June 2015 News

6-30-15  Women Speak:  Climate Justice and Solutions.  Revisiting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): A Mother’s Plea.  Opinion blog.  “We are your mothers and your sisters. We are your neighbors, your co-workers and your friends. At different times in our lives we have been called farm worker, engineer, professor, economist, scientist, daughter, and mommy. What we have never been called, until now is: pipeline and fossil fuel infrastructure expert, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority, activist or terrorist.  These are new names for us, as we work to understand what is happening in our communities…. By necessity we have come to know the ins and outs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the names of pipelines and their routes, where they connect, if they are attached to a compressor station, if they are headed for an LNG export facility, what bodies of water they are going to cross under, and more often than not, we also know their FERC projects docket numbers…. Federal rules allow for the dramatic expansion of shale gas production in our country, and gut previous rules for reporting and protecting us from toxic chemicals; effectively exempting the gas and oil industry from regulations that all other industries must adhere too. As long as industry complies with the rules, the bigger picture – our health, clean water, clean air, our security and our future, doesn’t count. The mandate and reach of FERC must be revisited and revised by Congress. We must connect the dots at all levels and jump into the future now, there is no bridge, there is only a cliff. There is no Planet B.  This wasn’t part of our plans when we put down roots in our communities and birthed our children. But this is where we find ourselves now; experts on technical topics we never imagined as we work feverishly to sound the alarm. Our children are watching.”

6-30-15  The Wilson Times.  Pipeline Meeting Attracts Hundreds.  “Hundreds of Wilson and Nash property owners filled the Nash Agriculture Center Tuesday for the first landowner-organized meeting for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.  Charles Lollar, a Virginia attorney specializing in eminent domain cases, said that the 550-mile pipeline will likely be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but urged landowners to use caution when signing easement agreements.  If FERC approves the project, Dominion Resources will be granted the power of eminent domain, which allows the seizure of land for the project because it is viewed as a public necessity…. ‘The problem I have with this process is this is not government,’ Lollar said. ‘Once they get the certificate of public necessity and convenience they’re going to have the power to acquire an easement over private property in North Carolina instantly, and I’ve got a problem with that. I’ve got a real problem with it being involuntary. They take it against your will, and you’ve got one opportunity to get compensated for it.’  Most easement offers could be close to $10,000, which Lollar said is not the fair market value or equal to what Dominion Resources and other energy companies will make off the system once it’s in operation.  ‘The problem is, in the real world most of the values and most of the offers are well below fair market value,’ he said. ‘They’re offering property owners like you less than what you’re entitled to receive.’  Lollar, who keeps busy in practice by representing clients in eminent domain and property rights’ cases, also said that landowners need to make sure eminent domain agreements don’t include other possible uses for the area of easement.  He’s seen documents include other uses including petroleum, oil and other substances. He also said larger pipelines can be added in the ground than originally planned.   ‘What they install now can change,’ he said. ‘It’s not what you see. It’s what’s in the easement document.’”

6-30-15  Lancaster Online.  Millions of Gallons Would Be Pumped from 3 Lancaster County Streams to Test Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.  “If the 36 miles of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline are built in Lancaster County, millions of gallons of water from three local streams would be pumped through the finished pipes to make sure they won’t spring a leak once the natural gas starts flowing…. After the testing, the water would be discharged back into local streams, miles away from where it was removed in two of the three local tests…. ‘The inside of the new pipe is often contaminated with all kinds of things like metal grindings from work on the pipe, greases and oils, and (especially) empty beer cans from construction workers who consider this the ideal place to conceal the fact that they were drinking on the job,’ said Dennis Witmer, a Lancaster County native and senior analyst with Energy Efficiency Evaluation of Spokane, Washington.”

6-29-15  The New Yorker.  Power to the People.  “The numbers reveal a sudden new truth—that innovative, energy-saving and energy-producing technology is now cheap enough for everyday use…. Most of the technology isn’t particularly exotic—these days, you can buy a solar panel or an air-source heat pump at Lowe’s. But few people do, because the up-front costs are high and the options can be intimidating. If the makeover was coordinated by someone you trust, however, and financed through your electric bill, the change would be much more palatable. The energy revolution, instead of happening piecemeal, over decades, could take place fast enough to actually help an overheating planet. But all of this would require the utilities—the interface between people and power—to play a crucial role, or, at least, to get out of the way.”

6-29-15  We Are Cove Point.  Dominion CEO Worried About Grassroots Social Media Organizing.  Opinion blog.  “It’s incredibly inspiring to see so many people raising themselves and their communities up, and saying an emphatic ‘NO!’ to these gas industry plans. We Are Cove Point is re-publishing this to show people in similar situations out there that, collectively, we are making giant energy corporations pivot to us! We have a lot of work to do still, but Dominion and others are finding it more difficult than they had planned to destroy our communities. If you’re organizing in your community and spreading information around, please keep doing that. If you’re not yet, please consider supporting and spreading items on social media, talking with your friends and neighbors about these issues, putting up flyers and signs around your area, and doing the little things that, when put together, are what make our movements powerful. They have the money, but we have the people. Let’s keep giving ‘em hell!”

