December 2015 News

12-24-15  The Washington Post.  New Infrared Video Reveals Growing Environmental Disaster in L.A. Gas Leak.  “A runaway natural gas leak from a storage facility in the hills above Los Angeles is shaping up as a significant ecological disaster, state officials and experts say, with more than 150 million pounds of methane pouring into the atmosphere so far and no immediate end in sight…. While the leak is unusually large, scientists and environmental groups have long sought to call attention to the problem of methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  The Obama administration announced proposed regulations over the summer to cut down on methane leaks from drilling and storage, citing concerns about the climatic impact of the approximately 7­ million tons of methane lost to the atmosphere from industrial sources in the United States each year. Pound for pound, methane is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.   Adam Brandt, an assistant professor at Stanford University’s Institute for the Environment, said substantial leaks can sometimes go completely undetected.  ‘Even large leaks can be hard to find if they occur away from populated areas,’ Brandt said.”

12-23-15  Nelson County Times.  FERC Requests the ACP for a More Detailed Review of Pipeline and Alternate Routes in Nelson.  “Some residents of Nelson County strongly opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline believe they have received a gift right before Christmas.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has written a 34-page letter to Dominion citing more than 100 issues that must be addressed in the ACP proposal before the application may be considered…. FERC’s letter to Dominion, signed by Kevin Bowman, environmental project manager of the Office of Energy Projects, states the ACP application is incomplete and the federal agency cannot establish a schedule for the required Environmental Impact Study until a complete application is received and reviewed…. FERC also requests that Dominion consider several alternatives for the pipeline, specifically for the proposed route under Reids Gap and through the South Rockfish Valley.”

12-22-15  Outside Online.  Op Ed: The Gas and Oil Industry Is Encroaching on National Parks.  “Earlier this month, the House of Representatives approved the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, a comprehensive energy bill. Tucked inside is the deceptively named National Energy Security Corridors Act, which would amend the Minerals Leasing Act to strip the requirement for Congressional approval of oil and gas pipeline construction within our national parks. If this legislation were to be signed into law, we could expect to see companies like the ones fracking in the Marcellus Shale to construct pipelines through places like the Appalachian Trail (which passes through Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks)…. The creation of our national parks is often referred to as America’s best idea; allowing pipelines to be constructed through them may be our worst.”

12-22-15  The Charlottesville Newsplex.  Petition Against Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “An online petition has been created to keep Dominion Virginia Power’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline out of Central Virginia.  It started up last month and is targeted toward local government officials to get them to resist the proposal.  ‘There have been at least three pipeline proposals in this area in the last year,’ said Evan Knappenberger, board member of Charlottesville Peace and Justice. ‘We want to start a grassroots movement to stop new pipeline construction in Central Virginia.'”

12-22-15  Huffington Post.  Examining the Fracking Power of FERC.  “A fast-growing web of interstate pipelines to service the fracked-shale-gas industry is creeping across the nation, capturing communities in its destructive grip. At the center of the web is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an agency that is imbued with extraordinary power to impact lives and approve environmental damage that will span generations…. FERC’s extraordinary level of power over the lives of the public and our environment requires unbiased and careful reviews of pipeline projects to ensure they are actually serving a public need. The builders’ responsibilities should include avoiding unnecessary harm, dealing fairly with impacted communities and property owners, and fully complying with laws that do apply.  So far, this hasn’t been the case…. It’s time that the public asks for an independent examination of FERC to identify necessary reforms. We need senators who serve on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to request such a review from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)–senators such as Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).  There’s no defense for harming lives and the environment for purely private industrial interests.”

12-18-15  The Charlottesville Newsplex.  Natural Gas Pipeline Opponents Appeal to WV County for Support.  “Opponents of a proposed 550-mile natural gas pipeline are asking a West Virginia county to support their efforts seeking a combined review of that energy project and others.  The Exponent Telegram reports that the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club delivered its request Thursday before the Upshur County Commission.  The Sierra Club’s Kirk Bowers said commissioners should ask for a collective environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as well as others. Each is now being reviewed separately.”

