December 2018 News

December 2018

12-31-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letters, Jan. 1, 2019: ACP will disproportionately affect minority population. “I appreciate The Times-Dispatch’s coverage of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s deliberations regarding the proposed Buckingham County Compressor Station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). As a concerned citizen, I have been researching the compressor station and ACP and recently attended the board’s Dec. 19 hearing for the proposed project. As Michael Martz’s news story, ‘Air Board puts off vote on Buckingham compressor station for Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ reported, the board chose to add an additional public comment period before taking action on the permit. There are 15 new documents under consideration, and only a total of 15 days (which included Christmas and New Year’s Day) were allowed for the comments to be submitted. In my brief review of the materials, I found a blatant indication of environmental racism that appears to be being disregarded by the board. The DEQ’s own Patrick Corbett has said that the Census information used for evaluating the proposed site location should not be relied upon.”

12-31-18 Farmville Herald. $5M package proposed by ACP. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Dominion Energy have issued a plan for a community support package that centers around the Union Hill community and totals more than $5 million. According to a community engagement report provided by Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby, the package would be allocated to meet three separate goals. Ruby confirmed that the allocation would be contingent on the development of the compressor station. …. According to the articles of incorporation for the The Greater Union Hill Community Development Corporation (CDC), a corporation that would be created to distribute funds to the Union Hill area, the $1.5 million would be given to the county for the emergency response fund. The remaining $3.6 million would be allocated toward the CDC. Of that $3.6 milion, approximately $2 million is allocated toward a community wellness center. The center would be located directly across from the compressor station, on South James River Highway. …. Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist Church, and Friends of Buckingham County representative Chad Oba questioned why similar efforts were not presented by ACP years ago, when the project first began. ‘We asked for a safety plan,’ Oba said. ‘We asked for additional help for emergency services, and they never spoke to that.’ Wilson said in his opinion, the effort was done to be a public show of goodwill, but would not be enough to compensate the community in the event of a catastrophic emergency or potential long-term health effects. ‘The amount that they’re offering is nowhere near enough to compensate for the destruction that that compressor station is going to cause in the long run,’ Wilson said. Wilson said that funding has the potential to sway local and public opinion, but said that money should not cancel out the big picture concerning the project or the potential impact on the community it is located. ‘Everything is not contingent on the dollar, and if everything is contingent about the dollar, then that’s a poor statement for what America has come to,’ Wilson said. ‘That’s not the kind of society that I want to live in, that everything is based on money. There are moral values and ethical issues here that are to me are paramount to this entire situation.’ ‘It’s a bribe,’ Oba said. ‘It’s a bribe of the lowest order. You can’t buy people’s health. Buy people’s air. Buy people’s water. These are things we need, we all need and depend upon to live any kind of quality of life.'”

12-29-18 Washington Post. As court challenges pile up, gas pipeline falls behind. “Protesters banging drums may get more attention, but what has really damaged the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2018 has been quiet action taking place in courtrooms. Opponents represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center have won a string of legal victories that have brought work on the $7 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline to a halt, at least temporarily. Several rulings are under appeal, while an even bigger case looms in the new year. Taken together, the federal court rulings suggest a permitting and approval process that was hasty and, possibly, misguided. ‘They all have the same narrative,’ said D.J. Gerken, a lawyer in the SELC’s Asheville, N.C., office who has argued some of the cases. ‘Atlantic was very arrogant in the selection of this route . . . and counted on bullying these agencies to get it through.’ …. All three legal challenges mounted so far have been heard by judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In each case, the judges ruled against the pipeline…. Meanwhile, the SELC is gearing up for what could be its biggest case, challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the fundamental permit for the entire project.”

12-29-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Rev. Paul Wilson fought natural gas pipeline project in Buckingham: ‘It’s taken a toll on me’   “The Rev. Paul Wilson, 66, is a pastor in Buckingham County and a leader in opposing Dominion Energy’s plans to build a natural gas compressor station in Union Hill to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Wilson has been a pastor for nearly two decades in Union Hill, a community that includes African-American families who can trace their roots there to before emancipation. …. Wilson has overseen the Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches, but some Union Hill congregants voted him out in November. He is challenging the vote’s legitimacy and says he remains on the church’s payroll. ‘It’s taken a toll on me. But I believe I’ll weather it because I believe I’m on the right side of the issue,’ he said of conflict over Dominion’s proposal. Wilson said he wants to be known as a preacher who speaks divine truth to power on environmental issues. ‘And I’m going to be speaking to it the rest of my life.'”

12-29-18 News & Advance. Easement agreements a line of defense for some Nelson property owners fighting pipeline. “While some activity surrounding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Nelson County came to an end this year, other issues related to the 600-mile interstate natural gas project persist. Recently, Nelson County gained the distinction of becoming the first locality ACP — the project that begins in West Virginia and ends in North Carolina, cutting through Virginia — has sued. That move by the company followed the Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision in early December to deny floodplain crossing permits. Legal counsel for the county now is working on a response and defense. …. For more than two dozen Nelson landowners in 2018, condemnation lawsuits represented the latest development in an ongoing property rights saga. In January, ACP sued a Nelson County landowner for the first time, using the power of eminent domain — possible because of the pipeline’s federal approval in 2017 — to argue for immediate access to a piece of land near Wintergreen Resort. In February, ACP filed another suit for access to nearby land. Since June, 29 condemnation lawsuits have been filed against Nelson landowners after years of negotiations for mutual easement agreements — and the compensation that comes along with those agreements — failed.”