6-29-15  News Leader.  Fossil Fuel Industry Reaps Taxpayer Subsidies.  Letter to the Editor.  “Dominion Resoures and Duke Energy are part of the fossil fuel industry that will reap, according to the International Monetary Fund, $5.3 trillion from 2015 global taxpayer subsidies. (‘A million seconds is 12 days; a trillion seconds is 31,688 years.’) These immense handouts are draining taxpayers everywhere and choking economic growth. They total 6.5 percent of global GDP and exceed all other worldwide public spending.  Is it any wonder that the energy dark ages have prevailed?… Remember that Exxon has not yet fully paid for all the long-term harm done by its 11-million-gallon Valdez oil spill 25 years ago which has cost taxpayers $2 billion so far. Or, after 11 rig workers died tragically, the Deepwater Horizon disaster exposed questionable safety precautions, illegalities, lax offshore drilling regulations. It was also the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. Very recently, absent safety valves unleashed another flood of oil into the ocean — near Santa Barbara this time. Examples of outrageously irresponsible fossil-fuel disasters are tragically abundant, perhaps because stringent safety regulations, precautions and oversight drain full-throttle profits.”

6-28-15  NBC 29.  Nelson Co. HOA Works to Protect Residents from Proposed Pipeline.  “The Woods Mill Homeowners Association just sent letters to Dominion and federal regulators, showing the project cutting right through the middle of the development.  There are 18 houses set back in the forest. The gravel roads there are private and every home runs on well-water.  Homeowners say a pipeline running through the middle would thwart everything they spent their lives working for…. The amount of space that the pipeline would take up is significant to understanding the concerns of these residents. The north and south bound lanes at Route 29 near Woods Mill is about a 70 foot easement. The 150 foot easement that Dominion’s proposing would be more than twice that width.  With this in mind, Baker is fighting the energy company to keep the pipeline out of her development.”

6-25-15  Politico.  Why Are the Government’s Energy Forecasts So Bad?  “When it comes to renewables, the EIA seems to have failures of plain sight.  The agency’s latest reference case suggests solar capacity will double from 2014 levels by 2026.  But as the new report points out, an industry analysis based on actual projects in the pipeline has projected that solar capacity will double by next year—and so far it’s on track to do just that. Similarly, the U.S. has been adding an average 6.5 GW of wind every year since 2007, but the EIA’s reference case only envisions an additional 6.5 GW over the next 15 years.…The EIA has also consistently overestimated electricity demand, which has a huge impact on power plant construction and utility planning.”

6-25-15  News Leader.  Dominion Would Police Pipeline Impact Itself.  Opinion piece by Rick Webb, coordinator of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.  “Virginians will be surprised to learn that pipeline construction projects are essentially self-regulating when it comes to E&SC. Pipeline construction companies operate under general Annual Standards and Specifications, which allow them to perform their own E&SC plan review and conduct their own inspections —with company-hired reviewers and inspectors.  The Virginia DEQ has the authority to request and review site-specific E&SC plans, but it has not allocated staff resources to do so. The DEQ also has the authority to conduct inspections, but the DEQ is short on staff, and its inspection program is strictly complaint driven…. Dominion, it seems, expects that it will be able to continue to operate under out-of-date Annual Standards and Specifications. And, strangely, a Dominion spokesman has explained that the DEQ will not require submission of E&SC plans due to an exemption provided by the federal Natural Gas Act.  Actually, the DEQ doesn’t seem to know whether it will request E&SC plans or not, and it’s not clear when a decision will be made.  Meanwhile, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has asked Gov. McAuliffe to direct the DEQ to take steps to obtain E&SC plans for the ACP and to make them available on a timely basis to citizens and local governments…. The DEQ may not have the resources to review plans for the ACP, but what can be the justification for denying access to the public?  How can Gov. McAuliffe keep his promise to the citizens of Virginia if he allows Dominion’s ACP to go forward without meaningful public oversight and accountability?”

6-25-15  The News Virginian.  Pro-Pipeline Coalition of Companies, Businesses Forms.  “More than 100 businesses, labor organizations and other groups in Virginia and two other states came together this week as the EnergySure Coalition, to show support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The Sure part of the coalition name stands for Standing Up for Reliable Energy.”

6-25-15  The Roanoke Times.  Pipeline Turnabout: Gas Could Be Sent to India.  “A partner in the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline confirmed this week that natural gas transported by the pipeline could be one supply source for liquefied natural gas bound for India.  The news comes after Paul Friedman, a project manager for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, repeatedly — and publicly — dismissed concerns last month from pipeline opponents that natural gas transported through the pipeline would be exported.”

6-24-15  The Guardian.  New Report Estimates Enough Natural Gas Is Leaking to Negate Climate Benefits.  “Natural gas has been touted as an environmentally friendly substitute to coal and oil production, but a new report estimates enough gas is leaking to negate most of the climate benefits of process.  The report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and carried out by environmental consulting group ICF International, estimated the amount of leaks from natural gas and oil production on federal and tribal land in the US. It also looked at venting and flaring, processes in which drilling sites purposefully let gas go into the atmosphere for a variety of reasons – usually for safety.  The claim that natural gas is environmentally friendly hinges on how much methane leaks into the atmosphere during the production process. But the EDF report adds weight to those who say methane leaks at natural gas sites can make the process nearly or as carbon-intensive as coal.”

6-23-15  Bloomberg.  The Way Humans Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever.  “Natural gas won’t become the oft-idealized “bridge fuel” that transitions the world from coal to renewable energy, according to BNEF. The U.S. fracking boom will help bring global prices down some, but few countries outside the U.S. will replace coal plants with natural gas…. Even in the fracking-rich U.S., wind power will be cheaper than building new gas plants by 2023, and utility-scale solar will be cheaper than gas by 2036.”

6-23-15  The News Virginian.  FERC Made a Bad Decision.  Editorial.  “When you run across enough odd situations, as in the current Atlantic Coast Pipeline permitting process, opponents of the idea deserve a redo.  By now, officials from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have said no to extending the comment periods for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Part of their argument is understandable. They came to multiple locations in the Shenandoah Valley, listened to and recorded arguments both for and against the projects. What good will one more trip do? Actually, it would do a lot of good, because when you make mistakes, you need to correct them.”

