‘One of the the five who are left [on the board] has recused himself, so we are left with four people to finish a process that started with seven,’ he wrote in an email. ‘That’s not how our regulatory process is supposed to work. Governor Northam should let Rubin and Bleicher finish the process or risk having this dangerous compressor station and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline linked to his legacy for years to come.'”

11-27-18 Connection Newspapers [Northern Virginia]. Letter to the Editor: Patently Unethical. “I am a physician, an independent voter, and a resident of Mount Vernon. My main voting issue is climate change from global warming, caused largely by human consumption of fossil fuels. I voted for Governor Northam because he promised that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be fully evaluated, including the environmental impact at each water crossing. He has not honored that promise. Failure to honor campaign promises is typical of politicians, but I had expected Northam to have higher ethical standards. Now he is disrupting a governmental process by changing citizen members of the state Air Pollution Control Board and the state Water Control Board in the midst of their hearings and deliberations. These members were the very ones that expressed concern over Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline plan. This is patently an unethical political action. I am outraged by this! These board members have spent hours becoming fully informed on these matters, and it is no time to bring in others new to the issues. These board members have seen face to face the passion of Union Hill residents, environmentalists, and people concerned over the consequences of global warming. They have heard scientific facts from lawyers of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Southern Environmental Law Center which debunked inadequate studies by Dominion. …. I regret my vote for Governor Northam. I am ashamed of him. He should be ashamed of himself!”

11-27-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. 4th circuit opinion explains reasoning behind vacating pipeline permit in Oct. “When the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection waived its authority required for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, it made the project ineligible for a water-crossing permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a panel of judges wrote in an opinion Tuesday. The opinion from the judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals comes after the panel vacated the key Clean Water Act permit for the pipeline in October, saying regulators lacked legal authority to ‘substitute’ one kind of construction standard for another. That order came four days after the panel heard oral arguments in the case brought by a coalition of environmental and citizen groups that challenged the federal government’s approval of the 300-mile long pipeline.”

11-27-18 PV Magazine. Senate committee advances pro-fossil ideologue to FERC. “Over the protests of Democrats, a Republican majority in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has advanced Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He must still be approved by the full Senate. He worked on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) failed bailout of coal and nuclear power plants. He has tried to remove carbon dioxide from being considered as a pollutant. He took ‘great pleasure’ in seeing the Clean Power Plan “put to death”. And he’s claimed that the intermittency of renewables ‘screws up the whole physics of the grid.’ And now, the nomination of Bernard McNamee, who has worked for Koch Brothers-backed think tanks and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – the top recipient of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. Senate – has been advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This vote to advance McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appears to have been done over the protests of the Democrats on the Committee, who according to UtilityDive attempted to get a delay in the vote after a video surfaced showing McNamee’s strong bias towards fossil fuels.”

11-26-18 News & Advance. New air board members won’t be seated until after Dec. 10 vote on compressor station for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Following intense criticism from environmental groups, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said Monday that two new appointees to the State Air Pollution Control Board will not be seated until after a Dec. 10 meeting when the board is scheduled to take a controversial vote related to the Atlantic Coast pipeline.”   Originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

11-26-18 Virginian-Pilot. “Independent expert” Norfolk hired to review Virginia Natural Gas pipeline did work for VNG. “One of the people hired by the city to do an independent analysis on a controversial Virginia Natural Gas pipeline previously did work for the company – a fact he didn’t mention to city officials. At a meeting Nov. 20, the Norfolk City Council received reports from two natural gas industry experts – a reaction to a very public battle over a high-pressure pipeline called the Southside Connector currently being installed in Norfolk and Chesapeake. Over the last few months, first Colonna’s Shipyard and then others in the community raised concerns about the pipeline, arguing it was more dangerous than VNG was saying and that more needed to be done to ensure safety for areas including Berkley. This follows similar issues raised by Chesapeake residents last year. Norfolk hired consultants to give reports to the City Council on the project after the mayor called for further analysis. However, one of those consultants who was billed as independent by the city, Richard Felder, had previously done work for VNG. That fact was not disclosed to the council during the meeting, either by Felder during his presentation by video call or by city staff.”

11-26-18 Utility Dive. Senate Dems seek to postpone McNamee FERC vote over video. “Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee say they will seek to postpone a Tuesday vote on Bernard McNamee’s nomination to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after the release of a video that shows the nominee criticizing renewable energy and environmental groups. Democrats will ask McNamee to answer written questions about comments claiming renewable energy “screws up” the grid and environmental groups want to “return us to … administrative tyranny” before his nomination can move forward, Peter True, press secretary for Democrats on the committee, told Utility Dive. Republicans, who control the committee, could still force a vote on McNamee despite additional questions, referring his nomination to the full Senate. Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski’s office did not immediately return a request for comment, but the senator said before the video’s release that she hopes to have McNamee confirmed before year’s end.”

11-25-18 Daily Progress. Local consultant joins state air board amid controversy. “After drawing criticism for removing two members from the State Air Pollution Control Board, Gov. Ralph Northam appointed an Albemarle County resident to fill one of the vacancies. Northam’s office on Nov. 16 named Kajal B. Kapur, principal at Kapur Energy Environment Economics in Charlottesville, to the board. …. Kapur declined to comment on the compressor station project. ‘I have not really had the time to study that in great detail,’ Kapur said. ‘I am a very analytical person. I like to have all the materials associated with a case or project and review them.’ Kapur also said she is unsure when she will complete her orientation and be sworn in as a member of the air board. The board is scheduled to vote on the Buckingham compressor station on Dec. 10.”

11-25-18 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]. SC nuclear fiasco opens the door for competing pipeline builders. “South Carolina’s nuclear boondoggle could become a boon for natural gas, providing an opportunity for some of the country’s largest energy corporations to charge utility customers throughout the Palmetto State with costs to build multi-billion dollar pipelines. …. A pair of large utilities, weighing whether to expand their presence in South Carolina, plan to charge customers in other states for natural gas pipeline construction. …. Any proposal to extend the pipelines into South Carolina could put hundreds of thousands of ratepayers on the hook for the projects’ growing costs and the built-in profit margins for the developers. This is how Dominion plans to recover costs to build its pipeline in Virginia.”

11-23-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion’s $5.1 million pledge for Union Hill – part of air permit or not?  “Dominion Energy has given Virginia the option of making the company’s proposed $5.1 million investment in Union Hill part of the air pollution permit for a natural gas compressor station it wants to build next to the historically African-American community in Buckingham County. The Richmond-based energy giant has insisted that the proposed ‘community enhancement’ package is not tied directly to the proposed air permit for the compressor station, which is essential to operation of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline through three states. But Dominion proposed to include the pledge in a series of new conditions proposed for the permit on Nov. 9, the day the State Air Pollution Control Board decided to delay its decision for a month. In deferring action, the board cited unresolved concerns about the potential ‘disproportionate impact’ of the 55,000-horsepower compressor station on residents of Union Hill and the adjacent Union Grove and Shelton Store communities.”

11-23-18 Virginian-Pilot. Chesley: Northam can seek independent voices, or mere rubber stamps, for his boards. “If Gov. Ralph Northam wants lapdogs to serve on the nearly 300 boards and commissions for which he appoints members, then by all means, just say so. Applicants could write the following line on their résumés: ‘Will do guv’s bidding, even if it means curbing my best analysis.’ Northam deserves the criticism after he recently removed two members of the state Air Pollution Control Board, right before a key vote on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Northam, a Democrat, has said he supports the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and another 300-mile pipeline passing through Southwest Virginia, as long as they withstand strong scrutiny. He ‘understands the concerns raised and has been clear on what the state’s role is with respect to these projects: to follow the law and to hold them to the highest environmental standards possible,’ Ofirah Yheskel, a Northam spokeswoman, told me by email. That stance seems to contradict the jettisoning of board members who were providing just that type of examination.”

11-23-18 Franklin News Post [Rocky Mount VA]. Supervisors move forward with natural gas plans for Summit View. “Despite some vocal opposition, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors moved forward with plans to provide natural gas to Summit View Business Park on Tuesday. Supervisors voted 4 to 3 to sell 2.8 acres of land at the park to construct a gate station that would tap off the Mountain Valley Pipeline that passes nearby. Rocky Mount District Supervisor Mike Carter, Union Hall District Supervisor Tommy Cundiff and Blue Ridge District Supervisor Tim Tatum all voted against the sale. All seven speakers at the public hearing opposed the sale — often interrupting supervisors during the meeting. Jenny West of Ferrum asked supervisors to delay a vote until more research can be done. ‘What is happening is scaring the crap out of me,’ she said. Judy Sink of Rocky Mount questioned if the route for the pipeline could be moved due to permit issues and asked the board to delay the sale. ‘Don’t sell it to them until you have all of the information and all of the answers.’ After the public hearing, Carter also questioned whether the sale should move forward with recent delays in and efforts to stop pipeline construction. ‘It’s way premature in my opinion,’ Carter said. With the property sale approved, Roanoke Gas is requesting a special use permit from the county to allow construction of a natural gas distribution line. A public hearing will be next month on that request.”

11-21-18 Farmville Herald. Two meetings for the ACP Dec. 10. “Dec. 10 could potentially yield two large decisions concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) effect on Buckingham County. The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing for the ACP floodplain path through Buckingham on Monday, Dec. 10. On December 10 in Richmond, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s )DEQ) State Air Pollution Control Board could potentially make a decision on the air permit ACP submitted for the Buckingham Compressor Station, proposed to be off Route 56 near the Union Hill community area. …. Concerning the floodplain, ACP, according to a memo sent by Buckingham Zoning and Planning Administrator Rebecca Cobb, submitted applications for variance to conduct work in the floodplains in Buckingham, or areas subject to flooding. KCI Technologies, Inc., Cobb said, was hired to review those documents and provide an assessment of compliance or non-compliance with granting a variance for the county’s ordinance. Cobb said that KCI conducted an initial review in June and found that there was insufficient information to grant a waiver to the floodplain ordinance, and said KCI met with ACP and requested further documentation. Cobb said KCI provided a review dated Oct. 24. ‘In summary, KCI reports that the documents they were given should not be accepted as justification of “no-rise” because they do not meet industry standard,’ the memo cited. KCI proposed two options, according to the memo, to either provide conditional approval with final approval contingent upon proper documentation or delay any decision until proper documentation is provided. ‘ACP received a copy of the review and has responded with the attached letter dated November 1, 2018,’ the memo cited. ‘In summary, ACP disagrees with KCI’s assessment and asserts there is no industry standard, and they wish to move forward with a public hearing for the floodplain variance. ACP agrees to a conditional approval and has suggested some of their own conditions. Many of the conditions do align with KCI’s but not all are the same.’ The memo asked the board of supervisors to set a public hearing for the floodplain development request from ACP and to consider both sets of conditions.”

11-21-18 KPVI6. The Virginia air board members Northam replaced had expired terms. So do 235 other appointees. “Roughly 235 people are serving on Virginia boards and commissions under terms that expired by June 30, according to Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, a number that shows the two air quality regulators Northam recently replaced were hardly alone in staying past their end dates. …. Northam’s office has said the governor was simply exercising his constitutional authority to fill the thousands of seats on Virginia’s 294 boards. But the governor has hundreds of other appointments to make before getting all state boards up to date. A state website lists 25 vacancies for positions that expired in 2015, including five seats on the Coal and Energy Commission and 12 seats on the board of regents for the James Monroe Law Office Museum and Memorial Library. The site lists more than 80 vacancies for positions with terms that expired in June, the same month when the two replaced air board members — Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher — reached the end of their terms.” [This article was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 20, 2018]

11-21-18 Think Progress. Former Virginia pollution board member questions logic of replacing her before key pipeline vote. “The timing of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) decision to remove two members of Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board ahead of a pivotal vote on a controversial natural gas pipeline project was ‘very unfortunate,’ according to one of the board members dismissed by Northam. …. Bringing two new board members on board has interrupted ‘an in-depth review, by an intact board, of the record and two days of hearings,’ Rubin explained. The knowledge she and Bleicher obtained over the course of the board’s review of the compressor station project is ‘both fundamental to a responsible vote and irreplaceable,’ she added.”

11-21-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Army Corps suspends permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross streams in three states. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a national permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross more than 1,500 streams in three states, raising a potential new barrier for construction of the project through Virginia. About half of the 600-mile pipeline would be built in Virginia from West Virginia to North Carolina, but Dominion Energy and its partners are still waiting for federal regulators to allow them to proceed with construction here. The Army Corps’ offices in Norfolk, Wilmington, N.C., and Pittsburgh issued orders late Tuesday to suspend the Nationwide 12 permit’s use for the project’s stream crossings.

11-21-18 Community Ideas Stations. New Air Board Member Says Appointment Was ‘Delightful Surprise’   One of Governor Ralph Northam’s new appointments for the State Air Pollution Control Board says she was first contacted ‘a few days ago’ about the role. Kajal Kapur, who runs a Charlottesville-based environmental consultancy, said her appointment was a ‘delightful surprise’ after first applying to a vacancy in 2015. ‘They called sometime to discuss the qualifications,’ said Kapur. ‘I believe it was a few days ago.’ For critics of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the timeline casts further doubt on Northam’s motives for replacing two former board members who’d voiced skepticism about a piece of pipeline infrastructure. ‘Clearly, this was a sudden, rushed decision by the Governor,’ said Mike Tidewell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. ‘The timing is stunningly suspect.'”

11-20-18 Utility Dive. FERC nominee McNamee slams renewables, green groups in Feb. video. “Bernard McNamee, President Trump’s nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, sharply criticized renewable energy and environmental groups while calling for a ‘unified campaign’ to support fossil fuels in a Feb. 2018 speech before Texas lawmakers, a video obtained by Utility Dive shows. McNamee, at the time working for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), said fossil fuels are “key to our way of life,” but renewable energy ‘screws up the whole physics of the grid.’ He also portrayed industry lawsuits with environmental groups as a ‘constant battle between liberty and tyranny.’ McNamee’s comments come to light as the Senate considers his nomination to FERC. The former Department of Energy official told senators last week he would separate his previous policy work from his regulatory considerations if confirmed, a pledge he reiterated in a statement to Utility Dive.”

11-20-18 Daily Progress.  Editorial:  Air board appointments shock, surprise.  “Mr. Northam has just gotten rid of two State Air Pollution Control Board members less than a week after they voiced concerns over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station planned for Buckingham County. You’d have to twist yourself into a pretzel trying to come up with a position on this decision other than the obvious one: Gov. Northam deliberately removed the two people most likely to object to approval of the compressor station. The decision and its timing are just too conspicuous to be coincidental — although the governor says there is no connection. If you believe that the governor never intended to eliminate dissent, then you’d also have to conclude that he was clueless…. Right before a major decision is typically not a good moment to upend a group’s membership, all other things being equal. To opponents of the replacement maneuver, however, that aspect of timing is only part of the issue. More critical is the implication that the governor deliberately dumped compressor critics — and perhaps even replaced them with people more likely to smooth the facility’s path. We seriously doubt that Gov. Northam was clueless about how this maneuver would be perceived.”

11-20-18 Medium.  I Can’t Breathe: Ralph Northam Takes Off the Mask and Reveals He Works for Dominion Energy.  Jonathan Sokolow discusses Northam’s “brazen power play” on November 15 when he fired two members of the Air Pollution Control Board “precisely because it appeared likely that Dominion, which has given lavishly to Northam and to most politicians in Virginia in both parties, was about to be denied the permit it so desperately seeks for the only compressor station in Virginia to service the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” He describes how, at the November 9 Air Board hearing, “at least three of the six board members — and perhaps a fourth — saw through the web of lies they were being told by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, led by its longtime Director, David Paylor. Multiple board members made it clear that they knew they were being misled by DEQ and that they intended to assert the authority granted to them by the legislature to right this wrong.” And he says that before the Board broke for lunch, “David Paylor had been visibly upset as he witnessed first one, then another, then a third board member politely but firmly challenge DEQ.” It is unknown what Paylor did during the lunch break, but when the Board returned from lunch, “one of the board members read from her tablet a motion to defer the permit decision until December 10. The board then adjourned and abruptly left the room. It was like the oxygen had been sucked right out of that room. Union Hill had been about to win. Now the board was gone. It was hard to understand what had just happened. It was hard to breathe. Six days later, the mask came off. Northam fired Bleicher and Rubin. …. The next day, Northam named two new members to replace Bleicher and Rubin. And if they vote on December 10 as Dominion hopes they will vote, the compressor station will be approved and the fate of Union Hill will be sealed. All because Ralph Northam rigged the vote.”

11-20-18 WINA. Harrison Wallace joins the program to discuss logistics of the pipeline project involving Buckingham County.

11-20-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Top FBI official in Richmond leaving to head security for Dominion Energy. “The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond division, who led the agency’s public corruption investigation into former Gov. Bob McDonnell and was on the short list last year to direct the FBI, is joining Dominion Energy as a vice president and chief security officer. Adam S. Lee, 50, a California native, on Tuesday announced his retirement after 22 years with the bureau and nearly five years in the top post in Richmond. He will join Dominion on Dec. 1. …. In his role for Dominion, Lee will be responsible for physical and cyber security across the energy giant’s footprint covering 6 million customers across 19 states. He will direct the development and implementation of corporate security policies and procedures to protect physical and cyber assets, and comply with laws and regulations, including those dealing with privacy, according to a news release from Dominion.”

11-20-18 Washington Post. Letter: Northam has cemented these pipelines as part of his legacy. “Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board recently delayed a decision on a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County that is part of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Last Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ousted two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, and at least one member of the State Water Control Board, more than four months after their terms ended [“Northam removes 2 board members ahead of key vote on pipeline project,” Metro, Nov. 17]. Each was a voice of reason, opposing the dangerous, dirty pipelines. This seemingly is not a mere coincidence but a clear move by Mr. Northam to ensure that the construction of these destructive pipelines proceeds. …. The approval of these pipelines has officially become part of Mr. Northam’s legacy as governor.”

