February 2015 News

2-28-15  News Leader.  Pipeline Furor Prompts Search for ‘Karst.’  “The ground under Augusta County, the way it’s formed, is simple to conceptualize if you picture one grocery store item.  A block of Swiss cheese.  Specific geology beneath the surface, and the chemistry that forms it, defines this county and the surrounding region as much as the mountains that shape the terrain above ground.  The limestone that has made the Shenandoah Valley an agricultural breadbasket is a factor in the sinkholes that open up along Interstate 81.  And now it’s in the path of a proposed underground natural gas pipeline — one of the biggest and most controversial planned developments in the area’s history — that has raised concerns about karst, the geological formation that is a natural signature of the western Virginia landscape.”

2-27-15  The Daily Progress.  Pipeline Opponents Challenge Survey Start Times.  “Letters sent out to landowners impacted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Augusta, Buckingham and Nelson counties violated state law, project opponents say. Dominion officials, meanwhile, claim the problem stems from a mistake made while typing up the documents and will soon be corrected.  On Feb. 23, letters were sent out to all landowners in the study corridor for the pipeline’s alternative routes, telling them when the company would start surveying properties. Each of those letters stated that ‘Dominion plans to begin studies along the newly developed route alternatives on or about March 2, 2015.’  The problem with that statement is the fact the Virginia Code requires landowners be given at least a 15-day notice before utility company officials come on their land. Under the terms set out in the letters, they would get less than seven.  ‘Dominion has failed to give the required 15 days notice before entry,’ said Joanna Salidis, president of Friends of Nelson, a group opposed to the pipeline. ‘Dominion is taking a heavy-handed approach by bullying residents into allowing surveys by announcing they will begin surveys in less than one week.’”

2-26-15  Augusta Free Press.  Nelson County Group Takes Offensive Against Pipeline Surveys.  “In response to Dominion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC’s latest effort to expedite surveys on hundreds of properties in Nelson County, Nelson County residents are taking the offensive.  Friends of Nelson continues to organize landowners in opposition to these illegal surveys.  And another lawsuit targeting Dominion could be on the horizon.  ‘Dominion has failed to give the required 15 days notice before entry,’ said Joanna Salidis, property owner and President of Friends of Nelson.  ‘Dominion is taking a heavy-handed approach by bullying residents into allowing surveys by announcing they will begin surveys in less than one week.’ Further, the letters came from Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC., a foreign limited liability company from Delaware that has registered to do business in Virginia only as a foreign limited liability company.  It is not a Virginia public service company under the regulation of the State Corporation Commission according to the most current list of Virginia public service companies the State Corporation Commission maintains.  Therefore, ACP LLC’s right to access property without permission at all is highly questionable.”

2-25-15  News Leader.  County Agrees to Pay for Water Supply Study on Pipeline Impact.  “When federal regulators come to Augusta County to gather input on plans for a natural gas pipeline, the local government will have detailed, technical data available on its water resources. Environmental assessment company Sullivan International Group Inc. put together an inventory on all the natural water resources that originate in the county and flow into other parts of the state.  The report includes an impact projection on how construction of the pipeline could impact those resources.”

2-24-15  The Ed Show.  Fighting Another Pipeline.  “Pristine forests and waterways of central New York and Pennsylvania are at risk if the controversial Constitution pipeline is built. Ed Schultz and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. discuss the potential impact.”

2-24-15  The Daily Progress.  Environmental Study Shows Potential Risk from Pipeline Construction.  “A study requested by an Augusta County supervisor identifies potential risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction to county groundwater and surface water resources, and also measures the millions of gallons of water flowing from the county annually to adjacent counties…. In regards to water quality, the study says that blasting activities necessary for pipeline construction could be a risk to groundwater across the county. ‘The potential for increased turbidity and susceptibility to chemicals associated with blasting represents a risk to groundwater across Augusta County,’ the report said.  Water yield also could be impacted. The report also says that vibrations caused by blasting ‘have the potential to affect fragile bedrock fracture systems within the bedrock aquifer underlying Augusta County, which could result in diminished well yields.'”

