November 2016 News

November 2016

11-29-16 BlueVirginia website. Tom Farrell and Bob Blue: Dirty Politics and Dirty Dominion Power. “Dominion, Virginia’s largest utility, has a state monopoly to provide electricity to much of the Commonwealth, and, overall, it does its job keeping our lights on. As a result, the public tends to view the company favorably. Dominion employees are out there in hurricanes and snow storms restoring our power, a dangerous job that we much appreciate. All that is good, even though it must be noted that we pay for this essential service through our utility bills, and as a state monopoly, Dominion is guaranteed at least a 10% profit. Dominion also spends a lot of time and money (from our utility bills) cultivating that favorable public opinion, from sponsoring community activities, institutions and charities to hiring veterans as they leave military service. Then there is the other Dominion you’ve more than likely heard about recently. Numerous environmental shortcomings related to coal ash and taking people’s land for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project have earned Dominion a lot of negative publicity. Occasional articles and editorials document and lament Dominion’s potent political clout as the largest corporate political contributor to both Democrats and Republicans. What has gotten much less media attention are Dominion’s plans to increase its climate-disrupting levels of carbon pollution by 80%, not counting its ‘fracked’ natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. Dominion executives Tom Farrell and Bob Blue generally avoid speaking about climate change; in fact, it is not easy to find examples of them even using the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ on the record. But the fact that Dominion has every intention of more than doubling its carbon pollution over the next 25 years makes it clear where they stand. Additionally, while over 100 corporations, from Google to Virginia-based Mars, have quit the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over its active obstruction of progress on climate issues, Tom Farrell’s and Bob Blue’s Dominion continues to actively support this discredited, pro-corporate legislation mill…. Virginians need to be better informed about Tom Farrell and Bob Blue and how they manipulate, even warp Virginia politics to their advantage.”

11-27-16 The Roanoke Times. As pipeline looms, historic Newport braces for change. “Fern Echols spotted a man walking near the family house and ventured outside to investigate. She suspected he worked as a contractor for the private company that hopes to route a large natural gas pipeline through the region. ‘He told me he was looking for endangered species,’ she recalled. ‘I told him, ‘Honey, you just met one.’ Fern Shupe Echols, a daughter of a Tazewell County coal miner, is 76 years old. She can be alternately formidable, feisty and congenial. Her husband, Estial Earl Echols Jr., was a farm boy in Craig County who grew up to serve in the U.S. Army and manage service stations. Earl is 80 years old and frail. The Echolses live in a modest home perched above Virginia 42 in the village of Newport in eastern Giles County. A flagpole in their yard displays an American flag and the banner of the U.S. Marine Corps, in which a grandson serves. A survey crew working for Mountain Valley Pipeline recently hammered a stake into the Echolses’ yard about 65 feet from their home. The crew knotted orange surveyor’s tape near the top of the stake, signifying that it marks the centerline of the proposed 42-inch diameter buried pipeline that will transport natural gas at high pressure — if the controversial project moves forward…. Meanwhile, after residents of Newport — including the Echolses — expressed concerns early on about a proposed route’s proximity to the Newport Recreation Center, the Mayapple School and a rescue squad building, FERC directed Mountain Valley to shift the route. In October, Mountain Valley proposed a revised route — moving the pipeline next to the Echolses’ house and closer to the center of Newport and to historic structures that include the circa-1853 Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, the Methodist Parsonage and the C.A. Hardwick house, both circa 1909. A banner displayed by pipeline opponents along Virginia 42, also known as Blue Grass Trail, reads ‘Entering Pipeline Blast Zone.’… As proposed, the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline would run about 303 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to the Transco pipeline in Pittsylvania County. It would travel through rural Giles County and Newport. Perry Martin, a life-long resident, said Newport has launched a comeback in recent years, a rebound he said the pipeline would reverse. ‘In essence, Newport, more than any community in the pipeline’s proposed path, is potentially going to take a direct hit in the heart of our historic district, while avoiding more affluent communities and homes,’ Martin said. His father, Doug Martin, the village’s unofficial historian, said Newport has always been a crossroads community. The Cumberland Gap Turnpike once passed through. Today, says Doug Martin, Newport itself faces a crossroads.”

