September 2016 News

September 2016

9-30-16  Reuters.  Technology Designed to Detect U.S. Energy Pipeline Leaks Often Fails.  “A Reuters review of U.S. federal records shows that sensitive technology designed to pick up possible spills is about as successful as a random member of the public like Aldridge finding it, despite efforts from pipeline operators…. Over the last six years, there have been 466 incidents where a pipeline carrying crude oil or refined products has leaked. Of those, 105, or 22 percent, were detected by an advanced detection system, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) data.  The others were discovered in different ways, including 99 leaks found by the public.  Detection is critical because the earlier a leak is found, the less damage to the environment and the pipeline. In the 361 pipeline incidents that went undetected by internal systems since 2010, a total of 141,421 barrels of petroleum products spilled, totaling $1.2 billion in property damage, the data shows.  Pipeline safety is a hot-button issue since demand for new infrastructure picked up to move fuel coming from the U.S. shale boom.The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration published a congressionally-mandated report in 2012 that provided no recommendations, but did note that computerized detection of spills is uncommon. Pipeline operators utilize systems with varying degrees of sophistication amid a lack of broad-based regulations, according to the report…. Federal data shows the leak detection systems have caught small leaks and missed some of the largest. Six out of the largest 10 pipeline spills in the U.S. since 2010, all of which were as big or bigger than the Colonial spill, went undetected by the system. “

9-29-16  The Daily Progress.  Opinion/Editorial:  Pipeline Test Case Significant.  “The constitutional issue regarding eminent domain is complex, but some clarity might be shed by an upcoming Virginia Supreme Court decision linked to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The case of an 83-year-old widow whose Augusta County property lies in the path of the pipeline is the first to reach the state’s highest court.  At issue is a 2004 law passed giving natural gas companies the right to enter private property without landowner permission, but with notification, to survey potential pipeline routes…. As others have pointed out, the opportunity to test the law against the Constitution is an extremely important development…. the lawsuit contends that five different crews numbering up to 20 people each would be swarming over her land during the surveying and test-core drilling process that are part of planning for the tunnel. This would deprive her of the use of her land under the terms of the Constitution, she says.  There is also a question as to whether the consortium crews’ work is covered by the 2004 law, since the law applies specifically to certified public service companies such as electricity and natural gas companies and not to ‘foreign companies,’ according to the suit.  Both questions are of interest. Whether pipeline surveying can become so invasive as to constitute an unconstitutional taking of property may help define parameters of work on the ground. Determining whether affiliated companies are covered by the law may define whether those crews can even get access to that ground.  The law, ill-advised or not, clearly intends to smooth the way for natural gas expansion. We’ll see whether the Supreme Court finds that intent to be constitutionally clear and valid or whether it sides with individual property rights.”

9-29-16  Blue Virginia.  Video: Gov. McAuliffe Asked About Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Answers Leave Much to Be Desired.  Opinion blog.  “Gov. McAuliffe was on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” yesterday morning, and mostly did a good job. However, on the issue of the proposed Atlantic Coast (fracked natural gas) Pipeline, he swung and missed badly. A few (huge) problems with McAuliffe’s answer to the caller include the following…. Yes, it’s true that solar power generating capacity has increased under Gov. McAuliffe, but going to 400 megawatts of solar power still means that Virginia is one of the most pathetic states in the country in terms of clean energy…. McAuliffe claims that he has ‘no authority on the pipeline, it is a federal issue.’ Except that, as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network points out, ‘Governor McAuliffe has the authority to deny water permits for these fracked-gas pipelines under the Clean Water Act.’… Finally, McAuliffe claims that “people just don’t like the pipeline because they don’t like fracked gas.” Again, FALSE!… Perhaps if Terry McAuliffe would actually meet with these folks (and not just his pals at Dominion Power), or even check out their website(s), he’d know that they don’t like a bunch of things about these pipelines, including: the negative impact of pipeline construction on their property and their communities; the adverse economic impact on their counties; enviro/cultural/historical impact; etc.”

9-28-16  Richmond Times-Dispatch.  McAuliffe Says He Lacks Authority to Stop Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he can’t stop the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline even if he wanted to.  Facing pressure from environmental activists and property owners who oppose the 600-mile project, the Democratic governor was asked about the pipeline Wednesday during a radio appearance on WTOP’s ‘Ask the Governor.’… Opposition to the pipeline has been especially fierce in Nelson County. The question posed to the governor Wednesday focused specifically on the project’s impact on the Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Pipeline protesters have confronted McAuliffe at several recent events, often filming the encounters and posting the videos online. One activist group, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is planning a three-day protest outside the Executive Mansion next week focusing on pipelines and other issues.”

