In the News

March 2020

3-26-20 E&E Energywire. Is pipeline construction ‘essential’ in a pandemic?   “In Virginia and West Virginia, construction is suspended on the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) due to legal challenges by environmental groups (Energywire, Oct. 17, 2019). But the developer, a joint venture led by EQT Corp., says shutdown orders allow work to continue, and it is focusing on maintaining erosion and sediment control measures. That angers Elizabeth Struthers Malbon of Blacksburg, Va., who complained to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the developer is continuing to bring in temporary workers. ‘MVP and FERC have no right to ignore the public danger to citizens who live in the vicinity’ of the pipeline, she said in a comment posted on the FERC docket this week. A spokeswoman for the pipeline did not respond to a request for comment.”

3-25-20 Why a SCOTUS Case Over the Atlantic Pipeline Project Could Have Big Implications. “While the case currently before the Supreme Court is a multifaceted dispute, it primarily centers on the intersection of two federal statutes: the Mineral Leasing Act and the National Trails System Act. The Mineral Leasing Act gives the Forest Service, a unit of the Department of Agriculture, authority to grant rights-of-way for natural gas pipelines through all federal lands, ‘except lands in the National Park System.’ That language is pretty clear. The debate before the court, however, hinges on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of whether or not the Appalachian Trail is considered a unit of the National Park System in the context of the Mineral Leasing Act. The National Trails System Act gives the National Park Service authority to administer the Appalachian Trail; and the National Park Service Organic Act was amended in 1970 to incorporate ‘any area of land and water administered by’ the National Park Service into the National Park System. So, is the Appalachian Trail part of the National Park System?”

3-25-20 Blue Virginia. Why on Earth Is Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction Considered “Essential Infrastructure” During COVID-19 Crisis? “[I]t’s really galling, given that so many other businesses – including ones that are net positives to society – have had to shut down, while a business focused on building more of what we know is harming the environment, contributing to pollution and the climate crisis, etc., gets an exemption because it’s supposedly ‘essential.’ Other than there being a lot of money tied up in the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, what on earth is ‘essential’ about building more dirty, destructive, likely-to-be-economically-‘stranded’-in-a-few-years, fracked-gas distribution capacity?” See also the petition to governors of Virginia and West Virginia asking them to add transient pipeline construction workers from across the country to the non-essential stay-at-home list, until after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

3-25-20 Earth Justice. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Prevails as Federal Judge Strikes Down DAPL Permits. “A federal court today granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to strike down federal permits for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The Court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016. Specifically, the Court found significant unresolved concerns about the potential impacts of oil spills and the likelihood that one could take place.”

3-23-20 Bloomberg Environment. Virus Leads Pipeline Agency to Ease Job Qualification Rules. “A federal safety agency is helping hazardous material transporters and pipeline operators prepare for the spread of Covid-19 by easing staff training and qualifications requirements. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a stay on enforcement March 20, applicable only to requirements for pipeline operator employee qualifications and training. …. The pipeline industry is preparing to operate with a workforce potentially reduced by illness or quarantines, said Bryn Karaus, who focuses on pipeline regulation in her position of counsel for Van Ness Feldman LLP in Washington. Qualified employees are required to conduct specific tasks, like inspecting pipelines for corrosion or leaks. During the pandemic, if training isn’t available, pipeline operators may have to substitute other employees, Karaus said.”

3-23-20 Utility Dive. Utilities beginning to see the load impacts of COVID-19 as economic shutdown widens. “It has been less than a week since states and major cities began instituting quarantines along with stay-home and shelter-in-place directives to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The full impacts on electricity usage are not yet known, but grid operators say demand is both shifting and falling. Data from overseas may give an indication of just how steep the declines could become. Italy instituted lockdowns and closed essential businesses earlier this month, in response to a spike in novel coronavirus infections. According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the country has since witnessed a significant decline in electricity demand. …. In the United States, grid operators say it is too soon to get a firm handle on the impacts of coronavirus shutdowns, but some are already seeing usage declines.”

3-19-20 Energy News Network. Q&A: NRDC attorney on the legal issues behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline challenge. “A self-described “FERC nerd,” Gillian Giannetti explains what Supreme Court justices are now considering.”

3-19-20 The Recorder. FERC urged to stop major projects due to virus spread [letter to FERC ACP docket]. “FERC must halt all large-scale construction on projects that are not critically important. These pipeline construction projects bring in transient workers into very vulnerable rural communities and place not only workers, but those communities at great risk.”

3-17-20 Virginia Mercury. Can an unusual coalition budge Congress on pipeline reforms? “Property rights advocates and environmentalists are often foes when it comes to federal regulations. But they’ve found some common ground in their shared desire to prod Congress and the courts to overhaul the federal permitting process for natural gas pipelines. Property rights advocates contend that the current system enables industry to unfairly seize land for energy infrastructure projects, which have been criticized as speculative ventures increasingly connected to a need for new gas. Environmentalists are wary of the climate change implications of burning the natural gas slated to be carried through new pipelines.”

3-16-20 pv magazine. Traditionally non-partisan FERC is politicized with 3-1 Republican majority. “Despite violating, in the words of Senator Joe Manchin, ‘proper decorum’ and ‘simple civility,’ the Senate confirmed James Danly as the third Republican on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Danly’s first nomination had been rejected earlier this year. The Commission has traditionally been non-partisan, and traditionally, the party of the nominees are alternated — ‘pairing’ the nominations. Legally, no more than three chairs can be held by one party. Richard Glick is the one Democrat on the Commission. The FERC Chair is Neil Chatterjee, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The other Republican, Bernard McNamee, was deputy general counsel for energy policy at the Department of Energy.”

3-16-20 Seeking Alpha. Dominion Remains Overvalued Even After The Sell-Off. “The market plunge has created value opportunities, but I do not believe Dominion Energy is one of these. The firm’s lower recent net income figures and high-debt load will affect growth in the near term. In the sharp market downturn that occurred on 03/12/2020, several value opportunities have emerged. However, Richmond, Virginia-based electric and gas utility Dominion Energy (D) is not one of these, I contend, and still has further to fall before it can be considered fairly valued.”

3-16-20 Charlotte Observer. As the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline soars, renewable energy is the better option for NC. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a long way from being constructed, but it’s already proving a leaky conduit for cash. The cost keeps rising for the proposed 600-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia, through Virginia and down to the southern border of North Carolina in Robeson County. Estimated in November 2018 to cost $5.1 billion, the project jointly owned by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, is now expected to cost approximately $8 billion, a 60 percent jump in a year and a half. …. Last week, a collection of more than 70 social justice, clean energy and faith groups called on Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a climate emergency and block further construction or expansion of natural gas-fired power plants and pipelines. In a letter to the governor, the groups said, ‘We contend that ’coping’ with this ongoing emergency includes the authority to help prevent it from growing worse indefinitely.'”

3-14-20 Salon. Energy companies get a free hand as FERC ties homeowners in legal knots. “Trump energy regulators are using an obscure bureaucratic maneuver to allow pipeline companies to legally seize land and start construction while pipeline opponents are in legal limbo. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has used this ploy, upheld in a 1969 case, to stall opposition for decades. The commission’s general counsel is James Danly, a relatively inexperienced attorney Trump nominated for a commission seat. Danly has stalled every timely request for a rehearing in the past two years. That means pipeline challengers can’t go to court until the commission decides to stop stalling them.”

3-13-20 Mountain Xpress [Asheville NC]  Local groups join call for state climate emergency declaration. “More than 70 youth, social justice, clean energy and faith groups, among others, today called on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to join more than 1,400 local and national governments by formally declaring a climate emergency. The top target of their letter and a statewide campaign escalation is a giant expansion of fracked natural gas projects that Duke Energy is building or planning, and which leading climate experts are urging Cooper to cancel. At a press conference today in Raleigh, speakers from youth groups and communities hit by repeated hurricanes and targeted by Duke’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) urged the Governor to use his Emergency Management Act authority to help prevent continuing pain – by halting the expansion of gas, a leading cause of accelerating climate chaos – rather than just responding to ongoing disasters.”

3-12-20 Nelson County Times. Letter: ACP: a pipeline to nowhere. “May 2020 will mark six years since more than 200 Nelson County landowners received the first letters from the Southern Reliability Project, since renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. During this six-year period, natural gas prices have plummeted, and a glut remains. More than 200 oil and gas companies have filed for bankruptcy involving $127 billion in debt since 2015. Chesapeake Energy, the grandfather of natural gas fracking, is currently trading at 22 cents per share. And, West Virginia natural gas drillers are selling off leases or filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. Pipeline construction nationwide is being put on hold or canceled. …. If industry giants like Kinder Morgan and Williams are making adjustments, and West Virginia’s drilling rig counts are continuing to drop (down 31 percent from last year) where the ACP originates, why is Dominion continuing to fight to save this pipeline?”

3-10-20 Courthouse News Service. Judge Rules Against Virginia County in Challenge to Pipeline Project. “A federal judge has sided with a pipeline company in a dispute over the permitting powers of local governments, a win for the beleaguered natural gas producer after several setbacks in court. …. Senior U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, a Bill Clinton appointee, sided with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC in a ruling issued Monday, finding federal law superseded the county’s effort to block the project.”

3-10-20 Roanoke Times. DEQ notes problems with erosion control during lull in work on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “At a time when building the Mountain Valley Pipeline was focused almost entirely on controlling erosion, muddy runoff continued to flow from dormant construction sites. In a letter last month to a conservation group that first raised the issue, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said the infractions would be forwarded to the state attorney general’s office, which has the authority to seek tough financial penalties. …. But no demand had apparently been made by Tuesday [March 10, 2020]. DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said the agency is ‘compiling noncompliance information monthly’ and will notify Mountain Valley, in conjunction with the attorney general, of any violations or penalties.”

3-10-20 Roanoke Times. Editorial: What the Constitution Pipeline says about Virginia’s pipelines. “Both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines were proposed in 2014, one year after the Constitution. Today the MVP is about 90% complete while no pipe has been laid for the ACP — although trees have been cut in some places. Both projects are now halted by those same ‘legal challenges’ that frustrated the Constitution, just not ones filed by Virginia state government. If either McAuliffe or Northam had opposed pipelines the way Cuomo does, might both be getting cancelled today the way the Constitution has been? This is one of those great ‘what ifs’?”

3-10-20 Utility Dive. Duke, Dominion, Southern won’t hit clean energy targets at current pace: Report. “Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals, according to a report released Monday from Synapse Energy Economics. …. ‘[C]ontrary to what Southern Company, Dominion Energy, and Duke Energy say on their websites, in television ads, and in shareholder reports and pamphlets, the three companies are thus far taking minimal actions to decarbonize their electricity systems,’ according to the report. ‘[N]one of the three companies examined in this report will meet their 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals under their current resource plans.'”

3-7-20 Cleveland19. Dominion Energy Ohio may face $2.5 million fine for Pepper Pike [OH] gas line explosion. “A new report filed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recommends Dominion Energy Ohio should forfeit $2.5 million for failure to comply with Pipeline Safety Regulations requirements that caused or contributed to this incident for the gas line explosion that happened last year.”

3-6-20 Utility Dive. Virginia passes bill to bring scrutiny to coal plant closures, despite Dominion opposition.  “The Virginia Senate passed a bipartisan House bill 35-5 on Thursday, giving state regulators control of cost recovery over power plant retirements, despite opposition from Dominion Energy. The bill would require the Virginia State Corporation Commission to determine the length of time that a utility can recover “any appropriate costs” from retiring coal and gas generation early. The measure undoes a former provision that gave Dominion the flexibility to skirt refunds on coal and natural gas plants retired early. The bill is seen as a key example of the Democrat-led legislature standing up to Dominion, despite nearly a decade of successful lobbying from the utility. However, Dominion saw many wins as the legislative session winds down, including the advancement of bills that would guarantee utility cost recovery of offshore wind development.”

3-5-20 WDBJ7. Franklin County collects nearly $1M in unpaid taxes from MVP contractors. “For Franklin County Commissioner of the Revenue Margaret Torrence, this story begins in 2018. Riding around the county, she noticed Mountain Valley Pipeline contractors had dozens of pieces of equipment lying around. All of it was taxable property. But those taxes weren’t getting paid. ‘It’s been worth the time that it took to pursue it,’ said Torrence. Torrence identified at least 24 MVP contractors and subcontractors who owed the county unpaid personal property taxes. She began working to collect the money last fall. Now, after months of letters, emails and research, she says those companies are finally paying up. ‘We were able to bill, and collect, to date, $876,621.18. So that’s a significant amount of revenue,’ said Torrence. …. In Franklin County, MVP contractors and subcontractors still owe tens of thousands of dollars. The two companies with delinquent accounts owe about $62,000. Others owe thousands more. Torrence says she’ll continue pursing all of these companies until they’ve paid their bills.”

3-5-20 Bloomberg Environment. Insight: Fourth Circuit Rules ‘Environmental Justice Is Not Merely a Box to Be Checked’  “The Fourth Circuit’s decision indicates that thorough consideration of a planned project’s potential impact on environmental justice communities is a concrete compliance requirement. Concerns around environmental justice have previously played a critical role in delaying energy projects. …. Given what appears to be an emerging trend requiring compliance, the regulated community should carefully consider environmental justice laws and their import when planning and seeking approval of major, capital-intensive projects.”

3-4-20 Letter: Market reasons not to build Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “There were good reasons to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2013, reasons that were articulated in your March 1 editorial [‘Atlantic Coast Pipeline even more needed now’]. But today we have reached the end of the ‘natural gas bridge’ to clean energy. The heat-trapping CO2 in our atmosphere is the highest it has been in 3 million years, and we now know that methane emissions from natural gas are 85 times worse than CO2 while they are in the atmosphere. Here are some market reasons not to build the ACP….”

3-4-20 Forbes. Utility Investors Risk Billions In Rush To Natural Gas: Is It A Bridge To Climate Breakdown? “The U.S. power sector’s rush to build out natural gas capacity risks far more than locking in emissions that would bust the Paris climate targets – it also poses tens of billions in financial risk to utility investors. Once commonly considered a ‘bridge fuel,’ electric utilities now must face the mathematical reality that fast-falling clean energy costs mean the bridge only leads to climate breakdown and the destruction of shareholder value. A new report from Energy Innovation and shareholder advocacy group As You Sow outlines these evolving risks for shareholders, strategies for investors to accelerate decarbonization, and policies for utilities to cut financial risk from over-reliance on natural gas through new clean energy investment.”