11-25-16 Newsleader (opinion). Time to apply the brakes on the ACP. “It is becoming increasingly obvious that Dominion is pulling out all stops to convince us that the ACP is a done deal and that it is in the best interest of the people of Virginia. Dominion also knows that as the people of Augusta, Bath, Nelson and Highland counties learn more about the pipeline they will continue to raise concerns and have more questions. I spent much of my professional life working in public health policy – fighting Big Tobacco at the federal, state and local levels. Dominion’s actions have all the markings of the same strategies used by Big Tobacco. Money is not an object. Hire the best lobbyists, lawyers and public relations firms that money can buy. Make significant contributions to both Republican and Democratic legislators at the local, state and federal level. Funnel money into the non-profit sector to ‘buy’ goodwill. Host meetings and produce slick materials to convince people that the pipeline has no risks, that it’s family and community ‘friendly.’ (Dominion’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission say otherwise). Two years ago our governor, who seems to spend more time fundraising than doing the ‘work of the people’, called the pipeline a ‘win-win’. A ‘win-win’ for whom? Problem is he forget to ask and involve the ‘people’, instead obviously taking his marching orders from Dominion, as have many in the state legislature…. Republicans and Democratic alike feel they are losing control of their ability to make decisions that affect their daily lives. Money, governmental intrusion and corporate influence peddling are at an all-time high. It’s time we as citizens reinsert ourselves into the decision-making process and it’s time our elected officials, including Gov. Terry McAullife, stand up and be counted. The ‘people’ elected you, NOT Dominion. Yes, Virginia needs to be thinking and planning for its future energy needs and yes natural gas needs to be a part of that equation, but we also need to be talking about other alternatives such as solar and wind as many other states are doing. And this discussion needs to be both public and transparent. Dominion could have done this right. Instead they used tactics that in this day and age are becoming increasingly worrisome to a more enlightened population who value their freedoms and rights. It’s not too late to apply the brakes on this project and think it through so that it really does do something for the ‘common good.'”

11-19-16 WNCN CBS. Hundreds in NC march against planned natural gas pipeline. “The nearly 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is planned to carry natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. Construction could begin as early as Fall 2017 if permits are issued following a review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On Saturday, Mac Legerton led a three-mile march in Robeson County, which began at a park across the street from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and finished at the planned end point of the pipeline in the Prospect community. ‘We feel very strongly that this is being done because this is the poorest part of the state. We always seem to get the waste that other people want to get rid of and the dirtiest economic plans,’ Legerton said. ‘We in the local community feel very strongly that further development of any fossil fuel will make us dependent on it for decades to come, and economic development now is moving rapidly toward energy conservation, renewable clean energy sources, and expanding technology,’ Legerton added. Legerton said the Center for Community Action, which he directs in Robeson County, and members of Eco-Robeson want to start their protests far in advance of the FERC review, in an effort to educate communities about the pipeline. Groups in Nash and Cumberland counties performed similar marches Saturday morning and all three events were considered prayer walks. The Robeson County group gave their march a title: ‘Walk for the Protection of People and Places Where We Live: Stop the Pipeline.’ Participants came from Cary and Durham and as far away as Asheville, plus a group of students from Appalachian State University. Some of the afternoon protesters in Pembroke also took part in the morning marches. Many expressed concern about the drilling process used to extract natural gas and the potential for water contamination from fracking or leaks. ‘Water is life, and we need to make sure that the water is protected,’ said Emily Wilkins of Durham. ‘We’re coming because everybody’s land is everybody’s land and we need to protect it for future generations.'”

