In the News

January 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1-3-17 NBC29. Augusta County Reviews Proposal for Dominion Energy Construction Yard. “An Augusta County board is reviewing a proposal by Dominion Energy to build a construction yard for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline on 34 acres of farmland near Churchville. Pipeline opponents are rallying against the proposed site. The energy company needs to get a special use permit from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals to allow a construction yard on agricultural land. …. Opponents worry it will add too much truck traffic on winding, country roads and damage the farmland. …. The Virginia Department of Transportation recommends the board deny the permit if Dominion can’t find a safe entrance for traffic to the site.”

December 2017

12-30-17 Daily Progress. Letter to editor: Do right thing on pipeline. “But something else needs to be pointed out: The successful candidates who ousted incumbents were all but unanimously opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as was Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax. So the election could just as well be seen as citizens casting a powerful anti-pipeline vote. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam reportedly ducked the pipeline issue out of concern for alienating union voters, who had been convinced by Dominion propaganda that the pipeline will boost employment (it won’t). Perhaps now that he’s been elected, Northam will do his job and insist that the Department of Environmental Quality do its job, which is to require that the pipeline builders show that their environmental mitigations will work (they won’t). It might be too much to expect that Northam will reverse the outgoing governor’s pro-pipeline stance. But you never know. Now that the lieutenant governor and more members of the House of Delegates oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, he has a real incentive to do the right thing.”

12-30-17 Lancaster Online. Pipeline’s been a sham from the beginning. “My blood is boiling after reading Bad vibrations in the Dec. 19 issue. The article details the noise problems for some residents of Manor Township caused by nonstop drilling under the Conestoga River for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered the pipeline builder to ‘look into ways to mitigate the situation.’ That’s fantastic. It is kind of like of ordering me to look into buying a Ferrari. It’s just not going to happen.  FERC has the same problem that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does. It is charged with regulating an industry while simultaneously promoting it. I have an idea for FERC: Do your job, and regulate this travesty. Order Williams to stop construction at night so these people can get some sleep.  I honestly don’t expect Williams or FERC to do anything. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline has been a sham from the beginning. We were told the natural gas would not be exported — it is all being exported. We were told the project would create high-paid, local jobs — it hasn’t. All the license plates on workers’ vehicles that I have seen are from out of state. We were told the project is about American energy independence — it’s not. It is all about who will pay the most for natural gas.  Fifty years from now, when the natural gas runs out, residents in the Marcellus Shale are left with toxic groundwater and the pipeline is a useless hulk rotting underground, you can be sure none of the companies responsible for it will still be around. They will take their money and run. And the public that is left to deal with this mess? No one will care about them. They got fracked in more ways than one.”

12-30-17 Register-Herald [Beckley WV]. Letter to Editor: A pipeline near us soon? “Since 2014, there have been over 700 ‘incidents’ involving natural gas pipelines in America. Those incidents have caused 278 deaths and over $5 billion in damages. Eighty percent of these were reported by everyday citizens who observed something wrong.”

12-28-18 Farmville Herald. ACP yard to be discussed. “Members of the Cumberland County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss a temporary construction yard for materials to be used for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). According to a public notice from the cmomission the discussion will concern a conditional use permit (CUP) for a parcel of land on Salem Church road. The permit requests ‘allow(ing) borrowing and stockpiling of soil, gravel and sand, as well as utility opertaions,’ according to the public notice. ‘The intended use is a temporary yard for storage of equipment and material for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” According to the notice, the request will cover 75 acres out of a 337-acre parcel. The property is zoned as Agricultural-2 and is not considered to be in a growth area in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, according to the notice.”

12-28-17 WDBJ7. Mountain Valley Pipeline pursues injunction in federal court. “A hearing in mid-January will determine if MVP can gain immediate access to the property of landowners who have refused to negotiate with the pipeline company. And opponents say the process is now moving so quickly, they do not have adequate time to protect their property rights. ‘Landowners are here at the court looking for justice,’ said pipeline opponent and Bent Mountain resident Roberta Bondurant. ‘And what we have always heard is that the wheels of justice turn slowly. Perhaps at the very least, they should turn a little bit more slowly here.’ Judge Elizabeth Dillon must still rule on the discovery motions that were argued Thursday [December 28, 2017]. The lawyers and landowners will return to the federal courthouse in two weeks.”

12-27-17 Nelson County Times. Keeping up the fight in the pipeline age of Nelson. An excellent review of the fight against the ACP in Nelson County, featuring Joyce Burton, Eleanor Amidon, and Deborah Kushner.

12-27-17 Nelson County Times. Pipeline architects with project since inception work through obstacles, criticism. “Brittany Moody recalls the exact moment the Atlantic Coast Pipeline took over her life. Moody was on a break from a training session in Richmond in early 2014 when Leslie Hartz, Dominion Energy’s vice president for engineering and construction, approached her to ask: ‘Hey, I’m gonna need you to route a pipeline. How long do you think it’ll take you to complete it?’ Moody, manager of engineering projects for Dominion, answered without hesitation. ‘I’m thinking it’ll be just like every other pipeline I’ve done [and responded], “I’ll have it done in a week,”‘ she said. In the days that followed, though, Moody began to learn more details about the project, which would become the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘Later I started getting the details and it’s a 500-mile pipeline, and I’m like, “Oh shoot, I’ve got to get it done in a week,”‘ Moody said. So she and Dominion construction manager Greg Park, the two appointed to lead the design of the route from start to finish, set to work. About a week later, after hours in front of computers analyzing thousands of miles in West Virginia, Virginia — including the 27 miles of Nelson County that are currently included in the route — and North Carolina, the first iteration of the natural gas pipeline’s route was born.” [We’ve always said the proposed route reflects massive ignorance of all aspects of the terrain it crosses, and now we know why: it was designed in just a week!]

12-27-17 Washington Examiner. FERC pipeline review stokes divide between environmental groups. “A new federal review of pipeline approvals could set up a fight between environmental groups, with some calling the review a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ while questioning the praise of other green groups as ‘sick’ and troubling. Environmental activists say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s recently announced review of its pipeline approval policy marks the next step in the Trump administration’s ‘dirty energy agenda,’ while other groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council said they were encouraged by the review.”

12-26-17 News Virginian. Opinion: It’s not too late — join the fight against pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast pipeline, as well as the Mountain Valley pipeline, is not needed to keep our lights on. We know we are not getting the gas; we are not getting the jobs or any of the so-called benefits of a natural gas pipeline. We are getting only the negatives. People standing united against government corruption, the abuse of eminent domain and the overreaching power a private for-profit corporation is the only way we will stop the pipeline. We the people can only count on each other to stand up and do the right thing, and right now our neighbors need you to stand with them as they face this massive threat to their land, homes, and lives. Affected landowners need everyone to help them stand up to the powerful Dominion and all of their friends in Richmond and DC that give them unyielding power and strength, all of them financially benefiting from their mutually beneficial relationship. What side are you on?”

12-26-17 WVTF. Two Pipelines, Two Different Decisions. “A group of landowners, local businesses and elected officials is crying foul at the way the rulings went, on two proposed natural gas pipelines for Virginia. The Water Control Board held off on a final decision on the Atlantic coast pipeline, pending further review. However, it OK’d a similar pipeline for southwestern Virginia. After Virginia’s State Water Control Board came to two different conclusions about two, proposed natural gas pipelines, the group filed a lawsuit asking a court to reconsider the decision.”

12-23-17 WV MetroNews. Shopping center developer at odds with pipeline developer. “A Nicholas County [WV] developer and convenience store company is among those objecting to the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s eminent domain claims. Paco Land says development of the pipeline route is going to mess up its own development plans.”

12-22-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. After calls for campaign finance reform, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam takes corporate money for inauguration. “After calling for sweeping campaign finance reforms during last year’s Democratic primary, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam is accepting five-figure checks from some of Virginia’s biggest corporate donors to fund his inauguration. Dominion Energy, the state’s top public service corporation whose bankrolling of Virginia politics has made some lawmakers increasingly uneasy, contributed $50,000 to Northam’s inaugural committee earlier this month, the same amount the company has given to help celebrate the last four incoming governors.”

12-22-17 Triangle Business Journal. N.C. officials emphasize due diligence in Atlantic Coast Pipeline analysis. “While Atlantic Coast Pipeline officials are still bullish on their timeline for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, North Carolina environmental regulators continue to sort through the paperwork. Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, said he wants to make sure the project gets a full review – and has directed his team to conduct due diligence required of a project of ACP’s magnitude. ‘We’re still going through our permit review process, so you know I could not say that, No. 1, we would be finished with the proper evaluation of all the permits required by the end of the year, let alone render judgement on the information we’re still getting in,’ he said. ‘We are continuing to evaluate the information that has come in for these permits, recognizing that all of the information for these permits has yet to be submitted.’ …. Regan said diligence can’t be understated – and that it’s not an either-or situation when it comes to the environment and business interests.”

12-22-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Atlantic Coast Pipeline wants to start cutting down trees. “Though it still lacks several key approvals, the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has asked federal regulators to allow workers to begin cutting down trees along some portions of the 600-mile route in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion made the request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week. Opponents are urging the commission to reject it, noting that permits for the project are missing or unfinished, as are effective water quality certifications from Virginia and North Carolina and stormwater plan approval from West Virginia. Requests for reconsideration and stays by FERC are likewise still pending, among other objections raised in a filing submitted by the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville on behalf of more than a dozen conservation groups. ‘At this point, it is unknown whether Atlantic will obtain all of the necessary approval and permits to move forward with its project,’ the document says. ‘The commission must reject Atlantic’s attempts to cut corners and pre-empt state authority by denying the company’s premature request.'”

12-21-17 The New Yorker. The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels Gains Momentum. “Tuesday should have been a day of unmitigated joy for America’s oil and gas executives. The new G.O.P. tax bill treats their companies with great tenderness, reducing even further their federal tax burden. And the bill gave them something else they’ve sought for decades: permission to go a-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, around four in the afternoon, something utterly unexpected began to happen. A news release went out from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels. The state, Cuomo said, would be ‘ceasing all new investments in entities with significant fossil-fuel-related activities,’ and he would set up a committee with Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, to figure out how to ‘decarbonize’ the existing portfolio. Cuomo’s office even provided a handy little Twitter meme of the type that activists often create: it showed three smoke-belching stacks and the legend ‘New York Is Divesting from Fossil Fuels.’ The pension fund under Albany’s control totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth. Not to be outdone, half an hour later the comptroller of the city of New York, Scott Stringer, sent out a similar statement: he, too, was now actively investigating methods for ‘ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil-fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy.’ Stringer’s pension funds add up to a hundred and ninety billion dollars—that’s in the top twenty, too.”

12-21-17 Power for the People. How Did Virginia Get So Far Behind on Energy Efficiency? “Dominion Energy ranks 50th in energy efficiency among the 51 largest electric utilities in the nation (ACEEE). Virginia has captured only 2% of its efficiency potential (EPRI). Robust energy efficiency policy in VA could increase employment by 38,000 jobs by 2030 (DMME Energy Plan 2014). VA’s residential electricity bills ranked 10th highest in the U.S in 2015, commercial bills ranked 13th highest (U.S. Energy Information Administration). In the past year, numerous reports from research institutes, industry think tanks, and government entities have exposed Virginia’s poor energy efficiency performance. Considering the clear economic and environmental benefits that energy efficiency provides to Virginia’s businesses and residents, and in light of Virginia’s untapped energy efficiency potential, electric utilities should prioritize meeting demand through improving energy efficiency rather than building new expensive power plants.”