3-4-20 Virginia Mercury. Governor signs bill making Virginia Council on Environmental Justice permanent. “After almost two years of operating on a temporary basis, the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice became permanent Wednesday when Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill establishing it as an advisory body to the executive branch. ‘It’s past time we created a permanent council on environmental justice,’ said Northam in a statement. ‘This bill will help to ensure communities are directly involved in the decisions that affect them most, and will help prevent vulnerable Virginians from being disproportionately impacted by pollution, climate change and environmental hazards.'”

3-4-20 Roanoke Times. Letter: Pipeline bust or BOOM? “One critical part has been left out of most pipeline conversations. We know that, despite stealing land via eminent domain and destroying environmentally sensitive areas, MVP can indeed build a pipeline. But can they actually operate it safely?

3-4-20 Utility Dive. Manchin pledges to hold out for Democratic FERC pairing post-McNamee as Dems decry Danly nomination. “Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., attempted to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues Tuesday, pledging to refuse a vote next time there’s a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, unless the White House gives them a Democratic nominee. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 12-8 to confirm James Danly to FERC, giving the now-four person commission a 3-1 Republican majority. Commissioner Bernard McNamee announced in January he would not be seeking a second term on commission, meaning a new spot could be open as soon as June. Manchin, who serves as ENR Ranking Member, voted in favor of the nomination, but said he would not do so if the situation arose again. ‘I made a commitment to Danly before because I thought he was well-qualified,’ he told Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who expressed his frustrations immediately after the vote. ‘But I will make this commitment to you. If we do not get a pairing when McNamee comes off … I’ll make my statement known: If we don’t get a pairing we’re not voting.'”

3-3-20 Politico. This Pipeline Case Could Gut 100 Years of Safeguards for Federal Parks. “Environmental groups fear that a ruling in favor of the energy companies behind the project could ultimately open up millions of acres of federal land—national monuments and historic places, wild and scenic rivers and other wilderness areas—to uses ranging from energy exploration and timber harvesting to highway construction and mining. Doing so, they say, would upend over a century of what was once considered inviolable protection.”

3-2-20 Washington Post. Va. Senate committee kills Dominion rate review bill. “Dominion Energy won a major victory Monday when a Virginia Senate committee killed a bipartisan bill that would have subjected the state’s biggest utility to a review of whether its electricity rates are too high.”

3-2-20 NC Policy Watch. Monday numbers: A closer look at the Mountain Valley Pipeline (and the doublespeak regulators employ to describe its environmental impacts). “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rarely met a pipeline it didn’t like, and the MVP Southgate project is no exception. In its 500-plus-page Final Environmental Impact Statement the commission determined that the 70-mile project — 48 miles of which will run through Rockingham and Alamance counties — won’t significantly impact the environment, as long as contractors properly mitigate the damage. And there would be damage. In fact, the language of the FEIS details, albeit often in bureaucratic/Orwellian terms, the long-term effects on wildlife, forests, habitats and drinking water supplies.” [Article considers excerpts from the report along with their translations into everyday English.]

3-2-20 National Parks Traveler. Groups Concerned Over How Supreme Court Will Rule On Appalachian Trail Pipeline Case. “‘Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline cannot circumvent the law, which clearly states that federal agencies do not have the authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across lands within the National Park System—of which the Appalachian Trail is unequivocally a part. Only Congress has this authority, should it choose to exercise it,’ said Pierno. ‘Dominion’s legal argument hinges on the notion that the Appalachian Trail is somehow not land—a ludicrous, nonsensical position, and one that we hope the Court rejects.'”

3-1-20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. How a dirt path is challenging a 600-mile pipeline. “Ultimately, the collision between supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and those who want to protect the Appalachian Trail is a clash between two visions for our country: a fossil-fueled future, or a more sustainable economy based on renewables. For more than a century, fossil fuel industries have won these battles, especially in places like Appalachia. Now, as the Supreme Court case suggests, a beloved dirt path can have powerful political and economic muscle. Outdoor recreation contributed $412 billion, or 2%, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2016, more than oil and gas extraction, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs tied to outdoor recreation vastly outstrips those in coal, oil and natural gas combined.”

February 2020

2-27-20 The Motley Fool. Dominion Energy Gambles $175 Million on a Supreme Court Decision. “When Dominion released its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings, however, it noted that it had bought Southern’s 5% stake. That brings its control of the project to more than 50%, effectively giving it complete control over the investment. The cost of this acquisition was roughly $175 million and included some other natural gas assets. To be fair, that’s a relatively tiny cost compared to the entire project, which has already spent $3.4 billion on construction efforts and it isn’t close to done yet (the total cost is expected to be about $8 billion at this time, but it could go higher). However, when you consider the increased control it gives Dominion, it is a notable move. And it comes at an interesting time.”

2-27-20 [Robert Whitescarver’s blog]. Uplifted Standing In Line at SCOTUS [Includes description of “two kinds of people in line that frigid night: the pipeline fighters and the homeless folks of D.C. hired by a professional ‘line-standing’ company to stand in line for the pro-pipeline people.”]

2-26-20 Forbes. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Building $7.5B Gas Pipeline Under Appalachian Trail. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a classic struggle between energy development and ecological preservation. If the utilities conclude that the pipeline is necessary to meet future demand and that it is financially viable, they can either wait-and-see what the High Court decides or they could choose now to once again re-route their pipeline. Either way, more legal battles are sure to come, elevating the line’s profile and hardening the positions on both sides.”

2-25-20 Washington Post. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed. “A respectful and prudent owner would reevaluate the 2013 decision to build this now nearly $8 billion gas pipeline. Instead of continuing the fight to build a gas bridge to nowhere, and trying to find a suitable “degree of injury” to the mountains, to the rivers and to historic black communities along the route, an astute owner would refocus its efforts on building a truly clean energy future.”

2-25-20 Utility Dive. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch warns of unintended consequences in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case. “The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two consolidated cases on Monday, regarding a lower court’s decision to reject the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue a key permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. One extreme-case scenario, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned, is that if the lower court’s decision is upheld, more pipelines could inadvertently be “invited” along the Pacific Crest Trail, along the West Coast. The environmental advocates responding in the Supreme Court case and several environmental groups dispute the legal and actionable feasibility of this argument.”

2-24-20 Charlotte Business Journal. Supreme Court justices appear on board with Duke Energy, Dominion argument on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Supporters of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline left encouraged after the hour-long U.S. Supreme Court arguments over a vital permit while opponents said, regardless of the court’s decision, the fight would go on. ‘This fight didn’t start here today and it will not end here today,’ said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Initiative, at a post-hearing press conference outside the court. David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia, another of the groups involved in the challenge, said his group was confident in its arguments. He stressed that courts have overturned other important permits for the project and said, ‘whatever the ruling in this case, the opposition to this project will continue.’ Though a decision is likely a few months off, there is reason for ACP’s proponents to feel good about the hearing. All five justices in the court’s dominant conservative wing and one in the more liberal minority appeared to question an appeals court’s ruling that voided a permit to allow the pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail.”

2-24-20 NBC29. Supreme Court won’t have final word in pipeline case. “The fight over a partially-built, controversial pipeline linking West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina plays out in front of the world’s most powerful judges. But, the nation’s highest court is unlikely to have the final word in this case. Supreme Court justices will consider one piece of lower court’s decision to block Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. …. Several justices – conservative and liberal – made it clear they saw substantial holes in the arguments made by both sides. Congress could sort out the confusion by passing a new law, but that isn’t likely given Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to agree on the issue. The Supreme Court will decide the case by the end of June. Regardless of what it decides, pipeline developers will need to address environmental concerns raised by the lower court if construction is to begin again.”

2-24-20 Virginia Mercury. ‘Trails’ vs. ‘lands’: High court weighs arguments in case that could decide fate of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Where does a trail end and the land beneath it begin? That’s just one of the thorny questions the Supreme Court grappled with Monday morning during a one-hour hearing on a U.S. Forest Service permit for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline that has been hotly anticipated by both the gas and oil industry supporting the pipeline and the environmentalists opposing the project.”

2-24-20 Washington Post. Supreme Court hears battle over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Supreme Court on Monday appeared ready to remove an obstacle to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with a majority of justices expressing skepticism about a lower court ruling that tossed out a key permit needed for the natural gas pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail. Justices on the court grilled a lawyer for environmental groups who sued and won a 2018 ruling from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal throwing out a special-use permit for the 605-mile (974-kilometer) natural gas pipeline. The 4th Circuit found the U.S. Forest Service did not have the authority to grant a right-of-way to allow the pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest. But conservative justices, who hold a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, expressed reservations about the ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts at one point saying the lower court’s finding would ‘erect an impermeable barrier’ to any pipeline from areas where natural gas is located to areas where it is needed. ‘Absolutely incorrect,’ attorney Michael Kellogg, representing the environmental groups, responded.”

2-24-20 The Hill. Justices grapple with $8 billion pipeline that would cross Appalachian Trail. “The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a high-profile case that could block construction of an $8 billion gas pipeline seeking to cross the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would carry natural gas 604 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina and would tunnel below the famed trail that runs more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. At issue is whether jurisdiction over the affected land belongs to the U.S. Forest Service or the National Park Service (NPS). The case presents the justices with a complex tangle of federal laws that will determine if the land is open to energy development or must be preserved for recreational use under the park service’s mandate.”

2-24-20 Reporter’s notebook: a bitterly contested $8 billion pipeline along the Appalachian Trail. “Opposition to the pipeline comes in many forms. I’ve driven down from my home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs to central Virginia to observe a clash of competing natural resource economies. On one hand, there’s energy; the pipeline project estimates the project will bring more than $15 million in tax revenue to this county over ten years. On the other, there’s water. The creeks in and around the Appalachian Trail feed the Rockfish River, which has carved a valley now thriving in what locals call agritourism: fishing, hiking, boating …. local agri-tourism creates more long-term jobs in this economically challenged area than the pipeline would.” Article quotes local pipeline fighters, Joyce Burton and Richrd Averitt.

2-23-20 New York Times. Will the Appalachian Trail Stop an $8 Billion Pipeline? “Ultimately, the collision between supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and those who want to protect the Appalachian Trail is a clash between two visions for our country: a fossil-fueled future, or a more sustainable economy based on renewables. For more than a century, fossil fuel industries have won these battles, especially in places like Appalachia. Now, as the Supreme Court case suggests, a beloved dirt path can have powerful political and economic muscle. Outdoor recreation contributed $412 billion, or 2 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2016, more than oil and gas extraction, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs tied to outdoor recreation vastly outstrips those in coal, oil and natural gas combined.”

2-23-20 Washington Post. U.S. Supreme Court to decide winner in case of gas pipeline vs. Appalachian Trail. “The Trump administration has weighed in on behalf of the project, with Solicitor General Noel Francisco arguing that while the National Park Service administers the trail, the land beneath it is controlled by the Forest Service. Environmentalists opposing the construction argue that no pipeline has been granted a right of way across the trail on federal land since it became part of the park system. Other crossings are on private or state lands or on easements that predate federal ownership. Trying to separate the land from the trail is an “elusively metaphysical distinction” that “contradicts the government’s own long-standing approach to administering the Trail,” according to a brief from lawyer Michael K. Kellogg, who will argue for the environmental groups in Monday’s hearing.”

2-22-20 Blue Virginia. Return the Power to the State Water Control Board to Protect Our Water! “Virginia legislators were mistaken when they passed legislation in 2018 to limit the State Water Control Board (SWCB)’s ability to protect Virginia’s water. In light of repeated assaults by MVP construction on our surface and groundwater, the General Assembly must immediately make every effort to restore that power to the SWCB to protect our waterways from the negligence of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Legislators should pass Del. Chris Hurst’s HB 643 and HB 644.”

2-21-20 NPR. Supreme Court Pipeline Fight Could Disrupt How The Appalachian Trail Is Run. “Those who manage the Appalachian Trail are not involved in the litigation of the case. Instead, they say it has become a football between two sides: the pipeline company and the environmental groups who oppose it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the private organization that oversees the day-to-day management of the trail, is not involved because – perhaps surprisingly – the group does not oppose the pipeline. The group coordinates efforts with federal and state agencies, more than 30 smaller regional groups and thousands of volunteers, and warns that a ruling could upend this complicated structure that allows them to maintain the trail.”

2-21-20 Columbia Journalism Review. A pipeline runs through Southern news deserts. “All three states crossed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have a dearth of local newspapers, according to the UNC report. The counties along the route are some of the most rural and economically depressed parts of the US, in a region that is historically reliant on extractive fossil fuels. In North Carolina, seven of the eight counties the proposed pipeline would run through are predominantly black. These places lack consistent, informative local coverage of energy, justice, and the environment because of the declining number and resources of print news outlets, shifting the balance of news sources toward expanding corporate media monopolies. The areas are also overlooked by national media, which mostly parachute in to cover major updates or catastrophes or if they need a tie-in to President Trump’s policies—a dynamic that can perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about these places. The absence leaves ample space for powerful campaigns by Duke and Dominion, the pipeline’s developers and buyers of its natural gas, as well as industry-aligned lobbyists and politicians, to shape the pipeline narrative. Another result is misinformation and confusion about the status of a massive energy project that affects tens of thousands of people, several endangered species, and a variety of fragile ecosystems. The number of permanent jobs the pipeline is estimated to create varies, depending on whom you speak with. In some cases, property owners have been caught unaware of their rights or legal options when Dominion came knocking to claim eminent domain.”

2-21-20 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. Bill aims to answer pipeline question: ‘Is this necessary?’ “As Dominion Energy spearheads the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Virginia lawmakers are advancing legislation sponsored by a Republican who says he wants to protect the company’s captive ratepayers from possible overcharges. Under legislation from Del. Lee Ware, Dominion’s Virginia electric utility would have to demonstrate the need for a new fuel source and show that it ‘objectively studied’ other options, among other conditions, before the State Corporation Commission could approve passing along costs from the natural gas pipeline. Ware said his bill ‘makes very clear the question that I’ve always wanted answered: Is this necessary for the ratepayers … or is this entrepreneurial on Dominion’s part?'”

