July 2017 News

July 2017

7-31-17 Roanoke Times. Pipeline analysis dramatically underestimates forest impacts, state agencies report. “An analysis by Mountain Valley Pipeline of the controversial project’s impacts on intact forests in Virginia underestimated those effects by more than 300 percent, according to an assessment by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and other state agencies.”

7-31-17 WVTF. Pipeline Proposal: Environmental Impact. “Plans to build two large pipelines through some of Virginia’s scenic farmland and forests have raised serious environmental concerns. Builders say the work can be done with minimal damage to the land and water, but critics say that’s impossible. In part one of a five-part series, Sandy Hausman looks at the main environmental concern – water.”
Listen or read the transcript here.

7-31-17 Sierra Magazine. The Appalachian Trail is the “Lousiest Place” to Put Two Pipelines. “A pair of pipelines designed to snake across the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and part of the Appalachian Trail are facing pitched opposition along the route…. Both lines are up to 42 inches across. They would traverse terrain critics say is both scenic and poorly suited to heavy infrastructure. Much of it is karst—unstable terrain where bedrock has been eaten away by groundwater, leaving it prone to sinkholes and vulnerable to pollution. To build the lines, workers would have to clear a right-of-way up to 125 feet wide. And since many of the ridges they traverse aren’t that wide, the companies would have to flatten them to meet that requirement. ‘Even if you’re 100 percent gung-ho for pipelines, this is the lousiest place to build a natural gas pipeline,’ said Lewis Freeman, executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance. ‘They don’t know what they’re getting into.’”

7-31-17 Record Delta [Buckhannn WV]. Group protests bank for funding pipeline. “Led by the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, the ultimate goal of activists April Pierson-Keating, Kevin Campbell and Ann Chopyak was to get you to take your money out of Chase Bank — an institution they believe invests in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 42-inch pipeline that would transport natural gas about 600 miles from West Virginia to eastern North Carolina. Pierson-Keating says last Wednesday’s Divestment Action was part of larger a movement blossoming out of the spirit of the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota. That national movement is known as Protect and Divest, and its message to banks funding the Atlantic Sunrise, Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, PennEast and Sabal Trail pipeline is that “if you choose to continue your relationship with these destructive fossil fuel companies, we will discontinue our relationship with you.”

7-31-17 WTOV9. Pipeline drilling causing landslides in Jefferson County [Ohio]. “Families are forced to move out of their houses after landslides…. They were caused by complications coming as a result of Rover Pipeline drilling…. Just days ago, a landslide pushed dirt and debris near houses at the bottom of the hill, forcing families to evacuate. According to township trustees, it’s a result of drilling near old underground mines.” [Similar to drilling in karst formations?]

7-29-17 News Virginian. Letter to the Editor by Thomas Hadwin. Pipeline will cost us all dearly. “It is capacity, it is the pipeline that is under contract, not the gas itself. Owners of the pipeline expect to transfer the full cost of these 20-year contracts to their utility ratepayers, regardless of whether the full amount of the contracted capacity is actually used. Dominion Energy Virginia will ask its ratepayers to pay over $4 billion and Virginia Natural Gas will charge its customers over $2 billion to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) over the next 20 years. The cost to use the ACP is over 60 percent of the current cost of the gas itself. With a fee this high, it is not possible for the ACP to provide lower cost gas to any of its customers. It would cost 3 to 8 times less to transport the same amount of gas using existing pipelines compared to the ACP.”

7-28-17 Virginia Business. Pipeline battle: Supporters say project is needed, but it faces stiff resistance. “For nearly three years, a battle has raged in Virginia over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A massive and complex project, the 600-mile pipeline would tap into the rich shale fields of the Marcellus and Utica Basins and transport fracked natural gas to utilities in Virginia and North Carolina. The proposed interstate pipeline, stretching from West Virginia through parts of Virginia and to eastern North Carolina, has drawn broad business support and vociferous opposition.”

7-28-17 Public News Service. Pipeline Opponents Look to States, Courts. “With federal regulators likely to approve two huge gas pipelines, opponents are looking to the states and courts. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, has issued favorable Environmental Impact Statements for the Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines, similar multi-billion dollar projects to run hundreds of miles from Marcellus fields to eastern markets. Opponents have written to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe asking state regulators to intervene. Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, says her group hopes the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will act. ‘There’s just a lot at stake here, and we’re hoping that the states – who know their local waters the best – are going to be the ones to step up,’ she states.”

7-27-17 Roanoke Times. Landowners along pipeline route sue FERC and Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A Roanoke-based lawyer representing 17 plaintiffs who own 10 properties along the current route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline contend that the federal agency tasked with reviewing interstate pipelines should not be able to grant the power of eminent domain to a private company for its pursuit of ‘private pecuniary gain.’ A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Roanoke challenges the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ‘sub-delegate’ the power of eminent domain to a company like Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. And it seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent FERC from granting that power to Mountain Valley to acquire easements if the commission issues the certificate the company needs to begin constructing a pipeline.”

7-27-17 The Recorder.  Dominion must meet conditions before construction.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff’s environmental analysis requires Dominion meet specific conditions to be included the final FERC order, if adopted, before construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline can begin.

7-27-17 The Recorder.  Question of need stands in wake of pipeline environmental report.  “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed.” 