12-21-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Chairman: FERC to review pipeline permitting process. “The new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says the agency will review its policies, unchanged for nearly two decades, for certifying natural gas pipelines, projects that have sparked contention from North Dakota to Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia, where the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines are advancing toward construction. Kevin J. McIntyre said in a statement Thursday that the format and scope of the planned review of the 1999 Policy Statement on Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities is still being discussed, though he described it as part of a pledge he made during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings to ‘take a fresh look at all aspects of the agency’s work. I believe we in the government should constantly be examining our various processes and procedures to see if we can do anything better,’ said McIntyre, who was confirmed by the Senate in November. ‘Much has changed in the energy world since 1999, and it is incumbent upon us to take another look at the way in which we assess the value and the viability of our pipeline applications.'”

12-21-17 Utility Dive.  New FERC chair wants to make agency more transparent. “Kevin McIntyre, the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was sworn in this month and just told Open Access, the commission’s podcast, his goals include making the agency more transparent. ….  ‘As a matter of good governance, I would like to see us move in the direction of making FERC more transparent,’ he said. ‘As a practitioner, I know first hand what it’s like to wonder when on earth the commission is going to make a decision on a given matter. I think we owe it to stakeholders and the public itself to be as transparent as we can possibly be.’”

12-19-17 Lancaster Online. ‘It’s just constant’: Atlantic Sunrise pipeline company ordered to fix noise, lighting problems in Manor Twp. “Since Nov. 28, residents of about 10 homes near Safe Harbor have had an unwelcome front-row seat to a six-day-a-week, all-night unusual work zone: near-constant drilling under the Conestoga River as part of the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline. Drilling on a lesser scale began in early October. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told LNP on Monday that after resident complaints, a FERC compliance monitor in the last few days confirmed there are indeed noise and lighting problems. The pipeline builder has been ordered to “look into ways to mitigate the situation so the public will not be inconvenienced,” said Tamara Young-Allen, a FERC spokeswoman. Seventy decibels is akin to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. ‘We’re sorry for the inconvenience.’ …. As a result of residents’ complaints, Williams told FERC last week in its weekly summary of pipeline construction that it was investigating new ways to address noise levels at the site, including paying homeowners for the disturbances and offering to relocate them until the drilling is finished. The company said it had installed a sound wall and baffles on equipment on Oct. 24. Two noise readings by the company taken on Dec. 9 were below the 55-decibel action reading, but one from the front door of a home on Witmer Road was 70.2 decibels. …. Pans on the kitchen wall tap each other and rattle from vibrations given off by the drilling under the earth…. All the residents interviewed complained that no one ever approached them to inform them of the impending drilling or what to expect. ‘No one has ever come over here to say here’s what we’re doing. There’s no transparency….’ Residents said they have complained to Williams, Manor Township officials, FERC and a state legislator, but without noticeable results. Ryan Strohecker, Manor Township manager, said he checked the township noise ordinance and found that utilities are exempt. He said jurisdiction with the drilling lies with FERC and the pipeline builder.”

12-18-17 Blue Virginia.  Dominion Sues to Condemn Ralph Northam’s Family Farm to Build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Everything but the Ralph Northam part is true – but less well known and less powerful Virginians are not so lucky.  “Dominion, the main company behind the ACP, is not deterred by the fact that the Virginia State Water Control Board just refused to issue a permit to start construction until further studies are completed. Nor is Dominion deterred by the fact that three of the seven members of the Board voted outright to kill the project – meaning one more no vote in the future, which is very possible, would stop the pipeline in its tracks. These facts did not prevent Dominion from ruining the holiday season of many Virginians.”  The article goes on to describe how Dominion has begun the process to take land for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by asking a federal court to allow it to use eminent domain for certain properties along the proposed route. Some of the affected landowners first learned of the suits against them from news reports.

12-18-17 Roanoke Times.  Second court challenge filed over water quality certification for Mountain Valley Pipeline.  “A group of landowners, conservation groups and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates brought a court challenge Monday to a state board’s finding that a natural gas pipeline would pose no danger to the streams and creeks that lie in its path.  The petition for review, filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, marks the second time the State Water Control Board has been sued over its Dec. 7 decision to issue a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, is listed as the first of 16 petitioners who contend the board lacked adequate information on which to find a ‘reasonable assurance’ that the 303-mile long buried pipeline would not contaminate the waters of Western Virginia. …. Shortly after the case was filed Monday, the court of appeals issued an order that consolidates it with the earlier challenge brought by the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Wild Virginia.”

12-18-17 Morning Call [PA].  What happens when a pipeline is built in your backyard. “The caravan of noise and mayhem arrived a few days before Thanksgiving — several colossal excavators, a backhoe, a bunch of pickup trucks and an otherworldly saw that can slice through a huge tree like a knife through butter. It was ‘Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,’ a book I read to my grandkids, sprung to life, writ large. …. It’s all very legal, of course, when the pipeline arsenal rolls in on the magic carpet of eminent domain, signed, sealed and delivered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That fact doesn’t make it easier when survey flags are planted on your property like little grave markers, orange construction fencing goes up like symbolic barbed wire, and the awful symphony from the earth-ripping machines plays on, even in your dreams.”

12-17-17 Progress-Index [Petersburg VA]. The other side of the pipeline story. Commenting on a December 3 letter endorsing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Stacy Lovelace, a “chemical engineer with knowledge of the fracking process and a background in research” carefully and in detail refutes “misinformed statements” in the earlier letter by Mark Moore. He concludes, “Dr. Moore was right about one thing: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be a “game-changer.” It will permanently change the game for farmers whose property will be unconstitutionally seized and their livelihoods all but destroyed. And through the well-documented environmental hazards related to fracked gas projects, it will permanently change the game for Virginia’s environment and water. The only “golden opportunity” presented by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is profit for corporate stakeholders at the expense of entire communities in the pipeline corridor and of ratepayers like you and me.”

12-16-17 The Morning Call.  What happens when a pipeline is built in your backyard. “The caravan of noise and mayhem arrived a few days before Thanksgiving — several colossal excavators, a backhoe, a bunch of pickup trucks and an otherworldly saw that can slice through a huge tree like a knife through butter. It was ‘Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,’ a book I read to my grandkids, sprung to life, writ large. …. It’s all very legal, of course, when the pipeline arsenal rolls in on the magic carpet of eminent domain, signed, sealed and delivered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That fact doesn’t make it easier when survey flags are planted on your property like little grave markers, orange construction fencing goes up like symbolic barbed wire, and the awful symphony from the earth-ripping machines plays on, even in your dreams.”

12-16-17 The Oregonian.  Blocking eminent domain for private gain: Guest opinion.   “As landowners threatened by the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline we are elated at Sen. Jeff Merkley’s announcement that he will not support a project dependent on seizing private properties through eminent domain. Merkley’s shift comes as welcome news against this speculative venture already denied twice by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”   [Same issues, different state!]

12-15-17 World Pipelines. Atlantic Coast pipeline receives Virginia National Park approval. “According to a release from Dominion Energy yesterday, the National Park Service approved the pipeline’s construction, but there’s still numerous contingencies on the project. …. [T]he National Park Service has given authorisation for the construction and operation of the pipeline underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

12-15-17 Facing South. Would the Atlantic Coast Pipeline be the job creator its TV ads claim? “Dominion bases the promise of lower rates on the ICF report’s finding of significant savings in the price of natural gas from the Dominion South supply hub that would serve the region with the ACP in operation as compared to the existing Transco regional hub. But AEC notes this price gap has been narrowing in recent years with new pipeline capacity added and may not be as great as the developers assumed, with Dominion itself now projecting a smaller differential. And there’s some evidence there might not be any cost savings at all: A report released in September by Oil Change International, the Sierra Club and Public Citizen found that higher pipeline transportation costs would mean gas delivered by the ACP would be 28 percent more expensive than Transco gas.”

12-14-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Northam announces Cabinet picks for Natural Resources, Agriculture and Forestry. “Gov.-elect Ralph Northam has named one of his former legislative aides, currently a senior adviser to a key congressional committee, as Virginia’s next secretary of natural resources, one of two Cabinet picks announced Thursday. The selection was also one watched closely by environmental groups who want a change of tack under the new administration on some major issues such as coal ash cleanup and the planned construction of a pair of natural gas pipelines through the state. Matt Strickler, currently a senior policy adviser to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources, will oversee six state agencies: the departments of Conservation and Recreation; Environmental Quality; Game and Inland Fisheries and Historic Resources; as well as the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Northam also appointed Bettina Ring, the current state forester, as secretary of agriculture and forestry. She will oversee three agencies: the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Forestry and the Virginia Racing Commission.”

12-14-17 WDBJ7. Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents plan to appeal federal court ruling. “Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say they plan to appeal, following a setback this week in Roanoke federal court. A judge dismissed most of their constitutional challenge, but the landowners’ lawyer says the fight is just beginning. Roanoke Attorney Justin Lugar says he isn’t surprised, or deterred by a judge’s ruling earlier this week. ‘You always want to win at the first level of course,” Lugar told WDBJ7, “but difficult issues aren’t usually decided very easily.’ Landowners who live in the path of the proposed natural gas pipeline are challenging the process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that allows the use of eminent domain for a project opponents argue is not a public use. And they will now take their case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. …. Landowners involved in the lawsuit are likely to ask for an expedited review of their appeal, so the constitutional questions about the use of eminent domain can be settled before construction begins on the natural gas pipeline.”

12-14-17 Roanoke Times. FERC delays action on whether to reconsider approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “As opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline had predicted, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued what’s called a ‘tolling order.’ The order puts the project in a state of legal limbo — at least when it comes to challenging the commission’s Oct. 13 decision that there is sufficient public need for a 303-mile buried pipeline that would transport natural gas at high pressure through the Roanoke and New River valleys. Among other things, FERC’s decision allowed Mountain Valley to proceed with efforts to obtain access to land in the pipeline’s path, even if the property owners object, through the legal process of eminent domain. The tolling order would also allow construction to begin — assuming the pipeline developers obtain approval from a handful of other regulatory agencies that have yet to act — while preventing an appeal of the commission’s decision to a federal court.”

12-13-17 News Leader. Letter to Editor (by George Taylor): Lost property value just another form of Dominion theft. “On Thursday, November 23rd, John Bruce reported in The Recorder, Highland County’s newspaper, that ‘land values near Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline have dropped substantially in anticipation of construction next year.’ This was not supposed to happen. To the contrary, the public was assured by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the approval of the pipeline would not affect land values. In reality the Highland County Reassessment Office reports that a dozen properties within half a mile of the proposed line are showing an average decline of 36% along Valley Center Road, the decline ranging from 10 to 67%. FERC maintains that because property owners are paid by Dominion for the rights to their property in perpetuity, that should, theoretically, compensate for their loss of assessed value. This is a dubious argument at best. Furthermore, it completely ignores the collateral cost to adjacent landowners who receive no compensation for the loss of value of their land. It is bad enough that Dominion can seize property by eminent domain. That this will cause economic hardship to countless neighboring landowners and local governments along the pipeline’s 500-mile route is a hidden form of theft, for which the corporation assumes no responsibility. Just because it is legal does not make it right.”

12-12-17 The Guardian. World Bank to end financial support for oil and gas extraction. “The World Bank will end its financial support for oil and gas extraction within the next two years in response to the growing threat posed by climate change. In a statement that delighted campaigners opposed to fossil fuels, the Bank used a conference in Paris to announce that it ‘will no longer finance upstream oil and gas’ after 2019. The Bank ceased lending for coal-fired power stations in 2010 but has been under pressure from lobby groups also to halt the $1bn (£750m) a year it has been lending for oil and gas in developing countries. The Bank said it saw the need to change the way it was operating in a ‘rapidly changing world,’ adding that it was on course to have 28% of its lending going to climate action by 2020. At present, 1-2% of the Bank’s $280bn portfolio is accounted for by oil and gas projects.”