2-24-15  ThinkProgress.  Ten People Arrested While Protesting Pipeline that Would Run Through Virginia.  “The protesters had created a blockade at an intersection near the headquarters of Dominion Virginia Power, after participating in the Richmond People’s Climate March, which began at the state capitol Monday morning. They were voicing their opposition to Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 550-foot long natural gas line that would carry 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day from West Virginia to North Carolina…. Weston Matthews, a priest at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Richmond, was among those arrested Monday. He told ThinkProgress that he allowed himself to get arrested because he thinks nonviolent direct action is needed to send the message to Dominion that Virginians aren’t in favor of the pipeline. Running a natural gas pipeline — one with proposed routes that take it through George Washington National Forest and over the Appalachian Trail — through Virginia would be ‘devastating’ to the people and environment in the state, he said…. ‘We need to invest substantially and truly in renewable energy, and not in fossil fuels — and that includes natural gas,’ he said. ‘It’s not in Virginia’s best interest to have natural gas be an alternative. In the long term it’s going to hurt our economy and our creation.’  The Richmond People’s Climate March is planning on increasing its pressure on lawmakers and government agencies to reject the pipeline this year. Last month, a group of Virginians traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is in charge of approving or denying the pipeline, to voice their concerns about the project. Along with the Richmond People’s Climate March, groups such as Friends of Nelson, the Virginia Sierra Club, and Augusta County Alliance are also fighting against the pipeline.”

2-23-15 WINA.  Ernie Reed.  “Ernie Reed, Wild Virginia, talks about the protests Monday in Richmond regarding the planned pipeline going through George Washington National Forest.”

2-23-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Dominion Proposes Alternative Routes for Pipeline in Va.  “Dominion Transmission Inc. is proposing a potential alternate route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline across the Blue Ridge, as well as three other possible new routes through Nelson County to avoid a historic district along the James River and the part of the county worst hit by flooding and landslides from the remnants of Hurricane Camille in 1969.… ‘Dominion can propose to move the pipeline around our beautiful county all they want, but the only responsible route is one which utilizes existing right of ways or easements,’ Nelson Supervisor Constance Brennan said. ‘Industrializing the second oldest mountains on the planet does not seem like a legacy the company should want.’”

2-23-15  NBC 29.  Dominion Proposes Alternative Routes for Natural Gas Pipeline.  “Owners of hundreds of properties in three counties will receive letters from Dominion Resources, asking permission to survey their land for a proposed natural gas pipeline.  Landowners in Augusta, Nelson and Buckingham Counties are now in the path of new alternative routes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. These new alternatives affect 281 properties in those counties…. ‘We are not interested in evaluating the pros and cons of alternative routes unless they are out of Nelson and use existing rights of ways,’ said Joanna Salidis with Friends of Nelson.  The Friends of Nelson group plans to continue the fight to oppose the pipeline. Its president says all of these routes threaten private property rights and safety.”

2-23-15  The News Virginian.  Dominion Releases Alternate Routes for Pipeline.  “The final route for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline could look very different from the original version. On Monday, Dominion officials released several alternatives for the project, changing the way it would run through eastern Augusta and Nelson counties…. Members of the Friends of Nelson group say the pipeline is still a bad idea.  ‘The fact that Dominion has now gone on record with a handful of routes doesn’t solve any of their problems,’ said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson. ‘These will impact an entirely new list of landowners, resulting in increased property owner resistance and lawsuits. Dominion continues to ignore all requests to drop the proposal or to use existing pipeline easement infrastructure instead of depending solely on eminent domain to achieve its business goals. You don’t have to be a property-owner under threat of eminent domain to see how bad and long-lived the effects of this pipeline would be,’ Salidis said.”

2-23-15  Popular Resistance.  Dominion Headquarters Blocked in Richmond.  “At 7:00 a.m. a group of over 50 activists blocked vehicle access to Dominion Resources’ Tredegar Campus in Richmond, Virginia to protest the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transport natural gas from West Virginia, where there is a boom in hydraulic fracturing, 550 miles, through Virginia, and into North Carolina. ‘This proposal would be a dangerous investment in fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the scientific consensus is clear that we must invest in renewables, such as wind and solar, to avoid further warming of our planet,’ said Whitney Whiting from Newport News, Virginia.”