11-19-18 Daily Progress. Williams: Where Dominion’s gas compressor station is concerned, Buckingham deserves the same treatment as Mount Vernon. “Gov. Ralph Northam empathized with concerns raised in June by a caller during the “Ask the Governor” radio show about a proposed Dominion natural gas compressor station’s impact on the view from George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Surely something could be done, the caller said, noting Northam has the ear of Dominion’s CEO. The facility in Charles County, Md., wasn’t on Northam’s radar, he replied, ‘but it’s something that would concern me, and I will be glad to look into it.’ …. Northam wasn’t alone in his concerns about the Mount Vernon view possibly being sullied by smokestacks across the Potomac River. The project also was in the crosshairs of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which bills itself as ‘the oldest women’s patriotic society in the United States.’ When people of power and privilege speak, those in high places listen. In October, a compromise was crafted. Dominion agreed to find an alternative site. …. Perhaps Union Hill should borrow the clout of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. ‘There are people there who have money and status,’ Oba said. ‘They weren’t people of lower income who weren’t in a position to push back. Why is the health of one community more important than the other?’ Someone, somewhere, made the decision that the preservation of a pristine view from a historic slave plantation carries a higher value than the health and welfare of this pocket of Buckingham populated by the descendants of slaves. For the marginalized, environmental injustice isn’t a blot on the horizon. It’s up close and personal.”

11-19-18 Marcellus Drilling News.  Virginia Gov. Northam Replaces Regulators Before Compressor Vote.  Northam “canned two board members who voted to delay a vote on an ACP compressor station…. The timing of their replacement sends an unmistakable signal to the board: You WILL approve this compressor station, or else.”

11-19-18 Virginia Mercury.  A governor meddles with the air board as it weighs a Dominion Energy permit and a former member gets déjà vu.  “Sadly, Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision last week to replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, even as the board considers a crucial permit that would allow a compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, is far from an anomaly.” She goes on to describe the multiple times between 2006-2010, during her second term on the Board, when then-Governor Kaine and the General Assembly undermined both the Air and the Water Control Boards. Each time, the courts upheld Board decisions. She says, “The new members will find it difficult to get up to speed quickly with the complicated technical, legal, ethical and policy issues involved. Based on my experience, they will be fed information supportive of DEQ’s and Gov. Northam’s position and pressured to approve DEQ’s proposal. The board members face the possibility that the governor and the General Assembly will override whatever they decide. But, ultimately, the board members must exercise their broad discretion in a reasoned, lawful manner that protects the board’s short- and long-term integrity and credibility. They should remember that the air board is supposed to exercise its independent judgment, and that, when we did so between 2006 and 2010, courts supported our decisions.”

11-19-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Dominion CEO Tom Farrell Gets Into Car After Meeting with Gov. Ralph Northam. “In the video, you can see Dominion CEO Tom Farrell – who earns around $15.5 million a year – get into a car, after leaving a meeting earlier today (around 12:45 pm) [November 19, 2018] with Ralph Northam and Virginia DEQ Director David Paylor (yeah, THIS guy). I’d add that Dominion CEO Tom Farrell basically has had open access to Virginia governors since…forever, while environmentalists, anti-pipeline activists, etc. have to BEG for a ‘seat at the table, ‘ or even to get their emails/calls returned, or to get the governor to meet with them or to tour pipeline destruction/construction sites. Clearly, we can see where Gov. Northam’s priorities lie.”

11-19-18 Energy News Network. Facing a second controversial gas pipeline, North Carolina takes a new tack. “Still confronting backlash for its role in approving one interstate gas pipeline, the administration of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is taking a different tack with a second project on the horizon. In a letter this month to federal pipeline authorities, a top Cooper environmental official sharply questioned the need for Southgate, a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Virginia into Rockingham and Alamance counties. …. The letter marks the second time this year state officials have written the feds expressing concern about the need for more pipeline infrastructure, citing insufficient demand, the threat of climate change, and other critiques that match those raised by pipeline foes.”

11-18-18 Wall Street Journal. A Green Logrolling Classic: Offshore wind for 78 cents a kilowatt-hour. On the open market: 3 cents. “For a perfect example of green daydreaming gone awry, look to the waters off Virginia Beach, which will soon feature two wind turbines with blades rising as tall as the Washington Monument. It’s impressive engineering, but it makes zero economic sense, according to Virginia’s utilities regulators. They’ve issued a scorching order that approves the project. Yes, the surprise ending is that their factual analysis doesn’t matter under a green fiat from the state Legislature.”

11-17-18  Blue Virginia. Who Are Ralph Northam’s New Appointees to the State Water and Air Pollution Control Boards? “The question, though, is who these folks are exactly – strong environmentalists or folks who will vote Dominion’s way regarding the Union Hill compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? I asked around with leading Virginia environmentalists, and I got very similar reactions to what Mike Town of the Virginia LCV said – “frankly, we have no idea who they are.” So I did the next best thing: I Googled them. What I found was that they SEEM ok, albeit with limited information, at first glance, but that it’s basically impossible to tell where they’re coming from on the pipelines, compressor station, etc. …. Bottom line: these people all seem to have experience in the energy/environment arena, but have unknown views on the big issues currently facing the Virginia Air and Water Boards. …. Why would Northam want to remove people with a great deal of expertise on this issue and replace them with ‘newbies’ who almost certainly don’t have a great deal of knowledge regarding this specific issue? Seems verrry strange to a lot of Virginia environmental groups, as well it should. But frankly, this is WAY beyond an environmental issue, as it touches on corporate power (in this case Dominion Energy) over/possible ‘capture’ of our government officials and regulatory bodies. That should concern EVERY Virginian, not just those who care deeply about protecting our environment or about environmental racism (which should be 100% of Virginians, by the way).”

11-16-18 Virginia Mercury. Gov. Northam names new members to state air, water boards as pipeline opponents fume. “Gov. Ralph Northam named new members for the state’s air and water boards a day after he ignited the ire of environmental groups by removing air board members whose terms expired months ago just as the panel weighs a crucial permit for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We hope these new board members are qualified, but, frankly, we have no idea who they are,’ said Mike Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. ‘What we do know is that they are replacing two highly respected, well-qualified board members who dared to ask the hard questions about Dominion’s unnecessary and destructive pipeline, and that their appointments come just weeks before an important final vote on this project and on the heels of a contentious hearing where they raised serious concerns.'”

11-16-18 WIS10 [NC]. Dominion CEO says he ‘would hope’ to be able to extend the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into SC. “A Virginia based energy company called Dominion Energy has presented two plans in a proposed merger with SCANA after SCE&G used billions of customer dollars used to pay for their failed VC Summer project. Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell took the stand for his second day of testimony at the Public Service Commission hearing to decide SCE&G’s fate, and commissioners had their chance to get their question answered. …. Commissioners also asked Farrell about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion has plans to run through North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia. Some South Carolinians have been concerned that the natural gas pipeline will be extended through the Palmetto State. ‘We would hope that that demand will arise and that the pipeline would be extended into South Carolina,’ Farrell said. ‘We have no plans to do so today, but I would hope that that happens.'”

11-16-18 Washington Post. Northam removes two board members ahead of crucial vote on pipeline project. “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has removed two members of the state Air Pollution Control Board ahead of a key vote on a controversial natural gas pipeline project, drawing condemnation from environmental groups. The air board had delayed a vote last week on a permit for a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing concerns that the facility was disrupting a historically African American community in rural Buckingham County. …. Board members surprised supporters and opponents by delaying action until Dec. 10, saying they wanted more time to review the matter. …. But that hope turned to outrage Thursday night as word spread that Northam was altering the board’s membership. His office acknowledged that he was removing two members whose terms expired in June but had been allowed to continue serving. Both Samuel A. Bleicher of Arlington and Rebecca R. Rubin of Fredericksburg were among those who had raised questions last week about the location and safety of the compressor station. Northam’s office acknowledged Thursday night that the governor was replacing them but denied that it had anything to do with the pipeline issue.”

11-15-18 Houston Chronicle. Senators warn FERC nominee of need for impartiality. “Senators warned President Donald Trump’s pick to sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday that they needed assurances of his impartiality in light of his work at the Department of Energy. Bernard McNamee, policy director at the Energy Department who previously served in top positions with Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, has come under fire for questions around his role in crafting the administration’s efforts to prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants. He appeared before the Senate Thursday morning for his confirmation hearing.”

11-15-18 WBOY12 [Clarksburg WV]. Environmental activist travel the pipeline on horseback. “‘It’s beautiful county. That part of it is really amazing, and that’s the part that breaks my heart is to know that 600 miles of mountains, all the way down to North Carolina, that’s all going to be disrupted and the natural state of things is going to change,’ said Environmental Activist Sarah Murphy. Sarah Murphy and her horse Rob Roy headed out of Stanton, Virginia on September 26 with the goal of creating a conversation by riding 600 miles from one end of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to another traveling through Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. …. It has been nearly two months, more than 170 miles, and Murphy and Rob have made their way through West Virginia to Lewis County to show her opposition and concerns about the pipeline. ‘Eminent domain is about to take over. That’s really something that was intended for state parks for things to better society and community as a whole. It wasn’t something that was created for an independent company to use to put in a pipeline,’ said Murphy. …. Murphy says she has been in contact with Dominion Energy representatives and has been issued a trespass notice for traveling along an Atlantic Coast Pipeline right of way. She says she hopes her ride inspires others to speak out.”

11-15-18 Olean Times Herald [NY]. West Clarksville couple wins eminent domain appeal on Northern Access Pipeline. “A state appellate court ruled Friday that National Fuel Gas Corp. could not use eminent domain proceedings to cross a Clarksville couple’s property for the Northern Access Pipeline from McKean County, Pa. to Western New York. The Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department overturned an earlier State Supreme Court ruling granting eminent domain powers to National Fuel Gas in order to cross the 200-acre parcel owned by Joseph and Theresa Schueckler. The property lay in the path of the proposed 97-mile $455 million Northern Access pipeline. While National Fuel officials are still hopeful about the project’s future, the Schueckler’s attorney Gary Abraham thinks differently. ‘The pipeline is dead,’ he said. …. He said there will be no eminent domain ‘unless and until National Fuel Gas can prevail against DEC’ in the Second Circuit or against the FERC conditions in the D.C. Circuit. ‘They don’t have authorization from FERC to begin construction,’ Abraham said. He cited one portion of the decision, which said: ‘given the State’s WQC denial, there simply is no viable public project. Consequently, petitioner [National Fuel] has no right to force respondents [the Schuecklers] to sell something that is not for sale.'”

11-15-18 Virginia Mercury. With compressor station decision pending, Northam replaces two members of state air board. “Gov. Ralph Northam will replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board and at least one member of the State Water Control Board more than four months after their terms ended. Notably, the decision to replace the two members of the air board — Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, whose terms ended in June — comes a week after the board delayed a vote on a permit for a contentious pipeline compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The board was scheduled to take up the permit again next month. Both boards have wrestled with key permits for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The water board also wrangled with a permit for the separate Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is being developed by EQT Midstream Partners of Pittsburgh. Environmental groups, which provided major financial support to Northam’s campaign, were stunned and furious at the air board decision.”

11-15-18 E&E News. No penalties for 90% of pipeline blasts. “Since the beginning of 2010, interstate pipelines have exploded or caught fire 137 times, according to an E&E News analysis of interstate pipeline enforcement and incident data. In about 90 percent of those cases, PHMSA [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] sought no fine. The fines totaled $5.4 million in the 13 explosion and fire cases where PHMSA did seek civil penalties in that eight-year period. That’s less than one day of profits for TransCanada Corp., the company that owns the Keystone XL pipeline and that in 2016 bought the line that blew up near Sissonville. It’s about $2 million less than TransCanada CEO Russ Girling’s total compensation last year. TransCanada did not respond to repeated requests for comment. NiSource, which owned Columbia Gas Transmission at the time of the Sissonville explosion, declined comment. Some cases are still pending with PHMSA, such as a 2016 ammonia pipeline leak in Nebraska that killed a farmer and a 2016 gas line explosion in Pennsylvania the same year that left a man so badly burned that parts of his right arm and leg were amputated. PHMSA records show the agency has not taken steps to levy fines in those cases. In other high-profile cases, such as the 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people, states had jurisdiction rather than PHMSA. California authorities prosecuted and won felony guilty verdicts against the company that owned the San Bruno pipeline. They also levied a $1.6 billion fine.”

11-15-18 Roanoke Times. Judge dismisses charges against Roanoke County women who sat in trees to block pipeline. “A judge dismissed charges Thursday against a mother and daughter who for more than a month lived in the trees, trying to save them from a pipeline cutting its way through their Bent Mountain homeplace. Theresa ‘Red’ Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, had a ‘good faith’ belief that they could protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline by occupying two tree stands in its path, Roanoke County General District Judge Scott Geddes ruled. ‘Stepping into the shoes of the defendants … the court has serious doubts that the Terrys intended to commit a criminal offense by their actions,’ Geddes said before dismissing charges of trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.”

11-15-18 EcoWatch. Cash Buys Elections—and Continued Fossil Fuel Dominance. “One of the ways Dominion buys policy in Virginia is through its multi-million dollar political and lobbying operation. Since 1998, the company has built the infrastructure to buy off policy and is the biggest corporate contributor to political campaigns in Virginia—with its political action committee and employees plowing more than $10 million into Virginia campaign coffers. Whether it’s meals, cocktails, sporting tickets or other associated spending, it’s repeatedly bought access to policy through the state’s elected officials.”

11-14-18 Washington Examiner. Environmental activists are turning to the courts to block pipelines. “Environmental activists are successfully using the courts to stymie the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, especially oil and natural gas pipelines, with the latest example being a federal judge last week blocking the long-disputed Keystone XL pipeline.”

11-14-18 Charlotte News Observer. NC lawmakers will hire investigators to look at governor’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund. “North Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to hire private investigators to look into whether Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration improperly issued a state permit to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this year on condition of securing a $57.8 million contribution from the energy consortium that’s building the natural gas pipeline. While Cooper’s office dismissed the move as a political stunt, the lawmakers were praised by an environmental activist group that has fought the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and has been frustrated by Cooper’s silence. The Republican co-chairs of the subcommittee that focuses on the pipeline said a professional investigation is required because Cooper’s office has refused to answer key questions this year on how and why the deal was negotiated. Lawmakers said the deal’s time line, as reconstructed through public records, suggests the pipeline permit was initially withheld by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to strong-arm the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to pay for a ‘slush fund’ that the governor could dole out for pet projects.

11-14-18 News Leader. Video: Sinkhole opens on Swoope farm. “Bobby Whitescarver, an Augusta County farmer and soil conservationist, uses a surveyors rod to measure a sinkhole on Scott Miller’s farm in Swoope. He investigates the sinkhole, which is 2.6 miles from the route for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, at the request of his neighbor on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.” Whitescarver said, You might remember that we shut down 81 about every other year because a sinkhole opens up. So this is kind of dnagerous to put a high pressure pipeline.”

11-12-18 Progressive Pulse (NC Policy Watch). MVP Southgate officially files with feds to build natural gas pipeline; DEQ joins chorus of opponents questioning its necessity. “Now that MVP Southgate has submitted its official 582-page application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a new natural gas pipeline in North Carolina, opponents are increasing their pressure on state and local officials to stop the project. …. Thousands of North Carolinians, including environmental groups and even the Alamance County Commissioners, have submitted public comments opposing the project. The reasons are voluminous: The pipeline would cross private land, including centuries-old family farms, that would be subject to eminent domain; it would present safety issues for residents in the ‘blast zone’ — the area vulnerable to loss of life and property damage in the unlikely, but not unheard of event of an explosion. …. In a Nov. 5 letter to FERC, the NC Department of Environmental Quality wrote that, ‘as of this date we have been unable to determine whether there exists an overarching need and demand … for the Southgate project as proposed. We remain unconvinced that the Southgate project is necessary.'”

11-12-18 Roanoke Times. Leech: Dominion wants to fleece its customers for an unneeded pipeline. “As president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, I have dealt with issues affecting consumers for decades, and I have concluded that the decision-making process for natural gas pipelines built through our state is anything but common sense. Instead, irrational and illogical, it turns the law of supply and demand (as well as the balancing of costs and benefits) on its head. At the wheel is Dominion Energy, a for-profit corporate giant that operates as a monopoly in Virginia’s energy market. Dominion tells us that what we need is what they’re selling, namely the $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would slice through 600 miles of private property, national forest and other public lands, and would cross hundreds of streams and rivers. What Dominion doesn’t want the public to know is that this project is not needed in the first place, and that the decision-making process used to approve it is unfair and fundamentally flawed. Why? Because the only proof of need required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a developer’s contracts with other companies who will use the pipeline for gas they might transport. Guess who Dominion’s contracts are with? You guessed it, Dominion.”

11-12-18 WAVY. Residents voice concerns at gas pipeline meeting in Norfolk. “The controversial issue of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline took center stage on Sunday at a meeting in Norfolk. As plans continue to move forward across the area– people met at the Attucks Theater to voice their opposition and concerns about the proposed pipeline. Part of the proposed natural gas pipeline would run through Downtown Norfolk. 10 On Your Side spoke with a lot of citizens that say they’re unsure about the potential danger a pipeline like this could cause. During the meeting, the panelists spoke on the history of high pressure natural gas pipelines. They showed examples of recent explosions and potential impact radius, which includes multiple schools, churches and medical facilities.”

11-10-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Questions about ‘disproportionate impact’ on Union Hill move air board to delay action on compressor station permit. “Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board is waiting a month to act on a proposed permit for a natural gas compressor station to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Buckingham County because of unresolved concerns about whether it would have a ‘disproportionate impact’ on the majority-black community of Union Hill. After a day and a half of public meetings on the proposed air pollution permit, the regulatory board voted unanimously Friday to delay its decision until Dec. 10. Several board members made clear their discomfort with the state’s approach to concerns about environmental justice because of the 55,000-horsepower compressor station’s proximity to Union Hill and the adjacent neighborhoods of Union Grove and Shelton Store, whose residents are predominantly African-American. …. Other board members also wanted more information about the suitability of the location of the compressor station, proposed on the site of a former plantation whose freed slaves founded the adjacent community after the Civil War.”

11-9-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘God knows what’s right, and hopefully you do, too:’ Opponents urge air board to reject permit for pipeline compressor station. “Dozens of detractors and supporters had their say Thursday about a natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy plans to build in Buckingham County as part of its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, as the State Air Pollution Control Board met to review a proposed permit for the facility.”

11-9-18 Washington Post.  Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change facts. “A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries. The judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said the State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires ‘reasoned’ explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions.”

11-8-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Pipelines repeatedly cited by state regulators for environmental issues. “As battles over two major natural gas pipelines play out in court, state regulators have continued to cite the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline for environmental problems. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has received 19 violation notices from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for failing to comply with the project’s West Virginia/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general water pollution control permit. The violation notices date back to early April, and the most recent was issued in early October, according to the DEP’s database. …. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would also start in northern West Virginia and span 600 miles into North Carolina, has been cited twice for problems in Upshur and Randolph counties. Neither pipeline company responded to inquiries about the violations.”

