December 2016 News

December 2016

12-31-16 Rocky Mount Telegram. Feds clear way for pipeline. “Builders of a natural gas pipeline through Nash County say they are pleased with a federal study on its environmental impacts released Friday, but community and conservation groups are blasting the report. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its draft environmental review of the $5-billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline funded by Duke Progress Energy and Dominion Resources. The pipeline will carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina running through about 30 miles of Nash County. The report, which was two years in the making, finds measures proposed by ACP companies significantly reduce and mitigate the environmental impacts of the project. The draft report states that natural gas pipelines don’t adversely impact tourist economies or residential property values while providing a boost to economic development…. Environmental and property rights advocates totally disagree with the report, said Cat McCue, the communications director for Appalachian Voices, an environmental advocacy group. ‘America’s next big pipeline fight is emerging in the mountain towns and farming communities of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina,’ McCue said. ‘With federal regulators poised to rubber-stamp the proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, landowners, community leaders and their allies are taking inspiration from the water protectors at Standing Rock and vowing to stand together to stop it.’ McCue joins dozens of local groups and public advocacy organizations in condemning federal regulators for ignoring evidence that the proposed pipeline isn’t needed and puts lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, publicly owned natural resources and the climate at unacceptable risk…. ‘The Atlantic Coast project would pump fracked gas across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, harming communities, water resources, private property, historic sites and iconic public treasures including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail,’ McCue said. ‘The groups say FERC failed to honestly assess these impacts and disregarded evidence that the project would lock consumers into decades more reliance on dirty fossil fuels.'”

12-30-16 WDBJ7. FERC releases Draft Environmental Statement for Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. “Federal regulators say the majority of adverse environmental impacts from a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina could be avoided, minimized or mitigated. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission included the finding in its draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which was released Friday. Dominion Energy vice president of pipeline construction Leslie Hartz says the company believes the draft report confirms that ‘the project can be built in an environmentally responsible way.’ A coalition of community and environmental groups, however, criticized the commission’s findings.”

12-30-16 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Long-awaited draft environmental statement on Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline released. “A long-awaited federal draft environmental impact statement issued Friday says Dominion’s proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have ‘some adverse and significant environmental impacts,’ though most would be reduced to ‘less-than-significant levels’ with mitigating measures proposed by the partners building the pipeline and recommendations by federal regulators. Environmental groups, who have fought the $5.1 billion project tooth and nail, have a different take. A statement released on behalf of a consortium of organizations, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, among others, blasted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for ignoring evidence that the pipeline ‘is not needed, (and) puts lives, communities’ drinking water supplies, private property, publicly owned natural resources and the climate at unacceptable risk.’ FERC ignored clean-energy alternatives, warnings that the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure and ‘disregarded evidence that the project would lock consumers into decades more reliance on dirty fossil fuels,’ the statement says. The executive summary for FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, which covers alternative routes, endangered species, wetlands, groundwater, the nearly 2,000 surface water bodies the pipeline will cross, potential effects on public and recreational lands and other factors, acknowledges potential hazards that include sinkhole-prone karst terrain and a route that includes more than 100 miles where slopes are greater than 20 percent and increased potential for landslides exists…. Bowers said the draft statement is missing documentation the developers of the pipeline, which will pass through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, have not yet provided, including information requested by the U.S. Forest Service ‘to assess project-induced landslide hazards and risk to public safety, resources and infrastructure.’ ‘It’s missing components that are essential for the review and required by the National Environmental Policy Review Act. It’s deficient in many areas,” he said, adding that FERC’s assurances about the pipeline builders’ mitigation measures amount to ‘feel-good propaganda.’ Bowers said he’s more interested in seeing slope-stability analyses and other detailed engineering data from Dominion and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. ‘They’re not determining whether the pipeline is going to slide down the hill or not and blow up,’ he said.”

