October 2016 News

October 2016

10-31-16 The Roanoke Times. FERC pipeline ‘sessions’ to harvest comments about project’s draft environmental impact statement. “The “scoping meetings” in May 2015 included a few boisterous moments. That was true when a project manager for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission declared unequivocally that absolutely no natural gas flowing through the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would be exported — a statement later contradicted by a partner in the project. This time around, FERC seems determined, pipeline foes say, to limit public commotion during upcoming regional events designed to harvest comment about a draft environmental impact statement for the controversial project…. Instead of hosting an open, town hall-style forum, FERC will direct people wanting to comment to a one-on-one conversation in a separate room with a stenographer — a format pipeline foes suggest shuts the public out of the process and eliminates opportunities for people to learn more about the project. ‘FERC is hiding behind a stenographer and not letting the voices of the people be heard publicly,’ said Mike Carter, a leader of Preserve Franklin County. Pat Tracy, a member of Preserve Montgomery County, offered a similar observation. ‘The stenographer format is clearly a way to undermine the ability of the public to hear each other’s concerns and see how much citizens have in common against this predator,’ Tracy said. ‘But we know that FERC has only pretended to listen to us all along.’ Roanoke County asked FERC earlier this month to offer an open meeting during the public events ‘rather than relying exclusively on private sessions with a stenographer.’ The county suggested that public meetings should include open discussions to help people learn about the project and its impacts. In turn, FERC has said the stenographer format allows more people to offer comments and also works better for those reluctant to speak in front of a crowd or express support for the project when surrounded by pipeline foes.”

10-31-16 News Virginian. Dominion agrees to enforcement action over oil spill in Augusta County. “Dominion Virginia Power has agreed to paying civil fees and reimbursement costs to the state Department of Environmental Quality for the discharge of mineral oil onto private property from a transformer just outside Staunton in January. An official decision on the enforcement action is expected in December. Approximately 9,000 gallons of mineral oil discharged from a transformer on Churchville Avenue onto a tributary of Bells Creek and a farm pond in Augusta County on Jan. 6. Le-Ha Anderson, a spokesperson for Dominion, said the oil escaped a containment area located around the transformer…. By May of 2017, Dominion must demonstrate to DEQ that the soil has been stabilized, Ericson said. Anderson said mineral oil is a non-hazardous material used to cool transformers. In response to the spill in Augusta County and a January discharge of 13,500 gallons of mineral oil from a transformer in the Crystal City substation of Arlington County, Dominion has proposed to DEQ a civil payment of $259,535 and $5,882 for reimbursement of oil discharge investigative costs.”

10-28-16 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Doctors call for state ban on drilling and fracking. “The Pennsylvania Medical Society has called for a moratorium on new shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing and is urging the state to establish an independent health registry and start studying fracking’s public health impacts. ‘We do support a moratorium at this point because of questions that have been raised,’ said Charles Cutler, a Montgomery County doctor of internal medicine and the newly elected president of the 16,000-member medical society. ‘Those questions now point to the need for a registry and more science and research to give us a better understanding about whether fracking is safe and what the risk is.’ The society’s 300-member House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution at its annual meeting Sunday in Hershey calling for the fracking moratorium, registry and research. Dr. Walter Tsou, past president of the American Public Health Association and the author of the resolution, noted that a similar resolution was rejected three years ago, but now ‘growing evidence has shown its increasing deleterious effects outweighs any economic benefit.’ He said the medical society’s board of directors will meet next month to plan how to get the state Legislature, the Department of Health and the governor’s office to act on the resolutions…. The medical society’s call for a moratorium came just a day before the release of a new study by the Yale School of Public Health that found numerous carcinogens used in fracking have the potential to contaminate the air and water of nearby communities and increase the risk of childhood leukemia. Published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the study examined more than 1,000 chemicals that may be released into the air or water by fracking and found that information on their cancer-causing potential was lacking on 80 percent of the compounds, ‘an important knowledge gap,’ it said.”