11-8-18 Roanoke Times. Charges heard against Roanoke County mother and daughter who sat in trees to block a pipeline. “A mother and daughter who sat in trees for more than a month trying to block a natural gas pipeline from being built on their land atop Bent Mountain continued their fight Thursday, this time in a courtroom. Theresa “Red” Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, are contesting criminal charges stemming from what they contend was the only way to stop tree-cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. After hearing several hours of testimony, Roanoke County General District Judge Scott Geddes allowed lawyers to submit written arguments before he renders a decision. Geddes told the Terrys to return to his courtroom Nov. 15, when he will decide whether they are guilty of three misdemeanor charges: trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.”

11-8-18 Daily Progress. Dominion offers $5.1 million in plan to aid Buckingham community next to pipeline compressor station. “Dominion Energy is offering $5.1 million for a package of improvements — including expanded emergency services and a new community center — for a predominantly African-American community next to the site of a natural gas compressor station Dominion is proposing in Buckingham County to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The package, which Dominion negotiated with members of the Union Hill/Union Grove/Shelton Store community over the past three years, is emerging as the pipeline company is seeking a state air permit for the 53,783-horsepower compressor station in a two-day public meeting of the state Air Pollution Control Board that begins on Thursday.  Carlos Brown, vice president and general counsel at Dominion, said the package of community benefits is ‘not something that is directly tied to the compressor station air permit. It’s a community need that we want to address,’ Brown said in an interview. However, the proposed improvements are tied to the ‘successful completion’ of the $7 billion pipeline project, which would extend 600 miles from West Virginia through the heart of Virginia to eastern North Carolina. The package is welcomed by some and derided by others in the community, which has become the flashpoint in an intensifying debate about whether the pipeline compressor station represents an environmental and racial injustice because of its site on a former plantation that enslaved the ancestors of some residents who live and own property there. ‘They’re using it as a divide-and-conquer technique,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, pastor of the Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches, which sit close to the 58-acre site proposed for the compressor station. Wilson said he was part of some discussions with Dominion in its attempt to engage the community, but contends the company deliberately left the church out of the discussions that led to the agreement it reached with other residents.”

11-8-18 Virginia Mercury. State board will decide permit for Buckingham compressor station, focus of Virginia’s biggest environmental justice debate. “‘Operating compressor stations have been observed to have such highly variable emissions, including large spikes of harmful VOC emissions,’ the SELC wrote. ‘One compressor station in Pennsylvania emitted dangerous amounts of ethylbenzene, butane and benzene on some days and hardly detectable amounts on other days, resulting in averages that did not appropriately indicate the compressor station’s threats to human health.’ The whole proposal is tantamount to environmental racism, says Rose. ‘They are putting this [compressor station] in this neighborhood because we are black,’ says Rose, a claim she says she has voiced at every public meeting about the station without a response from Dominion. ‘They are putting it right in the middle of our community. Would they want it in theirs, with the pollution and noise and everything it’s going to bring? What makes it all right to put in ours?'”

11-8-18 The Recorder. Pipeline coatings a risk to environment, human health. “The coating being used on these pipes is 3M ScotchKote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233. This coating can degrade in sunlight or with wind, rain, or other exposure to the elements. According to a 2009 technical brief from 3M, some of the epoxy resins in fusion bonded epoxy coatings have ‘poor ultraviolet light resistance.’ According to the National Association of Pipe Coating Applicators, ‘Above ground storage of coated pipe in excess of six months without additional ultraviolet protection is not recommended.’ If the integrity of this coating is not maintained, risk of explosions could increase. …. According to a June 2018 letter from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Dominion Energy has admitted that ‘the duration that the pipes will be stored at pipe laydown yards will exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations.'”

11-7-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley submits application for new pipeline to North Carolina. “The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have taken the first formal step in seeking federal approval for a 73-mile extension of the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina. An application filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission details Mountain Valley’s plan for a new project that will begin in Pittsylvania County, at the end point of a 303-mile pipeline the company is currently building in West Virginia and Virginia. Called MVP Southgate, the underground pipeline would run to Alamance County and provide gas to PSNC Energy, a local distribution company that plans to expand a system that serves more than 563,000 customers in North Carolina. …. The estimated cost of the project is $468 million. …. The company said this week that it hopes to obtain approval in time to begin work on MVP Southgate in early 2020 and have the pipeline operational by the end of the same year. Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to be completed in late 2019.”

11-7-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. 4th Circuit orders temporary halt to Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A federal appeals court ordered a temporary halt Wednesday afternoon to a water-crossing permit needed to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The order came one week after a group of environmental and citizen groups asked the court to stay the so-called ‘Nationwide Permit 12’ needed to build the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is primarily being built by Dominion Energy, and will run from northern West Virginia into North Carolina. The court shouldn’t allow the reinstatement of the project’s Nationwide 12 permit because it can’t meet two separate conditions, particularly when building the pipeline across the Greenbrier River, lawyers for the environmental and citizen groups wrote. The two conditions, inserted by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to protect the state’s water quality, stipulate that stream crossings must be completed in 72 hours, and that structures authorized by the permit cannot impede fish from swimming upstream or downstream. …. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the two-page order from Chief Judge Roger Gregory, with the concurrence of Judge James Wynn and Judge Stephanie Thacker Wednesday.”

11-7-18 WVTF. Experts Predict the Price of Power Will Rise. “The State Corporation Commission or SCC is supposed to make sure electric rates charged by utilities are fair and reasonable. Last month it held hearings on Dominion’s plans to supply power for the next 15 years. The company offered five different scenarios, combining various amounts of nuclear energy, gas, solar and wind power. Whichever one Dominion settles on, some experts say customers will be paying more.”

11-5-18 WVTF. MVP Protestors Pass 50 Day Mark Sitting in Protest Above its Path. “As winter approaches, two Mountain Valley Pipeline protestors in Elliston, VA, continue to live among the trees along its route . Much of the work has been on hold since early October, after permits to cross waterways in its path, were suspended by the Army Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless the tree sitters and up to a couple of dozen supporters and protestors, persist. The tree sitters recently passed the 50-day mark, perched on their platforms above the pipeline work site. Lauren Bowman Clontz recorded the sound of crews cutting trees in September. In an essay for Blue Ridge Outdoors, she recalls growing up in those mountains, reveling in their wild beauty. But, she writes, she never thought about the ‘price of these things.’ Nor did she know that ‘people were willing to destroy everything that’s above ground to get what’s under it.’ So, the 24-year-old is living in a tree to protest construction of the pipeline because, ‘It’s the only thing left to do.'”

11-3-18 NBC29. Woman Begins Second Leg of Horseback Trek along Pipeline Route. “A Shenandoah Valley woman is riding over 600 miles on horseback to speak out for the environment. Sarah Murphy embarked on her trek along the entirety of the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on September 26. …. Murphy says she plans to continue to do what she can to prevent construction on the pipeline from proceeding. She says she plans to be back home in Staunton in about a month.” Earlier story: 9-26-18 NBC29. Woman Sets Off on Horseback Trek to Protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

11-3-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion customers will bear the risks of $300 million offshore wind pilot; SCC puts responsibility on legislators.  “The State Corporation Commission said it bowed to legislative mandate by approving a $300 million offshore wind power pilot that it otherwise would have found imprudent because customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will bear all of the costs and risks of the project. The SCC concluded in a scathing 20-page order on Friday that the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project isn’t needed to serve Dominion customers and will cost more than any other option for generating electricity to serve the utility’s 2.6 million customers. The commission was especially direct in noting that the project’s developers won’t bear any of the risk for a project to be built 27 miles off the Atlantic Coast. ‘The economic benefits specific (to the project) are speculative, whereas the risks and excessive costs are definite and will be borne by Dominion’s customers,’ the order states.”

11-2-18 Washington Post. Supreme Court refuses to block young people’s climate lawsuit against U.S. government. “The Supreme Court on Friday night refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to take action on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial. The suit, filed in 2015 by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment, is before a federal judge in Oregon. It had been delayed while the Supreme Court considered the emergency request from the government.”

11-2-18 Washington Post. Op-ed by Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, who served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2010 to 2014.  Virginia has a pipeline problem. “I am not opposed to natural-gas pipelines, and I’m not opposed to eminent domain for appropriate and necessary projects. But I am opposed to captive monopoly customers shouldering the cost and risk of Dominion projects that are rubber-stamped without anyone at any level asking whether the pipeline provides value to Virginians. Dominion Energy testified before the Virginia State Corporation Commission in September that the company has not analyzed how much the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cost its customers. That answer is, frankly, shocking, especially after a non-Dominion expert testified that the pipeline would raise power bills by $2.5 billion over the next 20 years. Dominion intends to charge its customers for all of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline contract costs, regardless of whether it actually uses the pipeline. …. From my view as a former Virginia attorney general, the process that allows Dominion to do business this way is broken, and Virginia consumers will be left holding the bag.”  The op-ed was published first online, and will appear in the print edition on Sunday November 4.

11-2-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Boyle and Shabazz column: Does Governor Northam care about environmental justice?  “A year ago this week, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe took an important step in creating the state’s first Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. Heeding the principle that ‘protection of our natural resources applies equally to all individuals,’ the council’s charge is to provide the administration with recommendations for action. It’s fitting that the council’s first priority was to examine the largest industrial projects proposed in Virginia in a generation — the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, and in particular the 53,000-horsepower compressor station slated for a majority African-American community in Buckingham County. …. So far, the administration’s actions on environmental justice fail to match its public statements. …. Northam can remove all doubt by immediately issuing an executive order continuing the council, and demonstrate his commitment to environmental justice by issuing a meaningful response to the council’s seven recommendations on the pipelines, none of which are off-limits to state action, including rescinding state water pollution permits. The governor has an obligation to act in the best interest of all Virginians. It’s been made abundantly clear the pipelines are not needed and pose irreparable harm to communities.”

11-1-18 Washington Post. The Energy 202: New Trump-chosen chair of independent energy agency promises to avoid politics. “Neil Chatterjee, the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has pledged to keep politics out of the agency’s decisions, including high-profile issues about whether to prop up coal and nuclear plants that have been beset by competition from renewables and natural gas.”

11-1-18 News Leader. County board of zoning appeals denies Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard request. “The pipeline storage yard will not be built in Augusta County. The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Thursday to deny Dominion Energy’s second request this year to build a pipeline storage yard in the county. The storage yard would have aided the energy company construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The board voted 4-1 to deny the special-use permit, following three months of deliberation over request. The permit vote was tabled twice after a heated public hearing and additional questions came up about the project.”

11-1-18 RVAmag.com. “Pumpkins Not Pipelines”: Activists Stage Halloween Parade Outside the Governor’s Office. “Richmond residents from Broad Street to North 9th were witness to a parade of costumed protesters Wednesday, warning of ‘a place where the air is so polluted it causes headaches, nosebleeds and illness. A place where your water is the color of toxic mud.’ ‘On this Halloween day, you may think we are giving the details of a horror story,’ said Stacy Lovelace of the Virginia Pipeline Resisters, speaking through a megaphone. ‘But sadly this is, and will be, the reality for those along the path of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.’ The activists marshaled outside the Governor’s Office at the Virginia State Capitol, as they have every week since early February, in protest of the Northam administration’s continued approval of the Mountain Valley (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipelines (ACP). …. [T]he group marched several blocks west to the Office of the Attorney General, chanting all the way. Their protest was joined by unexpected ‘guests’: life-sized props of Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, hands stuffed with cash, with cardboard rods sticking out from their noses. ‘They dressed as Pinocchio, which is fitting, because they’ve been telling lots of fibs lately,’ Lovelace remarked. For her own costume, she wore posters with quotes from multiple studies about the pipelines’ potential to negatively impact the region.”

11-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Why Am I Up Here?  “I am 24 years old now, and for over a month, I have been living in a tree platform in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Looking back, it is clear to me that this was the only thing left to do. Regulations have been ignored or altered to suit the interests of the pipeline. Our state agencies are not working for the people; they are working for the pipeline. Our governor, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, has turned his back on his own constituents. …. I’m up here because the alternative is to be complacent, and the cost of complacency is too much. Change is never going to happen if we keep playing by their rules and trying to ask politely. It’s time to stop playing nicely. …. We may lose, yes. But we lose so much more if we fail to show up in the first place.”

October 2018

10-31-18 News Leader. Board of Zoning Appeals must stop Dominion from breaking laws in pursuit of pipeline. “For the third time in three months, the Board of Zoning Appeals will have to listen to Dominion’s shifting tale of why the county should violate its own ordinances and comprehensive plan in order to allow a massive construction staging area in the heart of western Augusta County. The public hearing portion of the special use permit process concluded in September, but the people continue to flood the BZA with factual information about why this pipe yard would have positively scary impacts on our communities. Perhaps, fittingly, on the day after Halloween –Thursday Nov. 1 at 1:30 in the Augusta County Government Center – citizens will again pack the room hoping to witness the BZA stop the threatening specter of a West Augusta pipe yard. …. This time the proposed pipe yard is almost unanimously opposed by the people of Augusta County so the decision should be fairly easy, despite Dominion’s relentless pressure.”

10-30-18 C-ville. Edging closer: Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets state go-ahead. “Massive opposition to Dominion Energy’s pipeline has made headlines since the project was proposed in 2014. So when Governor Ralph Northam held his 2018 Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity in Staunton, just two days after the October 19 pipeline permit approval, activists were there to meet him. They say he’s touting ‘rural prosperity’ while ‘greenwashing’ his complicity in environmental destruction. …. For the first three weekends of October, the Averitts and other activists who oppose the ACP invited the public to their property to camp or visit for a few days of what they call ‘camptivism,’ to learn why Nelson residents are so vehemently fighting to prevent the pipeline’s construction. Approximately 150 attendees heard from environmental experts, impacted landowners, and local historians. ‘Northam’s supposed to represent all of us and he couldn’t even give us the courtesy of an hour?’ Averitt asks. ‘He is allowing and participating in this negligent act of allowing these pipelines to be built in the face of every credible source that says they aren’t needed and [are] ill-advised.’ …. Says Averitt, ‘If these pipelines are developed, we would create a 600-mile development dead zone around them and jeopardize thousands of rural homeowners’ water along the route. I’d like Northam to explain to me how that is good for rural economies.'”

10-30-18 Blue Virginia. Glen Besa – An Open Letter to Gov. Northam: Doing the Climate Math in Virginia. “It should be evident that the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines seriously undercut your desire to address climate change. Carbon pollution from these two pipelines represents over 70 million tons per year of new emissions as soon as the pipelines are turned on, while your rule would only reduce carbon pollution by less that 10 tons per year by 2030. These 70 million tons will not all be emitted in Virginia, but regardless of where this gas is burned, its impact on climate change will be the same. The administrative approach you have proposed to reduce carbon pollution is one step in the right direction; however, the increased annual carbon pollution from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines is over 7 times greater than the reductions you propose to achieve by 2030. This is just one of many compelling reasons why you should stop these pipeline projects.”

10-30-18 LancasterOnline [PA]. Main contractor on Atlantic Sunrise, Mariner East gas pipelines declares bankruptcy. “The main contractor on the Atlantic Sunrise and Mariner East 2 gas pipelines that run through Lancaster County has declared bankruptcy. Ohio-based Welded Construction LP was sued in Oklahoma by Atlantic Sunrise owner Williams Partners. Williams alleges Welded overcharged the company and had accounting failures and other contract breaches. Williams has withheld $23 million from the company. The nearly 300-mile, $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise natural gas project — which goes through 37 miles of Lancaster County — began moving gas on Oct. 6. Sunoco, owner of the 300-mile Mariner East 2 natural gas liquids pipeline, terminated its contract with Welded, alleging the company failed to comply with environmental requirements. The pipeline, which goes through 8 miles of northeastern Lancaster County, has been beset with spills and fines that have delayed the project. After the legal actions by the two pipeline builders, Welded filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.”

10-30-18 Virginian-Pilot. Why the last piece of a pipeline under Hampton Roads has gone from an afterthought to a fiery battle. “In many ways, this is a typical energy battle, short on easy solutions and long on passion. It’s being waged with worst-case scenarios and conflicting statements – difficult to sort though, even harder to fully disprove. What’s unusual about this one: The two sides are fighting over the final piece of pipe. The bulk of the $62 million project has already been built, buried in a crescent-shaped path that runs from the outskirts of downtown Norfolk and to the Gilmerton Bridge area of Chesapeake. Construction on the connector started in 2017 at each end, marching toward the middle. Other than some protests in Chesapeake last year, it’s gone into the ground with nary a peep, mostly along city and electrical right of ways. The final segment – dipping under the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River – will tie the whole project together.  Drilling would start on one bank at Harbor Park stadium, owned by the city of Norfolk.  No problem.  It would end on the other bank at Colonna’s Shipyard, owned by 89-year-old Bill Colonna.  Problem.”

10-30-18 Virginian-Pilot. Fact check: The war of words between Virginia Natural Gas and Colonna’s Shipyard. “Welcome to a war of words: the arguments over the almost-done Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline. We’ve distilled the key points from each side – Virginia Natural Gas and Colonna’s Shipyard – and what The Pilot has been able to determine.”

10-30-18 Virginia Mercury. Virginia’s proposed carbon rule gets lower emissions cap, adds environmental justice component. “Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board approved a handful of changes Monday to a sweeping proposed carbon rule that would cap the allowable amount of emissions from power plants starting in 2020 and enter into a multi-state market-based program to reduce emissions. If approved — which could be next year after another round of public comment — Virginia would become the first state in the South to regulate carbon output through that program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. Staff from the Department of Environmental Quality proposed a change Monday to lower the cap from 33 to 28 million tons of carbon output, while board members suggested amendments that clarify which entities the rule applies to and require staff to consider issues of environmental justice when the rule is implemented. ‘It’s excellent for the environment and keeps the commonwealth moving forward in reducing carbon pollution,’ said Michael Dowd, director of the DEQ’s air quality division. That cap would decrease 3 percent each year until 2030.”