7-27-17 The Recorder.  We can only fight – and hope — for our future.

7-27-17 WHSV3. Concerned community members write letters opposing ensuing pipelines. “As protests against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline continue here in the Valley, one group is choosing to express their concerns by mail.
The Rockingham Alliance for the Protection and Transformation of Resources and Society (RAPTORS) wrote letters at the Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg on Thursday night to environmental agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality. They said it’s an effort to get as many pipeline opponents as possible on public record.”

7-27-17 Nelson County Times. Letter to Editor by Marilyn Shifflett: ACP backers should get the facts. “While I deeply respect the pride Pete Wood and Jason Tolbert take in the work they have done, I feel obligated to clarify some of their statements. Wood suggests that residents not listen to everything they hear, but rather become acquainted with the parameters. I can assure him that residents have read thousands of pages submitted by Dominion on behalf of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and we are up to speed with the incomplete and inaccurate information submitted by this applicant. As an example of thousands of errors uncovered; three years into this project, the filings still do not contain accurate information about primary roads through Nelson County. Routes 6 and 151 are not mentioned. Instead, the filings cite the daily traffic counts for U.S. 60 listed as a primary road through our county.” The letter goes on to discuss the major spills and household water contamination of two east coast pipelines currently under construction as examples of what to expect.

7-27-17 Nelson County TImes. Letter to the Editor by Jim Bolton: Real estate values and the ACP. “Despite what Dominion has consistently maintained, a recent survey of local real estate agents serving the Wintergreen market has revealed that property values have fallen by a factor of 10 percent or more over a 16-month period following the announcement that the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would directly impact the resort community. In some individual cases the decline has reportedly been even steeper. Meanwhile, property values of other areas in Virginia far enough away to remain unaffected by the project have risen as much as 5.4 percent over the same period. It has even been recently reported that agents in other areas of the Commonwealth have begun to steer clients away from Nelson County as a whole — perhaps not surprising as buyers who might be interested in purchasing property in a scenic, pristine and safe rural community on which to vacation, retire, or settle and raise a family, might well shy away from pipeline-affected areas.” The letter goes on to discuss the significant loss to the county in tax revenues from drops in real estate values, with Dominion;s estimated revenue to the county falling short of the tax revenue lost.

7-26-17 ThinkProgress. This massive natural gas pipeline will run right through Native American communities: Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline disproportionately affects Native communities. “The decision to proceed with building the Dakota Access pipeline on a path opposed by Native Americans highlighted how federal and state government agencies are accustomed to ignoring or downplaying the concerns of indigenous populations. Now, a similar scenario is playing out in Virginia and North Carolina, where Native Americans are urging federal, state, and local officials to listen to their concerns about the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a pipeline system that would transport fracked gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina. Native Americans ‘didn’t have opportunities to learn how the route was chosen or to provide input on bodies of water or specific landscapes that their tribes consider sacred and that they might have problems with a pipeline passing through,’ Ryan Emanuel, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina who serves on the environmental justice committee of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, told ThinkProgress. About 30,000, or 13 percent, of the people who live within one mile of the proposed route of the pipeline in North Carolina are Native American, even though Native Americans represent only 1.2 percent of the state’s total population.”

7-26-17 The Wilson [NC] Times. The pipeline next door: ACP could be close neighbor for county resident. “Phillip Norville’s home is one of two Wilson County residences listed as being within 50 feet of the construction work area for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. There it is in chapter four, page 374 of the 806-page final environmental impact statement issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday. Norville is at milepost 71.6 of the more than 180 miles of natural gas pipeline planned for North Carolina. The 604-mile high-pressure transmission line will run from Lewis, West Virginia, through Virginia and end up in Robeson County. According to the chart, Norville will be 46 feet from the edge of the construction line and 106 feet from the center line where the 36-inch diameter pipe will be buried. ‘The first drawings I saw of it, it was coming right through the middle of my house,’ Norville said recently. That was three years ago. The pipeline’s proposed route comes southward along the edge of a neighbor’s property and takes a 45-degree turn to the right, just avoiding Norville’s small brick ranch home.”

7-25-17 Blue Virginia. Liars, Damn Liars and Dominion-con’t. “The truth is Dominion has no intentions of reducing its carbon pollution unless the state or federal government force it to do so, and now we have the numbers to prove it. Those numbers were finally provided only as a result of formal legal proceedings before the State Corporation Commission. On July 14th, in response to Interrogatories filed on Dominion by Sierra Club’s attorneys, we finally got the numbers that reflect what Dominion intends to do to reduce carbon pollution and save the planet. The answer: Nothing, nada, zip! Based on 2017 estimated carbon pollution emissions of 40 million tons per year, Dominion proposes to increase its carbon pollution by 5% to 35% through 2042 depending upon which alternative plan it pursues. The bottom line is that every scenario Dominion considered increases, not decreases, its carbon pollution emissions.”

7-25-17 CBS19. Wild Virginia takes steps to file objection to Forest Service’s Draft Record. “The U.S. Forest Service is gearing up to make its final decision on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and there is still plenty of opposition. Wild Virginia has decided to file an objection to the Forest Service’s Draft Record. Members held a meeting to discuss the criteria and steps necessary to file a formal objection. Their submitted objection will oppose the plans to run the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through National Forest land.”