11-15-16 CBS19. People protest Dakota Access Pipeline on Downtown Mall. “On Tuesday evening, many people gathered on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall to stand in solidarity with people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, in North Dakota. ‘This is a serious issue. Water is life,’ said Kirk Bowers, a member of Virginia’s Sierra Club. The event was hosted by multiple organizations in the area, including the Sierra Club, Friends of Nelson, Friends of Buckingham, and Wild Virginia. ‘We’re all fighting the same fights, we’re all trying to keep and maintain the land, water, and the ability to dictate our own ability of privacy use,’ said Ernie Reed, President of Wild Virginia. Organizers say locals have a strong connection to DAPL. ‘The Dakota Access Pipeline is just another example of a pipeline project being permitted without adequate public engagement, or significant environmental review,’ said Bowers. ‘Folks around here whose property is slated to be crossed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Mountain Valley Pipeline know what it’s like to see the government as a predator, and allowing the taking of their property for some benefit that isn’t their own benefit,’ said Reed.”

11-7-16 Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Natural gas pipeline sparks opposition: Concerned residents speak out against proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Many Monroe County residents are not happy about a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cut across the county, and they got a chance to give a government agency their opinions on Thursday night at Peterstown Elementary School. Representatives of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were on hand to take statements from residents about the proposed pipeline, in particular opinions related to the recent completion of a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS). The statements were limited to three minutes and taken by a stenographer in private. Called the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the 300-mile, 42-inch diameter line would carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale field in northwestern West Virginia to a transfer point in Chatham, Va. near Smith Mountain Lake…. After the line was first proposed about two years ago, opposition groups have formed in many of the counties impacted. The groups locally are Preserve Monroe and Preserve Giles and they have alliances with national environmental preservation groups like the Sierra Club and Bold Alliance. Citing dangers associated with water quality, steep and rugged terrain, impact on the beauty and quality of the environment, endangered species and explosions, Monroe County residents attending the meeting Thursday were adamantly opposed to the pipeline. About 37 residents signed up to speak to a stenographer. While they awaited their turns, they gathered in the gym, some talking about the pipeline and its impact. Maury Johnson, who owns a farm near Greenville, is with Preserve Monroe and said the pipeline would be close to his home. ‘I think it’s really a bad deal,’ he said. ‘There is not a good thing about it.’ Johnson said the environmental impact study ignores the abundance of springs and caves in the county that could be impacted by the line which would initially cut a possible 500-foot wide swath in its path, although the advertised width is 125 feet with a final width of 50 feet for the pipeline itself.”

11-6-16 Nelson County Times. Property rights at heart of anti-pipeline ‘revival’ gathering in Nelson. “In a scene resembling a church service, opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gathered under a tent Sunday at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County as several spoke of how the controversial project personally affects them. Among ‘testifiers,’ as described by attorney Henry Howell III during Friends of Nelson’s first ‘Property Rights Revival,’ was 83-year-old Hazel Palmer. The Lyndhurst resident is taking a stand that will carry her to the Supreme Court of Virginia to determine whether Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC had the right to survey her land without her permission to chart a route for a 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline through property that has been in her family’s possession since 1880. ‘It’s a beautiful place … so I’m fighting to keep the pipeline from my property,’ Palmer said as she received cheers from gatherers Sunday, adding: ‘I’m fighting for you and for me, and I hope we will be able to turn things around for us.’ The event hosted by Friends of Nelson, a group opposing the proposed 600-mile pipeline, gave property owners along routes of the proposed pipeline from Bath, Augusta, Nelson and Buckingham counties, among others, the opportunity to speak out and also served to revive the spirit of the Constitution, said Joanna Salidis, a group member. ‘I think it’s the depth of emotion people feel about their land and their property,’ Salidis said of the ‘revival’ tent setting. Along with music and activities for children, patriotic attire and anti-pipeline signs adorned the RVCC grounds just off Virginia 151. Attendees also were given a chance to take replica copies of easement offers from the pipeline company and place them in a fire pit. Salidis said the copies were taken from an actual legal document but personal information was marked out and the act of burning it is a symbolic form of protest. A resident of Afton, Salidis said she lives on an alternate route of the proposed pipeline and feels deeply violated that Dominion thinks ‘it’s OK to take it for their profit.’ Howell, founder and managing partner of The Eminent Domain Litigation Group in Norfolk who served as emcee for the event, held a copy of the Constitution Sunday and spoke of the lengths the document goes to protect the rights of personal property. ‘We must come together against the threat to our Constitution that we face from a for-profit corporation that is pursuing profits in ways that defile our constitutional rights,’ Howell said in a news release issued by Friends of Nelson.”