10-28-16 The Roanoke Times. Art installation keeps an eye on proposed pipeline corridor in Franklin County. “A watchful eye looks over the Bernard family’s land in Franklin County, which various surveyors for the Mountain Valley Pipeline have visited. But it’s not Anne or Steve Bernard who stands watch at the edge of their property on Grassy Hill Road. It’s a piece of art made to look like an eye, crafted from materials like weed trees and Virginia creeper found on their land. The piece is part of a project by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called Woven Gaze: Eyes of the Earth, meant to bring landowners, artists and eco-activists together in the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a proposed 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline that would pass through the New River and Roanoke valleys. About 20 people gathered Thursday in Boones Mill when the project was announced and the piece, now easily visible to passers-by, was revealed. Carolyn Reilly, a Franklin County resident and community organizer for BREDL, said the project is designed to unite community members throughout the county and region. ‘Our common denominator right now that we’re all fighting in Southwest Virginia is the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline,’ she said. Organizers hope others affected by the pipeline will take part in the project, and they’ve launched a website to help artists and landowners get involved. Those who wish to participate are asked to become members of BREDL, which requires annual dues of $20. In return, the nonprofit will extend its limited liability protection to the members, said Louis Zeller, the organization’s executive director.

10-25-16 USA Today. 100s of U.S. state’s oil spills not publicized. “North Dakota, the No. 2 oil producing state behind Texas, recorded nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in less than two years, state documents show. None of them were reported to the public, officials said. According to records obtained by The Associated Press, the pipeline spills, many of them small, are among some 750 ‘oil field incidents’ that have occurred since January 2012 without public notification. ‘That’s news to us,’ said Don Morrison, director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota. Dennis Fewless, director of water quality for the state Health Department, said regulators are reviewing the state’s policies for when to publicly report such incidents after a massive spill was discovered last month in northwestern north Dakota by a wheat farmer. State and company officials kept it quiet for 11 days — and only said something after the AP asked about it. North Dakota regulators, like in many other oil-producing states, are not obliged to tell the public about oil spills under state law. But in a state that’s producing a million barrels a day and saw nearly 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) of new pipelines last year, many believe the risk of spills will increase, posing a bigger threat to farmland and water…. Records obtained by the AP show that so far this year, North Dakota has recorded 139 pipeline leaks that spilled a total of 735 barrels of oil. In 2012, there were 153 pipeline leaks that spilled 495 barrels of oil, data show. A little more than half of the spills companies reported to North Dakota occurred ‘on-site,’ where a well is connected to a pipeline, and most were fewer than 10 barrels. The remainder of the spills occurred along the state’s labyrinth of pipelines.”

10-25-16 Frack Check WV (website). Natural Gas Pipeline Benefit Claims are Mostly Fraudulent. “Much about long distance pipelines is fraudulent, as you will see upon examination. Pipelines are an ideal investment for the big banks. The banks are so large it is expensive to break down the vast sums they have to loan. Long, large diameter pipelines are an ideal way for them to put out big dollar loans. On the other hand, things like housing, retail outlets, consumer spending insert another company between the big banks and the eventual spenders of the money, which reduces the rate of return the bank can get…. Now, what fraud is used in justifying the rash of long distance transportation gas pipelines? In calculating need, projections of increasing use of natural gas do not take into account the rising use of solar and wind sure to take place, or the possibility of much needed encouragement of use of more insulation. The cost of solar and wind is decreasing exponentially, in other words, becoming lower more rapidly each year…. Then there is claim that new jobs will be formed. Of course, a few. But the solar industry uses three times as much labor per kilowatt installed, and it eliminates the dangerous work of gas drilling and heavy equipment operation. Men with solar jobs live at home at night, so no need for “man camps,” and the vice they produce. And no worker exposure to dangerous chemicals. The fact is that natural gas is a very high capital, very low labor, and very dangerous business. There is fraud involving the effect on the health of neighbors. This is primarily around pumping stations and compressor stations. This is generally ignored in the industry account of economic benefits. They don’t even receive mention. If the subject is brought up, it is denied. There is fraud about the effect on land values in the neighborhood. The pipeline company typically wants a 75 foot permanent right of way, plus an additional 50 foot temporary right of way. That permanent right of way is constantly theirs forever – not until the use that prompts its acquisition is complete, but forever…. One of the biggest frauds of all is ignoring the fact that the huge pipelines encourage the foolishness of, in effect, “exporting coals to Newcastle,” to use an old expression, by exporting an increasingly rare resource when you look at the long future ahead of us. I had a professor at WVU, Charles Lazzel, who once said in Organic Chemistry class, ‘What a shame to burn coal – you can make so many fine things out of it.’ This applies to gas as well – you can make so many finer things out of it. To which we add ‘if it had not been burned.’ Pipeline building companies in their accounting also fail to recognize one of the most serious world problems, global warming. Pipelines encourage fracking, which will be an inceasingly major source of carbon dioxide as coal mines are shut down, and coal burning declines.”

