In the News

August 2020

8-3-20 Virginia Mercury. After several years of tumult, Air Board members reexamine public engagement process. “Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board, which has seen meetings repeatedly attract hundreds of angry citizens and called in police to keep order over the past few years, has created a four-member committee to reexamine the board’s public engagement process. …. Among the priorities identified by the committee at a virtual meeting Monday was the need to examine the public’s ability to address the board rather than just DEQ on all regulations and controversial new permits, transparency issues surrounding advice provided to the board by the Office of the Attorney General and the need to identify at-risk communities comprehensively rather than during specific permit deliberations.”

8-2-20 New York Times Magazine. Pollution Is Killing Black Americans. This Community Fought Back. “Black communities like Grays Ferry shoulder a disproportionate burden of the nation’s pollution — from foul water in Flint, Mich., to dangerous chemicals that have poisoned a corridor of Louisiana known as Cancer Alley — which scientists and policymakers have known for decades. A 2017 report from the N.A.A.C.P. and the Clean Air Task Force provided more evidence. It showed that African-Americans are 75 percent more likely than other Americans to live in so-called fence-line communities, defined as areas situated near facilities that produce hazardous waste.” [A detailed analysis of long-term health hazards faced by a Philadelphia neighborhood. Thanks to the demise of the ACP, Union Hill will not have to suffer similar health hazards.]

July 2020

7-31-20 Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy Names New Executive Leadership Team. “Dominion Energy (NYSE: D) today announced that Thomas F. Farrell, II, chairman, president and chief executive officer, will become the company’s executive chair, effective Oct. 1, 2020. In that role, Farrell will continue to serve as chair of the Board of Directors. Also, effective that date, Robert M. Blue, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer, will be promoted to president and chief executive officer, reporting to Farrell. Diane Leopold, executive vice president and co-chief operating officer, will be promoted to Dominion Energy’s sole chief operating officer, responsible for all the company’s operating segments, reporting to Blue. Edward H. ‘Ed’ Baine will be promoted to president-Dominion Energy Virginia. He will report to Leopold.”

7-31-20 Washington Post. How Virginians will move forward from the defunct Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Now that the 600-mile-long pipeline is dead, killed by rising costs and unresolved questions about its market, plenty of Virginians are scratching their heads wondering how the controversial project, announced in 2014, got so far and lasted so long. They are putting together a list of what to change so it doesn’t happen again.”

7-31-20 Reuters. Dominion takes $2.8 bln charge to exit Atlantic Coast natgas pipe. “U.S. energy company Dominion Energy Inc said on Friday it took a $2.8 billion charge in the second quarter related to the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina.”

7-30-20 NC Policy Watch. Along now-defunct Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, landowners are left in the lurch. “Environmental destruction, property entanglements will take years to address.” A comprehensive discussion of the problems facing landowners on the ACP route whose property has been defaced and where utilities still have legal rights to the easements.

7-30-20 Energy News Network. No longer in Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path, landowners consider next steps. “After a half-decade fight over pipeline easements, property owners look to recoup legal costs and property values.” [Article focuses on the Averitts and the Limperts.]

7-30-20 Virginia Mercury. Stop Mountain Valley Pipeline from polluting Southwest Virginia’s water. “The recent U.S. Supreme Court Maui ruling affirmed the Clean Water Act protects waterways from pollution due to construction projects like MVP. DEQ must issue an immediate stop work instruction until MVP is able to build their project without polluting our waterways and MVP has paid all their fines.”

7-29 20 C-ville. Hallelujah. What’s next?: The defeat of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is only the beginning. “Now that victory has come on the local scale, the questions have to expand in scope. Why was the pipeline proposed in the first place? What are the priorities for financial investment and political muscle among different energy paradigms (including conservation, a latent ‘resource’ that is far from fully tapped)? What can local activists—who have now proven their efficacy—do to influence the broader conversation about where we get our power?”

7-29-20 Virginia Mercury. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled. What happens to all the land acquired for it? “‘There are a number of important issues that will need to be addressed in the coming months as we wind down the project,’ said Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby in an email. ‘As part of that process, we will be evaluating the best path forward for resolving existing easement agreements with ACP landowners.’ …. Figuring out what to do with the lands placed under permanent easement for the 604-mile pipeline that was set to cross West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, with just over half in Virginia, may be one of the thorniest problems Dominion and Duke will face as they unwind the $8 billion project.”

7-28-20 Roanoke Times. Lovelace: Pipeline cancellation puts spotlight on Northam and Herring inaction. “At the end of the day, the case for MVP’s cancellation is proven by the similarities between MVP and ACP, coupled with MVP’s ongoing disregard for Virginia regulations and the glaring lack of need for the pipeline, proven by the lack of negative effects to Virginia’s energy supply despite MVP being years behind schedule. The recent court-mandated shut down of the DAPL pipeline proves that, in the off chance that MVP is even completed, it will not stand as its permitting process has had similar inadequacies to DAPL’s. The only question now is why are Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring still refusing to speak out against the MVP? Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring should be openly calling for the cancellation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and using all of their authority, which they have a lot of despite their claims, to have this pipeline stopped for good.”

7-28-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley to receive new permit to cross Blue Ridge Parkway. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline will be granted a new permit to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, the first in a string of federal approvals needed before the natural gas pipeline can be completed. In a letter filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Park Service said it intended to issue a right of way permit for the pipeline to pass under the parkway atop Bent Mountain in Roanoke County. Construction of that segment of the 303-mile pipeline was completed in January 2019, but Mountain Valley needs the permit to maintain and operate the transmission line.”

7-27-20 Facing South. Institute Index: The ongoing toxic threat from canceled and delayed gas pipelines. “Epoxy-coated steel pipe that was to be used for the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline sits out in the open in a storage yard in Culpeper, Virginia, as well as five other locations across Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Environmental advocates are raising concerns about how long-term exposure to sunlight is breaking down the coating and releasing toxic pollution into the air and nearby waterways. Reusing pipe with degraded coating in other projects increases the risk of explosions.”

7-27-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Trump to nominate Virginia SCC’s Mark Christie for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “President Donald Trump is nominating Mark Christie, chairman of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, to fill a seat at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In announcing the move, the White House called Christie ‘one of the nation’s longest-serving utility regulators,’ noting that he has served on the SCC for 16 years.”

7-24-20 Soundboard (WTJU 91.1 and Charlottesville Tomorrow.  “Environmental Racism is discussed by Chad, John and Ruby. The interview starts at about 17 minutes. The Freedom of Information Act is the first topic.  The Freedom of Information Act is one of the primary tools that we as citizens have to hold our governments accountable. This week, we meet Jessie Higgins, the newest reporter at Charlottesville Tomorrow, and talk about why Albemarle County says it no longer needs to fulfill FOIA requests in a timely manner. Plus, we talk to pipeline activists from Buckingham County about the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and environmental racism.”

7-24-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Defeat of Atlantic Coast Pipeline rooted in homegrown legal strategy. “Six summers ago, a group of community activists from both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains met around a kitchen table at a Christmas tree farm in Augusta County to face the emerging threat of a natural gas pipeline that Virginia’s largest energy company was planning to build through the heart of the state. Dominion Energy already had begun notifying landowners along a 400-foot wide study corridor for the Southeast Reliability Project. Three months later it would become the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a multibillion-dollar construction project that would have cut a swath through the Allegheny Highlands, the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge and central Piedmont on its way to the southeastern coast. Six years later, the $8 billion, 604-mile project is dead, thwarted by a homegrown community organizing and legal strategy that took root in the June, 2014, meeting at Francisco Farms, which the original route of the pipeline would have come near in Augusta. ‘That meeting at the farm was the first time people from different communities had gotten together,’ said Ernie Reed, a current member of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors and a past president of Friends of Nelson, one of 50 community organizations that ultimately formed the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance to oppose the pipeline.”

7-23-20 HuffPost. Virginia’s Energy Kingpin Could Finally Face A Reckoning Over Race. “Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell’s history of railroading Black communities and glorifying the Confederacy is under new scrutiny after the demise of his controversial pipeline.”

7-23-20 E&E News. Environmental justice concerns stall Va. power project. “A $350 million gas project spanning much of eastern Virginia has been put on hold, in part due to environmental justice concerns. Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) recently deferred action on the proposal by Southern Co. subsidiary Virginia Natural Gas (VNG). The agency told the company to come back by the end of the year with more details on financing and environmental justice issues. The project, a series of pipelines, compressor stations and other infrastructure stretching from the exurbs of Washington to Hampton Roads in southern Virginia, has come under fire from environmental groups for potentially locking in years of natural gas use.”

7-22-20 Anchor FM. Atlantic Ghost Pipeline: How the Union (Hill) Won the South, Part 1. “After years in the works, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – a celebrated, bipartisan project – was abruptly canceled. Was this an overnight change of heart? Or were there other powers at work? Jessica Sims (VA Sierra Club) and Jonathan Sokolow (attorney, writer, and activist) joined us to discuss their advocacy in this fight. …. This two part podcast tells the story of how frontline communities and their allies won the battle to save Union Hill and defeat the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – and how we WILL win the fight to defeat the Mountain Valley Pipeline! And please watch for next week’s edition,where The Justice Report interviews Richard Walker, a fifth generation descendant of the people who settled Union Hill and a leader in this now victorious fight!”

7-20-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley, DEQ negotiate over environmental fines. “Mountain Valley Pipeline has agreed to pay $8,000 of the $86,000 demanded by Virginia regulators for the latest environmental violations caused by building the hotly disputed natural gas pipeline. Whether it owes any more — and how much more — is still under negotiation.

7-20-20 S&P Global. Friction arises at FERC over remains of ACP, SHP gas pipeline plans. “New debate has kicked off at the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over whether Dominion Energy can extend the authorization of its Supply Header Pipeline project now that the related Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has been cancelled.”

7-17-20 NC Warn. Toxic Legacy of Atlantic Coast Pipeline Requires State Investigation — News Release from NC WARN. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled last week, but 80,000 large steel pipes have been stored improperly for over four years, posing an immediate risk of toxic air and water exposures to multiple communities and increasing the risk of a catastrophic gas explosion if the pipes are used at another project. That’s according to a report by a career state regulator being filed today with NC Department of Environmental Quality secretary Michael Regan.”

7-16-20 News Leader. It was more than just a pipeline we defeated. “Celebrate the victory—the defeat of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a 600-mile, high-pressure, fracked-gas pipeline planned to rip through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. It was a six-year fight for people’s land rights, our water, environmental justice, and common decency. We defeated more than just a pipeline, we defeated the mendacious, well-funded fossil fuel lobby. …. So, in the end, it wasn’t just about the pipeline. It was about Dominion taking advantage of the system, the government, the people, and their property. I was fighting for the environment, racial justice, and most importantly common decency. And this time, the people and common decency won!”

7-15-20 Utility Dive. ‘Almost impossible’ for FERC to address rehearing orders in 30 days, Glick says. “It will be “almost impossible” for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to respond to requests for rehearing within 30 days, as required by the D.C. Circuit of Appeals, Commissioner Richard Glick said Tuesday during a virtual conference on wholesale market reform hosted by the American Public Power Association.”

7-15-20 New York Times. Trump to Weaken Environmental Rules to Speed Infrastructure Permits. “President Trump on Wednesday is set to unilaterally weaken one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.”

7-14-20 The Hill. Grassroots movements are turning the tide against oil and gas. “Conventional wisdom has long told us that we’d be drilling for oil and gas into the foreseeable future and that it was unrealistic to try to keep pipelines from being built. But if this week has made one thing clear, it’s that an end to fossil fuels isn’t so impossible after all.”

7-13-20 WestVirginiaVille. Dear Doug Reynolds: An Open Letter On Your Pro-Pipeline Column. “I read the column you wrote in the July 11, 2020 Charleston Gazette-Mail, headlined ‘No one wins in scrapped pipeline project.’ In it, you lament the recent cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy. …. One would think that the majority owner of HD Media LLC, and the publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail—that would be you—would not write a column cheering on natural gas pipeline development and construction without somewhere revealing your financial ties to the natural gas industry. …. For here you have a multimillionaire taking a stand on a controversial pipeline, one that would upend the lives of thousands of families and possibly be a huge climate change setback, and who writes about that in one of the few high-profile media outlets in the state. And then, does not reveal his own business interests that might complicate and extenuate the argument he is making?”  [A powerful take-down of entrenched special interests in WV]

7-13-20 NIC Magazine. End of an era? Series of U.S. setbacks bodes ill for big oil, gas pipeline projects. “The unifying factors in all these setbacks were a highly motivated opposition and shoddy regulatory paperwork, according to Josh Price, senior analyst of energy and utilities at Height Capital Markets. He added that both factors were, ironically, enabled by President Donald Trump’s vocal efforts to boost the fossil fuels industries and downplay climate risks. ‘You have environmental justice groups emboldened by the Trump administration’s stance on climate and really dedicating a lot of resources to halting projects through the courts,’ Price said. ‘The second part in this dynamic is some of the hasty work being done at the permitting agencies in the Trump administration. We’ve seen this time and time again, this effort to streamline projects has backfired.'”

7-13-20 Laurinburg Exchange [NC]  There is still a silver lining possible here. “What the ‘obstructionist environmental lobby’ actually did was hold off the pipeline long enough that Dominion and Duke could see it was becoming a boondoggle that would have cost them and their ratepayers dearly. The worldwide economic slowdown caused by the pandemic has created a fossil fuel glut that has rolled back the fracking industry. There is increasing evidence that there would not be enough energy demand or natural gas price stability to justify the volume or the cost of the pipeline. Those who fought hard against the project deserve the thanks of ratepayers and the utilities. They saved Dominion and Duke from a doomed investment in energy’s past rather than its future.”

7-12-20 Roanoke Times. Hileman: Why has it taken so long for MVP to get a new permit? “Why has the Corps delayed reissuing NWP 12 to MVP for so long? It is likely the Corps has not been able to find a way to reinstate the permit that will withstand legal scrutiny. Since beginning construction in early 2018, MVP has lost numerous permits as a result of opponents’ successful legal challenges. In a number of these cases, the courts thoroughly rebuked the implicated agencies for failing to justify their issuance of permits for the MVP. For example, authorization from the U.S. Forest Service was deemed ‘silent acquiescence.’ The Corps has assuredly seen the writing on the wall. The magnitude of the delay in reissuing NWP 12 to MVP is a stark indication the Corps never should have granted the permit in the first place.”

7-12-20 WOWK13 [WV]. Inside West Virginia Politics. Two different views of the cancellation: Charlie Burd of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, talks about the end of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Karan Ireland of the Sierra Club of West Virginia, talks about the end of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-12-20 Bloomberg. Environmentalist’s Trifecta of Wins Against Pipelines (Podcast). “Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School, discusses three major victories for environmentalists in one week in blocking oil and gas pipelines, as a court ordered the Dakota Access pipeline to shut down during an environmental review, the Supreme Court refused to reinstate streamlined permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline and a decision by the developers of the Atlantic Coast pipeline to call it quits after years of legal delays. June Grasso hosts.”

7-12-20 Times West Virginian. Mixed Review: Some mourn, others hail demise of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-10-20 World Oil. Canceled Atlantic Coast pipeline threatens Marcellus shale’s future. “Appalachia is home to the Marcellus shale, a major driver of the fracing boom that’s driven down prices and helped to make the U.S. a net exporter of the fuel for the first time. Production from the basin was expected to rebound as some U.S. states reopen after pandemic-driven lockdowns. But the region faces pipeline bottlenecks in the years to come, a problem only made worse by the decision by Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. to abandon plans to construct what would have been a major conduit to fast-growing markets that lie to the south.”

7-10-20 Blue Virginia. One Down, One to Go: There Is No Atlantic Coast Pipeline and There Will Be No Mountain Valley Pipeline. “So the next time you see injustice in your community and someone tells you there’s no use fighting, tell them how Dominion was taken down against all odds. The next time a politician tells you there’s nothing they can do about ‘it,’ remind them of what happened on July 5, 2020. A great place to start would be to take action today, right now, to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Sign this petition, then post it on social media and ask all of your friends to sign.

7-10-20 E&E Energywire. Court urged to keep door shut on FERC delay tactic. “Environmentalist groups are asking a federal court to remain firm in its watershed decision to bar the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from stalling challenges to pipeline projects, despite the agency’s request for more time.”

7-10-20 NRDC. Pipeline Victories Show the Power of People. “In the fight against dirty energy, local heroes recorded stunning victories in recent days. Their success underscores the importance of a functioning democracy—and is a testament to the sheer power of people.”

7-9-20 The Recorder. Out of Gas. “They had the money and the power, but we had power, too.”

7-9-20 CleanTechnica. Warren Buffett & Pig Poop: Unpacking The Blockbuster Dominion Energy Pipeline Deal. “So what does Berkshire Hathaway want with a bunch of last century pipelines known for large methane leaks and high operating costs? Forbes says, ‘For Buffett, the deal complements Berkshire Hathaway’s existing 16,000-mile pipeline network, thus supporting his bet that natural gas will put the final bullet into coal and will be a mainstay of U.S. power generation for decades to come.'”

7-9-20 News Leader. Halting of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction brings shock, joy to outdoor enthusiasts. “Lynn Cameron was both shocked and elated with the news Sunday that construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was halted. ‘It was just an act of faith that people could make a difference,’ said Cameron. ‘I guess the efforts of all the people, the methods of opposition, the letters, the data gathering, it just all added up.'”

7-9-20 SELC press release. SELC’s pipeline team reflects on the path to victory.