7-24-17 Soundcloud.com and VA Talk Radio Network. Greg Buppert discusses ACP and EIS. Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Greg Buppert, discusses the latest report on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the flaws in the report, and the possible effects on the environment.

7-23-17 NBC29. Anti-Pipeline Groups Meet Following FERC’s Final Pipeline Review. Coverage of Friends of Nelson meeting on July 23, 2017.  “A group in central Virginia is planning its next steps to stop Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Their action comes just days after federal regulators released a final environmental review of the natural gas project. ‘We’re having a meeting for the people in Nelson County to understand better what the process is happening with the pipeline,’ Joyce Burton with Friends of Nelson said. For the Friends of Nelson County, the fight against Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is far from over.”

7-22-17 Blue Virginia. Dominion Ranked Second-Worst in US on Energy Efficiency. “Thank heaven for Alabama Power! Were it not for them, Virginia would have, in Dominion Energy, the least energy efficient utility in the whole US. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which has long ranked states, cities and countries on their energy saving programs, recently released its first ranking of the 51 largest electric utilities in the country. These companies were evaluated on their overall success in reducing energy use, on their specific programs to help homeowners and businesses save energy, and on their efficiency targets, differential rates and other strategic approaches. On every measure, Dominion received failing scores, ending up with a dreadful 5.5 out of a possible 50 points. In other words – they’re not even trying, folks.” The article gives examples of energy-saving programs Dominion lacks and noted that Dominion can’t “plead any lack of resources to pursue efficiency goals. The company ranks 8th in the country in sales and 6th in revenue.”

7-21-17 Science. Flawed environmental justice analyses.  “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline developer’s preferred route disproportionately affects indigenous peoples in North Carolina.”

7-21-17 Nelson County Times/News-Advance. Forest Service issues draft decision to OK use of National Forest System lands for pipeline. “The U.S. Forest Service on Friday issued a draft record of decision to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and approve project-specific forest plan amendments for the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest. According to a release, the draft decision, jointly issued by the Forest Service’s Eastern and Southern Regional Foresters, would allow the ACP to construct and operate 21 miles of the pipeline route that would cross National Forest System lands. ‘Our proposed decision recognizes Forest Service efforts to provide for multiple uses, minimize impacts to natural resources, and to support federal policies that encourage energy infrastructure, jobs, and economic growth,’ Southern Regional Forester Tony Tooke said in the release.”

7-21-17 Washington Post. Environmental report on pipeline favorable for developers. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday for the proposed 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is staunchly opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners. The assessment is a major milestone in the approval process for the project that will cross hundreds of bodies of water, mountainous terrain, national forest, and the Appalachian Trail. Its findings were largely favorable for developers. The impact statement did find that construction in steep terrain could increase the potential for landslides and that the project was likely to adversely affect seven species protected under the Endangered Species Act. It found that the greatest impact on vegetation would be in forested areas, with more than 3,400 acres having long-term or permanent effects.”

Oil Change International issued a press release titled FERC’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Review Shrugs at Climate Disaster, which begins by saying, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile project driven by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy that would carry fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. In the review, FERC continues its systemic failure to seriously assess whether the pipeline is needed while appearing to shrug off the damage it would inflict on people’s land, water, health, and the climate. Oil Change International Research Analyst Kelly Trout had the following response: ‘With this sham review, FERC is teeing up Dominion and Duke to reap big profits on the backs of communities, their own customers, and the climate. FERC’s climate assessment is laughable. The agency grossly undercounts climate pollution by omitting fracking emissions, downplaying methane leakage, and wrongly assuming gas will replace coal when it increasingly displaces clean energy. It’s common sense that we can’t solve the climate crisis by digging a bigger hole of pollution. But that’s exactly what FERC is systematically helping the gas industry do.'”

7-21-17 Staunton News Leader. Dominion sees ‘clear path to approval’ for pipeline after FERC releases report. “In its environmental assessment, FERC concluded that the pipeline’s construction and operation ‘would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment’ and ‘would result in some adverse effects.’ However, the commission also wrote that if the pipeline developers follow through with ‘impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures’ and heed FERC recommendations to ‘further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts, most project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.’ Dominion Energy sees this conclusion as favorable — it ‘provides a clear path for final approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this fall,’ said Leslie Hartz, Dominion’s vice president of engineering and construction, in a press release…. Lew Freeman, executive director of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, an organization that’s vocally opposed the pipeline, said FERC’s environmental review ‘reveals significant gaps in information and woefully inadequate analysis’ in a press release.”

Additional media reports on the release of the EIS:

7-20-17 Penn State News. Shale gas development spurring spread of invasive plants in Pa. forests.  A team of researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has found that invasive, non-native plants are making significant inroads in areas around hundreds of well pads, access roads and pipelines built to extract gas from the Marcellus shale. These invasive species have long-term negative consequences for forest ecosystems, timbering, wildlife habitat and ecotourism.

7-20-17 ABC11. Residents jam Rocky Mount [NC] meeting to protest pipeline. “In a high stakes meeting about the future of powering our homes, a packed house of residents sure brought the heat. The [NC] Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday hosted its final public hearing on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the $4.5 billion project touted by Duke Energy as the best way to increase natural gas supply to the booming Piedmont.”