12-12-17 Roanoke Times. Judge narrows lawsuit over efforts to take private land for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A federal judge says her courtroom is not the place to determine whether the taking of private property for the Mountain Valley Pipeline amounts to what a lawsuit called a ‘government-sanctioned land grab.’ U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by landowners in the pipeline’s path. The landowners had claimed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the project was an unconstitutional overreach that gave Mountain Valley authority to use land it does not own through the controversial process of eminent domain. That challenge was made ‘in the wrong court at the wrong time,’ Dillon wrote in an opinion issued Monday. Although she dismissed FERC from the case, Dillon kept alive a second part of the lawsuit that calls into question the manner in which Mountain Valley has attempted to obtain easements for its natural gas pipeline to pass through the land of objecting property owners. Mountain Valley’s surveys of parcels along the route without permission from the owners represent an unlawful “taking” of the land with no compensation, the lawsuit claimed. Dillon said she will hear additional arguments on that assertion.”

12-12-17 Washington Post. Virginia agency takes unexpected step that could delay gas pipeline project. “Opponents of a natural gas pipeline planned across some of Virginia’s wildest terrain declared a partial victory Tuesday when a state panel delayed enacting water permits for the controversial project. The State Water Control Board approved permits for the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is backed by Dominion Energy, but took the unusual step of delaying the effective date until several environmental impact reports are completed. The action came unexpectedly after a day and a half of tension-filled hearings, leaving supporters and opponents alike scrambling to determine exactly what had happened. The bottom line seemed to be that the project is at least temporarily on hold. ‘They cannot start construction until the final erosion and sediment control plans are approved,’ state Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said.”

12-12-17 WVTF. Both Sides Claim Cautious Victory on Key Regulatory Hurdle for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Anti-pipeline protesters were vocal through two days of public hearings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But when a vote finally came, there were no rounds of applause, no shouts of anger. Just confusion. The state water control board voted 4-3 Tuesday to approve the project. But that approval is contingent on getting more information from state regulators, effectively slowing down the permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For opponents of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the vote was a win or a loss.”

12-12-17 NBC29. Dominion Energy Arguing to Use Eminent Domain for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy is beginning the process to take land to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. The energy company is asking the federal court to allow it to use eminent domain to get dozens of acres of land along the path of the proposed natural gas pipeline. This comes as the Virginia Water Control Board voted 4-3 to conditionally approve a permit for the pipeline project. Some of the affected landowners are just learning about the lawsuits filed against them in federal court.”

12-11-17 WVTF. Protesters Send McAuliffe Packing.  Governor McAuliffe was in Waynesboro to take a bow for the settlement with DuPont – a company that allowed mercury to pollute the South River in Waynesboro. “McAuliffe listed a number of projects to be funded by the DuPont settlement: Land preservation and restoration along the South River, water quality improvement, construction of a branch of the state’s natural history museum in Waynesboro. In situations like this, it’s been McAuliffe’s custom to meet with local media afterward, but when he left the building about a dozen protesters had already gathered. ‘Save our water! No pipeline! No pipeline,’ they shouted. Faced with a controversy, McAuliffe ducked into his SUV and sped away, leaving Jennifer Lewis – President of the anti-pipeline group Friends of Augusta, to complain. ‘I’ve never been pushed away by his security before, so that’s a new one,’ she said. ‘It’s hard to sit here and listen to him boast about all the hard work he’s done to protect our environment, save our water when he’s allowing these natural gas pipelines to run through our mountains and our streams. It took them 40 years to get this deal of $50 million for contamination of mercury. What happens when a pipeline comes through and ruins our streams? Are we going to have to wait 40 years for compensation from Dominion for that?’

12-11-17 Roanoke Times. Lopez and Rasoul: Pipeline not worth cost to Virginians.  “In the end, there have been multiple unchallenged studies documenting how little the market wants this pipeline. In contrast, there has been no study performed as to whether the pipeline is necessary to keep customers’ lights on. Even Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur concluded that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was not in the public interest in a forceful dissent to the project. Those are the facts. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cost billions of dollars to build with the expectation that these costs will be passed along to Virginia customers regardless of how much they use it. And once it’s built, the pipeline will not save us any money. Virginia’s energy customers get nothing out of this deal except condemned land, the threat of contaminated rivers and streams, and climbing energy bills. Virginians deserve better.”

12-10-17 News Leader. Remnants and reminders of Augusta County’s early immigrants under threat.  “The grey and green lichen and moss-covered walls of stone meander through the forest like silent sentinels of history. Long ago, settlers on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, and on the eastern slopes in Nelson, lived proud and independent lives on their subsistence farms. These stone walls were an integral part of their daily farming activities. …. There is no doubt that the walls are cultural remnants from the Ulster Scots who settled the land in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. …. The only threat today to these walls is a natural gas pipeline. To date, Dominion will not acknowledge the need to avoid these walls during their construction activities. Should Dominion build its pipeline through these walls, there is no mitigation that can restore what those artisans created centuries ago. If the destruction of these walls worries you, please write to Julie Langan, Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221. Express your concern over the potential loss of these important resources and suggest that the pipeline route be moved to protect the historic stone walls of Augusta County.”

12-9-17 NBC29.  Atlantic Coast Pipeline Signs Agreements with 4 Leading Construction Trade Unions. “Dominion Energy Press Release: Richmond, Va. – Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC announced today it has signed Project Labor Agreements with the nation’s four leading building and construction trade unions. The agreements reaffirm the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project’s commitment to hiring skilled union workers for the pipeline’s construction. The agreements were signed with the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), Teamsters National Pipeline (Teamsters), International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States (United Association).”

12-9-17 WHMI [Livingston County, Michigan]. FERC Affirms Denial of Blanket Construction Certificate For Rover Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is standing by its decision to deny a pipeline company’s request for a blanket construction certificate. In February, FERC issued a certificate authorizing Rover Pipeline LLC, to construct and operate approximately 510 miles of new pipeline and related facilities from the Appalachian supply area to an interconnection in Livingston County. However, FERC denied Rover’s request for a blanket construction certificate to perform certain routine construction activities and operations. In explaining their reason for denial, FERC stated Rover ‘could not be relied upon to comply with the environmental regulations required for all blanket certificate projects.’ FERC supported its decision in light of an incident in which historic properties were damaged by Rover during construction. Rover requested a rehearing, but FERC upheld the denial last week, making the conclusion that Rover intended to circumvent the National Historic Preservation Act by choosing to demolish a historic building. Additionally, FERC says pipeline companies have an ‘ongoing obligation to supplement certificate applications with relevant information and provide documentation of consultations with the State Historic Preservation Office,’ but stated that Rover did neither. See FERC’s letter denying the rehearing here.

12-8-17 Washington Post. Environmental groups file suit in federal court against gas pipeline. “A coalition of environmental groups filed suit Friday to try to block the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline planned for the southwestern portion of Virginia that cleared the last regulatory hurdle and won state water permits Thursday. Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, seeking a review of the permits issued by the State Water Control Board.”

12-8-17 Richmond Times Dispatch. Meeting in Henrico erupts after Virginia state board issues approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Police cleared the audience from a Henrico County community center auditorium Thursday afternoon after a state board’s approval of a water-quality certification for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline triggered an eruption of shouts and profanity.”

12-7-17 Bold Alliance (press release).  Bold Alliance, Virginia Landowners Vow to Continue Fight Against Mountain Valley Pipeline After Water Control Board Issues Permit.  “Virginia landowners, Bold Alliance and other advocates on Thursday vowed to continue the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite the Virginia State Water Control Board’s issuance of a permit for the proposed fracked gas pipeline project.  ‘Today, the state of Virginia ignored science and the citizens of our state; the State Water Control Board chose corporate interests over the people of the commonwealth,’ said Carolyn Reilly, regional organizer with Bold Alliance. ‘As an impacted landowner and a citizen, I feel betrayed and wronged by this decision. But, our fight will continue to protect land, water and people from this risky, fracked-gas pipeline.'”

12-7-17 Washington Post. Virginia water board approves Mountain Valley Pipeline, angering opponents. “Protesters shouted “shame!” Thursday as the State Water Control Board voted 5 to 2 to approve permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of two controversial natural gas pipelines proposed for rural parts of the state. The action is the last major regulatory hurdle for the project, which is backed by a consortium of companies led by EQT Midstream Partners. The other major natural gas project — the larger Atlantic Coast Pipeline — faces the same review Monday and Tuesday.”

12-7-17 WHSV3. Virginia water board certifies proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Virginia’s Water Control Board has issued a certification for a proposed natural gas pipeline that will run through six counties in the state. The board voted 5-2 Thursday to issue a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. At a public comment session Wednesday, most of the dozens of speakers expressed concerns about digging trenches for a 42-inch buried steel pipe to run along steep mountain slopes.”

12-6-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Pipeline opponents urge state board to to deny water quality permit ‘without prejudice.’ Can it do that? “Dozens of people urged the seven members of the State Water Control Board at an all-day meeting Wednesday to reject outright a proposed water quality certification necessary for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which will run from West Virginia through six Southwest Virginia counties. A smaller number of pipeline proponents called on the citizen board to endorse the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s conditions, intended to shield the more than 1,100 waterways the pipeline will cross. Construction produces sediment loads and entails blasting, trenching and drilling through streams and along some of the state’s steepest terrain. But others suggested a third option: Deny the certification “without prejudice” and invite the pipeline developers and the DEQ to fix what critics contend has been an inadequate process to vet the potential water impacts of the MVP, led by EQT Midstream Partners, and another, longer natural gas pipeline project, the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion’s pipeline faces the same approval process next week.”

12-6-17 MetroNews [WV] Landowners want dismissal of Mountain Valley Pipeline property case. “Property owners who are being sued by the Mountain Valley Pipeline have moved to have the federal case dismissed, saying the developers don’t have the proper authority. Eighteen landowners filed their motion to dismiss on Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston. They contend Mountain Valley Pipeline can’t yet commence condemnation proceedings because its certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is conditional, ‘which means MVP still has to clear numerous administrative and regulatory hurdles before it can commence condemnation.’ The landowners also contend private entities cannot condemn private property unless they first demonstrate an ability to pay just compensation — and they say MVP hasn’t yet attempted to do that.”

12-6-17 Virginian-Pilot. West Virginia weighs permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “West Virginia environmental regulators Wednesday announced two public hearings on issuing a construction stormwater permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would carry natural gas southeast from the center of the state. …. West Virginia hearings are scheduled Dec. 18 at Buckhannon-Upshur High School in Buckhannon and Dec. 21 at Pocahontas County High School in Dunmore.”

12-6-17 MetroNews [WV] DEP again waives federal permitting authority for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection will waive its option to tailor the state’s own requirements within a federal permit that’s specific to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Instead, West Virginia intends to rely on newly-updated, state-focused requirements in a nationwide U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that is reissued every five years — as well as a state stormwater permit that regulators call unique compared to enforcement options in other states. ‘Combining the special conditions in the USACE Nationwide permit with the broader regulatory oversight in the West Virginia pipeline construction stormwater permit will provide for a level of inspection and enforcement on this large project that is not available in any surrounding state,’ DEP wrote in an announcement today. The agency made the same decision last month with the similar but separate Mountain Valley Pipeline and drew scrutiny from environmental groups who said waiving state-focused authority is unusual and an abdication of the state’s particular oversight role.”

12-6-17 Raleigh News & Observer. Atlantic Coast Pipeline blows another deadline as NC officials seek more info. “The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, already more than a year behind schedule, missed another deadline Wednesday when North Carolina regulators said they will not issue an environmental permit by Dec. 15 as had been expected. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality sent the pipeline’s developers a request for more information on Monday, saying the request indefinitely suspends the Dec. 15 deadline to issue an air quality permit for a planned compressor station that will push the natural gas downstream through the underground pipeline. The date to issue a decision on the air quality permit will now depend on the promptness of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s responses and the amount of time it takes state officials to review the materials. The Department of Environmental Quality, part of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration, had previously submitted four rounds of questions seeking additional information from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s developers.”

12-6-17 Washington Examiner. Kevin McIntyre to be sworn in as FERC chairman Thursday, filling the commission. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday will swear in its fifth member and chairman, Republican Kevin McIntyre, giving the panel a full slate of commissioners just days before it is expected to rule on a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.”

