News You May Have Missed


There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page).

Hands Across the Appalachian Trail


Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 11 AM – 1 PM, Humpback Rocks Visitor’s Center and Picnic Area, Milepost 5.8, Blue Ridge Parkway, Lyndhurst, VA 22952

Hosted by Sierra Club Virginia Chapter

Join your friends and neighbors at the Fourth Annual Hands Across the Appalachian Trail! Be part of this special weekend of events across the state on Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29, as we work to protect our communities, water, air, land and natural treasures from the threats posed by unneeded and harmful fracked gas pipelines.

The Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines propose to cross several nationally known and highly popular public recreational areas including the George Washington National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Eastern Trail, and – the iconic Appalachian Trail. The dedicated work of volunteers, community groups, allies, legal advocates and individuals has led to Stop Work Orders and further delays of the pipelines, and the efforts to stop these fracked-gas project continues.

The Hands Across the Appalachian Trail events features the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s vision to “connect the human spirit with nature – preserving the delicate majesty of the Trail as a haven for all to enjoy.” Come celebrate the Appalachian Trail, meet others working to protect it and enjoy food, music, and speakers!

The Saturday, September 28 event will take place at:
Humpback Rocks Visitors Center/Augusta County: Humpback Rocks Visitor’s Center and Picnic Area, Milepost 5.8, Blue Ridge Parkway, Lyndhurst, VA 22952

For more information contact:
Jessica Sims:
jessica.sims@sierraclub.org 804-366-0745
We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, September 28!

Other Hands Across the Appalachian Trail events:

Saturday, September 28, 11am-1pm
Giles County/Pearisburg: Route 100 intersection with Appalachian Trail (Trailhead), 2030 Narrows Road, Pearisburg, VA 24134 (Bluff City)

Sunday, September 29, 11am-1pm
Bears Den, 18393 Blue Ridge Mountain Road, Bluemont, VA 20135

SELC Responds to DC Circuit Questions About FERC Case

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #246 for September 26, 2019:

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has asked all of the parties involved in the legal cases challenging the certificate of public convenience issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to response to several questions prior to the scheduled argument of the case before the Court on October 16. In a September 13 Order, the Court noted that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. Forest Service case, which has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, may render the FERC case “unfit for review at this time” (depending upon the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to accept the Cowpasture case for review). Given that, the DC Circuit asked the parties to the FERC case to respond to the following questions:

  1. Whether an alternative route would allow the ACP to proceed on the same certificate of public convenience and necessity;
  2. Whether the prospects of building the pipeline using the same certificate are so speculative that these petitions are unripe (i.e., not ready for consideration) on either constitutional or prudential grounds; and
  3. Assuming that the petitions are unripe, whether the appropriate remedy is to dismiss the petitions or to hold them in abeyance.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing the Cowpasture River Preservation Association and other petitioners challenging the FERC certificate, responded to the questions in the Order in a September 20 filing with the Court. Joining in the filing were Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Christopher Johns, a counsel for several landowner petitioners. The SELC, et. al. filing argues that:

  • While an alternative route should require a new or amended certificate, FERC has not acknowledged the implications of the Fourth Circuit’s Cowpasture decision for the ACP project;
  • Conservation and landowner petitioners’ claims are ripe for review; and
  • If the Court finds the petitions unripe, the Court should vacate or stay FERC’s certificate for the ACP.

“Heads Must Be Exploding in the Board Rooms”

In an update posted on September 18, 2019, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) discusses low natural gas prices now and going forward. They say, “With the news from IHS Markit that natural gas prices in the United States will drop below $2 MMBtu in 2020 and remain low through at least 2024, if not longer, heads must be exploding in the board rooms of oil and gas producers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The profit picture is now imploding. The ramifications run deep, far and wide. The mantra that more pipelines will rationalize the market has been upended. This view from the oil and gas industry never made sense. As IHS Markit makes clear, new pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.”

The IEEFA update is based on a new forecast from IKS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The update notes that:

  • New pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.
  • Smaller exploration and production companies, already suffering, are likely to continue to fail.
  • The oil and gas equipment and supply sector will worsen.
  • The global market remains oversupplied, with limited profit potential on the export side. Increased exports from the U.S. will deepen the oversupply.