7-20-17 News Virginian. Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental impact statement is expected Friday. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to release the final environmental impact statement Friday for the 600-mile, roughly $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Dominion Energy-led project that will run from West Virginia through the heart of Virginia and into North Carolina.” Long article discussing the FERC process, with comments by pipeline opponents and by Dominion.

7-19-17 Nelson County Times. Letter to the Editor by Ernie Reed: Speak out on DEQ pipeline plans. “Two years ago, on July 14, 2015, the Nelson County Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution R2015-61, petitioning Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward to provide public access to erosion and sediment control plans for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The resolution requested that the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) require project-specific erosion and sediment management plans for the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline project that meet all Virginia standards and that these plans be made public prior to project approval and construction.  On July 3, 2017, the DEQ issued a public notice to seek public comment and announce public hearings on a draft Section 401 Certification for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project that would establish additional conditions for activities in upland areas that are located near state waters and that may indirectly affect state water along the route of the proposed pipeline. The deadline for comments is Aug. 22.  However, the DEQ has not made public erosion and sediment control plans. In fact, the DEQ has stated that it does not intend to review the plans prior to 401 Water Quality Certification.  Neither the public nor local officials can provide any meaningful comment without this information. The DEQ has clearly begun the comment period prematurely, before critical information has been made available.  Most importantly, the DEQ believes it can certify that the ACP will meet Virginia water quality standards without a review these plans.  The DEQ has scheduled public hearings in Harrisonburg (Aug. 7), Chatham (Aug. 9) and Dinwiddie (Aug. 14). Friends of Nelson requests that people attend one, two or all of these hearings and demand that the DEQ stop this process immediately and reinitiate it only after the requested information has been made public and that the DEQ must do a full public review of all erosion and sediment control plans for the ACP prior to any 401 Water Quality Certification.”

7-19-17 Washington Examiner. House votes to give FERC new power over pipelines. “The House voted Wednesday to give the nation’s top energy regulator broader powers to approve natural gas pipelines, while also giving it primary authority over oil and gas pipelines that cross international borders such as Keystone XL.”

7-19-17 Daily Record [Dunn NC]. Hundreds Flood Pipeline Hearing. “At a hearing in Fayetteville Tuesday, representatives from the N.C. Division of Water Resources asked attendees to hold up their signs to be pictured and recorded. Protesters from the eight North Carolina counties affected waved their protest signs. Most of the objections were about the pipeline’s environmental impact.The proposed project will permanently impact 766 feet of streams and temporarily impact 454 acres of wetlands.”

7-19-17 News Virginian. Opinion piece by Jennifer Lewis: Our Elected Officials and the Pipeline. “These last 3 years of fighting the approval of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, we have constantly heard from our elected officials that “there is nothing I can do” and “it’s a federal issue”. I think it is time for them to step aside and make room for people who will take the responsibility of representing their neighbors, friends and family, instead of just thinking of us as nameless constituents. It is completely untrue that there is nothing these politicians can do, it’s just that they don’t want to. They don’t want to jeopardize the gravy train that is Dominion giving campaign donations, to both sides of the aisle…. This pipeline issue is not just about it being a short-sighted, dirty, fracked-gas pipeline, this is about who we are as a state. Are we willing to give up our and our neighbors private property rights for this pipeline? Are we going to stand by while the already wealthy get even richer off us having to live with this threat and destruction every day? Since it is obvious that our elected officials will not stand up for us, we need everyone that opposes this pipeline to get involved in any way you can.”

7-19-17 WAVY10. Suffolk woman fighting to keep Atlantic Coast Pipeline off her land. “Dominion Energy is moving full speed ahead with its Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but one Hampton Roads resident is saying, ‘Not in my backyard.’ Paulette Johnson bought the property in Suffolk 10 years ago, and when she did, she had no thought even in her wildest imagination that a pipeline would cut right through the property.”

7-19-17 NBC29. Public Comment Open for Two Proposed Pipelines. “The public comment period is open for a pair of pipelines trying to get a clean water certification. Local and Vocal in Staunton hosted a meeting Wednesday night at the Staunton Public Library to talk about the threat the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline pose to water.”

7-19-17 Nelson County Times. One Pipeline, Two Sides. A pair of stories in the Nelson County Times, one about opponents and one about supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Family on pipeline route fights ACP to preserve its history, and Shipman residents with pipeline experience among ACP supporters.

7-18-17 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Pipeline opponents outnumber supporters at public hearing. “Opponents of a natural gas pipeline told state officials Tuesday that it will harm the environment and is not needed, but supporters said the pipeline is safe and will create jobs. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing at Fayetteville Technical Community on a water quality certification application for the proposed pipeline…. About 35 people spoke in opposition to the pipeline at the public hearing. About 10 were in favor.”

7-18-17 WBUR. Natural Gas At Odds With Nature. “A proposed natural gas pipeline would cut through a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. We’ll look at what the impacts could be.” Segment aired on July 18, 2017.