2-21-20 Daily Star [Oneonta NY]  Energy giant drops proposed Constitution Pipeline. “Williams Companies, the Oklahoma energy giant, confirmed Friday that it has shelved the Constitution Pipeline, a proposed interstate natural gas pipeline that triggered a prolonged battle between environmental activists and pro-development advocates. ‘Williams — with support from its partners, Duke, Cabot and AltaGas — has halted investment in the proposed Constitution project,’ the company said in response to questions from CNHI. ‘While Constitution did receive positive outcomes in recent court proceedings and permit applications, the underlying risk adjusted return for this greenfield pipeline project has diminished in such a way that further development is no longer supported,’ Williams added. Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer who helped form the opposition group Stop the Pipeline, said the group ‘fought this epic 8-year battle with courage, conviction and intelligence,’ adding: ‘Perseverance pays off.'”

2-20-20 Tribune-Democrat [PA]. Supreme Court pressed to nix ruling hindering Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that impact two natural gas pipelines in West Virginia, including Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that runs through Monroe and Giles counties but is now stalled at the Appalachian Trail crossing on Peters Mountain. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACC), which traverses several counties in the eastern part of the state is also stalled by an Appalachian Trail crossing. …. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has led an 18-state coalition that continues to urge the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.”

2-20-20 The Quartz. The Forest Service says the Appalachian Trail isn’t “land” in a pipeline fight at SCOTUS. “The federal government basically argues that the Appalachian Trail isn’t ‘land’ for the purposes of the case. Instead it’s a ‘footpath’ or a ‘trail’ that happens to be administered by the National Park Service. …. ‘The central flaw in the court’s logic lies in the fact that the Appalachian Trail is a “trail,” not “land,”‘ the government explains. Advocates for the trail didn’t hesitate to run—and pun—with this perplexing claim from government attorneys. How can land not be land, they asked? And they did it with as many rhetorical flourishes as one brief can stand. The scenic national footpath stretching across states patently is land, the trail’s advocates explained with a kind of literary deadpan, writing, ‘Land is what you walk on.'”

2-20-20 Virginia Mercury. Democratic-led Senate committee kills bills to beef up regulation of pipeline construction. “By this time last year, Southwest Virginia landowners and residents had been begging the [State Water Control Board] for months to do something about the [MVP] pipeline construction, which had unleashed torrents of mud that covered roads and choked streams. Ultimately, it decided it couldn’t revoke the water certification it issued for the project, even in the face of a criminal investigation and widespread violations of state law that would lead to a more than $2 million fine and consent decree. Two of three bills introduced by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, to fix the obvious inability of state regulators to halt the damage wrought by MVP or similar projects, went down in the Democrat-led Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on identical 13-1 votes. The committee did advance Hurst’s bill increasing penalties for violations by the largest natural gas pipelines but not one that would have assessed additional fines for cumulative violations nor another that would give the water board stop work authority, among other provisions.”

2-18-20 S&P Global. Morgan Stanley: $64B capex upside for utilities replacing coal with renewables. “‘We believe this project [the ACP] will not move forward due to legal risks, and as a result [Dominion] will pursue additional renewables investments that will allow them to maintain their 5.5% EPS growth target,’ analysts wrote. In a sign of its confidence in the pipeline, Dominion on Feb. 11 announced its plan to take on a greater share of the project through acquiring Southern Co.’s 5% equity stake. ‘We continue to see significant risk in getting that project completed,’ [Morgan Stanley analyst Stephen] Byrd said.”

2-18-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Letter: Environmental justice not served at Union Hill. “The Fourth Circuit Court recently rejected the air quality permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s compressor station at Union Hill in Buckingham County. …. The court has spoken. The DEQ and the Air Pollution Control Board — which was guided by the DEQ and manipulated by Northam — have both failed in their missions. Northam has likewise failed the commonwealth. Northam’s call for 100% renewable energy by 2050 also will fail if natural gas infrastructure projects are allowed free rein. It is long past time for Northam and his agencies to aggressively challenge the deeply flawed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

2-17-19 WV News. Dominion still banking on end of 2021 completion of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell recently confirmed the company still anticipates completing construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by the end of 2021, and introducing the first product into the system in 2022. ‘Project costs of approximately $8 billion are in line with the high end of the “judicial option” range we provided about a year ago,’ Farrell said recently during an earnings report conference call. Farrell also said he’s confident the U.S. Supreme Court by May or June will reverse the Fourth Circuit on a ruling regarding a U.S. Forest Service permit where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail.”

2-16-29 Daily Progress. Effort to stall Trump rollback of environmental regulations continues in Charlottesville court. “The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a motion to prevent the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality from moving forward with proposed environmental policy changes until the organization provides requested public documents. The request for a preliminary injunction, filed Thursday by SELC attorneys, is the latest development in a federal lawsuit from the Charlottesville-based organization against the agency. Spurred by a notice of proposed changes to the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit argues that requests made by the SELC under the Freedom of Information Act have not been met. …. ‘The irony of all this is that the comment process puts a high value on informed input from the public, but at the same time, the Trump administration is keeping information away from the public,’ Kym Hunter, a senior SELC attorney who filed the request for the preliminary injunction, said in a news release. ‘The rules call for openness and transparency, but instead the administration has shut the door and boarded the windows.'”

2-16-20 Roanoke Times. Hurst: Virginia not doing enough on pipelines. “Sediment steadily encroaching onto private property. Road closures and traffic jams. Man-made erosion of the lush Appalachian Mountains. This has become the new normal for the residents of my district and far too many others who live in Southwest Virginia. The unfortunate truth is that this is what so many of us warned about when the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project filed for its construction permit in 2015. Now, almost five years later, following dubious arguments and deceitful reassurances from big energy and stakeholders of the MVP, the commonwealth’s environment and its citizens are more at risk to the consequences of this project than ever before. …. While I’m proud of the work the Attorney General has done to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable, Virginia is not doing nearly enough to defend our environment from the threats we face. …. With the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Expansion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects looming, it is the paramount responsibility of our legislature to ensure every Virginian is protected from the threats these projects pose both currently and in the future.”

2-14-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline extension clears environmental review by FERC. “Plans to extend the Mountain Valley Pipeline 75 miles into North Carolina moved forward Friday, even as the initial project remains mired in legal and regulatory challenges. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that while there would be some environmental damage caused by building the so-called MVP Southgate, it could be minimized to ‘less than significant levels.’ An environmental impact statement released by FERC is a major step forward for the pipeline, which would originate at Mountain Valley’s terminus in Chatham, head southwest through Pittsylvania County and cross into North Carolina, extending to Alamance County near Burlington. …. Meanwhile, Mountain Valley’s efforts to regain three sets of suspended federal permits for the original pipeline project hit another snag this week.”

2-14-20 Virginian-Pilot. Letter: Put a stop to ACP. “Re ‘ACP project essential to Virginia’s energy future’ (Other Views, Feb. 7): Kevin Doyle’s Op-Ed accused our community in Union Hill of ‘abuse of the justice system’ for bringing a legal case against an Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit. That permit was for air pollution from a pipeline compressor station that Dominion Energy wants to force on Union Hill. Ancestors of John Laury and other freedmen and freedwomen founded this community at the end of the Civil War. Descendants of those founders still call this home. But during the permitting process, Dominion denied that a minority community even existed here. When federal judges reviewed this permit, it was the first time our voices were heard. Doyle is wrong. Three judges of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously threw out the compressor station permit because Dominion tried to bully us out of the way. There is no abuse of the system here, just justice.”

2-12-20 Bacon’s Rebellion. Huge Dominion Pipeline Project Loses Partner. “The delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is undergoing a major change due to rising costs and legal delays – The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is backing out of the project as an equity partner. According to an announcement late Tuesday, Dominion Energy will acquire The Southern Company’s 5% stake in the natural gas project whose cost has risen from $5.1 billion to $8 billion thanks largely to legal challenges by environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The new ownership structure will be 53% Dominion and 47% Duke Energy, based in Charlotte. …. According to S&P Global, The Southern Company bailed on the pipeline because of its concerns of delays and soaring costs.”

2-11-20 E&E Enerywire. FERC vows rapid responses in eminent domain legal brawl. “Federal energy regulators told a court yesterday that they would attempt to reach final decisions within 30 days on complaints from property owners who have their land seized for construction of projects like natural gas pipelines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pledge comes as the agency faces a high-profile showdown in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over its delayed response to landowner grievances — even as pipeline developers move forward with construction. ‘While this reorganization will not eliminate complaints about delayed judicial review from all parties, the Commission has chosen to allocate its resources to ensure the speediest review for those litigants placed in the most vulnerable position by Commission decisions,’ FERC wrote in a filing with the D.C. Circuit. Challengers of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the project targeted in the lawsuit, said the court is unlikely to put much stock in FERC’s ‘nonbinding’ commitment.”

2-11-20 S&P Global. Dominion agrees to buy Southern stake in Atlantic Coast Pipeline as project costs soar. “Southern Company is out as an equity partner in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after majority owner Dominion Energy agreed to buy its stake, amid ballooning costs and legal challenges that have stalled the 1.5 Bcf/d US Northeast natural gas project. Dominion disclosed the new ownership structure Tuesday as it released financial results for the final three months of 2019. It will own 53% and Duke Energy will own 47%, with Dominion acquiring Southern’s 5% stake in the pipeline and gas transmission assets, which include an interest in a small LNG project in Florida, for $175 million. Southern will remain an anchor shipper on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 600-mile pipeline, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, moving Appalachian Basin gas to Mid-Atlantic markets, is now expected to cost approximately $8 billion, slightly above the high end of Dominion’s previous guidance range of $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion. And while Dominion expressed confidence it will eventually finish the pipeline, it isn’t talking about the pipeline’s growth potential in the same way it has before.”

2-10-20 The Week. America needs to stop its natural gas pipeline mania. “But despite the gusher of Big Carbon profits, like all natural gas infrastructure proposed or under construction, the ACP is a risky project both financially and in its direct effect on the landscapes and communities through which it will run. Worse, it is doubling down on a losing hand — locking in huge investments in assets which will very likely be worthless long before they are exhausted. Far from being a relatively clean “transition fuel,” natural gas is a climate disaster that might even be worse than coal. The ACP and all other expansions of gas infrastructure should be stopped permanently.”

2-10-20 New York Times. Trump Weakens the Nation’s Clean Water Efforts. “The Environmental Protection Agency made a startling admission last month when it announced that many of the nation’s streams and wetlands would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act, perhaps the nation’s most successful antipollution law. The agency said it could not predict how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands would lose their protection because of ‘existing data and mapping limitations.’ In other words, the E.P.A. was sharply narrowing the reach of a landmark environmental law without understanding the consequences of its actions.”

2-10-20 Bloomberg Environment. Natural Gas Pipeline, Iconic Trail at Odds in Supreme Court Case. “The resulting Supreme Court dispute is one of many clashes between the Trump administration’s quest for energy dominance and environmentalists’ efforts to protect the nation’s wild lands. More broadly, it spotlights a persistent challenge that transcends political winds: how to build America’s infrastructure without ripping up America.” An excellent summary of the U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association case, U.S., No. 18-1584.

2-7-20 Roanoke Times. Environmental problems continue with Mountain Valley Pipeline, group says. “Problems with erosion and sedimentation along the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have continued, despite a winter slowdown in the work. Inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found repeated violations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019, according to an analysis by Wild Virginia, one of the environmental groups opposed to the natural gas pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia. The group’s conservation director, David Sligh, asked in a letter emailed Thursday to DEQ what enforcement actions have been taken, in light of a court order that allows for tougher monitoring and penalties for any repeat violations after Sept. 18.”

2-6-20 Crozet Gazette. Friends of Nelson Get Update on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The annual meeting of Friends of Nelson at Rockfish Valley Community Center January 12 included an update on efforts to keep the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the county. …. The gathering shared a supper and members welcome [renewing] board members Jim Bolton, Ron Enders, Kathy Versluys, Marilyn Shifflet, Doug Wellman and Julie Burns to two-year terms. Continuing on the board are Ellen Bouton, Connie Brennan, Woody Greenberg, Charlie Hickox, Cheryl Klueh and David Schwiesow. Helen Kimble retired as president. Kim and Jimbo Cary provided the music and there was a spirit of celebration.”

2-5-20 S&P Global. Credit risks mounting for US gas producers, S&P Global Rating says.  “Deteriorating conditions in US natural gas markets this year are posing growing credit risk to the industry’s producers and even midstream developers, S&P Global Ratings said Wednesday. In an industry outlook webcast, ratings analysts at S&P said that recent supply gains, weaker expected demand growth and lower prices in 2020 are putting new pressures on the gas trade. In the US upstream, low prices have created the biggest risk for individual producers. On Monday, S&P downgraded its credit rating on six of Appalachia’s most prolific shale gas producers. It also adjusted its credit outlook to negative on eight of nine Appalachian producers under its review.”

2-3-20 Racism and ecological injustice combine in ‘reckless, racist’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline fight. “Although it is not new, under the current administration, powerful and wealthy corporations are given free rein to despoil and destroy our sacred and treasured lands. …. Nearly four decades since the birth of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, we face a new Goliath of ecological injustice. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a project that starts in West Virginia and cuts through Virginia and North Carolina — is poised to threaten poor, rural, black and indigenous communities across those states, forcing us to recognize and respond to the fact that marginalized communities still bear the bulk of our nation’s environmental burden.”

2-3-20 E&E News. FERC reorganizes to address landowner disputes. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is launching a reorganization to better focus on rehearing requests from landowners affected by energy infrastructure permits, the chairman announced late last week. The reorganization includes a new ‘rehearings’ section within the Office of the General Counsel to focus on requests filed under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act, which details FERC’s responsibilities to permit interstate pipeline projects. ‘Our objective today is to reinforce the Commission’s commitment to ensure landowners are afforded a judicially appealable rehearing order as quickly as possible,’ FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement.”

January 2020

1-31-20 LNG Prices Fall To 10-Year Low. “The global gas glut continues to grow worse, with LNG prices recently dropping to a 10-year low. NG prices in Asia recently fell below $4/MMBtu, down 40 percent from a year earlier. Prices in NW Europe (TTF) are down by nearly 50 percent, and Europe has record-high inventories for this time of year. Mild weather in Asia, Europe and the U.S. have led to seasonally weak demand, with China in particular proving to be a disappointment to exporters. But a wave of new terminals coming online in the last year has also led to a huge increase in supply, dragging down prices. That means that major markets will exit the winter season with plenty of inventory, which will likely prevent a price rebound. TTF prices (LNG in NW Europe) for summer delivery are trading at around $3.50/MMBtu. Some analysts think LNG prices could fall below $3 by the summer.”