9-27-16  WVTF Public Radio.  Atlantic Coast Pipeline Sparks Protest in Buckingham.  “About 150 people came to a meeting of the Buckingham County Planning Commission Monday to protest Dominion’s plan for a compressor station that would push natural gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline…. More than fifty people signed up to speak against the compressor station.  Among them, Barbara Gottlieb, a researchers at Physicians for Social Responsibility. ‘Compressor stations leak.  Pipelines also leak,’ she said. ‘There’s also something called blowdowns, when the material that’s in the pipeline or in the compressor station  gets vented out to the atmosphere, and sometimes this is done on purpose as part of routine maintenance.’… residents of a small, historic African-American neighborhood nearby and members of a spiritual community called Yogaville fear they will notice the noise made by four large turbines used to push gas through the pipeline.  Chad Oba, with Friends of Buckingham, says this project could damage quality of life…. Kirk Bowers, with Virginia’s Sierra Club, argued the pipeline and compressor are not needed to transport natural gas from the fracking fields of West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina. ‘Pipelines are being overbuilt out of the Marcellus shale fields, and overbuilding puts rate payers at risk of paying for excess capacity, and landowners at risk of sacrificing property to unnecessary projects.’… And, finally, opponents complained that Dominion would reap big profits from the pipeline while communities would get only risk and disruption…. Because of the large turnout, Buckingham County’s planning commission decided to extend its public hearing – inviting further comment on October 17th.”

9-27-16  The Daily Progress.  Opinion/Editorial:  A Difficult Question for FERC. Adapted from the Roanoke Times.  “Now, here’s the uncomfortable question for FERC: Why is it so passive and willfully near-sighted?  We understand that FERC’s review is, by definition, limited as well. FERC’s process is essentially set up to rubber-stamp pipelines. The commission is dominated by appointees from the energy industry. (And this is under a Democratic administration!) The commission is also self-funded through fees it charges the industries it regulates. No matter which party is in power, this is not an agency inclined to be critical of the energy industry.  But still there’s one obvious question, but which FERC refuses to even consider. There’s another proposed pipeline — the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Both would start in essentially the same place in northwest West Virginia, and both need to cross through Southside Virginia. Why couldn’t they occupy much of the same route?  A combined route at least reduces all the mountain-crossings and stream-crossings and trail-crossings and other crossings by half.  Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, calls FERC’s refusal to look at the two pipelines together ‘lazy.’ Where’s that heavy-handed federal regulation when we need some?”

9-22-16  Charlottesville Newsplex.  Governor McAuliffe’s Visit Interrupted by Anti-Pipeline Protestors.  “On Thursday, Governor Terry McAuliffe headed to Charlottesville to campaign for Hillary Clinton, but he was greeted by anti-pipeline protesters who say he’s not doing enough as governor to stop the pipeline…. Pipeline protesters say they’re upset with Governor McAuliffe and criticized him for his support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  ‘The Governor is now telling everybody this is a federal issue and it’s more than a federal issue,’ said Sharon Ponton. ‘The state has the authority to approve air perimeter permits for compressor stations and water permits for the Clean Water Act. He can have influence and deny those and stop the permit.'”

9-22-16  NBC 29.  Pipeline Protestors Direct Anger Toward McAuliffe During Visit.  “Protestors gathered in Charlottesville Thursday, September 22, to voice their anger over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and they directed it at Governor Terry McAuliffe when he stopped on the Downtown Mall…. With the ACP moving forward on a construction contract deal and the Supreme Court saying it will take up a property owner’s survey appeal, protestors say the governor is not doing enough. ‘We’re here just to remind him that we voted for him. He needs to represent us and he needs to take back his support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ said Jennifer Lewis of Friends of Augusta…. Protesters against the pipeline say they plan to keep the pressure on the governor until they feel they’re no longer ignored.  In addition to heat on McAuliffe, Friends of Nelson and Friends of Augusta are calling for a congressional review of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That’s the group tasked with reviewing and deciding whether or not the pipeline can be built.  They believe FERC has abused its power.”

9-22-16  New Republic.  Recalculating the Climate Math.  “The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet.  Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?  Here’s the answer: zero.  That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.”