2-23-15  NBC 29.  Judge Allows State to Intervene in Pipeline Lawsuit.  “A federal judge has allowed the state to intervene in a Virginia lawsuit challenging Dominion Resources’ right to survey private property for a proposed pipeline.  The lawsuit filed by Churchville residents William Little II and Wendy Little says the couple has denied Dominion permission to enter their property…. Court records show that U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanksi on Friday granted Attorney General Mark Herring’s motion to intervene in the case to defend the law.”

2-23-15  The Washington Post.  10 Arrested During Pipeline Protest in Richmond.  “Richmond police have arrested 10 people during a protest against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. The natural gas pipeline is a joint venture between Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources. The $5 billion pipeline would run 550 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.”

2-23-15  Style Weekly.  Activists Block Dominion Office.  “About 40 protesters from across the state blocked access to Dominion Resources’ riverfront headquarters on Tredegar Street this morning from 7 to about 9, when police forcibly cleared the roadway…. Dominion’s corporate headquarters is a semi-regular target for protesters concerned about climate change, and more recently, the proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline through Virginia…. Lauren Chartuk, a media liaison for the group, said protesters want Dominion to drop plans for the pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from West Virginia to the coast, and invest more in solar, wind and other renewable energy resources.”

2-23-15  WWBT NBC 12.  10 Climate Change Activists Arrested During Protests in Richmond.  “Ten environmental activists were arrested while protesting in downtown Richmond to raise awareness of climate change issues.… The Richmond People’s Climate March began around 7 a.m. at the State Capitol to impress upon lawmakers the need for action on climate change during the General Assembly session. The demonstrators then moved to 2nd and Tredegar streets.  The group stopped near the Dominion headquarters and protested the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would cross Virginia as it takes natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina.”

2-23-15 WTVR CBS 6.  Demonstrators Create Blockade Downtown in Protest of Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “The ‘Richmond People’s Climate March’ created traffic disruptions early Monday morning. The march began at 7 a.m. at the Capitol Bell Tower and demonstrators headed to 2nd and Tredegar Streets, where they blocked traffic. A post on social media called for others to join the blockade near Dominion’s offices.  The group, some dressed in costumes, carried environmentally political signs that expressed sentiments about fracking and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ACP is a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that will travel through the state, including national forests, the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway.”

2-19-15 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Property Rights Become the Focus of Pipeline Lawsuit.  “Churchville resident William Little II filed a two-part lawsuit against Dominion Resources, arguing that the gas company would be trespassing on his property if it came to do a survey of his land for the proposed pipeline route. He also argued that a Virginia statute related to natural gas companies should be declared unconstitutional…. Hurston said he was not arguing that gas companies shouldn’t be prevented from coming onto private property without permission — just if the permission is explicitly denied, as in Little’s case. When Little received the notice from Dominion, he said he replied with a firm ‘no.'”

2-19-15 News Leader.  County Man Makes His Case at Dominion Lawsuit Hearing.  “If Dominion asks a landowner for permission to survey property for a pipeline route and the homeowner says “no,” can the company come onto the land anyway?  Churchville homeowners William and Wendy Little believe their “no” means no. Dominion’s representatives say the company still has the right to survey the couple’s 5 acres.  The Littles’ lawyer argued in a hearing for their federal lawsuit Thursday that the state law that grants natural gas companies the right to study private land without the owner’s permission doesn’t speak to the Littles’ case.  Virginia’s statute allows such private property entry and doesn’t count it as trespass if the company asks to study the land and doesn’t receive permission. Nicholas Hurston, representing the Littles, said state law doesn’t cover an explicit no to Dominion’s request, which William Little put into writing in September and sent by certified mail.”

2-19-15 WHSV.  Natural Gas Pipeline Focus of US Challenge in Va.  “An Augusta County landowner is challenging in federal court a state law that is helping clear the way for a natural gas pipeline through Virginia…. Little is suing Dominion Virginia Power, which is a partner in the pipeline that would run from West Virginia to North Carolina.  He’s challenging the state law that allows companies to survey private property without permission. The pipeline would pass through a corner of his lot, threatening trees that provide privacy.”