11-6-16 NBC29. Property Owners Opposed to Pipeline Host Revival in Nelson Co. “Property owners in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are raising their voices in opposition to Dominion’s project. They’re hoping federal regulators hear their testimonies shared Sunday afternoon at an old-fashioned Sunday revival in Nelson County. The Property Rights Revival kicked off under a big white tent at the Rockfish Valley Community Center. Anti-pipeline property owners explained why they believe the pipeline would affect their livelihood, businesses and the history in Nelson County. ‘So I’m fighting to keep the pipeline from my property,’ Hazel Palmer says to a cheering crowd. Eighty-three-year-old Palmer, who lives in Augusta County, is fighting the ACP all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. ‘I’m just devastated that I’ve taken care of the property for so long and to have somebody come in and just take it from me and I can’t do anything about it,’ Palmer said. The court will decide whether pipeline crews had the right to survey her Lyndhurst property without her permission…. Palmer joined her attorney and dozens of other landowners along the pipeline’s route at the revival. They ‘testified’ under the tent about the project’s potential impacts. Some burned offers from Dominion to buy easements on their land. ‘I got a piece of property that I bought as an investment together with my father and wanted to develop and would be for the benefit of the county and bring a lot of dollars in, and instead what we’ve now got is preferencing Dominion’s corporate interest over ours,’ Nelson County resident Richard Averitt said.”

11-4-16 The Daily Progress (opinion). Pipeline support is self-interested. “While the full-page advertisement showing a list of organizations that support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline taken out in The Daily Progress on Oct. 23 may look impressive at first glance, upon closer inspection it becomes apparent quite quickly that a majority of the organizations have a direct financial stake in the pipeline being approved. You will have to forgive my sarcasm, but how generous of America’s Natural Gas Alliance to throw its support behind the pipeline. Or for Dominion Resources, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas to add themselves to the list, seeing as how they are the ones proposing to build the pipeline…. From oil and gas production companies, to companies that will provide services during the construction of the pipeline, to oil and gas industry associations — the list is simply full of companies that appear to have signed their names in order to further their own profits.”

11-3-16 The Roanoke Times (opinion). Our view: The pipeline approval system is rigged. “Here’s the problem faced by opponents of the natural gas pipelines proposed for this part of Virginia: The system is rigged against them. The agency that rules on pipelines – the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – is dominated by appointees from the energy industry. The commission is also funded by fees paid by the very industries it regulates. This is an agency apparently impervious to the normal political pressure. When a bipartisan group of Virginia’s senators and congressmen asked FERC for something as simple as scheduling more hearings, the agency said ‘no.’ If the agency won’t even give in on something that innocuous, what hope is there of outside pressure influencing the actual outcome? Opponents argue that the pipelines are bad for the environment – and have introduced their own studies to make the case that the pipelines aren’t economically viable in the long run. They face what appear to be insurmountable obstacles there, too. First, we live in a free market economy. As long as the pipeline companies think they can make money – and they must, or they wouldn’t have investors lined up – it doesn’t really matter what some counter-analysis might come up with. Second, FERC’s review is really quite narrow. It only looks at the immediate route, not the larger counter-argument that a pipeline cutting over the mountains might diminish the economic value of an entire community, by depressing property values or a ruining its quality-of-life appeal. Indeed, FERC assumes that if the pipeline company has secured sufficient easements, then there is no larger community impact. That’s why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is trying to buy easements even before a route is actually approved – the purchase of those easements helps establish its case. The harsh reality is FERC rarely rejects pipelines.”