9-21-16 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Widow’s Appeal of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Survey to Test Property Rights Amendment Before State’s Highest Court.  “An 83-year-old widow’s appeal of Virginia’s controversial pipeline survey law will come before the state’s highest court to test a constitutional amendment that voters approved almost four years ago to protect private property rights.  The Supreme Court of Virginia agreed last week to hear an appeal of the 2004 survey law by Hazel F. Palmer, whose Blue Ridge mountain property in Augusta County lies in the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, where it would tunnel beneath the Appalachian Trail into Nelson County near the entrance to Wintergreen resort…. Palmer’s lawyer said the supreme court’s decision to hear her case presents the first opportunity for the justices to determine how to interpret and apply property rights protections in the amended Section 11 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Virginia. Voters in a 2012 referendum approved a change that enshrined protection of private property from seizure for private gain as a fundamental right…. The pipeline company confirmed on Wednesday that it now expects to complete the project in ‘late 2019,’ a year later than originally scheduled. FERC announced last month that it expects to issue the final environmental impact statement for the project by June 30 and make a decision by Sept. 28, 2017, just more than a year from now. However, the pipeline company has moved ahead aggressively in planning to build the pipeline. It has committed $400 million to manufacture the steel pipe, which it has begun storing in leased yards along the proposed route…. the company’s announcement rankled Jon Ansell, chairman of Friends of Wintergreen, who called it ‘a mockery of the FERC evaluation process.’  ‘There are still many questions, concerns and fundamental issues that need to be addressed in the federal review and approval/disapproval process,’ Ansell said in an email message. ‘Yet Dominion publicly boasts it has already ordered the steel and selected the contractors. Makes one wonder if the system’s rigged and this FERC process is all for show.’… Palmer’s property lies just over the mountain from Wintergreen and would be directly affected by the company’s plan to drill horizontally about 4,000 feet through the mountain to avoid the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway. The entrance hole for the tunnel would begin on her land, which would serve as a staging area for drilling…. ‘My heart is broken that I am forced to give up land for a private company to install a pipeline,’ she ended. ‘This should not happen in the United States of America.’”

9-21-16  August Free Press.  Poll:  Virginia Voters Oppose McAuliffe on Pipelines, Coal Ash.  “Statewide poll results released today show that, on the hot-button issues of fracked-gas pipelines and coal ash disposal, Virginia voters disagree with the approach being taken by Governor Terry McAuliffe by significant, bipartisan margins.  The results of the poll, conducted by the nonpartisan firm The Cromer Group, indicate that:

  • Only 28% of Virginia voters support Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to build two major fracked-gas pipelines, while 55% oppose the Governor’s efforts, a nearly 2-to-1 margin of opposition.
  • Opposition to Governor McAuliffe on pipelines was especially strong in rural Virginia, among Independents, and among women….

‘This poll shows that Governor McAuliffe’s cheerleading for fracked-gas pipelines is not only dangerous for communities and the climate, but decidedly unpopular in Virginia,’ said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. ‘The Governor likes to dismiss both the pipelines and coal ash as ‘federal issues’ beyond his influence, but that’s untrue. He has direct executive power to act on behalf of Virginians facing direct harm now. Governor McAuliffe has the means and the moral responsibility to reject the pipelines and to reform coal ash disposal, and his legacy depends on it.’”

9-21-16 Nelson County Times. Dozens protest Dakota Access, Atlantic Coast pipelines. “In a demonstration of solidarity with those who could be affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline, opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stood in front of the Nelson County Courthouse last Tuesday to protest both of the proposed projects. The event was part of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s national day of action, during which environmental groups across the country held demonstrations in an attempt to bring attention to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. About 50 people attended the Nelson County event, including members of anti-pipeline groups Free Nelson, Knitting Nannas of Virginia and Protect Our Water, a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. As part of one of several speeches given by attendees and organizers, Sharon Ponton, a member of BREDL and an organizer of the event, called Native Americans ‘an indigenous people we have abused horribly throughout our history.’… Nelson resident Marion Kanour echoed Ponton’s view of the Dakota Access Pipeline and said people who live in the area know firsthand what is involved in a pipeline battle. ‘Nelson County has been termed the ‘epicenter’ of the fight against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ Kanour said. ‘We clearly understand and empathize with those being forced to accept fossil fuel infrastructure.’… As the group sang, several members of the crowd paraded in a small circle, donning cardboard masks decorated to look like animals. A butterfly, eagle, fox and opossum were just a few of the animals represented. Ponton said the masks were an attempt to acknowledge the pipelines could affect more than just humans. ‘They have no voice,’ Ponton said after the event about the animals in the areas where the pipelines could be placed. ‘We attempted to give them one by wearing the masks and bringing attention to their plight.'”