2-19-15  Public News Service.  Dominion Surveys Alternative Pipeline Route.  “Dominion Energy and its partners say they are surveying an alternative route for part of the controversial Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline. Opponents say it’s not an improvement.  The new route would send the 42-inch pipeline south of the current proposed path in Randolph and Pocahontas counties of West Virginia and in Highland County, Virginia…. ‘Not having an alternative is violating national forest regulation,’ says Webb. ‘They might have to throw out an alternative just to satisfy that and still pick their preferred route.’  The pipeline has provoked intense opposition from environmental organizations and landowners, especially in Virginia. The old route would cross Pen Goodall’s sheep farm, which straddles the border between Highland County, Virginia, and Pocahontas County, West Virginia. He’s being sued for refusing to allow Dominion surveyors onto his land, but says he’d rather go to jail than let them survey.  ‘I’m going to stand my ground because it will just totally destroy everything I have ever done,’ says Goodall. ‘My farm has around 32 springs on it, and creeks and once it’s gone, it’s gone.'”

2-18-15  Nelson County Times.  Nelson Supervisors Vote Against Meeting with Dominion.  “The Nelson Board of Supervisors has opted not to meet with Dominion Resources — the company proposing a controversial natural gas pipeline through the county — or respond in writing to a request for future land use, growth projections and other information.  Dominion had asked if board members would meet with the company’s representatives to discuss land uses within a quarter mile of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. Board members ultimately decided in a unanimous vote to not answer the company’s questions.  Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said the company currently is working on Resource Reports as part of its pre-filing process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and asking these questions to the affected counties is part of that process.”

2-18-15  Queen City Concepts Blog.  PIPELINES: An Open Letter to the Virginia Association of REALTORS®. And you.  “I believe that our REALTOR® Associations are coming up short, in particular the Virginia Association of REALTORS®.  How so?  In particular, relating to the idea of failing to fight for private property rights.  In particular, relating to Dominion’s proposal to lay a pipeline through Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, through some of its most beautiful and well-preserved natural regions – the private property of your fellow Americans. Perhaps private property belonging to you…. Let us stand up as an entity who fights for the American Dream in the face of corporate bullying. Let us stand behind the brave homeowners who say No, they will not allow their wells to be poisoned without a fight. They will not tolerate the threat of losing everything they have worked for because Dominion got a wild hair to capitalize on our natural infrastructure…. I have had three people U-Turn out of Nelson County as ready, willing, and able purchasers since this idea hit the table. If we know that markets are dictated by supply and demand, this stands to lower property values considerably. I understand that other agents are experiencing the same.”

2-17-15  News Leader.  Federal Pipeline Case Scheduled for Thursday Hearing.  “Churchville landowner William Little is scheduled to have his federal lawsuit heard Thursday, challenging the state law that allows natural gas pipeline companies to survey private property without permission.  Little is suing Dominion, whose study corridor for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would pass along a corner of his lot, threatening a tree stand that provides his home privacy…. The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. inside U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.”

2-13-15  The News & Advance.  Press Pass:  State Lawmaker’s Property May Be on Mtn Valley Pipeline Route.  “Current Virginia law allows the companies to proceed over an owner’s objections provided certain steps and notice requirements are followed.  Landowners along the nearby Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in Nelson County, Augusta County and elsewhere have objected to that as an invasion that is inconsistent with all the work Virginia has done to strengthen private property rights — including passing the 2012 constitutional amendment championed by Obenshain.  In an interview, Obenshain said his family was notified its land in Montgomery County might be surveyed as part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.”

2-12-15  WINA Newsradio.  The Schilling Show.  Hour 1:  Jefferson Area Libertarians.  “Dr. Hallee Morgan and Doug Hornig, Jefferson Area Libertarians, talk about property rights and the pipeline.”

2-12-15  Augusta Free Press.  Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline:  Lies and Numbers.  Friends of Nelson Press Release.  “‘Dominion is doing everything they can to pass the ‘Rate-payer rip off’ bill by whining to legislators how much it will cost to close coal fired plants due to oncoming regulations… but now they are saying that this very same switch will save tons of money? Dominion can’t have it both ways,’ says Joanna Salidis, Friends of Nelson’s President.”