6-22-15  Suffolk News-Herald.  A Clear Matter of Rights.  “A government that can force property owners to allow access to that property without recompense could also use that power to give the property to someone else that it thinks might use it better. It’s a dangerously slippery slope and just the sort of outcome Virginians sought to avoid when they overwhelmingly passed the amendment that limited government’s use of eminent domain to public, rather than private, uses.”

6-22-15  The Roanoke Times.  Moss: The Struggle for Appalachia.  Opinion piece.  “Nay-sayers … now include scientists, students and faculty, highly respected members of our communities whose well-researched arguments show a factual and clear understanding of what the real benefits and costs of the construction, operation and long term use of this pipeline will be. They see the lion’s share of benefits going to the corporations while the costs in the short and long term future falling on local inhabitants, the ecosystems and Appalachia itself.  If this is what it means to be a ‘nimby’ (not in my backyard), perhaps we should all be proud to accept that label. After all, our backyards are valuable in themselves and each one an integral part of the larger backyard we call Appalachia. When, on the other hand, we look at the problem from a strictly human-centered perspective as regards the rest of life and the planet itself, we are missing the reality that every thread in the web of life plays a significant role just by doing what it is meant to do. Only a larger life-centered view that values and protects an integrated and healthy wholeness of ecosystems can save us from weakening the very fabric of life which would ultimately do irrevocable damage to ourselves and our children.  Perhaps those who see pipeline opponents as obstructionists could instead see them as responsible protectors of essential ecosystems; as hard working intelligent people trying to prevent harm to places they know and love. There is wisdom in being cautious when outcomes are unclear. If as Dr. David Orr (Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies, Oberlin College) says, ‘The greater Earth economy, that which promotes life is in serious decline while the human derived economy continues to grow.’ To question and oppose projects such as MVP can be seen as a service, even a duty. Who will speak up for Appalachia if we don’t?”

6-22-15  Power for the People VA.  Dominion Makes a Play for Utility-Scale Solar, but Amazon Steals the Show.  Opinion blog.  “This winter Dominion Virginia Power promised Governor Terry McAuliffe it would build 400-500 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar power in Virginia by 2020, part of the deal it cut to gain the governor’s support for a bill shielding it from rate reviews through the end of the decade. The company also took a welcome first step by announcing a proposed 20-MW solar farm near Remington, Virginia.  The applause had hardly died down, though, when Amazon Web Services announced it would be building a solar project in Accomack County, Virginia, that will be four times the size of Dominion’s, at a per-megawatt cost that’s 25% less.  Why such a big difference in cost? The way Dominion chose to structure the Remington project, building and owning it directly, makes it cost more than it would if a third party developed the project, as will be he case for the Accomack project. That means Dominion is leaving money on the table—ratepayers’ money.”

6-21-15  The Roanoke Times.  Natural Gas Compressor Station Worries Possible Neighbors.  “Natural gas compressor stations pack the potential for a sextuple whammy.  Noise pollution. Air pollution. Water pollution. Eyesore impacts, including light pollution, especially in rural settings. Noxious odors. Fires and explosions.  Some research suggests that living near a compressor station poses health risks…. compressor stations could impact property owners well off the pipeline’s path, according to reports from people in Pennsylvania who reside near these facilities.  People like Rebecca Roter, 54, who lives about a mile from a natural gas compressor station in rural Susquehanna County.  ‘Compressor stations are not neighbors and belong in commercial zones, for starters,’ Roter said. ‘Good neighbors don’t cause air and noise pollution and are not a public health risk.’”

6-20-15  Suffolk News-Herald.  Pipeline Renews Lawsuit.  “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has re-filed a lawsuit against a Suffolk corporation that it hopes will help it gain entry to the corporation’s property to survey for a natural gas pipeline route.  The lawsuit against Davis Boulevard LLC, along with more than 100 others across the state, was dropped after Fifth Circuit Judge Carl Eason ruled against the utility company on a technicality the first time it showed up in court, in March.  Eason agreed with attorneys for Davis Boulevard LLC that it had not been given notice by the correct party as outlined in state law.  But now, letters have been sent from the correct entity, and many of the original defendants — including Davis Boulevard LLC, which owns a five-acre parcel east of Blythewood Lane abutting the Great Dismal Swamp — have again refused to allow the company to survey. That leaves a constitutional issue to be decided….  Charles Lollar of Waldo and Lyle, P.C., who is representing most of the property owners being sued by the pipeline, argues that any entry onto the property by representatives of the gas company would constitute a ‘taking,’ even if a temporary one, and that the owner should be compensated for it.  ‘The right to exclude others from private property is a fundamental right,’ he said after the March hearing where Eason handed down his decision. ‘There’s got to be a check, and that’s what the constitution is all about.'”

6-19-15 Roanoke Times.  Chamber of Commerce Engaged in “Magical Thinking” on Pipeline.  Letter to the Editor.  Commenting on the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of the Mountain Valley Pipeline:  “The number of pipeline construction jobs is stated as an economic benefit everyone should be in favor of. Granted, job creation is important — in this case the jobs would go mostly to specialized out-of-state oilfield contractors — but what is more important is whether we want the jobs done.  There are lots of jobs in mountaintop removal, murder for hire, auto theft and gun running, to note just a few examples, but these and the MVP construction are not jobs our region wants done.”