12-6-17 WVTF. State Water Board Will Get Final Say on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The fate of a controversial pipeline is now in the hands of Virginia’s Water Control Board. The board heard final public comment on the Mountain Valley Pipeline Wednesday. If approved, it would carry natural gas through much of southwest Virginia. …. Delegate-Elect Chris Hurst spoke for his constituents in southwest Virginia who couldn’t make it to Richmond for the meeting. He asked the board to deny the water permit in order to gather more information. ‘Overwhelmingly the comments were in opposition to the certification,’ Hurst said to the board. ‘Don’t let the volume, the sheer magnitude of the volume, of comments not be taken into full account.'”

12-6-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Perriello and Laskey column: Building a pipeline to energy independence. “The choice facing our governor-elect and this General Assembly on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines is instructive. Ratepayers will be on the hook for $6.8 billion in costs, while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) guarantees a 14 percent return on the cost of investment regardless of how much energy is used here or how few jobs the pipelines create. These kinds of sweetheart deals choke out opportunities to grow jobs and local business, especially in rural areas hit hard in recent years by shifts in energy production. And people on both sides of the aisle get it: Opposition to the pipelines is bipartisan, and that doesn’t even include environmentalist concerns that spills and leaks are inevitable, as we saw recently with Keystone XL. This is a tremendous opportunity for the Northam administration to move Virginia forward. The governor-elect has spoken powerfully about how some rural communities and small towns were left behind as the state’s overall economy improved. A shift away from the current outdated, monopolized model to one that incentivizes local investment in energy production and energy efficiency could set the foundation for his entire rural economic development agenda.”

12-5-17 Blue Virginia. New Economic Analysis: Fracked-Gas Pipelines Could Lead to Billions More in Charges to Dominion Customers, No Job Growth in Virginia. A new economic analysis, just published by the Applied Economics Clinic at Tufts University has key findings that demolish all Dominions. claims about economic development and new jobs in an environmentally responsible way.

12-5-17 DeSmog. On Eve of Key Atlantic Coast Pipeline Decision, Here’s a Review of Dominion’s Ties to Decision-makers. Ahead of the key meetings of the Virginia Water Control Board, a regulatory agency within the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), “DeSmog is taking a look back at the many instances where the federal and state regulatory review processes for this pipeline were either potentially conflicted by Dominion’s involvement or somehow linked to the company.”

12-5-17 Huffington Post.  Leaked PowerPoint Reveals The Gas Industry’s Playbook For Waging Pipeline Fights.  The new Huffington Post article builds on the Washington Post’s November 29 article about the role of manufactured pro-energy front groups like Energy Sure and Your Energy Virginia, and includes additional examples of their promotional materials. For the gas industry, “it’s like, ‘We have to do something, we have to counter this narrative, or at least we have to muddy the waters and make it seem like there’s protests on both sides,’ said Josh Stanfield, executive director of the progressive group Activate Virginia, which has opposed pipelines.”

12-4-17 Triangle Business Journal.   ACP has filed its first eminent domain action.  “On Friday [December 1, 2017], ACP filed two suits to acquire North Carolina tracts through eminent domain, an action spokesman Aaron Ruby has called a last resort.”  Additional coverage in the Fayetteville Observer.

12-4-17 Raleigh News & Observer. Editorial: Needed scrutiny of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will face many hurdles from gaining permits to burrowing through 600 miles of terrain from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. But its biggest obstacle may be time. The project is already more than a year behind schedule and now faces further delays as it waits for environmental permits. The project’s backers don’t like it, but the delays are a helpful test. If the project is truly needed, time should make that clearer. If it’s not – as many argue – then time will reveal that as well. …. There’s no doubt North Carolina needs reliable sources of energy, but there is doubt about whether it needs a massive new pipeline carrying natural gas from fracking operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Whether it does will become clearer as DEQ and the public has time to assess the environmental and economic impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

12-4-17 Public News Service. ‘The Art of the Self-Deal’ Study Looks at Pipelines’ Costs For Ratepayers. “A recent report finds huge planned gas pipelines could cost some ratepayers many times what they would otherwise pay. The Art of the Self-Deal looks at federal filings for four proposed lines. Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club in Virginia, said Dominion electric customers would pay 3.5 times more to fuel power plants with gas from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline than from current lines. She said the Mountain Valley Pipeline could cost Con Ed ratepayers $60 million extra per year. Addleson said federal rules allow energy companies to pass on the high cost of the new lines plus a hefty profit if they say the system of current pipelines is too small to meet demand. ‘The truth is that it’s just not. The existing pipelines are not currently being used to capacity,’ Addleson said. ‘These companies can create the illusion of demand by selling the pipeline’s capacity to their own subsidiaries.’

12-3-17 N.J. environmentalists use new legal strategy to fight pipelines. “Garden State environmental advocates think they’ve found a way to stop pipeline companies from acquiring the land they need in the first place, and a pipeline project in New Jersey may serve as the legal battleground. The New Jersey Conservation Foundation has sued the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the grounds that the agency’s use of eminent domain to take over land for the construction of interstate natural gas pipelines is often unconstitutional. (The NJCF is represented by the Eastern Environmental Law Center and the Columbia University Environmental Law Clinic.) The lawsuit, filed in federal court in November, cites the Fifth Amendment requirement that any eminent domain action be made for ‘public use.’ Environmentalists claim that FERC has consistently failed to prove that pipeline projects are necessary, and thus, the eminent domain land seizures further private profits rather than the public good. ‘We’ve taken this action because it’s become abundantly clear that the way that [FERC] is approaching their review of proposed pipelines really is at odds with the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,’ said Tom Gilbert, a campaign director for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.” The lawsuit could have national impact.

12-2-17 Virginian-Pilot. Would the Atlantic Coast Pipeline increase the threat of sea level rise in Hampton Roads? “[I]n keeping with this column’s theme, let’s look at the pipeline’s potential impact on the coastal environment – specifically, whether it might exacerbate the threat to Hampton Roads from sea level rise. …. As with so many other pipeline-related issues, the question of climate change impacts likely is headed for the courts.”

12-2-17 Blue Virginia. Video, Photos, Statement From the #WaterIsLife Rally in Richmond Today. “I’ll post more later, but for now here’s some great video and photos from today’s #WaterIsLife rally in Richmond against Dominion’s proposed fracked-gas pipeline monstrosities. Great job by CCAN, the Sierra Club of Virginia, Appalachian Voices, the many other environmental groups and everyone else involved in organizing today’s rally (see their press release below), and thanks to everyone who spoke, marched, etc. The bottom line is we have to keep fighting, no matter what the odds against us…the cause (protecting our planet from fossil fuel interests’ destruction) is very much worth it!”

12-2-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Hundreds of anti-pipeline protesters from around Virginia rally on Capitol Square ahead of Water Control Board hearings. “Protesters who oppose the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines walked around Capitol Square in Richmond on Saturday. The State Water Control Board is set to begin hearings on the pipelines this week. A rally opposing the construction of two major natural gas pipelines in Virginia drew hundreds of people from across the state to Capitol Square on Saturday ahead of key regulatory hearings set to begin this week. Among them were one state delegate and two delegates-elect, one of whom said he will pursue legislation during the coming General Assembly session to push for a more rigorous state review.”

12-1-17 DeSmog. Virginia Won’t Say Whether its Official Spoke at Gas Industry Panel on Curbing Pipeline Protesters. “A high-ranking Virginia state official was listed as participating in a gas industry-sponsored panel that discussed strategies for confronting public opposition to new infrastructure projects, including the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Yet Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration has refused to provide any explanation or even confirm the official’s appearance on the panel. The panel took place during the American Gas Association’s (AGA) State Affairs Meeting, held in early October this year in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also presenting on the panel was a Dominion Energy executive, Bruce McKay, who shared his company’s experience in countering protests and engaging in what he called a political ‘campaign to elect a pipeline.’ McKay, Dominion Energy’s policy director, provided tips on ‘siting fossil fuel infrastructure in the age of “keep it in the ground.”‘ The panel on which he spoke, titled ‘Heard it Through the Pipeline: Proactive Strategies for Securing Infrastructure,’ was first reported by the Washington Post. DeSmog now reports that another speaker listed on the same panel was none other than Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Hayes Framme. In recent years, Virginia has become a flashpoint for gas pipeline opposition, with activists and residents mobilizing against the Dominion-led plans for the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Documents from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) indicate that Framme was involved in agency discussions concerning the Atlantic Coast pipeline in the early stages of the project.”

12-1-17 Roanoke Times. Pipeline project wins approval to cross Jefferson National Forest. “The U.S. Forest Service gave a green light Friday for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross federal forestland on its way through Western Virginia. The approval marks another milestone for the planned 303-mile buried pipeline and another setback for those who fear it will mar scenic views and inflict environmental damage along its path.”

12-1-17 Southeast Energy News. Critics highlight Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental justice impact. “On September 15, 1982, high-profile protests over the siting of a toxic waste dump in Afton, North Carolina – an overwhelmingly African American town an hour northeast of Raleigh – set in motion a wave of reforms to prevent polluters from targeting people of color and the poor. Thirty-five years later, North Carolina advocates say the $5-billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline deserves its own place in the environmental-justice history books – a distinction they believe could be its undoing. ‘It deserves its own claim to shame,’ said Therese Vick, who has worked for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League for 25 years. …. In all but one county along the pipeline’s 180-mile route in North Carolina, African Americans, Native Americans and those living in poverty make up a greater percentage of the population than the statewide average. More than a quarter of the state’s Native Americans live along the project’s path. Despite flagging 71 percent of the census tracts along the North Carolina pipeline route for ‘environmental justice concerns,’ federal regulators have given the project the green light – a move scores of groups are contesting.”

12-1-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Correspondent of the Day: We do not need these pipelines. “Virginians are fortunate to live in a state of such outstanding beauty. We have the Appalachian Mountains that were formed more than 1.2 billion years ago. It is of great concern to me that we are considering putting two pipelines through these ancient mountains. …. Two-thirds of our state’s water supply originates from mountain streams. Ninety small streams originate in the Shenandoah National Park and empty into the Shenandoah, Rappahannock, and James Rivers. Since 2010, more than 3,300 crude oil and natural gas pipelines have had leaks or ruptures in the U.S., killing 80 people and injuring 389 others. …. Independent studies show conclusively that demand for new gas-fired plants is unnecessary. Current infrastructure will meet existing demand through 2030. Renewable energy industries now employ more people than the fossil fuel industry — and demand is growing. So why are these pipelines being proposed? Virginians will receive no benefits from these pipelines but they do guarantee the developers a 15 percent rate of return on their investment.”

November 2017

11-30-17 Reuters. Climate activists delay U.S. gas pipeline approvals: regulator. “National environmental groups waging legal battles against energy projects are delaying approval of U.S. natural gas pipelines, a top federal energy regulator said on Thursday. The groups have lawyers who ‘understand how to use all of the levers of federal and state law to frustrate pipeline development,’ Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), told a meeting of natural gas industry officials”    [YES!]

11-30-17 NRDC. Virginia DEQ Wrong; Pipelines Contaminate Clean Water. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently recommended approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The agency recommended that these pipelines receive certification under the Clean Water Act that they will not violate Virginia’s water quality standards. DEQ officials made this recommendation despite the risks to clean water across Virginia, including rivers, streams, drinking water reservoirs, and wetlands. Fortunately, VA DEQ is not the final decisionmaker on these pipelines. That responsibility lies with the Virginia State Water Control Board, which consists of seven Virginia citizens. The Board has the authority to make a certification decision under the Clean Water Act for these pipelines, and can only make a certification if it has ‘reasonable assurance’ that the pipelines would not violate Virginia’s water quality standards. …. Virginia DEQ made the wrong decision when it recommended that MVP and ACP be approved. The State Water Control Board should make the right decision.”