12-20-16 The Roanoke Times. Regional governments bash pipeline impact statement. “Roanoke County’s comments contend that the draft environmental impact statement for the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline relies on “cursory analysis of incomplete data.” Montgomery County’s comments allege that “significant portions of the [statement] are alternatively inadequate or inaccurate, thereby precluding meaningful public review in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.” Montgomery County calls on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rescind the draft document — something FERC says it has never done. Comments from local governments, business interests, conservation organizations, environmental groups and citizens are stacking up in the commission’s inbox as the Thursday deadline approaches for public input on the draft environmental impact statement for the 303-mile, $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline. The buried, 42-inch diameter pipeline would transport natural gas at high pressure. The source of the gas would be hydraulic fracturing wells in the Appalachian Basin. As an interstate pipeline, the Mountain Valley project needs FERC’s approval to proceed. Craig County’s board of supervisors has similarly bashed the draft environmental statement issued by FERC in September. The board described as totally inadequate the document’s analysis of the pipeline’s negative impacts. The county went further, rebuking FERC for a public input process the Craig County board described as flawed. A Dec. 1 resolution noted that the board “has repeatedly questioned the integrity, transparency and sincerity of the process conducted by FERC for the MVP [draft environmental impact statement] and the MVP permit application in general.” Regionally, FERC’s draft environmental review of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline has won few fans among four of five local governments whose jurisdictions the pipeline would cross. Concerns commonly expressed by boards of supervisors in Giles, Montgomery, Craig and Roanoke counties include the opinion that details remain sketchy about how the pipeline company would control erosion and the migration of sediment from steep, rocky slopes the pipeline and its trench would climb or descend. Roanoke County estimates that “93 percent of the project area [in the county] is at a moderate to severe risk for soil erosion.” County officials also worry about the pipeline’s impact on the groundwater relied on by rural residents for drinking water and about the effects on the value of private property of a permanent easement for a large-diameter pipeline. On Tuesday, Richard Caywood, assistant administrator for Roanoke County, told county supervisors that there are concerns about the pipeline crossing the Roanoke River upstream of the intake for the Spring Hollow Reservoir, a regional source of drinking water. Montgomery County observed that the pipeline would travel more than 19 miles through that county, “razing 191.3 acres of forest — 68.4 acres permanently — and irreparably scarring the viewshed, destabilizing (through blasting of shallow bedrock, among other things) treacherous karst-ridden terrain already susceptible to landslides and seismic activity, and forever encumbering numerous parcels of private property with unnecessary infrastructure that will be abandoned in 20 years.” Karst terrain is characterized by sinkholes, caves, springs and underground aquifers. Montgomery County contends that Mountain Valley “grossly underestimated karst features” and suggests the draft environmental statement “does not adequately address the dangers of karst.”

12-7-16 The Daily Progress (opinion). Will Standing Rock happen here? “Are you concerned about the health of our environment? Then I hope you are following a critical turning point in the fight to protect it — the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Protestors are demonstrating American’s will to stand up against the fossil fuel industry. Native Americans and others are working to protect our rights to clean water and a safe environment. Similar protest actions may take place in our own backyard next year. When Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines begin construction expect to see hundreds, if not thousands, of concerned citizens challenge these environmentally destructive projects. These protesters won’t be tree-hugging left-wing factions, no, an incredibly diverse group of average Americans, many willing to face arrest, will stand up for their moral beliefs and our constitutional rights. Expect farmers, ministers, professors, students, homemakers, retirees and working people to fight these rich energy companies. Many will be trained in peaceful protest techniques to avoid violence, yet may be confronted by military-style tactics from the aggressive pipeline companies. These deeply caring citizens may put their lives on the line to block construction…. Can you imagine if the $8 billion investment proposed for these destructive gas pipelines went into sustainable energy instead of infrastructure for a polluting energy source? Fracked gas pipelines are the latest effort by a dinosaur industry reaping profits at the expense of our neighbors and the environment. The Roanoke Times effectively pointed out our plight in a recent editorial ‘The system is rigged’ (Nov. 3). It’s true: No matter how scientific — and sane — citizen’s objections to these pipelines have been, the corrupt agency FERC will approve these unnecessary projects…. Communities must join together to prevent the use of eminent domain for private gain. We must halt the destructive fracking process. We have an obligation to our children to stop these pipelines by whatever means necessary. That will inevitably mean exercising our constitutional rights to protest.”