In a September 18 article, OilPrice says, “While gas has become the primary source of electricity production, technological advancements are about to make fossil fuels more expensive and therefore uneconomic compared to renewables. The tipping point could come much sooner than certain utilities and investors are expecting, which could hit current investment plans for gas-fired power plants.”

Read the IHS Markit press release here, read the IEEFA update here, and read the OilPrice article here.

Despite the continuing predictions of the decreasing demand for fossil fuels and the explosive increase in both demand and capacity for renewables, Dominion continues its efforts to build the unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On September 25, 2019, Maplight and the Huffington Post discussed “The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures.”

Maplight says, “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure ‘to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

On other words, Dominion is pushing hard to build a pipeline that industry analysts say is well on its way to being both unneeded and outmoded.

50+ Groups and Delegates Demand Northam Deny Permits for Two New Pipelines & Gas Plant

A September 25, 2019, press release from Food and Water Watch:

50+ Groups and Delegates Demand Northam Deny Permits for Two New Pipelines & Gas Plant

Virginia cannot approve more dirty energy investment if it really wants to tackle climate change impacts

Contact: Jorja Rose, jrose@fwwatch.org, 202-683-2483

Richmond, VA — Today, Delegates Lee Carter, Del. Sam Rasoul, Food & Water Action, and a coalition of over 50 groups across Virginia officially released a letter urging Governor Ralph Northam to stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. The letter specifically calls on the governor’s administration to deny state permits for two new pipelines in Northern Virginia and in Pittsylvania that will lead to more dependence on fossil fuels and the development of new dirty fuel infrastructure in the state.

“At a time when scientists are nearly unanimous in calling for the end of fossil fuel use, there can be no reasonable justification for building new natural gas pipelines,” said Delegate Lee Carter. “These two projects – one of which is in Manassas – will endanger those who live nearby, will directly damage the environment during construction, and will massively contribute to the ongoing climate crisis which we should instead be working to stop.”

Virginia is currently reviewing air and water permits that would allow the Southeastern Trail Expansion project to build out a new pipeline in Northern Virginia and expand several compressor stations. In Pittsylvania, the MVP Southgate Extension would also add 30 new miles of pipeline in Virginia.

“Virginia’s state agencies must thoroughly review the water and air permits being sought by these new projects. I believe that after weighing all of the risks associated with these projects, the agencies will reject these permits,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul. “We have a choice as a state now to head in the direction of a Green New Deal. Virginia does not need any more fracked gas pipelines nor fracked gas plants that will endanger the health and safety of Virginia communities.

The group letter criticizes past decisions to allow the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipelines that will be transporting fracked gas across the state. Both of those pipelines have garnered strong opposition because of the negative health and safety impacts they will have on Virginia communities, in particular, vulnerable communities that already bear the disproportionate brunt of fossil fuel negative impacts.

“Governor Northam should direct state agencies to deny permits for any new fossil fuel infrastructure if he’s truly committed to the 100% renewable energy future he announced last week,” said Jorge Aguilar, the southern region director for Food & Water Action. “The governor’s commitment to addressing climate change will mean nothing if his agencies are still approving pipelines and gas plants behind the scenes.”

“People of faith know that more pipelines endanger our neighbors both near and far,” said Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light, which engages congregations in addressing climate change. “We urge the governor to instead join caring congregations across Virginia in shifting to cleaner power.”

This release comes on the heels of Northam issuing Executive Order 43 last week, which failed to make any mention of halting current fossil fuel infrastructure projects like the Chickahominy gas plant in Charles City and other pipelines, which will also wreak havoc on the environment and communities of Virginia.

“The fight against Chickahominy Power gas plant demonstrates what is at stake for all of us, starting with the frontline community whose well water is directly under threat and who will be near to the 6.5 million tons of greenhouse gases emitted annually from the plant,” said Dr. Mary Finley-Brook, PhD, Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative. “After stealing our water and poisoning our air, this gas plant will become a stranded asset when we move to truly clean renewables.”

Full letter here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/govnorthamopposeffpermitsgroupsignonletter.pdf