1-31-20 Lynchburg News & Advance. Need for ACP vanishes. “At a time when climate change has finally emerged as a high-priority policy concern, when solar and wind are cost-competitive with coal and gas, when utility stakeholders at all levels are clamoring for renewable energy and when the worldwide investment community is moving away from fossil fuels … at a time like this, why is Dominion still pushing the pipeline? The obvious answer: It’s hard to stop doing the things that have produced so much profit for so many years. This misbegotten project should be stopped. Please join me in thanking Attorney General Herring for this important step in the right direction on ACP.”

1-31-20 Blue Virginia. The Time to Act is Now: Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy Calls on State, Federal Agencies to Revoke Pipeline Permits. “It is now time for the responsible federal and state agencies to take decisive action. With both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines lacking multiple permits that are required by federal law, FERC – which is required by law to consider the question of whether there is a demonstrated need – should revoke the certificates of public convenience and necessity that it previously issued for both pipelines. Virginia state agencies likewise should immediately commence the process of revoking the certifications they issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. And Dominion Energy should be told once and for all that it will not be allowed to build a polluting industrial facility in the heart of the historic African-American community of Union Hill.”

1-30-20 Sierra. Trump Targets the Heart of US Environmental Law. “In one of its most serious attacks on environmental law yet, the administration has proposed drastic narrowing of the criteria for which infrastructure projects have to undergo a NEPA review, and a narrowing of the ‘effects’ and ‘alternatives’ that need to be considered during that review process. If the changes are finalized, they could fast-track hundreds of polluting projects around the country that pose a significant risk to public health and the environment, and limit the ability of communities most impacted by those projects—often low-income communities or communities of color—to slow down or stop them. …. ‘NEPA, like our other bedrock environmental laws, has stood the test of time for 50 years,’ Hasselman says. ‘No one has ever been able to successfully gut these statutes, and the reason for that is that they are incredibly popular. People like clean air; they like clean water; they like wildlife. They care about transparency and accountability. The Trump administration’s sweeping efforts to gut these laws via regulation is fundamentally undemocratic in that it seeks to circumvent values that the majority of Americans hold dear.'”

1-29-20 Renewables Set to Overtake Natural Gas in US Power Mix, EIA Says. “It’s official: The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has finally come around to the view that renewables will overtake natural gas in the country’s electricity mix. The EIA has long been known for its implausibly conservative predictions about renewable energy. As recently as last year, the EIA forecast that natural gas would remain the country’s top source of electricity out to 2050. Last year in its Annual Energy Outlook, the EIA put natural gas at 39 percent of the power mix in 2050 under its base-case scenario, far outpacing renewables at 31 percent. Fast forward to the 2020 Annual Energy Outlook, released Wednesday, and that prediction has been turned on its head: Renewables are now forecast to account for 38 percent of electricity in 2050 (up from 19 percent today), while natural gas will see its share drop to 36 percent (from 37 percent today).”

1-28-20 Forbes. Is America’s Fossil Fuel Empire Collapsing? “Since the close of World War II, the United States has overseen an expanding global order built on fossil fuels. That era has come to an end. Where coal powered the British Empire, and oil powered the American Century, renewable energy technologies are now set to drive the post-American world. Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ represents the beginning of this new era.”

1-27-20 Virginia Mercury. As schools look to solar, existing state law shuts down further development. “Since 2013, Virginia has run a pilot program allowing customers to use a financing mechanism known as the power purchase agreement, or PPA, with non-utility solar developers. Under a PPA, a developer installs solar panels on customers’ property and then sells the electricity back to them, usually for less than the utility would. ‘PPAs are in a lot of ways a great equalizer,’ said Rob Corradi, public affairs adviser for Sun Tribe Solar, one of Virginia’s most active developers in the PPA market and the company behind Middlesex’s solar. They ‘allow school systems and governments that don’t have access to a lot of capital to be able to access solar at a low cost.’ In Virginia, however, the pilot program came with a major string attached: a 50-megawatt cap on projects in the territory of Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility. Once the State Corporation Commission was notified the program had reached that scale, the process would grind to a halt. Unless they were already in the pipeline, no more projects could be developed.”

1-26-20 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Recovery plan proposed for endangered bumble bee involved in pipeline litigation. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft of a $13.4 million recovery plan designed to secure a stable population of an imperiled bumblebee species that played a key role in a federal appeals court decision that brought construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to a halt 13 months ago. …. The draft recovery plan for the rusty patched bumblebee includes improving the quality and quantity of habitat near established colonies, improving connectivity between colonies and reintroducing the bumblebees to now-unoccupied sites within the insect’s former range. In order for the population to recover enough to be removed from Endangered Species Act protection by 2059, 159 populations — just over 10 percent of the pre-decline number of populations — would have to be maintained in five conservation zones.

1-23-20 Bernard McNamee, Trump-Appointed FERC Commissioner, Announces Resignation Plan. “Bernard McNamee, the Trump-appointed commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who has voted to restrict clean energy in key grid regulatory decisions, has announced he will leave after his term ends in June — unless his departure leaves FERC without a quorum. …. McNamee said he intends to remain at FERC through the end of his term, however, and won’t leave the position until his replacement is picked. That’s because his departure would otherwise leave FERC with only two commissioners, Republican Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Democrat Richard Glick. FERC lost its quorum through much of 2017, leaving the agency unable to vote on key decisions for interstate electricity transmission and natural-gas projects.”

1-23-20 New York Times. ‘Environmental Justice Is Not Merely a Box to Be Checked’ “While Union Hill may represent the remarkable history of resilience from our country’s unjust beginnings, it also reveals the country’s continuing imbalance of power and the decisions about whose histories we choose to honor. …. In a win for our client Friends of Buckingham, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit this month threw out the permit for the compressor station, finding that the state failed to adequately consider the potential health effects on Union Hill’s African-American community. As the court noted, ‘Environmental justice is not merely a box to be checked.'”

1-22-20 Buffalo Rising. Governor Cuomo announces permanent ban on hydrofracking in New York. “Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that he will incorporate legislation in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Executive Budget permanently banning fracking in New York. Cuomo stated that the temporary ban that is currently in place has not only been prudent, it has also proved that there are cleaner and more sustainable alternative energy options available, which can help to fuel the economy. The legislation would disallow the Department of Environmental Conservation from issuing permits to frackers, described as ‘those who drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well.'”

1-22-20 New York Times. Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands. “The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.”

1-22-20  Press Release: Prominent Park Advocates and Leaders Take Battle Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the Supreme Court. “Today, the National Parks Conservation Association joined the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and prominent park advocates Jon Jarvis, former director of the National Park Service, and Pam Underhill, former Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in filing a joint amicus brief supporting conservation respondents in U.S. Forest Service, et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al. All amici curiae listed above are represented by counsel from Eubanks & Associates, LLC.”

1-22-20 Blue Virginia. In Brief Before U.S. Supreme Court, AG Mark Herring Highlights Deficiencies of Federal Pipeline Permit. “Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending Virginia’s natural resources from damage caused by shoddy and insufficient federal permitting processes. Attorney General Herring’s brief highlights a near complete failure of the U.S. Forest Service to meet its obligations under federal law and regulations, explaining that ‘for Virginia’s natural resources to be adequately protected, federal agencies charged with administering federal lands within its borders must fulfill their statutory obligations. The Forest Service did not do so here, to the detriment of Virginians and others who enjoy the natural treasures in the pipeline’s path.'”

1-22-20 NRDC. A Walk in the Woods: Pipelines and the Appalachian Trail. “You may know the Appalachian Trail from Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods and the movie NRDC Trustee Robert Redford made about it. Or you may have walked pieces of it. About 3 million people hike at least some part of the Trail every year—snapping photos, writing blogs, and making memories. A unit of the National Park System, the Appalachian Trail crosses federal, state and private land as it winds its way over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Nearly fifty years ago, Congress amended the Mineral Leasing Act to shield federal Park System lands from fossil fuel development. Despite this, in an unprecedented move, the developers of the beleaguered Atlantic Coast Pipeline want to cut through the Appalachian Trail on federal land. Today, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court explaining why this gas pipeline’s proposed route is unlawful.”

1-21-20 Rolling Stone. America’s Radioactive Secret. “Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America. …. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. ‘All oil-field workers,’ says Fairlie, ‘are radiation workers.’ But they don’t necessarily know it. …. In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer. ‘Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,’ says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ‘Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,’ says Fairlie. ‘It is just madness.'”

1-19-20 Yahoo Finance. America Is Awash With Natural Gas and It’s About to Get Worse. “Prices briefly dipped below $2 per million British thermal unit on Friday for the first time since 2016. At that level, U.S. producers simply don’t make money. It’s forcing a wave of multibillion-dollar writedowns, layoffs and spending cuts. Still, the industry is powerless to stop a wave of additional gas hitting the market as a byproduct of rising shale oil output in places like the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico. Even exports of liquefied natural gas provide little relief, as the international market is also oversupplied. ‘The industry is a victim of its own success,’ said Devin McDermott, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. ‘You don’t just have oversupply in the U.S. — you have oversupply in Europe, oversupply in Asia, and really oversupply across the globe.’ Gas prices have been in the doldrums for a while. The Henry Hub benchmark, named after a key Louisiana pipeline facility, has dropped for three years straight. This winter is proving to be unusually warm and inventory levels are above their seasonal average. Futures prices show traders aren’t expecting gas prices to rise above $2.60 even in the coldest months, when demand typically peaks.”

1-17-20 National Law Review. D.C. Circuit En Banc Review of FERC Tolling Orders Could Have Profound Implications for Infrastructure Projects Requiring FERC Approval. “On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit), sitting en banc, will hear arguments challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) use of ‘tolling orders.’ Because FERC routinely uses tolling orders across all areas of its responsibility, the Court’s actions could have profound, and potentially extremely negative, implications for any FERC-regulated industry. In particular, a decision forcing FERC to curtail its use of tolling orders could create new legal risks and barriers for natural gas and oil pipelines, electric transmission lines, and other energy infrastructure requiring FERC approval.”

1-17-20 WV News. Environmental group calls for formal stop to already halted ACP construction. “Environmental advocates are again calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to formally stop construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Dominion voluntarily halted all major construction activities on the pipeline in December 2018 following a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that denied a permit issued by the Forest Service allowing the pipeline’s route to go through two national forests and under the Appalachian Trail. However, the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents a coalition of environmental groups, has sent a letter to FERC asking for an order that would prevent the resumption of construction in light of a separate ruling from the Fourth Circuit on Jan. 7. …. Citing the court’s decision, [SELC’s Greg] Buppert wrote that allowing construction to continue would ‘violate the condition of the Commission’s certificate of public convenience and necessity’ that requires the ACP to obtain all applicable authorizations required under federal law before commencing construction. ‘The Commission cannot merely rely on Atlantic’s temporary work stoppage to address this issue,’ he wrote. ‘It should issue a stop-work order.'”

1-16-20 Blue Virginia. Clean Virginia Chronicles the “Dominion Scam”: $2 Billion in Overcharges by Dominion Energy in the Past Decade. “As Dominion Energy lobbyists were hard at work this week in Virginia’s General Assembly, advocacy organization Clean Virginia released a groundbreaking new report detailing how the monopoly overcharged its Virginia customers by at least $2.3 billion in the past decade. ‘The Dominion Scam: How a Utility Monopoly Overcharged Virginians $2 Billion (And Got Away with It)‘ describes how Virginia’s dominant utility monopoly worked with allies in the General Assembly to pass a series of utility-friendly laws that allowed the company to overcharge Virginians by hundreds of millions of dollars each year beyond its authorized profit level.”

1-15-20 Energy News Network. In Virginia, anti-pipeline activists feel ‘justice was served’ with court ruling. “What retiree Ella Rose describes as her “most wonderful birthday present ever” was belated by four-plus weeks. But it was so worth the wait. A federal appeals court decision Jan. 7 to toss out a state permit for construction of a natural gas pipeline compressor station roughly one-third of a mile from her home was announced exactly one month after the activist’s 76th birthday. ‘I am so happy and elated and surprised,’ she said, recalling the phone call she received last week from Chad Oba, co-founder and president of the Friends of Buckingham. ‘We were screaming in each other’s ears and I was the happiest person in the world. I’m still over the moon and I can’t come down.’ …. The momentous decision by a three-judge panel from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is potentially a huge setback for Dominion Energy’s pipeline and a gargantuan gain for environmental justice in a state where that topic is only recently being broached.”

1-14-20 Blue Virginia. Both this session’s big energy omnibus bills could be better. “Climate and energy activists have been pinning their hopes on the 2020 legislative session to produce a framework for transitioning our economy to 100 percent carbon-free energy. After years of talking big but delivering little in the way of carbon reductions and clean energy, the General Assembly is under pressure to finally deliver. Much of the initial focus and discussion so far has been on two very different omnibus bills, the Clean Economy Act and the Green New Deal Act. …. [L]et’s take a look at the two omnibus bills that have energized so many activists. Both have their strong points; both would benefit from strengthening amendments.”

1-14-20 U.S. Gas Giant Downgraded To Junk Status. “The largest natural gas driller in the United States just announced a massive write-down for its assets, offering more evidence that the shale sector faces fundamental problems with profitability. In a regulatory filing on Monday, Pittsburgh-based EQT took a $1.8 billion impairment for the fourth quarter, as the natural gas market continues to sour. EQT said that the write down comes as a result of the ‘changes to our development strategy and renewed focus on a refined core operating footprint,’ which is a jargon-y way of saying that some of its assets are now worth much less. [EQT is the principal in the Mountain Valley Pipeline]

1-14-19 New York Times. BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance. “Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit. Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that ‘present a high sustainability-related risk,’ such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.”

1-13-19 Bloomberg Environment. Time to Overturn Precedent on FERC Orders, Landowners Tell Court. “Federal judges should seize an opportunity to reverse a ‘fundamentally flawed’ precedent that keeps pipeline opponents out of court until it’s too late to halt a project, lawyers for landowners and environmentalists said in new court filings. ‘The United States Constitution and federal common law guarantee property owners a meaningful opportunity to be heard in opposition to a faulty public use determination before their property can be permanently taken,’ the Jan. 10 brief says, referring to a stretch of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania. …. If landowners, environmentalists, or others want to challenge a FERC permit, they must first file a petition with the commission and wait for it to be resolved before pursuing a lawsuit. The Natural Gas Act gives FERC 30 days to take action on a challenge, but the agency routinely issues ‘tolling orders,’ which indefinitely extend the deadline for resolving the petition. FERC litigants have long criticized tolling orders as unfair and unconstitutional. Challengers often can’t get to court to challenge a project before construction has begun—or sometimes finished.”