2-11-15  The Washington Post.  Report on Natural Gas Pipeline Outlines Economic Benefits.  “The proposed pipeline is finding pockets of opposition along its planned path. It also is seeing resistance in remote high-elevation sections of Virginia amid concerns it would traverse an environmentally sensitive landscape. Some landowners also object to plans for the pipeline to dissect their property.”

2-10-15  NC WARN.  Duke Energy, NC WARN Trade Legal Blows in Federal Complaint over Southeast Power Glut — News Release from NC WARN.  Press release.  “Late yesterday, NC WARN filed its reply to Duke’s February 26 response to our complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Our original complaint cited federal data showing that Southeast utilities often have more than twice the reserve generation capacity than industry guidelines call for, yet they continue taking advantage of their monopoly control by building unneeded power plants…. Despite huge amounts of excess generation capacity on hand for decades to come, monopoly utilities in the Southeast keep building more plants and raising rates on captive customers – instead of buying power from each other, when needed, as FERC has urged…. Duke and others should buy power from each other while using more solar energy – which is perfectly suited to handle periods of high demand.”

2-10-15 Appalachian Chronicle.  Attorney Crisscrosses West Virginia and Beyond to Teach About Pipelines.  “Keaton pointed to the discussion about the so-called job creation that will occur as a result of pipeline development. Speaking in Morgantown, she observed, ‘I’ve spoken with several people along the proposed routes who have said, ‘I’m going to close up and move.’ Why is that not part of the economic discussion?’ Picking up on that theme from her office, she continued, ‘We see some pseudo economic analysis, but nothing which really takes into consideration the loss in local revenue if small farmers and business owners along the route decide to leave. We have not seen any honest analysis of what may happen to the tourism industry…. We don’t see people talking about the economic value of guaranteed clean water resources in our counties.'”

2-9-15  The Charlottesville Newsplex.  UPDATE:  Pipeline Bill Dies in Senate Committee.  “Dozens of people who oppose plans for a natural gas pipeline through Nelson County were in Richmond on Monday, lobbying against legislation that could slow down those plans.  40 members from Friends of Nelson took to the capitol today with the hope of persuading lawmakers to repeal a provision that allows natural gas companies to enter private property to perform surveys.  Dominion is currently suing landowners in Nelson and Augusta counties who have denied them access to their land.  Members of Friends of Nelson say that, under the current law, natural gas companies do not have to demonstrate how a pipeline would be beneficial for the community.”

2-9-15  The News & Advance.  Pipeline Bills Fail in Committee.  “The trio of pipeline bills introduced by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, died in committee Monday.  The bills — which sought to open up project records and restrict or repeal a controversial 2004 surveying law — attracted little support in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, though individual lawmakers expressed sympathy for the property owners.  ‘I don’t want you to be discouraged,’ Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, told some two dozen landowners who came to Richmond for Monday’s hearing. ‘… Keep fighting your fight.’  Hanger’s proposals were driven by public opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas line expected to cut across more than a dozen Virginia localities, including Augusta and Nelson counties…. Joanna Salidis, president of the grassroots group Friends of Nelson, said afterward she was disappointed and wasn’t persuaded by the industry group’s argument that the 2004 law benefited property owners.  ‘The senators should know that the private property owners of Virginia see through that,’ she said.”

2-9-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Foes of Proposed Gas Pipeline Lose Fight in General Assembly.  “Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline across the Blue Ridge Mountains lost a legislative battle Monday.  Environmentalists and property owners in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline were seeking repeal of a 2004 state law that allows interstate natural gas companies to do testing and surveying on private property without the consent of the owner…. State Sen. Emmett Hanger’s bill to repeal the 2004 law died for lack of a motion in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee…. The committee heard from four landowners who are fighting Dominion’s efforts to survey their property.  Carlos Arostegui, a Buckingham County farmer, said the company wants to dispatch surveyors through the middle of his largest pasture.  Dominion refuses to even discuss the issue with him, Arostegui said, because it can rely on the 2004 law as a ‘legal crutch.’  ‘Make them talk to us,’ he pleaded. ‘Make them persuade us, not ram it down our throats.'”