7-9-20 News Virginian. Letter: Pipeline opponents should continue the fight. “We encourage everyone who got involved in our local fight to be engaged in other pipeline fights, especially those in Virginia. Please support candidates running for office that will support the Green New Deal, reforming FERC and getting money out of politics. Please continue to fight for a cleaner future where we respect private property rights!”

7-8-20 VPM-NPR. How Did the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project Collapse? “This week, host Roben Farzad welcomes Sarah Vogelsong, environment and energy reporter for the Virginia Mercury; and Richard Walker, Founder and CEO of Bridging the Gap in Virginia as they dive into Virginia’s battle for energy.”

7-8-20 Oil Change International. Atlantic Coast Pipeline win was a hard-earned victory. Beware industry and government’s revisionist history. “This victory comes as an enormous relief to people all along the more than 600 miles of pipeline route through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Farmers, homeowners, small business entrepreneurs — the pipeline fighters who won this rich victory were everyday people whose lives were upended for the past six years just because Dominion and Duke came up with a nifty scheme to enrich their shareholders with guaranteed ratepayer money. Or so they’d hoped. There is little doubt that movements for environmental and climate justice in the U.S. and Canada are turning the tide on a reckless and arrogant industry that has run roughshod over all else for too long. But public statements from the companies involved, as well as from U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette, mislead the public about the demise of ACP, as well as the implications for U.S. energy supply. …. ACP failed because it couldn’t be built without violating the law.”

7-8-20 Utility Dive. DC Circuit pipeline ruling could prompt dramatic shift in FERC power sector actions, attorneys say. “The ruling could have major consequences for stakeholders requesting a rehearing from the commission in the gas and electricity sectors.”

7-8-20 Slate. The Pipeline Setbacks Reveal the Perils of Rushed Agency Approvals. “On Monday, federal courts dealt major setbacks to the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. The two decisions came directly on the heels of an announcement that energy utilities were abandoning another high-profile project: the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have crossed beneath the Appalachian Trail. Together, these developments amount to a stunning victory for environmental advocates and tribes who have long challenged these projects in court, and are just the latest roadblocks to the Trump Administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, which has sought to expedite fossil fuel projects in an era of climate change. But, how, exactly did this all come to pass, and back-to-back-to-back at that? The reason the pipelines have faltered is mainly due to legal errors and injudicious project approvals. It’s a bureaucratic failure rather than any kind of policy directive.”

7-8-20 Slate. Why It Took So Long to Defeat the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was a planned underground highway of natural gas, meant to cover 600 miles across the South. Activists were hugely worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline, so their strategy was to block every attempt to get it built. They tried to keep pipelines away from the Appalachian Trail. They argued that construction of the pipeline put endangered species at risk. They filed lawsuits. All this work slowed the pipeline down, but what no one was expecting was what happened this weekend: After six years of legal fights, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the companies behind this pipeline, announced that the whole thing was canceled. How did this victory happen? And can it be replicated? On Wednesday’s episode of What Next, I spoke with Lyndsey Gilpin, the founder and editor in chief of Southerly, a media organization covering ecology, justice, and culture in the South, about the people who dedicated years to successfully busting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.”

7-8-20 Slate. How Activists Brought Down a Massive Gas Pipeline. “Local activists never expected the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to go bust. Now they’re asking each other: How did that victory happen? And can it be replicated? Guest: Lyndsey Gilpin, founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly.”

7-8-20 Virginia Mercury. What sank the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? It wasn’t just environmentalism. Article that digs deep into reasons for the demise of the ACP.

7-7-20 AP. Opponents: Pipeline’s defeat ‘a testament to perseverance’

7-7-20 I love Cville host Jerry Miller interviews Richard Averitt about the cancellation of the ACP in Nelson County. The interview starts 19 min. into the recording. For any concerns about the acquisition “The agreement does not include acquisition of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”  The ACP is really and truly dead.

7-7-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s ‘uphill climb’ gets a little easier. “The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay late Monday of a Montana judge’s decision to ban a fast-track permitting process that allows pipelines to cross water bodies. Mountain Valley needs such a permit — among others — if it is to complete construction of a 303-mile pipeline that has been repeatedly delayed by court challenges.”

7-7-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Landowners hopeful, but wary after cancellation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Two and a half years after the trees fell, so did plans to build the 605-mile pipeline. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy abandoned the $8 billion project on Sunday after a six-year battle that pitted energy development against environmental protection and property rights in Nelson and other localities in the pipeline’s path. …. ‘In the coming months we will seek approval from FERC and other agencies to complete restoration for areas of the right of way that have been disturbed,’ spokesman Aaron Ruby said Tuesday. FERC spokeswoman Tamara Allen-Young said Tuesday, ‘The commission will consider issues of site restoration as they arise.’ The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said it will coordinate with other state agencies as plans are developed to restore areas disturbed by the project. ‘We will insist that ROW restoration is completed appropriately and completely without further disturbance,’ spokeswoman Ann Regn said. …. Dominion plans to withdraw about 80 active lawsuits from local courts to condemn property for the pipeline right of way, but the company hasn’t decided how to deal with the easements it already obtained through agreements with landowners or eminent domain. ‘We will evaluate the best way forward for resolving easement agreements with landowners,’ Ruby said. ‘They will, of course, keep any compensation they’ve received.’”

7-7-20 News & Advance. ‘A thorn in their side’: Nelson County stands out in its fight against now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Were bets allowed in this fight, oddsmakers would have made the ACP the overwhelming favorite. And yet Nelsonians against the pipeline that had been slated to cross about 27 miles of their county came out victorious Sunday, as ACP officials announced their decision to abandon the interstate energy project. ‘It’s like an ant going against the elephant,’ said Harvey, who also serves as chairman of the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. ‘But it just goes to show you that persistence pays off.’ Other localities along the planned 600-mile route through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina joined and remained in the yearslong fight, which began half a decade ago with the project’s proposal. But in Virginia, Nelson County’s pluck, and the commitment of opposed individuals and groups to fight the pipeline and everything associated with its majority partner Dominion, have been unique.”

7-7-20 Appalachian Chronicle. ‘Pray and Delay’ v. Dominion, Duke. “[T]he ACP ran into a collection of mountaineers determined to hold onto their homesteads, public health experts, ecologists, environmental groups, lawyers and scores of unnamed but very determined human beings that refused to roll over for Dominion and Duke. They understood from the first day that the companies pushing fracking and related pipeline development on unsuspecting citizens cared nothing about property rights, public health or the environment.”

7-7-20 Bacon’s Rebellion. What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. “Thus, the stage was set for one of the nastiest environmental and property rights battles in Old Dominion history. It centered around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would run from Harrison County, W.Va. across the rugged Appalachians, down through some of the most peacefully bucolic land in the Virginia., to Union Hill, a mostly African-American community in Buckingham county and on into North Carolina, running through the Tar Heel state’s mostly African-American concentration along its northeastern border with Virginia. In other words, the project partners were targeting people, some of whom were poor minorities, unused to big industrial projects and legions of overpriced lawyers.”

7-6-20 The New Republic. The People Killed the Pipelines. “The Dakota Access and Atlantic Coast pipelines fell because community members fought for their right to a safe, pollutant-free home.”

7-6-20 Charlotte Observer. ACP was a pipeline to the past. Now we can focus on a renewable energy future. “What the ‘obstructionist environmental lobby’ actually did was hold off the pipeline long enough that Dominion and Duke could see it was becoming a boondoggle that would have cost them and their ratepayers dearly. The worldwide economic slowdown caused by the pandemic has created afossil fuel glutthat hasrolled back the fracking industry. There is increasing evidence that there would not be enough energy demand or natural gas price stability to justify the volume or the cost of the pipeline. Those who fought hard against the project deserve the thanks of ratepayers and the utilities. They saved Dominion and Duke from a doomed investment in energy’s past rather than its future.”

7-6-20 NPR.org. Court Rules Dakota Access Pipeline Must Be Emptied For Now. “A federal judge has ruled that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied for now while the Army Corps of Engineers produces an environmental review. In a decision posted Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that it was clear shutting down the pipeline will cause disruption. But he said that ‘the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow’ during the estimated 13 months it will take to complete the environmental impact statement. The court vacated the Corps’ decision to grant federal approval for the project, and will require the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days.” [“The Court ORDERS that: 1) The Mineral Leasing Act easement authorizing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe is hereby VACATED; and 2) Dakota Access shall shut down the pipeline and empty it of oil by August 5, 2020. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 7/6/2020.”]

7-6-20 Virginia Mercury.  Delays, legal challenges allowed the curtain to be pulled back on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.   “[W]hen I first started covering the pipeline project four years ago, more or less by newsroom accident at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I was actually skeptical of many of the arguments against the project. I knew next to nothing about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, utility regulation or the handsome rate of return such pipeline projects were guaranteed to deliver to investors. I assumed it would be difficult for a consortium of energy companies to use the extraordinary power of eminent domain to grab land from people absent a compelling public need argument. Or, as I may have actually said at one point back then: ‘They wouldn’t be building a pipeline if no one actually needed the gas, right?’ I had a lot to learn.

7-6-20 Bloomberg. Grim Day for Pipelines Shows They’re Almost Impossible to Build. “To be an energy superpower, U.S. oil and natural gas requires a suitably gargantuan pipeline network that stretches for millions of miles. The country’s ability to expand that infrastructure is being tested like never before. In the span of less than 24 hours, a court ordered the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline to shut down and the developers of the Atlantic Coast gas conduit said they were canceling the project. It was a deluge of bad news for an industry that’s increasingly finding that the mega-projects of the past are no longer feasible in the face of unprecedented opposition to fossil fuels and the infrastructure that supports them. …. ‘I would expect this to be a turning point for new investment,’ said Katie Bays, co-founder of Washington-based Sandhill Strategy LLC. ‘There is real investor fatigue around this parade of legal and regulatory headwinds to energy projects.’”

7-6-20 News & Advance. ‘We won the impossible fight’: Nelsonians react to news of Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s demise. “Half a decade of their lives were devoted to fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As news of its demise broke Sunday, those dedicated to the anti-pipeline cause in Nelson County were overcome with emotions.”

7-6-20 NC Policy Watch. PW exclusive: The death of a pipeline.  “On Independence Day weekend, when most people weren’t tuned in to the news, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy jointly announced that they were cancelling the ACP. Since 2014, the utilities had been pursuing the pipeline, which would have started at a fracked gas operation in West Virginia, routed through Virginia and traversed 160 miles in eight counties in eastern North Carolina. Here, in its path were communities of color, tribal lands and low-income neighborhoods. Questions linger about how a project of this magnitude — $8 billion and 600 miles long — will be undone. But pipeline opponents view the utilities’ decision as an acknowledgment that sometimes regular, working-class people can prevail.”

7-6-20 E&E News. Supreme Court restarts key Army Corps permit, but not KXL. “The Supreme Court today allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to resume using its streamlined water-crossing permit for the construction of new oil and gas pipelines, but it excluded the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The high court accepted a request by the federal agency to lift a court-ordered freeze on its Nationwide Permit 12 program for authorizing dredge-and-fill activities for new pipeline projects across the country.”

7-6-20 NRDC. Three Lessons Learned from the Axed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-5-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas transmission business. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead, abandoned by Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, after the $8 billion project reached a regulatory dead end. The decision, announced Sunday, ends a six-year effort to build the 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline through the heart of Virginia to connect gas shale fields in West Virginia with markets in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Thwarted by environmental groups repeatedly in the federal courts, the project was more than three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget, with no clear path to completion after federal courts in Montana threw out a nationwide federal water quality permit that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline relied upon to cross hundreds of bodies of water in its path.”

7-5-20 Wall St. Journal. Companies Cancel Atlantic Coast Pipeline After Years of Delays. “The builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are pulling the plug on the project as companies continue to meet mounting environmental opposition to new fossil-fuel conduits. Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy Inc. said Sunday they were abandoning the proposed $8 billion pipeline—which aimed to carry natural gas 600 miles through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina and underneath the Appalachian Trail—citing continued regulatory delays and uncertainty, even after a favorable Supreme Court ruling last month.

7-5-20 Virginian-Pilot. Dominion canceling controversial natural gas pipeline across Virginia. “Dominion Energy is pulling the plug on its controversial plan to build a natural gas pipeline crossing Virginia. The decision comes in tandem with a major strategic shift out of the energy giant’s multi-billion-dollar investment in a gas transmission business with operations as far away as Wyoming.”

7-5-20 Virginian-Pilot online. Pipeline canceled. “Restoring rights of way where Dominion has been clearing trees and resolving pending disputes with some landowners along the route will be the work of the next several months. Dominion officials do not expect to ask landowners to return compensation payments already made for use of their property. Opponents of the project said its abandonment was a major victory.”

7-5-20 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Energy companies abandon long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-5-20 CNN Business. Berkshire Hathaway will buy natural gas assets from Dominion Energy in $10 billion deal.

7-2-20 Roanoke Times. Little: Northam should halt pipeline construction. “As healthcare professionals concerned about the health of our patients, our communities, and our planet, let us be clear: building out fossil fuel infrastructure that is neither safe nor needed is a bad idea. Building it in the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately harming racial and ethnic minority communities is an even worse idea. …. The CEO of MVP’s parent company assured investors on a May 14 earnings call that ‘as soon as’ the federal stop-work order is lifted, probably in July, ‘we will fully mobilize and get upwards of 4,000 people right [a]way’. Bringing 4,000 out-of-state workers into our vulnerable communities poses significant health risks to Virginians.”

June 2020

6-30-20 E&E News. In landowner win, court reins in ‘Kafkaesque’ approvals. “Federal energy regulators are no longer free to indefinitely stall challenges to the projects they approve, a prominent appeals court ruled today in a victory for landowners. The full panel of active judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could not use “tolling orders” to avoid facing a legal challenge in court for approval of projects like natural gas pipelines. The orders allow FERC to put off responding to requests for rehearing and block challengers from bringing their concerns to court, while simultaneously allowing project construction to move forward. The court held that FERC had to stick to a statutorily mandated 30-day time frame to come to a decision on whether to accept a rehearing request.

6-29-20 Roanoke Times. Environmental regulators seek more fines against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Virginia regulators are seeking an $86,000 fine from Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying the company continued to violate environmental regulations after it paid $2.15 million last year to settle a lawsuit. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality brought the suit in 2018, saying that erosion and sediment control rules were broken more than 300 times during construction of the natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia. Since the $2.15 million settlement, DEQ said, there have been repeat cases of noncompliance, mostly during a lull in work.”

6-29-20 PilotOnline. Controversial gas pipeline delayed. “State regulators declined for now to give the go-ahead for a proposed $346 million gas pipeline project that would run through Chesapeake, arguing Virginia Natural Gas needs to do more legwork on securing financing and environmental justice issues before construction. Opponents of the Header Improvement Project said it would affect communities of color and people living on low incomes, exposing them to air and noise pollution. For now, Virginia Natural Gas has until Dec. 31 to meet a host of requirements laid out in an 18-page ruling Friday from the State Corporation Commission. That includes addressing financial concerns raised during recent testimony from the primary driver of the project, an electricity-generating plant known as C4GT, as well as protecting the utility’s ratepayers from added costs.”

6-27-20 Reason.com. New York’s Highest Court Upholds Taking of Private Property for Pipeline that Might Never Get Built. “The 4-2 ruling is reminiscent of the federal Supreme Court’s dubious decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which also upheld a condemnation for a project that turned out to be a dud. On Thursday, the New York Court of Appeals (which is that state’s highest court) issued a decision in National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Schueckler, upholding the use of eminent domain to seize private property for a pipeline that might never get built. Robert Thomas, a prominent takings lawyer, has a helpful summary at the Inverse Condemnation blog.”

6-26-20 E&E News. Litigators hone new tools for environmental justice cases. “When it struck down a permit for a compressor station along an embattled natural gas pipeline earlier this year, a federal appeals court admonished Virginia regulators that environmental justice is not simply a ‘box to be checked.’ But for communities facing harm from a polluting facility or an unfair policy, raising a successful legal challenge over those injustices is no easy feat. ‘Environmental justice has sometimes suffered the weight of newness in the legal community in that it is a new term and that it raises some apprehension, especially in established litigation circles, as to how exactly it should apply,’ said Taylor Lilley, environmental justice staff attorney for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. ‘I thought that it was really innovative to see that environmental justice in this case is considered to be a preexisting consideration.'”

6-25-20 Nelson County Times. Letter: Pipeline faces more challenges. “The Supreme Court gave Dominion a small victory when it decided that the Forest Service legally issued the permit to cross the Appalachian Trail. But the decision does not open the door for construction. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has to regain eight lost permits, and additional legal challenges are in progress. Lost permits are not the only barrier Dominion faces. In the six years since the plan was announced, the energy playing field has changed dramatically, and fossil fuels’ dominance has all but disappeared. Gas is no longer seen as a “bridge fuel” but as step back into a past we must leave behind.”

6-25-20 Blue Ridge Public Radio.  Audio: Supreme Court Removes One Hurdle For Atlantic Coast Pipeline, But Others Remain. “A U.S. Supreme Court decision last week allows the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to travel under a section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. …. But construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains halted as the developers work to obtain eight other environmental permits. The pipeline also travels through several rural, low-income and predominantly Black and Indigenous communities, some of which are continuing to organize in opposition to the construction. As state legislatures in North Carolina and Virginia announce plans to move towards renewables, is there still a need for these large pipelines?”