1-13-20 Virginia Mercury. General Assembly will decide whether to build environmental justice into Virginia law. “Two years after Virginia established its first formal advisory body on environmental justice, legislators will weigh several bills proposing to weave the principle into the daily workings of state governance. ‘Environmental justice isn’t just theoretical. It actually happens all the time,’ said Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, who has put forward one bill making an advisory council on the issue permanent and directing all state agencies to develop policies to promote consideration of environmental justice in their regular operations. Case in point to the delegate: the State Air Pollution Control Board’s January 2019 issuance of a permit to build a controversial natural gas compressor station in the historic freedmen’s community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. That decision was struck down by a federal court Tuesday partly on environmental justice grounds. ‘Clearly with the 4th Circuit decision we now know the state has to do a better job with environmental justice,’ said Keam.”

1-9-20 Virginia Mercury. DEQ’s failure on compressor station review is another sign new leadership is needed. “The air board is made up of citizens appointed by the governor who work without pay to promote transparency via public debates and votes and to broaden the base of regulatory decision making. Those board members rely on DEQ’s staff and leaders to provide them with both a wide range of regulatory alternatives and also with insightful, complete analyses. Clearly, DEQ failed the board on both counts. I wish I could say I was surprised. In 2008, when I was on the air board, two fellow board members suggested that the 1987 board statement on site suitability should be revised, to clarify the board’s powers with respect to site suitability. The board members’ ideas were rebuffed by senior officials in the administration of then-Gov. Tim Kaine, including DEQ managers. …. The air board must assert its right to have the full picture on best technologies. Since the 4th Circuit has now decided that the board’s legal obligation includes formally assessing the environmental justice implications of its decisions, the board must revise and take public comment on its 33-year-old site suitability policy, before making any other permit decisions. And finally: It is long past time for new management at DEQ. The dedicated staff at DEQ deserve to be led by someone who will take them to high ground and help them hold it.”

1-9-20 Washington Post. White House wants to change environmental rules to speed up highway projects, pipelines and more. “The White House is moving to exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews that have been required for 50 years, a major shift that would make it easier to build mines, expand airports and lay pipelines, among other things, according to three people familiar with the proposal. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because President Trump is expected to unveil the plan Thursday morning. The proposed changes would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the impact of a major project before a spade of dirt is turned and to include the public in the process.”

1-7-20 Washington Post. Federal court revokes gas project permit in win for historic African American community in Va. “A panel of federal judges has thrown out the permit for a natural gas pumping station in the historic African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, saying state regulators failed to consider whether the facility would disproportionately affect a vulnerable population. The ruling is another setback for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a controversial 600-mile, $7.5 billion project being led by Dominion Energy. Issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the decision faulted Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board for an action that it said was ‘arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.'”

1-7-20 New York Times. Court Tosses Permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Station. “A permit needed to build a natural gas compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Virginia was thrown out Tuesday by a federal court that found the state failed to adequately consider the potential health effects on a historic African American community. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for opponents of a proposal to build the station in Union Hill, an unincorporated community that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.”

1-7-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. 4th Circuit vacates state air permit for Buckingham pipeline compressor station. “A federal appeals court dealt another blow to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Tuesday with a ruling that vacates a state air pollution control permit for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County for failing to consider the disproportionate health effects on the surrounding, predominantly African American Union Hill community. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the State Air Pollution Control Board had ‘failed to grapple with the likelihood that those living closest to the compression station…will be affected more than those living in other parts of the county.’ The 47-page decision, written by Judge Stephanie Thacker, also vacated the permit and returned it to the air board to explain why it had failed to consider requiring electric-powered turbines to eliminate most of the pollution emitted by four natural gas-fired turbines at the for the 58,162-horsepower compressor station.”

1-6-20 Heartland Institute. North Carolina Governor Accused of ‘Pay-for-Permit’ Scheme. “North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper improperly used his office to secure $57.8 million for a fund under his control in return for granting construction permits along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a report requested by the state legislature concludes. Although Cooper did not personally benefit from the fund, the scheme had the appearance of a ‘pay-to-play’ or ‘pay-for-permit’ arrangement in which the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018, the report states.”

1-5-20 Daily Progress. Legal details could have big effect on pipeline’s fate. “This winter the U.S. Supreme Court will examine legal questions connected to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, thrusting the pipeline project into the national spotlight and intensifying the accompanying debate. The focus of the court’s inquiry — the Appalachian Trail — provides a fascinating counterpoint to the proposed pipeline. The trail and the pipeline are both long and winding paths, but one of them is a wooded trail envisioned as a tool for harmonizing humans’ relationship with nature, whereas the other is a metallic tube that embodies our mastery of it.”

1-3-20 Roanoke Times. Latest lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline contests the taking of private land. “Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline might be stalled for the winter, but that has not stopped the legal challenges against the embattled project. In the latest attack, brought Thursday, three couples who had their land taken for the natural gas pipeline are contesting the seizures, arguing that as a private company, Mountain Valley should not have been allowed to use the laws of eminent domain. …. Because Congress improperly delegated legislative power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which in turn gave a private company the authority to invoke eminent domain, all pipeline approvals that led to land being taken under the process should be invalidated, the lawsuit claims.”

1-3-20 Post and Courier [SC]. SC utility regulators reverse course in case between Dominion and solar developers. “South Carolina utility regulators have reversed course in a case involving Dominion Energy and solar developers, bowing to public pressure and potentially opening the door to more competition in the energy market. The S.C. Public Service Commission announced Friday it had reconsidered an earlier ruling that decided how much Dominion, an investor-owned utility, must pay solar developers who want to supply power to the grid in South Carolina. The commission’s earlier decision was widely criticized by environmental organizations and lawmakers who passed legislation last year to expand solar power in the state.”

1-3-20 S&P Global. Analysis: Low prices, investor pressure drive slowdown in Appalachian gas production. “Appalachian gas production last month registered its first monthly decline since May as producers in the dynamic US Northeast shale basin responded to low prices and growing pressure from the investment community. In December, output across the Marcellus and Utica averaged 33.1 Bcf/d, having declined nearly 380 MMcf/d compared to the prior-month average, S&P Global Platts Analytics data shows. Last month’s slowdown comes amid sustained low gas prices in the region. In the fourth quarter, cash prices at the Appalachian benchmark Dominion South averaged just $1.78/MMBtu, marking a two-year low and testing producers’ margins for profit. …. Low gas prices aren’t the only challenge producers are facing, though. In 2019, some of Appalachia’s biggest drillers saw company stock prices tumble as a skeptical investment community increasingly turns its back on the dry gas industry.”

1-3-20 Washington Post. White House update of key environmental law would exclude climate change. “The Trump administration will instruct federal agencies to no longer take climate change into account when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects, according to two senior administration officials — a sweeping overhaul of one of the nation’s most consequential environmental laws. The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act are aimed at speeding approvals for pipelines, oil and gas leases, highway construction and other kinds of development. The law, which was last updated in 1978, has proved one of the most potent stumbling blocks to President Trump’s push to accelerate oil, gas and coal extraction across the country. Under NEPA, agencies are required to analyze the extent to which proposed federal actions affect everything from endangered species to water quality to greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.”

1-3-20 Inside Climate News. 2020: A Year of Pipeline Court Fights, with One Lawsuit Headed to the Supreme Court. “After years of mounting opposition to the increasing build-out of oil and gas infrastructure, 2020 is shaping up to be the year that pipeline opponents get their day in court. One case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court takes a closer look at whether parts of the Appalachian Trail are off-limits to fossil fuel infrastructure and may determine the fate of two multi-billion-dollar pipelines. …. Meanwhile, a question of potentially greater significance looms: Can pipeline companies continue to justify taking private land as the public benefits of fossil fuel pipelines are increasingly questioned and the risks they pose to the environment and climate increase?”

1-2-20 Roanoke Times. Letter: Colossal blunder. “Much to their chagrin, the companies who perpetuated this disaster [the MVP] are now discovering that MVP is a colossal financial blunder. The market for methane gas is collapsing due to overproduction. Fracking enterprises are going bankrupt left and right. The stock prices for the companies behind MVP have crashed. Multiple other pipeline projects either beat MVP to market or are stalled. Intense growth in renewable energy is eliminating demand for gas.”

December 2019

12-31-19 Solar Builder. Renewable energy could top natural gas in new capacity added in U.S. in 2019. “According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data recently released by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) for the first ten months of 2019, the mix of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) is on track to place first in the race for new U.S. electrical generating capacity added in 2019. FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through October 31, 2019) reveals that natural gas holds a diminishing lead for 2019 with 49.67% of all new generating capacity compared to 48.45% for the mix of renewables (i.e., wind – 28.55%, solar – 18.59%, hydropower – 0.83%, biomass – 0.41%, geothermal – 0.06%). The balance of new capacity added includes nuclear power (0.99%), oil (0.49%), coal (0.39%), and “other” (0.01%).”

12-30-19 S&P Global. Market, investor pressures to weigh on Appalachian natural gas production growth next year. “Growing pressure on Appalachian producers from low prices, midstream constraints and a hawkish investor community could be enough in 2020 to finally pause a decade-long rise in the basin’s natural gas production. …. Over the past nine months, gas prices at Appalachia’s primary supply hub, Dominion South, have averaged less than $2/MMBtu, testing wellhead breakeven values, even for the most efficient, low-cost producers. …. Among the remaining projects with scheduled completion dates in 2020, 2021 or 2022 — including Atlantic Coast Pipeline (1.5 Bcf/d), PennEast Pipeline (1.1 Bcf/d), Northern Access (500 MMcf/d) and Constitution Pipeline (650 MMcf/d) — stalled permits and legal battles over permit validity are stopping pipeline construction from proceeding or in some cases even starting.”

12-30-19 Virginia Mercury. Natural gas development is speeding up in Virginia. Legislators will have to square that with state climate goals. “This September, Gov. Ralph Northam took the stage at the inaugural Virginia Clean Energy Summit to announce he was committing the state to a carbon-free grid by 2050. …. But as the governor received a standing ovation, elsewhere in the commonwealth work was underway to massively expand infrastructure supporting a very different — and decidedly not carbon-free — type of energy: natural gas. The past year has seen a flow of investments in natural gas in Virginia, from ongoing work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and continued efforts to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to plans by state utilities and private investors to build up to 12 new natural gas plants. Now, as the General Assembly prepares to convene this January under new Democratic leadership, lawmakers are struggling to chart a course for Virginia’s energy policy in a state split between carbon-free goals and intensive natural gas investment.”

12-29-19 Wake Weekly [NC]. Pipeline property owners in waiting game: Supreme Court to weigh in on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A stay stopping the project actions issued by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle in the Eastern District of North Carolina has expired. The stay affects property owners in Wilson, Nash, Halifax and Northampton counties. …. Boyle lifted the stay on Oct. 28 and has directed the cases to proceed. Collectively, the 14 property owners filed a motion to reconsider on Dec.10. ‘We have submitted a second request for that in view of the fact that the Appalachian Trail crossing case is going to the Supreme Court,’ Winstead said. ‘Those arguments will be heard in late February. In fact, our side of the Appalachian Trail arguments will be presented on Feb. 24. We get to go last in that case. And then the court will consider and render its written decision sometime in May or June.’ If the court rules in opposition to the ACP crossing the Appalachian Trail, the developer would be forced to consider a reroute in order for the project to go forward.”

12-27-19 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Stop the pipelines; repurpose those resources. “When former Vice President Al Gore came to Buckingham County Middle School in February, he showed one slide that has stuck with me: Emissions from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines would nearly double the current emissions from all of Virginia’s existing power plants and fossil fuel infrastructure. Also according to the clean-energy group Oil Change International, the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines would severely increase greenhouse emissions in Virginia. …. I encourage other citizens in Virginia, regardless of party affiliation, to speak the truth to those in power about this contribution to the climate emergency and to stop the building of the compressor station and the ACP and MVP pipelines. Why not use those resources to build renewable energy infrastructure instead?”

12-27-19 Blue Virginia. Why Does the Misnamed Virginia Clean Economy Act Propose Slow Walking the Transition Away from Electricity Generated by Fracked Gas? “Last week, a group of legislators and environmental organizations held a press conference in Richmond to push a bill they are calling the ‘Virginia Clean Economy Act’ (VCEA). The bill itself, which to date has not been released publicly, was developed in part by an industry trade association called Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). As others have noted, VCEA’s renewable energy goals are far more timid than, for example, the Green New Deal Act, HB 77, introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul on December 6. Adam Siegel, a long time energy professional, has called VCEA ‘business as usual’ and noted that it relies on 2018 data from Dominion Energy that already has been rejected as unreliable by the State Corporation Commission.”

12-26-19 Staunton News Leader. The ACP as parasitic worm. “Burrowing beneath the skin of the earth all across America, new oil and gas pipelines are erupting in a rash of environmental destruction. More than 20,000 miles of new pipelines were built between 1998 and 2008, and tens of thousands more are under construction or proposed. Extreme energy extraction through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas and oil demands extreme infrastructure support. Leaving soil-bleeding scars as they excavate ever forward, these pipelines are subsidized by taxpayer dollars but designed for corporate profits. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be one of the most destructive if it is allowed.”

12-25-19 Nelson County Times. Nelson planning commission recommends approval of extended-stay campsite. “On Dec. 18, the Nelson County Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval of a special use permit application from Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland to allow 47 wet RV sites — meaning they have a water and sewer hookup — and 10 future cabins to be extended-stay campgrounds. Travelers would be able to stay for up to 180 days. The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will hear the request at its January meeting.”

12-25-19 Washington Post. Fairfax solar plan could spur change to Va. law meant to shield Dominion Energy from competitors. “Fairfax County is moving to buy energy from contractors who would install solar panels on more than 100 county buildings, part of a growing environmental effort that aims to remove protections against competition given to the powerful Dominion Energy company. …. That goal runs counter to Dominion-friendly state restrictions that limit how much solar energy can be created through such “power purchase agreements.” The restrictions, part of a 2013 pilot program, mandate that the amount of energy generated through those agreements be kept below 50 megawatts throughout Dominion’s service area…. With more local governments and Virginia school districts pursuing solar agreements, the state cap is almost reached, renewable energy advocates say. They predict the Fairfax effort will spur attempts by the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly to eliminate the restrictions.”