12-6-16 Newsleader (opinion). Leaking pipeline videos expose the truth. “Over the weekend I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a video of deer hunters in Upstate New York who came across a leaking pipeline in the middle of the woods. The video shows a water puddle (they’ve had snow already so it was muddy and soggy) literally bubbling as the gas leaked from the pipeline that is buried under ground. These hunters continue to record as they find the pipeline marker with company identification on it and as they find 3 more bubbling leaks up and down the pipeline. They comment that they did call in the leak to the gas company and while they waited and recorded for 15 minutes, no one had shown up…. After seeing the video, I did some research online and found a news article with a link to the video. The local newspaper, The Olean Times Herald, interviewed the gas company and they admitted that they would not fix the leaking pipeline until January for several reasons; it was in a rural area, it was a ‘Type 3 leak’ and it hadn’t gotten worse over the past year that they’ve been aware of and monitoring the leak. The article ends with the gas company’s spokesperson actually complaining that because of the amount of calls and complaints they’ve received since the video was posted, they decided to just fix it so people will leave them alone…. How can any of this be safe? How is it safe to let this gas leak into the air, land and water? How is it safe to have explosive gas leaking near where people could light a campfire or cigarette and inadvertently ignite the gas? How is it safe to have leaking explosive pipelines that could potentially be used as a terrorist target? How are companies allowed to not immediately fix leaks but instead can move forward with new projects until the leak gets worse? How are we supposed to trust Dominion?”

12-6-16 The Daily Progress (opinion). Pipeline poll wasn’t exactly objective. “The phrase ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ was coined to emphasize the difference. Statistics may not be boldfaced lies, but they can be manipulated in numerous ways, particularly with polls whose results largely depend on how a question is framed. So it is with a recent survey from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, after which Dominion Power loudly proclaimed that ‘an overwhelming majority’ of Virginians favor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Well, no. Emphatically no. Fifty-five percent is a very slim majority, not an overwhelming one. But drill just a little deeper and you find that respondents were asked if they supported the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which ‘would bring domestically produced natural gas to families and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina to meet energy and electricity needs’ (Virginia Chamber survey shows support for Atlantic Coast Pipeline The question could not possibly be more rigged. Of course, pollees were not told that a host of energy experts — such as the Synapse Energy Economic group — have publicly stated that the pipeline will do no such thing, that it is totally unnecessary to serve current and future energy and electricity needs…. Given how slanted the question was, the most remarkable thing is that nearly one in three respondents still opposed the pipeline. Virginians do not want it, and any fair poll would confirm that, for certain.”

12-5-16 Newsleader. Pipeline opponents find hope in Standing Rock decision. “Many Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents were excited Monday by the news that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was halted by the Army Corps of Engineers Sunday, adding fuel to a national pipeline opposition movement. ‘Their fight is the same fight as our fight,’ said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of Augusta County Alliance. ‘What’s happening there is happening here,’ she said, so their victory is one to celebrate for all pipeline opponents. The similarities between the two pipelines’ circumstances begin with the threats they pose to sacred land, Sorrells said. While the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) route doesn’t skirt an active Native American reservation, like the Dakota Access Pipeline does, she said it still gets close to a Native American burial ground along the Middle River in Churchville, while also crossing historic battlefields there, which is ‘sacred ground.’ ‘In Augusta County you can hardly put a shovel in the ground without hitting Native American artifacts,’ Sorrells said. ‘It may not be as deeply sacred as what’s happening in Standing Rock, but the land is sacred in what is promised in the American Constitution and a private corporation shouldn’t be able to break that promise.’ The parallels between the two pipelines continue in the environmental issues they raise, said Scott Ballin, whose West Augusta property the ACP stands to intersect. He’s worried about the threat of pipeline spills into water supplies in both cases. Lew Freeman, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance chair and executive director, said he thinks these environmental questions at hand in Virginia from the ACP are even more complicated than their counterparts from the Dakota Access Pipeline…. the real parallel between the two pipelines that not enough people are talking about is this flawed regulatory process. The question of, ‘what’s the best way to get the energy we need?’ has been neglected… ‘This should be a concern for everyone. Personal rights are being trampled upon, misleading information is being accepted as fact, and federal laws are ignored.'”