11-29-17 High Country News. A map of $1.1 billion in natural gas pipeline leaks. “Between January 2010 and November 2017, the nation’s natural gas transportation network leaked a total of 17.55 billion cubic feet of mostly methane gas. That’s enough to heat 233,000 homes for an entire year, and it’s got the same global warming potential as the carbon dioxide emitted from a large coal-fired power plant over the course of a year. Pipeline incidents took nearly 100 lives, injured close to 500 people and forced the evacuation of thousands during that time, while costing about $1.1 billion.” An interactive map allows readers to click and hover for more information about specific locations and incidents.

11-29-17 News & Observer [NC]. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces another delay as NC officials push for more details. “The planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, already more than a year behind schedule, could face further delays as North Carolina officials once again seek additional information on the project’s potential impacts to the communities the pipeline will traverse. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday sent the pipeline’s developers a fourth round of questions about the economic benefits and environmental risks of the project. The unusual repeat request gives pipeline officials 30 days to respond and gives the agency 60 days to review their response. …. The Department of Environmental Quality is looking for details on economic benefits to specific areas along the pipeline’s route, as opposed to generalizations about economic benefits. The agency wants a forecast of future economic conditions with the pipeline and without the pipeline, along with an analysis of the two forecasts, and an explanation of the logic on which the analysis is based. The agency also wants additional information on the pipeline’s end point, which was originally proposed in Robeson County. Atlantic Coast Pipeline officials later suggested that the pipeline would be extended to South Carolina at some point.”

11-29-17 Washington Examiner. FERC adds fourth member as it faces crucial vote on coal plants. “Richard Glick was sworn in Wednesday as the newest Democratic member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, nearly restoring the key energy watchdog agency to its full complement of five members. Glick’s appointment gives the commission a two-two split between Republicans and Democrats as it awaits former energy consultant Kevin McIntyre to be sworn in as the new Republican chairman of the commission. …. Glick had served as Democratic general counsel on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before being appointed to the commission. He also served as government affairs vice president for Iberdrola, the large Spain-based multinational utility company and renewable energy firm.”

11-29-17 Blue Virginia. Can the Virginia State Water Control Board Really Be Trusted? “While the hotly contested Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines have put a considerable amount of focus on Dominion Energy, primary stakeholder in the ACP, the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) is getting its own share of attention as it gears up for making a decision on the two “natural” gas pipelines at December hearings in Richmond. One would think that because the SWCB’s function is to make independent decisions on Virginia water quality, the SWCB and Dominion wouldn’t have any connection outside of ‘independent’ decisions made by the SWCB involving Dominion projects. But upon taking a closer look at individual members of the SWCB, a stunning and disconcerting number of ties between board members and Dominion can be found.”

11-28-17 Wilson Times [NC]. Suit challenges pipeline certificates’ legality. “Property owners in Wilson and Nash counties are part of a federal lawsuit claiming Federal Energy Regulatory Commission certificates issued to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are in violation of the Natural Gas Act and the U.S. Constitution. Led by Bold Alliance, some seven groups and 95 people, mostly property owners in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, its Chairman Neil Chatterjee, Commissioners Cheryl Lafleur and Robert Powelson, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC. …. The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the certificates of necessity and convenience for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline as unlawful.”

11-28-17 Washington Post. “Campaign to elect a pipeline:” Va.’s most powerful company ran multi-front fight. “Dominion Energy was taking no chances with the fate of its proposed natural gas pipeline during this year’s election season, even though both major candidates for governor supported the $5 billion project. The state’s most powerful corporation, along with partner companies and the American Gas Association, poured resources into online groups called EnergySure and Your Energy Virginia to whip up what it called a grassroots ‘campaign to elect a pipeline.'” Dominion is apparently distressed that regulators “are being bombarded by general citizenry, by elected officials who have asked to insert themselves into the process, and this debate swirls around” – and sees people opposing the pipelines as “a fragmented group of environmentalists and landowners from some of the most remote parts of the state.” Blue Virginia’s 11-28-17 commentary on the Washington Post article is Dominion Spends “Captured” Virginia Ratepayer Money to Push Its Propaganda, Disparage Pipeline Opponents and the Media.

11-28-17 News Leader. Why Virginia should reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.  “It’s the responsibility of our elected representatives, and more importantly, Virginia’s State Water Control Board, to look at the full impact of the project. People should look closely at the fact that North Carolina leaders have rejected the ACP’s erosion-control plans. Virginia’s leaders should be doing more to adequately serve as a check on Dominion’s immense power and influence so that the ACP doesn’t threaten our health, environment, and economy.”

11-28-17 Utility Dive. Gas rush: FERC’s pipeline approvals underline persisting controversy over permitting. “The federal agency has approved 8 Bcf/d of pipeline capacity in recent months, resisting calls to expand its evaluation procedures.”

11-27-17 Blue Virginia. Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Environmental Racism, and the Appalling Silence of the Good People. “In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested as part of the Birmingham Campaign, an effort to bring national attention to systemic racism in one of America’s most segregated cities. As he sat in a jail cell, King wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which 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.’ In Virginia, we are now suffering from an ‘appalling silence’ over the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The appalling silence over Dominion’s plans comes from many who Dr. King would consider to be ‘good people.’ But the silence has become deafening, particularly with the environmental racism of the linchpin of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Dominion’s proposed compressor station in Union Hill in Buckingham County, Virginia.”  This story was picked up and published by the Huffington Post.

11-27-17 Pipeline Opponents Bring Constitutional Challenge Against FERC’s Use of Eminent Domain, Says NJ Conservation. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency charged with reviewing applications to permit natural gas pipelines, is acting unconstitutionally by not ensuring that the lands it authorizes pipeline companies to seize are being put to a public use, contends a complaint filed by the Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) and Columbia Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation). The first-of-its-kind legal challenge, filed with the U.S. District Court in Trenton against FERC, asks the court to declare that: Under its current evaluation process, FERC’s approval process for pipelines violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for improperly taking land from private parties without a public use; ERC must consider environmental impacts before granting a pipeline company a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which allows the companies to exercise eminent domain; FERC cannot accept private ‘shipping’ contracts as proof of market demand or as proof that the consumers will not suffer economic harm.” Download and read the complaint here.

11/27/17 MetroNews [WV] Pipeline developers say delays in courtroom could result in big delay for construction. “Lawyers for the Mountain Valley Pipeline say if there are delays in the federal court system, the entire project could be delayed by at least a year. The pipeline developers wrote in a recent court filing that they need access to all the property no later than this coming Feb. 1 to comply with a window for tree clearing required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ‘If MVP is unable to gain access to commence work on each respective deadline, construction of the entire MVP project may be delayed for as much as one year given that the window for tree clearing is limited to only a few months each year,’ the lawyers wrote. The Nov. 22 filing by Mountain Valley Pipeline is part of a federal lawsuit to gain eminent domain access to more than 100 properties in nine West Virginia counties.”

11-25-17 The Courier [Findlay OH]. Ohio Asks Rover Pipeline To Stop Horizontal Drilling. “The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has told the company building the massive Rover natural gas pipeline project to stop horizontal drilling after another spill of clay-based slurry. The Repository EPA Director Craig Butler on Wednesday asked Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company building the $4.2 billion project, to halt drilling after 200 gallons of slurry spilled into a river in Ashland County on Nov. 16. Butler told the company the EPA will be asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene. The state Attorney General’s Office earlier this month sued Energy Transfer claiming the company had committed numerous environmental violations in more than a dozen counties. The EPA earlier fined the company $2.3 million over previous spills. A spokesman for the project didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.”  [Horizontal drilling is the process the ACP proposes to use to go under the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen.]

11-24-17 Detroit News. Court orders halt on natural gas pipeline in Ohio. “A city facing long odds of stopping section of a $2 billion natural gas pipeline from being built there was handed a victory this week when a federal appellate court issued an emergency order that temporarily halts the start of construction. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision on Wednesday ruled that the city of Green, in northeast Ohio’s Summit County, is likely to prevail in a federal petition it filed with the court last month claiming that the state Environmental Protection Agency failed to follow its own rules when it granted NEXUS Gas Transmission a clean water certificate for the project.”

11-22-17 Power for the People VA. Sierra Club takes State Corporation Commission to court over failure to review Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal. “Sierra Club is asking the Supreme Court of Virginia to require the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to review a key deal for shipping capacity on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The SCC has thus far declined to exercise its oversight authority over this arrangement, despite a Sierra Club petition filed last May urging that Virginia’s Affiliates Act requires the Commission’s review in this case. In Sierra Club’s appeal filed yesterday by attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the law firm representing it in court, the Club argues that the SCC was wrong to reject its petition and seeks an order reversing the SCC’s decision.” [See our October 12, 2017 post, Conservation Groups Argue Dominion Conflict of Interest]

11-22-17 NC Policy Watch. Natural gas leak at Robeson County compressor station adds to anxiety over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A compressor station in the town of Prospect in Robeson County leaked natural gas for more than an hour early yesterday morning, before repair crews could stop it. That accident, although minor, underscores the safety concerns voiced by Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents. The Robesonian first reported the story [November 21, 2017]. The paper quoted Talford Dial, who lives about 400 yards from the compressor station, as saying it sounded like a “747 taking off,” even though a woods buffers his home from the site.”

11-21-17 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Gazette editorial: WV abdicates responsibility in pipeline question. “West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection has essentially admitted the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline could not be legally permitted under environmental protection laws. So instead of sending the plans back for revision and improvements until they comply, DEP just threw the rules away. This is not going to be good for anyone.”

11-21-17 WV MetroNews. Mountain Valley Pipeline developers file federal suit against Fayette County Commission. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are suing the three members of the Fayette County Commission, saying they’ve unreasonably delayed progress on the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion project. The pipeline developers dispute the commissioners’ decision last week to deny a rezoning application to build one of three compressor stations along the pipeline route. The developers filed their lawsuit Friday in federal court in Charleston against Fayette County Commissioners Matthew D. Wender, Denise Scalph and John Brenemen. They contend the federal Natural Gas Act and the Pipeline Safety Act preempt Fayette County’s zoning ordinance. They argue that approval of a certificate by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission specifically authorizes construction and operation of the compressor station. The lawsuit asks for the Fayette commissioners to be prevented from enforcing the local zoning ordinance. ‘While MVP has attempted in good faith to cooperate with the Fayette County Commission (consistent with the requirement imposed by the MVP certificate), the Fayette County Commission has now delayed the local permitting process so much that MVP’s construction schedule will be unreasonably delayed if MVP continues to seek issuance of a rezoning approval and required permits under the Fayette County zoning ordinance,’ wrote lawyers for the pipeline developers.” [In other words, “If you don’t do what we want, we will sue you!”]

11-21-17 Detroit Free Press. Massive gas line explosion leaves 18-foot crater in Orion Township. “A ruptured gas line caused an explosion and massive fire that left an 18-foot-deep crater in an area of Orion Township near the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets mall on Monday night, authorities say. A fire was reported shortly after 9:52 p.m., when Consumers Energy noticed a drop in pressure on its gas system, the energy company said in a news release. …. The flames could be seen from downtown Detroit, more than 30 miles away. …. Consumers Energy said that the cause of the eruption and fire is under investigation. What officials do know is that a 22-inch diameter steel transmission line ruptured, and that the fire burned itself out after the flow of gas was cut off on either end of a seven-mile section of the transmission line.The gas was shut off by 11:10 p.m. and the fire was out sometime after midnight or 1 a.m., Consumers Energy spokesperson Roger Morgenstern said.”  [This was a 22″ line with shut off valves 7 miles apart. What happens when it’s a 42″ Pipeline with shut off valves 20 miles apart?]

11–20-2017 Washington Post. Letter to Editor: Va. officials are risking a potential water crisis. “[T]he Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) may soon recommend that the Water Control Board approve water-quality certifications for them. This would be a rash and reckless decision that would jeopardize our rivers and streams and our drinking water. …. Instead of DEQ fining pipeline companies for violations and pocketing the proceeds, it should match the amount and give it to the communities that suffer the consequences of water pollution. Furthermore, DEQ should guarantee clean drinking water for everyone within two miles of these pipelines in karst areas so that if their water is destroyed by pipeline construction or operation, DEQ will supply them with clean water and pay for the loss of property value from an artificial, and suspect, water system. DEQ should put its money where its mouth is.”

