November 2015 News

11-29-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Jaye: International Agreement Pushes Virginia to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels.  Opinion piece.  “Decarbonization, as a process, means that as a society we are committing to decrease the level of carbon emissions in our activities until it is ultimately brought to zero. Science is telling us that this needs to happen rapidly, starting now, and faster than we have ever seen emissions reduced in history. Emissions from fossil energy must go first and be phased out by mid-century, followed by a phaseout of all greenhouse gases well before the end of the century.  What then, does a commitment to decarbonization mean for Virginia? Foremost, it means that investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is a lost cause. New infrastructure at the scale of multistate pipelines and new refineries has a payoff period of 20-30 years, and effectively locks in future carbon emissions. Constructing new fossil fuel infrastructure is saying yes to consumption today and handing off the climate challenge to my generation and to generations not yet born.”

11-24-15 The News Virginian.  Pyles Wants Study of Landowner Wells Impacted by Pipeline Route.  “Pyles has ongoing concerns about the potential impact of the pipeline on the private wells of residents living along the 40-plus miles of the route in Augusta County.  The supervisor has this week requested Augusta County draft a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The letter, when approved next month by county supervisors, would ask Dominion Resources to perform a hydrologic study.  The study would address wells that could be impacted by the pipeline construction in Augusta County.”

11-23-15  Nelson County Times.  Pipeline Opponents Argue ‘Cultural Attachment’ at Risk.  “Roots run deep, and people in areas of Virginia potentially impacted by two proposed pipelines want the federal government to know that cultural resources and historical ties to the land are as important as environmental resources.  They want those values articulated in a Federal Energy Regulatory inventory of the economic, social and cultural impacts that construction might have on ‘cultural attachment,’ described in an analysis prepared for one group as ‘a social phenomenon that ties people to their physical surroundings and to the landscape around them.’… More than 20 groups in Virginia and West Virginia, including Nelson County, are asking for a review of cultural attachment.  Peter Agelasto of the Rockfish Valley Foundation in Nellysford said there is no question there is a strong cultural attachment to the land among people in the Rockfish Valley…. Agelasto added the viewshed is as much a part of the fabric of residents’ lives as is any other aspect of the district. ‘Unfortunately the pipeline runs directly [through] those resources and the numerous farms, some of which have been in operation over 250 years like Elk Hill and Glenthorne,’ he said. ‘Culture and history don’t get any more basic than this and the resultant cultural attachment has to be recognized. The pipelines take away land, intrude into communities and disrupt families who have lived in these areas for generations. Fracked gas pipelines disturb the sanctity of our rural cultures and communities. Our mountains and rural cultures are unique and sacred grounds.’”

11-14-15  News Leader.  Dominion PR, Safety Blunders Worrisome.  Editorial.  “A for-profit public utility that seeks access to privately owned land for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Virginia Power continues to surprise us by making public relations and safety blunders.  On Nov. 6, the company announced it would conduct a second soil survey of the pipeline route after the U.S. Forest Service aired concerns about the qualifications of Dominion subcontractors who made the first survey.  Meanwhile, a 30-foot sinkhole sits between Waynesboro and Lyndhurst on a privately owned Dominion electric line easement. In late September, it swallowed a small tree and left underground telephone, cable and high voltage electric hanging across its opening…. It took Dominion more than two weeks after notification of the east Augusta sinkhole to move the live wire. When property owners asked Dominion for financial help in filling the hole, the company hired a consultant who investigated liability and declared the company wasn’t liable…. The ACP may or may not not cause future sinkholes. Regardless, sinkholes are almost certain to occur close enough to a pipeline to raise concern.  When that happens, how long will it take for the company to respond?… Who will be responsible for pipeline-route sinkholes that affect public safety?  And could not this electric line sinkhole already be repaired had Dominion simply pitched in, rather than pay a consultant to tell them they weren’t responsible?”

11-14-15  News Leader.  Sinkhole Sparks Safety, Pipeline Concerns.  “The emergence of a yawning 30-foot-wide sinkhole in Augusta County is raising concerns regarding a proposed pipeline route.  ‘We get sinkholes,’ said Nancy Sorrells, Augusta County Alliance co-chair. ‘We deal with them. But we now know that Dominion doesn’t know how to deal with them and inserting a 42-inch high pressure pipeline through this type of terrain is an unacceptable risk.’… Residents and county officials have questioned the energy companies regarding the route and safety of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline through a region riddled with sinkholes, but Dominion’s recent actions – or a lack of action – is speaking ‘louder than words,’ Sorrells said.  She said the new sinkhole, located on a Dominion Virginia Power electric transmission line easement, appeared in September near Breezy Knoll Lane and Warren Oaks Lane exposing underwire telephone, cable and high voltage electric lines, Sorrells said.  Sorrells said Dominion’s power lines were left exposed for two weeks before the company placed plastic fencing around the hole and posted warning signs about the dangers of the live power line….  Dominion was able to relocate its distribution cables exposed by the sinkhole and made necessary repairs to ensure electric service was not disrupted, but Sorrells said energy company has made no attempt to repair the sinkhole.”