10-30-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Work stopped on pipeline that exploded in Beaver County, after Pa. regulators find environmental violations. “Energy Transfer LP, the operator of the Revolution Pipeline that exploded near Monaca last month, has been ordered by state regulators to stop all work on that pipeline because of subsequent environmental violations. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued an order to the Texas-based pipeline company on Monday alleging that its construction practices are failing to control erosion and soil movement and have impacted several streams in the area. The company must stop all earth moving activities, temporarily stabilize its work sites and submit a series of plans before it can continue with its work to get the pipeline back up and running again.”

10-29-18 News Leader. Augusta County zoning board enters third round of pipeline storage yard discussions. “The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals will revisit a well known request from Dominion Energy Thursday afternoon. In September, the board heard Dominion’s request for a special-use permit to construct a temporary pipeline staging yard, which would aid Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. The board tabled the permit vote twice after a heated public hearing and additional questions came up about the project. The 1:30 p.m. meeting on Thursday marks the third time the board will discuss the current special-use permit application for construction in West Augusta. It’s the second application of its kind the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals has reviewed this year. In March, the board denied a request from Dominion for a pipeline storage yard after three months of discussion.”

10-27-18 The Guardian. Air pollution is the new tobacco. Time to tackle this epidemic. “Air pollution is a silent public health emergency, killing 7 million people every year and damaging the health of many, many more. Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet. This is a defining moment and we must scale up action to urgently respond to this challenge. Air pollution puts the health of billions at risk from the simple act of breathing. The World Health Organization estimates nine in 10 people globally breathe polluted, toxic air. Air pollution is a health risk at every stage of life. …. [I]n less than a week, the WHO will host the first global conference on air pollution and health, where leaders will chart next steps for future action to cut air pollution in their countries. …. The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the “new tobacco”: the toxic air that billions breathe every day.” [The first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health will be held at WHO Headquarters in Geneva on 30 October – 1 November 2018.]

10-25-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Correspondent of the Day: October 26, 2018: Despite Farrell’s column, the ACP is dangerous. “Thomas Farrell’s Op-Ed column, “Powering Virginia’s future with clean, affordable, and reliable energy,” uses a logical fallacy to attempt to persuade people, because he cannot logically prove that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is good for us. As the top honcho at Dominion Energy, he is clearly biased in his viewpoint. While it is his right to only write about the alleged benefits of the ACP, a proper assessment must include not only the alleged benefits but also all the external costs and risks. Dominion Energy will be making a profit at the expense of the people it impacts. Economists call this an externality. Citizens call it unacceptable. On economic efficiency grounds, the benefits of a project must be greater than its total cost, including the externalities. The ACP fails this big time. The benefits are overstated while the impacts, externalities, and future risks are ignored. …. Will Dominion Energy be willing to post a bond of $10 billion or so to partially cover any damages from the ACP if they happen? Will the energy company cover the expenses of people who may be impacted by an explosion?”

10-25-18 Virginia Mercury. The con at the heart of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “It can’t be said enough, and it’s something that’s easy to lose sight of amid the labyrinthine legal and permitting debates around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which could be getting federal approval to start full construction in Virginia any minute now. The need for Dominion Energy’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is far from proven — certainly not in Virginia — despite the propaganda piece extolling the virtues of the project that company CEO, president and CEO Thomas Farrell got published Sunday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Your case should be ironclad before a federal agency gives your company the authority to blast, trench and tunnel your way across 600 miles in three states, trampling on private property rights, national forests and parks, sensitive habitats and waterways and through aquifers remote communities rely on for drinking water. In fact, the preponderance of evidence points to Dominion being well on its way to foisting a massive con on its 2.5 million ratepayers here, as opponents of the pipeline have warned all along.”

10-25-18 Utility Dive. Trump names Chatterjee FERC chair. “President Trump on Wednesday designated Commissioner Neil Chatterjee to be the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Outgoing Chairman Kevin McIntyre will step down from his post but remain on FERC as a commissioner, according to a letter released by the agency. McIntyre battled brain cancer last year and wrote that he ‘very recently experienced a more serious health setback’ that left him ‘unable to perform the duties of chairman.’ Chatterjee was acting chairman of FERC last year before McIntyre was confirmed by the Senate, but the White House announcement said he will be chairman, not acting chair. The White House and FERC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.”

10-25-18 Blue Virginia. October Surprise: Governor Ralph Northam, Secretary Matt Strickler Tell Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice to Go Away – Literally. “Ralph Northam and those around him tried to derail the Governor’s own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. Then they pretended the Council had not spoken. Then they ignored it. And when Northam and Strickler could no longer ignore their own Advisory Council, they threatened to destroy it. An astute observer of the Advisory Council’s work recently told this author that it is hard to believe that a Southern Democratic Governor would go so far as to eliminate an advisory council on social justice in retaliation for having offended his corporate campaign contributors. The optics, as they say, would not be good. Perhaps that is correct. But there are many ways Northam could gut the Council. Northam could let it be known that he doesn’t want to hear any more about pipelines. He could pack the Council with members more willing to tow the Dominion Energy party line. And he could get rid of those who refuse to stay silent. The problem with changing the composition of the current 15 members of the Council is that they were told explicitly and on the record in December 2017 that ‘all appointed members are being asked to serve for the first two years to ensure continuity while the Council is getting established.’ Whatever Northam does do, this much seems clear: he wishes the Council would just go away – or at least shut up about pipelines. He could prove that statement wrong by issuing a new Executive Order and reappointing the current members.”

10-25-18 Roanoke Times. U.S. Supreme Court is asked to hear pipeline eminent domain case. “A group of landowners whose property was taken against their wishes for a natural gas pipeline is seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal, which involves the use of eminent domain by Mountain Valley Pipeline, is believed to be the first time the nation’s highest court has been asked to consider a challenge involving the controversial project. Whether that will happen is far from certain; the court agrees to hear oral arguments and render a decision in only about 80 of the approximately 8,000 cases that get filed each year. …. Thirteen landowners along the pipeline’s route are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit, filed last year in Roanoke’s federal court, challenging the way Mountain Valley used a law that allows the condemnation of private land for a public use. Among the constitutional questions raised is whether eminent domain, a power normally invoked by governmental bodies for projects such as highways and power lines, should be awarded to a private company in pursuit of profits. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission delegated what the lawsuit called ‘a government-sanctioned land grab’ to Mountain Valley when it approved the company’s request to build a 303-mile pipeline through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.”

10-23-18 News and Advance. Nelson residents look for answers concerning project on Norwood road in Arrington. “Neighbors continue to voice concerns about being kept in the dark on a major construction project on Norwood Road in Nelson County, between the Tye River and James River State Park. An access road about a half-mile long and 65 feet wide has been under construction since August. …. In March of 2017 Morris sold just over 740 acres, including that easement, to the Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit dedicated to protecting land across the United State for around $2.9 million. Then, last week, Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an email the Conservation Fund had purchased the property on behalf of Dominion Energy as replacement for land impact to the James River Wildlife Management area from development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline that Dominion Energy is currently working on. …. ‘It makes me worry that in the future big money can make these kind of secret transfers and negotiations without any transparency about how they intend to use the land,’ Hale said in an email. …. ‘At first, Dominion Energy said it didn’t have anything to do with the pipeline project. Then, maybe a week later, they said it did have something to do with the pipeline project,’ Carter said. Carter said after questions from neighbors starting coming to him and Saunders, he started making phone calls to figure out what was going on. …. ‘That’s the real issue that I have with it. No one on [the] board of supervisors seems to know what is being built in our district and the clerk said Senator Deeds said ‘it was secret’ and wouldn’t say what it is,’ Tillman said. ‘Why are they not telling us when we live here? Why are they doing something and not even announcing it to the public? The whole thing is shady.'”

10-23-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline loses another water-crossing permit. “Federal regulators have pulled another permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction project, which now lacks authority to build through streams and wetlands along the project’s entire 303-mile route. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended its authorization of water body crossings for the first 32 miles of the natural gas pipeline, starting where it originates in Wetzel County, West Virginia. In a letter Friday to Mountain Valley officials, Jon Coleman of the Corps’ regulatory division in Pittsburgh cited an Oct. 2 federal appeals court decision that vacates a similar permit issued by a different division for the rest of the pipeline’s route through West Virginia. A third such approval, which covers more than 500 streams and wetlands in Southwest Virginia, was suspended earlier for the same reason. Pipeline opponents pointed to the most recent suspension in calling anew for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order a stop to all other work on the pipeline, which continues at a brisk pace on land between the streams. ‘Frankly, it is astounding that the Commission has not yet issued a stop work order in response to Mountain Valley’s loss of its Clean Water Act authorizations,’ attorneys Ben Luckett and Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates wrote Monday in a letter to FERC. FERC’s approval for the massive pipeline a year ago was conditioned on Mountain Valley having all of its required permits from other federal agencies, including the Army Corps, the attorneys wrote.”

10-22-18 E&E News. Industry, activists want change in how they talk. “Federal regulators and pipeline industry representatives are eager to hear more from the public — in civil forums that avoid emotional, project-specific discussion. That was the takeaway from a series of sessions at a conference last week in which top Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration officials and representatives from pipeline companies, the American Petroleum Institute and other national organizations sat alongside stakeholders from community groups, state regulators and smaller environmental organizations. The conversation took place at a yearly conference hosted by the Pipeline Safety Trust, a group chartered to advocate for public safety in the industry and whose annual gathering is one of the few events to bring a significant number of civil society speakers together with pipeline industry representatives. Several people involved with fighting oil and natural gas pipelines in their local area expressed frustration that the pipeline developers they work with brush off the concerns of those in the project’s charted path. Take Irene Leech, an associate professor at Virginia Tech whose family farm will be bisected by the planned Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 600-mile project to carry shale gas from West Virginia to markets along the Atlantic Coast. Leech described her efforts to move the planned pipeline off the property that her family has owned since 1902, where she and her husband raise cattle. ‘We engaged real early in the process,’ Leech said, intervening with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to have a formal say in project development. Leech said she first hoped to have the pipeline rerouted off their land and then, when it became clear that would not happen, to have it moved from the middle of a field to the field’s edge so it would not interfere in the farm’s operations. ‘They told us where the location was going to be, and our input didn’t matter,’ she said.”

10-22-18 News Leader. Governor Northam stops in Staunton; discusses I-81, pipeline and renewable energy.  Staunton welcomed Governor Ralph Northam Tuesday morning. He was in town for the 2018 Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity. The event, which was held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, focused on innovation in rural parts of the commonwealth. Among other topics, the governor talked about renewable energy. When asked about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline affecting the Shenandoah Valley, he said the Commonwealth still needs time before it can go without traditional energy sources. ‘Renewable energy is very important to me,’ Northam said. ‘I have a commitment from Dominion that by the end of our administration, 3,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated by wind and solar. So we’re moving in that direction. But it can’t happen overnight.'”

10-21-18 News Leader. Pipeline protesters try to be heard amid discussion of rural prosperity. “About 60 people gathered outside the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center Sunday evening, singing, shouting slogans and waving signs of opposition to two natural gas pipelines that state regulators are allowing to be built across the mountains and valleys of western Virginia. Inside participants in the Governor’s Summit on Rural Prosperity were hobnobbing at an opening reception while those on the sidewalks out front were arguing that rural prosperity would be at risk because the state filed to adequately protect the land and water.”

10-21-18 WHSV3. Despite final state approval, pipeline opponents remain motivated. ” After Virginia regulators approved engineering plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline last week — thereby granting final permission needed from the state for developers to begin construction — opposition to the project continues among environmental groups. The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced on Friday a state-level water quality permit could take effect. It was approved last December, pending additional studies. A small group, representing a larger opposition movement, gathered in Augusta County on Sunday. ‘To show folks that it’s not a done deal,” Ben Cunningham, Pipeline CSI’s Virginia field coordinator, said. “The state and the developers would like us to think so. But it’s simply not the case.'”

10-20-18 NBC29. Anti-Pipeline Advocates Join Forces at Construction Site to Show Disapproval. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced a key approval of the pipeline’s erosion and sediment control plans. However, advocates from across central Virginia are not giving up hope that they can stop the pipeline. People from Nelson County and across the country who oppose this pipeline are joining forces at sites where the proposed pipeline would run. Since learning about the 600-mile underground Atlantic Coast Pipeline, he’s become actively involved in the efforts to stop it. …. ‘I plan on living for another 40 years and don’t want to have a climate catastrophe and I don’t want to see these mountains slip on steep slopes and unstable soils and damage what lovely country we have here,’ Cunningham said. He joined a handful of other advocates just outside Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County on Saturday, October 20, where contractors with the ACP have already cut down trees to prep this site for the pipeline. ‘We’re out here because we are very concerned about building a pipeline on such a steep slope with some of the most unsuitable soils,’ Charles Hickox, the organizer of Spruce Creek Camp for Friends of Nelson, said. All of the people who camped out at the site on Saturday oppose the pipeline in general, but specifically this site because of both how steep it is and its proximity to Wintergreen, which they say is the area’s top hub for tourism.”

10-19-18 Virginia Mercury. Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets final Virginia approvals. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has cleared the way for Dominion Energy’s 600-mile, deeply divisive Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin construction here. The agency has signed off on plans for how workers will manage erosion, sediment and stormwater along the route, which will cross hundreds of waterways and some of Virginia’s steepest terrain, the final approval the project needs before beginning to blast, trench and lay the pipe. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will issue the actual go-ahead for work to start here.”

10-19-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Virginia authorizes construction on Atlantic Coast Pipeline; final U.S. approval pending. “Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality on Friday gave state authorization for construction to begin on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, subject to final approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. DEQ said it had approved engineering designs to protect water quality during and after construction of the $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, spearheaded by Dominion Energy. …. DEQ’s approval of the pipeline’s erosion and sediment control plans and its stormwater management plan allow the state’s water quality certification to take effect. …. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters said DEQ had issued a ‘license to pollute’ for the 42-inch-diameter pipeline, which it said ‘will impact more than 300 miles of Virginia mountainside, heartland and hundreds of waterways. Even as their on-the-ground safeguards for pipeline construction have failed Southwest Virginia, today state regulators saw fit to allow an even larger, more complicated and environmentally destructive pipeline project to move forward, despite clear evidence that these pipelines can’t be built safely,’ said Lee Francis, deputy director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. Pipeline construction in a national forest in Virginia remains blocked as a three-judge panel reviews environmental groups’ appeal of permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service.”

10-19-18 Blue Virginia. Photos: Faith Leaders Commemorate “No Pipeline” Encampment with Interfaith Celebration of Forest and Land. “Today, dozens of faith leaders and activists joined for an interfaith ceremony to honor all forests threatened by Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline and EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipeline. The ‘Ona Commemoration Celebration’ took place on Miracle Ridge, an old-growth forest filled with 300-year-old trees, including one that Bill and Limpert — who own the property — have named ‘Ona.’ Ona has inspired residents from all across the Commonwealth to unite for the ‘No Pipeline Summer’ protest encampment on the Limperts’ land. Now, they have gathered again for a ceremony that featured Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, the Indigenous Peoples’ Prayer, and more.”

10-19-18 The Progressive Pulse. This Week in Pollution: Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s secret drilling fluids. “Waterways in North Carolina can’t get a break. Some ingredients in drilling fluids and additives used for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are deemed ‘trade secrets.’ Unless Dominion and Duke Energy decide you’re on a need-to-know-basis, it’s impossible to (legally) know what’s in them. When these drilling fluids, also known as ‘mud,’ spill — and they do spill — it is known in Orwellian terms as ‘an inadvertent return.’ The Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC’s own federal filings say that if this ahem, return ‘occurs in a waterbody it will be more difficult to contain because the fluid will be dispersed into the water and carried downstream.'”

10-19-18 Roanoke Times. Gilmore: Dominion shouldn’t make campaign contributions. “The Oct. 11 editorial “Five modern myths” uses a recent study to praise Dominion Energy’s transparency before drawing a false equivalency between the political activities of regulated utility monopolies and environmental groups. Both assertions warrant closer examination. …. Clean Virginia would like our Commonwealth to join the 25 other states in the country where this type of activity by monopoly public service utilities is banned. If Dominion’s political giving truly does not affect political behavior, then they should have no problem supporting a law banning this money altogether. Let them compete on the strength of their ideas, not the size of their campaign checks. Finally, the author describes Dominion as a “bête noir” of the left, but fails to acknowledge that many of the fiercest critics of Dominion’s legalized corruption and anti-free market business model are on the right of the political spectrum. In a bitterly-divided political climate, opposition to Dominion’s legalized corruption is one thing that has united Virginians of all partisan leanings.”

10-19-18 Energy News Network. Q&A: Virginia couple takes a stand in Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path. “When Lynn and Bill Limpert bought 120 pristine acres in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains in 2009, the only construction project they expected to handle was building their retirement home. That changed Feb. 12, 2016, when the couple opened a letter from Dominion Energy asking to purchase a right-of-way for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The Limperts have dedicated their retirement years to educating the public about pipelines. Bill, 71, worked as a regulator for the Maryland Department of Environment and Lynn, 63, as a graphic artist. Bill talked with the Energy News Network about their journey.”

10-18-18 Virginia Mercury. Virginia’s pipeline projects and the aura of inevitability. “This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave Dominion Energy permission to begin cutting down trees in Buckingham County to clear the way for a massive compressor station the company wants to build as part of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The approval came even though the proposed 54,000 horsepower compressor station still lacks an air permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. That kind of minor detail hasn’t stopped FERC in the past. The agency approved tree clearing for the pipeline in Virginia in January even though state regulators hadn’t bestowed all the approvals Dominion and its partners needed to begin construction here. The company still doesn’t have those permits, but has cut vast swathes of trees down along the route, including where it wasn’t supposed to, in fact. Indeed, plunging ahead with as much work as it can get away with before all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed seems a deliberate strategy to deflate opposition and stay ahead of a slew of court decisions that have found major flaws in the federal approval process. If trees are coming down here and pipe is going in the ground elsewhere, the thing must be getting built, right?”

10-18-18 E&E News. FERC chairman expected to step down — sources. “The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was conspicuously absent from an agency meeting today as speculation mounted that he may soon relinquish his post. Kevin McIntyre, a Trump appointee who has been struggling with health issues, did not attend the gathering at FERC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters this morning, nor did he vote on agenda items. He was previously absent from FERC’s September meeting due to medical issues, according to an agency source. In recent days, sources close to the commission have said McIntyre could announce he will cede his chairmanship at the agency as early as today and that the White House will subsequently tap FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee as chairman. Still, there was widespread uncertainty about any leadership changes, and it remains unclear if or when McIntyre’s role may change.”