12-23-19 The American Prospect. Through Snow and Rain, Tree Sitters Continue to Fight a Gas Pipeline. “The protests, intended to slow down the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, are now in their second year. …. Though construction has ceased for the time being, the pipeline company continues maintenance and erosion control at the construction site across from the Yellow Finch blockade, where protesters remain to prevent trees from being cleared. Environmental groups continue to fight in court to delay the pipeline, with the ultimate goal of preventing its completion.”

12-23-19 E&E News. 8 energy battles to watch in 2020. “The start of the new decade will be a milestone year for litigation on energy issues. Federal courts will kick off 2020 with arguments and hearings in cases that could more clearly define federal authority over the oil, gas and electricity sectors and agencies’ duty to consider environmental harms from energy use and development. The battles are scattered across district and appellate benches, and at least one case has made its way to the Supreme Court.” [Three of the eight cases to watch are pipeline cases: Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Penn East, and Atlantic Sunrise.]

12-23-19 Washington Post. What Trump was talking about in his baffling rant about wind energy. “The line about fumes was clunky and attracted attention. But, rest assured, it will either be streamlined and refined or cut from the rotation entirely in Trump’s future speeches. What’s important to Trump isn’t the accuracy of what he’s saying, after all. What’s important is the extent to which his base appreciates it.”

12-22-19 Blue Virginia. Rev. Robert Dilday – Recently Ordained Episcopal Priest in Richmond and Leader in Virginia Environmental, Anti-Pipeline Movements – Dies Suddenly. “Rest in peace, Rev. Robert Dilday, an Episcopal priest at St. Stephen’s in Richmond, who passed away suddenly last night. …. Dilday, who was ordained just a week ago, was also a “faith-based journalist,” “climate justice advocate” and co-director, along with Rev. E. Weston Mathews of Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains – of the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, whose goal is ‘to be faithful stewards of creation by supporting resistance to its degradation and exploitation.'”

12-21-19 Arkansas Times. Money talks, Republican attorneys general such as Leslie Rutledge listen. “Why in the world does Attorney General Leslie Rutledge get involved in cases such as opposition to a pipeline crossing in Virginia that will defile the Appalachian Trail? Answer: Money. And lots of it from corporate interests. A giant energy company wants to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, including the trail crossing. Giant energy companies pour big sums into the Republican Attorneys General Association (which Rutledge once headed). It is essentially a PAC to elect Republicans. The attorneys general seem to return the favors of contributors by intervening around the country in cases of interest to the benefactors, such as the company with the pipeline project.”

12-20-19 Bloomberg. Going 100% Green Will Pay For Itself in Seven Years, Study Finds. “A Stanford University professor whose research helped underpin the U.S. Democrats’ Green New Deal says phasing out fossil fuels and running the entire world on clean energy would pay for itself in under seven years. It would cost $73 trillion to revamp power grids, transportation, manufacturing and other systems to run on wind, solar and hydro power, including enough storage capacity to keep the lights on overnight, Mark Jacobson said in a study published Friday in the journal One Earth. But that would be offset by annual savings of almost $11 trillion, the report found.”

12-20-19 Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion Plans Four New Gas Units. “Despite its recent advertising campaign rebranding itself as a ‘green’ utility, Dominion Energy is planning to build four natural gas ‘peaking units’ costing $600 million at its Chesterfield County generating station. The utility filed for a permit for the State Air Pollution Control Board, according to the Chesterfield Observer. The gas plants would generate 1,000 megawatts of power to electrify 250,000 homes. One phase of the project would be completed in 2023 with another going online the following year.”

12-19-19 Electrek. 3 reasons why the US natural gas boom is fizzling out. “Natural gas prices plummeted at the end of November due to a glut of supply. It’s also looking as though a warmer December is going to keep demand down. And finally, the fossil fuel is being increasingly banned in US cities and towns for environmental and safety reasons.”

12-19-19 Blue Virginia. Video: “Virginia Clean Economy Act” Unveiled. Is It Adequate to the Challenges and Opportunities We Face? “See [this link] for video of the unveiling a bit earlier today, by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (patron in the Senate), Del. Rip Sullivan (patron in the House) and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (chief co-patron in the House) [UPDATE: Del. Alfonso Lopez (chief co-patron in the House) couldn’t make it this morning, but he played a role in developing this legislation the past few months] and – as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) calls it, ‘a broad and diverse coalition of advocacy groups and business voices to unveil the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a bill that will take historic steps to give Virginia a 100% carbon-free electricity grid and eliminate emissions by Virginia’s utilities by 2050.’ Also, see [this link] for a two-page summary of the Virginia Clean Economy Act”

12-16-19 Reuters. Dominion still sees U.S. Atlantic Coast natgas pipe online in 2022 despite Morgan Stanley’s doubts. “Dominion Energy Inc (D.N) said on Monday it was confident it will complete the proposed $7.3-$7.8 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina by early 2022, in response to a prediction by investment bank Morgan Stanley that a court decision would likely scuttle the project. …. Dominion made its comments after Morgan Stanley said in a report that ‘Atlantic Coast will likely not be completed given the Fourth Circuit’s likely (in the bank’s view) rejection, for the third time, of a newly issued Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement that we expect to come by the first quarter of 2020.'”

12-15-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Virginia needs a more transparent regulatory system for fossil fuel investments. “With Democrats’ sweep of the General Assembly, Virginians might think the state was poised to embrace a clean energy policy — and prioritize public health, and clean air and water — over fossil fuel energy investment. Unfortunately, Virginia seems hell-bent on fast-tracking a massive expansion of fossil gas infrastructure. It’s been widely reported that Democratic governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam have supported two controversial pipeline projects — the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — despite a growing outcry from residents about their staggering environmental impact. Less well known are two more massive gas projects quietly being shepherded through Virginia’s regulatory system.”

12-15-19 Times West Virginian. State leaders continue to betray future generations. “West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is leading an effort with 17 other state attornies general to push the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline forward, despite legal rulings that have held construction up for about a year now. The 18-state alliance filing a ‘friend of the court’ brief to argue that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was inaccurate in ruling that the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline rights-of-way through forestland beneath federal trails. Morrissey said in a press release the state has lost revenue and economic growth due to the development of the ACP being stalled out. …. With all due respect to Mr. Morrissey, we think his efforts are misplaced. …. Instead of putting all this effort into industries that ultimately harm the citizens of West Virginia, we should be focusing on education, economic diversity and programs to help and retrain the workers whose livelihoods were destroyed when the coal industry went through massive layoffs.”

12-12-19 WOSU. Study: Natural Gas Led To Economic Benefits And Premature Deaths In Region. “A new study by Carnegie Mellon University finds that in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia region, the economic boost from shale gas drilling has been less than the cost of premature deaths caused by pollution from the industry. The study, published last month in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that between 2004-2016, shale development created a regional economic boost of $21 billion. That’s compared with $23 billion in the costs related to the 1,200-4,600 premature deaths linked to air pollution from the industry.”

12-12-19 Natural Gas Intel. Feds Extend MVP’s Reopened Endangered Species Review by 60 Days. “FERC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have extended an ongoing Endangered Species Act review of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) by 60 days due to missing information, a regulatory filing this week shows. Earlier this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked the USFWS to reopen its review of the 2 Bcf/d, 300-mile Appalachia-to-Southeast pipeline due to new concerns over the project’s potential impacts to several protected species. That request triggered a 90-day consultation period that was set to expire this week, but the agencies opted to extend the consultation period to Feb. 10 as USFWS looks to address ‘identified data gaps’ and complete its review.”

12-12-19 Washington Post. Bipartisan bill in Va. chips away at Dominion’s excess profits. “Two state lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan effort on Thursday to reclaim the state’s authority to set electric rates, a sign that the incoming Democratic-controlled legislature may take on Virginia’s biggest utility, Dominion Energy. Dels. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) and Jerrauld C. ‘Jay’ Jones (D-Norfolk) said their proposal is a ‘common sense’ effort to restore protections for consumers. Called the Fair Energy Bills Act, the measure would reinstate the authority of the State Corporation Commission to review electricity base rates and set profit levels for Dominion. Much of that authority was stripped away in 2015 when the General Assembly agreed to freeze base rates and prevent the commission from ordering the utilities to return excess profits to ratepayers.”

12-12-19 Roanoke Times. Judge approves $2.15 million settlement of lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Mountain Valley Pipeline will pay $2.15 million for the environmental damage it has caused so far in building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, while facing additional penalties for any new violations that may occur. Those were the conditions of a settlement, approved this week, of a lawsuit brought against the company by state regulators. …. The consent decree signed by Henrico County Circuit Judge Richard Wallerstein on Wednesday calls for court-ordered compliance and supervision of future construction, providing more stringent oversight of Mountain Valley than what would be provided under normal DEQ enforcement.”

12-11-19 New York Times. Natural Gas Boom Fizzles as a U.S. Glut Sinks Profits. “A decade ago, natural gas was heralded as the fuel of the future. …. The boom has given way to a bust. A glut of cheap natural gas is wreaking havoc on the energy industry, and companies are shutting down drilling rigs, filing for bankruptcy protection and slashing the value of shale fields they had acquired in recent years. …. Nowhere are the declining fortunes of natural gas more in evidence than in Appalachia, where the Marcellus field centered in central and western Pennsylvania was once viewed as the most promising in North America. With gas prices slashed nearly in half from a year ago, the number of drilling rigs operating in Pennsylvania has dropped to 24, from 47, over the last 12 months. EQT, one of the premier producers in the Marcellus, recently cut nearly a quarter of its work force, eliminating 196 positions.”

12-11-19 Virginian-Pilot. Virginia Natural Gas received draft agenda item on Atlantic Coast Pipeline before it was public, emails show. “Before an influential planning commission was set to publicly debate throwing its support behind the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the group’s executive director went back and forth with an employee of one of the pipeline’s chief proponents, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Robert Crum, the director, eventually provided Virginia Natural Gas a draft agenda item that requested the commission endorse the project. Upon learning of the emails, opponents of the contentious infrastructure project that would bring natural gas from West Virginia to Chesapeake were critical of the ‘best friend’ access proponents of the pipeline seemed to be getting. They argued that it has happened all along the pipeline’s path.”

12-9-19 Augusta Free Press. Rasoul’s Green New Deal Act addresses climate emergency. “Roanoke Democrat Sam Rasoul announced Monday that he is introducing legislation to address the climate change emergency. Del. Rasoul’s bill, the Green New Deal Act, HB 77, is part of a suite of bills developed by Green New Deal Virginia, a broad coalition of more than 60 grassroots organizations co-founded in 2018 by Rasoul and Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William County.”

12-9-19 Energy and Policy Institute. Report details utilities’ use of charitable giving to influence politics. “In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the Energy and Policy Institute has examined the charitable contributions of 10 leading investor-owned electric utilities in the U.S. We found that all of these major utilities use their charitable giving to manipulate politics, policies and regulation in ways designed to increase shareholder profits, often at the expense of low-income communities whose communities are more likely to bear the brunt of climate impacts and suffer higher levels of air pollution.”

12-9-19 WVNews. WV AG Morrisey-led coalition files brief urging U.S. Supreme Court to reverse pipeline shutdown. “A group of U.S. attorneys general, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, filed a brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that shut down construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 18-member coalition filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court. In the brief, the coalition argues that an appellate court ruling shutting down the pipeline was inaccurate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Forest Service lacked the authority to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline rights of way through forestland beneath federal trails, specifically the Appalachian Trail.”  NB:  16 of the 18 states who filed neither touch the Appalachian Trail nor do they have the ACP going through them. THREE out of FOUR states who do decline to support the brief, VA, PA and NC.

12-6-19 Facing South. Big Energy front group launches push for troubled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A lobbying group formed by oil and gas industry insiders to push for increased fossil fuel production has turned its focus from promoting offshore drilling in the Atlantic to championing Dominion Energy’s and Duke Energy’s controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). It’s doing so under the guise of being a pro-consumer group concerned about energy justice, even while its members include major gas production companies as well as Dominion Energy. Last week, the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) had a letter to the editor published in The News & Observer of Raleigh making the case for the proposed pipeline…. The letter comes on the heels of two reports the CEA recently released in North Carolina — one purporting to show that burning more natural gas saves consumers money and another claiming that it’s good for the environment. The former was based on calculations developed by Orion Strategies, a West Virginia-based public relations firm that serves the energy industry. A version of the CEA’s environmental report that was released in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top gas-producing states, has come under fire from public health advocates as misleading.”

12-6-19 SELC. Proposed federal energy rollbacks threaten renewable energy growth. “This week, SELC filed comments on behalf of eighteen organizations across the Southeast opposing proposed rollbacks to clean energy policies at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. One of FERC’s duties is to implement the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. Enacted in 1978 to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and encourage renewable energy generation, the law enables competition by requiring monopoly utilities to purchase power from certain independent power producers. In many states, PURPA is the only legal tool available to support the development of independent power producers that promote energy independence, reduce reliance on fossil fuel generation, and provide low-cost renewable energy to ratepayers. ‘The agency’s latest proposals will make it easier for utilities to avoid their federal obligations by increasing uncertainty and impairing financing for renewable energy projects, and by reducing the requirement to purchase clean renewable energy,’ says Senior Attorney Lauren Bowen, leader of SELC’s Solar Power Initiative.”

12-5-19 Bloomberg. D.C. Circuit to Review FERC Practice Called ‘Kafkaesque’ “The D.C. Circuit will take a closer look at a federal energy agency’s review practice that has long frustrated natural gas pipeline challengers and was recently derided by one judge as a ‘Kafkaesque regime.’ The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Dec. 5 agreed to rehear a case involving the Transcontinental Pipeline’s Atlantic Sunrise project, which cuts through Pennsylvania and connects to a broader East Coast network of natural gas infrastructure. …. At issue in the rehearing is FERC’s use of “tolling orders” to respond to administrative challenges to pipeline approvals. Under the Natural Gas Act, FERC has 30 days to respond to challenges. It uses tolling orders to extend that deadline. Challengers generally can’t go to court to oppose a pipeline until FERC issues a final decision on an administrative challenge. Tolling orders can drag out the timeline so long that construction on a project is complete before a landowner, environmental group, or other challenger has had an opportunity to go to court.