10-24-16 Truth-Out.org. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Could Be the East Coast’s Dakota Access Pipeline. “While the Dakota Access Pipeline is making headlines, there’s a storm brewing in the East. Dominion wants to lay down nearly 600 miles of natural gas pipeline across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina to service energy companies across the region. But the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is finding opposition from people concerned about environmental impacts, property values, landscape preservation and dangerous eminent domain precedents. While seizure of private property for public uses has a long-established history, taking land for a privately owned and operated natural gas pipeline — as is happening more and more across the U.S. — is a troubling step. Dominion argues that it will improve access to safe, cleaner energy generation that will stabilize and lower prices for customers across the region. Rather than investing in actual clean energy, however, the firm apparently wants to continue relying on fossil fuels. The governors of the three states involved all support the pipeline, but their populations are delivering mixed reviews…. Like pipeline opponents in many places, people are concerned about the environmental impacts of transporting fossil fuels to generate energy, as well as the ecological fallout of pipeline construction in potentially vulnerable areas. Even if the pipeline meets official scrutiny to move forward, habitat fragmentation is a serious concern. For those with conservation easements, the proposed pipeline carries an especially bitter sting. Numerous property owners are being ordered — via lawsuit — to turn over their land to the company…. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is only one among a slew of planned pipelines across the United States. Unfortunately, many don’t attract attention until protest reaches a critical mass, which makes them much more challenging for opponents to fight.”

10-23-16 News Advance (opinion). Virginia’s lands shouldn’t suffer for the safe of the pipeline. “In 1997, my family relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Nelson County from southside Virginia. I was a rising eighth-grader at the time, but still remember the drastic change in landscape with a sense of awe…. Sadly, this place I call home has been under a constant shadow in the form of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would bisect hundreds of miles of privately held land across Virginia. Today, blue signs with “NO PIPELINE” in white lettering dot the same scenic landscape I fell in love with so many years ago, reflecting an ongoing battle for Nelson’s soul. As proposed, the ACP would enter Nelson County under the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wintergreen and wind its way across the county, exiting near Wingina. But under a recent route alternative now going through the formal scoping process under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, this 42-inch pipeline would bisect Elk Hill, a second large conservation easement in Nelson County, bringing to 11 the number of Virginia Outdoors Foundation-protected tracts of land that would be disrupted for the gains of a for-profit corporation…. We are at a turning point in the way we generate and distribute energy. Across the country, prices for renewable sources like wind and solar continue to fall while the economic, public health and public safety gains of advancing these technologies increase. Virginia’s natural areas, farmland, and historical and cultural lands are irreplaceable and should not suffer for the advancement of a plan that will only deepen our reliance on a finite energy source and the for-profit monopoly that burns it.”