2-9-15 NBC 29.  Nelson Co. Pipeline Opponents Lose Fight in Senate Committee.  “On Monday, homeowners and concerned neighbors from Nelson County lobbied in Richmond for bills that would have limited Dominion’s authority with surveying residents’ properties. They showed their support to legislation introduced jointly by 24th District Senator Emmett Hanger (R) and 25th District Sen. Creigh Deeds (D).  The main bill the property owners had hoped to see passed, SB 1338, would have repealed a 2004 code that allows natural gas companies to go on private property for projects without the permission of the owners. The other one, SB 1166, would have grant land-owners more access to documents when concerns of eminent domain come about…. Both bills failed to advance out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.”

2-7-15  News Leader.  Dominion’s Domination.  Editorial.  “Dominion Power’s cozy relationship with the Virginia General Assembly pays off handsomely for both sides. The power company gets to write and lobby for legislation. Politicians get large donations and make themselves de facto regulators, the ones who decide if rates for an essential utility — electricity— are fair…. Friday’s vote illustrates what the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline debate has shown since its beginning: People are practically powerless in the face of a huge public utility that has governmental eminent domain privileges without accountability and citizen oversight…. Dominion’s profits, not consumer welfare, are what drives the debate in the General Assembly.”

2-6-15  Inside Climate News. Yellowstone Oil Spills Expose Threat to Pipelines under Rivers Nationwide.  “Indeed, the required four-foot minimum initial burial depth for pipelines can be completely eliminated by natural erosion over time or by a single flood event. Active free-flowing rivers can carve with enough ferocity to lower their riverbeds by 20 feet or shift the waterway onto an entirely new path, which can add new stresses to the pipeline or put the river over pipe that has less cover or lacks reinforcement or protective cement casings.”

2-6-15 The Washington Post.  A Proposed Pipeline Tests Property Rights in Virginia.  “Last August, Craig Vanderhoef, a former Navy captain who retired to a farm near Afton in Nelson County, got a fateful letter from Dominion Resources. The Richmond-based utility wanted to survey his property to help plot a route for a $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would transport natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (known as ‘fracking’) in West Virginia to the coast. It would stretch 550 miles over the Appalachian Mountains southeastward into Virginia and North Carolina. Vanderhoef wrote two letters back saying no. Then, at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, he got a nasty surprise. A sheriff’s deputy knocked on his door to serve him with legal notice that he was being sued by Dominion, which was demanding access to his property. ‘Now, I have to get a lawyer,’ said the 72-year-old…. Vanderhoef fears that it will forever transform the retirement farm he loves and end plans for his daughter to build a home on his land. ‘This will have an economic impact and a family impact on us,’ he says.”

2-6-15  Blue Virginia.  Government by and for Whom?  A letter sent to Attorney General Mark Herring by Free Nelson, sharing residents concerns about the legislative process in Richmond and its bias in favor of Dominion.

2-5-15  Popular Resistance.  Massachusetts Town Sues FERC, Claims Acts Are Unconstitutional.  “The town of Deerfield plans to file a negligence claim against the United States government today in its fight against the planned natural gas pipeline through Franklin County.  The tort action claims that a 2005 change in the federal Natural Gas Act that gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to regulate the transportation and sale of natural gas destined for sale overseas is unconstitutional…. Many of the project’s opponents have raised concerns over the past year that much of the gas that will flow through the $4 billion, 300-mile-long pipeline is destined for export, claiming the volume of gas that is expected to travel along the pipeline from the Midwest Marcellus shale reserves — estimated at about 2.2 billion cubic feet per day — far exceeds the amount of gas that could be consumed in New England…. Bonifaz maintains that selling the nation’s gas to foreign countries isn’t actually in the public interest.  First, he wrote, exporting gas ‘depletes a national resource for future usage and future generations without bringing any benefits whatsoever to the public interest,’ and second, it enables those importing countries to ‘burn (the gas) into carbon dioxide and water,’ which ‘adds significantly to the catastrophe of climate change,’ something he says is of great concern to the United States.  Additionally, Bonifaz said, the profits from sales of exported gas mainly benefit private parties, not the public, and is thus not grounds for a Fifth Amendment taking.”