7-18-17 LittleSis.org. New Documents Further Reveal Cozy Relationship Between Energy Industry and FERC Regulators. “The cozy relationship between the oil and gas industry and the government agencies assigned to regulate it is a well-documented problem. New sources obtained by the Center for Public Integrity further confirm this. The documents show the close, friendly relationship between former FERC commissioner Colette Honorable and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a major lobbying group for big utilities corporations. Among other things, the documents reveal further evidence that the three corporations behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline — which is still awaiting final approval from FERC — have had close access to FERC. The CEO of one of the three ACP companies even attended a private dinner with Honorable. The sources were obtained by CPI through a Freedom of Information Act request. CPI posted the documents in a new report [see NPR story immediately below] they published on FERC and the build out of pipeline infrastructure from Appalachia.”

7-18-17 News Virginian. Business and labor groups write statewide candidates to urge support for ACP. “Virginia labor and business organizations are reaching out to candidates for statewide office to tell them of their support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. All six major party candidates for Virginia governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general were written this week by more than three dozen Virginia labor and business organizations and told of their support for the pipeline.

7-17-17 NPR. Natural Gas Building Boom Fuels Climate Worries, Enrages Landowners. A lengthy and well-researched NPR Morning Edition piece on the multiple pipelines proposed in the last several years (including the MVP and ACP), the dysfunctionality of FERC, the push by energy companies, and the push-back by pipeline opponents.

7-17-17 RadioIQ-WVTF. Could Courts Stop The Pipelines? “Last week, Virginia’s Supreme Court upheld a state law that allows natural gas companies to survey private property without the owner’s permission for a proposed pipeline, but legal experts say landowners could still block construction as Sandy Hausman reports.”

7-17-17 WBUR. FERC: The Agency Behind Interstate Pipelines. “America’s shale boom is helping create a growing network of natural gas pipelines, sparking protests from many local landowners and environmentalists. But a lot of the anger is directed at the federal agency that approves interstate pipelines — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with StateImpact Pennsylvania reporter Marie Cusick (@MarieCusick), and Kristen Lombardi (@klombardi1), investigative reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, about the agency and its responsibilities.”  [see story immediately above]

7-17-17 The Robesonian [NC]. County balks at giving pipeline permit. “Although they previously passed a resolution supporting the construction of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Robeson County [NC] commissioners tonight voted to delay granting a conditional-use permit that would allow for the placement of a monitoring station and 350-foot-tall microwave cell tower in Pembroke. All seven of the commissioners present voted at the recommendation of Commissioner Noah Woods that the permit not be denied but any action delayed until public hearings are held in Robeson County to educate the public about the proposed pipeline and its advantages and disadvantages.”

7-17-17 News Virginian. Letter to Editor by Bill Limpert: Court shelves property rights in favor of Dominion land grab. “Mr. Ruby’s comments regarding Dominion’s cooperation with landowners is also a stretch of epic proportions. This isn’t a cooperative collaboration. This is a land grab, pure and simple. My wife and I, and others have been bullied and harassed throughout the survey process.”

7-17-17 Blue Virginia. Echoes of a Dark Past at Virginia’s Standing Rock: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “In March 1865, as the Civil War approached its fiery end, Congress created the United States Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. ‘The Bureau was empowered to distribute clothing, food, and fuel to destitute freedmen and oversee ‘all subjects’ relating to their condition in the South.’ The Bureau also was authorized “to divide abandoned and confiscated land into forty-acre plots for rental to freedmen and loyal refugees and eventual sale” and to create Freedmen’s schools to provide education to the newly freed population. [Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction (31, 43)]. Freedmen’s Bureau offices were established across the south. One of those field offices was in Buckingham County, Virginia. Buckingham was a majority Black county before, during and after the Civil War and it was home to many freedmen who had purchased their freedom even before the end of slavery. The Bureau took up residence at the Buckingham County Courthouse, an historic building designed by Thomas Jefferson and it established a Freedmen’s school there, known as the Lincoln School. In February 1869, an arsonist burned the Buckingham County courthouse to the ground. As Dr. Lakshmi Fjord, a cultural anthropologist and Visiting Scholar at the University of Virginia has written, the fire ‘destroyed all records of enslavement, wills [and] slave purchases of their freedom…that might be used by the 2:1 majority former slaves to sue former masters for restitution.’ Buckingham County is the geographic heart of Virginia. But the heart holds memories and in Buckingham County, those include Virginia’s complicated and often painful past. Which brings us to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” And the compressor station in the heart of the African American community.  [This article also received national press attention in the Huffington Post.]

7-17-17 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Atlantic Coast Pipeline: The Keystone of the East. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is the Keystone of the East…. Supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline say it will boost the economy and meet a growing demand for natural gas energy. Opponents say it will violate the Clean Water Act and private property rights, threaten drinking water supplies, and put natural resources at risk. The pipeline also is a massive investment in a fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when renewables are on the rise. The opposition is vocal and ready to file appeals if the project is approved. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will release an environmental impact report in July, which could determine whether the pipeline can proceed. Environmental groups are already poised to take legal action.”

7-16-17 NBC29. Anti-Pipeline Group Discuss Next Steps for DEQ Public Hearings. “A group that walked a stretch of Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route from the Shenandoah Valley into central Virginia earlier this month is now planning its next steps. Anti-pipeline group ‘Walking the Line into the Heart of Virginia’ gathered Sunday in Charlottesville to celebrate its two-week journey from Bath County to Buckingham County. Sunday’s meeting was more than just a celebration of the 150-mile hike which concluded July 2. The group met to plan out its next steps in the battle against the proposed pipeline. ‘Walking the Line’ will turn its attention to the Department of Environmental Quality’s public hearings scheduled to take place in August. Those hearings will give the public a chance to comment on how the pipeline could affect water quality in Virginia.”