10-23-16 Trueactivist.com. Pennsylvania Pipelines Bursts, Leaks 55,000 Gallons Of Gas Into One Of US’ Most Endangered Rivers. “A pipeline managed by Sunoco logistics burst Thursday night after heavy rainfall in Pennsylvania. The spill dumped 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run, a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek that drains into the Susquehanna River. The breach was detected at 3 am when the pressure of the pipeline dropped significantly, leading Sunoco to shut down the pipeline. Though the pipeline has been shut down, the heavy rains that led to the leak are expected to continue, so the actual break in the pipeline will remain unidentified until the weather clears. The Pennsylvania water authorities have warned customers to refrain from using water from the river as a precaution. No official data has been released regarding how long the ban on water use will continue.”

10-23-16 NBC29. McAuliffe Visit to Charlottesville Draws Protests. (Link to video)

10-21-16 State Impact. Sunoco gas pipeline ruptures in Lycoming County. “Heavy rains brought flash floods to Lycoming County, which washed out a bridge on Wallis Run Road. The yellow pipeline marker shows the location of the Sunoco pipeline that ruptured and spilled an estimated 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run creek. Flash floods and landslides in north-central Pennsylvania have caused a Sunoco pipeline to rupture, spilling an estimated 55,000 gallons of gasoline into a tributary of Loyalsock creek in Lycoming County. Sunoco’s control center responded to the rupture at about 3 a.m. Friday morning, after a decrease in pressure was detected and residents noticed a strong smell of gasoline, according to Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields. The Department of Environmental Protection says it sent staff to the spill in Gamble Township along with local emergency crews, the state Fish and Boat Commission, the EPA, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission…. Carol Kafer, president of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association posted photos of the rupture on Facebook. She also described what she saw: ‘When I went outside this morning, the air was so full of petroleum fumes that I could taste it,’ Kafer wrote. ‘When I took these photos around 8:30 am this morning, the air in the area was still rank with petroleum fumes. Bottom line: Fuel lines should not be placed near or under streams in mountainous areas that flood violently. Two mishaps in 5 years is not acceptable.'”

10-20-16 The Farmville Herald. Permit decision unlikely Monday. “Though Buckingham County Planning Commission members completed its hours-long, two-part public hearing — split because of the volume of people who signed up to speak — they most likely will not vote during its regular Monday meeting on a permit request for a 53,515 horsepower compressor station as part of the Dominion-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). When polled, only one of the eight commissioners, Danny Allen, who represents the board of supervisors on the commission, indicated his vote, which is to abstain because of his employment with Dominion. The remainder all said they are still undecided…. District Two commissioner Royce Charlton III said forming a decision now would be ‘unconscionable’ with many unanswered questions. District Four representative James Dabney Crews Sr. said additional restrictions to ‘protect us a little bit more’ might be in order. District Six representative Chet Maxey said the Dominon need to answer citizens’ questions and he has more of his own.”

10-20-16 Newsleader (opinion). Giesen touts ACP party line. “Funny thing … A.R. Giesen won’t ‘rehash’ arguments against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in his Oct. 16 column. But he has no problem restating the Dominion/Duke Power party line about how necessary and beneficial the ACP is touted to be. Funny, too, how Duke CEO Lynn Good told the Wall Street Journal how hard it is to be the nation’s largest monopoly utility in times of lower product demand and lower energy costs, plus all that coal ash. Which, in a nutshell, is why the only “common good” the ACP promises is the corporate good of its owners. That 96 percent capacity figure they love to boast about is ridiculously, intentionally misleading. Duke, Dominion and partners have claimed that same 96 percent capacity from the day the ACP was announced. They sold nothing during open season. They control all the gas themselves. That was the point. To equate the ACP with Interstate 81 is a perfect absurdity. Its builders did not make money off of its use. To equate the pipelines that serve our homes with a 42-inch transportation line that cannot be accessed by residents is another absurdity. And natural gas is not the clean technology we need to develop in order to be energy self-sufficient. There are more potential jobs in development and implementation of renewable technologies than there can ever be in fossil fuels.”