6-25-20 The Recorder. Federal agency’s lack of response to coating concerns unacceptable. “FERC has failed to adequately address significant public health, public safety, and environmental threats from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, including threats from the fusion bonded epoxy coating on the exterior of the pipes. This coating contains numerous toxic and carcinogenic substances, including silica, a carcinogen by inhalation. The ACP has not followed recommended storage procedures for the pipes, and this has exacerbated the threats. Coating manufacturer 3M indicates the coating degrades in sunlight, and recommends protection to prevent the degradation. 3M also states that degraded coating is removed from the surface of the pipes by wind, blowing particulate matter, rain, and tidal splash. The pipes for the ACP have been left in the sun for the past four years with no protection against degradation of the coating as recommended by 3M.”

6-24-20 E&E News. How 200 Trump judges could shape environmental policy. “With the Senate poised to confirm an additional judical nominee this morning, President Trump is on the verge of officially filling all of the nation’s vacant circuit court seats. …. “”By the end of my first term, we will have close to 300 federal judges appointed and approved,” Trump said during a rally in Arizona yesterday, eliciting major cheers from the crowd. Those judges’ influence on water, air and energy law will stretch well beyond Trump’s time in the White House. ‘We’re going to feel the effect in the environment, voting rights and everything that comes before the federal courts,’ said Rebecca Bratspies, a law professor at the City University of New York.”

6-24-20 Post & Courier [Charleston SC]. Editorial: Be wary of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Why should South Carolinians care whether the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is allowed to cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia? The simple answer is that S.C. Dominion Energy customers could be footing the bill for an extension into the Palmetto State a few years down the line. The 600-mile pipeline, a Dominion-Duke Energy project for moving shale-fracked natural gas from West Virginia to markets south and east, is planned to end in Robeson County, N.C., which borders South Carolina. But Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell told S.C. lawmakers in 2018 that, ‘We would like to bring the pipeline to South Carolina if the demand is there.'”

6-24-20 SELC. Regional impact: Critical permit for pipelines vacated. “A decision reached in federal court late last month could have significant implications for the fate of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a request from the Army Corps of Engineers to stay the effect of a district court decision regarding the Corps’ compliance with the Endangered Species Act for its Nationwide Permit 12 permitting program. The district court found that the Corps never considered the collective effect of the permit in question on endangered species. ‘To put it simply, this decision means the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can no longer use Nationwide Permit 12, which the project depends on for over 1,500 crossings of waterbodies,’ says Senior Attorney Patrick Hunter. ‘The ACP is now missing eight necessary permits, creating a significant hurdle to overcome before Dominion can begin building a pipeline that is already years behind schedule.'”

6-24-20 C-ville. Foot on the gas: Anti-pipeline activists fight on, undeterred by Supreme Court. “Last week, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be allowed to cross underneath the Appalachian Trail. Dominion Energy, the pipeline’s main backer, has characterized the Supreme Court’s decisions as a significant step forward for the controversial project. …. The project has been slowed in part due to years of dedicated work from grassroots activists, who have fought tooth and nail to stop the pipeline from slicing through the Appalachian wilderness. They say the project will have devastating effects on water quality and wildlife in the area, and that it’s not economically necessary. ‘This is a major victory for the project,’ Dominion says of the decision in a press bulletin. ‘It paves the way for the ACP to be completed and bring jobs to the region, stimulate the economy and lead us to a cleaner energy future.’ ‘They’ll parade the decision to shareholders, and probably make some additional press releases to make [the pipeline] seem like an inevitable project,’ says Daniel Shaffer, a geospatial consultant for the anti-pipeline coalition Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance. ‘But it really doesn’t change their situation.’ …. In other words, the Supreme Court case doesn’t ensure that the Forest Service permit will be reinstated—it just removes one of many hurdles that Dominion will have to clear when it requests another Forest Service permit.”

6-23-20 WVPublic Radio. LISTEN: Energy Expert Weighs In On What SCOTUS Ruling Means For The Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a victory to the 600-mile Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline. The issue at hand was whether the U.S. Forest Service could allow the pipeline to be built underneath the iconic Appalachian Trail, which is managed by another federal agency, the U.S. Park Service. In a 7-2 decision, the court reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that the USFS does have the authority to grant the pipeline permission to be built under the trail. The decision was hailed as a win by lead developer Dominion Energy and Gov. Jim Justice. Environmental groups note the project still needs eight more permits along its route. It’s just one high profile court ruling in a string of lawsuits brought against this and other pipelines. So, just how significant is this win? And what does it mean for the future of the ACP — which is behind schedule and has ballooned in cost — as well as other pipelines here in Appalachia? Energy and Environment Reporter Brittany Patterson spoke with Christi Tezak, managing director with ClearView Energy Partners, an independent research group based in Washington, D.C. Tezak is an energy analyst who follows pipeline litigation.”

6-23-20 Virginia Mercury. With Supreme Court case over, courts again weigh whether Atlantic Coast Pipeline is needed. “Last week, the Supreme Court handed a victory to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline when it ruled that the U.S. Forest Service had the authority to allow the project to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail. But the end of that battle has seen the revival of another, more fundamental conflict: whether the pipeline really is needed. …. Meanwhile, the FERC litigation that was back-burnered by the Cowpasture case is heating up again. In those proceedings, opponents represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center are contesting FERC’s certification not only on environmental and eminent domain grounds, but also on the grounds that the commission’s review of its necessity was flawed.”

6-22-10 NJ.com. Homeowner had 2 minutes to grab her belongings after N.J. pipeline project wrecked her home. “Imagine being given two minutes to grab your worldly possessions before a building inspector slaps a sign on your home of 32 years saying it is uninhabitable. Barbara Fox-Cooper doesn’t have to imagine. It happened to her Friday morning after a gas pipeline drilling mishap appears to have fractured the foundation of her home in a rural, bucolic stretch of Upper Freehold, Monmouth County.”

6-22-20 Utility Dive. The truth about the future of gas: We don’t need to build anymore. “What is the future of gas in the U.S. electric power sector? Is it essential, long-term, for a reliable and economical electric supply? A new study from UC Berkeley provides the latest answer, demonstrating it is technically and economically feasible to reach 90% clean electricity by 2035 without building any new gas plants and reducing generation from existing plants by 70%, all without any increase in wholesale power costs compared to today.”

6-21-20 Roanoke Times. Despite another setback, corporate customers stick with Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Once again, developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say it will take longer and cost more to finish a natural gas pipeline that has long invoked acrimony along its path through Southwest Virginia. But all five energy companies in the joint venture seem determined to ride it out, despite contracts signed years ago that allow them to withdraw if the project was not completed by June 1. …. Under so-called precedent agreements, shippers — or customers — of the pipeline must give notice by the end of the month to take the escape clause. Doing so would require them to pay their share of costs incurred so far, plus an additional 15% of that sum.”

6-17-20 Seeking Alpha. Dominion seeks more time to build Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy (D -0.5%) asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for two additional years to finish building the long-delayed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline due to delays in permitting. In its filing with FERC, Dominion says it expects to obtain the necessary approvals for the pipeline by the end of this year. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared a major legal hurdle for the $8B project, reversing a lower court decision and upholding a permit from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would allow the pipeline to run under the Appalachian Trail. Work on the 600-mile pipeline was suspended in late 2018 after a lower court stayed a biological opinion from the Forest Service that allowed construction in areas inhabited by endangered species.”

6-16-20 E&E Energywire. Pipeline wins Appalachian Trail battle but may lose war. “The Supreme Court yesterday removed one hurdle for developers of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, but the natural gas project remains in legal limbo as a host of other obstacles stand in the way of construction. In a 7-2 decision, the justices reversed a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating that the Forest Service could not authorize a permit for the pipeline to crosshundreds of feet beneath the scenic Appalachian Trail. The ruling was a win for pipeline developers Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp., as well as the Trump administration, but it did not resolve problems with other permits the 4th Circuit has scrapped. ‘My big takeaway on this is it’s a fairly narrow issue on the Mineral Leasing Act,’ Cale Jaffe, director of the University of Virginia’s Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic, said of yesterday’s ruling. …. Each of the pending approvals could prove problematic for the Atlantic Coast project, said UVA’s Jaffe. “There are a lot of weak links in various parts of this chain,” said Jaffe, who wrote an amicus brief highlighting the pipeline’s expected harm to local Virginia economies.”

6-15-20 MarylandMatters. Lawmakers, Advocates: Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Threaten Minority Communities. “The Trump administration is suspending key environmental reviews during the pandemic, which critics warn could further harm poor and minority neighborhoods around the country. Lawmakers and activists say the administration’s actions — meant to boost the lagging economy — could have disproportionate effects on communities of color near pipeline and power projects. Residents are at risk of missing the chance to weigh in on decisions and they could face more pollution entering their communities.”

6-15-20 New Republic. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Battle Is About People, Not Precedent. “As the battle over the ACP continues, the nation ought to take a moment of self-reflection and ask itself why everybody with a modicum of power—judges; federal regulators; energy companies; and local, state, and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle—continues to enable a pipeline model that targets communities of color, tribal nations, and rural towns with pinpoint precision.”

6-15-20 Virginia Mercury. As Supreme Court hands win to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, other hurdles remain for project. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile natural gas pipeline being built by utility heavyweights Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, can cross beneath the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest. But the 7-2 decision, penned by Justice Clarence Thomas with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting, lifts one barrier to the continuation of the $8 billion project while leaving in place eight others that the pipeline must surmount before moving forward.”

6-15-20 Ecology Way. Supreme Court clears way for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail. “Dominion still requires eight more permits for the 600-mile pipeline route, including an air pollution permit from Virginia regulators for a controversial compressor station in Union Hill, a historically black community. It also still needs approval to cross the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and a new biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about endangered species that were not taken into consideration in the original environmental impact statement. Several landowners along the route through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina are also still fighting to retain their property from eminent domain claims. That means five-and-a-half years after the project was proposed, [Southern Environmental Law Center’s Greg] Buppert said, ‘there’s significant uncertainty about what the ACP route even is right now.'”

6-15-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. U.S. Supreme Court overturns 4th Circuit ruling that would have blocked pipeline crossing. “The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Richmond appeals court ruling that would have blocked construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The court announced Monday it had voted 7-2 to overturn the 2018 ruling by the 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond. The ruling will allow construction of the 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline to tunnel 600 feet beneath the national scenic trail where it crosses land managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the George Washington National Forest. The decision removes one obstacle – but not all – for Dominion Resources and its partners to cross the Blue Ridge between Augusta and Nelson counties and complete the $8 billion, 600-mile project and connect gas shale fields in West Virginia to markets on the coast of Virginia and North Carolina.”

6-15-20 E&E Energywire. FERC rule to address landowner complaints draws fire. “A rule last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address landowner complaints of proposed energy projects is sparking criticism from both pipeline advocates and lawyers representing property owners.The rule would stop companies from beginning construction on FERC-approved pipeline and infrastructure projects until the commission addresses objections (Energywire, June 10).But a legal team representing landowners and environmental groups in a case moving through a federal appeals court say the rule doesn’t fully address their concerns.”The rule doesn’t do anything to stop the pipeline company from taking the property and doing significant, irreparable damage to homeowners’ land and the environment,” said White and Williams LLP partner Siobhan Cole, who represented FERC’s challengers in a related case currently before a federal appeals court.”

6-12-20 The Hill. Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service. “U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday ordered the U.S. Forest Service to expedite environmental reviews on its land, paving the way for more grazing, logging and oil development on public lands. The directive, announced by Perdue on a trip to Missoula, Mont., comes in the form of an unusual memo to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. He called it ‘a blueprint for reforms to further provide relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service, and boost the productivity of our National Forests and Grasslands.’ …. But environmentalists say the memo affirms a number of dangerous strategies already underway by the Trump administration.”

6-11-20 News & Advance. Temporary RV park for Atlantic Coast Pipeline workers planned in Amherst industrial site. “Town of Amherst officials plan to hold a public hearing in July on a request for a temporary RV park, in an Amherst industrial park, to house workers associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Amherst Town Council voted 4-0 Wednesday, with Councilman Kenneth Bunch absent, to send the proposal to a hearing during its July 8 meeting. The temporary park for recreational vehicles would house workers during the life of Richmond-based Dominion Energy’s lease for land in the back of the L. Barnes Brockman, Sr. Business and Industrial Park on U.S. 60.”

6-11-20 Utility Dive. FERC prohibits pipeline construction, allows land seizures as court weighs ‘legal purgatory’ of rehearing delays. “Federal regulators, under scrutiny from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, issued an order Wednesday prohibiting natural gas pipeline developers from beginning construction on a project until regulators act on rehearing requests. The order addresses in part issues raised during the court’s April en banc hearing in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC. The case centers on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) practice of continuously delaying requests for rehearing under the Natural Gas Act. Petitioners argued in part that the commission has been delaying requests for rehearing indefinitely, while allowing construction on controversial pipeline projects to proceed. FERC Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in part to the order. Though the order is ‘a step in the right direction,’ it does not address the concern that pipeline developers can still begin to condemn private land before the landowner is able to challenge the developer’s ability to do so, he said.”

6-10-20 E&E News. Activists relaunch black environmental justice network. “Advocates today relaunched a national environmental justice effort amid an ongoing national conversation about racial justice and a pandemic that has disproportionately affected black communities. The National Black Environmental Justice Network announced today that it would re-form to bring together largely disparate community-based movements around the country.”

6-10-20 Roanoke Times. Hadwin: Roanoke Gas has chance to opt out of MVP. “Roanoke Gas Co. has 30 days to save its customers more than $100 million dollars. They should do it. A clause in the utility’s contract with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) allows it to cancel its 20-year agreement if the pipeline is not in commercial operation by June 1, 2020. If Roanoke Gas fails to notify the MVP by the end of June that it wants to get out of its contract, the chance is gone forever. If Roanoke Gas misses this chance, it will owe the MVP $112 million over 20-years, regardless of how much of the reserved capacity is actually used. The gas company expects to be allowed to pass this cost on to its customers.”   Sign on here to a letter encouraging Roanoke Gas to opt out.

6-8-20 Bloomberg Law. EPA Water Rule Won’t Speed Up New Oil, Gas Pipeline Projects. “A new EPA water rule to curtail state vetoes won’t necessarily ease the path for new oil and gas interstate pipeline projects, energy analysts and lawyers say. They say this is partly due to the sharp decline in oil and gas linked to the coronavirus pandemic. But the hurdles also come from a federal court’s suspension of the Clean Water Act Nationwide Permit 12, or NWP 12, that would allow developers to dredge and fill wetlands and stream crossings in order to lay pipelines. Without a nationwide permit, pipeline builders have no choice to seek the more time-consuming and expensive individual Clean Water Act permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that apply to each water crossing. Forcing applicants to pursue individual permits—pending the outcome of a months-long Ninth Circuit review of the nationwide injunction—will increase costs and delays in project approvals, according to Sarah Peterman Bell, a Farella Braun + Martel LLP attorney said June 4.”

6-8-20 Bay Journal. Pipeline projects draw criticism for ‘environmental racism’. “Virginians calling in to the State Corporation Commission on May 12 pulled few punches: ‘environmental racism,’ ‘sacrifice zone,’ an ‘unfair and unjust project.’ Many struggled to get through, repeatedly dropped from the call-in queue for public comment by technical glitches. But they kept calling back, hammering against a proposal to install yet more natural gas infrastructure in the state — 24 miles of 30-inch pipe, three compressor stations and two large gas plants. The $346 million Header Improvement Project (HIP) proposed by Virginia Natural Gas would impact neighborhoods in the city of Chesapeake and several counties — Fauquier, Prince William, Hanover, New Kent, Caroline and Charles City — as well as about 68 streams and rivers, 150 acres of wetlands and 313 acres of forest. It would particularly impact majority-minority communities where residents claim they’re sidelined in the decision-making. They want to know why the infrastructure is being foisted on them and what health and environmental repercussions would be visited on their families because of it.”

6-7-20 The Hill. Trump’s latest environmental rollback threatens minority communities, experts warn. “President Trump’s latest executive order, lifting environmental review of major projects, will have a disproportionately harmful effect on minorities, experts warn. The order signed on Thursday relies on emergency authorities to sidestep a suite of environmental laws, allowing for the fast-tracking of major construction projects in a bid to boost the economy. That could mean rapid approval of not just highways but also pipelines, oil and gas projects and other polluting industries that have historically landed in communities of color. ‘It shows again that they have no respect for the lives in these communities that are already overburdened,’ said Mustafa Santiago Ali, with the National Wildlife Federation, who was previously a senior adviser for environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Obama administration. ‘Trump’s actions put a spotlight on black lives don’t matter.'”

6-7-20 The Intercept. A Powerful Petrochemical Lobbying Group Advanced Anti-Protest Legislation in the Midst of the Pandemic. “One day after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect, the governor quietly signed into law the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the law created new felony penalties for protest actions targeting oil and gas facilities, as the state continues to confront opposition to two massive natural gas pipelines designed to cut through delicate forests, streams, and farmland. …. West Virginia’s critical infrastructure law mimics a model policy promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, a shadowy group that encourages state lawmakers to pass industry-friendly legislation. Records provided to The Intercept by the Energy and Policy Institute reveal the natural gas industry’s hand in advancing the bill. A network of local lobbyists for Dominion Energy, which owns the Atlantic Coast pipeline; the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association; and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry group representing the refineries and processing plants that are the final destinations for the natural gas pipelines, spent months working behind the scenes to ensure the bill’s passage.”

6-5-20 E&E News. What Trump’s permit order means for NEPA, energy and race. “Amid a public health crisis that has crashed the economy, President Trump yesterday ordered his administration to accelerate permitting for major projects — sparking blowback from critics who say it will inflict damage on communities of color he’s accused of ignoring as thousands protest across the country against police brutality and injustice.”