12-17-15  The Recorder.  Pipeline Monitoring Group to Petition EPA.  “Those frustrated with Virginia’s apparent lack of oversight on big, linear construction projects—such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—are about to step things up.  Virginia can’t seem to properly handle Clean Water Act laws when it comes to gas pipelines, they say; so, it’s time to go over the state’s head and get some help from the Environmental Protection Agency.  For months, the boards of supervisors for six Virginia counties, plus numerous individuals and environmental organizations, have pleaded for the Department of Environmental Quality to provide sufficient oversight and monitoring for the ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline projects.  So far, they’ve gotten little response. The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition and perhaps other groups will soon petition the EPA to strip Virginia of its authority to police the construction permitting process, and stormwater and erosion and sediment control plans.”

12-16-15  NBC 29.  Protesters Continue Opposition to Proposed Natural Gas Pipeline.  “Some central Virginians took to the street Wednesday to protest against a proposed natural gas pipeline.  About a dozen people carrying signs stood on the sidewalk at Dominion Virginia Power’s location on Hydraulic Road in Charlottesville. They are part of a group called Friends of Nelson.  ‘To take gas from West Virginia export it to Europe and take our property to make profits, to do that is just a terrible idea. We want everyone to know what a bad idea it is too, because ultimately it’s other people’s pressure in addition to ours that’s gonna make a difference,’ said protester Ernie Reed.”

12-15-15  Nelson County Times.  Company Presents Pipeline Analysis to Nelson Supervisors; Dominion Disputes.  “A Charlottesville company presented the potential economic effects of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors at a meeting last week.  Key-Log Economics, LLC was hired by Friends of Nelson to analyze the economic effects of the pipeline. Friends of Nelson President Joanna Salidis noted, however, the presentation was preliminary and in the next month there will be more documentation.  Friends of Nelson is a group strongly protesting the 564-mile ACP project. Opposition in Nelson has been strong since the project’s inception in May of last year.  Spencer Phillips, principal of Key-Log Economics, looked at the cost in three categories: ecosystem services, which include nature’s benefits such as water filtration and beauty; property values and sustainability.”

12-10-15  Charlotte Business Journal.  FERC Wants $5.1B Pipeline Partnership to Seek Alternate Routes Through Two National Forests.  “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to look at alternative paths for the 542-mile project through the Monongahela and George Washington national forests….. Maps of the proposed pipeline indicate that it might be possible to fashion routes further to the south of the current proposal that would avoid some of the more heavily-forested sections of the federal land. The alternate routes could add substantial length to the project and would increase costs.”

12-10-15  Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.  A New Standard of Transparency?  “The DPMC has filed a request with Governor Terry McAuliffe for documents held by his office that relate to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The request, filed under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asks for all pipeline-related documents in the Governor’s Office that have been sent between Virginia state agencies and the Governor’s office and any sent between companies associated with the two pipeline proposals and the Governor.”

12-9-15  The News Virginian.  Augusta Supervisors Seek Pipeline Impact Study.  “Augusta County supervisors want the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to require the builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to conduct a five-phase study in the county and provide a contingency fund for any damages in the water quality to private wells.

12-9-15  Roanoke Times.  FERC Chairman Rejects Overarching Review of Pipeline Projects.  “The latest snub.  One more example of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission saying “no” to residents, organizations and local governments in Southwest Virginia.  That’s how David Perry, the executive director of the Roanoke-based Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, described the recent rejection by FERC of performing an overarching study of the potential cumulative environmental effects of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and up to three other proposed interstate natural gas pipeline projects in Virginia and West Virginia…. Proponents say such an assessment could help establish fundamental standards for projects that would bury large-diameter natural gas pipelines in environments that include steep and mountainous terrain, sinkholes, caves and springs, sensitive species, high-quality streams and a host of other features common to the Appalachian and Blue Ridge region.  It would help track the potential for cumulative environmental consequences, they say, and weigh those effects against the need to pipe natural gas to markets…. Young-Allen said FERC has never undertaken a programmatic environmental impact statement. The commission ‘does not engage in regional planning exercises that would result in the selection of one project over another,’ she said.  Instead, FERC’s policy has been to ‘allow market forces to influence where projects would be situated,’ she said.”

12-8-15  The Daily Progress.  Federal Agency Seeks Alternate Route Through Forest.  “Federal regulators have asked developers of the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline to consider an alternative route through the Monongahela National Forest that would veer southward from the proposed route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.… Among reasons cited by the commission for seeking an evaluation of the southerly alternative route was the potential for avoiding damaging and fragmenting habitat for rare plant and animal communities, crossing national recreation areas such as the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, and passing through areas being studied for possible wilderness status.  The commission’s request also made it clear that any route through the national forest must take into account the Monongahela’s long-range management plan in evaluating affected resources.”