12-5-19 Virginia Mercury. In Virginia, Union Hill and racial tensions have put environmental justice back on the map. “For many activists and policymakers, no single event has done more to put environmental justice on the Virginia map than the state’s approval of a plan by Dominion Energy to site a natural gas compressor station for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the historic freedmen’s community of Union Hill. The decision, which made national headlines and is still being litigated in the courts, was described as ‘almost a symbol of racism’ by Robinson [Dawone Robinson, the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic director of energy affordability at the Natural Resources Defense Council], ‘a very in-your-face specific issue on environmental justice.'”

12-5-19 Utility Dive. Dominion suspends plan to add 1.5 GW of peaking capacity as Virginia faces gas glut. “Dominion Energy on Wednesday announced it suspended a request for proposals (RFP) that targeted up to 1,500 MW of dispatchable peak capacity in its Virginia territory, which observers said would have likely resulted in natural gas additions. Announced in November, the utility said the RFP aimed to replace retiring generation and provide system balancing needs as more renewables are added onto the grid. Dominion said it may reissue the RFP in the future, if it determines the capacity is needed. The utility’s announcement follows reporting from S&P Global that the company has been over-forecasting its demand for years in order to justify spending on new natural gas facilities.”

12-4-19 S&P Global. Overpowered: In Virginia, Dominion faces challenges to its reign. “‘Now, the times they are a-changing,’ said former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who served several years in the General Assembly and who is now the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Donald Trump. ‘There’s a political price now to be paid on both sides of the aisle for just doing what Dominion wants. They don’t get to just say what they want and go get it. It’s a fight now. And it’s a fight with political costs.'”

12-4-19 Rewables Now. OVERVIEW – US wind capacity exceeds hydro, while solar tops oil. “According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released – quietly – by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the first three-quarters of 2019, solar and wind provided nearly six times as much new generating capacity as natural gas in September. …. [T]he gap between gas and renewables for calendar year 2019 appears to be closing with additions by the latter outpacing gas during each of the last three months reported (i.e., July, August, September). Moreover, compared to its prior monthly report, FERC’s three-year forecast has reduced its projection of net new natural gas additions (i.e., “proposed additions under construction” minus “proposed retirements”) by 99 MW while increasing those from renewable sources by 1,040 MW.”

12-3-19 Grist.  A pipeline runs through it. “The pink ribbons start in northern West Virginia. Tied to flimsy wooden posts stuck a few inches into the earth, they’re easy to miss as they whip in the crisp, fall wind. Heading south, they dot landscapes for 600 miles, marking the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Over the past year, I’ve followed the path of the ribbons from West Virginia to North Carolina. I hiked along steep ridges where they were tied to trees; trudged through muddy cattle farms where they were stuck on fence posts. I drove past them as the route curved around churches and homes. Along the way, I spoke to more than 20 people who lived on or near the proposed route, in addition to scientists, activists, lawyers, and government officials. In some places, I learned that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has pitted neighbor against neighbor and sibling against sibling, that it has split church communities and broken friendships. In others, I found that it inspired folks to speak out at county meetings, to read every line in an environmental assessment, and to organize protests with strangers who became close friends. Here are a few stories about some of the humans, wildlife, and places in the pipeline’s path.”

12-3-19 Register-Herald [WV] Texas construction company no longer working on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A Texas corporation that has put down roots in Raleigh County is no longer working on a controversial natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, after the pipeline’s major stakeholder unexpectedly cancelled the Texas company’s contract last month. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint project of EQM Midstream Partners LP, Con Edison Transmissions Inc., NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October halted construction of the 303-mile, interstate pipeline in October, pending the outcome of a series of court challenges launched by environmental groups. In the last week of November, EQM Midstream Partners LP cancelled a work contract for Trinity Energy Services of Argyle, Texas, Trinity spokesman Bob McKibbon verified Monday.”

12-2-19 Bloomberg Environment. Trump Lawyers Defend Pipeline’s Route Across Appalachian Trail. “The U.S. Forest Service has full authority to allow natural gas pipelines to cross the Appalachian Trail, industry lawyers and the Trump administration told the Supreme Court in a pair of Dec. 2 legal filings. Government and industry lawyers say a lower court got it wrong when it ruled that only the National Park Service can oversee development across the trail. …. Environmental groups opposed to the pipeline have until Jan. 15 [2020] to respond to the briefs. Oral argument is set for Feb. 24 [2020]. The case is U.S. Forest Serv. v. Cowpasture River Pres. Ass’n, U.S., No. 18-1584, briefs filed 12/2/19.

12-2-19 Seeking Alpha. Duke Energy: More Dividends In The Pipeline. “One major area of focus for management has been the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the Carolinas, which is an ongoing project to be completed over the next couple of years and should help with the firm’s natural gas revenue. To cover the cost of the pipeline, management recently held an equity offering of 25 million shares, priced at $86.45 per share, the proceeds of which (over $2 billion) were used to help pay for the roughly $7.5 billion cost of the joint venture (along with Dominion Energy (D) and Southern Company (SO)). The aforementioned investment costs and increasing regulatory hurdles will undoubtedly constrain profitability, and will, in all likelihood leave forward earnings growth below the industry average for the immediate future. If anything, the dividend has become more important than ever to existing shareholders, and as such, should be monitored very closely for any surprises, as any disappointments could lead to a dive in share price.”

12-2-19 Blue Virginia. Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy: Effects of Climate Change Are Here in Virginia Today; Now Is the Time for Bold Leadership. “Climate change is not some distant threat — we’re witnessing many of its effects today right here in Virginia. More notably, we are seeing that the immediate burden of our changing climate is disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. Union Hill, a predominantly African American community in Buckingham County, is being threatened by Dominion Energy’s effort to build a compressor station for a fracked-methane pipeline. Compressor stations enable gas to flow through the pipelines at high speeds. This pollutes the air and water with toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. These chemicals pose significant health risks, and are linked to heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, impaired lung function, and premature death. Thankfully, we can do something about it. On Nov. 5, Democrats in Virginia won big — giving us a once-in-a-generation chance to implement real change. We need to lead with bold change in mind, and we can do this by fighting against the influence of big corporations like Dominion Energy who have controlled Richmond for far too long.”

12-2-19 Appalachian Voices. Fossil Fuels in Virginia. “Rural landowners and environmental justice advocates have united in opposition to Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And the fact that sinking billions of captive customer dollars into that fossil fuel project flies in the face of Governor Northam’s well-received call for 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2050 has not gone unnoticed. The next General Assembly, and the governor, have a clear mandate to put an end to the special favors that enrich monopoly utilities at great cost to Virginians.”

12-2-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents ask court to reject agreement between Virginia and MVP. “A coalition of groups that oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline are asking a court to reject an agreement between the pipeline company and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. …. Members of the POWHR coalition said the agreement ignores almost a year of violations, lacks adequate safeguards and fails to mitigate the damage effectively.”

November 2018

11-27-19 The Nation. Meet the Men Fueling the Climate Crisis. “Until there are courts willing to hold the titans of the climate crisis accountable, it’s up to people to begin calling them out by name. …. Earlier this year, the climate writer Kate Aronoff laid out the case for trying fossil-fuel executives for crimes against humanity. The effort, she argued, ‘would put names and faces to a problem too often discussed in the abstract’ and ‘channel some populist rage at the climate’s 1 percent.’ Not all of us anthropoids, after all, are equally responsible for anthropogenic climate change: More than 60 percent of all the carbon spat into the atmosphere since 1854 can be traced to 90 corporations and state-owned industries. Over the last half century, just 20 firms produced more than a third of all emissions.”

11-27-19 Daily Stock Dish. Duke scientist: Stop building natural gas infrastructure now. “A climate scientist at Duke University, in a letter backed by two dozen former officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called Thursday for a halt to natural gas development in North Carolina. Drew Shindell, an earth sciences professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment, said Gov. Roy Cooper should push back on Duke Energy‘s plans to build multiple new natural gas plants in the state, essentially asking the governor to back a moratorium in the fight against climate change. ‘The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel construction,’ Shindell, who is part of the United Nations‘ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said on a conference call with reporters.”

11-27-19 Nelson County Times. Nelson County looks to renewable energy. “Nelson County is looking toward the future by combining renewable energy and school curriculum. At the Nelson County Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 14, Jesse Rutherford, East District representative, announced plans for Nelson to get into the renewable energy game. ‘I have been part of a group that has been working on soliciting grant money for career and technical education in renewable energy. We have the potential of being the first high school in the state of Virginia to be offering training in that industry,’ Rutherford said.”

11-26-19 S&P Global. FERC takes more time for review of MVP Southgate after route changes. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has pushed back the environmental review schedule for the 73-mile, 375 MMcf/d MVP Southgate project, due to recently proposed route changes, and set the timetable for reviewing the 750 MMcf/d Cameron Expansion project in Louisiana. The natural gas project would connect the mainline of the Mountain Valley Pipeline near Chatham, Virginia, and extend to Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina. FERC now expects to release a final environmental impact statement for MVP Southgate on February 14, 2020, rather than December 19 of this year as previously proposed. FERC pointed to changes to the route and revised data for resource impact, filed October 23, in explaining the extension.”

11-26-19 Charlotte Business Journal. Duke Energy stock sale for pipeline funding comes in below anticipated price. Duke Energy Corp.’s stock sold below its hoped-for price in last week’s forward sale that’s designed to raise about $2.5 billion to finance the remaining costs of its share of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The shares sold to eight banks at $85.99, 46 cents per share lower than what the company announced when it priced the stock at $86.45 on Nov. 18. But the bank consortium involved in the transaction picked up an option to buy an additional 3.75 million shares above the 25 million basic proposal. With the sale of the additional shares, Duke raised $2.47 million. Spokeswoman Catherine Butler acknowledged the price was a little lower than expected. Still, the company raised what it needed out of the sale, she says.”

11-26-19 Daily Tar Heel. Governor’s office denies Republican allegation of misused natural gas pipeline funds. “A Republican investigation into [NC] Gov. Roy Cooper’s influence on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project concluded that he ‘improperly used the authority and influence of his office.’ The investigation was started in 2017 by Republican leaders in the General Assembly, which hired independent investigators to look into funds under the governor’s control that they say were used as leverage to influence the partners of the pipeline. …. The report alleged that the governor attempted to influence the ACP partners in a manner that benefitted solar energy companies. However, the report also said no information found in the investigation showed that Cooper ‘personally benefited’ from the creation of the mitigation fund or the nameplate dispute settlement. According to a press release from Cooper’s spokesperson, Ford Porter, the report further stated that no one in the governor’s office interfered with the issuance of permits, that Duke did not think their permits were contingent on the fund or settlement, and that the governor did not benefit from any of this.”

11-25-19 Who.What.Why. The Latest Pipeline Battle: ‘Everyday People’ vs. Corporate Goliath. “It seems like a David vs. Goliath battle. Since 2014, a coalition of environmental, civil rights, and community groups, along with some local businesses, has fought in court to block a massive $8 billion pipeline. The anti-pipeline coalition, which is represented by an environmental law firm, is up against a politically connected corporation with 7.5 million customers in 18 states, 21,000 employees, and 2018 earnings of $2.4 billion.”

11-25-19 Virginia Mercury. Facing backlash, Dominion says it’s willing to have coal plant removed from green energy package. “Amid complaints from businesses and environmental groups, Virginia’s largest utility said it would be willing to let regulators remove a Southwest Virginia power plant that relies almost entirely on coal from a renewable energy portfolio it is aiming to sell to environmentally conscious consumers.”

11-21-19 Roanoke Times. Bondurant and Leech: The ‘public need’ argument for the MVP grows weaker. “As MVP falters, as state agency evidence negates the core constitutional requirement of public need, as the developer advertises its glut for export, why is any eminent domain process against landowners in federal courts actively proceeding? Where, in this mix, is ‘the interest of justice’?”

11-21-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Regulators reject request to boost Dominion’s profit rate. State utility regulators on Thursday rejected a request from Dominion Energy that would have increased the utility’s profit margin through small increases in Virginia ratepayer bills. The State Corporation Commission ruled that it would hold the rate of return at the current level of 9.2% — rejecting Dominion’s request for a return of 10.75%, a rate the SCC said is not ‘consistent with the public interest.'”

11-20-19 News & Advance. Letter: Time to pull plug on natural gas. “Is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline still a good investment? The pipeline will break the carbon budget and lock in long term emissions. Six lawsuits are still outstanding. Pipeline costs continue to rise. Several projected gas plants are canceled, and there are other resource choices that can replace those newly proposed gas “peaker” plants. Offshore wind combined with solar can meet all our summer ‘peak’ demand, and solar-storage or wind-storage are able to back up intermittent power. Those alternatives are already cheaper than new natural gas plants. So are potential demand response and efficiency savings reductions. It is time to pull the plug on gas. The natural gas bridge to the future is behind us.”

11-20-19 Charlotte Observer. There’s enough smoke for an official probe into the NC governor’s pipeline deal. “Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper set out in late 2017 to create a “mitigation fund” intended to offset environmental damage resulting from construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that is planned to roughly follow I-95 through North Carolina. But what resulted is a misbegotten fund that’s causing ongoing political damage — for him. The damage grew Wednesday with the release of a report by private investigators hired by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders. The report, based on research and interviews conducted by the firm Eagle Intel Services LLC, did not find the proverbial smoking gun, but it did find smoke — enough of it that an official investigation is needed to assess the legality of how the fund was established.”

11-20-10 Raleigh News & Observer. Advocates say the state is allowing environmental harm in low-income, minority counties. “The state is failing low-income communities with large African-American and Native American populations by allowing polluting industries to concentrate in their counties, a group of residents said Wednesday as they demanded that an environmental justice advisory board do more to advocate for them. Michael Regan, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality, set up the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board last year. The board has had a low profile even as the state deals with environmental issues that residents say heap harm on economically disadvantaged counties. Opponents of Enviva, a company that produces wood pellets by the ton for export, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, coal ash disposal sites, and industrial agriculture said the DEQ is watching out for industries and not the people who live near those operations.”