9-21-16 The News Virginian. Melody of opposition. “On Wednesday evening, people chanted ‘No pipeline’ and held signs of disagreement like at many other protests. However, this protest near Dominion had a musical twist. A pocket trumpet, percussion instruments and guitars placed a melody in the air of opposition. Friends of Augusta has set up protests against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline each Wednesday in Sept. near Dominion, on 2 Technology Drive in Staunton. This one had the biggest turnout. Attendees were encouraged to bring musical instruments to play. ‘It’s a way to have fun and also get more noise,’ Jennifer Lewis with Friends of Augusta said. ‘Cars hear us and look at us.’ Music is the root of humanity, Lewis said of the connection to music and their stand against the pipeline…. Robin and Linda Williams, a folk duo known for their anthem ‘We Don’t Want Your Pipeline,’ made an appearance. Kai Degner was also among the crowd. Over the weekend, the courts agreed to hear the appeal for the Pipeline. ‘I hope courts will agree with what we’ve been saying all along, eminent domain for a private, for-profit company is not constitutional,’ Lewis explained. ‘Affected landowners need our support in protecting their land and their personal safety from this corrupt practice and abuse of eminent domain.'”

9-20-16 NBC29. Va. Supreme Court to Hear Appeal on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “There’s a big break for those against the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Virginia Supreme Court will now hear an appeal after an Augusta County Circuit Court judge ruled surveyors could come on one Nelson County woman’s private property. An attorney for the property owner says he’s grateful the state Supreme Court will take up the issue and hopefully clarify private property rights the Virginia Constitution.The appeal, which was granted Friday, September 16, found two faults in the original trial rulings. Court documents indicate Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC cannot use a section of state code on natural gas companies to enter private property. The LLC is the group building the pipeline. Lawyers say the LLC is not registered with the state corporation and should not be considered a public service company. Court documents also say the original rulings violate the state constitution and infringe the fundamental right to private property.”

9-20-16 Newsleader (opinion). ACP will endanger Wintergreen Resort. “I am an 83-year-old widowed lady who is devastated because the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is scheduled to go through my beautiful mountain property in Augusta County. When ACP cuts a 125-foot strip of timber diagonally up the mountain, it will no longer be the beautiful mountain it is now with the Blue Ridge Parkway going across the top. No trees will be allowed to grow back on the steep terrain, which will result in a scar up the mountain. Also with no trees, this will cause erosion and flooding in heavy rains…. Last December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requested that Dominion find an alternate route, especially through Reeds Gap. Dominion has not done that. They only made changes in the Spruce Creek area. Dominion is putting the residents and visitors of Wintergreen Resort in a dangerous situation. The pipeline is scheduled to be drilled from my property almost one mile through the mountain to come out above the Wintergreen Resort entrance. Then it will go down the mountain, cross under Beech Grove Road to go through the next mountain to the Spruce Creek area. Wintergreen has one entrance and exit to the resort, so if there is an explosion, the people have no way off the mountain. I am the fourth generation to own this property. It was the home place of my maternal great-grandparents, who purchased the property in 1880. My family has taken care of the property with great pride. My heart is broken that I am forced to give up land for a private company to install a pipeline. This should not happen in the United States of America.”

9-17-16 WSLS. Demonstrators protest against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline, dozens from across the New River and Roanoke Valley will be protesting Saturday morning along route 42 in Newport. The controversial 301-mile-long natural gas pipeline would carry natural gas through West Virginia and Virginia. Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to construct a 42-inch natural gas transmission pipeline through the middle of Newport, Giles County and just below Kelly Knob on the Appalachian Trail in the Sinking Creek Valley. According to studies paid for by local conservation groups, scientists report the the pipeline would be hazardous to the area because of karst topography…. Organizers with Preserve Giles County, Sierra Club, Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are sponsoring the rally. Demonstrators will be warning cars as they enter what they call a ‘blast zone’, an area they say if the proposed pipeline would be built would endanger the public in case of an explosion. Rick Shingles, Coordinator with Preserve Giles County says the pipeline is not only a danger to the environment and local wildlife, but to the safety of the public who live and work near the proposed path of the pipeline. ‘That thing has an effect on the residents if it were to blow within three quarters of a mile in either direction,’Shingles said. ‘And the area within around 1500 feet in either direction is the incineration zone.'”