6-19-15 News Leader.  Dominion, Get off Your PR Campaign.  Letter to the Editor.  “We also know that most of the jobs and economic benefits created by the project will be temporary, because as the pipe passes through the county those jobs and benefits will disappear. We need permanent jobs and benefits, and regardless of what Dominion and supporters of this pipeline claim, it will create neither.”

6-19-15 The News Virginian.  Who Speaks for the Opposition?  Editorial.  If you oppose the ACP (for whatever reason), who do you turn to when the Governor has endorsed the project, the Virginia General Assembly doesn’t have the legal authority to interfere with a federally regulated operation, the FERC is only supposed to examine the evidence and make a decision and not be the people’s advocate on these matters, and lawmakers claim they are not biased but have all received campaign contributions from Dominion?

6-19-15 The News-Virginian.  Pipeline Opposition Groups Urge FERC to Take Action.  It simply makes no sense to construct a pipeline with such a high potential for damage to protected and pristine lands, a project that will negatively impact safety for thousands, a project that tromps on the constitutional rights of private property owners, and a project that supports an industry with a predicted lifespan of a scant twenty-five to thirty years.

6-18-15  Green Energy Times.  Fracked Gas Is Worse Than Coal.  “The fracking PR machine has been feverishly peddling natural gas as a clean source of energy. They’ve made up the term ‘bridge fuel,’ claiming we can’t get from coal to renewables without fracked natural gas acting as a bridge.  Let’s be clear, when it comes to our energy future, there are two diverging paths and there is no bridge between them.  The industry likes to tout the fact that when burned, natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal. That’s true, but they fail to mention that methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, is also leaking at scary rates from every part of production and delivery which negates any climate benefit.  The reason is that methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas it is 86 to 105 times more powerful a warming agent over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide. And 33 times more potent over 100 years…. There are very powerful and wealthy forces that are trying to force us down the wrong path, but working with the anti-fracking movement across the world, we’ve seen something more powerful – organized communities. It’s time for the president who was elected by a grassroots movement to pay attention to the grassroots movement of citizens and scientists who are standing up and saying no to a fracked future.”

6-18-15 The Washington Post. W.Va., Va. Coalition Takes a Stand Against Natgas Pipeline. “A coalition of environmental and conservation groups in West Virginia and Virginia announced its opposition Thursday to the proposed 550-mile route of a natural gas pipeline. The position represents a shift for the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, which was formed last September as an ‘information coalition’ on the development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We now have decided to broaden our role and adopt the policy’ of opposing the pipeline’s route, the alliance’s chairman, Lewis Freeman, wrote in an email. The alliance cited a number of reasons for its opposition, including fears over water safety, the sensitive mountainous terrain it would cross and the potential harm to habitat of protected plants and animal species.”

6-18-15 The Charlottesville Newsplex. Conservation, Environmental Groups Release Opposition to ACP. ” Almost three dozen conservation and environmental groups in Virginia and West Virginia have announced their opposition to the proposed routes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a policy statement released by the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, a coalition of groups that formed in September to address concerns about the project, the routes being considered by Dominion resources and its partners ‘are not in the best interest of the public good of the affected communities and citizens.'”

6-18-15 Augusta Free Press. Letter: Analyzing the support claimed in poll for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The CEA is a political action committee, generously supported by Dominion and others in the industry for which they lobby. Hickman Analytics, Inc., hired by the CEA to conduct this poll, promises on their website to get clients desired poll results through ‘micro-targeting.’ Why would the industry invest so many dollars in what most would counter as biased results? Another simple answer: the initial impact of a press release that is well placed and reads like a news story. This story was widely published and well headlined. That 56% of VA voters will be well remembered. Sadly, it really is too late for anyone to point out the flaws. The arguments will seem ‘sour grapes’ and receive limited exposure. That ‘impact’ moment has passed. Those of us opposed to this project must rely on WV, VA, and NC voters to be informed and consider the source.”

6-17-15 The Columbus Dispatch. Plans for Pipeline in Appalachia Met with Protests. “As the developer of a pipeline to bring fracked natural gas to North Carolina sues landowners for refusing to cooperate, a politically influential collection of opponents is trying to raise $1 million to torpedo plans to route the project through Virginia farms and properties, saying the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be a scar on Appalachia. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is becoming the East Coast’s most-controversial pipeline project, with constant protests by Virginians along the potential path and plans for a media blitz aimed at persuading state and national lawmakers to get involved.”

6-17-15 The Washington Post. A Dubious Poll on a Proposed Virginia Pipeline. “Having reported on the controversy in such places as Nelson County, I was surprised to note the Hickman results showing such a strong support for the pipeline. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Let’s start with the Consumer Energy Alliance. For starters, it is a Texas-based lobbying group funded by such fossil fuel giants as Exxon Mobil and Devon Energy, plus as host of utilities. It has been traversing the United States drumming up opposition to initiatives to cut back on carbon emissions. It supports the Keystone XL and other petroleum pipelines. Says SourceWatch, quoting Salon.com: ‘The CEA is part of a sophisticated public affairs strategy designed to manipulate the U.S. political system by deluging the media with messaging favorable to the tar-sands industry; to persuade key state and federal legislators to act in the extractive industries’ favor; and to defeat any attempt to regulate the carbon emissions emanating from gasoline and diesel used by U.S. vehicles.’ The group was created in the late 2000s by Michael Whatley, a Republican energy lobbyist with links to the Canadian and American oil sectors. [Continue reading Peter Galuszka’s post at Bacon’s Rebellion.] Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.”