10-17-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion pays for transfer to state of scenic property in Nelson to compensate for pipeline’s impact on state land. “Virginia would gain a large, scenic property along the Tye River in Nelson County as part of a pending private land transfer to compensate for the planned crossing of a state wildlife management area by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion Energy, lead developer of the $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, confirmed this week that it has paid for an environmental organization to buy more than 1,000 acres with 3 miles of frontage along the Tye near Norwood and then transfer the land to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The Conservation Fund, based in Arlington County, has purchased the property for an undisclosed amount, although Nelson County Administrator Stephen Carter estimated the sale price at $2.9 million for what he called the Morris Tract. The property has not yet been transferred to the game department, which negotiated the transaction as mitigation for the planned pipeline crossing of more than 1 mile of the James River Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife management area lies along the James slightly northeast of Wingina and across the river from Yogaville Satchidananda Ashram.”

10-17-18 The Recorder. Foundation reminded about way it acquired Hayfields farm.  [The following letter was sent to members of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation on Oct. 10, and shared with The Recorder.] “How considerate of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to ask for public input regarding usage of Hayfields property, which VOF acquired illegally from Dominion by approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to destroy our historic property, The Wilderness, with two VOF conservation easements and other VOF conservation easement properties. Well, here is input from the owners of two VOF conservation easements on 1,000 historic Virginia acres destroyed by the ACP due to greed and betrayal by VOF. A brief recap of our property and VOF betrayal, which VOF has chosen to ignore. …. [B]ased on what VOF did to The Wilderness property with two conservation easements: VOF could always approve another gas pipeline to completely dissect Hayfields property, as you have with 1,000 acres of The Wilderness, and perhaps gain even more ‘land donations from Dominion’ for gas pipelines that destroy the property, environment, property values and stewardship, quality of life and property conservation easements in Virginia.” [Recorder subscription required]

10-17-18 Roanoke Times. Advisory council asks Northam to stop pipeline work, but governor passes. “Asked by his own advisory council to suspend work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Gov. Ralph Northam made no such promise in a letter sent to the panel this week. The Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommended in August that Virginia’s water quality certification for construction of the natural gas pipeline be ‘rescinded immediately.’ The same request was made for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which like Mountain Valley has drawn fierce opposition from those who say the projects will mar rural landscapes, pollute streams and invade private property. ‘Governor Northam and I share your commitment’ to protecting public health and the environment, Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler wrote in a letter to the 14-member panel, which is appointed by the governor but has no direct authority over the permitting process. Strickland’s letter indicated that the hands of state officials are tied by the actions of a federal agency with primary oversight of the pipelines. …. The one-page letter did not specifically address the council’s recommendation that construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline be delayed until its impacts are more thoroughly reviewed. …. Opponents question the need for the project, and accuse state officials of favoring corporate interests over natural resources. ‘Governor Northam and his Environmental Chief have now laid waste to any notion this administration and its agencies are capable of doing anything but advancing the business of the fracked gas industry,’ the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition said in a statement Wednesday after the letter was released. ‘Northam and team have calculated citizens in the pipelines’ path as dispensable in the elections mix, as collateral damage in the high risk-high return business of fracked gas global commodities trading.'”

10-17-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. FERC gives green light to tree cutting at Buckingham compressor site. “Federal regulators have given the green light for developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin cutting trees on the site of a planned natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday comes a little more than three weeks before state regulators decide whether to grant an air pollution permit for the compressor station, which has drawn fierce opposition from pipeline opponents and residents of the majority-black Union Hill neighborhood where it would be built. The commission’s notice to proceed allows Dominion Energy and its partners in the pipeline to cut trees but not disturb the soil on portions of the 68-acre property. The company expects to use about 15 acres of the property that would be used for the compressor station and a related metering and regulation station that would be built at the intersection with the existing Transco natural gas pipeline. …. The company also is waiting for final approval of erosion and sediment control plans for the project by the Department of Environmental Quality before it begins construction of the project in Virginia.”

10-17-18 Virginia Mercury. Giant sections of the Mountain Valley Pipeline washed onto an opponent’s land. Can he keep them? “Dale Angle has something the developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline want: two 80-foot sections of their pipe that washed onto his Franklin County farm during last week’s heavy rains. And despite receiving two rather insistent phone calls seeking permission to come on his land and collect the property, he says he’s ‘not too anxious to be in a hurry about helping them.’ In fact, he says he’s not sure he’ll ever willingly hand it over. ‘I’m still mulling that over,’ he says, citing concerns about the heavy equipment required to retrieve it damaging his land.”

10-17-18 Roanoke Times. Munley: We don’t need zombie pipelines. “Prepare for higher natural gas prices locally, unless EQT — rushing to complete its Zombie MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline) — is stopped. America’s overbuilding of pipelines (now at only 50 percent capacity), is endless. The industry-funded Federal Energy Regulatory Commission virtually permits every pipeline request, failing to scrutinize claims of public need and supposed benefits. The methane-leaking natural gas industry exerts disproportional influence on America, unloading its overinvested fracked gas glut. Similarly, despite cancelling its gas-powered plants, Dominion Energy exploits Virginian ratepayers for a 15 percent “guaranteed” rate-of-return for unneeded ACP (Atlantic Coast Pipeline), confirming Dominion’s ‘No need, only greed!’ motive.”

10-17-18 News Leader.   Robert Whitescarver Op Ed:  Atlantic Coast Pipeline set to destroy rare Bath County old-growth forest. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Energy’s forty-two-inch, fracked-gas pipeline, is planned to come up this ridge and cross Jack Mountain. They will have to cut down thousands of old-growth trees, clear a swath 125 feet wide, and dig a trench ten-feet deep in the steepest terrain I have ever walked on in Virginia. It will cause the most irresponsible, environmental damage to this forest—ever. Loggers never touched it because it is so steep. …. The worst part of this saga may not be the insane notion of destroying the mountain by constructing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline but how Dominion has treated the Limperts, and many others in their way—with disrespect, unanswered questions, a subpoena to appear in court, and silence.”

10-16-18 Common Dreams. In ‘Blockbuster’ Ruling, Judge Says Youths’ Climate Case Against Trump Administration Can Proceed to Trial. “Twenty-one children and young adults were looking forward on Tuesday to bringing their climate lawsuit against the federal government to trial in the coming weeks, following a U.S. District Court ruling arguing that the plaintiffs have made a convincing case that the Trump and Obama administrations have failed to curb carbon emissions even as they knew of the pollution’s myriad harmful effects. Judge Ann Aiken handed down the ruling late Monday in a court in Eugene, Oregon, affirming that the plaintiffs can credibly claim that their due process rights have been violated by the government and fossil fuel companies—an argument the young people are more than ready to make in court starting October 29, when the case is set to go to trial. …. The lawsuit, Juliana vs. The United States, was first filed in 2015 under the Obama administration, with the 21 plaintiffs, then ranging in age from eight to 19, arguing with the help of Our Children’s Trust that the government’s actions that have worsened carbon emissions have ‘violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.’

10-16-18 Natural Gas Intelligencer. FERC’s LaFleur Sheds Light on Recent Natural Gas Pipeline Dissents. “The natural gas industry needs to proactively address the fuel’s “complicated relationship” with climate change, FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur told a group of executives and other stakeholders Monday during a speech in Washington, DC. LaFleur, speaking at the North American Gas Forum hosted by Energy Dialogues, said natural gas has come under increasing scrutiny for its climate impacts despite the role it has played in cutting emissions by reducing reliance on more carbon-intensive fuels like coal. …. On the topic of FERC’s pipeline certificates, LaFleur called for FERC to go beyond precedent agreements in evaluating the need for a pipeline project. She said basing FERC’s certificate decisions solely on precedent agreements could lead to pipeline overbuild.”

10-16-18 Roanoke Times. Opponents seek a stop to ‘reckless’ construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Despite the loss of permits allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross streams and wetlands, construction on other phases of the project is proceeding at what opponents call an aggressive and reckless pace. Three environmental groups and a nonprofit law firm are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop work on the natural gas pipeline, which is continuing outside of the water bodies. A stop-work order from FERC has been due since Oct. 2, the opponents say, when a federal appeals court vacated a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that Mountain Valley needed before it could start digging trenches through more than 500 streams and wetlands in West Virginia. A similar permit that covered Southwest Virginia was suspended three days later. With no action yet from FERC, Mountain Valley is attempting to beat the clock by improperly accelerating some stages of construction and working well past dark, according to a complaint submitted by the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition. …. Construction crews have also remained on the job through heavy rains, which critics say is worsening already-documented problems with sediment being washed onto nearby properties and into streams. Similar concerns were expressed by two West Virginia groups, the Indian Creek Watershed Association and Preserve Monroe.”

10-15-18 State Impact Pennsylvania. ‘energy, explained’ podcast: How one family lost the farm to a failed pipeline project. “The Hollerans said they didn’t want the pipeline on their land, and thought that was the end of it. They were wrong. A federal judge eventually gave the pipeline builder a chunk of the Hollerans’ land, and acres of maple trees soon fell to chainsaws. But this story would take an unexpected turn — one that the family hopes might allow them to get their land back one day. In the latest episode of “energy, explained,” the new podcast from StateImpact Pennsylvania, Megan Holleran tells her family’s story to StateImpact’s Susan Phillips: How surprise turned to resolve after the pipeline company said it wanted to use the family’s land. How a court sided with the company. How family members, initially united in opposition to the pipeline, took different sides after being threatened with arrests and fines if they continued to protest. And how the family hasn’t given up yet.”

10-15-18 Blue Virginia. Community Victorious; Dominion Won’t Build Proposed Compressor Station. “The AMP Creeks Council and greater Southern Maryland Community are Celebrating a Victory in a two-year fight against Dominion Energy Cove Point’s (DECP) efforts to build a giant fracked gas compressor station on 14 clear cut acres surrounded by fragile wetlands that often flood in the Accokeek/Bryans Road area. This morning Dominion released the following statement: ‘Dominion Energy will not construct a natural gas transmission compressor station at its Charles County Marshall Hall site. We will continue our existing operations at that site, which consist of a field office, a warehouse, and pipeline inspection and safety-related equipment. We are actively evaluating alternatives for this component of our Eastern Market Access project. This requires the engagement of multiple stakeholders, as successful solutions must meet the needs of the project’s customers. Discussions with customers are ongoing.'”

10-15-18 Virginian-Pilot. 9 injured after a natural gas explosion in Chesapeake, fire department says. “A natural gas explosion in Chesapeake injured nine people, leaving two in critical condition on Sunday night, the fire department said. Two homeowners were still in the house, which is on the 2500 block of Lofurno Road in the Deep Creek North area of Chesapeake, when the fire started around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. They are both in critical condition following the ‘significant explosion,’ according to Lt. Anthony P. Barakat. They were transferred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Four others had minor injuries and were treated released at the scene. Two firefighters were transported to Chesapeake General Hospital with minor injuries and another adult was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with unknown injuries. …. The investigation will begin once the fire is confirmed to be completely out, Barakat said, explaining that they don’t know how or why the explosion happened yet. The gas company, which Barakat did not identify, is also on the scene.”

10-15-18 Virginia Mercury. There’s a lot to like in Northam’s energy plan, but missed opportunities abound. “There is a lot to like in the Northam administration’s new Virginia Energy Plan, starting with what is not in it. The plan doesn’t throw so much as a bone to the coal industry, and the only plug for fracked gas comes in the discussion of alternatives to petroleum in transportation. The 2018 Energy Plan is all about energy efficiency, solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, clean transportation and reducing carbon emissions. That’s a refreshing break from the “all of the above” trope that got us into the climate pickle we’re in today. Welcome to the 21st century, Virginia. But speaking of climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a special report that makes it clear we need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s only half again the amount of warming that has already brought us melting glaciers, a navigable Arctic Ocean, larger and more destructive hurricanes and, here in Virginia, the swampiest summer in memory. The fact that things are guaranteed to get worse before they get better (if they get better) is not a happy thought. Perhaps no Virginia politician today has the courage to rise to the challenge the IPCC describes. Certainly, Gov. Northam shows no signs of transforming into a rapid-change kind of leader. But as we celebrate the proposals in his energy plan that would begin moving us away from our fossil-fuel past, we also have to recognize that none of them go nearly far enough. And missed opportunities abound. Let’s start with the high points, though.”

10-15-18 Technician [NC State Univ] OP-ED: The injustices of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ““The project does not threaten any federally protected species and is consistent with the public use of the Blue Ridge Parkway,” reads an Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) release update on their website. While it is true that there are plans to build the pipeline underneath the parkway to preserve the view and surrounding environment, what we do not see is the damage that is caused by the work required to place the pipeline underneath the parkway. First and foremost, Dominion and the many agencies they are working with are not being transparent with the public. They have proposed to build underneath the parkway by use of horizontal directional drilling; however, they have given us no further information on the area or amount of removal required for such a task. It is important to be aware of the risks that may occur during the building process, not only the aftermath.

10-14-18 Fayetteville Observer. ‘Robeson Rises’ pipeline documentary wins Indigo Moon Film Festival award. “Michael Pogoloff didn’t know much about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline before he became involved in a documentary focusing on resistance to the project. And when he started working on the film, he only expected to help edit it. But the expected contribution of some others didn’t work out, and “Robeson Rises” became Pogoloff’s directorial debut. On Sunday, it won the Juried Award for Documentary Short at the Indigo Moon Film Festival. ‘It was a huge opportunity that fell in my lap and also a huge responsibility that fell on my shoulders,’ he said. Pogoloff said the documentary shows how the natural gas pipeline will disproportionately impact Native Americans and low-income residents. He said it shows how some in Robeson County’s diverse and tight-knit community have resisted the project.”

10-12-18 Roanoke Times. Flood carries a piece of the Mountain Valley Pipeline into the hands of opposing landowner. “It’s one thing for rain to wash mud and sediment away from where the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being built; that’s happened many times. But when part of the pipe gets swept away, that’s another story. It happened Thursday on Dale Angle’s cornfield in Franklin County. And Angle — who has been complaining for months about runoff from construction damaging his land — says he’s not ready to give Mountain Valley its pipe back. ‘They called this morning wanting me to sign a permission slip’ that would allow company workers onto his property to retrieve two 80-foot sections of steel pipe that floated away, Angle said Friday. ‘I said I couldn’t do it right now. They’ve done destroyed enough of my property. I’m not going to let them do it again.'”

10-12-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Heavy Rains Turn Pristine Streams to “River of Sediment” Thanks to Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction Activities. “This is a sample of the destruction being wrought by the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Franklin County- pipeline route turned into a river of sediment and floating debris and pipes. When Ralph Northam and his DEQ say all is good, they are lying.”

10-11-18 Vice.com. The Quiet but Furious Nationwide War Against Pipelines. “From Appalachia to Louisiana, mostly ignored by the media, activists have been putting themselves in the path of bulldozers. …. ‘When the pipeline company came around, folks just didn’t buy the deal,’ she said. ‘People have been doing everything they can to stop it.'”

10-11-18 Roanoke Times. Letter: Pipelines, landslides and explosions. “On September 10, a 24-inch natural gas pipeline exploded in Beaver County, north of Pittsburgh. Fortunately, no lives were lost, though one family narrowly escaped their home before it was destroyed. Six high-tension electric towers were brought down by the blast causing 1,500 customers to lose electric service (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 10). Why should we care about this? The Revolution Pipeline is brand new, still in the commissioning phase and not yet operating commercially. Doubtless, officials from Energy Transfer Partners would have described it as a “state of the art, best in class” modern pipeline, just as officials from Trans-Canada described the Leach XPress pipeline that exploded in West Virginia on June 7, six months after it was commissioned. Preliminary investigations indicate that both of these pipeline explosions were caused by soil movement that undermined the buried pipeline, stressing it and causing it to break. In both cases, the soil movement was caused by heavy rains on steep slopes. According to the director of the county conservation district, these erosion and sedimentation controls were installed as designed, ‘but they were not working.’ …. Almost 50 years ago, landslides and flooding caused by Hurricane Camille’s heavy rains caused 124 documented deaths in Nelson County. Now, with Hurricane Florence fresh in our minds, we find no comfort in Dominion’s claims that their “state of the art, best in class” erosion control measures will hold the soil on our steep slopes and prevent pipeline ruptures.”

10-11-18 The Recorder. More work needed protect from pipeline construction. Publication of a lengthy and detailed letter sent Oct. 2 to Phil Phifer, assistant regional director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ecological Services, Northeast Region, regarding the revised biological opinion on endangered species for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

10-10-18 Roanoke Times. A message for pipeline workers. “Maybe, as this upcoming round of unprecedented rains approach, brought on in part by fuel-burning-induced climate change, and sends you scrambling to stop your ‘clean energy’ destruction from clogging our waterways and flooding our roads, you will think about job opportunities in solar and wind power. I was brought up in politeness and taught to treat others as I would like to be treated, so please don’t thank me for being a sympathetic human being. But I also ask that you please excuse me if I lose my cool and stand in my yard with my megaphone during one of your quieter moments and ask you to go home and leave us the hell alone.”

10-9-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Pipeline risk isn’t covered. “In order to legally drive an automobile, I am required to carry liability insurance. This makes clear that I am responsible for damage to another person’s property, health or life, and provides a way for me to fulfill that responsibility. And yet the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee and the commonwealth of Virginia are asking for no comparable insurance policy from Dominion in its construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Instead, we are offered assurances that everything will be fine, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. Pipelines and mountaintop forest clearing have caused landslides, spills and explosions, leading to water pollution, injury and death. Dominion signed an agreement with the state to provide $38 million for forest mitigation and $19 million for water quality. But this simply absolves Dominion of any responsibility for further damages; it does nothing for damages beyond the mitigation amount, and does not account for other kinds of ecological and financial damages. Meanwhile, Dominion is able to offer its shareholders something that is termed a ‘sleep well at night’ stock because the profits are guaranteed due to its ‘government sanctioned monopoly with a locked in customer base’ and the ability to pass construction costs to customers through higher rates.”

10-9-18 Roanoke Times. Main: What’s good for Dominion isn’t good for Virginia. “But there’s another reason Virginia’s leaders have rolled over in the face of Dominion’s destructive and expensive pipeline, and that’s our government’s long history of favoring business interests over those of ordinary residents. Every year our leaders celebrate or wring their hands over any movement up or down on the list of the most business-friendly states. Heaven forbid we cede a spot at the top by limiting a corporation’s ability to destroy our environment and exploit consumers. A strong economy is necessary to maintaining a good standard of living for all Virginians, but there is no reason to accept environmental destruction as the price of progress. Job growth in the energy sector today is driven by the solar and wind industries, not fossil fuels. More importantly, a thriving business sector is fully compatible with a strong regulatory environment.”