11-3-16 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents turn out for FERC public session. “On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held their final public session for our area in Roanoke. While this was a chance for people to give their opinion, opponents of the project held their old meeting down the hall. FERC is meeting individually with people here. Some people say they aren’t happy with that process, but FERC said it’s a more efficient way for people to express their thoughts. The pipeline is mapped to run through Lyn Williams’ property. She says her family has owned land since the 1700’s and one of her main concerns is the effects on the water quality. ‘Most people get their water from wells or springs and therefore there is no contingency or mitigated effects that will be safe if it gets contaminated,’ said Williams.”

11-3-16 The Roanoke Times (opinion). McAuliffe actually hinders solar power. “Virginia secretary of commerce and trade opined regarding energy with rosey accolades for Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s efforts on ‘Clean energy growth.’ Noting solar deployment investment by Department of Navy, Amazon, and Microsoft that support grid resiliency while benefiting great brands. McAuliffe is to be commended for his work to bring business development although environmental groups grade him a solid D+ based on the support of ‘fracked’ gas pipeline projects. Seems we often hear of pipeline leaks and explosions nowadays along with increased earthquake activity related to natural gas fracturing wells…. A new study by IEEFA.org indicates pipeline companies are overbuilding beyond need and have exaggerated economic benefits. Alarming failure rates among recently constructed pipelines should awaken and concern all. Corporate utility influence in Richmond has created the ‘solar haves’ such as large innovative companies while McAuliffe has signed legislation penalizing families and small business installing solar with a solar tax surcharge and restrictions that hinder private owned solar investment and jobs creation.”

11-2-16 WDBJ7. Activists gearing up ahead of pipeline meeting. “People will be gathering at Franklin County High School Wednesday evening to give their two cents on the draft environmental impact statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. It was released in mid-September and says there aren’t any major red flags with the pipeline. Opponents say that statement is flawed. They got to speak individually Tuesday night at the first session in Chatham. Dan Crawford with the Sierra Club out of Roanoke finds the report disturbing. He believes the biggest impact is to the community and freshwater resources. To him, it’s now or never for people to voice concerns. Dan Crawford, Sierra Club Roanoke, said, ‘The benefits of that are tremendous. We need public turnout. We need numbers. We need public engagement. Without that, we can’t really expect to win this.’… Mike Carter, Preserve Franklin County, said, ‘You know, in Franklin County they may think well this is a small group of people. We’re really not. We’re like raindrops but when we join up with Roanoke and Giles and Bent Mountain and the people in West Virginia, we’ve created quite a river.'”

11-2-16 NBC29. Opponents of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Plan Revival in Nelson County. “Opponents of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline cutting through central Virginia are planning an old fashioned Sunday revival to get people in the spirit to fight the project. They’re expecting hundreds of people to fill a field in Nelson County this weekend. Pipeline protesters are calling it a property rights revival. They argue a private company should not be allowed to take their property for its profit. The Friends of Nelson Group plans to set up an 80 foot tent behind the Rockfish Valley Community Center. An eminent domain attorney will lead the revival. The group is encouraging property owners and neighbors along the path of Dominion’s proposed natural gas pipeline to come testify about the impact it would have. Organizers say this is about reviving the spirit of the Constitution and protecting property rights. ‘This is eminent domain being transferred to a private company for profit to take people’s land and we think that’s not right,’ said Doug Hornig, Friends of Nelson board member. ‘We think it’s unconstitutional and we think it’s morally reprehensible, and that’s why we’re fighting it.'”