2-5-15 The Recorder.  Dominion Will Request Variances for Open Trenches.  “Dominion is asking to go beyond legal open-trench length limits of 500 feet while building the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. Exceeding the limits for open trench length spells what Hoy says would set ‘in slow motion a nightmare erosion scenario in rugged mountainous terrain for private landowners in the Allegheny Mountains, the federal Monongahela and George Washington National Forests and the commonwealth’s Highland Wildlife Management Area.’”

2-5-15 The Roanoke Times.  Arguments Begin on Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Property Surveyors in Harrisonburg Court.  “A decision on property rights and how they impact the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline is now in the hands of a federal judge. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski heard arguments in Harrisonburg from both sides in a dispute over if a utility company’s workers have the right to survey someone’s land.  Several Nelson County residents filed a lawsuit against Dominion Resources in September, arguing that the company didn’t have the right to send workers onto private property to do land surveys for the proposed 550-mile pipeline. The lawsuit argues that a Virginia statute related to natural gas companies should be declared unconstitutional.”

2-5-15 Nelson County Times.  Judge to Issue Written Opinion on Dominion Survey Lawsuit.  “The lawsuit, filed at the end of September, asks the court to declare unconstitutional a Virginia statute relevant to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Section 56-49.01 of the Virginia Code allows natural gas companies to survey private property as long as previous notification has been served.  Dominion Transmission asked the court in November to dismiss the suit, and that request is what this morning’s arguments focused on.  Judge Michael Urbanski heard arguments from Dominion to dismiss the lawsuit as well as from the plaintiffs who brought forth the suit.  ‘Both sides have done a masterful job of looking at the law… each of you have given me things to think about and cases to look at,’ Urbanski said.  The judge decided to not make a decision today but will soon write a written opinion on his decision.”

2-5-15 Nelson County Times.  Pipeline Fight Spurs Creation of New Protest Songs (Video).  “Concerns about the pipeline have spurred the creation of at least two original songs.  At Dominion’s second local open house last month, local groups in opposition banned together to sing ‘We Don’t Want Your Pipeline’ by Augusta residents Robin and Linda Williams…. ‘Dominion is just on the wrong side of history on this thing and they’re too consumed with the prospect of short term profits to see it,’ he said. ‘We may not stop them, but they’ll know they’ve been in a scrap.’… At a pipeline rally in Richmond on Jan. 23, Gene Mills sang ‘No Dominion Over Me,’ also an original folksy song that he and his wife wrote together and recorded in early January…. Gene argues that there is a difference between legal and moral rights and feels that Dominion does not have the moral right to have access properties without permission. ‘Under Jim Crow, people had the legal right to discriminate [against] blacks but they didn’t have the moral rights,’ he said. ‘Either way, it’s wrong.’”

2-4-15  The Charlottesville Newsplex.  In Richmond, Battle over Property Rights Could Decide Fate of Dominion’s Pipeline.  “Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) called legislation passed in Virginia in 2004 allowing natural gas companies the right to enter private property to conduct surveys without landowners approval ‘unconstitutional.’ He is the co-patron of Senate Bill 1338 which would repeal that legislation and could have big implications for Dominion Resource’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. ‘There are still private property rights,’ Deeds said. ‘If we let one person’s private property rights be quashed, we are in danger of all of our rights being quashed.'”