11-12-15  Charlotte Business Journal.  Could Duke Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Investment Be Riskier Than It Looks?  “Duke Energy touts its potential $2.4 billion investment in the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and its plans to buy Piedmont Natural Gas as a play to the future, when gas will ‘serve as the backbone for energy solutions.’  But Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a San Francisco lawyer and clean-energy advocate, tells Bloomberg news that utilities may regret large gas infrastructure investments as the use of renewables and batteries accelerates.  ‘These utilities are taking a risk that these will be stranded assets that ultimately their shareholders will have to pay off,’ Wells tells Bloomberg reporters Harry Weber and Tim Loh. ‘We will see regulators being more critical of these asset decisions as prices of renewables continue to go down.’”

11-11-15  Bloomberg Business.  Utilities Buying Gas Pipelines Better Watch out for Batteries.  “Efforts by utilities to buy U.S. natural-gas pipelines to make up for lackluster power use could be upended if the shift toward renewables accelerates.  Duke Energy Corp., Dominion Resources Inc. and Eversource Energy are among companies spending billions to expand into pipeline networks that link distant gas-producing regions to areas where demand is increasing.  It’s a hot deal at a time when coal-fired power plants are getting shuttered, nuclear stations aren’t being built and gas-fired generators are picking up most of the slack.  Their bets may prove riskier than they think if improvements in battery storage and ever cheaper wind and solar power edge out gas-fired generation in electricity markets, according to one former energy regulator.  ‘These utilities are taking a risk that these will be stranded assets that ultimately their shareholders will have to pay off,’ Jon B. Wellinghoff, a San Francisco attorney who served as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2009 to 2013, said by phone. ‘We will see regulators being more critical of these asset decisions as prices of renewables continue to go down.'”

11-11-15  World Resources Institute.  Secretary Kerry Warns: Virginia Sea Level Rise Indicative of Bigger Risks Facing Nation.  “This week, Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the connection between climate change and national security at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, home of the largest naval complex in the world. He underscored the threat climate change poses globally and, in particular, how sea level rise is being felt and seen in Hampton Roads, VA. He called for strong action at the local, national and international levels to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, including catastrophic damage to our nation’s sea shores, military installations, businesses and homes, as well as disruption worldwide resulting from agricultural and infrastructure damages, and civil unrest and mass migration…. The science on climate change is unequivocal, and makes it clear that we need strong national action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst impacts for future generations. We also need to provide resources to communities to respond to impacts and build more resiliency. As Sec. Kerry pointed out, this is not a ‘take your vitamins and eat your spinach’-type of remedy. There are already significant economic opportunities, with others on the horizon, as we transition to a low-carbon economy…. This problem is solvable, and we know what to do. As Sec. Kerry stated, “If we don’t act with greater boldness now, it could be the single-most profound betrayal by one generation of another or of others in history.”

11-9-15  Southern Environmental Law Center.  Court Rejects Dominion’s Motion to Dismiss Coal Ash Lawsuit.  “Friday the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied Dominion Virginia Power’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by SELC, on behalf of Sierra Club, over the illegal contamination of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River with harmful coal ash waste from Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center…. For well over a decade, the nearly one million cubic yards of coal ash stored at the Chesapeake site has been illegally leaking high levels of arsenic, cobalt, sulfide, and other harmful pollutants into the groundwater and two waterways popular for recreational activities—the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and Deep Creek.”

11-9-15  The Daily Progress.  Opinion/Editorial: Surveys for Pipeline Are Crucial Step.  “At the very least, Dominion Resources appears guilty of premature action in bulldozing ahead on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  We use that word metaphorically. But we also hope that Dominion doesn’t prematurely bulldoze a pipeline path in the literal sense.  The U.S. Forest Service has accused Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline of misrepresenting the qualifications of contractors hired to conduct soil surveys. The Forest Service also says that Dominion and its pipeline arm, Dominion Transmission Inc., conducted the surveys without waiting for information from the federal agency on appropriate protocols — or even notifying the agency that soil sampling was ready to begin.  This is serious business.  The soil samples are critical because they will help determine whether the pipeline route is safe for our natural resources, especially water…. perhaps, in a rush to push the pipeline project forward as rapidly as possible, Dominion neglected to do its due diligence regarding Forest Service requirements.  Either way, even short of “misrepresentation,” the results cause legitimate concern.  The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a highly controversial project. Landowners and environmental groups have fought it vigorously.  On both sides of the divide, accurate and reliable scientific information is absolutely necessary…. In order to even hope to win back lost public trust, Dominion will have to go above and beyond normal protocols to ensure that a second round of data is acceptable.  Meanwhile, Virginians can only hope that this is not a foretaste of things to come.”