11-20-17. Roanoke Star. Nearly 1,000 Wintergreen Property Owners To Sue Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Friends of Wintergreen announced today that nearly 1,000 Wintergreen property owners plan to individually sue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for damages to their property if the pipeline company seizes land used by the Wintergreen community. These actions follow a rare split-decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the 600-mile, 42-inch compressed natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and grant the private pipeline company the power to use eminent domain to seize private land, including 7-acres of common land at Wintergreen. ‘By approving the ACP, FERC effectively guarantees a 14% profit (or over $200 million a year) to the Dominion-managed pipeline company, a return that comes at the expense of many unwilling, uncompensated or under-compensated Virginia landowners. In the case of Wintergreen property owners, the land to be seized by the pipeline will come with no compensation to individual property owners, but significant inconvenience and damage to their property values,’ said Jonathan Ansell, Chairman of Friends of Wintergreen, Inc.”  See the full press release from Friends of Wintergreen here.  CBS19 coverage is here.

11-20-17 New York Times. Nebraska Regulators Approve Alternative Route for Keystone XL Pipeline. “Nebraska regulators on Monday allowed the Keystone XL oil pipeline to clear its final major hurdle, granting a victory to President Trump and Republicans who have for years pressed for the project. But the pipeline company will not be allowed to build along its preferred route, the regulators announced, opening up new questions about how the project will proceed.”

11-18-17 [Buckhannon WV] Record Delta. Pipeline starting April 1. It begins, “Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is expected to begin on April 1, 2018, and that is not an April Fool’s joke. Mike Cozad, a third-party contractor for ACP, came to the Upshur County Commission’s weekly meeting Thursday to provide commissioners with a timeline and update on the building of the 42-inch, 600-mile natural gas pipeline that will extend from Harrison County, West Virginia to Robeson County, North Carolina. …. In the latter part of March, you’ll see a whole lot of people coming in here and getting set up with the anticipated start date (of construction) 1 April 2018. Prior to that, we will be dropping trees, but that’s a much smaller impact – they’re just going out, felling the trees and moving on. …. Each construction spread will be 400 to 600 people, depending on the contractor.” But later in the meeting, after comments by April Pierson-Keating, a member of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, Cozad agreed that most benefits would be short term, saying, “The bigger impact is going to be short term, of course, while construction is going on. There will still be some long-term jobs, but she’s correct that the number’s probably not that much.”

11-18-17 News and Observer [Charlotte NC]. Editorial: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will slow conversion to more renewable energy. “The pipeline will not be a lifeline for eastern North Carolina. It will instead delay Duke from more urgently converting to renewable sources. This is not a theoretical issue. Eastern North Carolina has felt the flooding from hurricanes intensified by global warming, and it is feeling the encroachment of rising sea levels. What’s in eastern North Carolina’s best interest with regard to energy sources is the same as what’s in the world’s best interest. Build more wind turbines and solar arrays and encourage the rapidly improving battery technology for storing solar power. Those steps – not running a 50-foot wide swath through eastern North Carolina for the pipeline – represent the best path for the state’s energy future.”

11-18-17 News-Virginian. Letter to Editor from Bill Limpert: FERC Editorial way off base. “Back in October, following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s certification of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial in which citizens and groups who were opposed to the pipelines were ridiculed. The editorial stated that the FERC decisions were sound, and cited the length of the documents as proof of their validity. It also stated that opponents were hysterical, and did not base their conclusions about the projects on fact. After seeing all of the work and scholarly research that so many have done to prove beyond any doubt that these projects are not in the public need, I saw red. I sent the following letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch rebutting the editorial. They chose not to print it. Dominion runs Virginia and, apparently, the Richmond Times-Dispatch. They don’t run The News Virginian, however. My rebuttal follows: I recently read your editorial of October 16th, in which citizens opposed to FERC’s approval of the ACP and MVP were summarily derided. I take great exception with this ignorant and ugly attack. …. The editorial stated that our opposition was based on hysteria, not fact. Quite the contrary. Those opposed to this project bring more expertise to this argument than the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dominion, or FERC. Our unpaid volunteers are fighting against corporate seizure of our property and our rights, and as such, we have the moral high ground as well.”

11-17-17 Utility Dive. FERC rejects New York petition for rehearing over Millennium pipeline project, setting up court battle. “Federal regulators yesterday stuck to their guns, rejecting a petition for rehearing filed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over the approval of the 8-mile Valley Lateral Pipeline that would move shale gas from the existing Millennium Pipeline to the 680 MW Valley Energy Center in Orange County, N.Y. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week denied a request for a stay by the DEP to block construction. Next month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear arguments over the lateral. Earlier this month, the court approved a temporary stay of construction. In an unrelated proceeding, North Carolina regulators have asked FERC to reconsider the return on equity it granted to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in its October approval.”

11-17-17 Richond Times-Dispatch. U.S. Forest Service will allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline through two national forests. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline won another key approval Friday when the U.S. Forest Service said it would permit the Dominion Energy-led project to be built through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. …. But David Sligh, an environmental attorney, former Virginia Department of Environmental Quality engineer, conservation director for Wild Virginia and an investigator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, called the Forest Service decision disappointing. ‘You have to be disappointed anytime an agency essentially betrays their duty, and that’s what they’ve done,’ Sligh said. ‘It’s certainly not a sound decision, and it certainly doesn’t meet their legal mandates.'”

11-17-17 NBC29. US Forest Service Allowing Atlantic Coast Pipeline Construction. “The federal government will allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to run through national forests in Virginia and West Virginia. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service announced its decision Friday, November 17. Twenty-one miles of the pipeline route will cross national forest system lands in the George Washington and Monongahela national forests. Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC expects tree removal to start later in the month. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) responded soon after in a statement that strongly opposes the USDA Forest Service’s decision. The center plans to challenge both forest service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of the project.” Web coverage includes the release from the Forest Service, as well as releases from SELC and Dominion.

11-16-17 Charlotte Observer. Atlantic Coast Pipeline set to seize private property for 600-mile project. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is set to start seizing private property in North Carolina early next year to build its proposed 600-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina. The energy consortium, which includes Charlotte-based Duke Energy, said this week that about 20 percent of 2,900 landowners whose properties lie in the path of the proposed underground pipeline have not signed voluntary agreements to allow their land to be used for the project, including an estimated 200 property owners in eight North Carolina counties. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline can begin legal condemnation proceedings against holdout property owners as soon as it has received all state and federal permits.”

11-16-17 Back-to-back bad hearings for Dominion this week. “The last two days saw two hearings about different Dominion Energy gas infrastructure projects in Southern Maryland. Tuesday night, there was a zoning permit for a compressor station Dominion wants to build near Accokeek, and Wednesday, there was a hearing to change Dominion’s largest state-level permit for its export terminal being built at Cove Point in a way that would allow more pollution into the surrounding community. Dominion representatives left both hearings with grumpy faces.”

11-16-17 DeSmog. Did Northam’s Office Try to Hide the Dominion Executives and Lobbyists Sitting on His Transition Team? “Virginia’s Democratic governor-elect, Ralph Northam, announced his transition committee this week. In a press release, his office listed 85 individuals who will comprise the ‘bipartisan’ committee, representing Virginians ‘from across the Commonwealth who will join him over the course of the next two months to lay the groundwork for a successful administration.’ But there is something odd about the list of people and their affiliations, or lack thereof. Dominion Energy — the state’s most powerful corporate player who will need certifications from the Northam administration for its pivotal Atlantic Coast pipeline — doesn’t appear once on the list. …. Yet a closer look at the people on the transition team reveals that some have been presented in a selective way that fails to mention their various affiliations with Dominion.”

11-16-17 Washington Post. Keystone pipeline spills 210,000 gallons of oil on eve of permitting decision for TransCanada. “The Keystone pipeline running from Canada across the Great Plains leaked Thursday morning, spilling about 5,000 barrels of oil — or 210,000 gallons — southeast of the small town of Amherst in northeast South Dakota. The spill comes just days before a crucial decision next Monday by the Public Service Commission in Nebraska over whether to grant a permit for a new, long-delayed sister pipeline called Keystone XL, which has been mired in controversy for several years. Both are owned by Calgary-based TransCanada. The spill on the first Keystone pipeline is the latest in a series of leaks that critics of the new pipeline say shows that TransCanada should not receive another permit.”

11-16-17 Charleston Gazette.  Judge taps on brakes in Mountain Valley Pipeline land easement case. “A federal judge on Thursday tapped on the brakes — at least for now — in Mountain Valley Pipeline’s effort to fast-track one of two lawsuits against hundreds of landowners seeking to use eminent domain to gain easements for construction of its more than 300-mile natural gas project across West Virginia and Virginia. U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver indicated that he would not be granting a request from MVP lawyers that all of the landowners in the company’s West Virginia lawsuit be forced to respond by Dec. 4 to the company’s motions for summary judgment to force unwilling landowners to allow surveys of their property and to ‘immediate access and possession’ of those properties to begin construction of the pipeline. ‘There is no prospect that the court is going to require an answer by December 4 to those motions,’ Copenhaver said during a morning status conference he held in open court in Charleston. Copenhaver also indicated that he is going to press MVP attorneys to personally serve all of the landowners with the lawsuits against them, and demand detailed explanations if the company ultimately says it couldn’t find all of the owners and wanted to rely on a public notice in the newspaper instead. ‘The court wants these people located,’ Copenhaver said. ‘The court is expecting due process.’

11-15-17 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Suit seeks to stop FERC from blocking pipeline appeals. “A new legal action against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeks to stop the agency from using a procedural maneuver to keep challenges of its approval of new natural gas pipelines from having their day in court. Attorneys for the Sierra Club filed their emergency petition this week with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a case about NEXUS, a 257-mile pipeline from Columbiana County, Ohio, to Ypsilanti, Michigan. But the underlying legal issues focus on procedures that are also likely to play out in the months to come in separate challenges to FERC approvals for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia. Essentially, the petition argues that the FERC prevents federal appeals courts from hearing legal challenges to its pipeline approvals by delaying decisions on requests that it reconsider those approvals — required before court appeals can be filed — and then allowing pipeline construction to begin before it decides those rehearing requests.”

11-15-17 Triangle Business Journal. N.C. Utilities Commission asks feds for a ‘rehearing’ on ACP. “A week after state regulators asked Duke Energy and Dominion Energy to come up with a better erosion plan for its 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, another North Carolina agency has lobbed criticism at the project. This time it’s the N.C. Utilities Commission, which has filed a request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission grant a ‘rehearing’ on the $5 billion pipeline. NCUC is asking the feds to reconsider the certificate it granted the project in October – an issuance celebrated by ACP as its most significant regulatory milestone yet. Bill Gilmore, a deputy director with NCUC, says his group continues to support the project as a whole. NCUC didn’t ask for any kind of stay and doesn’t ‘anticipate’ any delays for ACP stemming from the rehearing request, he says. ‘It would be wonderful to have a competing pipeline,’ he reiterates, noting that Transco has dominated as the state’s primary interstate for more than six decades. What NCUC takes issue with, however, is ACP’s proposed recourse rates, which factor into what ACP could charge for the natural gas it wants to pipe in from Virginia. ACP is calculating its recourse rates based on a 14 percent return on equity estimate, a figure NCUC calls ‘overstated’ in its filing to the feds. Since ACP is a new entity, it’s basing that rate on what Transco uses for its own calculation – an estimate Gilmore also calls ‘ridiculous’ and outdated.”