2-4-15 The Roanoke Times.  Seriff:  Virginia’s “Gold Rush.”   Opinion piece by David L. Seriff of Preserve the NRV and the Sierra Club.  “Like the 49ers who rushed into California to stake their claims and strike it rich, energy companies are staking claims to lay fracked gas pipelines across both states. The mining claims of 160 years ago stole land from Native Americans, often through violence, and without compensation. These current land claims will commandeer private citizens’ property via the law of eminent domain. Big corporations will dictate what they pay, and landowners’ rights will be quashed in the name of progress.  Imagine if you were the owner of a fourth-generation family farm and received a letter stating that your land will soon be cut in two by a 150-foot pipeline right-of-way. Or consider if your family had just moved into your dream home, then immediately received notice that the path of a giant 42-inch gas pipeline will destroy this new residence. Or ponder the plight of the elderly retired schoolteacher who gardens her treasured flowers and shrubs only to find out that the pipeline company will obliterate her yard.  Would you ever feel safe again with a massive, volatile gas line buried just feet from your front door? More than a thousand property owners have suffered this traumatic experience thus far…. Do state leaders feel any empathy for the citizens’ lives that will be destroyed by this gold-rush land grab? Apparently not. Few politicians have stood up against the powerful energy lobby to support the essential right of all Americans to protect their private property.”

2-3-15  The Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Schapiro:  Unforseen Consequences of Dominion’s “Power” Politics.  “In Virginia, it’s a sacrilege to oppose business. But what’s the downside in voting against Dominion? The company plays a long game. That guides its political philanthropy. Dominion has to be friendly even with legislators who occasionally vote the wrong way. Will a delegate or senator who opposes the Wagner bill have to answer for being insufficiently cozy with the utility? Not likely.  Given the polarization of the General Assembly, the opposite could occur. On the right and the left, where party nominations are decided, there is a deep suspicion of corporate power. McAuliffe appreciates this, even as a full-throated supporter of Dominion’s proposed natural-gas pipeline and a willing agent in the company’s successful bid last year to loosen the state’s regulatory reins.”

2-3-15  The Delmarva Farmer.  Shadow of Planned Pipeline Causing Concern in Virginia.  “Standing among her herd of dairy goats on a pasture that rises fast toward the mountainous peaks behind her home, Ridgely Harrison wondered last week, among other things, how she’d get to her house if the power company gets its way and buries part of a 500-mile natural gas pipeline beneath her farm…. She’s one of many farmers and Nelson County residents who have protested the pipeline construction. Some with property along the pipeline path have been sued by Dominion for declining to allow them onto their land to study and survey, and the company has said it plans to sue more than 100 county residents for access.  ‘I want my day in court,’ said Carlos Arostegui, a nearby farmer who raises dairy cows on 184 acres and said he was among those sued. ‘This is just a land grab. They’re taking stuff from us for corporate gain.’… Wayne Wright, a Shipman cattle farmer who was told his property runs along the pipeline path, said he worries the pipeline runs too close to a nearby reservoir that supplies the area. His protest against hosting the pipeline on his own property is simpler, however. ‘It’s just my conservative view of the rights of property ownership,’ he said.”

2-2-15 The Roanoke Times.  Geller and Shingles:  Thank You for the News: The Mountain Valley Pipeline Is a BIG Deal.  Opinion piece by E. Scott Geller, an alumni distinguished professor at Virginia Tech, and Rick Shingles.  “High-pressure gas pipelines are not safe. The Transportation Hazardous Material Safety Administration reports 10,613 significant gas pipeline accidents from 1994 to 2013, resulting in 1,421 injuries and 374 deaths. An aerial photo of the fire ball produced by a 20-inch gas pipe explosion near Sissonville, W. Va. in 2012 shows one such catastrophe. The gas burned so hot that it melted 800 feet of highway on Interstate 77 and destroyed three homes…. Our neighbors … asked the firefighters what equipment they would need to fight such a blaze. They laughed nervously and replied that a gas fire cannot be put out (it has to burn itself out once the gas is shut off) and that they would all die trying to rescue us…. We believe the more people learn about these pipelines and what they ship, the more they will realize the net loss to Virginians.  They will realize this is not just about the destructive and dangerous pipelines. It’s about the fracked gas they carry and the damage fracking is doing to communities throughout the nation. It’s about the loss of American democracy and local rule to energy companies that flood the American political process with corporate money. It is about preserving a way of life. It is a BIG deal.”

2-1-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jeff’s Notes:  The Dominion Way.  A video editorial about SB 1349 and the ways in which Dominion influences state government.  “When it comes to lobbying, the energy giant makes the complicated look simple.  But are things really as they appear?”