6-5-20 Inside Climate News. Besieged by Protesters Demanding Racial Justice, Trump Signs Order Waiving Environmental Safeguards. “With the nation convulsed by multiple crises, President Donald Trump returned to a favorite stand-by of his presidency—asserting his authority to sweep aside environmental restraints and speed up construction of oil and gas pipelines. But the executive order that he signed Thursday night — the third of his presidency aimed at expediting pipelines — is destined to spur more of the type of litigation that has rendered his previous directives ineffective so far. …. The president’s critics were quick to point out that his order was poorly timed, since minority communities would be disproportionately affected by his move to waive the environmental review mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). ‘Today President Trump is dealing another blow to the Black community, during a worldwide pandemic and nearly a week into nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and structural racism,’ said Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, in a statement. ‘Gutting NEPA takes away one of the few tools communities of color have to protect themselves and make their voices heard on federal decisions impacting them.'”

6-4-20 Washington Post.  Trump signs order to waive environmental reviews for key projects.  “President Trump signed an executive order Thursday instructing agencies to waive long-standing environmental laws to speed up federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects given the current economic ’emergency.’ Declaring an economic emergency lets the president invoke a section of federal law allowing ‘action with significant environmental impact’ without observing normal requirements imposed by laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. These laws require agencies to solicit public input on proposed projects and analyze in detail how federal decisions could harm the environment.”

6-1-20 Roanoke Times. During construction hiatus, MVP changes plans for Roanoke River crossing. “On May 20, Mountain Valley asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval to change methods for its planned crossing of one of the region’s major rivers. Its application described the creation of pits on opposite sides of the river where the pipeline route and river intersect in Lafayette. One pit would be nearly 31 feet deep, the other nearly 22 feet. A crew would bore horizontally 316 feet and install the 42-inch pipe directly behind the boring machine, passing at least 6 feet beneath the river bottom, the application said. …. In giving its consent May 27, FERC said the decision to bore rather than block the river and lay pipe in a trench ‘will result in a reduction in impacts on aquatic resources by avoiding impacts to the stream bank and channel.'”

6-1-20 S&P Global. Environmental groups open new line of attack at FERC on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A coalition of environmental groups opened June 1 a new front in their legal war against the 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, contending that a supplemental environmental impact statement is needed. …. Should the developer prevail in the Supreme Court, it faces a possible new avenue of litigation in the form of a roughly 4,000-page filing posted on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website June 1 by Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Chesapeake Bay Foundation on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups. The groups argued in the filing that a supplemental EIS is needed in light of new information that has come to light since FERC issued an EIS for the pipeline project in 2017, and given upcoming FERC decisions on key matters such as whether to extend certificate authorization for the project beyond the October expiration date and whether to lift FERC’s existing stop-work order on construction.”

6-1-20 Washington Post. EPA limits states and tribes’ ability to protest pipelines and other energy projects. “The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Monday curtailing the rights of states, tribes and the public to object to federal permits for energy projects and other activities that could pollute waterways across the country. The move, part of the Trump administration’s push to weaken environmental rules it sees as standing in the way of new development, upends how the United States applied a section of the Clean Water Act for nearly a half century. The energy industry hailed the change as a way to speed up pipelines and other projects, while environmentalists warned it could undercut state and tribal efforts to safeguard rivers and drinking water.”

May 2020

5-29-20 Reuters. Court ruling in Keystone XL case another blow to big U.S. pipelines, say energy analysts. “The two biggest U.S. natural gas pipelines under construction are likely facing more delays after an appeals court ruling against the Army Corps of Engineers, energy analysts said. The Trump administration has pressed ahead with new pipeline construction but several projects have been stalled by successful legal challenges saying the administration is not applying careful regulatory scrutiny. Last month, a Montana judge ruled the Army Corps authorized permits to cross streams without properly consulting other federal agencies on endangered species. Rather than limit its ruling to the Keystone XL crude pipeline case before the court, the judge questioned the Army Corps’ method of authorizing stream crossing under the entire National Permit 12 program. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday left that ruling in place, which will likely prevent Keystone and other pipelines from using Army Corps’ stream crossing permits until the appeals court decides in early 2021, the analysts said. It means the two biggest gas pipes under construction – Dominion Energy Inc’s (D.N) Atlantic Coast and EQM Midstream Partners LP’s (EQM.N) Mountain Valley – are likely to be delayed by several more months.

5-28-20 Fair Warning. Electric Utilities Challenged for Slow-Walking Switch from Natural Gas to Clean Renewable Energy. “In January, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that most new electric power generation in 2020 would come from wind and solar. A few months and a national crisis later, renewable prospects are perhaps shining even brighter, as government projections show that for the first time renewable sources are likely to produce more electricity than coal in 2020. But as coal plants are retired in droves and renewable energy becomes more practical and economical than ever before, many electric utilities are continuing to plan for and invest billions in power generation from natural gas. As pressure escalates for the industry to complete the switch to renewable sources by 2050 to stay below critical climate change thresholds, some projections indicate steady or even increasing usage of the fossil fuel decades into the future.

5-27-20 E&E News. ‘Quick take’ wars rage in Blast Zone with no end in sight. “[Lynda] Like, along with a handful of her neighbors in south-central Pennsylvania, spent years embroiled in a lengthy, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful battle against the eminent domain practice used to seize her private property to build the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline operated by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC. Now a federal appeals court is deciding whether the government’s infrastructure review process for the project was legal. It’s highly unlikely the court would tear up an existing pipeline, but the judges’ decision could have implications for landowners facing future land grabs. While they await a decision, landowners in Conestoga Township, Pa., continue to grapple with Atlantic Sunrise’s impacts, including the daily fear of living in the so-called blast zone.”

5-27-20 E&E Energywire. House Dems propose boost for landowners in FERC disputes. “House Democrats are moving to prevent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from delaying decisions on appeal requests from landowners affected by pipeline, port or transmission projects.At issue are “tolling orders,” used by FERC to put off having to tell landowners whether it will hold a rehearing on a disputed project. …. In addition, the legislation would prevent projects from invoking eminent domain while the rehearing request is still pending.”

5-25-20 Mother Jones. How a “Bunch of Badass Queer Anarchists” Are Teaming Up With Locals to Block a Pipeline Through Appalachia. “‘Life in these mountains ain’t always been easy, so people around here take a stand when they see something they don’t agree with—and I’m one of them,’ says walrus-mustached Jammie Hale in his thick southwestern Virginia mountain accent. ‘People that grow up in places like this, seeing their environment destroyed, it stirs them, it causes people to want to get involved, and that’s why I’m here.’

5-23-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: Virginia can learn from Hawaii’s example. “‘A carbon-free energy system is not only possible, but it is practical and necessary.’ That’s how Hawaii sees its plans for a 100% clean energy economy. Dominion Energy’s new Integrated Resource Plan says something very different: Retire all carbon generation and we will ‘severely challenge the ability of the transmission system to meet customers’ reliability expectation.’ Dominion fiercely is holding onto the 100-year-old idea of the regulated central utility, while Hawaii is creating a framework for the new technologies that can generate and store electricity where we use it.”

5-22-20 E&E Energywire. Court is urged to keep Army Corps permit on ice. “Environmental groups this week affirmed that —yes, in fact —they would like federal courts to temporarily block a nationwide permitting program for oil and gas pipelines. The Northern Plains Resource Council and other groups countered arguments from the Army Corps of Engineers and industry groups that Chief Judge Brian Morris for the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana exceeded the remedy they sought in their challenge of the Keystone XL pipeline. ‘Defendants’ attempt to reframe this case as pertaining only to Keystone XL is a patent misrepresentation of the proceedings below,’ the groups wrote in a Wednesday filing with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

5-22-20 Facing South. Institute Index: Pandemic erodes the case for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Year since construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — which Dominion Energy and Duke Energy want to build to carry fracked gas from West Virginia to Virginia, North Carolina, and possibly beyond — has been stalled amid legal and regulatory challenges: 2018. Current estimated cost for the 600-mile project, which was first proposed in 2014: $8 billion. Percent by which that amount exceeds the original cost estimate, with the possibility that costs could continue to rise due to numerous permits for the project being invalidated by court challenges: 100. Percent of the ACP’s capacity that the utilities initially said was needed for new power plants: 80. Portion by which the utilities’ need for that power-plant capacity declined even before the COVID-19 outbreak: more than 1/2. Percent by which U.S. energy demand is expected to drop this year because of the pandemic-related economic slowdown: 9. [and more]”

5-21-20 The Recorder.  Letter: Governor should think like a doctor about the pipeline.  Letter also appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 5-24-20.  “How can a political leader perform so well on one important issue and so poorly on another? Gov. Northam has done a good job as leader of Virginia’s response to pandemic. He has kept the public informed and given fact-based reasons for the strong measures he has taken. In all aspects of this horrific plague, he has clearly sought to serve the public interest. …. Gov. Northam is a medical doctor, and he was trained to follow the facts in making diagnoses and, above all, “do no harm” to the patient. Yet, in his handling of the ACP and MVP, he seems oblivious to the dire consequences of not thinking like the doctor he is. What will it take for the governor to come off the sidelines and apply all his power — political as well as legal — to stopping these unjustified, harmful projects?”

5-21-20 WDBJ7. Mountain Valley Pipeline requests variance to tunnel under Roanoke River. “In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week, the company requested a variance to change the crossing method. The route of the pipeline crosses the river near Lafayette in Montgomery County.”

5-20-20 E&E News. Coal plants disappear in Va. But CO2 is rising. “The switch from coal to gas has driven down U.S. electricity emissions over the last decade. But the opposite has happened in Virginia, where a massive build-out of natural gas plants has negated CO2 reductions associated with coal retirements. Virginia’s carbon dioxide emissions were higher in 2019 than they were in 2009, according to an E&E News review of EPA emissions data. Those figures are remarkable given the collapse of coal in Virginia, where the fuel fell from being used in about 43% of the state’s power generation in 2008 to less than 10% last year. The numbers underscore a growing climate challenge for the United States: As the U.S. coal fleet shrinks, long-lived gas plants are filling the void in ways that might fail to result in large reductions of CO2. Virginia is a case in point.”

5-20-20 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Landowners again lose to eminent domain. “The discussion we would like to see would be based on these questions: Does the principle of eminent domain meet the high standards originally set for it as a means of balancing private property rights with public necessity? Or has it been distorted by a succession of laws, regulatory decisions and court rulings favoring big government or big business at the expense of individual rights? More and more, we see the latter. But deep reform can’t be achieved piecemeal through court challenges, which nonetheless seem to be the only avenue left to property owners. We see no inclination among lawmakers to tackle the questions or to institute reform on their own initiative.

5-20-20 Virginia Mercury. Where was Paylor on the Mountain Valley Pipeline? “David Paylor wrote a very nice piece on April 24 about the urgent need to protect our environment and about the progress we have made doing that. They are very nice words, but where was he when we were reporting egregious violations by Mountain Valley Pipeline? We sent photographs and, rather than send someone to look, he dismissed them as false. When it was so bad that mud closed Cahas Mountain Road, he praised MVP for clearing the road.”

5-19-20 E&E Energywire. Chatterjee for Va. governor?  “Over the weekend, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee created a Facebook group pitching his “hypothetical” run for Virginia governor. Now the nation’s top energy regulator says he was just “‘laying around.”‘ ‘It’s amazing that people are taking this so seriously,’ he told E&E News. ‘But knowing D.C., you can never just joke around.’ Still, Chatterjee did not categorically rule it out. ‘I have spent basically my entire professional career in public service,’ he said. ‘So when my term is up at the commission, continuing to serve the public in some way would certainly be something that I would consider. But that could take many forms beyond simply running for office.'”

5-18-20 Roanoke Times. Lewis: Pipelines endanger health. “Virginia’s pipeline industry has a troubling record of putting profit before people, a practice that becomes more dire in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. While many Virginians are taking important steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, either by staying home or working essential jobs to provide us all with the care and resources we need during this difficult time, some companies are still jeopardizing community health by sending workers out to do dangerous, non-essential labor. This includes the fossil fuel industry, which has deemed the construction of polluting, unpopular, unnecessary pipelines more important than the health or safety of workers, workers’ families, and ultimately, all of us.”

5-18-20 E&E Energywire. N.Y. rejects $1B pipeline over climate, water concerns. “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey blocked key water permits Friday for a controversial multistate natural gas pipeline, handing climate activists a victory and setting the stage for a standoff with EPA ahead of a rollout on Clean Water Act guidance.”

5-15-20 PepperLaw. State Opposition to EPA’s COVID-19 Enforcement Discretion Policy Increases as AGs File Suit. “On May 13, nine state attorneys general filed a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) challenging EPA’s COVID-19 enforcement discretion policy…. The plaintiff states are New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia. The complaint levies four primary allegations against EPA and its policy: (1) the discretion that EPA allows in the policy exceeds EPA’s legal authority; (2) EPA is abdicating its environmental enforcement responsibility under the law; (3) EPA implemented the policy without first providing opportunity for notice and comment; and (4) the policy is arbitrary and capricious. For relief, the AGs first request a declaratory judgment that the ‘policy was adopted without observance of procedure required by law; is in excess of EPA’s statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; is not in accordance with law; and is arbitrary and capricious.’ Additionally, the AGs request (1) that the policy be vacated; (2) that EPA be enjoined from applying the policy; (3) lawsuit/attorneys’ fee reimbursement; and (4) any other relief deemed ‘just and proper.'”

5-15-20 Roanoke Times. Judge dismisses lawsuit that contested Mountain Valley’s power of eminent domain. “Legal action has failed, once again, to undo the taking of private land for a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia. ‘This case presents the latest trickle in a veritable flood of litigation’ against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg wrote in an opinion last week dismissing the lawsuit.”

5-14-20 UtilityDive. Walmart blasts Virginia regulator’s report on pricing, biomass in Dominion’s proposed 100% renewable energy tariff. “Walmart, one of Dominion Energy’s largest customers in Virginia, warned regulators that their consideration of the utility’s plan to offer a 100% renewable energy option to C&I and residential customers includes unreasonable pricing, according to a Monday filing. An April report from Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) hearing examiner Mary Beth Adams recommended approving Dominion’s proposed tariff. The utility largely approves of Adams’s recommendations and wants to see the tariff approved quickly, to prevent customers from leaving its service. Walmart, alongside renewable energy advocates, said the premium would be paid for an inferior product, as it would include “energy that most customers do not consider to be renewable,” such as co-fired coal and biomass units. The company has long-opposed the tariff but noted a litany of oversights in the net-positive report from Adams.”

5-14-20 Virginia Mercury. What part of ‘zero’ doesn’t Dominion understand? “Dominion Energy Virginia filed its 2020 Integrated Resource Plan on May 1. Instead of charting the electric utility’s pathway to zero carbon emissions, it announced its intent to hang on to all its gas plants, and even add to the number. In doing so, it revealed a company so thoroughly wedded to fracked gas that it would rather flout Virginia law and risk its own future than do the hard work of transforming itself.”

5-13-20 E&E Energywire. EPA: ‘Big rollout’ coming to streamline energy permits. “Industry sources are expecting EPA to soon finalize a regulation intended to enhance federal control over pipeline approvals while diminishing states’ ability to block energy projects. The agency is set to release a rule this week or next that would ban states from considering issues other than water quality when issuing permits for pipelines or coal terminals, four sources said yesterday. EPA Chief of Staff Mandy Gunasekara yesterday also told ‘The Gallo Show,’ a Mississippi radio program, that ‘we’ve got a big rollout coming out. We have a regulatory action likely coming out later this week that will be a follow-up step to that which will improve the process by which states can assess projects and their impact to local water quality, but not use that as a means to unnecessarily slow that down,’ she said”

5-12-20 Blue Virginia. Federal Judge Deals Another Huge Blow to Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Yesterday, a federal judge in Montana issued an order with huge negative implications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The ruling, coming in a case brought to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, effectively prevents the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline from doing any construction across the thousands of waterways they would cross. …. The Keystone XL companies, joined by a group of industry powerhouses – including Dominion Energy – who intervened in the Montana case, filed papers asking Judge Morris to reverse himself, or at least modify his April ruling to apply only to the Keystone XL pipeline. They also asked the judge to stay his own order pending appeal. Judge Morris said no to both requests.”

5-12-20 Roanoke Times. Federal judge upholds ban on process for permitting pipelines, including Mountain Valley. “A federal judge has declined to lift his temporary ban on a permitting process for the crossing of streams and wetlands by oil and natural gas pipelines, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In an order late Monday, Montana U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris denied the Justice Department’s request for a stay pending an appeal of the case. Morris earlier struck down a streamlined method used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve waterbody crossings, ruling that the agency did not properly evaluate the potential harm to endangered species by the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canada to Nebraska. The sweeping ruling prevented other planned pipelines from obtaining a similar permit from the Army Corps until ‘completion of the consultation process and compliance with all environmental statutes and regulations’ — a process expected to take months.”

5-11-20 UtilityDive. Dominion’s nearly $50 monthly power bill hike in Virginia is a warning for other states. “Last Friday, Dominion Energy, which holds a monopoly over power generation and distribution in Virginia, offered state regulators a clean energy proposal with a stunning price tag: nearly $50 per month added to each customer’s power bill. Yet the utility’s plan only halves current carbon emissions by 2035 — with proposals including the addition of 5 GW of offshore wind and 2 GW of battery storage. While more cost-effective and efficient options to fight climate change likely exist — after all, onshore wind and solar are increasingly the least expensive energy technologies — the state has nowhere else to turn for power generation solutions. Dominion’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is the first filed under Virginia’s Clean Economy Act, which goes into effect on July 1, 2020, and requires 100% clean energy by 2050. The upshot is far from surprising: An aggressive, single-state clean energy goal paired with a powerful utility spells trouble for Virginia families and businesses already struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

5-11-20 Virginia Mercury. Even after pipeline pollution, DEQ is still resisting water protections and public participation. “The violations are clear in thousands of photographs, scientific study results, and other evidence given to DEQ but somehow agency officials can’t or, more plausibly, won’t see them. The DEQ is supposed to work for all of us and we will have a voice in efforts to finally fix our water quality standards – whether invited or not. We will no longer accept excuses and perpetual delays. You shouldn’t either.”