11-15-17 Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk postpones vote on Atlantic Coast Pipeline easements.  “The Norfolk City Council postponed a vote on whether to grant easements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two drinking water reservoirs, the only ones in the project’s path. The Virginian-Pilot reports the council was scheduled to consider the issue Tuesday night but rescheduled the vote for Dec. 19.” [Attendees at the meeting say Mothers Out Front and a local group called Motherboard 757 were in attendance and spoke against the city granting the easement. There were some industry reps in the room but they were outnumbered by people speaking in opposition to the easement.] TV coverage here.

11-14-17 AG-Web. Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss. Farmers in Illinois, Georgia, and Iowa talk about their personal experiences with pipelines built across their land. “Pipelines and agriculture are a contentious pair, with a growing number of farmers raising concerns over soil health, drainage issues, and responses from oil and gas companies. ‘Pipelines promise the world and money. Sure, I love energy efficiency, but I’m a farmer and I don’t want this pipeline headache on my property. If you can keep a pipeline from coming through your property, then do it,’ Richter says. ‘If they need to get through your land, they’ll tickle your ear. But once the line is installed, they don’t come back to the table to fix problems. Even if you’ve got it in writing, you’ll still have to go to the legal system for enforcement and spend thousands of dollars,’ Dowdy adds. ‘The only leverage you’ve got is prior to the pipeline.’ ‘You’ve got to get advice from somebody with soil experience, not dirt experience. Don’t let the company put time limits on corrective action and don’t sign off on anything,’ Kelley concludes. ‘Remember, farmers look down and see soil, but the pipeline company just sees dirt.'”

11-14-17 Nelson County Times. Nelson group files request with FERC to halt pipeline. “In an effort to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Friends of Nelson filed a request for rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday on the commission’s recent decision to issue a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the natural gas project. ‘We request that the Certificate Order and deficient final environmental impact statement (FEIS) be withdrawn and the environmental analysis and public convenience and necessity analysis be redone in a manner that complies with FERC’s obligations pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act,’ the 74-page filing says.”

11-14-17 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. Atlantic Coast Pipeline would hurt black residents most, NAACP says. “Building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through low-income Eastern North Carolina counties would force people of color to bear more than their share of the risks posed by the nation’s power infrastructure, the NAACP said in a report released Tuesday. “African American and other environmental justice communities face heavy burdens because of the millions of pounds of hazardous emissions released by the oil and gas industry each year,” said the report, titled “Fumes Across the Fence Line.”

11-14-17 Blue Virginia. 10 Actions to Oppose Dominion Energy’s Stranglehold on VA Politics. “After last Tuesday’s incredible results, it should be clear that we’re experiencing a democratic moment of transformation. The power dynamics in Virginia are in flux; now’s the time for everyday citizens to go all in, to insist that our representatives put our interests above those of corporate donors. Over the next several months, this struggle can and should be focused on combating the political influence of Dominion Energy in particular. The Richmond-Times Dispatch recently published an eight-article series tracing the origins and transformation of Dominion’s political power. This series, in part, details Dominion’s role as Virginia’s top corporate contributor. Yet in the aftermath of last Tuesday – since 13 candidates won who have pledged never to accept Dominion contributions – we have the momentum. Virginians who’ve had enough of Dominion’s stranglehold over our politics should act now, so I’ve put together a set of short-term actions below.” The article goes on to list the 10 actions citizens should take.  See also our main page post listing the actions.

11-14-17 Roanoke Times. Critics of pipeline approval seek new hearing on FERC decision. “One month after it approved the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, a federal agency is being asked to think twice by a chorus of critics. Some 22 petitioners — including landowners whose property the pipeline would dissect, counties it would cross and conservation groups who say it would leave a trail of environmental damage — filed documents Monday asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order a rehearing of its Oct. 13 decision. The requests outline a variety of grounds on which opponents argue that FERC erred when it granted a certificate allowing a 42-inch diameter, 303-mile buried pipeline that would channel natural gas at high pressure through the two Virginias. While some opponents concede that FERC is unlikely to reverse itself, the petitions are a necessary step toward a possible legal challenge that would seek a delay in construction.”

11-13-17 Wichita Eagle. Norfolk leaders voting on Atlantic Coast Pipeline easements. “The Norfolk City Council is set to decide whether to grant easements for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two drinking water reservoirs, the only ones in its path. The Virginian-Pilot reports the council will consider the issue Tuesday [November 14, 2017]. Senior city staffers and Dominion Energy, the 600-mile (965-kilometer) natural gas pipeline’s lead partner, say they’re confident it can be safely routed under the reservoirs. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and other environmental advocates are asking the council to put a hold on the request.”

11-13-17 Fredricksburg Today. Richmond County bans fracking. “Richmond County is the first community to ban fracking in the Rappahannock River watershed, a move which environmental advocates are calling a big win for water quality on the Northern Neck. After several months of research and deliberations, the Richmond County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Nov. 9 to ban gas drilling and fracking in their jurisdictional boundaries. The vote sends a strong message that the communities of Richmond County and the Northern Neck are invested in protecting their land and water from industrial activities that pose a clear risk to clean water and healthy communities.”

11-13-17 StateImpact-Pennsylvania. New gas pipeline capacity sharply exceeds consumption, report says. “Charges that the U.S. pipeline industry is building far more natural gas pipelines than it needs are being fueled by a new report showing that the capacity of lines approved by federal regulators over the last two decades was more than twice the amount of gas actually consumed daily in 2016. The report by the independent Analysis Group for the Natural Resources Defense Council said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved more than 180 billion cubic feet a day (bcf/d) of new pipeline capacity since 1999, when it began its current policy on approving interstate pipelines. The new capacity compares with the average daily consumption of only 75.11 bcf/d last year, the report said. Even during the Polar Vortex of 2013/14 when exceptionally cold temperatures in the Northeast boosted the need for heating fuel, consumption of 137 bcf/d was still significantly lower than the combined capacity additions, the report said, citing data from the federal Energy Information Administration.”

11-13-17 DeSmog. Northam’s Transition Team Leader Has Ties to Companies Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Virginia’s governor-elect, Ralph Northam, wasted no time in organizing a transition team. A day after his November 7th victory, Northam announced that Marianne Radcliff, a former state transportation official with rich experience in local government and politics, will lead his transition team. Over the past two decades, Radcliff has established herself as a prominent lobbyist in the state’s capital. She is currently vice president of the Richmond-based lobbying firm Kemper Consulting. Previously she worked as a lobbyist for Williams Mullen. DeSmog has found that Radcliff and Kemper Consulting have ties to companies behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a highly controversial project that loomed large in the gubernatorial race. These include links to Dominion – the energy giant and historically dominant corporate player in Virginian politics.”

11-13-17 The Record Delta [WV]. Water board agrees to gas pipeline deal. “The Buckhannon [WV] Water Board on Thursday approved a preliminary agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline that states the company will pay nearly $2 million to enhance the city’s water system. According to a copy of the agreement, ACP will pay for $1,933,085 worth of improvements to the city’s water system — improvements that natural gas company officials say are necessary to perform hydrostatic testing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. City water board employees will perform the labor required to make the improvements.”

11-13-17 MetroNews [WV]. Waiver aside, WV regulators express confidence in pipeline oversight. “West Virginia environmental regulators drew scrutiny this month by waiving the state’s option to tailor its own requirements within a federal permit for the enormous and controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. Trying to better explain their rationale, the state’s regulators say they weren’t giving up their say-so but instead were opting for a different form of oversight. Observers with environmental groups have said they need to do more homework to determine if what the Division of Environmental Protection is saying holds water. Others contend DEP’s decision is really a way to deflect criticism while capitulating to the pipeline developers.”

11-12-17 Huffington Post. McAuliffe’s Folly: The Atlantic “Trump” Pipeline. “Is outgoing Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe a climate change denier? Just asking that question is bound to offend the governor and some of his supporters. … Never mind that close observers have called McAuliffe’s record on climate change ‘abysmal’ and ‘marred by contradictions and empty rhetoric.'”  See also our main page post on this news story.

11-11-17 Rocky Mount Telegram [NC]. Pipeline critics push against plan. “A local group fighting installment of an interstate natural gas pipeline through Nash County is urging people to voice their opposition at a public hearing next week while utility representatives say the project is on track despite questions from state regulators. The U.S. Division of Air Quality is holding a public hearing Wednesday in Garysburg, the largest town in nearby Northampton County, where builders are planning a compressor station near Pleasant Hill for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Compressor stations can cause dangerous emissions of volatile organic compounds, said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina. The pipeline disproportionately targets minority and low-income rural communities, according to advocates at a recent people’s tribunal. Nash Stop the Pipeline and other environmental and social justice groups have been fighting a protracted battle against the pipeline for years.”

11-10-17 Blue Virginia. Virginia Governor-Elect Ralph Northam Should Reject Dominion Money for Inaugural Committee. “In the coming weeks, Dominion Energy will almost certainly try to deliver a $50,000 check to Governor-elect Northam for his inaugural committee. In Virginia politics this is routine–since 1998 Dominion has contributed over $225,000 to gubernatorial inaugural committees. No other corporation has donated more than Dominion to these committees according to records kept by the Virginia Public Access Project. But this might be the first year a Governor-elect considers whether it’s politically acceptable to cash Dominion’s check. A new class of elected officials will enter office in January having pledged not to accept Dominion contributions as a result of a pledge circulated by Activate Virginia. For many political observers, this is a major development in Virginia politics….”

11-10-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Thirteen candidates who refused Dominion money win seats in General Assembly. “Thirteen candidates who signed a pledge refusing to accept campaign cash from Virginia’s two big utilities won seats in the House of Delegates Tuesday. Seven of those support prohibiting Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power from making political donations. The pledge, signed by nearly 60 mostly Democratic House of Delegates candidates, made headlines earlier this year. And in the traditionally business-friendly General Assembly, where no corporate concern has held more sway of late than Dominion, the state’s largest utility, an influx of lawmakers who see the company’s clout as excessive could augur a shift in debate on major issues during the legislative session next year.”

11-9-17 Oil Change International. Burning the Gas ‘Bridge Fuel’ Myth. “This analysis provides five clear reasons why fossil gas is not a ‘bridge fuel.’ It shows that even with zero methane leakage, gas is not a climate change solution. The idea of fossil gas as a ‘bridge’ from coal to renewables has been strongly promoted by the industry over recent years, and echoed also by government leaders including former U.S. President Barack Obama and EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. In this briefing we show that even in the hypothetical case of zero methane leakage, fossil gas cannot be a bridge fuel. This is not to say that the methane leakage issue is unimportant or that reducing leakage is not essential. However, it is to demonstrate that methane leakage is not the sole determinant of whether fossil gas causes net harm to the climate. To meet climate goals, fossil gas production and consumption must, like that of other fossil fuels, be phased out, and reducing methane leakage does not alter that fact.”

11-9-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Opinion: As McAuliffe heads to Germany, his climate legacy is marred by a pipeline promise. After Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, “Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined 14 U.S. states and Puerto Rico in forming the U.S. Climate Alliance, with the commitment to ‘reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.’ This week, McAuliffe will travel to the U.N. Climate Negotiations in Germany as part of a delegation of U.S. elected officials. McAuliffe’s involvement in this delegation makes for a great headline. But the trouble for the Virginia governor is that his climate legacy is marred by contradictions and empty rhetoric. One of the most glaring examples of this: Despite mounting opposition from Virginians, he continues to support two fracked gas pipelines that would worsen climate change — the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.”

11-8-17 Blue Virginia. Thirteen “Dominion $ Deniers” to Serve in the State Legislature, Countering Climate Deniers. “In a big win for anti-corruption and clean energy advocates, 13 elected House of Delegates members have pledged not to accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy or Appalachian Power. (Dominion has blocked clean energy progress for years by funding campaigns of candidates in both parties.) Tom Perriello made the pledge famous last summer when he signed it during his campaign for governor. Around that time, 13 House of Delegates candidates who have now been elected—or one-quarter of next session’s Democratic delegation—also signed the pledge, according to Activate Virginia, the pledge tracker.”