10-8-18 Daily Tar Heel. Robeson County [NC] activists challenge Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “As construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline progresses, there is controversy in Robeson County about the legality of the portion of the project intended to run through the county. ”

10-8-18 Laurinburg Exchange [NC]. ‘Mitigation’ money from Atlantic Coast Pipeline nowhere in sight. “Eight North Carolina school districts tapped to split $57.8 million from Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers aren’t likely to see that money anytime soon. Pipeline partners haven’t paid the state because a memorandum of understanding negotiated with Gov. Roy Cooper includes conditions that haven’t been satisfied. Court challenges against pipeline construction filed by environmental groups threaten to prolong the wait. ‘At this time, no funds have been paid to the state,’ Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee told Carolina Journal by email. The first installment was due July 24. ‘We remain committed to fulfilling our obligations under the mitigation agreement,’ McGee said, once the terms are met. McGee said the agreement among Cooper and pipeline partners called for half of the $57.8 million to be paid to the state when construction authority was granted for the entire pipeline, and construction was not tied up by a court order or ‘a reasonable risk’ of being halted by court order. ‘The remainder will be provided when the project is placed into commercial service,’ McGee said.”

10-8-18 Public News Service. Pipelines Stop and Go as Court Rules Permits Issued In Haste. “Construction on two huge gas pipelines through West Virginia and Virginia has repeatedly stopped and restarted, as the 4th federal circuit court stalls permits. Last week the court vacated a Clean Water Act permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The court had also stopped Atlantic Coast Pipeline work on national forest land. Agencies and the companies are pressing for the permits to be reissued. Charlottesville, Virginia, attorney David Sligh is working with some of the conservation groups that have challenged the permits. He said they are pleased to see the court step in to stop permits that critics say should never have been issued. ‘But a lot of damage is going on out there on the ground,’ Sligh said. ‘And the more of that that happens, the more leverage there will be for the companies to say, “Hey, you can’t really stop us. It’s too far along now.”‘”

10-7-18 News Virginian. Opinion: The rich have entitlements most of us don’t. “Leona Helmsley was quoted as saying ‘only little people pay taxes.’ Which is more an attitude than a statement of literal fact. But we get what she means. The rich have a certain sense of entitlement. I don’t think this is news but rather a restatement of today’s Golden Rule, ‘Those with the gold, rule.’ Virginia has its own version of Leona Helmsley: Dominion Energy. They surely and smugly must believe, ‘laws are only for the little people.’ They have used substantial amounts of money for influencing how laws are, and are not, applied to them. …. One place Dominion is stymied a bit is Augusta County. They haven’t yet given Redskin Tickets, golf outings or large dollar donations to members of the BZA, so they are bound by the same rules as the rest of us. Finding themselves now at the mercy of five of the ‘little people’ is discomforting. In seeking approval of a pipe storage and distribution center, they have tried bullying (this is going to happen whether you like it or not), they have tried dissembling (FERC gave us approval to leave toxic waste on site) and misstatements of motive (we want to do what is best for Augusta County). They have now failed twice to get approval. When the wheels aren’t greased the process slows as people take time to think things through. We expect Dominion to keep poking to have their way but for now the dam holds.”

10-6-18 13NewsNow.com. Pipeline protesters hold vigil at Suffolk home facing eminent domain. “People gathered to have a vigil on a Suffolk couple’s land where the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is projected to go. Paulette and Clay Johnson bought this land nearly 12 years ago, and now they say they’re losing it to eminent domain. ‘Eminent domain, which is the taking of a private owner’s property. This is our dream, this is a dream for us. We planted these trees just to have a forest next to us,’ said Paulette Johnson. The Johnsons held a vigil for the land they might lose, and community members came out to walk the paths and admire the trees. ‘We planted about 3,000 lob lobby pine trees and 500 cedar trees that we put around the perimeter, we estimate if it’s 100 feet wide by 600 feet long — that’s 600 trees that will be taken out,’ said Clay Johnson. The Johnsons got Joseph Sherman, a lawyer to look at the eminent domain situation in their case. ‘The United States Constitution gives private property owners two guarantees: that their private property won’t be taken unless it’s a private use and two that you will get paid just compensation,’ said Joseph Sherman.”

10-5-18 Roanoke Times. Stream-crossing permit suspended for Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a permit allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross more than 500 streams and wetlands in Southwest Virginia. The action comes three days after a similar permit for West Virginia water crossings was vacated by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Uncertainty about the process prompted the corps to pull the Virginia permit to ‘await clarity on this issue,’ William Walker, chief of the regulatory branch of the corps’ Norfolk division, wrote in a letter Friday to Mountain Valley officials. ‘Effective immediately, you must stop all activities being done in reliance upon the authorization under the NWP,’ the letter stated, referring to a Nationwide Permit 12 authorization that was issued to Mountain Valley in January.”

10-5-18 Daily Progress. Nelson family invites public to camp along Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path. “‘And then, we have the pipeline,’ [Richard Averitt] said. In the spring of 2015, their proposed resort property suddenly was bisected by the new route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline that Dominion Energy and its partners propose to build from West Virginia to southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. What’s more, the pipeline would run through Averitt’s sister’s land, 300 feet from her home and directly across from his own, with a 125-foot-wide construction right-of-way facing his front door. ‘And I don’t have any choice,’ Averitt, now 48, said in an interview at the Shockoe Bottom office of Digital ReLab, his technology business based in Afton. The Averitts have chosen to fight the $6.5 billion project and its use of eminent domain to condemn property in the pipeline’s path. They’ve also decided to open the proposed resort property to people to camp for free the next three weekends — beginning on Friday — to learn about the pipeline, as well as the landscape they say it will forever change. ‘The goal is really simple — education,’ he said. The camp, sponsored with theAveritts by Friends of Nelson and the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, will feature presentations by pipeline opponents….”

10-5-18 Virginia Mercury. Northam’s new ‘Conservation Cabinet’ aims to coordinate environmental protection across state agencies but probably won’t tackle pipelines. “Gov. Ralph Northam announced the creation of a ‘Governor’s Conservation Cabinet’ Thursday intended to better protect the state’s natural resources and improve environmental quality. But there’s one thing that the group likely won’t deal with: the two major pipeline projects that have become the most contentious environmental issues in Virginia. ‘I think that we have a process in place already to deal with the pipeline(s),’ Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler said in an interview. He’ll chair the new cabinet. ‘I don’t foresee that being a topic of conversation, but if folks bring it up, they bring it up.’ The cabinet hasn’t met yet so it’s not clear what the exact scope of its work will be, Strickler said. The group does plan to meet before the end of the year.”

10-4-18 Roanoke Times. Blue Ridge Caucus: Del. Chris Hurst honored for pipeline opposition efforts. “The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has honored Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, for his efforts at combating the two major natural gas pipelines being built in Virginia. The group presented Hurst with the 2018 Legislative Leadership Award in Newport on Wednesday. Days into the session as a freshman delegate, Hurst, along with other lawmakers from the Roanoke and New River valleys, introduced a suite of bills addressing the pipelines.”

10-4-18 NBC29. Drones monitor pipeline construction and may hint at what is to come. “Anti-pipeline activists in Nelson County believe that pipeline construction in West Virginia has a lot to reveal. With photos and videos taken from the sky, activists claim they have seen structures that do not comply with erosion and sediment control requirements and sites where construction proceeded without a valid certificate. Ben Cunningham, a resident of Afton, operated his drone to capture those sightings along the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. He is a part of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative, or CSI. ‘Our mission is to hold our regulators and these ACP builders’ feet to the fire when they say that no harm will come to us through the construction of this project,’ Cunningham said.”

10-4-18 Energy News Network. Second North Carolina community passes anti-pipeline measure. “The town council in Stoneville, North Carolina, passed a resolution against the proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on Tuesday, becoming the second local government in the state to oppose the interstate natural gas project. The closely divided vote came after public testimony and the delivery of about 65 signatures from residents of this 1,000-person hamlet, a tobacco town turned tourist destination just south of the Virginia border. ‘We have some very educated citizens who’ve done a lot of research and have spoken before this board about the possible, potential negative effects of this pipeline,’ said council member Jerry Smith, who introduced the resolution. ‘I think we should listen to our citizens.'”

10-4-18 ProPublica. Another Court Ruling Against a West Virginia Pipeline, Then Another Effort to Change the Rules. “Time and again, opponents have tried to delay a natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Northern West Virginia to Southern Virginia, using lawsuits to stall permit approvals or construction. And time and again, state and federal regulators have stepped in to remove such hurdles, even if it has meant rewriting their own rules. Now, the process looks to be repeating itself. On Tuesday [October 2, 2018], a federal appeals court blocked a key permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile natural gas project that’s known as MVP. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wrongly approved a permit that allowed MVP to temporarily dam four of West Virginia’s rivers so the pipeline can be buried beneath the streambeds. But rather than pausing or rethinking the project, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has already been rewriting the state construction standards for pipeline river crossings that prompted the appeals court to block the plan. Once that happens, MVP will apply for a new Clean Water Act permit, which it expects to secure in early 2019, said Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the pipeline’s developers.”

10-4-18 News Leader. Augusta County zoning board tables Dominion Pipeline storage yard, yet again. “The Augusta County Board of Zoning tabled the potential Dominion Pipeline storage yard yet again during its Thursday meeting. Only three members of the five member board were present during the meeting, which allowed applicants to have their requests tabled. …. This is the fifth time and second location Dominion Energy has proposed a special use permit for a staging yard to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

10-3-18 S&P Global. MVP hopes for new permit in early 2019, after 4th Circuit action strikes W.Va. authorization. “After a federal appeals court struck a general permit for West Virginia water crossings for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the project developer said it expects to secure a new permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers early in 2019. An order Tuesday by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck the general permit for stream and water crossings that was in place for 160 miles of pipeline in West Virginia. ‘[T]he MVP team is evaluating options to understand its ability to continue with construction activities that do not include stream and wetland crossings along this portion of the route,’ MVP said in a statement. The approximately 300-mile pipeline is seen as a key conduit between Appalachian supplies and downstream markets, including LNG exports. Environmentalists who prevailed in the case were quick to argue work must stop on the full route. ‘Because the MVP certificate from [FERC] specifies that all necessary permits must be in place before the project can proceed anywhere, MVP must also halt work along its entire route,’ Sierra Club said in a statement late Tuesday.

10-2-18 Gazette-Mail. 4th Circuit Court vacates Mountain Valley Pipeline permit. “A federal appeals court on Tuesday vacated a key Clean Water Act permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying regulators lacked legal authority to ‘substitute’ one kind of construction standard for another that was more friendly to the natural gas pipeline project. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a three-page, unanimous and unsigned order four days after hearing oral arguments in a case brought by the Sierra Club, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and other citizen organizations over federal approval of the 300-mile-long pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, into Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The order offered few details on the court’s reasoning and said its ruling would ‘be more fully explained in a forthcoming opinion.’ The court did say that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “lacked authority” to substitute one type of requirement for construction of pipeline river crossings for an existing standard that environmental groups had argued in court could not be used by Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

10-1-18 The Connection. Letter to the Editor: Local Issue For Ratepayers. “Until recently I was like many Northern Virginians who are unaware of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its detrimental effects on our state. This 600-mile pipeline will carry “fracked gas” from West Virginia to North Carolina, passing through our Blue Ridge Mountains — some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and oldest growth forest, despoiling it and its fish and wildlife habitats. Dominion Power has been treating this as a ‘local issue’ affecting only those jurisdictions it runs through. Yet we, the Dominion ratepayers are going to pay the bill for this monstrosity of last century energy technology and the irreplaceable loss of beauty in our state.”

10-1-18 WVNews. Dominion Energy’s lesser known Supply Head project will compliment Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Thanks to an ongoing Supply Header project by Dominion Energy, 37.5 miles of natural gas pipeline will soon connect Marcellus and Utica Shale supplies in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The project, which has been under construction since May, will see the pipe run through Harrison, Doddridge, Tyler, Wetzel and Marshall counties, and will give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline access to more natural gas than ever before, according to Dominion Resources State Policy Manager Robert Orndorff. ‘This gives the Atlantic Coast Pipeline access to supplies in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia through the pipeline system, which actually starts at the Hastings Extraction plant in Wetzel County,’ Orndorff said. According to the Supply Header project overview, the project will put down 3.9 miles of 30-inch pipeline in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, while the remaining 33.6 miles of piping will be built in West Virginia.”

September 2018

9-30-18 NC Policy Watch. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces another court battle; Robeson commissioners under scrutiny for premature approval of permit. “In Prospect [NC], which is near the end of the [ACP] route, the project includes a metering and regulation station — which essentially controls and measures the gas being transported at high pressures through the pipeline — and a 350-foot communications tower whose lights and height will mar the skyline. Both will be built in the heart of the community and across the road from Dwayne Goins. Now ACP, LLC — a company co-owned primarily by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy — faces yet another court battle over the project. A petition filed by Goins brothers, Robie and Dwayne, with Robeson County Superior Court alleges that the county commissioners violated the law and their constitutional rights when the board voted to allow the M&R station and a tower to be built in Prospect to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. During a quasi-judicial hearing in August 2017, the eight-member commission voted unanimously to grant a Conditional Use Permit to ACP, LLC to construct the facility on land previously zoned as agricultural. But the rules governing quasi-judicial hearings, which much like a trial include sworn testimony and evidence, are strict and clearly laid out in state statute. And in deciding on special permits, the governing board, in this case the Robeson County Commission, can’t have a ‘fixed opinion’ on the issue before hearing all of the evidence. To do otherwise would be akin to a judge or jury issuing a verdict before a trial even began. But as court documents show, the commissioners strongly supported the ACP long before they were confronted with the decision to issue a special permit for the station and tower.”

9-29-18 Daily Progress. Judge takes aim at U.S. Forest Service role in approving pipeline. “The chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took close aim on Friday at what he called the shifting position of the U.S. Forest Service in protecting national forest lands on steep mountain slopes in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a hearing by a three judge panel on environmental groups’ appeal of U.S. Forest Service permits for the $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory repeatedly questioned a Justice Department lawyer about the federal agency’s alleged change in position on protection of steep slopes. ‘Why would you lower your standards?’ Gregory asked Avi Kupfer, the Justice Department lawyer for the Forest Service. ‘When was that done?’ The judge found the answer he expected later from an environmental group’s attorney. The lawyer pointed to a message in December 2016 – the month after the presidential election — that appears to commit the Forest Service to a regulatory timeline that had been requested by Dominion Energy, the pipeline’s lead developer. …. Gregory expressed skepticism about what he called a ‘reversal’ of the agency’s concerns about the effectiveness of proposed measures to stabilize steep slopes traversed by the pipeline. ‘Who’s running the train station?’ he asked the Forest Service attorney. ‘Is it the private company?'”

9-28-18 Virginian-Pilot. Colonna’s Shipyard battling Virginia Natural Gas over pipeline project. “[Norfolk] City leaders say there was a lot they didn’t know about a new high-pressure pipeline being built by Virginia Natural Gas – including its possible dangers – until concerns were raised by a Berkley shipyard. Colonna’s Shipyard held a news conference Friday to question the safety of the Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline Project – a 9-mile stretch of 24-inch pipe that will link the region’s two existing supply lines and run beneath the shipyard. Colonna’s says VNG has downplayed the scope of the pipeline and its risks to the shipyard as well as to residents along its path. …. VNG says the connector line will create a much-needed loop, enabling the company to more easily move gas across the region and eventually tap into a spur of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that’s headed for Hampton Roads. Most of the connector line has already been laid, largely along electric and city rights of way running through Norfolk and Chesapeake. In other spots, the utility purchased easements from property owners or won them through eminent domain cases in court. Only one physical obstacle remains: the Elizabeth River. VNG plans to begin drilling near Harbor Park, go beneath the river bed and surface on the other side in Berkley. The route requires a 30-foot-wide easement from Colonna’s. On Sept. 18, a Norfolk judge granted VNG access to the property. The shipyard’s 89-year-old owner, Bill Colonna, says he was willing to cooperate until he learned that, despite its name, the Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline will be operating at higher pressures than industry standards for a ‘distribution’ line.”

9-28-18 Triangle Business Journal. Federal judge sides with Atlantic Coast Pipeline over property owners. “A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit lobbed by advocates and property owners trying to stop Dominion Energy’s and Duke Energy’s efforts to forcibly acquire property for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a complaint filed last year, a clean energy advocacy group called Bold Alliance had challenged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s issuance of permits, including those allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to exercise eminent domain rights on properties in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon signed an order Thursday granting Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s January motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. ‘Because Congress has elected by statute to confer sole jurisdiction on our Courts of Appeals for petitions of this nature, I need not consider whether plaintiffs claims are ripe or properly exhausted,’ Leon wrote in his opinion. ‘Nor can I proceed to the merits of plaintiffs’ claims.’ In an email, Carolyn Elefant, the D.C.-based plaintiff attorney in the case, said Bold Alliance was ‘exploring future legal options, including potential appeal of the ruling. We are very disappointed by the court’s ruling finding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Bold’s constitutional challenges to pipeline’s use of eminent domain under a FERC certificate, and instead must bring those claims first at FERC which has already disclaimed the power to resolve constitutional claims,’ she wrote. ‘As a result of the court’s decision, landowners must wait years – and in most instances, until after their property has already been taken – to challenge the constitutionality of use of eminent domain for FERC-certificated pipelines.'”

9-28-18 Energy News Network. Data centers to Dominion: Don’t use us to justify more power plants. “In a letter, five tech companies tell Virginia utility regulators that Dominion Energy isn’t meeting the sector’s need for renewable power. Virginia data center companies and their customers are challenging Dominion Energy’s plans to keep building natural gas infrastructure in the state. The utility behemoth is in the midst of a building spree that includes four new gas-fired power plants as well as the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, for which it is the lead stakeholder. The company’s latest Integrated Resource Plan filed with Virginia regulators envisions the building trend continuing, and it points to projected load growth from the state’s burgeoning data center sector among its justifications. A group of technology companies pushed back on Dominion’s assumptions in a letter last week to the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The letter says the industry is becoming more energy efficient and increasingly looking to power its data center with renewable energy, not fossil fuels. ‘Dominion’s 2018 IRP still under-deploys renewable energy sources, which is inconsistent with the needs and preferences of the sector that constitutes the largest source of load growth for the utility,’ says the Sept. 17 letter, signed by Adobe Systems, Akamai Technologies, eBay, Equinix and Salesforce.com.”