10-19-16 Newsleader (opinion). Need for ACP is entirely disputable. “In his Oct. 16 column, Pete Giesen states that it is ‘indisputable’ that the Atlantic Coastal Pipeline is needed. On the contrary, it is entirely disputable. There are multiple studies showing that the ACP is not needed. Modifications to existing infrastructure would be more than adequate to meet demand. Just because there are already pipelines in our area does not mean that it is okay to build another. With every added pipeline, risk for those in its path grows exponentially. The truth is that Dominion must continue to expand for the value of its stock to grow. If the stock does not grow, shareholders are not making money. The motivation for those of us against the ACP is not just a “not in my back yard” argument. These are citizens genuinely concerned about protecting our natural resources, preserving the beauty of our national forests, Shenandoah National Park, The Appalachian Trail, historic sites, and preserving private property rights. How many carbon-sequestering trees will be permanently removed, to make way for this supposedly “cleaner” energy? Those against the ACP are more interested in clean water and air than the profit of a few shareholders.”

10-19-16 Newsleader. Dominion touts new poll results. “Dominion Energy is celebrating the results of a poll released Wednesday that found 55 percent of ‘likely’ Virginia voters support the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. ‘[The poll] once again confirms that the overwhelming majority of Virginians support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby said in a statement on the poll commissioned by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. ‘While a small but vocal minority of opponents has received disproportionate attention, the vast majority of Virginians support this pipeline as a common sense solution to our growing energy needs.’ Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson County, a pipeline opposition group, disputed the validity of the findings though, saying they come from a misleading question posed to the people that were polled. According to the released survey results from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, voters were read the following description and then asked whether they support the project: ‘There is a proposal to build an underground natural gas pipeline called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The pipeline would bring domestically produced natural gas to families and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina to meet energy and electricity needs. The pipeline would begin in West Virginia, travel across Virginia, and end in Eastern North Carolina.’ Reducing the complexities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into three sentences is not possible and this represents “another instance of a public relations misinformation campaign” by Dominion, Reed said. ‘Whoever wrote this three sentence blurb clearly was intending to influence the outcome by the way it was worded,’ he said. ‘They do an injustice to the credibility of their polling and insult the intelligence of the public.'”

10-19-16 Newsplex. New poll released say majority of Virginians support Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has become a major issue for some Virginians. Dominion Power believes that it will provide clean burning natural gas supplies in Virginia and North Carolina, but Friends of Nelson County say it’s a waste of time. ‘We know it’s not necessary. We know that its not in anyone’s best interest in Virginia, and we know it shouldn’t be built.’ said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson County. A new poll released Wednesday from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce says that the overwhelming majority of Virginians support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 55% support it, 29% are opposed and 16% are unsure.”

10-18-16 Newsleader (opinion). Pipelines post medical risks. “It is alarming that some doctors and others in the medical field don’t acknowledge the well-documented and accepted list of health issues related to living next to pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. Pipelines can leak dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, methane and radon causing fertility issues, cancers, autoimmune disorders, headaches, nausea and breathing problems. Thanks to our karst topography, these gases quickly spread far and wide into our water, ground and our homes. Explosions killed 371 people from 1996 to 2015 and cost over $6 billion in damage. When our currently pristine water is contaminated, it will be a public health crisis. The health issues related to unclean water or lack of access to clean water are enormous. Have you ever lived without the convenience of good, clean water coming out of the faucet every time you turn it on?”