9-17-16 WDBJ7. Demonstrators protest Mountain Valley Pipeline in Giles County. “Demonstrators in Giles County held a protest Saturday against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Landowners, county officials, and students from Roanoke College and Virginia Tech all met to show their displeasure with the possibility of the pipeline. It came just one day after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said any negative effects of the pipeline are manageable. This group said it’s important to come out in big numbers to show support against the pipeline. ‘It totally cuts across a lot of different boundaries, groups that aren’t usually political,’ the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club President Diana Christopulos said. ‘Our organization normally doesn’t get involved in issues like this. It’s just such a disturbing prospect that we are here because we need to be.'”

9-17-16 NBC29. Opponents of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Protest in Afton. “The latest chapter in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline controversy continued on Saturday. Representatives from groups across the Shenandoah Valley gathered this morning to join hands in protest. The Humpback Rocks Visitor Center was filled with protesters for the Hands across the Appalachian Trail. Speakers gathered while voicing disfavor in the pipeline’s possible presence in central Virginia. ‘It might not directly affect you today. It might affect you tomorrow. When we give eminent domain power to private for-profit companies, you never know when it’s going to be in your backyard,’ said Jennifer Lewis of Friends of Augusta.”

9-16-16 The Roanoke Times. FERC draft report calls pipeline’s potential impact ‘limited’. “The federal commission evaluating the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline issued Friday a draft environmental impact statement for the deeply controversial project — a major milestone in the review process. The 781-page statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was accompanied by appendices that totaled 2,671 pages. An executive summary of the statement reports, under a section titled ‘Major Conclusions,’ that FERC determined the construction and operation of the pipeline ‘would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exceptions of impacts on forest.’ Pipeline opponents reported Friday that their review of the commission documents was just beginning. But there were strong expressions of dismay, alarm and skepticism about FERC’s analysis. ‘FERC’s conclusion that adverse environmental effects of the MVP would be limited and will be satisfactorily mitigated by the applicant is ludicrous,’ said Rick Shingles, a member of Preserve Giles County…. And there was stiff criticism too about the commission’s planned format for regional public meetings in November, when comments about the draft environmental impact statement will be collected in one-on-one conversations with a stenographer instead of in an open, public forum. Roberta Bondurant, a resident of Bent Mountain in Roanoke County and one organizer there of stiff pipeline opposition, blasted the one-on-one format. ‘It’s a farce to call the individual delivery of scientific, environmental, historic and cultural information [to stenographers] a ‘public’ hearing,’ she said. Richard Caywood, assistant county administrator for Roanoke County, has led the county’s efforts to monitor the pipeline project. ‘The meeting format planned by FERC appears to be designed to limit, rather than facilitate, meaningful public dialogue regarding this project,’ Caywood said…. Pipeline opponents contend that karst terrain cannot safely support a 42-inch diameter, buried pipeline transporting natural gas at high pressure. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation also has cited concerns about the pipeline’s impact on sensitive karst features and water quality in Giles and Montgomery counties…. Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, reacted to the release of the impact statement for the Mountain Valley project by slamming FERC for failing to do a more overarching, comprehensive analysis. He said FERC’s unwillingness to complete a programmatic study was ‘shameful’ and ‘lazy’ and set the stage for private companies to take people’s private property for corporate gain.”

9-16-16 WV Public Broadcasting. Proposed Pipeline Advances, Environmental Groups Push Back. “A controversial 300-mile gas pipeline that would cut through Virginia and West Virginia is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a draft environmental review for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Energy companies EQT and NextEra want to build the 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion…. Environmental opponents say the report does not sufficiently evaluate public need for the pipeline, citing a report that says the gas industry is overbuilding the pipeline infrastructure in the two states. FERC will accept comments on its environmental review until December 22nd.”

9-15-16 Richmond Times-Dispatch(opinion). Dominion must invest in renewables. “Recently you published two letters from executives of Dominion Virginia Power. The first, by president Robert Blue, touted Dominion’s Energy-Share program. The second, by vice president Roy Grier, highlighted Dominion’s plans for energy-efficient buildings. Both actions are laudable and might suggest that Dominion is a model corporate citizen. However, what was omitted from the letters is damning. The World Meteorological Organization recently released its 2015 ‘State of the Climate’ report. It concludes: ‘The alarming rate of change we are now witnessing in our climate as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is unprecedented in modern records.’ And yet Dominion remains deeply invested in fossil-fueled business as usual. In particular, its plans for three massive natural-gas pipelines have garnered fierce resistance from an unlikely coalition of tea-party libertarians and green activists…. If serious about corporate citizenship, Dominion should develop offshore wind energy — for which it holds leases — and promote residential and commercial solar.