9-27-18 Augusta Free Press. Augusta County Farm Bureau members oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “In a convincing 46-21 vote Monday evening at the annual membership meeting, the producer members of the Augusta County Farm Bureau voted to formally oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and similar pipelines. …. The resolution that will be sent to the state committee reads as follows: ‘The Augusta County Farm Bureau membership votes to: Oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and similar natural gas transmission line projects on the grounds that the use of eminent domain for such projects is not appropriate. Such projects adversely affect groundwater, crop production, livestock health, public safety, our agricultural heritage, and common natural treasures. Pipelines should be allowed to cross farm lands only with the freely-given consent of the landowners and with proper and appropriate fair treatment and just compensation for landowners who experience damages and disruptions caused by the pipeline construction or occurring after pipeline construction. Therefore any construction should be halted while need and ratepayer costs are evaluated.'”

9-27-18 Construction Dive. Mountain Valley Pipeline costs rise to $4.6B. Mountain Valley Pipeline officials announced Monday that the cost of the 300-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia had risen to $4.6 billion from a previous estimate of $3.7 billion. This is an increase of more than $1 billion since the first cost projections of up to $3.5 billion in 2015. Approximately half of the increase is due to August work stoppages ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a result of environmental lawsuits. These legal actions, pipeline officials said, led to increased material costs and expenses related to “ongoing contractual charges and schedule changes.” In addition to the delays imposed by FERC, the project also lost time and incurred extra costs after crews had to prepare some sites for Hurricane Florence. Developers reported that they also had to pay for and perform erosion repair and install sediment control devices due to significant rainfall during the past several months.

9-26-18 Public News Service. New Documentary Features Impact of Climate Change on NC. “Evidence of climate change is all too real for eastern North Carolina residents confronting the monumental damage from Hurricane Florence. And in the wake of the storm, efforts continue across the state to advance solar power, adapt to sea level rise and for some, to fight the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They’re featured in a documentary series, ‘State of the Climate: Carolina Stories with Miles O’Brien.’ Rev. Mac Legerton of Pembroke, co-founder of the Center for Community Action, North Carolina Creation Care Network, appears in the film. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being marketed as being helpful to our state of North Carolina,’ Legerton points out. ‘In reality, the major purpose of this pipeline is to carry gas beyond North Carolina, to where it will be exported.’ A public showing of ‘State of the Climate,’ hosted by Clean Air Carolina, is this Thursday at the Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Clean Air Carolina says it also will post the series on its website at a later date.”

9-26-18 NBC29. Woman Sets Off on Horseback Trek to Protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “One Shenandoah Valley woman is setting off on a more than 600-mile trek on horseback to speak out on behalf of the environment. She plans to ride from Staunton to West Virginia and then down to North Carolina along the route for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Sarah Murphy and her horse Rob Roy took off on Wednesday, September 26, and they’ll spend more than a month on their journey to show her opposition to the pipeline. ‘When you love nature and you love the world around you, you know, everyone has their gifts and what they’re good at, and I think it’s important to use those to better the world,’ Murphy said. ‘This is my way of being able to do that.’ They will spend more than 30 days going from Staunton to Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Robeson County, North Carolina, and then back home to the Shenandoah Valley to call attention to the anti-pipeline cause.”

9-26-18 WVVA. MVP pellets rain down on organic farm. “A pelleted substance rained down on a farmer and his children while harvesting ginseng on their property near Grassy Meadows. Neal Laferriere owns Blackberry Botanicals, an organic certified farm that sits adjacent to the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He explains saying, ‘A helicopter flew over and about ten seconds after it flew over pellets started to come out and drop through, pelting myself, my children.’ According to an EPA spill report the pellets are Earth Guard a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. The pellets were intended for the path of the pipeline but fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path. The EPA spill report says the pellets were dumped two more times on the farm. Neal Laferriere says the pellets have covered nearly three fourths of his farmland. Laferriere explains the damage is permanent saying, ‘I asked specifically of the environmental specialist, “Is there anything we can do to clean this up?” And he said specifically, “No, there is absolutely nothing you can do to clean this up.”‘”

9-26-18 59 News. The sky is falling? Father fed up after erosion-control pellets rain down on his family. “Something smaller than a penny is having a huge impact on a man’s farm and his family… and it is falling from the sky.” View YouTube video of news coverage.

9-26-18 Bacon’s Rebellion. A Thumb on the Scale for ACP? “A witness to whom Dominion Energy Virginia had vehemently objected, Gregory Lander of a company called Skipping Stone, had his time on the stand anyway at the State Corporation Commission Tuesday. His testimony might still be stricken, but the two commissioners and everybody else in the room heard it and then a lengthy cross-examination underlined it. If he is correct the entire integrated resource plan filed by the giant utility, a process ordered by the General Assembly to plan the utility’s future, had a fundamental flaw. One single input in a model had a ripple effect in its choices for future generation, some of which it hopes to support with the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. According to Lander, and this was apparently confirmed in interrogatories, the cost of transporting natural gas through the ACP to Dominion generators was simply left out. SCC staff witnesses pointed to the same omission. The commodity cost for gas was plugged in, but the cost of getting that gas to the plant was not. This omission made the choice of natural gas more cost-competitive and perhaps skewed the model in favor of gas. It put a huge thumb on the scale.”

9-26-18 Virginia Mercury. Pipeline’s federal review is looking a lot less ‘thorough and exhaustive’   “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may have to soon figure out how to paper over another defect in the federal permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Environmental groups asked FERC Tuesday for another stop-work order on the 600-mile, Dominion Energy-led project after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond issued a stay of the U.S. Forest Service’s record of decision and a special use permit that would allow the pipeline to carve through national forests in West Virginia and Virginia. …. FERC’s decision to allow work to proceed again forces the opponents to go back to court to get judges to rule on whether the federal agencies have actually addressed the problems the court identified. In the meantime, Atlantic, (and their fellow travelers in seizing other people’s property for fun and profit, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which suffers from many of the same permitting flaws) will push to get as much pipeline in the ground as they can before the courts can catch up with them. …. Turns out though, the reviews don’t appear so fulsome once the courts start looking under the hood. How much of a difference the courts will make when FERC and the agencies required to sign off on the pipelines seem free to sidestep their rulings remains to be seen. But there is growing unease about how FERC approves pipeline projects amid evidence that the U.S. oil and gas industry is overbuilding capacity because of the profit and risk incentives at work, uniting some Republicans and Democrats in Congress. And the biggest case yet will also be heading to the 4th Circuit, challenging FERC’s certificate for the ACP, which underpins the entire project. A ruling vacating that approval might be tough to get around.”

9-26-18 Roanoke Times. Peckman: Regulators were fooled by pipeline. “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not contain required details on how they would prevent the erosion that is currently the problem. Many contend that controlling erosion at half the MVP steepness is not possible. The purpose of the DEIS was to lay out the plans so that we could evaluate them and comment resulting in either an EIS for a bullet-proof successful plan or denying permission. But MVP’s erosion plans were not presented. There are many parts of the EIS that are still missing even though they are legally required. One is a demonstration of public need, which is required before condemning property of private citizens. …. The decision on MVP construction should not be when to resume construction but rather if to resume construction. If they cannot complete the pipeline as required by the EIS, which is not possible, a legal decision should be made to terminate the project. To be fair, if we are going to stop them, we should tell them early so they can cut their losses. That does not mean that they can leave without restoring and stabilizing the scars as much as is possible. They are obligated to us just as we are obligated to them. They must do everything possible to make us whole again by corrective action and by compensation. (It is interesting that they have not yet compensated the landowners and not even negotiated a price, which is against our state constitution.)”

9-25-18 NBC29. Shenandoah Valley Groups Form Preservation Alliance. “Four conservation groups in the Shenandoah Valley have been working together for year, but their partnership was made official on Tuesday. Shenandoah Valley Network, Shenandoah Forum, Community Alliance for Preservation in Rockingham and Augusta County Alliance have joined forces to form the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley. …. Sorrells said the groups will continue to fight against projects such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but with the additional resources the group can do more to stand for things.” [See https://shenandoahalliance.org/]

9-25-18 Register-Herald [Beckley WV]. MVP cost to increase nearly a billion dollars. “According to a new release, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is expected to cost an estimated $4.6 billion. That cost estimate is up from an earlier estimate of $3.5 billion. According to the release, the cost adjustment is due to work stoppages in August caused by delays, along with significant rainfall during the summer months. Many of the delays in the project have been caused by legal challenges to the pipeline by environmental groups concerned about the negative impacts that the pipeline may have. While acknowledging the legal challenges, the release responds that challenges have just slowed down the process.”

9-25-18 Seeking Alpha. Dominion says latest court stay should not slow Atlantic Coast pipeline project. “Dominion Energy (D -0.6%) says it does not expect a court decision to stay a federal permit for part of its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to delay construction of the $6.5B project, which it hopes to complete by the end of 2019. The Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals issued an order yesterday staying implementation of a permit from the U.S. Forest Service which had authorized construction and operation of the pipeline on national forest lands in Virginia and West Virginia. Dominion says the Forest Service permit affects only 20 miles of the 600-mile pipeline and will continue working in all other areas of West Virginia and North Carolina, ‘where we are making significant progress.'”

9-25-18 Courthouse News Service. Fourth Circuit Chief Justice Questions Validity of Eminent Domain. “The chief justice of the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday questioned the validity of eminent domain laws, describing them as a holdover from the days when Americans were royal subjects. In a case involving the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of two controversial projects that are currently the subject of appeals before the circuit, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory questioned the long-standing precedents that allow the government to seize land. The case before the court on Tuesday was brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia who are challenging the ‘quick-take’ authority granted the pipeline developer by federal regulators and a lower court which said the project could go forward despite the fact property owners have not been compensated. …. ‘This is something extraordinary the courts have granted and the question is should it happen now before it’s done,’ Gregory said. ‘You want to abort the [normal and lengthy eminent domain] process and take it now. Maybe Sage is wrong.’ he said.”

9-24-18 Blue Virginia. FIASCO: Mountain Valley Pipeline Drops Rock-Hard Erosion Control Pellets From Helicopter on Kids’ Heads as Pipeline Cost Skyrockets to $4.6 Billion. “You might be thinking that the headline to this post can’t possibly be true – but believe it or not, it’s serious (see the landowner’s post, below). But first, let’s briefly discuss the after-the-close-of-the-stock-markets press release about the cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline skyrocketing to $4.6 billion.”

9-24-18 Augusta Free Press. Court orders halt to Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction in national forest. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay of the National Forest Service decisions allowing Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. The stay puts an immediate stop to any construction in the National Forest until an appeal filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Sierra Club, on behalf of Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, Wild Virginia and Virginia Wilderness Committee is decided. …. This Friday, September 28th the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in conservation groups’ challenge to approvals issued by the Forest Service and the state of Virginia for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

9-23-18 CBS19. Pipeline opponents join in song on Appalachian Trail. “People against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are joining together to protect the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The third annual Hands Across the AT was held at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center in Nelson County on Saturday. The pipeline will cross the parkway a few miles from the visitor center. Organizers still believe the pipeline will have detrimental impacts on the environment, and this event is one way to get their message across.”

9-22-18 Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion Objects to Testimony on Pipeline Cost. “One of the first decisions the State Corporation Commission may need to make in Monday’s hearing on the Dominion Energy Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is whether to allow and consider testimony about the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion filed a September 7 motion asking that testimony from a witness brought by Appalachian Voices ‘be stricken as irrelevant and improper,’ which the environmental group answered with its own brief filed Friday. Dominion argues the cost of the pipeline is not part of the IRP and is not properly before the commission in this case. It will seek to recover the pipeline capital costs when gas from the pipeline is subject to a future fuel cost review. Gregory Lander of energy consulting firm Skipping Stone states in his disputed testimony that the costs are already built in. ‘The Company’s 2018 IRP embeds the costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into each of the generation scenarios it presents…. (but) has not properly costed-out the all-in cost of increasing, beyond its current pipeline capacity portfolio, the costs associated with the level of pipeline capacity it intends to obtain on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.’ He claims that acceptance of the IRP by the Commission in effect accepts that up to $3 billion of the cost of building and operating it will be passed on to ratepayers over 20 years. Those are in addition to the cost of the gas. Opponents of the pipeline argue it is not necessary to bring natural gas via the ACP to Dominion’s generators, and if it does so it will be supplanting lower-cost alternatives.”

9-21-18 News Leader. West Augusta pipe yard is putting the ‘cart before the horse’   “At the [September] BZA hearing, Dominion’s Emmett Toms told the BZA that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had given approval for ACP to leave the thousand dump truck loads of contaminated gravel from the parking area in a pile in the field after construction, rather than take the cleaned gravel to an approved landfill as is standard procedure. Again, in our due diligence, we contacted FERC about the question of gravel disposal. Kevin Bowman, FERC’s ACP environmental manager, sent an email saying: ‘the contractor/pipe yard you referenced below has not been proposed to FERC.’ …. So it seems logical that if DEQ and FERC do not even know about the site, no due diligence has been done in regard to issues listed above or those raised by the crowd at the September meeting. Obviously the yard has not been approved, but it also makes one wonder how Dominion discussed the contaminated gravel disposal with FERC if FERC doesn’t know about the project. …. Dominion has proposed something that both DEQ and FERC are unaware of in an area that the county has legally promised never to develop. Cart before the horse? In reality there never should have been a cart or a horse proposed here.”

9-20-18 WAVY. Suffolk gives Atlantic Coast Pipeline permission to build through city. “A victory for supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came Wednesday night as Suffolk’s City Council gave the project permission to build and operate within the city limits. The 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to North Carolina will pass under 30 City of Suffolk roadways and two other former railroad rights of way, a deputy city manager said in front of council. The 40-year, $50,000 license agreement between the city and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC., requires the developer to return all properties to the way they appeared prior to construction and keep the installed infrastructure in good working order at all times.”

9-20-18 FrackCheck WV. Legal Stay Issued for MVP Pipeline in Summers County, WV. “Summers and Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons issued a temporary stay Tuesday to work being done in Summers County on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Specifically, the stay will halt work being done on property where the pipeline will enter the Greenbrier River in Pence Springs. The motion was brought before Irons by Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Ashby Berkley, and Ty and Susan Bouldin, after Berkley was made aware that tree removal had begun on his property last week. Among concerns over due process, the petitioners have argued that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV-DEP) permit for the crossing is not in compliance with the Natural Streams Preservation Act.” See further information in POWHR Coalition press release.

9-19-18 Virginia Mercury. Environmental groups sue over ‘rushed permits’ that allowed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction to resume. “The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. Construction of the 600-mile pipeline ground to a halt the beginning of August when the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled permits issued by the National Park Service allowing the pipeline to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway were ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the Dominion Energy-led pipeline project permission to resume after the park service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted revised permits. In their court filing, the environmental groups argue the new permits are ‘nearly identical … with no changes to the project.’ ‘The agencies responsible for protections should be prioritizing a real review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, not abandoning a critical process to help developers,’ said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. ‘There is no justification for this unnecessary and dangerous project.'”

9-19-18 The Guardian. Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings. “Recently, secret documents have been unearthed detailing what the energy industry knew about the links between their products and global warming. But, unlike the government’s nuclear plans, what the industry detailed was put into action. In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels). Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections. …. Nor did the companies ever take responsibility for their products. In Shell’s study, the firm argued that the “main burden” of addressing climate change rests not with the energy industry, but with governments and consumers. That argument might have made sense if oil executives, including those from Exxon and Shell, had not later lied about climate change and actively prevented governments from enacting clean-energy policies.”

9-18-18 WDBJ7. Impacts from Florence raise concerns from pipeline opponents. “Water was still running from a hillside in Roanoke County two days after the ground gave way below the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Residents of Bent Mountain aren’t blaming construction. The pipeline hasn’t been buried there yet, but they say it shows how water flows through the perched aquifer they depend on for drinking water. Roberta Bondurant is a Bent Mountain resident who opposes the Mountain Valley pipeline. ‘This place has already been established as incredibly fragile,’ Bondurant said. ‘You have an incredibly unsound base on which to lay your 42-inch fracked gas pipe.’ Not far away, heavy rainfall and runoff washed out a drainage area beside the pipeline right of way, causing the ground to subside along a Blue Ridge Parkway access road. ‘If you have drainage that’s just a gentle easy slope such as this, and it’s caused this kind of damage,’ said Bent Mountain resident Robin Austin, ‘what’s going to happen when it’s drainage off of a steep slope?'”

9-17-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: Northam will be judged by what he does on pipelines. “Gov. Northam, my academic and professional experience in water resources policy and management makes me keenly qualified to say DEQ has presented no evidence providing even a modicum of reasonable assurance that the construction and operation of MVP won’t result in habitual violations of state water quality standards. The collective weight of the scientific community, who have presented many thousands of pages of technical information backing this statement, should keep you up at night. This pipeline is not a critical infrastructure project as MVP faithfully repeats like a broken record. If it were, it would be routed and designed in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the pipeline itself. The biggest barrier to MVP being a successful project is MVP itself; it’s an open secret MVP is in over their heads, and would not develop the project in the same way again. Yet MVP would rather proceed with a critically flawed project than risk not getting their pipeline at all. And DEQ appears to agree. Gov. Northam, if you continue to side with pipelines over the people you were elected to serve, please tell me: what do you and the DEQ know — or fear — that forces you to disregard the law, science, and mountains of legally defensible evidence documenting environmental catastrophes along 103 previously pristine miles of Virginia? Alternatively, please share the evidence the DEQ has presented that gives you confidence this pipeline can be built and operated safely in our state. One thing is certain: whether or not this pipeline ultimately gets built, you will forever be judged by your ongoing silence and lack of action.”