10-14-16 The News Virginian. Corn protesting Atlantic Coast Pipeline harvested. “Corn planted on Stuarts Draft land in June to show opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was harvested Friday. The sacred corn — called ‘seeds of resistance’ — rests on land that is part of the proposed path of the 600-mile natural gas pipeline. The pipeline path includes about 55 miles of Augusta County. Joining area groups opposed to the pipeline were Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance, and Wes Mekasi Horinek of Bold Alliance. Horinek, a Ponca National member, has protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. That pipeline would transport light sweet crude oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illionois. Horinek told a crowd of about 50 in Stuarts Draft that ‘global awareness is needed to protect the land.’ He said the resistance symbolized by the corn is part of the resistance all participating in Friday’s activity felt. ‘There is resistance growing in each of us,’ Horinek said. He said the resistance is to big oil, corporate greed, and shows support for the rights of nature. Other seeds of resistance harvests are scheduled over the weekend in Monroe County, W.Va. and Bent Mountain, Va…. Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance, said a portion of Friday’s sacred corn participants came from other counties along the pipeline route such as Nelson and Bath counties. Sorrells said a study released last month showed that there is sufficient infrastructure in Virginia and the Carolinas to handle energy needs without building the ACP.”

10-11-16 Newsleader. Critic calls FERC Pipeline approval process flawed. “The questions of whether construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is necessary, its potential environmental impacts and the eminent domain rights of private utility companies may not ultimately matter. Tom Hadwin, who worked in the utility industry for 15 years, has been meeting with federal and state high-level policy-makers to draw attention to a systemic problem in the way the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) assesses applications for new natural gas pipeline construction, he said. FERC’s approval is one of few remaining hurdles before construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can begin. The project is pending with FERC at the moment, but if the federal agency gives the go-ahead to the developer, called a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, the developer can then use federal eminent domain to get the land that it wants for construction, Hadwin said. ‘The game’s sort of rigged from the beginning right now,’ he said. ‘Once FERC issues that certificate, everything’s going ahead.’ According to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal law, FERC, like all other federal agencies is required to ‘incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach. Specifically, all federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment.’ But they’re not thoroughly assessing this environmental impact and possible alternatives and explaining why they weren’t chosen, Hadwin said, instead basing natural gas pipeline decisions on whether they would have enough customer demand to warrant the new supply — an approach that’s incomplete.”

10-5-16 The Roanoke Times. 23 arrested outside McAuliffe’s mansion during protest. “Twenty-three people were arrested Wednesday for trespassing in front of the Governor’s Mansion following a peaceful, three-day protest urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to reject a pair of proposed fracked-gas pipelines, require power companies to clean up or move coal ash ponds before closing them, and pass measures to prevent rising sea levels. ‘We’re fed up,’ said Russell Chisholm, of Newport in Giles County. ‘We’re not professional activists. We’re real people who are being impacted by and care deeply about these issues. Enough that we’re willing to risk arrest to make our point.’… ‘I am here today to remind Governor McAuliffe that when called to serve I did not shrug my shoulders and claim, ‘Not my job,’ Chisholm, an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm, told the crowd. He was referencing McAuliffe’s response in a recent interview where the governor said that even if he wanted to, he could not stop the pipeline project, which is in the midst of a lengthy environmental review process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…. Rick Shingles, also of Giles County, said protestors hoped to encourage the governor and legislators to do what’s best for the state instead of being swayed by utility monopolies. He said McAuliffe has been unwilling to meet with people who could be directly affected by the pipelines. ‘Virginians have been disenfranchised from decisions determining our environment, health and welfare by state monopolies, mainly Dominion, that own Virginia’s energy polices,’ Shingles said.”

10-5-16 NBC12. Over 20 protesters arrested after blocking gate to Governor’s Mansion. “A total of 23 environmental activists were arrested Wednesday afternoon after they blocked the gate leading to the Governor’s mansion in Richmond. The activists have been protesting for the past three days, demanding that Governor Terry McAuliffe stand against proposed natural gas pipelines and push for stricter state requirements when it comes to coal ash. ‘I want to charge the political will of the Governor of Virginia and to stand up for clean water and clean air,’ remarked Lee Williams, who was arrested during the protest.”