5-8-20 E&E Energywire. AGs press FERC to halt energy projects. “A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general is urging the Federal EnergyRegulatory Commission to pause energy infrastructure projects until the threat of the novel coronavirus has eased.Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh led the effort in a letter yesterday to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, asking him to declare an immediate moratorium on approvals of all new and pending natural gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, and related infrastructure projects until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.”

5-7-20 E&E Energywire. Feds find safety problems at W.Va pipeline project. “Federal pipeline regulators say they found unsafe construction practices at a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) worksite in West Virginia last summer. The warning letter from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said crews failed to build the line to specifications and placed pipe in ditches in a way that could damage it. Construction on the $5.5 billion, 300-mile gas pipeline is on hold because of legal challenges. PHMSA’s enforcement action, posted late Monday, comes on top of recent problems with land slippage in the pipeline path and a threat to a key federal wetlands permit.”

5-7-20 News Break. AG Mark Herring Urges FERC to Halt New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects During COVID-19 Crisis. “Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to impose an immediate moratorium on approvals of all new and pending applications for natural gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, and related fossil-fuel infrastructure projects until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.”

5-6-20 Augusta Free Press. Thousands tell Dominion: Abandon Atlantic Coast Pipeline Now. “Seventy-eight advocacy organizations from Virginia and across the country have signed onto a letter addressed to Dominion Energy shareholders asserting that new legislation and legal challenges have rendered the completion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline ‘unrealistic.’ The letter, displayed in a full-page Richmond Times-Dispatch ad and a half-page Washington Post ad published today, the day of Dominion Energy’s annual shareholder meeting, points to the pipeline’s $8 billion price tag, eight missing permits necessary for construction, and the fact that Dominion recently informed state regulators that ‘significant build-out of natural gas generation facilities is not currently viable’ under the state’s new law requiring Dominion to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.”

5-6-2020 Virginia Mercury. Dominion’s responsibility to shareholders: Abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A petition asking shareholders to abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being circulated. Unfortunately shareholders won’t have the power to do so at this year’s annual meeting today. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has on record two shareholder proposals for the 2020 Dominion annual meeting (Climate Risk and Human Rights and Climate Justice). However Dominion successfully petitioned the SEC to prevent them from being brought before the shareholders for a vote.”

5-5-20 Seeking Alpha. Dominion says Atlantic Coast pipeline cost, timeline depends on tree cutting OK. “Dominion Energy (D +3.3%) confirms its previous cost and schedule estimates for the $8B Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline project that is expected to enter service in early 2022. But that cost and schedule depends on the company being allowed to cut trees along the pipeline’s route during the upcoming November 2020-March 2021 season, Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell told today’s earnings conference call.”

5-4-20 Roanoke Times. Letter: Chambers should disavow pipeline. “[T]he state and regional Chambers of Commerce should be ashamed of their short-sighted, greedy support of the unneeded fracked-gas Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. My suggestion is that chamber members across Virginia will pay a big price for their respective leadership’s misguided pipeline-support position, in that it’s awfully easy, given current COVID-19 circumstances, for Southwest Virginia regional consumer/buyers to take their business to technology-driven ‘online-purchasing’ of routine goods and services now, and in the future.”

5-4-20 Roanoke Times. Report of pipeline slips in West Virginia under investigation, raises concern. “Land movement in a construction area shifted a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after it was buried along a West Virginia slope, according to a report filed by environmental regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report stated that ‘crews verified that the installed pipe shifted … in at least three locations south of Brush Run Road’ in Lewis County, about 50 miles from where the natural gas pipeline begins a 303-mile route that takes it through Southwest Virginia. Inspectors blamed the problem on what’s called a slip, or the gradual movement of land on its own in an area cleared for the pipeline.”

5-2-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter to the Editor, May 3, 2020: Energy giant should nix Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “With the Dominion Energy annual meeting set for May 6, CEO Thomas F. Farrell II could do shareholders, ratepayers and the environment a big favor by announcing the abandonment of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Climate science and energy economics make it pretty clear that the pipeline is a billion-dollar boondoggle.”

5-2-20 Common Dreams. No More Business as Usual: Halt Dangerous Development Projects That Put Our Health at Risk. “In North Carolina, fossil fuel giants Dominion and Duke Energy are pushing through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which threatens the public health and livelihoods of four tribes including the Lumbee – the largest Native tribe east of the Mississippi. Despite Native Americans being over-represented by a factor of ten along the North Carolina section of the pipeline route, tribal and other minority communities have been largely excluded from the decision-making process. Growing resistance to the pipeline has led two tribes to take their case to the Supreme Court, while resolutions supported by the National Congress of American Indians are calling for proper consultation with native nations.”

April 2020

4-28-20 New York Times. U.S. Court Ruling Could Threaten Pipeline Projects With Delays. “Several major U.S. oil and natural gas pipeline projects could be at risk of delays after a U.S. district judge in Montana this month said the Army Corps of Engineers had inappropriately used a national permit program, energy analysts said on Tuesday. …. Ann Nallo spokeswoman for Dominion Energy Inc, which is building the Atlantic Coast gas pipeline run from West Virginia to North Carolina, said ‘we’re following the developments to assess any impact.’ The company said it still expects the project to start up on schedule by early 2022.”

4-28-20 The Hill. House probe: Energy regulators almost always side with gas pipeline companies. “A probe conducted by the House Oversight and Reform Committee has found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) consistently sides with natural gas pipeline companies over property owners in certain land disputes. The committee found that in more than 99 percent of cases over the past 20 years, FERC has decided to give natural gas pipeline companies eminent domain; the move was approved 1,021 times and only rejected six times. Their investigation also determined that over the past 12 years, when landowners have sought to appeal FERC’s decision to give companies eminent domain over their property, in every case the commission has issued an order extending its time frame to respond. The appeals were ultimately denied every time.”

4-28-20 E&E Energywire. Chatterjee defends how FERC treats protesting landowners. “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee says his agency has been doing a “great job” in speeding up the process for complaints from landowners in the path of pipelines. But the agency won’t provide numbers to back that up, and an E&E News analysis of recent protests found many still move slowly. And landowner advocates say Chatterjee’s attempt at accelerating cases doesn’t get at the real problem. …. The agency press office said it could not supply figures to confirm the average processing time of less than two months cited by Chatterjee. An E&E News analysis found that of seven pipeline hearing requests between Sept. 1 and March 1, only one —involving a Tennessee Gas Pipeline upgrade —was decided within two months. Four took longer —between 76 and 87 days. Two others are still in limbo. A request for rehearing on an Atlantic Bridge compressor station in Massachusetts is undecided after more than 120 days. A protest of the Mountain Valley pipeline has been pendingfor more than 200 days. In all cases, the commission denied the opponents’ request for rehearing.

4-27-20 Southern Environmental Law Center. Press release: D.C. Circuit Hears Challenge to Unjust FERC Practice Used to Advance Construction of Unnecessary Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Today, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard a challenge to a systematic practice by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that prevents landowners and communities from challenging FERC’s decisions in court before energy infrastructure projects get under way—including FERC’s approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a rare telephonic argument before the full court, challengers to the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline project argued for an end to FERC’s practice of issuing ‘tolling orders,’ which allows construction to begin—and, in some cases, allows entire pipelines to be completed—before court challenges to FERC’s approval can proceed.”

4-27-20 E&ENews. Court battle could upend ‘Kafkaesque’ FERC approvals. “A high-profile legal dispute over the federal government’s process for considering landowner challenges to energy projects is coming to a head today in a historic remote hearing before a prominent appeals court. The full slate of active U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit judges could choose to overturn long-standing precedent allowing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use “tolling orders” that effectively block property owners from going to court while greenlighting construction of projects — like the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline — on their land. …. Environmental groups and landowners today will ask the court to enforce a congressionally mandated deadline that gives FERC 30 days after a rehearing request is filed to either approve or deny a project. FERC has bypassed this requirement by consistently issuing tolling orders allowing indefinite consideration of pleas for rehearing.”

4-24-20 Virginia Mercury. Clean air and clean water are more important now than ever. “In the face of the greatest public health crisis in decades, we are more aware than ever of the connection between environmental protection, public and individual health and a strong economy. As we enter a new decade of environmentalism, it is worth reflecting on how far we have come so we can move forward with confidence and commitment to address new and urgent challenges. …. The challenges ahead will require innovative approaches to environmental protection that extend into much more complex areas of public policy such as addressing climate change, environmental justice and sustainable economic development. As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, community health is a vital component of community resilience. To that end, with direction and support from the governor’s office and the secretary of natural resources, DEQ is invested in being part of the solution. We are currently engaged in a wholesale review of our environmental justice procedures, we are committed to transparency, public accessibility of our work and establishing programs to continue to effectively administer our environmental protection programs.”

4-24-20 E&E EnergyWire. How a GOP-backed plan threatens the Atlantic Coast pipeline. “Virginia recently enacted a Republican-sponsored ratepayer protection measure that may spell trouble for the controversial Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline. While the law didn’t attract as much attention as the state’s landmark Clean Economy Act —whichtargets 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 —consumer and environmental activists say the provision, in tandem with the CEA, could throw up big obstacles for the proposed 600-mile-long gas line. …. The law stipulates a utility cannot recoup the costs of large new gas pipelines from its captive ratepayers unless it can prove that infrastructure is necessary for reliability and is the least-cost way to meet electricity demands. In other words, Dominion Energy Inc., Virginia’s large investor-owned utility and the lead developer of the Atlantic Coast pipeline, must prove the project is the best, cheapest way to keep the lights on in the Old Dominion if it’s going to make customers foot the bill for the capacity it has contracted.”

4-24-20 SCOTUSblog. Courtroom access: “There’s got to be a better way to do this”  “At around the same time, the clients – Johnson called them ‘the suits’ – began to arrive to take the places that the line-standers had been holding for them for nearly 12 hours. A man who arrived a little later offered Johnson $500 for his spot in line. Johnson retorted that, just as with the pipeline, his place ‘ain’t for sale.’ …. Like Johnson, Wilkin said, she had ‘planned to go up for the case as soon as the date for arguments was announced, and in this fight we’ve all had our fair share of being left out or pushed out of the room. This just hit home more than those other times. To me it was the most clear-cut instance of industry executives paying their way into a seat at the table, while many of us impacted by these projects are left out in the cold.'”

4-24-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley says pipeline still on track despite issues with permit program. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline is still targeting a completion date of late this year, a spokeswoman said Friday, despite reports of the suspension of a nationwide program needed to grant a key permit it lacks.”

4-24-20 Food & Water Watch. This Federal Agency Closes Its Eyes To The Climate Crisis, So We’re Suing Them. “The lawsuit, Food & Water Watch and Berkshire Environmental Action Team v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is in response to the December 2019 FERC approval of the “261 Upgrade Project,” which consists of two miles of new pipeline and a new 11,000 horsepower compressor unit near Springfield, Massachusetts — the worst city for asthma sufferers in the entire country. Shortly after, our legal team began work challenging this reckless approval with one of the local groups on the ground fighting the project, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, which has been documenting how this new source of air pollution will devastate local communities that are already overburdened with unhealthy air. Our goal is simple: Make FERC factor in climate change in its permitting decisions, since they are ignoring legal requirements and court orders to do so.”

4-24-20 Virginia Mercury. State Corporation Commission should pause process on natural gas project. “The State Corporation Commission did the right thing when, weeks ago, it chose to officially suspend the disconnection of utility services in light of the pandemic. Now, it should do the next right thing by suspending the consideration of new fossil fuel infrastructure permits, at least until Virginians have a chance to address the immediate medical and economic crisis we face from COVID-19.”

4-22-20 E&E Energywire.  ‘A big deal’: Keystone XL ruling could threaten other pipelines. “A sweeping court ruling last week that halted construction of the Keystone XL pipeline through waterways set off alarm bells for some energy industry analysts.Experts warned that the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana’s broad order withdrawing a nationwide Clean Water Act permit for the crude oil project connecting Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico could also affect a pair of East Coast natural gas pipelines and an oil sands conduit between Canada and Wisconsin.”

4-20-20 UtilityDive. Report: Natural gas is a loser for long-term utility shareholder value. “Investment into new natural gas infrastructure like pipelines and power plants is ‘incompatible’ with long-term shareholder value, and thus it is in the best interest of the investor community to push utilities away from natural gas, according to a new report from corporate social responsibility group As You Sow and environmental consulting firm Energy Innovation. Major utility companies such as Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Southern Co. and American Electric Power have adopted goals of net-zero or close to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, but those companies are also planning new natural gas infrastructure that will undercut these decarbonization goals and hurt investors in the long run, the report said.”

4-20-20 Virginia Mercury. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is looking like a riskier investment every day. “When announcing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, its owners, including Dominion Energy, said the project is essential for us to have the energy we need, will save us millions of dollars each year, foster economic development and be a windfall for shareholders. Events since the announcement demonstrate that none of the claims are likely to be true.”

4-16-20 The Recorder. Troubled 600-mile pipeline’s need under scrutiny again. “A motion the Virginia State Corporation Commission approved last week again suggested a lack of need for – and unsound rationale behind — the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. An Associated Press article spotlighted the issue, focusing on the pipeline need controversy and quoting a source describing it as an albatross. According to the SCC filing, construction of more gas power plants, the reason Dominion Energy cited for the pipeline in the first place, is no longer feasible in light of passage of renewable energy legislation.”

4-15-20 Courthouse News Service. Virginia High Court Hears Trespass Case Against Pipeline Firm. “The Virginia Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to clarify a state law governing how natural gas companies give notice to landowners when they want to survey private property without permission. At issue is surveying for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a more than 300-mile project that aims to bring natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina and beyond. In April 2016, surveyors for the pipeline company entered Fred W. Vest’s land in Bent Mountain, Virginia. Vest had denied the company access to his land and when they showed up anyway, following a series of communications and a second notice, he filed a trespass case against the company’s employees.”

4-13-20 Energy News Network. New Virginia law could be Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s greatest barrier yet. “Virginia environmentalists are confident that a bipartisan ratepayer-protection measure championed by a House Republican will spell doom for Dominion Energy’s fiercely debated Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Not surprisingly, however, Dominion is still convinced the $8 billion natural gas pipeline still has a bright future. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed HB 167 into law in early April, barely a month after the General Assembly wrapped up this year’s ambitious session. Both the Senate and the House of Delegates had voted unanimously to pass the legislation, introduced by Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan. Briefly, Ware’s measure adds an extra level of scrutiny. It protects customers from paying for large new gas pipelines if utility regulators determine that the capacity of such infrastructure is not necessary for reliability and is not the least-cost way to meet electricity demand. Peter Anderson of Charlottesville, senior program manager for Appalachian Voices in Virginia, applauded Northam and the legislature for ensuring that regulators now have the appropriate tools to prevent electric monopolies from gouging consumers by constructing unnecessary pipelines.”

4-13-20 Pulitzer Center. Community Fights Construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Throughout Virginia and West Virginia along the pipeline route, a coalition of neighbors have come together in a variety of ways to protect the places they call home and have strengthened their communities in the process. With their work, they hope to offer a model for support and base-building in a world increasingly suffering from environmental harm. …. ‘We want to stop the pipeline. We want to make sure that no Democrat ever runs statewide with a pro-pipeline agenda, and we want to make it so difficult for these pipeline companies to come to Virginia that no pipeline ever dreams about trying to come through Virginia in the future,’ Delegate Sam Rasoul, who represents Roanoke in the Virginia House of Delegates, said in an interview.”

4-13-20 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Pipeline may become even less viable. ” Shale drillers have been, and will be, going out of business. Though the federal government may prop them up, that’s only a short-term fix. Which brings us to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is intended to move natural gas from such drilling operations. Dominion Energy continues to fight in the courts for this albatross, including in the Supreme Court. Why? It no longer makes any sense (not that it ever did). Dominion stands to lose gargantuan amounts of money on this ill-conceived project, not even considering the damage COVID-19 will do. And those of you ratepayers who depend on Dominion for your electricity, you’re going to pay the price. So are those of us in the pipeline’s path. It is in the company’s best interests to pull the plug now, rather than throwing good money after bad. It will be way worse if the company persists.”

4-10-20 Virginia Mercury. FERC has a big pipeline problem. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a pipeline problem. A really, really big one. According to publicly available information on FERC’s website, the commission approved no fewer than 46 onshore gas pipeline ‘mega-projects’ from 1997 to 2019. These largest-of-the-large pipeline projects consist of gas pipelines measuring 24 to 42 inches in diameter, with over 100 miles of new pipeline. FERC’s most productive years during this time period were 2007 and 2017, when the commission approved nine and eight pipeline mega-projects, respectively. What immediately stands out is how notorious the class of 2017 is in terms of environmental impacts and operational risks. The roster is a veritable who’s who of fracked gas behemoths, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and Rover Pipeline, among others. It seriously calls into question FERC’s understanding, and exercise, of its role as a true ‘regulatory’ body.”