7-16-17 News-Virginian. Monkey puzzles and lawmakers: make ’em take the pledge! (Opinion piece by Stephen Nash). “William Black, a former bank regulator, summarizes the ordinary citizen’s street-level, tragic view when he writes that ‘a campaign contribution always generates the best return on investment.’ But your government’s yours, not Dominion Energy’s. It’s not for the benefit of the roster of corporate high-rollers that have given large amounts to this area’s lawmakers — although we keep electing them. So the missing puzzle piece is this: if they’re making monkeys of us and we know it, so what can we do about it?”

7-16-17 Richmond Times Dispatch. Editorial: A fair call on pipeline surveying. “Courts are supposed to rule on the law, not to strike good balances. But by happy coincidence, the Virginia Supreme Court did strike a good balance in two recent rulings on surveying property. Some landowners want to keep out surveyors for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But laws going as far back as 1782 have allowed the surveying of private property for infrastructure projects. All 50 states have similar laws, and courts have continuously upheld the authority to survey on private lands. What’s more, the mere act of walking across a property does not amount to a government “taking,” especially one for private purposes — which Virginia’s Constitution has prohibited since a 2012 property-rights amendment passed. Nevertheless, the court said, property owners do deserve specific advance notice of when surveyors will appear. Good. Property owners understandably feel like Dominion and the other energy companies behind the pipeline are walking all over them. They deserve some advance warning at the least.”

7-15-17 NBC29. Ralph Northam Faces Pressure from Protesters for Pipeline Views. “Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam is facing pressure from anti-pipeline groups in central Virginia to oppose Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They peppered him with questions at Saturday morning’s monthly breakfast meeting of the Albemarle County Democratic Committee. He fielded many questions after his speech to party members; all of them were about the pipeline. ‘I have a very strong environmental record, that’s one of the reasons that I got into this business, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, it was blue in my backyard,’ Northam said. Northam is running on an environmentalist platform in the race for governor. Some fellow Democrats question how he can call himself an environmentalist and support pipelines.”

7-15-17 Tidewater News. Atlantic Coast Pipeline contractor may have conflict in Southampton. “In late May, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality awarded a state contract to the Blacksburg-based environmental contracting firm EEE Consulting Inc. The purpose was to evaluate Dominion Power’s erosion and sediment control plans for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline to stay in compliance with state laws. However, some environmentalists are now alleging that the firm may be in violation of the contract’s conflict of interest clause due to its existing business dealings with Dominion in Southampton County…. However, in response to repeated queries on the matter, the DEQ is reassessing information related to EEE’s existing contracts with Dominion as well as other affiliates of Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC and Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.”

7-15-17 Daily Progress. Dominion required to perform water, soil and fish tissue testing at leaking Chesapeake coal ash ponds. “Dominion Energy must test water, fish tissue and sediment in the Elizabeth River for the next two years, a federal judge ruled in a lawsuit that claimed contamination from the utility’s coal ash ponds in Chesapeake has been seeping into the river for years. The judge also is requiring Dominion to apply for new permits from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that will dictate how the ash will be handled moving forward.”

7-14-17 WMRA. “The state Supreme Court rules against an Augusta County property owner in her fight to keep Atlantic Coast Pipeline surveyors off her land.”

7-14-17 Los Angeles Times. A pipeline that would cut through the iconic Appalachian Trail sparks a fight over natural gas expansion. “[O]ne of the country’s most iconic viewsheds could soon be changed forever to make room for an energy project favored not just by fossil fuel industry boosters like President Trump, but also Virginia’s Democratic governor. A natural gas developer with some powerful political allies is nearing final approval to plow a pipeline corridor as wide as 150 feet, tracking the trail for dozens of miles and burrowing through it at one point…. To many, the Mountain Valley Pipeline has become a symbol of the building frenzy. Concern stretches all the way to California, where climate activists worry that such projects are undermining their efforts. Leaders of the Pacific Crest Trail Assn. fear that gas companies feel increasingly emboldened to impose an ever bigger footprint on protected lands. ‘Everybody, not only in the East, but around every national scenic trail, should be concerned about this,’ said Andrew Downs, regional director with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the 90-year-old nonprofit organization entrusted by the National Park Service decades ago with the task of managing the trail.”

7-14-17 Houston Chronicle. Pipeline projects caught up in Washington “dysfunction.” “Billions of dollars in gas pipeline projects face the prospect of substantial delays, as attempts to fill critical positions on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fall prey to a political inertia that has overtaken Washington in recent months. With health care and the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contact with Russia sucking up the capital’s oxygen – and Republicans and Democrats increasingly at odds – nominations to federal posts have slowed to a virtual crawl. The situation is particularly dire at FERC, which must give approval before construction can begin on any natural gas pipeline that crosses state lines. For the past five months, the five-member commission has not had the minimum three commissioners required for a vote – a first in its more than 40-year history.”