12-6-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Rinker: To Purloin Critical Silence: Losing a Way of Life for a 42-Inch-Wide Pipeline.  Opinion piece.  “In the 21st century, here in our region, another cruel assault is unfolding. On this occasion, however, the targets are two long-established religious groups in central Virginia. The invader this time is Dominion Resources, a Richmond-based for-profit company granted by state legislators the right to seize private property and impose an unwanted and disruptive natural gas pipeline on communities across the commonwealth.  The two religious groups are the Union Hill Baptist Church and the Yogaville Ashram, both in Buckingham County…. Both communities are unobtrusive Buckingham County neighbors, and both are in the pathway of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. Akin to its irreparable impacts on farmlands, forests, watersheds, endangered species, and historic districts, this widely disputed pipeline will slice through two religious communities significant to regional and international standing. By its very nature, the pipeline, including its associated compressor station, may purloin the necessary silence of these prayerful congregations and reduce them to relicts of spirituality…. Every glossy aspect of this multibillion-dollar project troubles me — as a scientist, educator, conservationist, caring citizen, and man of faith. Its ecological, cultural, and economic impacts will endure for generations. Its scars on our viewscapes will endure for generations. Its bearing on personal property rights and real estate values will endure for generations.”

12-6-15  News Leader.  Possible New Pipeline Route Thanks to FERC.  “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could be seeing a different route, because of a request from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.  According to a letter from FERC to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, or ACP, an environmental informational draft request is currently in the process to find a different route for the pipeline that would provide less damage to the environment.”

12-3-15  ABC News.  House Backs Sweeping Energy Bill to Boost Oil, Natural Gas.  “Defying a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Thursday approved a sweeping bill to boost U.S. energy production, lift a four-decade ban on crude oil exports and modernize the aging electric grid.  The first major energy legislation in nearly a decade, the bill would also speed natural gas exports and hasten approval of natural gas pipelines across public lands. It also would advance cross-border projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which lingered for more than seven years before being rejected last month by President Barack Obama…. Passage of the legislation comes just days after Obama traveled to Paris for an international conference on climate change. Administration officials involved in negotiations are pressing for a far-reaching agreement designed to put the world on a path toward reducing the carbon pollution blamed for global warming.  Democrats criticized the House bill as ‘backward-looking,’ saying it promotes fossil fuels such as oil and gas while doing nothing to support renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind power.”

12-3-15  The Roanoke Times.  Pipeline Opponents Cite Contamination of Drinking Water Supply as Cautionary Tale.  “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality concluded that a diesel fuel spill along the right-of-way of a buried 12-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline in Virginia was the “only definitive source” for the contamination this summer of a spring that serves as the primary drinking water source for a community in Monroe County, West Virginia.  People questioning the wisdom of burying large-diameter natural gas pipelines in areas of sinkholes, caves and complex groundwater interaction point to the contamination of Coburn Spring — and temporary abandonment of this key public drinking water source in July — as a cautionary tale.  The incident “illustrates just how sensitive our water sources are to contaminants or disturbances introduced into karst topography,” observed Justin St. Clair, prosecuting attorney for Monroe County, in a Nov. 27 filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…. Opponents of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects contend that these natural gas pipelines, each of which would be 42 inches in diameter, cannot be safely constructed and operated in karst landscapes — which typically feature sinkholes, caves, springs, sinking creeks and underground streams vulnerable to contamination.  In addition, pipeline foes have expressed fears that DEQ will not provide adequate oversight of the interstate pipeline projects in Virginia if FERC approves the construction of one or both.”

12-1-15  Time.  What Obama’s Rejection of Keystone Means for the Climate Fight.  “The rejection of the pipeline will not bring the fossil fuel industry to a screeching halt, nor has it become a global rallying point at the climate talks. But the fight over it has started a new trend in pipeline opposition. What were once normal and never-before-questioned conveyances of energy are now facing unprecedented levels of scrutiny, ire and resistance.  Citizens across the continent, concerned about loss in property values, unmanageable oil spills and climate change, are taking on one of the most powerful industries in the world—the fossil-fuel industry. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia and its Sandpiper pipeline in Minnesota have received stiff opposition from concerned citizens. Momentum of TransCanada’s 2,800-mile Energy East pipeline has stalled. Efforts to lay gas pipelines across the Northeast have been stymied, like Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 550-mile pipeline that would go through the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.”