4-10-20 Virginia Mercury. After Clean Economy Act, Dominion says ‘significant build-out’ of new gas plants no longer viable. “Although it has not yet been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, the Virginia Clean Economy Act passed by the General Assembly this March has already spurred changes to the long-term plans of Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility. On March 24, Dominion asked regulators to waive a requirement that as part of its long-term planning it comprehensively assess the risk and impact of new natural gas plants on the grounds that ‘significant build-out of natural gas generation facilities is not currently viable, with the passage by the General Assembly of the Virginia Clean Economy Act.'”

4-8-20 Daily Progress. Dominion: Significant new natural gas generation not viable. “Dominion Energy Virginia recently told state regulators ‘significant build-out’ of natural gas-fired power plants is no longer viable because of renewable energy legislation lawmakers passed earlier this year. The disclosure came in a filing with the State Corporation Commission several weeks before Dominion has to file its integrated resource plan, or IRP, a long-range planning document that describes how the utility will generate power to comply with regulations and meet customer needs. The company’s critics called it the latest development to raise questions about why the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the approximately $8 billion multistate natural gas pipeline the utility’s parent company is spearheading, is needed.”

4-8-20 The Enterprise [NC]. Pipeline opponent wants appraisers off his property. “A farmer living along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route is asking Nash County [NC] officials to halt appraisers from entering his home during a statewide stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Marvin Winstead, founder of Nash Stop the Pipeline, has asked the Nash County Board of Commissioners to reject the pipeline project, citing reductions in safety measures and alleged harassment of landowners, according to a letter delivered to the board Friday. …. ‘Over the last few days I have been harassed by Dominion attorneys to allow out-of-state assessors onto my property and even into my home as part of the ongoing eminent domain process,’ Winstead states in the letter.

4-6-20 Blue Virginia. New Pipeline Construction is Non-Essential & Endangers Us Now More Than Ever; Protect All Rural Regions from Virus. “Twenty organizations representing thousands of Virginians sent a letter to Governor Northam, Secretary Valentine and Secretary Moran with the following plea: ‘It is imperative during the Covid-19 pandemic to protect the health of all Virginians by preventing gas construction projects to continue until after the crisis passes. Please issue instructions that gas construction workers are non-essential and are not allowed to work or to set up camps in Virginia.’ It is terrifying to see the caravans of pipeline workers returning to our area with license plates from other territories where strict guidelines have not been implemented to protect those regions.”

4-6-20 Energy News Network. Virginia bill will put more pressure on Dominion Energy to justify cost recovery. “A scantly noticed bill curated by a freshman legislator from northern Virginia elicited giant cheers from Dominion Energy watchdogs when it passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates just seven days before the General Assembly adjourned on March 12. Though overshadowed by the Virginia Clean Economy Act, supporters view the success of House Bill 528 as a momentous first effort to shift power from utility monopolies and toward regulators and ratepayers. On its face, the measure deftly shepherded by Del. Suhas Subramanyam is simple. It restores the State Corporation Commission’s oversight of Dominion’s cost recovery timeline for early retirements of all types of power plants. …. Subramanyam’s measure reverses current law, passed in 2018 as part of the massive Grid Transformation and Security Act. That allowed Dominion to recover — as a one-time expense — the remaining balance on a retired power plant instead of refunding the extra earnings to customers.”

4-3-20 Hays Free Press [TX]  Well water tests underway after pipeline crew hits Karst feature. “On March 28, reportedly during the first day of drilling, a Kinder Morgan contractor trying to bore a pilot hole under the river near Chimney Hill Road in Blanco County hit a karst feature, losing all the drilling fluid and mud down the hole. Within days, water that was either tan and foamy or mud-colored began coming out of the taps at three homes about a mile away.”

4-3-20 E&E Energywire. FERC eases enforcement rules. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced yesterday additional measures to relax enforcement for a host of regulations, including a halt to any new Office of Enforcement audits until the end of July. The rollbacks are part of wider efforts aimed at helping the electric and natural gas sectors as they respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to FERC. ‘Regulated entities are taking extraordinary steps to ensure continuity for our energy systems during this unprecedented time, ‘Republican FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement. ‘We’re doing all we can to lift regulatory burdens and uncertainty, so that the focus can remain on critical front-line efforts.’ Chief among those changes is direction to the Office of Enforcement staff to work more flexibly with ongoing audits and investigations, and schedule no new audits until after July 31.”

4-2-20 News Leader. Pipeline companies continued work jeopardizes public health in Virginia. “Virginia’s pipeline industry has a troubling record of putting profit before people, a practice that becomes more dire in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. While many Virginians are taking important steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, either by staying home or working essential jobs to provide us all with the care and resources we need during this difficult time, some companies are still jeopardizing community health by sending workers out to do dangerous, non-essential labor.”

4-1-20 The Guardian. Will the coronavirus kill the oil industry and help save the climate? “The plunging demand for oil wrought by the coronavirus pandemic combined with a savage price war has left the fossil fuel industry broken and in survival mode, according to analysts. It faces the gravest challenge in its 100-year history, they say, one that will permanently alter the industry. With some calling the scene a “hellscape”, the least lurid description is ‘unprecedented’. A key question is whether this will permanently alter the course of the climate crisis. Many experts think it might well do so, pulling forward the date at which demand for oil and gas peaks, never to recover, and allowing the atmosphere to gradually heal.”

4-1-20 Virginia Mercury. Despite EPA decision, Virginia says polluters must ‘make every effort’ to comply with environmental regulations. “Virginia will not relax its enforcement of environmental regulations despite an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week that it won’t impose civil penalties on polluting facilities that don’t comply with routine monitoring and reporting obligations during the coronavirus pandemic. ‘All regulated entities are expected to make every effort to comply with environmental compliance obligations, adhere to permit limits and maintain the safe and environmentally protective operation of their facilities,’ said Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor in a news release Tuesday.”

4-1-20 Kallanish Energy. Federal biological review delayed for MVP. “A federal review of the under-construction Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and its impacts on endangered or threatened wildlife has been delayed again, Kallanish Energy reports. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Mountain Valley Pipeline last week agreed to take another 32 days to April 27 to complete the biological review. It was the third delay in getting that review completed. The biological permits are among three suspended permits that the company must be granted again by federal agencies before the pipeline can be completed.”

March 2020

3-29-20 Bacon’s Rebellion. Is It the Death Knell For Dominion’s Pipeline? “But now there’s clear evidence that the fracking boom is over, and that has huge implications for the ACL project. The reason? Oil and gas prices have dropped thanks to a perfect storm of issues. There’s the coronavirus pandemic tanking the U.S. economy, bitter energy wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the fact that fracking gas and oil rigs are enormously expensive and wells can produce for only a short period. The Hill reported last week: ‘Oil sank to $23 (a barrel) from a high of $53 in mid-February, far below the break even point that producers need to drill new wells to maintain supply, and with volumes rapidly diminishing at existing wells.’ …. The situation has clear implications for the ACL project which was conceived at the height of the Marcellus boom.”

3-28-10 Roanoke Times. Federal reviews delay Mountain Valley Pipeline yet again. “A winter hiatus in construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will last well into the spring. The latest delay came this week, with word that two federal agencies will take another month to review one of several approvals — set aside by legal challenges from environmental groups — that must be restored before work can ramp up on the highly disputed natural gas pipeline.

3-27-20 The American Prospect. The Constitutional Option to Fight the Climate Crisis. “Ubiquitous pipelines crisscrossing America and worries over climate change raise the question: Does transporting oil and gas serve the public interest?” [Detailed discussion of eminent domain case over Louisiana pipeline]

3-27-20 Virginia Mercury. Virginia made big commitments to renewables. What does the economic slump mean for them? “Three weeks ago, Virginia’s Democrat-led General Assembly passed the most ambitious plan for transitioning off of fossil fuels and onto renewable energy sources to come out of the South yet. It was a banner moment for environmentalists. Among the promises they secured were state commitments to build out 24 gigawatts of solar, wind and energy storage by 2035 — almost 40 percent more than the existing capacity of the fossil fuel units owned by the state’s largest utility, Dominion Energy — and annual targets that would bind the utilities to progressively including more and more renewables in their energy portfolios. Then the new coronavirus hit, and the financial markets tanked. …. What that will mean for Virginia’s planned buildout is not yet clear.”

3-27-20 Inside Climate News. Trump’s Move to Suspend Enforcement of Environmental Laws is a Lifeline to the Oil Industry. “The American Petroleum Institute sought the EPA’s help for companies hurt by COVID-19. One former EPA official called the suspension ‘an open license to pollute.’ The Trump administration’s unprecedented decision to suspend enforcement of U.S. environmental laws amid the COVID-19 crisis throws a lifeline to the oil industry as it copes with the greatest threat to its business in a generation.”

3-26-20 E&E Energywire. Is pipeline construction ‘essential’ in a pandemic?   “In Virginia and West Virginia, construction is suspended on the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) due to legal challenges by environmental groups (Energywire, Oct. 17, 2019). But the developer, a joint venture led by EQT Corp., says shutdown orders allow work to continue, and it is focusing on maintaining erosion and sediment control measures. That angers Elizabeth Struthers Malbon of Blacksburg, Va., who complained to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the developer is continuing to bring in temporary workers. ‘MVP and FERC have no right to ignore the public danger to citizens who live in the vicinity’ of the pipeline, she said in a comment posted on the FERC docket this week. A spokeswoman for the pipeline did not respond to a request for comment.”

3-26-20 Roanoke Times.  Economic slowdown not affecting many outdoor construction projects. “While business closures and work-from-home orders have altered the employment scene for many Southwest Virginians, most outdoor construction projects are moving forward. Workers on highway improvements, home and commercial construction and other projects generally have more room for the social distancing that is being called for in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. …. Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has been largely stalled in recent months by the suspension of permits for environmental reasons, is not expected to be further slowed, according to company spokeswoman Natalie Cox.”

3-25-20 Roanoke Times. Bowers, Christopulos and Smusz: COVID-19 and an army of pipeline workers don’t mix. “We all have grave concerns about COVID-19. Restaurants, public facilities and churches have closed. Everyone is asked to stay home and gather in groups smaller than ten. But out-of-state natural gas corporations either don’t pay attention to current news, or maybe they just don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s owners are preparing to unleash thousands of pipeline workers in six Virginia counties (Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania), most of them non-local. Each of these workers is a potential virus carrier. …. This is not the time to bring in an army of out-of-state workers with the threat of COVID-19 contamination to local residents, requiring food and health care that are already in short supply. MVP construction should be suspended indefinitely.”

3-25-20 Law.com Why a SCOTUS Case Over the Atlantic Pipeline Project Could Have Big Implications. “While the case currently before the Supreme Court is a multifaceted dispute, it primarily centers on the intersection of two federal statutes: the Mineral Leasing Act and the National Trails System Act. The Mineral Leasing Act gives the Forest Service, a unit of the Department of Agriculture, authority to grant rights-of-way for natural gas pipelines through all federal lands, ‘except lands in the National Park System.’ That language is pretty clear. The debate before the court, however, hinges on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of whether or not the Appalachian Trail is considered a unit of the National Park System in the context of the Mineral Leasing Act. The National Trails System Act gives the National Park Service authority to administer the Appalachian Trail; and the National Park Service Organic Act was amended in 1970 to incorporate ‘any area of land and water administered by’ the National Park Service into the National Park System. So, is the Appalachian Trail part of the National Park System?”

3-25-20 Blue Virginia. Why on Earth Is Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction Considered “Essential Infrastructure” During COVID-19 Crisis? “[I]t’s really galling, given that so many other businesses – including ones that are net positives to society – have had to shut down, while a business focused on building more of what we know is harming the environment, contributing to pollution and the climate crisis, etc., gets an exemption because it’s supposedly ‘essential.’ Other than there being a lot of money tied up in the Mountain Valley Pipeline project, what on earth is ‘essential’ about building more dirty, destructive, likely-to-be-economically-‘stranded’-in-a-few-years, fracked-gas distribution capacity?” See also the petition to governors of Virginia and West Virginia asking them to add transient pipeline construction workers from across the country to the non-essential stay-at-home list, until after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

3-25-20 Earth Justice. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Prevails as Federal Judge Strikes Down DAPL Permits. “A federal court today granted a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to strike down federal permits for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The Court found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it affirmed federal permits for the pipeline originally issued in 2016. Specifically, the Court found significant unresolved concerns about the potential impacts of oil spills and the likelihood that one could take place.”

3-23-20 Bloomberg Environment. Virus Leads Pipeline Agency to Ease Job Qualification Rules. “A federal safety agency is helping hazardous material transporters and pipeline operators prepare for the spread of Covid-19 by easing staff training and qualifications requirements. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a stay on enforcement March 20, applicable only to requirements for pipeline operator employee qualifications and training. …. The pipeline industry is preparing to operate with a workforce potentially reduced by illness or quarantines, said Bryn Karaus, who focuses on pipeline regulation in her position of counsel for Van Ness Feldman LLP in Washington. Qualified employees are required to conduct specific tasks, like inspecting pipelines for corrosion or leaks. During the pandemic, if training isn’t available, pipeline operators may have to substitute other employees, Karaus said.”

3-23-20 Utility Dive. Utilities beginning to see the load impacts of COVID-19 as economic shutdown widens. “It has been less than a week since states and major cities began instituting quarantines along with stay-home and shelter-in-place directives to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The full impacts on electricity usage are not yet known, but grid operators say demand is both shifting and falling. Data from overseas may give an indication of just how steep the declines could become. Italy instituted lockdowns and closed essential businesses earlier this month, in response to a spike in novel coronavirus infections. According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the country has since witnessed a significant decline in electricity demand. …. In the United States, grid operators say it is too soon to get a firm handle on the impacts of coronavirus shutdowns, but some are already seeing usage declines.”

3-19-20 Energy News Network. Q&A: NRDC attorney on the legal issues behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline challenge. “A self-described “FERC nerd,” Gillian Giannetti explains what Supreme Court justices are now considering.”

3-19-20 The Recorder. FERC urged to stop major projects due to virus spread [letter to FERC ACP docket]. “FERC must halt all large-scale construction on projects that are not critically important. These pipeline construction projects bring in transient workers into very vulnerable rural communities and place not only workers, but those communities at great risk.”

3-17-20 Virginia Mercury. Can an unusual coalition budge Congress on pipeline reforms? “Property rights advocates and environmentalists are often foes when it comes to federal regulations. But they’ve found some common ground in their shared desire to prod Congress and the courts to overhaul the federal permitting process for natural gas pipelines. Property rights advocates contend that the current system enables industry to unfairly seize land for energy infrastructure projects, which have been criticized as speculative ventures increasingly connected to a need for new gas. Environmentalists are wary of the climate change implications of burning the natural gas slated to be carried through new pipelines.”

3-16-20 pv magazine. Traditionally non-partisan FERC is politicized with 3-1 Republican majority. “Despite violating, in the words of Senator Joe Manchin, ‘proper decorum’ and ‘simple civility,’ the Senate confirmed James Danly as the third Republican on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Danly’s first nomination had been rejected earlier this year. The Commission has traditionally been non-partisan, and traditionally, the party of the nominees are alternated — ‘pairing’ the nominations. Legally, no more than three chairs can be held by one party. Richard Glick is the one Democrat on the Commission. The FERC Chair is Neil Chatterjee, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The other Republican, Bernard McNamee, was deputy general counsel for energy policy at the Department of Energy.”

3-16-20 Seeking Alpha. Dominion Remains Overvalued Even After The Sell-Off. “The market plunge has created value opportunities, but I do not believe Dominion Energy is one of these. The firm’s lower recent net income figures and high-debt load will affect growth in the near term. In the sharp market downturn that occurred on 03/12/2020, several value opportunities have emerged. However, Richmond, Virginia-based electric and gas utility Dominion Energy (D) is not one of these, I contend, and still has further to fall before it can be considered fairly valued.”

3-16-20 Charlotte Observer. As the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline soars, renewable energy is the better option for NC. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a long way from being constructed, but it’s already proving a leaky conduit for cash. The cost keeps rising for the proposed 600-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia, through Virginia and down to the southern border of North Carolina in Robeson County. Estimated in November 2018 to cost $5.1 billion, the project jointly owned by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, is now expected to cost approximately $8 billion, a 60 percent jump in a year and a half. …. Last week, a collection of more than 70 social justice, clean energy and faith groups called on Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a climate emergency and block further construction or expansion of natural gas-fired power plants and pipelines. In a letter to the governor, the groups said, ‘We contend that ’coping’ with this ongoing emergency includes the authority to help prevent it from growing worse indefinitely.'”

3-14-20 Salon. Energy companies get a free hand as FERC ties homeowners in legal knots. “Trump energy regulators are using an obscure bureaucratic maneuver to allow pipeline companies to legally seize land and start construction while pipeline opponents are in legal limbo. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has used this ploy, upheld in a 1969 case, to stall opposition for decades. The commission’s general counsel is James Danly, a relatively inexperienced attorney Trump nominated for a commission seat. Danly has stalled every timely request for a rehearing in the past two years. That means pipeline challengers can’t go to court until the commission decides to stop stalling them.”

3-13-20 Mountain Xpress [Asheville NC]  Local groups join call for state climate emergency declaration. “More than 70 youth, social justice, clean energy and faith groups, among others, today called on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to join more than 1,400 local and national governments by formally declaring a climate emergency. The top target of their letter and a statewide campaign escalation is a giant expansion of fracked natural gas projects that Duke Energy is building or planning, and which leading climate experts are urging Cooper to cancel. At a press conference today in Raleigh, speakers from youth groups and communities hit by repeated hurricanes and targeted by Duke’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) urged the Governor to use his Emergency Management Act authority to help prevent continuing pain – by halting the expansion of gas, a leading cause of accelerating climate chaos – rather than just responding to ongoing disasters.”