11-9-15  U.S. News & World Report.  Keystone off the Table, but back East, a Growing Web of Pipelines Spawns Resistance.  “From New England to North Carolina, scattered insurgencies have formed in opposition to a spider web of pipelines up and down the Eastern Seaboard as the nation’s energy industry seeks to move pent-up natural gas supplies. Behind the pipeline boom: vast deposits of natural gas being drilled in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio and ready for shipment to U.S. and international markets.  ‘Essentially, the takeaway is they’re re-plumbing the whole United States,’ said Timothy R. Carr, a West Virginia University geologist.  The battle has emerged as the East Coast version of the environmental and political drama over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which became a line in the sand for environmentalists who argue the time has passed for the world to end reliance on fossil fuels. With President Barack Obama killing that 1,179-mile energy project Friday, the snarl of proposed pipelines carrying natural gas is likely to generate more attention — from proponents and opponents alike…. Virginia has become an epicenter of the anti-pipeline movement because of two massive projects and others in the works.  Besides Mountain Valley, Dominion Resources and its energy partners, including Duke Energy, have proposed a $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, traveling through some stretches of fragile environments over its 564-mile route.  The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance is a coalition of more than three dozen organizations in Virginia and West Virginia opposed to the pipeline’s possible path through two national forests, among other natural attractions.”

11-9-15  Al Jazeera America.  After Keystone Win, Opponents Turn Fight to Other Planned Pipelines.  “Environmental activists are warning that several major pipeline projects are still up for federal and state approval, even though President Barack Obama has killed Keystone XL — a 1,179-mile line that would have carried carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. refineries…. Meanwhile, U.S. East Coast communities have fought back against a series of planned natural gas pipelines along the Eastern seaboard.  One of those proposed lines is the $3.2 billion, 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia…. In addition to Mountain Valley, Dominion Resources and its energy partners, including Duke Energy, have proposed a $5.1 billion Atlanta Coast Pipeline [sic] that would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. It would pass through sensitive environments over its 564-mile route.”

11-9-15  ABC News.  Keystone off the Table, but Back East, Pipeline Fight Builds.  “The battle has emerged as the East Coast version of the environmental and political drama over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which became a line in the sand for environmentalists who argue the time has passed for the world to end reliance on fossil fuels…. Virginia has become an epicenter of the anti-pipeline movement because of two massive projects and others in the works.  Besides Mountain Valley, Dominion Resources and its energy partners, including Duke Energy, have proposed a $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, traveling through some stretches of fragile environments over its 564-mile route.  The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance is a coalition of more than three dozen organizations in Virginia and West Virginia opposed to the pipeline’s possible path through two national forests, among other natural attractions.  ‘Energy is indeed important and energy is important in creating new jobs. I get that,’ said Lewis Freeman, a spokesman for the alliance. ‘But that does not mean the value of energy to our economy trumps all other values. I think what’s at stake here is a conflict of values.'”

11-8-15  Nelson County Times.  No Pipeline Video Contest Launched by Friends of Nelson.  “Friends of Nelson launched a No Pipeline! video contest on Friday with a $1,000 prize for the winner. The contest is open to anyone including those fighting other proposed natural gas pipelines.  Entries must include the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by name, but it can include other projects.  The group hopes the contest will help raise awareness of the ‘consequences’ of fracking.”

11-6-15  The New Yorker.  Exxon, Keystone, and the Turn Against Fossil Fuels.  “The fossil-fuel industry—which, for two centuries, underwrote our civilization and then became its greatest threat—has started to take serious hits…. There is, now, an elsewhere to head. In the past six years, the price of a solar panel has fallen by eighty per cent. For years, the fossil-fuel industry has labored to sell the idea that a transition to renewable energy would necessarily be painfully slow—that it would take decades before anything fundamental started to shift. Inevitability was their shield, but no longer. If we wanted to transform our energy supply, we clearly could, though it would require an enormous global effort.”

11-6-15  News Leader.  Forest Service Concerned over Pipeline Soil Surveys.  “The administration of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests have voiced concerns over how soil surveys were conducted along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. The survey, among several environmental studies required by the project, evaluated the soil upslope and downslope of the proposed pipeline route for such factors as slippage potential, hydrology and the risk to soil chemistry caused by disturbance.  Though the Forest Service has not yet received the results of the surveys, it is questioning the protocol used and the qualifications of the surveyors.  In a letter, submitted to FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose on Nov. 5, Monongahela National Forest Supervisor Clyde Thompson detailed the concerns…. ‘In summary, the Forest Service cannot use the results of these soils surveys to evaluate project effects on NFS lands,’ Thompson stated in his letter. ‘Furthermore, the Forest Service recommends the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission not utilize data from soils surveys conducted to date on NFS lands in the preparation of the environmental impact statement.’”