9-14-16 Bucks County Courier-Times. EPA criticizes FERC, PennEast over pipeline proposal. “On the final day to comment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a highly critical analysis of the proposed PennEast pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the body tasked with ultimately giving the project a thumbs up or down. ‘EPA has significant concerns regarding the alternatives analysis, a number of important topics for which information is incomplete, and the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the proposed action on the environment and public health,’ read a letter submitted to FERC by John Pomponio, director of the EPA’s Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Pomponio added that the EPA has concerns ‘including impacts to terrestrial resources, including interior forests, aquatic resources, and rare, threatened and endangered species.’… After some delay, FERC issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project on July 22, stating that it did not find any major flaws with the application and arguing the environmental impacts can be mitigated. The public, including environmental groups and government agencies, then was given 45 days to comment on the 1,000-page document, leading to the EPA’s letter on the final day, Sept. 12. The EPA’s comments took issue with both the PennEast application itself and FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. First, the EPA letter criticized a perceived lack of alternative routes and infrastructure options by FERC. ‘EPA recommends that FERC provide detailed analysis on system and route alternatives,’ the EPA letter stated, ‘We believe that FERC should further consider collocation (with existing pipelines) opportunities and develop alternatives which further avoid and minimize impacts to important project area resources.'”

9-12-16 WHSV3. Natural gas study stirs up controversy over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A new study of the Mid-Atlantic’s demand for natural gas is stirring up response from both sides of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline debate. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance say that a new study of the mid-Atlantic’s demand for natural gas reveals that two proposed and highly controversial interstate pipelines are not needed…. One of the primary conclusions the study reached is that existing pipelines can supply more than enough fuel to power the region through 2030. The report’s authors studied the capacity of the existing network of pipelines and the region’s projected demand for energy. They concluded that, with some pipeline upgrades, ‘the supply capacity of the Virginia-Carolinas region’s existing natural gas infrastructure is more than sufficient to meet expected future peak demand.’ In the study, the researchers wrote: ‘Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and existing and new industrial facilities in production.’… The Appalachian Mountain Advocates, however, argue that, based on this recent study, the pipeline project would unnecessarily allow companies to take private property for their own use. ‘The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cannot approve any pipeline project unless it is absolutely necessary,’ said Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. ‘And in cases like this, where the government allows for-profit companies to take private property — family farms, people’s homes — that protection is especially crucial. This report shows the pipelines are not needed, so there should be no eminent domain for private gain. To do so would violate the law and the private property traditions of Virginia.’… The report also raises the possibility of another utility-driven incentive to push for these projects: ‘Because the supply of natural gas is abundant, utilities are exploring options to export the fuel overseas. That would require more capacity to move natural gas to the mid-Atlantic’s coastal ports. Therefore, ‘pipeline developers … have an additional motivation to expand their ownership interests in natural gas supply infrastructure,’ the researchers said.'”

9-9-16 CBS19. Hikers get a glimpse at where Atlantic Coast Pipeline may go. “Several hikers walked around Nelson County today around where Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been proposed. There is a few mile stretch near Rockfish Gap and by Wintergreen Resort. ‘We’re standing at a really interesting spot,’ said Ernie Reed, president of Wild Virginia, ‘In terms of what’s proposed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.’ Reed explained the very high level of difficulty for construction, and even said that this magnitude of project has never been done by Dominion. Dave Sligh is the conservation director at Wild Virginia and considers it important to show the land to citizens. ‘These mountains are the kind of terrain that will really be difficult to construct in safely,’ said Sligh. ‘And in a way that protects the environment.’ The slope and terrain may make parts of the construction difficult, and Wild Virginia is showing citizens what might be in jeopardy. ‘We think it’s always important and helpful to see the ground that will be affected,’ said Sligh. Digging may especially be difficult along the Blue Ridge. ‘The reason these mountains are still standing here and haven’t eroded is because the entire spine of this Blue Ridge is made of green stone, like this rock here, which is one of the hardest volcanic rocks there is,’ said Reed.”

9-8-16 The Charlotte Observer. Proposed power plant would use controversial gas pipeline. “A company wants to build a natural gas plant on the Elizabeth River that could utilize a controversial pipeline project. The Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday that the facility would be built in Chesapeake by the New York-based Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation. The plant would add about 1,400 megawatts to the state’s electricity supply. The application for the plants says it will be fueled by Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, although no contract has been drawn up between the two companies. The natural gas pipeline will run from West Virginia to North Carolina with a branch that leads through Chesapeake. Some landowners and environmentalists have opposed the project. But others believe it will be an economic boon.”