6-17-15 Bacon’s Rebellion. Issues Crystallize in Gas Pipeline Debate. Opinion blog.  “The battle over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is intensifying. Foes of the project, residing mainly in picturesque Augusta and Nelson counties, have raised about $500,000, halfway to a $1 million goal, to rouse opposition to the planned 550-mile natural gas pipeline, reports the McClatchy News Service. The ‘All Pain No Gain’ group has set up a website with splashy graphics, videos, a blog – even an original country & western-style song. The website provides sympathetic profiles of affected landowners and advances economic and environmental arguments against the pipeline. It’s an impressive showing for ‘rural’ Virginia, but perhaps not so surprising given the popularity of the area as a resort or retirement destination, especially around the Wintergreen resort, among high-powered professionals…. The website raises a number of substantive issues.”

6-16-15 The Farmville Herald. Say No To Pipeline And ‘Improper’ Eminent Domain. Editorial.  “Are the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and our local, state and federal legislators getting all the facts regarding Dominion’s claims for their proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)? Here are some basic facts:
– Dominion has stated that the ACP is only a wholesale pipeline and not for the needs of the residents and property owners currently located in the path of the pipeline that currently do not have natural gas.
– Natural-gas-industry experts unanimously state that all current needs of the U.S. domestic market are met, and there is such a product surplus in the U.S. that the industry does not even have adequate capacity to store the surplus.”

6-16-15 Blue Virginia.  Corporate Media Takes Fossil Fuel Industry “Poll” on Fracking, Gas Pipeline Seriously. #FAIL   Opinion blog.  Takes the main stream news media to task for reporting on Dominion’s industry front group poll as news and fact.   The Consumer Energy Alliance  “poll” contradicts other polling which finds overwhelming majorities in Virginia and other states who support moving off of dirty energy and towards cleaner sources like solar and wind.

6-16-15 Smart Pig Blog. Ignition of Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines.  Opinion blog.  Interesting answer to the question of why pipeline failures don’t always ignite. However, the graph is chilling, as it shows 328 “significant” fracked gas “incidents” since 2010 in the US – “significant” means fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization, or more than 50,000 dollars worth of damages in 1984 dollars. Of course, it is unlikely that any of these incidents involved a 42 inch, 1440 psi pipeline, as this size and pressure is part of a new wave of industry practice – one that can only result in more incidents that are more “significant.”

6-15-15 NBC 29. Nelson Co. Democratic Party Taps Murphy to Run for Supervisor’s Seat. The Nelson County Democratic Party is tapping Trina Murphy to run as a candidate for county supervisor for the South District, the seat currently held by Republican Larry Saunders. She said, “I am opposed to the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline coming through our county, most of our citizens oppose the Dominion pipeline, due to its harmful effects on our property values, property rights and the environment. I think that we need a Supervisor who will lead in the opposition to the pipeline. I want to work with the other Supervisors to do everything possible to stop the pipeline coming through our county.”

6-15-15 The Roanoke Times. Shifflett: When Dominion cites ‘need’ for pipeline, do your own research.  Comments on Dominion Vice President Daniel Weekley’s recent letter in The Roanoke Times (“Using less coal has consequences,” June 9): “Dominion’s numbers on the rise in need for electricity have proven too high for several years. Electricity use in Virginia has remained flat, due in part to smart consumerism. Finally, on Dominion’s cry for natural gas supplies to meet their needs: Brunswick, Greensville (4.5 miles from Brunswick) and Bremo are already supplied by Transco lines. Its Leesburg plant is supplied by the Leidy South. A spokesman has cited added ‘flexibility’ from the ACP at Brunswick, not need.”

6-14-15 NBC 29. Opposition to Pipeline Questions Validity of Survey on the Issue.  Addresses the concerns of residents regarding the results of the poll released by the Consumer Energy Alliance 2 days ago. “All it says is that some randomly selected group of individuals, 42% of whom had never heard of the pipeline, a bunch of those people are in favor of it. That doesn’t tell FERC anything useful about whether they should issue a certificate of need and give Dominion the right of eminent domain to take the land for this pipeline,” says Spencer Phillips, Key-Log Economics.

6-12-15 Richmond Times Dispatch. Whose Interests Does McAuliffe Represent?  Letter to Editor.  “Dominion has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for the concerns of landowners. While the company has selectively adjusted its route, it has refused to negotiate on this fundamental concern: The pipeline represents a transfer of wealth from individual property owners to corporate shareholders. When Dominion uses eminent domain to carve up Virginians’ land for its ‘energy superhighway,’ it will be a fast track to huge profits for the multibillion-dollar company and a fast track to decimated property values, serious safety risks and spoiled tourism and agricultural resources for local families and communities. What is McAuliffe doing to stand up for landowners and the people whose livelihoods this pipeline could destroy? Nothing that I can see, even after this new round of lawsuits. That’s despite repeated requests from groups like mine (Friends of Nelson) that he reconsider his unequivocal support for the project or, at minimum, weigh in with federal regulators to ensure a fair and thorough review process.”

6-12-15  Natural Gas Intelligence.  House Panel Passes Bill Authorizing Pipeline Corridors in National Parks.  “In a move lawmakers hope will streamline the pipeline permitting process and provide additional natural gas to the East Coast, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed a bill Thursday granting the secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) the power to negotiate rights-of-way for gas pipelines through national park lands.  The bill — HR 2295, also known as the National Energy Security Corridors Act — passed the committee by a 21-15 vote, along nearly partisan lines. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) broke ranks with the Democrats and joined 20 Republicans in voting for the bill.”