7-14-17 The Hill. Feds investigating Ohio pipeline over ‘misstatements.’ “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff said in a Thursday notice that they preliminarily determined that Energy Transfer Partners, developer of the Rover pipeline, ‘did not fully and forthrightly disclose all relevant information to the commission’ in paperwork filed for a federal permit.” ETP’s spill of drilling waste and diesel fuel at another Rover site prompted FERC to order a temporary stop to horizontal drilling. This latest incident “regards a historic house that Energy Transfer purchased and demolished in Ohio for the construction. State historic preservation officials say that the house was a protected historic landmark and its demolition was illegal.  ‘In the application and other docketed filings, Rover falsely promised it would avoid adverse effects to a historic resource that it was simultaneously working to purchase and destroy,’ FERC wrote in its notice. ‘Rover subsequently made several misstatements in its docketed response to the commission’s questions about why it had purchased and demolished the resource.'”

7-13-17 Farmville Herald. Letter to the Editor by Deborah Kushner: ‘Imagining the devastation.’ “I walked the line – 140 miles of Virginia’s forests, trails and roads tracking the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) proposed route from Bath to Buckingham…. The sights and sounds we witnessed were pristine: whippoorwills singing through the night, waterfalls cascading between mossy banks, cows grazing in green fields, abundant gardens and laundry on outdoor clotheslines. Imagining the devastation caused by long construction times, heavy equipment on country lanes, dynamite blasting through rock, soil and trees in the oldest mountains in North America was nightmarish and worse. These landowners are our neighbors, unlucky to live in the path of a gas behemoth that cares not for people, property or heritage but only for profit. Explosions, earthquakes, contamination, pollution, loss of property value and loss of quality of life are certainties along pipeline paths.”

7-13-17 The Hill. Trump taps industry lawyer to lead energy commission. “President Trump is planning to name an energy industry attorney to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Trump announced the pick of Kevin McIntyre for FERC late Thursday. McIntyre is the co-head of the energy practice at Jones Day, a global law firm that has sent numerous attorneys to the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn. McIntyre, a Republican, has represented energy industry clients on a number of matters ranging from compliance and enforcement to trading, exports, marketing and more…. Trump is asking the Senate to confirm McIntyre to two terms, stretching his time at FERC out to mid-2023. He is planning to name McIntyre chairman upon confirmation; a commissioner does not need a specific Senate confirmation to be chairman.”

7-13-17 Washington Post. Supreme Court of Virginia hands pipeline foes small victory, but project rolls on. “The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled Thursday on two cases related to the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, handing opponents a minor victory but otherwise leaving the huge project unscathed. The court found in favor of a small group of landowners in Buckingham County who said pipeline surveyors had not provided adequate notice before entering their property. Survey crews have since changed their practice, though, to give more specific information about timing. The other case was potentially far more sweeping, as a landowner challenged whether an out-of-state utility has the right to enter property for surveys or to seize property under eminent domain. Although the natural gas pipeline project is largely controlled by Richmond-based Dominion Energy, the partnership that is building it is registered in Delaware. The court ruled that state law permits the survey work but said the plaintiffs had waited too late in the legal process to raise the issue of eminent domain, or property seizure. One expert said that could leave the door open for someone to pursue the eminent domain question, because the state constitution contains language prohibiting any outside company from exercising ‘the powers or functions of a public service enterprise.'”  (Of course, the industry mouthpiece, Marcellus Drilling News, sees the ruling very differently:  Va. Supreme Court Rules Against Granny in Pipeline Survey Case and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Wins Another Virginia Court Case)

7-12-17 DeSmog. A Week After Leaving FERC, Former Commissioner Honorable Joins Firm Lobbying for Company Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval. Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen…. Honorable’s immediate transition to a private sector firm connected to the industry she had regulated follows in the steps of many other ex-FERC commissioners and employees…. A 2015 report by E&E found that FERC employees negotiate their prospective industry jobs while still at FERC.”

7-12-17 Roanoke Times. Call for additional DEQ public hearings on pipeline falls flat. “A chorus of regional voices contends that a plan by Virginia’s environmental agency to hold just two public hearings about the proposed, deeply controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline fails to adequately serve a key constituency: the public…. It sounds like that won’t happen. On Wednesday, DEQ indicated it will stick to the plan for two meetings.”

7-11-17 Blue Virginia. Video: Justin Fairfax Nails It — OPPOSES Atlantic Coast Pipeline, SUPPORTS Clean Energy Economy. “Virginia Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Justin Fairfax nails the answer to this question by the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline monstrosity.”

7-10-17 CNBC. Energy CEOs say investor money and jobs at risk because FERC isn’t functional. “Rebuilding America’s infrastructure is one of the pillars of President Donald Trump’s plan to generate jobs. But a lack of sitting commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) has sidelined up to 15 energy infrastructure projects valued between $15 billion and $25 billion and an estimated 75,000 jobs. Energy CEOs are warning if FERC is not functional by August break, the private investment dollars for these projects might be gone.”

7-7-17 Daily Climate. Opponents walk the proposed ACP path through five Virginia counties to celebrate what’s at risk. “Although the ‘No Pipeline’ signs speak for themselves, don’t call it a protest. According to organizers, Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia, is a moving celebration of what’s on the line—literally and figuratively—of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route that bisects Virginia on a northwest to southeast diagonal…. Walking the Line started near the West Virginia border in Highland County, Va., on June 16, continued through Bath, Augusta and Nelson counties and wrapped up with a church service, water ceremony and community meal at Union Hill Baptist church in Buckingham County on July 2.”