11-6-15  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Forest Service Accuses Atlantic Coast Pipeline of Misrepresentation in Soil Surveys.  “The U.S. Forest Service has accused the Atlantic Coast Pipeline of misrepresenting the qualifications of contractors hired to conduct soil surveys that are critical to evaluating the safety of extending the proposed natural gas pipeline through national forests in Virginia and West Virginia.  The Forest Service filed a detailed account with federal regulators on Thursday that alleges the pipeline company, led by Richmond-based Dominion Transmission Inc., conducted the surveys in early October before determining the protocols for the work, notifying the forest service that they were about to begin, or ensuring qualified soil scientists would collect the samples…. Thompson, supervisor for the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, informed the FERC that the Forest Service ‘cannot use the results of these soils surveys to evaluate project effects on (National Forest Service) lands.’  The letter ignited strong protests from opponents of the pipeline, which would extend through 10 Virginia localities.  ‘To me this is bigger than just incompetence,’ said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance. ‘This is just deceit.'”

11-5-15 Nelson County Times.  Pipeline Route Changes Sent to FERC.  “The group proposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline announced Friday it has submitted route changes for the 564-mile interstate natural gas pipeline to avoid environmental impacts as well as the Cow Knob salamander…. ‘Dominion’s filing on Friday is a great example of the total failure of the regulatory process to date — incomplete, rushed and shoddy work put forward for no reason other than to maintain a schedule that serves only their own shortsighted corporate interests,’ said Joanna Salidis, president of Friends of Nelson.  Salidis said she thinks local, state and federal officials need to step in and urge FERC to complete a regional environmental impact statement that would include all the pipeline projects proposed for the Blue Ridge and central Appalachian Mountain region in a single review in order to bring accurate data and realistic analyses to bear on the regulatory process.  Those fighting against the pipeline also are working to have Gov. Terry McAuliffe visit Nelson County to tour the route of the proposed pipeline…. Salidis said she wants the governor to see the faces of the humans in the county ‘instead of the dollar signs he keeps talking about.’  ‘The governor has held steadfast in his support for the ACP, largely on economic grounds, while seemingly misunderstanding our community’s concerns,’ she said. ‘We’re asking for him to help us protect our property rights and water and ensure a fair and thorough regulatory process; not for him to do an about face on the pipeline.’  The people of Nelson feel the governor could help them in many ways, including insisting the erosion and storm water construction plans be made public or the ACP be included in a comprehensive, regional review of the proposed pipelines that go through the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains, according to Salidis.”

11-5-15  The Recorder.  Dominion Chooses Drilling over Major Route Change.  “An energy company’s plan to bore through a mountain and protect a threatened species would nonetheless harm its habitat and pollute water, a scientist said.  Rick Webb of Mustoe, a retired University of Virginia scientist, pipeline opponent, and [Coordinator] of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, said horizontal drilling would damage water supplies and leave the home of the threatened Cow Knob salamander partly in harm’s way.”

11-3-15  The Roanoke Times.  Governor’s Office to Coordinate State Agency Comments About Pipeline Projects.  “Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants state agencies to brief his office before department employees comment publicly about two deeply controversial interstate natural gas pipeline projects that have received the governor’s blessing.  Brian Coy, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said McAuliffe simply wants to coordinate how state agencies will comment about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects.  He said McAuliffe, as the state’s CEO, wants to know what his departments plan to say before they say it and ensure that state agencies will speak about the pipeline projects in the same way…. Rick Webb, coordinator of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, a group opposed to the Atlantic Coast project, expressed concern about state agencies being obligated to coordinate comments given McAuliffe’s enthusiastic embrace of the pipeline projects.  ‘It’s an extremely risky thing to build a pipeline on the scale of the ACP across steep mountain terrain, sensitive streams and vulnerable water-supply recharge areas,’ Webb said.  ‘Environmental agency scientists must be allowed to objectively examine the plans for this project without concern about messaging or political promises,’ he said.”

11-1-15  Augusta Free Press.  Friends of Nelson Launches No Pipeline! Video Contest.  “Friends of Nelson has launched a No Pipeline! video contest, with a one thousand dollar prize for the winner. The contest is open to anyone, including those fighting other proposed natural gas pipelines…. ‘We hope that this contest, and the videos that come from it will help raise awareness in urban areas of the true consequences of the “Fracking Boom.” More and more of us in rural America are experiencing first hand the frightening loss of personal and community sovereignty as we are forced to “host” these dangerous pipelines and compression stations, turning our homes and communities into sacrifice zones, and wasting the resources that we all depend on — and for nothing but to enrich the very few,’ says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson.”