6-12-15  WMRA.  The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Goes to Court.  “One of the selling points for backers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is its job-creation potential – and there’s one group already reaping the benefits: lawyers. Pipeline builder Dominion recently filed more than two dozen lawsuits against landowners who don’t even want the company on their property to survey, and dozens more are to come…. MACK: They know their property better than anybody else. They can make us aware of a wetland or a stream, a family cemetery, even a 200-year-old oak tree that they would prefer that we preserve. But we can’t find the best route with the least environmental impact until we actually survey, and that’s why having permission from the landowners in critical.  KASSAM-ADAMS: That view would be so much more credible if they started the conversation that way, and then said, ‘Hey, we want to engage in finding a path through this.’ There’s nothing civil about taking away someone’s property. It’s a whole lot more egregious to take away someone’s property and couch it in the terms of ‘Well, I’m being reasonable, and why don’t you just talk to me about it.’ That seems like a conversation between a powerful person and a less-powerful person, not between neighbors.”

6-11-15  The News Virginian.  Poll Indicates Broad Support for Pipeline.  “When asked why they supported the project, 31 percent said it was because of the potential benefits to the Virginia economy and the jobs it could bring to the area.  The problem with that is the fact any construction jobs would be temporary and companies would have to pay in order to link up to the pipeline. Speaking with the News Virginian in May, Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said the cost of a tap on the pipeline would be $500,000. A metering and regulation station would also be required for the manufacturer to monitor natural gas use. Combined with tap, that would cost between $5 to $8 million.”

6-10-15  NBC 29.  Nelson Co. Pipeline Opponents Worry FERC Misquoted Them.  “People in Nelson County say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) got vital information wrong from scoping meetings for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Nearly 80 people spoke at a scoping meeting in Nelson Co. about three months ago. Now, some speakers say their words were misrepresented in transcripts that are part of FERC’s official record on the pipeline…. Many of the 78 people who spoke at the March 18th meeting say their words were garbled in the official transcripts.  ‘It was really distressing to find out afterwards that my comments had been transcribed so badly as to lose a lot of their meaning and to be trivialized,’ Burton said.  This could be troublesome as these transcripts are what FERC will consult as it does an environmental evaluation, and decides whether or not to approve the natural gas pipeline.  ‘If you were trying to make environmental impact decisions based on these comments, you would look at that and you would say, ‘this makes no sense,” Burton said.  ‘They really don’t respect, nor are they interested, in hearing from the public about our concerns,’ Salidis said.”

6-10-15  The Daily Progress.  Errors Rife Throughout FERC Meeting Transcripts, Pipeline Meeting Speakers Say.  “Nearly three months after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission visited Lovingston for a public scoping meeting on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, many speakers are saying there are holes in the transcripts…. Comments made at scoping meetings, speakers are told, will become part of the official record that FERC weighs when considering whether to approve a project.  Joanna Salidis, president of Friends of Nelson, said many of the opposition groups are upset after reading over the transcript of what they intended to convey to FERC, saying the message is so ‘garbled’ that it is ‘literally incomprehensible.’  ‘Again, we see that the agency charged with evaluating whether the ACP’s benefit to the public outweighs its harm does not take public concerns seriously,’ she said. ‘As individuals and as a community, we have made plain that this project violates our values and is counter to our interests, even as Dominion relentlessly pursues forcing property owners to acquiesce.’… After seeing the transcripts, Salidis said she is convinced there are problems with FERC.  ‘Our politicians continue to tell us to ‘trust the process,’’ Salidis said. ‘How many examples of FERC’s disregard for private property and the public will it take before everyone will acknowledge the truth? That FERC does not and will not protect our property, health or safety.’”

6-10-15  C-VILLE.  More Lawsuits: New Pipeline Route Brings New Legal Wrangling.  “As local landowners continue to deny Dominion access to their private land, the power company proposing the controversial $5 billion natural gas pipeline is attempting to force its way onto additional properties, at least one with historically significant assets, with a slew of fresh lawsuits. Most of the newly filed suits stem from of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s recently adopted alternate routes, which will spare some landowners from having the 550-mile line cross their property, but put others squarely in its path. Of the 27 new suits, 22 are against residents of Nelson County, where opposition to the project is nearly unanimous. Joanna Salidas, president of Friends of Nelson, says most people don’t understand the problem landowners in the pipeline path face in this situation. When it comes to surrendering their land, they really have no choice, she says, since the utility company can employ eminent domain, which allows authorized public corporations to take private property for public use.  Dominion’s lawsuits are a ‘clear indication that they plan to take people’s property,’ Salidas says, and that ‘the only choice is to negotiate a price or have it determined for you in court. What kind of choice is that?’… Peter Agelasto, another Nelson County landowner who is being sued, fears the pipeline will destroy the deep history and culture that he and other members of the Rockfish Valley Foundation have worked so hard to preserve…. Agelasto suggests the Atlantic Coast pipeline should find other utility lines to join, instead of forcing its way into a community and destroying its past because history, he says, can not be mitigated.”

6-10-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Amazon to Build State’s Largest Solar Farm.  ” Online retailer Amazon announced plans Wednesday to buy energy from what will be Virginia’s largest solar farm in Accomack County.  Amazon Web Services, part of Amazon’s cloud services, will buy the energy from Community Energy Inc. as part of Amazon’s plan announced last year to use renewable energy for all its infrastructure, including its many data centers in Northern Virginia.  The planned 80-megawatt solar farm, to be completed by October 2016, represents more than five times of all the solar energy currently installed in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Virginia ranks 30th in the country in solar energy capacity, according to the association.  Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest energy provider, is building its largest ground set of solar panels — a 2.45-megawatt array — on Philip Morris USA’s property on Bermuda Hundred Road in Chesterfield County.  That project will involve about 8,000 solar panels on 25 acres, generating enough electricity to power about 500 homes under optimum conditions.  The Accomack County project, known formally as Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East, will use 250,000 solar panels across 900 acres. That would generate enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes in a year.”