3-12-20 Nelson County Times. Letter: ACP: a pipeline to nowhere. “May 2020 will mark six years since more than 200 Nelson County landowners received the first letters from the Southern Reliability Project, since renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. During this six-year period, natural gas prices have plummeted, and a glut remains. More than 200 oil and gas companies have filed for bankruptcy involving $127 billion in debt since 2015. Chesapeake Energy, the grandfather of natural gas fracking, is currently trading at 22 cents per share. And, West Virginia natural gas drillers are selling off leases or filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. Pipeline construction nationwide is being put on hold or canceled. …. If industry giants like Kinder Morgan and Williams are making adjustments, and West Virginia’s drilling rig counts are continuing to drop (down 31 percent from last year) where the ACP originates, why is Dominion continuing to fight to save this pipeline?”

3-10-20 Courthouse News Service. Judge Rules Against Virginia County in Challenge to Pipeline Project. “A federal judge has sided with a pipeline company in a dispute over the permitting powers of local governments, a win for the beleaguered natural gas producer after several setbacks in court. …. Senior U.S. District Judge Norman Moon, a Bill Clinton appointee, sided with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC in a ruling issued Monday, finding federal law superseded the county’s effort to block the project.”

3-10-20 Roanoke Times. DEQ notes problems with erosion control during lull in work on Mountain Valley Pipeline. “At a time when building the Mountain Valley Pipeline was focused almost entirely on controlling erosion, muddy runoff continued to flow from dormant construction sites. In a letter last month to a conservation group that first raised the issue, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said the infractions would be forwarded to the state attorney general’s office, which has the authority to seek tough financial penalties. …. But no demand had apparently been made by Tuesday [March 10, 2020]. DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said the agency is ‘compiling noncompliance information monthly’ and will notify Mountain Valley, in conjunction with the attorney general, of any violations or penalties.”

3-10-20 Roanoke Times. Editorial: What the Constitution Pipeline says about Virginia’s pipelines. “Both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines were proposed in 2014, one year after the Constitution. Today the MVP is about 90% complete while no pipe has been laid for the ACP — although trees have been cut in some places. Both projects are now halted by those same ‘legal challenges’ that frustrated the Constitution, just not ones filed by Virginia state government. If either McAuliffe or Northam had opposed pipelines the way Cuomo does, might both be getting cancelled today the way the Constitution has been? This is one of those great ‘what ifs’?”

3-10-20 Utility Dive. Duke, Dominion, Southern won’t hit clean energy targets at current pace: Report. “Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals, according to a report released Monday from Synapse Energy Economics. …. ‘[C]ontrary to what Southern Company, Dominion Energy, and Duke Energy say on their websites, in television ads, and in shareholder reports and pamphlets, the three companies are thus far taking minimal actions to decarbonize their electricity systems,’ according to the report. ‘[N]one of the three companies examined in this report will meet their 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals under their current resource plans.'”

3-7-20 Cleveland19. Dominion Energy Ohio may face $2.5 million fine for Pepper Pike [OH] gas line explosion. “A new report filed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recommends Dominion Energy Ohio should forfeit $2.5 million for failure to comply with Pipeline Safety Regulations requirements that caused or contributed to this incident for the gas line explosion that happened last year.”

3-6-20 Utility Dive. Virginia passes bill to bring scrutiny to coal plant closures, despite Dominion opposition.  “The Virginia Senate passed a bipartisan House bill 35-5 on Thursday, giving state regulators control of cost recovery over power plant retirements, despite opposition from Dominion Energy. The bill would require the Virginia State Corporation Commission to determine the length of time that a utility can recover “any appropriate costs” from retiring coal and gas generation early. The measure undoes a former provision that gave Dominion the flexibility to skirt refunds on coal and natural gas plants retired early. The bill is seen as a key example of the Democrat-led legislature standing up to Dominion, despite nearly a decade of successful lobbying from the utility. However, Dominion saw many wins as the legislative session winds down, including the advancement of bills that would guarantee utility cost recovery of offshore wind development.”

3-5-20 News5Cleveland. Report recommends Dominion Energy Ohio forfeit $2.5 million for last year’s Pepper Pike gas explosion. “An initial report released by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has recommended that Dominion Energy Ohio forfeit $2.5 million for a gas pipeline explosion that happened last year in Pepper Pike. According to an investigation report released last month by PUCO, ‘evidence shows that a failure to follow established welding procedures, insufficient inspection and oversight at the construction site, and lack of procedures and training regarding auger boring, which led to the pipeline being subject to excessive strain, all played a role in the failure of the pipeline.'”

3-5-20 WDBJ7. Franklin County collects nearly $1M in unpaid taxes from MVP contractors. “For Franklin County Commissioner of the Revenue Margaret Torrence, this story begins in 2018. Riding around the county, she noticed Mountain Valley Pipeline contractors had dozens of pieces of equipment lying around. All of it was taxable property. But those taxes weren’t getting paid. ‘It’s been worth the time that it took to pursue it,’ said Torrence. Torrence identified at least 24 MVP contractors and subcontractors who owed the county unpaid personal property taxes. She began working to collect the money last fall. Now, after months of letters, emails and research, she says those companies are finally paying up. ‘We were able to bill, and collect, to date, $876,621.18. So that’s a significant amount of revenue,’ said Torrence. …. In Franklin County, MVP contractors and subcontractors still owe tens of thousands of dollars. The two companies with delinquent accounts owe about $62,000. Others owe thousands more. Torrence says she’ll continue pursing all of these companies until they’ve paid their bills.”

3-5-20 Bloomberg Environment. Insight: Fourth Circuit Rules ‘Environmental Justice Is Not Merely a Box to Be Checked’  “The Fourth Circuit’s decision indicates that thorough consideration of a planned project’s potential impact on environmental justice communities is a concrete compliance requirement. Concerns around environmental justice have previously played a critical role in delaying energy projects. …. Given what appears to be an emerging trend requiring compliance, the regulated community should carefully consider environmental justice laws and their import when planning and seeking approval of major, capital-intensive projects.”

3-4-20 Fredricksburg.com. Letter: Market reasons not to build Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “There were good reasons to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2013, reasons that were articulated in your March 1 editorial [‘Atlantic Coast Pipeline even more needed now’]. But today we have reached the end of the ‘natural gas bridge’ to clean energy. The heat-trapping CO2 in our atmosphere is the highest it has been in 3 million years, and we now know that methane emissions from natural gas are 85 times worse than CO2 while they are in the atmosphere. Here are some market reasons not to build the ACP….”

3-4-20 Forbes. Utility Investors Risk Billions In Rush To Natural Gas: Is It A Bridge To Climate Breakdown? “The U.S. power sector’s rush to build out natural gas capacity risks far more than locking in emissions that would bust the Paris climate targets – it also poses tens of billions in financial risk to utility investors. Once commonly considered a ‘bridge fuel,’ electric utilities now must face the mathematical reality that fast-falling clean energy costs mean the bridge only leads to climate breakdown and the destruction of shareholder value. A new report from Energy Innovation and shareholder advocacy group As You Sow outlines these evolving risks for shareholders, strategies for investors to accelerate decarbonization, and policies for utilities to cut financial risk from over-reliance on natural gas through new clean energy investment.”

3-4-20 Virginia Mercury. Governor signs bill making Virginia Council on Environmental Justice permanent. “After almost two years of operating on a temporary basis, the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice became permanent Wednesday when Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill establishing it as an advisory body to the executive branch. ‘It’s past time we created a permanent council on environmental justice,’ said Northam in a statement. ‘This bill will help to ensure communities are directly involved in the decisions that affect them most, and will help prevent vulnerable Virginians from being disproportionately impacted by pollution, climate change and environmental hazards.'”

3-4-20 Roanoke Times. Letter: Pipeline bust or BOOM? “One critical part has been left out of most pipeline conversations. We know that, despite stealing land via eminent domain and destroying environmentally sensitive areas, MVP can indeed build a pipeline. But can they actually operate it safely?

3-4-20 Utility Dive. Manchin pledges to hold out for Democratic FERC pairing post-McNamee as Dems decry Danly nomination. “Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., attempted to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues Tuesday, pledging to refuse a vote next time there’s a vacancy on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, unless the White House gives them a Democratic nominee. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 12-8 to confirm James Danly to FERC, giving the now-four person commission a 3-1 Republican majority. Commissioner Bernard McNamee announced in January he would not be seeking a second term on commission, meaning a new spot could be open as soon as June. Manchin, who serves as ENR Ranking Member, voted in favor of the nomination, but said he would not do so if the situation arose again. ‘I made a commitment to Danly before because I thought he was well-qualified,’ he told Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who expressed his frustrations immediately after the vote. ‘But I will make this commitment to you. If we do not get a pairing when McNamee comes off … I’ll make my statement known: If we don’t get a pairing we’re not voting.'”

3-3-20 Politico. This Pipeline Case Could Gut 100 Years of Safeguards for Federal Parks. “Environmental groups fear that a ruling in favor of the energy companies behind the project could ultimately open up millions of acres of federal land—national monuments and historic places, wild and scenic rivers and other wilderness areas—to uses ranging from energy exploration and timber harvesting to highway construction and mining. Doing so, they say, would upend over a century of what was once considered inviolable protection.”

3-2-20 Washington Post. Va. Senate committee kills Dominion rate review bill. “Dominion Energy won a major victory Monday when a Virginia Senate committee killed a bipartisan bill that would have subjected the state’s biggest utility to a review of whether its electricity rates are too high.”

3-2-20 NC Policy Watch. Monday numbers: A closer look at the Mountain Valley Pipeline (and the doublespeak regulators employ to describe its environmental impacts). “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rarely met a pipeline it didn’t like, and the MVP Southgate project is no exception. In its 500-plus-page Final Environmental Impact Statement the commission determined that the 70-mile project — 48 miles of which will run through Rockingham and Alamance counties — won’t significantly impact the environment, as long as contractors properly mitigate the damage. And there would be damage. In fact, the language of the FEIS details, albeit often in bureaucratic/Orwellian terms, the long-term effects on wildlife, forests, habitats and drinking water supplies.” [Article considers excerpts from the report along with their translations into everyday English.]

3-2-20 National Parks Traveler. Groups Concerned Over How Supreme Court Will Rule On Appalachian Trail Pipeline Case. “‘Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline cannot circumvent the law, which clearly states that federal agencies do not have the authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across lands within the National Park System—of which the Appalachian Trail is unequivocally a part. Only Congress has this authority, should it choose to exercise it,’ said Pierno. ‘Dominion’s legal argument hinges on the notion that the Appalachian Trail is somehow not land—a ludicrous, nonsensical position, and one that we hope the Court rejects.'”

3-1-20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. How a dirt path is challenging a 600-mile pipeline. “Ultimately, the collision between supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and those who want to protect the Appalachian Trail is a clash between two visions for our country: a fossil-fueled future, or a more sustainable economy based on renewables. For more than a century, fossil fuel industries have won these battles, especially in places like Appalachia. Now, as the Supreme Court case suggests, a beloved dirt path can have powerful political and economic muscle. Outdoor recreation contributed $412 billion, or 2%, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2016, more than oil and gas extraction, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs tied to outdoor recreation vastly outstrips those in coal, oil and natural gas combined.”

February 2020

2-27-20 The Motley Fool. Dominion Energy Gambles $175 Million on a Supreme Court Decision. “When Dominion released its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings, however, it noted that it had bought Southern’s 5% stake. That brings its control of the project to more than 50%, effectively giving it complete control over the investment. The cost of this acquisition was roughly $175 million and included some other natural gas assets. To be fair, that’s a relatively tiny cost compared to the entire project, which has already spent $3.4 billion on construction efforts and it isn’t close to done yet (the total cost is expected to be about $8 billion at this time, but it could go higher). However, when you consider the increased control it gives Dominion, it is a notable move. And it comes at an interesting time.”

2-27-20 gettingmoreontheground.com [Robert Whitescarver’s blog]. Uplifted Standing In Line at SCOTUS [Includes description of “two kinds of people in line that frigid night: the pipeline fighters and the homeless folks of D.C. hired by a professional ‘line-standing’ company to stand in line for the pro-pipeline people.”]

2-26-20 Forbes. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Building $7.5B Gas Pipeline Under Appalachian Trail. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a classic struggle between energy development and ecological preservation. If the utilities conclude that the pipeline is necessary to meet future demand and that it is financially viable, they can either wait-and-see what the High Court decides or they could choose now to once again re-route their pipeline. Either way, more legal battles are sure to come, elevating the line’s profile and hardening the positions on both sides.”

2-25-20 Washington Post. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed. “A respectful and prudent owner would reevaluate the 2013 decision to build this now nearly $8 billion gas pipeline. Instead of continuing the fight to build a gas bridge to nowhere, and trying to find a suitable “degree of injury” to the mountains, to the rivers and to historic black communities along the route, an astute owner would refocus its efforts on building a truly clean energy future.”

2-25-20 Utility Dive. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch warns of unintended consequences in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case. “The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two consolidated cases on Monday, regarding a lower court’s decision to reject the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue a key permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. One extreme-case scenario, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned, is that if the lower court’s decision is upheld, more pipelines could inadvertently be “invited” along the Pacific Crest Trail, along the West Coast. The environmental advocates responding in the Supreme Court case and several environmental groups dispute the legal and actionable feasibility of this argument.”

2-24-20 Charlotte Business Journal. Supreme Court justices appear on board with Duke Energy, Dominion argument on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Supporters of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline left encouraged after the hour-long U.S. Supreme Court arguments over a vital permit while opponents said, regardless of the court’s decision, the fight would go on. ‘This fight didn’t start here today and it will not end here today,’ said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Initiative, at a post-hearing press conference outside the court. David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia, another of the groups involved in the challenge, said his group was confident in its arguments. He stressed that courts have overturned other important permits for the project and said, ‘whatever the ruling in this case, the opposition to this project will continue.’ Though a decision is likely a few months off, there is reason for ACP’s proponents to feel good about the hearing. All five justices in the court’s dominant conservative wing and one in the more liberal minority appeared to question an appeals court’s ruling that voided a permit to allow the pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail.”

2-24-20 NBC29. Supreme Court won’t have final word in pipeline case. “The fight over a partially-built, controversial pipeline linking West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina plays out in front of the world’s most powerful judges. But, the nation’s highest court is unlikely to have the final word in this case. Supreme Court justices will consider one piece of lower court’s decision to block Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. …. Several justices – conservative and liberal – made it clear they saw substantial holes in the arguments made by both sides. Congress could sort out the confusion by passing a new law, but that isn’t likely given Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to agree on the issue. The Supreme Court will decide the case by the end of June. Regardless of what it decides, pipeline developers will need to address environmental concerns raised by the lower court if construction is to begin again.”

2-24-20 Virginia Mercury. ‘Trails’ vs. ‘lands’: High court weighs arguments in case that could decide fate of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Where does a trail end and the land beneath it begin? That’s just one of the thorny questions the Supreme Court grappled with Monday morning during a one-hour hearing on a U.S. Forest Service permit for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline that has been hotly anticipated by both the gas and oil industry supporting the pipeline and the environmentalists opposing the project.”

2-24-20 Washington Post. Supreme Court hears battle over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Supreme Court on Monday appeared ready to remove an obstacle to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with a majority of justices expressing skepticism about a lower court ruling that tossed out a key permit needed for the natural gas pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail. Justices on the court grilled a lawyer for environmental groups who sued and won a 2018 ruling from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal throwing out a special-use permit for the 605-mile (974-kilometer) natural gas pipeline. The 4th Circuit found the U.S. Forest Service did not have the authority to grant a right-of-way to allow the pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest. But conservative justices, who hold a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, expressed reservations about the ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts at one point saying the lower court’s finding would ‘erect an impermeable barrier’ to any pipeline from areas where natural gas is located to areas where it is needed. ‘Absolutely incorrect,’ attorney Michael Kellogg, representing the environmental groups, responded.”

2-24-20 The Hill. Justices grapple with $8 billion pipeline that would cross Appalachian Trail. “The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a high-profile case that could block construction of an $8 billion gas pipeline seeking to cross the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would carry natural gas 604 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina and would tunnel below the famed trail that runs more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. At issue is whether jurisdiction over the affected land belongs to the U.S. Forest Service or the National Park Service (NPS). The case presents the justices with a complex tangle of federal laws that will determine if the land is open to energy development or must be preserved for recreational use under the park service’s mandate.”

2-24-20 Marketplace.org. Reporter’s notebook: a bitterly contested $8 billion pipeline along the Appalachian Trail. “Opposition to the pipeline comes in many forms. I’ve driven down from my home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs to central Virginia to observe a clash of competing natural resource economies. On one hand, there’s energy; the pipeline project estimates the project will bring more than $15 million in tax revenue to this county over ten years. On the other, there’s water. The creeks in and around the Appalachian Trail feed the Rockfish River, which has carved a valley now thriving in what locals call agritourism: fishing, hiking, boating …. local agri-tourism creates more long-term jobs in this economically challenged area than the pipeline would.” Article quotes local pipeline fighters, Joyce Burton and Richrd Averitt.

2-23-20 New York Times. Will the Appalachian Trail Stop an $8 Billion Pipeline? “Ultimately, the collision between supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and those who want to protect the Appalachian Trail is a clash between two visions for our country: a fossil-fueled future, or a more sustainable economy based on renewables. For more than a century, fossil fuel industries have won these battles, especially in places like Appalachia. Now, as the Supreme Court case suggests, a beloved dirt path can have powerful political and economic muscle. Outdoor recreation contributed $412 billion, or 2 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2016, more than oil and gas extraction, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs tied to outdoor recreation vastly outstrips those in coal, oil and natural gas combined.”