11-8-17 DeSmog. How Dominion Energy, Fracked Gas Giant, Lost Big in Virginia Election. “Virginia’s top corporate political contributor, Dominion Energy, had a rough night last night, as at least 14 candidates who pledged not to accept money from the monopoly utility won seats in a surprise wave election for Democrats. Depending on official counts that may take days or weeks, Democrats will likely tie Republicans with a 50-50 split in Virginia’s House of Delegates, leading to a share of power, though they may still control the chamber outright depending on the results of recounts. Democrats won all three statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In addition to the 13 Delegate candidates who pledged not to accept money from Dominion, newly elected Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax ran a campaign that opposed Dominion’s fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and refused contributions from the monopoly utility. 52 Democratic and Independent nominees who advanced to the general election signed the pledge, organiz

11-8-17 Augusta Free Press. Findings from Charlottesville People’s Tribunal on pipelines. “Low-income rural communities – particularly those with significant African-American, Native-American, and Appalachian populations – will bear disproportionately the environmental, health, and economic costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, according to testimony at a People’s Tribunal recently held in Charlottesville. … Based on the relevance of testimony to six principal human rights signed by the U.S. in agreements to protect its people, the environmental justice experts presiding as judges over the Charlottesville tribunal ‘strongly recommend that the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina and their environmental agencies 1) suspend all actions [to proceed with the ACP and MVP pipelines]; 2) immediately cease and desist eminent domain actions; and 3) thoroughly investigate the environmental, cultural, and health impacts [of the pipelines and infrastructure] with real voice and real vote from the community.’ The judges also strongly recommended that the United Nations Human Rights Council put the United States on trial for crimes against human – as the U.S. has recommended for other countries in violation of their agreements.”

11-7-17 Huntington Herald-Dispatch. Editorial: DEP’s hands-off stance on pipeline raises valid concerns. “The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s actions – or inactions – again are raising questions about its commitment to doing a thorough job of protecting the state’s environment. … Regardless of how one feels about the [MVP] project itself, the critics do have a point when they condemn the agency as being derelict in its duty in this case. After all, it conceded first that it didn’t do a thorough job in evaluating the project, then decided it wasn’t going to do the job at all.”

11-7-17 Triangle Business Journal. Regulators issue ‘Letter of Disapproval’ for Atlantic Coast Pipeline; Not a rejection, ACP says. “The utilities behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have hit another potential delay with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. ACP spokesman Aaron Ruby confirmed Tuesday that Dominion Energy and Duke Energy received two more information requests from NCDEQ, this time related to the project’s erosion and sedimentation control permit. … Calling the request ‘normal procedure,’ and ‘typical for projects of this size,’ Ruby wrote that the firms are ‘confident’ they can provide the additional information soon.”

11-7-17 Lancaster Online.  Work stops on Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lancaster County, builder seeks court clarification.  “Construction has stopped along the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline’s 37-mile route in Lancaster County amid a confusing stay order issued by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Monday. A temporary stay was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in response to an emergency motion filed Oct. 30 by environmental groups opposing the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. The emergency motion asks that work cease until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does a comprehensive environmental review on the project’s short- and long-term impacts, as well as whether there is a public need for the pipeline.”  UPDATE on 11-9-17:  On November 8, the Court denied the motion for emergency stay and dissolved the administrative stay issued earlier in the week.  See Atlantic Sunrise pipeline build resumes after court lifts work-stoppage order and Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline construction to resume: ruling

11-6-17 Utility Dive. Massachusetts lawmakers press for law banning ‘pipeline tax.’  “Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a pair of bills that would strengthen gas project reviews and make it explicitly illegal to charge electric ratepayers to develop gas infrastructure. Senate Bill 1855 says the DPU ‘shall not approve any contract for the purchase of gas, gas pipeline capacity or liquefied gas storage where any contract costs could be recoverable from the ratepayers, if such contract requires any construction or expansion of interstate gas infrastructure.’ ‘In paying a surcharge on their utility bills to build the pipeline, ratepayers are taking away the risk of the electric company’s business decision to build the pipeline whether it is profitable or not,’ the lawmaker letter, reportedly signed by 125 legislators, reads. ‘This shields the electric companies from risk and subsidizes the corporate bottom line.'”

11-6-17 ThinkProgress. Environmentalists just gained a new enemy in the fight against natural gas pipelines – Industry is intensifying its campaign against landowners and environmentalists. “The electric utility sector’s top lobbying group is teaming up with fossil fuel trade associations as part of an effort to intensify the industry’s campaign against citizen and environmental groups opposed to fracking and new natural gas pipelines. … From Keystone XL to Dakota Access to ongoing efforts to curtail oil and gas drilling, anti-fossil fuel activists caught the attention of energy companies and their representatives in Washington years ago. Aside from only a small number of victories, however, the activists have largely been unable to stop pipelines or slow down fracking. And yet the gas industry isn’t taking any chances; it wants to ensure its winning percentage remains strong. EEI brings to the table a budget of $90 million and a strong lobbying network in Washington and state capitals that can be used to help squelch fossil fuel resistance. … Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst at Oil Change International, an anti-fossil fuel research and advocacy group, sees EEI’s decision to link with the oil and gas trade groups as an effort to ‘offload their risks and their costs onto the consumer.’ … ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a classic case where the three utilities that are developing it also own the three utilities that are the primary customers for the pipeline capacity,’ Stockman said. ‘So, they sign these 20-year agreements with themselves or with their subsidiaries and the cost of that long 20-year agreement is being passed along to the ratepayer.'”

11-4-17 Charleston Gazette-Mail. DEP pipeline decision at odds with WV’s push against federal overreach. “or years, West Virginia political leaders and regulators have complained about overreach by the federal government. State agencies should be the ones who make decisions about how to best protect the environment within their borders, West Virginia leaders, including Gov. Jim Justice, have argued. But last week, the Justice administration gave up its broad authority under state and federal water pollution rules to approve, reject or require changes in the proposal to build the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline to carry natural gas from Wetzel County into Virginia. Legal experts say such a move is surprising, given the state’s strong public stance about what level of government should make environmental decisions and in the context of a Clean Water Act provision — Section 401 — aimed to ensure states could be the ones to make those determinations.”

11-3-17 River Reporter [NY]. Pipeline construction halted – Federal court steps in. “A federal appeals court has stepped into the ongoing battle between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The US Court of Appeal, Second Circuit on November 2 issued an emergency stay FERc’s “Notice to Proceed with Construction.” FERC had issued the notice to Millennium Pipeline to allow the company to begin construction on the 7.8 mile Valley Lateral Pipeline, which is intended to carry gas from the Millennium Pipeline to the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) power plant in Wawayanda. The stay halts construction of the pipeline, at least temporarily, until the case is heard in court. The issue is whether DEC acted properly when it denied a water quality certificate to Millennium because the environmental review of the pipeline did not include a review of the impact the construction of the pipeline would have on climate. FERC declared that DEC waited too long to act on the permit application and therefore had forfeited the right to deny the permit. The argument from the DEC was that the one-year clock on the permit application began when the DEC determined it had a completed application, not when Millennium began the process of applying. DEC applied to FERC for a rehearing on the matter, but instead of granting that, a FERC official issued the Notice to Proceed, which prompted DEC to take the matter to court. Activists and environmentalists have been fighting both the power plant and the pipeline and considered the stay to be a victory.”

11-2-17 Charleston Gazette-Mail. MVP developers suing hundreds of WV, Virginia landowners for easements. “As the state Department of Environmental Protection paves the way for the project, developers of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline are suing hundreds of landowners in West Virginia and Virginia to gain easements through eminent domain rights granted to MVP by a federal regulatory approval. MVP lawyers have filed complaints in U.S. District Court in Charleston and Roanoke to obtain through condemnation the rights of way for the 300-mile natural gas pipeline from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The Virginia complaint lists more than 300 separate pieces of property — with the property descriptions taking up 192 pages of a 196-page complaint — and the West Virginia filing lists more than 140 separate property parcels. ‘Condemnation is necessary because MVP has been unable to negotiate mutually agreeable easement agreements with the landowners,’ the MVP lawyers said in both of their complaints.”

11-2-17 Washington Examiner. Senate approves two Trump FERC nominees. “The Senate on Thursday afternoon approved the nominations of Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Their approvals to the commission, by voice vote, give FERC its full slate of five members for the first time in two years. It comes at a crucial time for the board, which is considering a controversial proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to create new rules subsidizing coal and nuclear plants to value the ‘reliability and resiliency’ they offer the electric grid. McIntyre, a Republican former energy industry adviser, will take over as chairman from Neil Chatterjee. Chatterjee, a former staffer of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was also nominated by Trump and has served as chairman in a temporary capacity. He will remain on the board. Glick was a Democratic attorney for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

11-2-17 WSLS10 News. Montgomery County asks FERC for rehearing on Mountain Valley pipeline, Last week, Roanoke County requested a rehearing from FERC. “Montgomery County is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. At a meeting this week, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to petition FERC for a rehearing on the authorization of the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Board members say they are concerned that FERC has not fully addressed the potential dangers the construction of the pipeline might have on the environment and the potential negative impact on citizens’ quality of life. ‘We don’t believe that this pipeline is in the best interest of the citizens in Montgomery County. In addition to that, this company doesn’t have any experience building this size pipeline through karst terrain,’ said Chris Tuck, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. Roanoke County has also asked FERC to reconsider its approval of the pipeline.”

11-2-17 The Breeze [JMU]. Community members protest approved pipelines. “Local Rockingham County and Harrisonburg community members stand in solidarity with the pipeline fighters across the commonwealth in the anti-pipeline group called Rockingham Alliance for the Protection and Transformation of Our Resources and Society. The emergence of this organization happened a year ago when a number of members became unified through common-interest meetings and the indigenous movement to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. The RAPTORS assemble to formulate strategies, educate the public and organize trips to spread awareness about the effects pipelines can have on the land and the community.”

11-1-17 Roanoke Times. W.Va. agency waives water quality certification for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Derek Teaney, an environmental lawyer based in West Virginia, used words like ‘stunning,’ ‘egregious’ and ‘outrageous’ to describe a decision by that state’s environmental agency related to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. On Wednesday, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced the state has waived the requirement that the controversial pipeline project obtain Clean Water Act 401 water quality certification in West Virginia. ‘This is an outrageous and unprecedented dereliction of duty by DEP,’ said Teaney, a senior attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates. ‘After assuring a federal court that it was committed to reconsidering whether the MVP would degrade the hundreds of streams it would impact, DEP has thrown up its hands and admitted that it is not up to the task of protecting West Virginia’s environment,’ he said. The department also announced it has restored a previously awarded stormwater permit it had suspended in September ‘to properly respond to all public comments received.’ The agency said provisions and conditions associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide 12 permitting process, which will review the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s stream crossings, along with requirements of the stormwater permit, ‘will allow for better enforcement capabilities and enhanced protections for the state’s waters.'”

11-1-17 WDTV5.  Environmental organizations outraged at WVDEP decision.  “Multiple organizations released statements together Wednesday against the decision by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announcement to waive the individual 401 Certification of the federal permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline – a decision that the organizations say put the health of West Virginians at risk.”

11-1-17 Rocky Mount Telegram. Pipeline builders to alter plans. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline builders say they will modify plans for crossing waterways based on state requests, while opponents held a recent people’s tribunal condemning the entire project. … Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby said the pipeline builders will make the modifications requested by the agency in short order so it can complete the approval process in a timely manner. ‘We have every reason to believe the project remains on track, and we’re confident we’ll receive final approval in time to begin construction by the end of the year,’ Ruby said. At about the same time North Carolina environmental officials asked for changes, a panel of human rights advocates and environmental experts hosted a people’s tribunal Saturday in Virginia to address concerns over environmental injustice and racism related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Nearly 50 people spoke out about negative impacts of the pipeline at the meeting in Charlottesville.

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

October 2017

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March 2017

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