11-1-16 WDBJ7. Pipeline surveyors, landowners at odds in Roanoke County. “‘Excuse me folks. Are you able to say what your business is here today,’ asked pipeline opponent Roberta Bondurant, as a survey team of more than 30 people arrived on Bent Mountain October 10th. Bondurant was there to make sure they followed the letter of the law, only surveying property for which the company had provided proper notice. Several days later, we met with Bondurant and members of the Terry family as they staked out the entrance to a portion of their land, where surveyors had appeared earlier that morning. ‘The next thing I knew there were about 5 trucks, maybe about 20 surveyors,’ said Elizabeth Terry Reynolds. ‘I went up to ’em and asked them what they were doing, and asked them not to step on the property.’ In the past, if the landowner was present and called police, Roanoke County officers would ask the survey crew to leave until the company obtained a court order. But recently that changed when the company said it would assert its rights under state law. Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall says his officers are caught in the middle. ‘If the pipeline company appears to be following the statute as it’s written, we’re not directing them to leave,’ Hall told WDBJ7. ‘At the same time, we’re not facilitating their entrance on the property.’ ‘We’re very frustrated with the county’s response,’ Bondurant said in an interview. Pipeline opponents and landowners want the police to be present, and they want the county to join them in a legal action they say would resolve questions about access, for landowners, county officials and the MVP survey crews. ‘We would just appreciate the sort of consideration that goes along with fundamental rights of privacy,’ Bondurant said, ‘and where that privacy emanates from is from the right to own and keep your hard-earned property.'”

11-1-16 The Roanoke Times. Watchdogs fear Forest Service amendments could yield regional ‘pipeline alley’. “A 50-foot wide, permanently treeless right-of-way for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline portends a fresh scar for the region’s scenic vistas, especially in areas where steep slopes and erosion-prone soils will challenge efforts to reestablish vegetation. But what sort of scar could result from a swath carved through the Jefferson National Forest that might be 500 feet wide — a corridor whose width would exceed by 200 feet the length of a football field? And what might the implications be for private properties adjacent to such a swath, something the U.S. Forest Service describes as a Designated Utility Corridor and Mountain Valley project foes are referring to as ‘pipeline alley?’ Residents of the region who are watch-dogging the environmental review process for the pipeline project are asking these questions and more. Rick Shingles, a member of Preserve Giles County, says pipeline opponents are alarmed about the possibility of a 500-foot utility corridor through the Jefferson National Forest and its potential effects — both for the forest and adjoining private properties. After all, Shingles said, a pipeline or transmission power line hosted by the corridor would not stop at a forest boundary but continue across the landscape. ‘A utility corridor would maximize the threats to private property, safety, water, wildlife and scenic views tenfold, with horrific consequences for many communities,’ Shingles said…. ‘The Forest Service preference for a single large corridor — sacrificing one stretch to preserve the rest — may conform with the U.S. Forest Service mission,’ he said. ‘However, it creates an essential threat to private lands and communities beyond the forest edge.’ Shingles said the Forest Service makes it clear that the 500-foot corridor is designed to co-locate multiple utilities, a reality he said could attract additional projects to the region. ‘That is the new, much greater peril we now must contemplate,’ he said.”

11-1-16 The Virginian-Pilot. Virginia wants to fine Dominion Power $260,000 for oil spills in public waters. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has proposed fining Dominion Virginia Power about $260,000 for two oil spills that fouled public waters in January, including a 13,500-gallon spill that flushed from a Crystal City, Va., substation into a waterfowl sanctuary and the Potomac River. The environmental agency recommended on Monday that the utility pays a fine of $259,535 and reimburse the state $5,883 for its investigative costs related to both the Crystal City spill and a 9,000-gallon spill in Staunton in Augusta County, Va…. The utility’s investigation into the incident, submitted to the state in August, said most of the spill was contained in an underground vault or troughs, but those vessels were not completely sealed. The oil leaked through a storm drain system into Roaches Run and from there into the Potomac River.”