7-7-17 The Record Delta. Who is really paying for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Are you paying for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? Even if you haven’t invested directly, your money may still be used to support it. If you are a member at any of several banks, including CHASE, Wells Fargo, RBC, Barclays, Bank of America, Scotiabank, and Citi, you are invested (though you may not receive shareholder benefits) and you will be affected by this project if it is granted its certificate of approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This could happen as early as this October, unless the regulating agencies responsible for permitting suddenly grow a conscience. You see, the FERC guarantees up to a 14 percent rate of return on the infrastructure projects it approves. And here’s another piece to the puzzle: FERC is funded by the fees on the projects it permits. It can’t look too critically at these projects. It needs them to survive. Conflict of interest? We think so.”

7-7-17 Crozet Gazette. Battle Over Pipeline Inspires Afton Author. “The Friends of Nelson County got a significant ally when veteran author Doug Hornig came on board. Hornig’s a long-time student of natural resource markets and had written for years for Casey Research, a business newsletter targeting investors. More recently, he wrote for Katusa Research, focusing solely on natural resource investment.” Article about Friends of Nelson Board member Doug Hornig.

7-6-17 The Recorder. State agency to accept pipeline comments. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced in a June 30 news release it is accepting public comments, including five public hearings in August, for draft water quality certifications designed to protect water quality along the routes of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines…. The DEQ announcement drew heavy criticism from citizens calling for publication of site-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans on which the public needs to comment.”

7-5-17 WVTF. Critics Challenge Dominion’s Pipeline Tactics. “Virginia’s Director of Natural Resources has warned Dominion that state regulators will not be swayed by company requests or suggestions when deciding whether to issue permits for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That’s good news for pipeline opponents, but they say Dominion is using other questionable tactics at the local level.” Tactics used in Buckingham to influence Supervisors are outlined in the article.

7-3-17 Washington Post.  Conflicts of interest pile up on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.   “Evidently, ensuring that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 1,989 water-body crossings comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards is just too big a job for our Department of Environmental Quality, even if it is its job, so the Department of Environmental Quality handed its responsibility off to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A Permit 12, issued nationwide by the corps, could approve all 1,989 water-body crossings of the pipeline without any site-specific review.  To make the handoff to the corps, the Department of Environmental Quality is required to determine that the corps’s requirements comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards for these projects. The Department of Environmental Quality outsourced that job, too, and Dominion agreed to pay a contractor hired by the state to evaluate its pipeline proposal for the Department of Environmental Quality. Incredibly, the contractor is doing several other jobs for Dominion. So Dominion is paying a familiar contractor to approve its work on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. This clearly is a conflict of interest, but it’s not the only one. A contractor hired by the Forest Service to represent its interests in the pipeline’s Blue Ridge Parkway crossing is working for Dominion on the pipeline project, and the third-party contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review the pipeline is tied to Dominion’s main environmental consultant in the project.  The administration and our regulators need to release all of their documents. We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.”

7-2-17 NBC29. Anti-Pipeline Hikers Celebrate End of Route with Church Service. “Anti-pipeline hikers are celebrating the end of the line in Buckingham Co. on their two-week trek following the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline across the Shenandoah Valley and central Virginia.”

7-1-17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. VA to expand review of proposed gas pipelines. “Virginia has informed federal energy regulators that it will expand its review of two proposed interstate natural gas pipelines to protect water quality beyond the stream and river crossings covered by a general federal permit. The state Department of Environmental Quality is preparing additional conditions for certifying the protection of water quality under the Clean Water Act and submitting them for public comment in a series of hearings next month, including three on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Harrisonburg, Farmville and Dinwiddie County.” Also in the article, David Paylor, DEQ Director, acknowledges “that the agency’s position had sown public confusion,” DEQ announces dates for public hearings on the water protection, and pipeline opponents point out that “the DEQ has now initiated a public comment period without providing access to the critical project details that are required for objective review.”

7-1-17 Augusta Free Press. Letter to Editor by Jane Twitmeyer: Is pipeline ‘too big to handle’ for DEQ? “Is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit too big to deny? Maybe keeping track of the ACP’s 1,989 water body crossings by our DEQ is just too big a job, even if it is their job. The Natural Gas Act specifically preserves state authority to approve or deny a Water Quality Certificate for pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Virginia’s DEQ is handing over that responsibility, given to them by both the Clean Water Act and Virginia law, to the ARMY Corp of Engineers under the nationwide blanket Permit 12, which can approve thousands of water body crossings at once, all without any site-specific review. The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, in a suit filed on June 7, says that the DEQ cannot hand off their responsibility to the Army Corp of Engineers unless they first determine the Corp’s requirements comply with Virginia’s water quality standards for these particular projects. Virginians need assurance that pipeline activities covered by the permit issued by the Corp. will not cause serious damage and will not violate Virginia standards. A national association, representing 1,000 businesses in 27 states, just called for Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates to embrace “transformational change,” focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grids, and energy storage. No water crossing permits or use of eminent domain needed. If protecting our water is just “too big to handle” for our DEQ, the administration should take up the call for transformational change.”