2-23-20 Washington Post. U.S. Supreme Court to decide winner in case of gas pipeline vs. Appalachian Trail. “The Trump administration has weighed in on behalf of the project, with Solicitor General Noel Francisco arguing that while the National Park Service administers the trail, the land beneath it is controlled by the Forest Service. Environmentalists opposing the construction argue that no pipeline has been granted a right of way across the trail on federal land since it became part of the park system. Other crossings are on private or state lands or on easements that predate federal ownership. Trying to separate the land from the trail is an “elusively metaphysical distinction” that “contradicts the government’s own long-standing approach to administering the Trail,” according to a brief from lawyer Michael K. Kellogg, who will argue for the environmental groups in Monday’s hearing.”

2-22-20 Blue Virginia. Return the Power to the State Water Control Board to Protect Our Water! “Virginia legislators were mistaken when they passed legislation in 2018 to limit the State Water Control Board (SWCB)’s ability to protect Virginia’s water. In light of repeated assaults by MVP construction on our surface and groundwater, the General Assembly must immediately make every effort to restore that power to the SWCB to protect our waterways from the negligence of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Legislators should pass Del. Chris Hurst’s HB 643 and HB 644.”

2-21-20 NPR. Supreme Court Pipeline Fight Could Disrupt How The Appalachian Trail Is Run. “Those who manage the Appalachian Trail are not involved in the litigation of the case. Instead, they say it has become a football between two sides: the pipeline company and the environmental groups who oppose it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the private organization that oversees the day-to-day management of the trail, is not involved because – perhaps surprisingly – the group does not oppose the pipeline. The group coordinates efforts with federal and state agencies, more than 30 smaller regional groups and thousands of volunteers, and warns that a ruling could upend this complicated structure that allows them to maintain the trail.”

2-21-20 Columbia Journalism Review. A pipeline runs through Southern news deserts. “All three states crossed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have a dearth of local newspapers, according to the UNC report. The counties along the route are some of the most rural and economically depressed parts of the US, in a region that is historically reliant on extractive fossil fuels. In North Carolina, seven of the eight counties the proposed pipeline would run through are predominantly black. These places lack consistent, informative local coverage of energy, justice, and the environment because of the declining number and resources of print news outlets, shifting the balance of news sources toward expanding corporate media monopolies. The areas are also overlooked by national media, which mostly parachute in to cover major updates or catastrophes or if they need a tie-in to President Trump’s policies—a dynamic that can perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about these places. The absence leaves ample space for powerful campaigns by Duke and Dominion, the pipeline’s developers and buyers of its natural gas, as well as industry-aligned lobbyists and politicians, to shape the pipeline narrative. Another result is misinformation and confusion about the status of a massive energy project that affects tens of thousands of people, several endangered species, and a variety of fragile ecosystems. The number of permanent jobs the pipeline is estimated to create varies, depending on whom you speak with. In some cases, property owners have been caught unaware of their rights or legal options when Dominion came knocking to claim eminent domain.”

2-21-20 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. Bill aims to answer pipeline question: ‘Is this necessary?’ “As Dominion Energy spearheads the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Virginia lawmakers are advancing legislation sponsored by a Republican who says he wants to protect the company’s captive ratepayers from possible overcharges. Under legislation from Del. Lee Ware, Dominion’s Virginia electric utility would have to demonstrate the need for a new fuel source and show that it ‘objectively studied’ other options, among other conditions, before the State Corporation Commission could approve passing along costs from the natural gas pipeline. Ware said his bill ‘makes very clear the question that I’ve always wanted answered: Is this necessary for the ratepayers … or is this entrepreneurial on Dominion’s part?'”

2-21-20 Daily Star [Oneonta NY]  Energy giant drops proposed Constitution Pipeline. “Williams Companies, the Oklahoma energy giant, confirmed Friday that it has shelved the Constitution Pipeline, a proposed interstate natural gas pipeline that triggered a prolonged battle between environmental activists and pro-development advocates. ‘Williams — with support from its partners, Duke, Cabot and AltaGas — has halted investment in the proposed Constitution project,’ the company said in response to questions from CNHI. ‘While Constitution did receive positive outcomes in recent court proceedings and permit applications, the underlying risk adjusted return for this greenfield pipeline project has diminished in such a way that further development is no longer supported,’ Williams added. Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer who helped form the opposition group Stop the Pipeline, said the group ‘fought this epic 8-year battle with courage, conviction and intelligence,’ adding: ‘Perseverance pays off.'”

2-20-20 Tribune-Democrat [PA]. Supreme Court pressed to nix ruling hindering Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that impact two natural gas pipelines in West Virginia, including Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that runs through Monroe and Giles counties but is now stalled at the Appalachian Trail crossing on Peters Mountain. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACC), which traverses several counties in the eastern part of the state is also stalled by an Appalachian Trail crossing. …. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has led an 18-state coalition that continues to urge the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.”

2-20-20 The Quartz. The Forest Service says the Appalachian Trail isn’t “land” in a pipeline fight at SCOTUS. “The federal government basically argues that the Appalachian Trail isn’t ‘land’ for the purposes of the case. Instead it’s a ‘footpath’ or a ‘trail’ that happens to be administered by the National Park Service. …. ‘The central flaw in the court’s logic lies in the fact that the Appalachian Trail is a “trail,” not “land,”‘ the government explains. Advocates for the trail didn’t hesitate to run—and pun—with this perplexing claim from government attorneys. How can land not be land, they asked? And they did it with as many rhetorical flourishes as one brief can stand. The scenic national footpath stretching across states patently is land, the trail’s advocates explained with a kind of literary deadpan, writing, ‘Land is what you walk on.'”

2-20-20 Virginia Mercury. Democratic-led Senate committee kills bills to beef up regulation of pipeline construction. “By this time last year, Southwest Virginia landowners and residents had been begging the [State Water Control Board] for months to do something about the [MVP] pipeline construction, which had unleashed torrents of mud that covered roads and choked streams. Ultimately, it decided it couldn’t revoke the water certification it issued for the project, even in the face of a criminal investigation and widespread violations of state law that would lead to a more than $2 million fine and consent decree. Two of three bills introduced by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, to fix the obvious inability of state regulators to halt the damage wrought by MVP or similar projects, went down in the Democrat-led Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on identical 13-1 votes. The committee did advance Hurst’s bill increasing penalties for violations by the largest natural gas pipelines but not one that would have assessed additional fines for cumulative violations nor another that would give the water board stop work authority, among other provisions.”

2-18-20 S&P Global. Morgan Stanley: $64B capex upside for utilities replacing coal with renewables. “‘We believe this project [the ACP] will not move forward due to legal risks, and as a result [Dominion] will pursue additional renewables investments that will allow them to maintain their 5.5% EPS growth target,’ analysts wrote. In a sign of its confidence in the pipeline, Dominion on Feb. 11 announced its plan to take on a greater share of the project through acquiring Southern Co.’s 5% equity stake. ‘We continue to see significant risk in getting that project completed,’ [Morgan Stanley analyst Stephen] Byrd said.”

2-18-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Letter: Environmental justice not served at Union Hill. “The Fourth Circuit Court recently rejected the air quality permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s compressor station at Union Hill in Buckingham County. …. The court has spoken. The DEQ and the Air Pollution Control Board — which was guided by the DEQ and manipulated by Northam — have both failed in their missions. Northam has likewise failed the commonwealth. Northam’s call for 100% renewable energy by 2050 also will fail if natural gas infrastructure projects are allowed free rein. It is long past time for Northam and his agencies to aggressively challenge the deeply flawed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

2-17-19 WV News. Dominion still banking on end of 2021 completion of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell recently confirmed the company still anticipates completing construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by the end of 2021, and introducing the first product into the system in 2022. ‘Project costs of approximately $8 billion are in line with the high end of the “judicial option” range we provided about a year ago,’ Farrell said recently during an earnings report conference call. Farrell also said he’s confident the U.S. Supreme Court by May or June will reverse the Fourth Circuit on a ruling regarding a U.S. Forest Service permit where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail.”

2-16-29 Daily Progress. Effort to stall Trump rollback of environmental regulations continues in Charlottesville court. “The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a motion to prevent the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality from moving forward with proposed environmental policy changes until the organization provides requested public documents. The request for a preliminary injunction, filed Thursday by SELC attorneys, is the latest development in a federal lawsuit from the Charlottesville-based organization against the agency. Spurred by a notice of proposed changes to the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit argues that requests made by the SELC under the Freedom of Information Act have not been met. …. ‘The irony of all this is that the comment process puts a high value on informed input from the public, but at the same time, the Trump administration is keeping information away from the public,’ Kym Hunter, a senior SELC attorney who filed the request for the preliminary injunction, said in a news release. ‘The rules call for openness and transparency, but instead the administration has shut the door and boarded the windows.'”

2-16-20 Roanoke Times. Hurst: Virginia not doing enough on pipelines. “Sediment steadily encroaching onto private property. Road closures and traffic jams. Man-made erosion of the lush Appalachian Mountains. This has become the new normal for the residents of my district and far too many others who live in Southwest Virginia. The unfortunate truth is that this is what so many of us warned about when the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project filed for its construction permit in 2015. Now, almost five years later, following dubious arguments and deceitful reassurances from big energy and stakeholders of the MVP, the commonwealth’s environment and its citizens are more at risk to the consequences of this project than ever before. …. While I’m proud of the work the Attorney General has done to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable, Virginia is not doing nearly enough to defend our environment from the threats we face. …. With the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Expansion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects looming, it is the paramount responsibility of our legislature to ensure every Virginian is protected from the threats these projects pose both currently and in the future.”

2-14-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline extension clears environmental review by FERC. “Plans to extend the Mountain Valley Pipeline 75 miles into North Carolina moved forward Friday, even as the initial project remains mired in legal and regulatory challenges. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that while there would be some environmental damage caused by building the so-called MVP Southgate, it could be minimized to ‘less than significant levels.’ An environmental impact statement released by FERC is a major step forward for the pipeline, which would originate at Mountain Valley’s terminus in Chatham, head southwest through Pittsylvania County and cross into North Carolina, extending to Alamance County near Burlington. …. Meanwhile, Mountain Valley’s efforts to regain three sets of suspended federal permits for the original pipeline project hit another snag this week.”

2-14-20 Virginian-Pilot. Letter: Put a stop to ACP. “Re ‘ACP project essential to Virginia’s energy future’ (Other Views, Feb. 7): Kevin Doyle’s Op-Ed accused our community in Union Hill of ‘abuse of the justice system’ for bringing a legal case against an Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit. That permit was for air pollution from a pipeline compressor station that Dominion Energy wants to force on Union Hill. Ancestors of John Laury and other freedmen and freedwomen founded this community at the end of the Civil War. Descendants of those founders still call this home. But during the permitting process, Dominion denied that a minority community even existed here. When federal judges reviewed this permit, it was the first time our voices were heard. Doyle is wrong. Three judges of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously threw out the compressor station permit because Dominion tried to bully us out of the way. There is no abuse of the system here, just justice.”

2-12-20 Bacon’s Rebellion. Huge Dominion Pipeline Project Loses Partner. “The delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is undergoing a major change due to rising costs and legal delays – The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is backing out of the project as an equity partner. According to an announcement late Tuesday, Dominion Energy will acquire The Southern Company’s 5% stake in the natural gas project whose cost has risen from $5.1 billion to $8 billion thanks largely to legal challenges by environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The new ownership structure will be 53% Dominion and 47% Duke Energy, based in Charlotte. …. According to S&P Global, The Southern Company bailed on the pipeline because of its concerns of delays and soaring costs.”

2-11-20 E&E Enerywire. FERC vows rapid responses in eminent domain legal brawl. “Federal energy regulators told a court yesterday that they would attempt to reach final decisions within 30 days on complaints from property owners who have their land seized for construction of projects like natural gas pipelines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pledge comes as the agency faces a high-profile showdown in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over its delayed response to landowner grievances — even as pipeline developers move forward with construction. ‘While this reorganization will not eliminate complaints about delayed judicial review from all parties, the Commission has chosen to allocate its resources to ensure the speediest review for those litigants placed in the most vulnerable position by Commission decisions,’ FERC wrote in a filing with the D.C. Circuit. Challengers of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the project targeted in the lawsuit, said the court is unlikely to put much stock in FERC’s ‘nonbinding’ commitment.”

2-11-20 S&P Global. Dominion agrees to buy Southern stake in Atlantic Coast Pipeline as project costs soar. “Southern Company is out as an equity partner in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after majority owner Dominion Energy agreed to buy its stake, amid ballooning costs and legal challenges that have stalled the 1.5 Bcf/d US Northeast natural gas project. Dominion disclosed the new ownership structure Tuesday as it released financial results for the final three months of 2019. It will own 53% and Duke Energy will own 47%, with Dominion acquiring Southern’s 5% stake in the pipeline and gas transmission assets, which include an interest in a small LNG project in Florida, for $175 million. Southern will remain an anchor shipper on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 600-mile pipeline, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, moving Appalachian Basin gas to Mid-Atlantic markets, is now expected to cost approximately $8 billion, slightly above the high end of Dominion’s previous guidance range of $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion. And while Dominion expressed confidence it will eventually finish the pipeline, it isn’t talking about the pipeline’s growth potential in the same way it has before.”

2-10-20 The Week. America needs to stop its natural gas pipeline mania. “But despite the gusher of Big Carbon profits, like all natural gas infrastructure proposed or under construction, the ACP is a risky project both financially and in its direct effect on the landscapes and communities through which it will run. Worse, it is doubling down on a losing hand — locking in huge investments in assets which will very likely be worthless long before they are exhausted. Far from being a relatively clean “transition fuel,” natural gas is a climate disaster that might even be worse than coal. The ACP and all other expansions of gas infrastructure should be stopped permanently.”

2-10-20 New York Times. Trump Weakens the Nation’s Clean Water Efforts. “The Environmental Protection Agency made a startling admission last month when it announced that many of the nation’s streams and wetlands would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act, perhaps the nation’s most successful antipollution law. The agency said it could not predict how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands would lose their protection because of ‘existing data and mapping limitations.’ In other words, the E.P.A. was sharply narrowing the reach of a landmark environmental law without understanding the consequences of its actions.”

2-10-20 Bloomberg Environment. Natural Gas Pipeline, Iconic Trail at Odds in Supreme Court Case. “The resulting Supreme Court dispute is one of many clashes between the Trump administration’s quest for energy dominance and environmentalists’ efforts to protect the nation’s wild lands. More broadly, it spotlights a persistent challenge that transcends political winds: how to build America’s infrastructure without ripping up America.” An excellent summary of the U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association case, U.S., No. 18-1584.

2-7-20 Roanoke Times. Environmental problems continue with Mountain Valley Pipeline, group says. “Problems with erosion and sedimentation along the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have continued, despite a winter slowdown in the work. Inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found repeated violations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019, according to an analysis by Wild Virginia, one of the environmental groups opposed to the natural gas pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia. The group’s conservation director, David Sligh, asked in a letter emailed Thursday to DEQ what enforcement actions have been taken, in light of a court order that allows for tougher monitoring and penalties for any repeat violations after Sept. 18.”

2-6-20 Crozet Gazette. Friends of Nelson Get Update on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The annual meeting of Friends of Nelson at Rockfish Valley Community Center January 12 included an update on efforts to keep the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the county. …. The gathering shared a supper and members welcome [renewing] board members Jim Bolton, Ron Enders, Kathy Versluys, Marilyn Shifflet, Doug Wellman and Julie Burns to two-year terms. Continuing on the board are Ellen Bouton, Connie Brennan, Woody Greenberg, Charlie Hickox, Cheryl Klueh and David Schwiesow. Helen Kimble retired as president. Kim and Jimbo Cary provided the music and there was a spirit of celebration.”

2-5-20 S&P Global. Credit risks mounting for US gas producers, S&P Global Rating says.  “Deteriorating conditions in US natural gas markets this year are posing growing credit risk to the industry’s producers and even midstream developers, S&P Global Ratings said Wednesday. In an industry outlook webcast, ratings analysts at S&P said that recent supply gains, weaker expected demand growth and lower prices in 2020 are putting new pressures on the gas trade. In the US upstream, low prices have created the biggest risk for individual producers. On Monday, S&P downgraded its credit rating on six of Appalachia’s most prolific shale gas producers. It also adjusted its credit outlook to negative on eight of nine Appalachian producers under its review.”

2-3-20 NBCNews.com. Racism and ecological injustice combine in ‘reckless, racist’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline fight. “Although it is not new, under the current administration, powerful and wealthy corporations are given free rein to despoil and destroy our sacred and treasured lands. …. Nearly four decades since the birth of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, we face a new Goliath of ecological injustice. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a project that starts in West Virginia and cuts through Virginia and North Carolina — is poised to threaten poor, rural, black and indigenous communities across those states, forcing us to recognize and respond to the fact that marginalized communities still bear the bulk of our nation’s environmental burden.”

2-3-20 E&E News. FERC reorganizes to address landowner disputes. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is launching a reorganization to better focus on rehearing requests from landowners affected by energy infrastructure permits, the chairman announced late last week. The reorganization includes a new ‘rehearings’ section within the Office of the General Counsel to focus on requests filed under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act, which details FERC’s responsibilities to permit interstate pipeline projects. ‘Our objective today is to reinforce the Commission’s commitment to ensure landowners are afforded a judicially appealable rehearing order as quickly as possible,’ FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement.”


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