6-9-15  High Country News.  Natural Gas Leaks Are Dangerous and Exacerbate Climate Change.  “But natural gas infrastructure failures are equally alarming. Punctured natural gas pipelines can be dangerous. The reported incidents killed 70 people and injured more than 300. They can be expensive. Total costs in lost gas and property damage was nearly $700 million. And, all that natural gas is about 95 percent methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas.”

6-8-15  Nelson County Times.  Updated: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Serving Lawsuits to Landowners.  “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC is once again serving lawsuits to landowners along the proposed path of the pipeline slated to run from West Virginia through Nelson County and into North Carolina.  This time, the ACP has filed legal actions against 22 landowners in Nelson who have refused to give permission to survey along the proposed route of the pipeline…. Joanna Salidis, president of Friends of Nelson, said the latest round of lawsuits expose the truth about Dominion’s use of eminent domain.  ‘Obviously, people who have refused survey, such as the majority of landowners in Nelson, are not interested in negotiating an easement price,’ she said. ‘These are clearly not isolated individuals holding out so they can jack up the price but rather people who have made the personal determination that they would be harmed by the ACP on their property.  Period.  Yet, Dominion arrogantly pursues a route through Nelson relentlessly.’”

6-5-15  Forbes.  How to Ensure New Natural Gas Infrastructure Doesn’t Lock out Renewables.  “Nationally, the U.S. has plenty of existing pipeline infrastructure to accommodate significantly expanded gas use, including to replace coal power plants with gas in order to meet the requirements of the proposed Clean Power Plan. In fact, we aren’t even using 46 percent of the pipeline capacity we already have, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy.   In its Quadrennial Energy Review, DOE concludes that in many areas of the country, enhancing the flexibility and capability of the existing network is a better investment than building new pipelines…. The typical lifespan of a natural gas pipeline is 50 years or more. Because they are so expensive to build, pipelines are financed over decades based on long-term contracts that must provide enough money to pay for the full cost of the new pipeline, plus a guaranteed profit for the pipeline owner. By locking in that demand, however, these massive investments lock out competition from cleaner, more efficient alternatives.  New pipelines, in other words, inherently create long-lasting incentives to keep burning fossil fuel. And often those incentives are legally binding because more often than not, ratepayers (i.e., the public) are on the hook for the costs.”

6-5-15  The News Virginian.  Eminent Domain Only Dies at the Ballot Box.  Editorial.  “Let’s say that you buy a piece of property out in the county. There’s nothing around but green grass, trees and hills as far as the eye can see, plus that little pond you like to fish at. You pay taxes on the property, the deed is in your name and for all intents and purposes, that piece of land is yours. Then a private company rolls in, saying they want to buy or rent parts of it for an easement. You can’t say no. The only options are negotiate with them on a price or get what they want to pay through the use of eminent domain…. it’s hard to see people having to go to court, just because they don’t want something to happen on their land. We saw the latest example happen this week, as the joint company in charge of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline filed lawsuits against 27 landowners in Augusta, Nelson and Buckingham counties, for refusing to allow surveys on their property. All total, more than 100 lawsuits are expected in the weeks to come, unless the landowners approve surveys. The surveying itself seems harmless enough. Company personnel walk onto the land, take measurements, document things like cemeteries or landmarks and then leave. But it goes back to a person’s right to say no. I have yet to find the person who’s ok with someone walking up to their house and coming in without asking. The only difference here is that the person wanting in brings money.”

6-4-15  The Charlottesville Newsplex.  Landowner Speaks out After Sued by Dominion.  “After moving into her current Nelson County home 13 years ago, Marge Feiner said it’s where she planned to retire…. Feiner said finding the property was a dream come true. The view of pure greenery she has from her porch was just one of the characteristics that made the place so appealing…. Feiner said it all now feels threatened.  Dominion wants to survey her land for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  She and 21 other Nelson County landowners are being sued by the energy company for access to survey their lands…. ‘I’m not giving them permission. I’m not going to make it easy for them,’ Feiner maintained. ‘They can go ahead and sue me, I’m not afraid of them.’  Feiner said her main goal at this point is to slow the project down in whatever way possible.  ‘As far as I’m concerned, the longer it takes them, and the harder it is for them to do, and the more it costs them, the better,’ she said.”

6-3-15  The Daily Progress.  Pipeline Proponents Take Landowners to Court over Access.  “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is taking landowners in three counties back to court for refusing access to their properties for surveying the route of a hotly disputed natural gas pipeline proposed from West Virginia to the southeastern coast of Virginia and North Carolina.… This is the pipeline company’s second attempt to enforce the law against property owners who have refused access for surveying. Dominion withdrew its previous lawsuits after a Suffolk judge ruled that they should have been filed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – a limited liability company…. The pipeline company is attempting to enforce a law that is being challenged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Two lawsuits, one filed by a group of Nelson landowners and the other by an Augusta landowner and lawyer, were heard by a federal judge in Harrisonburg in February, but he has not issued a ruling.”

6-3-15  WCVB 5.  Evacuations Ordered After High-Pressure Gas Line Ruptures in Fitchburg.  “A high-pressure gas main ruptured in Fitchburg Wednesday evening that led to hundreds of people being evacuated from the area.  Hundreds of teenagers and toddlers in tutus were forced to run to safety when the high-pressure gas main ruptured in front of the performing arts centers at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.”