11-20-19 Raleigh News & Observer. Cooper ‘improperly’ used influence on pipeline, investigation started by GOP concludes. “An independent investigation started by Republican General Assembly leaders into the state’s approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline found that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper ‘improperly used the authority and influence of his office’ but did not personally benefit from those decisions. The report was released Wednesday, almost two years after GOP leaders first questioned the governor’s office about the appearance of a ‘pay-to-play’ or ‘pay-for-permit’ after the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018. Cooper’s administration at that time also announced the pipeline companies would provide $57.8 million to a fund under the governor’s control to be used for environmental mitigation, economic development and renewable energy in areas affected by the pipeline.”

11-19-19 Utility Dive. Time to move away from old precedents in FERC pipeline reviews. “Since adopting its natural gas pipeline Policy Statement 20 years ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved 474 gas pipeline projects, representing 23,773 new miles of pipeline around the nation. It has rejected only two projects. This outcome, along with the significant changes that have occurred in the natural gas industry, led me two years ago to call on FERC to update its Policy Statement, which has guided how the Commission considers pipeline projects since 1999. In April 2018, FERC decided that it would consider changes and it requested stakeholder comment. The fact that more than 1,600 comments, from a broad spectrum of industry participants, were filed with the agency suggests the intense interest this debate is generating.”

11-19-19 NRDC. Reform Is Long Overdue for FERC’s Gas Pipeline Reviews. “It’s been almost two years since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced that it would take a fresh look at its 20-year-old policy that guides its reviews of new gas pipeline projects, and almost 18 months since NRDC and others filed more than 1,600 comments with the agency on this very question. Since that time, FERC has been silent on the status of its review. A new NRDC-commissioned report released today brings this important issue back into focus and highlights the key areas for reform.”

11-19-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents say erosion controls are inadequate. “Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say sediment and erosion controls approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality are not protecting water and endangered species. During a Roanoke news conference Tuesday afternoon, they cited conditions near Yellow Finch Lane in Montgomery County. They said citizen monitors documented problems there in the days after DEQ approved the controls.”

11-18-19 The Motley Fool. Is Dominion Energy a Great Dividend Stock?  “One of the largest utilities in the United States, Dominion Energy (NYSE:D) is currently offering investors a very attractive 4.6% dividend yield. That’s 1.8 percentage points higher than the average utility, as measured by Vanguard Utilities Index ETF, and about 2.6 percentage points higher than an S&P 500 Index fund. But a high yield isn’t enough to make Dominion a great dividend stock. Here’s a deeper look at Dominion to help you figure out if it belongs in your dividend portfolio. …. Add all of this up, and it’s hard to call Dominion a great dividend stock today. If the dividend were more secure, perhaps. Or if the dividend growth rate were more robust, maybe. Or if the valuation were deeply discounted, sure. But right now Dominion doesn’t really stand out in any material way other than a relatively high yield. That’s not enough to call it a great dividend stock.”

11-12-19 WITF [PA]   FBI eyes how Pennsylvania approved pipeline. “The FBI has begun a corruption investigation into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to issue permits for construction on a multibillion-dollar pipeline project to carry highly volatile natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania, The Associated Press has learned. FBI agents have interviewed current or former state employees in recent weeks about the Mariner East project and the construction permits, according to three people who have direct knowledge of the agents’ line of questioning. …. The focus of the agents’ questions involves the permitting of the pipeline, whether Wolf and his administration forced environmental protection staff to approve construction permits and whether Wolf or his administration received anything in return, those people say. …. the construction has spurred millions of dollars in fines, several temporary shutdown orders, lawsuits, protests and investigations. When construction permits were approved in 2017, environmental advocacy groups accused Wolf’s administration of pushing through incomplete permits that violated the law.”

11-12-19 WMRA. Valley Activists Aid Mountain Valley Pipeline Opponents. “The proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines are slated to carry natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia, and in the case of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, on into North Carolina. Even as construction has been halted or limited by legal challenges, opposition to those projects remains strong among some residents. …. Opponents of the pipelines cite accelerated climate change, health and safety risks, ecosystem destruction, and the abuse of eminent domain as reasons for their activism.”

11-10-19 Kent County News. How a blind crustacean stopped a power company. “Dominion and Duke Energy in late July lost yet another federal permit to build the ill-conceived Atlantic Coast Pipeline. For the second time, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Dominion’s permit to take, kill and destroy habitat for federally listed endangered species. A bumble bee, a bat, a mussel and a tiny blind crustacean are in the proposed path of the 42-inch fracked-gas pipeline. All four species are on the brink of extinction. …. But, wait, aren’t there also hundreds of people in the path of the pipeline that don’t want Dominion to take their land through eminent domain? Won’t thousands of streams and rivers be damaged by sediment pollution during construction? And what about the environmental injustice in Union Hill, Va., where a toxic compressor station for the pipeline is planned in a community of descendants of freed slaves? Wasn’t all that enough to stop the pipeline? …. If a bee, a bat, a mussel and a crustacean can stop Dominion’s destructive pipeline, I’m all for it. I just wish the people in its path had as much standing in court as the critters.”

11-8-19 Virginia Mercury. Green power for suckers program gets SCC approval.  “Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has approved Dominion Energy Virginia’s request to offer a new product to electric utility customers who want to buy renewable energy at a discount but lack the knowledge to understand when they are being taken for chumps. ‘Rider REC’ is an ultra-cheap version of the company’s Green Power Program (itself of questionable value). For less than a buck a month on their electric bills, customers will be able to buy renewable energy certificates that cost Dominion next to nothing because no one else wants them. And for good reason: these are the dregs of the renewable energy category. You won’t find any wind or solar in Rider REC, but you might find paper mill waste, trees burned after clear-cutting or century-old hydro dams — all officially ‘renewable’ under the generous provisions of Virginia law. Dominion will scrounge up these old and dirty leftovers, package them up and put a green bow on them.”

11-8-19 New York Times. Natural Gas or Renewables? New Orleans Choice Is Shadowed by Katrina. “Is it wise to keep building fossil-fuel plants — even those powered by natural gas rather than coal — that will be in operation for decades? Or are wind turbines and solar farms now reliable and economical enough to take their place?” Article includes discussion of the rapidly dropping cost of renewables, utility company arguments about why renewables are not sufficient to meet needs, environmental justice issues – and the fallout from utility companies hiring of paid actors to stack public hearings in their favor.

11-8-19 Charlotte Business Journal. Sudden change of plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline surprises Duke Energy investors. “Duke Energy Corp. has changed its construction and financing plans for the still-stalled Atlantic Coast Pipeline, pushing off any operations to 2022 and issuing $2.5 billion in additional stock by the end of next year to cover costs. Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE: DUK) has been saying for some time that it did not anticipate issuing additional stock for the project. The sudden reversal, announced in conjunction with Duke’s earnings Friday, came as a surprise to investors, said analyst Andy Smith at Edward Jones. He suspects that it is the major contributor to a drop in Duke’s stock price.”

11-7-19 Utility Dive. Dominion Virginia plan for 1.5 GW new peaking capacity will lead to more gas plants, NGOs fear. “Dominion Energy Virginia is seeking up to 1,500 MW of new dispatachable peak capacity beginning in 2022, to replace generation retirements and to provide system balancing needs for the company’s growing renewables fleet. Environmental groups say the RFP aims to bring new gas-fired generation into the state, which is at odds with state policy targeting 100% carbon-free power by 2050. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, in September signed Executive Order 43 setting the state on a course to reach 30% renewables by 2030, along with the 2050 goal. Dominion says it is on track to meet the state’s clean energy goals, but the need for additional generation was identified in recent Integrated Resource Plans. Proposals for new generation are due to the utility by Dec. 19.”

11-7-19 Nelson County Times. Letter: Court’s decision a bump in the road. “The Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear Dominion’s appeal for reinstatement of the permit to cross the Appalachian Trail is a bump in the road, not the end of the story. However this case is decided, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) faces many more challenges. As the case goes forward, public appreciation of the weakness of the ACP proposal will continue to grow. …. Dominion’s appeal to the Supreme Court is a Hail Mary attempt to rescue a pipeline that is clearly in jeopardy. The ACP is two years behind schedule and close to $3 billion over the estimated cost. Dominion’s captive ratepayers are waking up to the billions of dollars they will be compelled to pay for the pipeline and the additional 15 percent ‘return on equity’ guaranteed by federal law. Investors are growing wary of fossil fuels; Moody’s has downgraded the ACP to a risky investment. Renewable energy continues its trend of increasing efficiency and declining cost. The myth of methane as a ‘bridge fuel’ has evaporated. Public concern about climate change is growing explosively worldwide.”

11-6-19 Clean Virginia. Virginia Candidates Refusing Dominion Money Win Nearly 50 General Assembly Seats. “In a decisive rebuke to Dominion Energy’s unprecedented electoral spending, voters in Virginia overwhelmingly rejected the monopoly’s attempts to influence Virginia’s political system in statewide elections yesterday. All seven flipped seats in the House of Delegates and State Senate went to candidates who refused campaign contributions from the utility monopolies they will regulate in the General Assembly — Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company. This issue resonated with Virginian voters across party lines, as two Republican incumbents who also refused these campaign contributions kept their seats in highly contested races.”

11-6-19 S&P Global. Virginia’s legislative shift could tighten RGGI market, impact gas pipeline development. “The Democratic Party winning control of both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly in Tuesday’s elections paves the way for the state to join a regional emissions cap-and-trade program, thus tightening that oversupplied market, and could have natural gas pipeline development implications. …. Virginia wrote and finalized a regulation to cap carbon dioxide emissions earlier this year, but the budget did not allocate any money for it. The regulation is designed to cap emissions from 32 fossil fuel-fired power plants with more than 25 MW of generation capacity starting in 2020, and then require a 30% emissions reduction over the next 10 years. ‘With the election results, we are very hopeful the Assembly will fully fund Governor Northam’s carbon regulations,’ Will Cleveland, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a phone call Wednesday.”

11-6-19 The Intercept. Democratic Sweep Sets Up Confrontation With Corporate Giant That Has Loomed Over Virginia Politics for a Century. “The stunning victory on Tuesday by Virginia Democrats, seizing control of both chambers of the state legislature and bringing the state under unified party control, sets up a new confrontation with a powerful adversary: Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy, the privately owned utility company, has long cast a shadow across the state, buying favor in both parties as the most generous donor in state history, writing its own lax regulatory rules, and funneling consumer bills into billions of dollars of investor dividends and executive compensation.”

11-5-19 Progressive Pulse. [NC]DEQ staff to investigators: We knew nothing about the governor’s deal with Dominion over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Ten NC Department of Environmental Quality staff, including Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman, told investigators earlier this month that they did not communicate with the governor’s office in advance about a $57.8 million mitigation fund related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Nor was there a quid pro quo involving a key water quality permit for the natural gas project and the fund, DEQ staff said.”

11-5-19 Virginia Mercury. Report: Department of Defense ‘precariously unprepared’ for climate change risks. “If the stalwart presence of the U.S. military in Virginia makes you feel safer in an uncertain world plagued by sea level rise and climate change, a recent report by the U.S. Army War College would like to disabuse you of that sense of security. According to ‘Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army,’ the Department of Defense is ‘precariously unprepared for the national security implications’ of climate change, while the U.S. Army has fostered an ‘environmentally oblivious’ culture. ‘In short, the Army is an environmental disaster,’ the authors write.”

11-5-19 Pittsburgh Business Times. Mountain Valley co-owner puts cap on investment in pipeline. “Con Edison, the large New York-based utility company, is scaling back its investment in the troubled Mountain Valley Pipeline. Con Edison (NYSE: ED) revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that its subdiary CET Gas will cap its investment in MVP, the 300-mile pipeline that has been mired in legal cases on the state and federal level, to $530 million. Con Edison has already spent about $488 million.”

11-4-19 NBC29. Environmental Nonprofit Studies Potential Impact of ACP on African American Community. ” The potential impacts of a proposed compressor station in Buckingham County were explored Monday night. One group is determined to explain how the planned placement of that part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline contributes to racism while harming the environment. A report released Monday night by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League goes into detail about how black people and minorities would see the most harm from that compressor station. The problem it says is not new, because according to this report, it stems from a history of racist practices.”

11-4-19 Raw Story. Meet Trump’s ‘see no evil’ energy commission nominee.  “The attorney Trump nominated for a seat on a federal commission that oversees pipeline construction and other energy projects wants to impose the legal equivalent of the three monkeys that see no evil in assessing how oil and gas companies are destroying our planet. James Danly, a relatively inexperienced attorney who was an associate at the mega-lobbying and law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom before the White House named him the general counsel for the commission, prefers the benign-sounding phrase ‘humble regulator.'”

11-3-19 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: Jorge Aguilar on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The concession that Union Hill is a predominantly African American community is confirmation of what Virginia’s environmental justice advocates have known for years: Communities of color are disproportionately targeted when it comes to fossil fuel infrastructure projects, in this case the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s dirty compressor station, scheduled to be built in the midst of a community descended from former slaves. …. After the race-related scandals of the past year, Northam and state officials have sought to address some of the long-term racial inequities that have been prevalent in Virginia. This is a clear moment when Northam can act to do the right thing and demand that agencies revoke the state permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and accompanying compressor stations.”

11-1-19 Virginia Mercury. On nation’s biggest proposed offshore wind farm, Dominion plans to fly solo. “Dominion Energy intends to move forward alone with developing the nation’s largest proposed offshore wind farm, an enterprise estimated to cost $8 billion, top utility leaders indicated to investors in a third-quarter earnings call Friday morning. ‘The project will be developed and owned by Dominion Energy Virginia, with regulated cost recovery subject to approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission,’ said Dominion CEO, Chairman and President Tom Farrell during the presentation. The company’s approach bucks the dominant trend among East Coast utilities, which have otherwise partnered with private developers to add offshore wind energy to their portfolios.”

11-1-19 NRDC. Virginia: Remember, and Protect, Union Hill. “Dominion Energy was in court again on Tuesday for its unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is proposed for Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia and would cross the Appalachian Trail as well as several historic and vulnerable communities. The case highlights what has long been known—and ignored—by regulators: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a textbook case of environmental injustice.”

11-1-19 S&P Global. In face of litigation, Dominion reiterates Atlantic Coast Pipeline timeline, cost estimate. ” Despite ongoing federal environmental litigation, Dominion Energy expects to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on its previously released timeline, with full project construction resuming by the end of 2020, and with full commissioning of the project in early 2022, company officials said Friday. In the company’s third-quarter 2019 earnings conference call, Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell also said that the company does not anticipate that the court cases would add to the estimated $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion cost of the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d natural gas pipeline project.”


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