9-8-16 The Roanoke Times. In-service date delayed on Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. “About a month after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a timeline for an environmental review, Dominion Energy Chairman and CEO Tom Farrell said the company has pushed back its targeted in-service date for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Farrell acknowledged the change in comments made during the Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference in New York City on Thursday. He said the original targeted in-service date was late 2018, but the company now expects the pipeline will begin serving customers in early 2019, if it’s approved by FERC…. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, an environmental impact statement will examine consideration of a “reasonable range of alternatives” that accomplish the purpose, satisfy the need of the proposed project and looks at ‘direct and indirect environmental effects and their significance.’ A deadline for federal authorization is set for 90 days after the final EIS is issued, or Sept. 28, 2017.”

9-7-16 The Virginian Pilot. Natural gas-fueled power plant proposed for Chesapeake site a quarter-mile from Dominion’s controversial coal-fired plant. “A natural gas-fired plant may be coming to the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. Matex Virginia Power LLC aims to build a natural gas-fueled power plant a quarter-mile north of Dominion Virginia Power’s shut-down Chesapeake Energy Center, according to an application filed with the city this week…. Natural gas for the project would come from a new gas pipeline being developed by Dominion, the application says. The planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will run from West Virginia to North Carolina with a branch through Chesapeake, will be routed through the area.”

9-7-16 WHSV.  Anti-pipeline activists hold demonstration at Dominion Energy. “Drivers passing by beeped, and a few jeered, as demonstrators opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project held signs and chanted at Dominion Energy’s offices on Technology Drive in Staunton. ‘We’re getting lots of honking and waving and hollering out the window that people are supporting us in the community,’ said Jennifer Lewis, the president of Friends of Augusta. Lewis also said the protesters wanted to show solidarity with activists against a pipeline project in North Dakota.
‘We’re willing to come out here and demonstrate to fight against the pipeline,’ said Bill Limpert, a Bath County resident who attended the protest. ‘We think it’s a tremendous injustice to thousands and thousands of people along the route of the pipeline and the public in general.’… Lewis said activists plan to meet again at Dominion’s Staunton offices to protest the pipeline every Wednesday from 4:30-6 p.m. through September.”

9-5-16 Newsleader(opinion). Governor has no respect for those who elected him. “Last week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Crimora to announce new funding for reforestation and fire suppression program. In a press release, he stressed the importance of the state’s forests and of protecting their ‘health and welfare… for future generations’. His announcement and comments were heartbreakingly ironic. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline that he continues to support would clear cut millions of trees, changing our forests forever, and increasing the risk of fire because of possible pipeline explosion. The governor refuses to meet with anyone who disagrees with him. He actively avoids the very people who believed what he said when he ran as a “Green Governor.” McAuliffe flew into Crimora in a helicopter, which landed in a field, where a big, black SUV was waiting for him to jump into and ride the few yards to where his announcement would be made. As the SUV drove by us, we chanted ‘no pipeline.’… Come to find out, other uninvited members of the public were able to attend and talk to the governor. He proved that day what we’ve been saying for years: he has no respect for the people who elected him, property rights or the environment”

9-4-16 The Virginian-Pilot (opinion). McAuliffe’s energy policy a presidential liability. “Three truths about the upcoming presidential election: Young voters really are key. Climate change really is a crisis. And Virginia is not a sure thing for either candidate. Given all that, here’s some advice for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine: Keep your distance from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on more than just the Trans-Pacific Partnership. McAuliffe is equally controversial in Virginia on the issues of dirty fossil fuels and climate change…. Just six weeks ago, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, we joined 600 protestors in the “March on the Mansion” to McAuliffe’s house to demand he drop his reckless pro-fossil fuel policies and instead embrace real clean energy. On this front, there’s more to like about Kaine. He was an opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil long before President Barack Obama finally rejected that project as bad for citizens and the climate. Clinton eventually opposed Keystone, too. This is the kind of 21st century leadership young people are seeking: A commitment to keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground while wind farms and solar panels continue to expand in a race against the rising seas and worsening storms we already see…. All of this, for Clinton and Kaine, means danger when it comes to the youth vote in Virginia. Their goal should be to get young people to the polls Nov. 8th with smart energy policies that fit the 21st century. Any nod to McAuliffe’s 19th-century energy approach — ‘Drill it! Pipe it! Burn it!’ — will simply keep people at home.”