9-17-18 Washington Post. Letter to editor: Don’t blame the weather for excessive pollution in Virginia. “Concerns that the Mountain Valley Pipeline will create massive pollution during the passage of Hurricane Florence were well-founded [“Pipeline officials, environmentalists worry about catastrophic rainfall,” Metro, Sept. 12]. The article quoted Ben Leach of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality blaming extreme weather for the extensive earlier pollution from the pipeline. It said Mr. Leach testified to the Virginia Water Control Board that most storms this year have been greater than the standards of 24-hour rain events that occur once every two years. This was simply not true. The Blacksburg, Va., weather station reports no storms of that intensity this year. Roanoke reports one four-day period in May with storms that may have reached this intensity. Danville reports the same May storm, but for one day only. The extensive pollution is because of DEQ’s approval of plans that are deficient. The plans do not take into account the steep, highly erodible slopes through which much of the pipeline passes. The weather is not to blame. DEQ and the pipeline caused this pollution.”

9-17-18 Virginia Mercury. FERC allows construction to resume on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave permission Monday for construction to resume on the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Work on the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, which is planned to run though West Virginia, Virginia and eastern North Carolina, had been halted after a pair of decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond tossed key approvals by federal agencies for the project. However, those agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, submitted revised authorizations in the past week. ‘Construction activities along project areas which had previously received a notice to proceed may now continue,’ FERC wrote in a letter Monday, meaning that work can resume in West Virginia and North Carolina.”

9-15-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. ‘I don’t know how you can ignore that call.’ Neighbors join together to protect their water. “You know the stream you can just make out rippling through the treeline at the edge of your property? The one that the neighborhood kids make small rock dams in, sometimes racing leaves and sticks through miniature whitewater rapids. Or that creak that crosses the trail at the perfect resting point on your favorite hike with the wooden footbridge over it that looks old enough to be built by John Muir himself. Or the narrow river where you navigate the banks with fly-rod in hand looking for that pool you know provided you with two nice-sized rainbows that you brought home for Sunday dinner around this time last year. Now imagine looking down on these streams on the perfect summer sunny day, and what was once water so clear you might not notice it was there were if not for the babbling sounds and shimmering reflections, was the color of chocolate milk, the brown color of floodwater though it hadn’t rained for days. In the tight-knit communities of Appalachia, you would ask your neighbor about it. And once you deduced the muddiness may be coming from the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline upstream, the one that promised minimal effects on the mountain streams it traverses, you would ask what can we do about this? That is how the Mountain Valley Watch began. One neighbor asking another what can be done about this?”

9-14-18 Mother Jones. The Private Intelligence Firm Keeping Tabs on Environmentalists. “When big oil companies want to monitor activists, they turn to Welund. …. The company appears to have worked on behalf of clients involved in some of the most controversial projects currently moving forward: Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, designed to carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia to processing facilities in Virginia and North Carolina; and the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would greatly expand the capacity for shipping tar sands oil from Western Canada. Dominion, Moran’s former employer, is facing strong headwinds as it seeks to complete its pipeline. Activists have already set up an encampment in an old growth forest known as Miracle Ridge that is in the project’s pathway and is scheduled to be cleared this year. This follows weeks of tree sits—including one by a 61-year-old-woman that garnered national attention—protesting the nearby Mountain Valley Pipeline. …. Welund did not respond to questions about its apparent work for Dominion and Kinder Morgan and whether that work related to the Atlantic Coast or Trans Mountain pipelines. Dominion declined to comment for this story. Kinder Morgan said it does not comment on security-related issues.”

9-14-18 Washington Post. Thousands of residents still out of their homes after gas explosions trigger deadly chaos in Massachusetts. “Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) declared a state of emergency Friday as officials inspected more than 8,600 homes and businesses to determine if it was safe for people to return, a day after a series of gas line explosions left one person dead and injured at least 23. The blasts, which led to scores of simultaneous structure fires across three towns in the Merrimack Valley, filled otherwise sunny skies with thick smoke and pushed thousands of residents out of their homes indefinitely. Electrical power has been cut to the communities, and residents have been told not to enter their homes until each one has been inspected for potential dangers. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which owns the gas lines involved in the blasts, has thus far given no indication of what might have caused the disaster. Baker and other officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, issued scathing criticisms of the company.”

9-13-18 New York Times. Gas Explosions Erupt at Dozens of Homes in Andover and Lawrence, Mass. “Violent explosions and billowing fires tore through three towns north of Boston late Thursday afternoon, damaging dozens of houses, forcing thousands of stunned residents to evacuate and plunging much of the region into an eerie darkness. One person was killed and more than 20 were injured in the sudden string of explosions caused by gas leaks in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover as blackish-gray clouds of smoke rolled across rooftops and flames shot into the sky. …. The string of explosions, fires and reports of gas odor — at least 70 of them, although officials were still trying to account for all of the damage late Thursday — came suddenly, beginning shortly before 5 p.m., without warning and without an immediate explanation from officials. But natural gas, and the possibility that gas had become overpressurized in a main, was the focus of many local authorities.”

9-13-18 E&E News. Libertarians join battle over pipelines, property rights. A right-leaning think tank is again wading into the debate over landowner rights and oil and gas pipelines. The Niskanen Center filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to side with opponents to the Mountain Valley pipeline, a natural gas project that stretches across West Virginia and Virginia. Niskanen’s brief argues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval process for gas pipelines routinely violates landowners’ constitutional rights. ‘No court has ever held that property owners can be forced to wait indefinitely for the constitutionally-required hearing on the taking of their land, and this Court should not be the first,’ the brief said. At issue is FERC’s rehearing process. Under the Natural Gas Act, pipeline builders can use the power of eminent domain to take property for pipeline construction as soon as they receive a certificate from FERC. Any challenges to FERC’s certificate go through a rehearing process that often stretches out for months or even a year.”

9-13-18 Energy News Network. Gas pipeline gets rare rebuke from North Carolina local government. “When Alamance County passed a resolution last week against a proposal to expand the Mountain Valley Pipeline into north central North Carolina, it became the first county in the state to formally voice opposition to an interstate gas pipeline. ‘We’re plowing new ground,’ said Commissioner Bob Byrd after the unanimous vote. ‘I’m generally considered the more progressive person on this board, but I was pleased that we all came together on this particular one.’ The declaration by the board of four Republicans and one Democrat was submitted to federal regulators before September 10th, the first public comment deadline for a pipeline that’s still in the early stages of development. Though the conservative, rural county has no regulatory authority over the pipeline, its action could signal trouble ahead for the project.”

9-13-18 Blue Virginia. Gov. Northam’s “New Steps to Fight Climate Change, Ocean Acidification” “Finally, it’s worth reiterating that the steps announced by Northam’s administration are utterly swamped by the two new fracked-gas pipelines being rammed through, as they constitute the greenhouse gas equivalent of 45 new coal-fired power plants (‘New analysis: Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are Climate Disasters: Controversial pipelines pushed by Trump a risk to West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and the planet.’). Think about that last number for a second, and imagine the uproar if the Northam administration were pushing to build 45 new coal-fired power plants all across Virginia. Yet that’s essentially what’s going on here, except in gaseous form, via pipeline as opposed to via power plant. Does that make it any better? In sum, it’s hard to see the measures announced yesterday by the Northam administration as much more than ‘greenwashing’ – ‘a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.'”

9-12-18 TruthOut. States Allow For-Profit Pipeline Companies to Seize Private Property. “According to Misha Mitchell, an attorney for a conservation group in Louisiana’s ecologically sensitive Atchafalaya Basin, Energy Transfer Partners and other private oil interests broke the law when they began building a section of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline on a parcel of private land in the iconic river swamp without permission from the landowners. Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the pipeline project on behalf of landowner Peter Aaslestad and his family after construction began on their property in late July, but work continued on the property until Monday, when Energy Transfer Partners struck a deal in a local court with the plaintiffs to temporarily halt construction. The company must now wait until at least November to finish, when a court will decide whether Energy Transfer Partners has the legal right to “expropriate” the property under state law. Workers have already built much of the pipeline easement on the property after clearing trees and grinding them into mulch. The deal is a setback for the company and a victory for environmentalists, but much of the project is already completed. …. As the spoils of fracking and the Trump administration’s pro-drilling agenda increase demand for new fossil fuel infrastructure, private oil companies are seizing private property from landowners to build oil and gas pipelines across the country. In most cases, state regulators and courts have granted private firms like Energy Transfer Partners eminent domain or “expropriation” powers by framing their for-profit pipelines as public benefit. Activists and landowners are fighting back, and some have been jailed in the process.”

9-12-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘As if we don’t exist:’ Opponents call on air board to reject pipeline compressor station permit. “Scores of people came out Tuesday night against a proposed compressor station in rural Buckingham County for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The public hearing, held by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, was intended to solicit input on a draft air quality permit to construct and operate a 54,000-horsepower natural gas compressor station in Buckingham but often strayed into a referendum on the entire controversial project. …. ‘This thing is opposed in our community because of the disruption and what it means to our community,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church and an outspoken opponent of the compressor station. ‘There have been too many things that the industry has done that has not been truly representative and fair to communities such as ours.’ Ruby Laury, a member of the Friends of Buckingham group that has mobilized in response to the pipeline project, put it more bluntly: ‘You people have looked over us as if we don’t exist.’ The environmental justice concerns raised Tuesday night were not isolated calls. Last month, the Virginia Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, a board established by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year, recommended that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Clean Water Act certification be rescinded and that all further permits for the project be delayed ‘to ensure that predominantly poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.'”  See additional news coverage in Augusta Free Press and Blue Virginia.

9-11-18 Washington Post. Hurricane could devastate Virginia pipeline project that is already struggling with changing weather. “Work crews are racing to prepare for catastrophic rain from Hurricane Florence in mountainous areas where a major natural gas pipeline is under construction, as an abnormally wet summer has already overcome some efforts to prevent runoff and erosion. The situation places a spotlight on the unusually demanding environment being crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline, as well as the stress being put on state regulators to keep up after years of budget cuts. …. The pipeline’s route through extraordinarily rugged terrain and steep slopes crisscrossed by streams has already caused significant issues with erosion and runoff. State officials have said that while the project is meeting all construction guidelines, those guidelines are based on standards that do not account for recent changes in weather patterns. …. In some cases, a level of rain that once may have occurred every two years has instead happened more than once in a month, staff members said.”

9-10-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Underwater Rainbow: Can the Candy Darter Survive the MVP? “Southern Appalachia is a global hotspot for aquatic species. Half of all freshwater fish species on the continent are found here. One of the most spectacular—and most threatened—is the candy darter. This small fish is often called an “underwater rainbow” with its vibrant blue-green, red, and orange stripes. Candy darters are incredibly rare and currently are only found in 4 streams in all of Virginia and several in West Virginia. Of the 35 known candy darter populations, only 17 remain. Deforestation, sedimentation, and increasing water temperatures have already reduced candy darter habitat and populations. Now candy darters are facing additional threats from the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300+ mile long fracked gas pipeline that is intended to run through the region. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline, which was approved by FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), claimed that the project would not pose a threat to the species. However, Since beginning construction, the pipeline project has been issued 6 notices of violation for failing to control erosion and sediment and for damaging water quality, something for which the project has been widely criticized from the start.”

9-10-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Officials believe landslide may have triggered massive gas pipeline explosion in Beaver County. “An explosion in a gas pipeline shook parts of Beaver County early Monday, destroying a house, garages and several vehicles and possibly bringing down six high-tension electric towers. Emergency crews responded to the explosion of the 24-inch methane line shortly after it was reported at 4:54 a.m. near Ivy Lane in Center Township, according to Center police Chief Barry Kramer and county emergency officials. ‘It lit this whole valley up,’ Chief Kramer said. ‘People looked out their window and thought the sun was up.’ …. A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Corp. said that while an investigation is underway, officials believe a landslide may have ruptured the line.”  See additional news coverage of the explosion on WPXI, KDKA2 (CBS), and on CBS.

9-9-18 Post and Courier [SC]. Dominion’s 600-mile gas pipeline heading in direction of South Carolina. “Bolt by bolt, a major pipeline is running toward South Carolina. Conservation advocates fear it could mean that exporting natural gas from the state is getting closer to reality. It would be one of the more controversial fallouts from the sale of SCANA to Dominion Energy, if that agreement actually goes through. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline being built by Dominion is projected to pump 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas fracked from the ground under various Northern states. It would run from West Virginia to North Carolina. It could be expanded to cross into South Carolina near the mixing of Interstate 95 and South Carolina’s inland port shipping facility near Dillon, conservationists say. The route would put it on a line to continue on to ports such as Georgetown or Charleston, they warn. A Dominion spokeswoman said that’s not part of the company’s current plans.”

9-9-18 CBC. Even under a drill-friendly Trump, pipeline battles rage on in the U.S., too. “Pipeline protesters suspending themselves in trees. Lawyers halting construction with sharp legal challenges. Hand-wringing over the state of national co-operation. Canada is no stranger to pipeline battles, especially in recent weeks. But this isn’t a scene from B.C’s. Lower Mainland. This is how the fight is playing out in parts of America, under the drill-friendly Trump administration. Though members of Canada’s oilpatch may look to the U.S. with yearning as the Trans Mountain pipeline saga drags on, similar projects aren’t getting an easy ride south of the border. While some Canadians may think they’re the only ones tying themselves in knots over the future of energy infrastructure, that’s not the case. ‘There is a worrisome trend of pipeline construction projects getting more difficult to proceed in many jurisdictions in the United States,’ said analyst Samir Kayande, of RS Energy Group. Worrisome for industry but galvanizing for environmentalists, U.S. pipeline opponents believe they’re gaining traction at both the grassroots level and in the legal system.”

9-6-18 News Leader. Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard public hearing leads to 30 day delay on permit vote. “A fleet of cars, glued with black and white “No Pipeline” bumper stickers, parked outside of the Augusta County Government Center Thursday afternoon. The passengers poured into the public meeting room inside. They were there for public hearing on the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline special use permit application, which the company needs to use land in the county as pipeline storage yard for approximately two years. It’s the second application of its kind the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals has reviewed this year. In March, the board denied a request from Dominion for a pipeline storage yard after three months of discussion. …. The board members voted to table any further decisions on staging yard until the next meeting. They cited concerns about Dominion’s ability to restore the property to agricultural use at the end of project. Many members said they wanted more information and told Dominion representatives that they’d be receiving a list of questions.”

9-5-18 News Leader. Dominion proposes second pipeline storage yard use in Augusta County this year. “Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline builders hope to obtain a special use permit to use land in Augusta County as a pipeline storage yard for approximately two years. In March, the board denied a request from Dominion for a pipeline storage yard after three months of discussion. That request would allowed for more than 30 acres of land in Churchville along Va. 42 to be used as a storage yard for pipeline construction materials, equipment, fuel and worker trailers.”

9-5 18 NRDC. VA Pipeline Compressor Station Threatens Nearby Community. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) is considering a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia, that would compress natural gas for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline so it can be transmitted farther along the pipeline route. The compressor station slated for Buckingham would be massive, with four large compressor turbines. Compressor stations are known to emit air pollutants that are harmful to human health, including toxic air pollutants. A recent study of compressor stations in New York State found 70 chemicals that were released, with many linked to multiple categories of human disease. According to the proposed permit for the Buckingham compressor station, it would emit nitrogen oxides (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM). Exposure to these pollutants can increase the risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and developmental diseases. Examples include: eye, nose, and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, worsening of asthma, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and headaches. …. Yet the draft permit does not ensure the maximum feasible reduction in nitrogen oxide, nor does it ensure adequate monitoring of nitrogen oxide to ensure compliance with permit conditions. It also uses flawed modeling of emissions of nitrogen oxide and VOCs formaldehyde and hexane. And it lacks an emissions limit for ammonia.”

9-5-18 Roanoke Times.  Pipeline protesters take to the trees near Elliston.  “As construction crews got back to work this week on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, so did the tree-sitting protesters. Early Wednesday morning, two women climbed about 50 feet up onto wooden platforms assembled in a white oak and a white pine, part of a strip of forestland to be cut and cleared for the natural gas pipeline. The trees will live on — along with opponents’ hopes of blocking the controversial project — for as long as the women can hold their stands on a steep wooded slope in Montgomery County.”

9-4-18 Progressive Pulse. Alamance County [NC] Commissioners give a big thumbs down to Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate.  Alamance County Commissioners unanimously voted this morning to approve a resolution opposing the MVP Southgate, a controversial natural gas pipeline project planned for northwest-central North Carolina. MVP Southgate would enter Alamance from Rockingham County, then run diagonally from the northwest corner and continuing near Graham and Haw River. Like many landowners and environmental advocates, the commissioners said they were concerned about the potential harm to the Haw River, which the pipeline would cross twice, drinking water, erosion, public safety and property values. MVP Southgate is owned by a consortium of energy companies, including Dominion Energy — a major stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (In typical convoluted corporate fashion, Dominion is buying a stake in an energy company SCANA, a subsidiary of PSNC, which is a co-owner of the MVP.) The southern extension would begin in Chatham, Va. and enter North Carolina near Eden.

9-4-18 Medium. Pipeline Politics: The Appalling Silence of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that would become a bedrock document of the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking to leaders who, despite good intentions, failed to speak up against injustice, King famously wrote: ‘We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.’ Ralph Northam seems to have found the time and motivation to speak out on everything from the view from Mount Vernon to his views on oysters. Meanwhile, two of those closest to Northam, his Chief of Staff Clark Mercer and his Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, have demonstrated not only tone deafness but little inclination to do anything for the people of Union Hill and many other front-line communities. Thousands of people stand to have their lives, water, land and future devasted for generations to come by these proposed pipelines. All for two massive and unnecessary fracked gas pipelines that together represent more than $10 billion in new investment in fossil fuel in Virginia. These pipelines come at exactly the wrong time. when climate change continues apace and is becoming an existential threat to our entire planet. Also to be harmed by these pipelines: Northam’s beloved Chesapeake Bay, including, by the way, the oysters. Northam’s silence is more than just embarrassing. His failure to listen to his own appointees is more than just insulting. One might say his silence is appalling. It needs to stop now.”

9-4-18 Energy News Network. Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents regroup as construction resumes. “The push to cut, clear, grade and trench the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline across the central Appalachia is underway once more. A pair of developments last week allowed construction that had slowed through August to resume at near full force. The setbacks for pipeline opponents left activists questioning their momentum as well as contemplating new legal and regulatory strategies against the project. …. Despite the uncertainty, Chisholm said the Mountain Valley Watch has continued its work. They don’t know what else to do. ‘We’re at a point where we have to continue to do this work, simply because people feel like the public’s voice has been left out of the process,’ Chisholm said. ‘Even with victories here and there in court, and citations by the DEQ [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] and DEP [West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection], we feel like we have to keep going, have to keep documenting, have to keep reporting, even though we might be fairly cynical about what the results may be.'”

 


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