6-3-15  News Leader.  Dominion Files Legal Action Against Landowners.  “Dominion has filed legal action against 27 Virginia landowners who have denied surveyors access to their properties, despite it being legal for Dominion to come on private property for the purpose of surveying.  Of the 27, three are Augusta County landowners, 22 are in Nelson County and two in Buckingham County.  Dominion expects to file legal action against more than 100 landowners who won’t allow surveying for the Atlantic Coast pipeline.”

6-3-15  NBC 29.  Dominion Files Legal Action Against Landowners Refusing Pipeline Survey.  “Twenty-seven landowners face lawsuits for not allowing surveying on their property for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Dominion Energy says it filed suit Tuesday against 22 property owners in Nelson County, three in Augusta, and two in Buckingham.  It expects eventually to file suit against more than 100 people.  The proposed route was recently updated, leading to additional survey requests for the 550 mile pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina.”

6-3-15  Nelson County Times.  Pipeline Protests Heat up at FERC Offices in Washington.  “A group of Nelsonians traveled once again to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offices in Washington, D.C., last week, demanding their voices be heard about the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposed by Dominion Resources.  Though more than a year has passed since the pipeline was first announced in May 2014, local opposition to the project remains passionate as residents refuse to back down. This time, they joined forces with other protesters from around the nation. Protestors stood against the ACP as well as other infrastructure, such as Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export project in Maryland. Beyond Extreme Energy, an activist network, organized the ‘Stop the FERCus’ protest outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from May 21 through 29. Events last Wednesday included a silent, two-hour vigil called ‘Witness Wednesday.’  Marilyn Shifflett, a Nellysford resident who attended the protest, said the vigil was both ‘moving and impactful.’ She was impressed by the diversity in age, faith, race and profession coming together at the event with a common message…. During a conference call last Wednesday, Leslie Hartz, vice president of pipeline construction at Dominion, criticized some of the protestors’ methods, saying the protests are making an ‘exciting time’ in the industry very ‘challenging.’”

6-2-15  August Free Press.  Pipeline Fight: Who Advocates for the People?  Opinion piece by Jennifer Lewis of Friends of Augusta.  “I have attended every open house, Board of Supervisors meeting and scoping meetings that have happened in Augusta and Nelson counties.  I have been disappointed to find out that FERC works closely with the companies it is in charge of regulating and approving pipelines for and that FERC is funded by the General Treasury, which gets its money, in part, from energy companies, like Dominion.  I have been angered that the residents of the counties I love so much didn’t get the chance to speak at the FERC meetings.  I have been confused by the transcripts of the scoping meetings that were released last week.  I have been heartbroken when I realized that the greed and corruption is so widespread and rampant within our government and its agencies and the private companies.  At a March Open House meeting in Nelson, I asked a FERC staffer if they were there to listen to residents and be our voice in this fight. The FERC staffer told me that FERC was there to “advocate for the process,” making it very clear that they do not advocate on behalf of residents or the environment, and that I should contact my elected representatives if I wanted someone to advocate for the people.”

6-2-15  The News Virginian.  Floodplain Questions Raised over Pipeline.  “Can the Atlantic Coast Pipeline legally travel through floodplains? That’s a question local governments are trying to answer. Parts of the current route take the pipeline through portions of land that are monitored by state officials to prevent flooding. Typically, construction is either not allowed or severely restricted, depending on what part of the floodplain the proposed structure would be in.

6-1-15  The News & Observer.  Four Oaks Mayor Testifies in Washington on Natural Gas Bill.  “When the U.S House of Representatives wanted the perspective of a small-town mayor, it called Linwood Parker up from Four Oaks…. The feds took note of Parker because he spoke out at all three meetings the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held in North Carolina about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The $5 billion project would run 550 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia, crossing through Johnston County before ending in Lumberton.”

6-1-15  Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine.  Who Really Pays for the Pipeline?  “Fracking is bad enough. Now, a pipeline pumping fracked natural gas is planned for our Blue Ridge backyard…. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is a collaboration between four large energy companies (Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources), and it will pump 1.5 billion gallons of natural gas daily. The pipeline will be buried under several feet of dirt. So what’s the problem? For one thing, says Greg Buppert, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, it would require a permanent 75-foot easement above ground. That means an ugly, treeless gash would ruin views, promote invasive species, and otherwise diminish the GW’s wild character forever. “The part of the forest where the pipeline is proposed contains some of the best remaining wildlife habitat in Virginia and some of the last intact contiguous forests in the Eastern U.S.,” he says. “It would permanently fragment these forests.” Neighboring Monongahela National Forest and other sensitive public and private lands also would be destined for the chain saw. Vital water supplies would be threatened, given that the pipeline would be built on fragile topography shot through with underground drainage systems, sinkholes, and caves. Sedimentation and erosion would foul high-quality streams, and soil compaction would diminish productive agricultural land. And then there’s the ever-present threat of leaks, which would poison wells and groundwater and emit a potent greenhouse gas.  But concerned citizens will have their hands full if they want to stop or even slow down the project; the energy companies are hell-bent on completing it and cite the usual litany of spurious or exaggerated economic perks, including jobs and cheaper energy. But it’s clear that the main beneficiaries will be the energy companies themselves. Perpetuating Appalachia’s addiction to fossil fuels is in no one’s long-term interest except for those who produce the stuff…. ‘Eminent domain was created so that one curmudgeon couldn’t keep a school or a water line from being built,’ Sorrells says. ‘Now, a for-profit corporation under the guise of being a public utility is using eminent domain for their profit.'”