9-2-16 Newsleader (opinion). Support Native Americans fighting a pipeline. “In this season of nothing but protests, why should we care about one more? I say, because they all matter, and in that melee of matter, this one could get lost. This one is the continuation of encroachments on the people who owned this land before we did…. Today, led by Native Americans living on The Standing Rock Reservation in North and South Dakota, there is a growing protest against the Dakota Access Pipe Line, which is attempting to be built through North Dakota, South Dakota and continuing along to Illinois. If it continues on its course it will be installed over and under sacred sites in North and South Dakota. It will go under the Oahu Dam and several other streams and rivers on its way southward. It is running roughshod over an alphabet soup of government agencies set up to protect the land, the environment and the treaties.”

9-2-16 WHSV. US Forest Service ‘highly concerned’ over proposed pipeline route. “The U.S. Forest Service urged the company behind a proposed pipeline project that would span three states to reconsider parts of their route on Thursday, Sept. 1. In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C., the agency said they were ‘highly concerned’ about the potential impact the project would have on streams in Bath and Augusta counties. The Forest Service’s letter came nearly three weeks after the FERC established a timetable for conducting an environmental review of the 550-mile gas line. While the letter does not condemn the project altogether, it does urge Dominion Energy to further consult with them about the route. Jennifer Lewis, with the anti-pipeline advocacy group Friends of Augusta, said Dominion should be held to the same standards as everyone else. ‘We’ve asked our farmers to fence in their cattle to protect the streams. We’ve invested a lot of time and money and efforts in various ways to clean up our rivers, clean up the Chesapeake Bay,’ said Lewis. ‘Here comes this big corporation to come in and destroy all the work that we’ve done.’ The Forest Service’s letter comes as groups like Friends of Augusta plan to increase their presence in the community.”

9-2-16 Newsleader. Pipeline could face new hurdle from Forest Service. “Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline could face a new hurdle after the U.S. Forest Service submitted the latest objection to the pipeline’s proposed path. The Forest Service said it was ‘highly concerned’ over several locations that had been marked for access road construction in Augusta and Bath Counties in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Building the roads along a wild brook trout stream, Laurel Run, was deemed ‘unacceptable’ by Clyde Thompson, Forest Supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest and the Forest Service has requested that Dominion and its partners re-evaluate where they are planning the stream crossings and access road sites…. Despite that, Ernie Reed, president of non-profit Virginia forests advocacy group Wild Virginia, said he thinks the Forest Service’s action will at the very least push back Dominion’s timeline for release of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, previously slated for December 2016. The Forest Service has also called into question reports Dominion submitted to FERC on salamanders, macroinvertebrates, fish and mussels and soils in the National Forests, calling critical soil survey data ‘incomplete,’ according to a press release from Wild Virginia. ‘We count on [the Forest Service] to protect our forests and our water, so it’s great news that they’re taking such a strong stance against Dominion,’ said Jennifer Lewis, Friends of Augusta president and Founder. ‘I definitely think this will mean something to FERC – I hope that it means something to Dominion, too.'”

9-1-16 Earth Island Journal. In the pipeline’s path. “Bill and Lynn Limpert searched for years for a place to retire in the country. In April 2009, the couple from Frederick County, Maryland, finally settled on Little North Mountain in Virginia’s Bath County. Mountainous, thickly forested, with a population of just over 4,600, Bath County borders West Virginia in the Allegheny Mountains, and is known for its small farms, scenic beauty, and great stretches of intact forest. It also lies along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a 600-mile-long behemoth that would carry some 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas through their community every day…. Though they still seem stunned by how the pipeline could disrupt their quiet life, the Limperts aren’t taking the news lying down. ‘We first learned about the [pipeline] coming through our property on February 12 of this year,’ Bill Limpert said. ‘Since then I have put in an average of four hours a day working to stop it. That’s about 600 hours so far. I’ve never been so angry or so stressed for so long. Some nights I’m getting up in the middle of the night to work on stopping the pipeline.’ Bill Limpert isn’t alone. The people of Appalachia, well accustomed to exploitation from moneyed outside corporations, are rallying against the loss of land, home values, and safety posed by the pipeline proposal. In fact, the pipeline has united communities across political and social spectra, in a fierce defiance against the project and a common goal to defeat its proponent, Dominion Resources…. The 42-inch-wide ACP, the path of which has been altered several times due to landowner opposition and Forest Service objections, would currently run nearly 600 miles from eastern West Virginia, over the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, to southern North Carolina.”