10-3-16  The Roanoke Times.  McWhorter and Tidwell:  McAuliffe’s “Not My Problem” Approach to Gas Pipelines Rewards Dominion While Harming Innocent Citizens.  “When it comes to the construction of two controversial fracked-gas pipelines across the state of Virginia, here’s Governor Terry McAuliffe’s basic message: It’s not my problem.  The pipelines would seize nearly a thousand-mile strip of public and private land while clear-cutting a broad path through our mountain forests. McAuliffe’s response: ‘It’s a federal issue.’ The pipelines would trigger new greenhouse gas pollution equal to a doubling of the state’s current power plant emissions. McAuliffe’s answer: ‘I have no say in this matter.’ The pipelines would threaten the drinking water of farms, ranches and recreational properties all along the way. McAuliffe: ‘I have no power to act.’… In denying repeatedly his ability to protect citizens from the pipelines, McAuliffe also repeatedly ignored what legal experts say is his clear obligation under the Clean Water Act to do just that…. If, as the governor claims, he has no influence over the construction of these pipelines, then why has Dominion Power met with him ‘dozens and dozens’ of times? The answer is obvious. Under both state and federal law, McAuliffe does have a say. It’s just that Dominion Power and other energy companies don’t want him to act. They want both pipelines to flow unimpeded from the fracking wells of West Virginia, into Virginia and off to North Carolina – virtually no matter what the consequences for innocent communities and ecosystems along the way.  Here’s the truth: the federal Clean Water Act, passed in the 1970s, delegates power to state governors and state agencies – and, by extension, the citizens – to protect local communities and watersheds from the harmful intrusion of polluters. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, an executive agency that’s under the full control of McAuliffe, must issue water permits to the pipeline companies before construction can begin. These permits must certify that the projects meet federal and state clean water laws.  The governor knows this. He also knows that, with Dominion’s blessing, the DEQ could try to issue a so-called ‘blanket’ approval of the pipelines in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This would cut local citizens out of the process and have the effect of rubber-stamping the pipelines without ever looking at how they impact Virginia’s water resources.  McAuliffe can order the DEQ, tomorrow, to completely reject this regulatory cop-out approach.  He can order the agency instead to carefully review the impacts to water resources from each pipeline. The agency can deny the water permits – as necessary – if a full and independent review finds that the projects do not meet the standards of the Clean Water Act. The McAuliffe administration doesn’t need the state’s General Assembly to help him do this — or the courts or the U.S. Congress. Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used this same authority under the Clean Water Act to deny certification of the high-polluting Constitution Pipeline proposed for that state.”

10-1-16  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Bart Hinkle:  Pipeline Brings a Property-Rights Fight to Virginia.  “Eighty-three-year-old Hazel Palmer could become the Suzette Kelo of Virginia — the face of a property-rights revolution. She has a piece of land in Augusta County along the proposed route of the 600-mile, $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It has been in her family for four generations, and she does not want surveyors for the pipeline traipsing across it — especially if said surveying leads to what she fears: a staging area for drilling inside her property line.  A state law says the pipeline’s surveyors don’t need her permission to step onto her property. The state’s constitution might say otherwise. Virginia’s Supreme Court will decide the matter…. Virginians added a plank to their Bill of Rights specifically to rebut the Kelo decision. ‘A public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services,’ it says. ‘In all other cases, a taking or damaging of private property is not for public use if the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development, except for the elimination of a public nuisance existing on the property. The condemnor bears the burden of proving that the use is public, without a presumption that it is.’  Virginia law treats pipeline companies as public service corporations, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would provide utility services. At the same time — and here’s the rub — it would do so for private gain and private enterprise…. Increasing jobs. Increasing tax revenue. Economic development — the very reasons Virginians rejected as justifications for the use of eminent-domain authority. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline meets one test imposed by Virginia’s property-rights amendment but fails another. It will be interesting to see how the state’s high court resolves that conflict — if it can.”