12-28-18 WSLS10. Federal judge in Roanoke to weigh in on Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters. “A federal judge in Roanoke will decide whether or not to order protesters down from their tree sits along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route. For about 100 days, two people have been camping at the top of trees in the Elliston area. Despite spending Christmas alone, high in the sky, Phillip Flagg is in good spirits. ‘I’d say I’m doing pretty well, reading a lot of books up here, watching a lot of Bob Ross videos and it’s an easy life,’ Flagg said. Flagg is one of two tree-sitters blocking construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In the 100 or so days they’ve been there, work has continued on either side of them in the Elliston area. But MVP appears to have had enough. On Friday, their lawyers filed a motion to grant an injunction against the tree-sitters forcing them to come down, writing, ‘The tree-sitters are preventing MVP from clearing trees and from using and enjoying the easements on the property. The express purpose of the tree-sitters is to impede construction.’ A federal judge will decide in a week what to do. This comes days after Mountain Valley Pipeline was met with judicial resistance after requesting the two tree-sitters be added to an eminent domain lawsuit.”

12-28-18 WDBJ7. Focus on the courtroom as pipeline fight continues in 2019. “2018 has been a year of construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but also a period of frequent protests. And while the company says it is more than half-way toward completing the natural gas pipeline, opponents say they believe the courts are now paying attention to their concerns. Construction started in February. And earlier this month the company said it expects to have approximately 70% of the project complete by year-end. Bill Wolf is the Co-chair of Preserve Craig. ‘They say they’re 70% done,’ Wolf told WDBJ7. ‘They’re only 30% done in the real damage that could occur.’ Wolf said the pipeline has yet to traverse some of the most sensitive terrain, including river and stream crossings. He and other opponents say they’re encouraged by recent court rulings that call into question the pipeline approval process. …. The protests will continue and so will construction, but 2019 could be a year in which the focus of this fight continues to shift from the pipeline right of way to the courtroom.”

12-27-18 Nelson County Times. Nelson County Board of Supervisors to support Atlantic Coast Pipeline lawsuit. “The Nelson County Board of Supervisors has agreed to sign an engagement letter to support the city of Staunton in backing the Southern Environmental Law Center’s challenge to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s 2017 decision to issue a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to permit the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to proceed. SELC is representing a number of groups in a lawsuit against FERC that challenges its decision to issue the certificate. SELC hopes to stop the construction of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project. In signing the engagement letter Nelson County agrees to help bring relevant matters to the attention of the D.C. Circuit Court where the case will be heard in the near future; it does not become part of the lawsuit. …. Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of putting together a brief, and not spending more than $1,000 on the effort. Reed, Harvey, and Rutherford voted in favor of the resolution. Thomas Bruguiere Jr., chairman of the board, and Larry Saunders, vice chairman of the board, voted against the resolution.”

12-26-18 Virginia Mercury. A Look Back: Coal ash, pipelines and renewable energy were dominant environmental issues in 2018. “The year began with Virginia’s most controversial infrastructure projects, the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, seemingly speeding toward full construction after securing permits from the Virginia State Water Control Board in late 2017. However, a series of legal challenges, many playing out in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit here in Richmond, among other developments, have severely knocked them off stride. …. Going into 2018, Dominion had planned to have the pipeline finished by the end of 2019. Instead, with costs surging and legal setbacks mounting, the project’s future is looking increasingly cloudy, opponents say.”  Mercury Editor’s note: The Virginia Mercury launched in July to provide a sustained focus on statewide issues that have fallen through the cracks as traditional news outlets shrink. Friends of Nelson salutes Mercury staff for their excellent coverage of pipeline issues!

12-26-18 NBC29. Woman Protesting Atlantic Coast Pipeline Returns from Horseback Journey. “A woman who first began a trek on horseback in the fall has now finished her journey – at least for now. She traveled through two states, all kinds of weather, and experienced some scary moments. But now, she’s happy to be home safe and sound. On Wednesday, December 26, Sarah Murphy is untacking her horse, Rob Roy, for a final time. ‘We do this every morning and every evening – put it all on, take it all off,’ Murphy said. Exactly three months after their adventure began, the duo is now home. …. Murphy set out on horseback back in September as a protest to the pipeline.”

12-26-18 WSLS10. United States Supreme Court deciding whether or not to hear Mountain Valley Pipeline lawsuit. “A lawsuit involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline may be headed to our nation’s highest court. Wednesday, Virginia landowners filed a reply arguing their case does have merit to be heard after non-decisions by lower courts. They want to challenge the constitutionality of eminent domain before the United States Supreme Court, arguing the system is flawed and needs re-working. It even has the backing of some conservative legal scholars. The Natural Gas Act of 1938 is the groundwork for what we now have today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, otherwise known as FERC. These are the folks that authorized the Mountain Valley Pipeline to use eminent domain to build on private land. Now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not they’ll allow Roanoke lawyers to argue why they say the 80-year-old law is unconstitutional, which could change the rules for pipelines across the country.”

12-26-18 Daily Progress. DEQ accepting comments on Buckingham compressor station. “The public has just over a week left to send comments to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board regarding specific documents about a proposed Buckingham County compression station that were released since the board’s Nov. 8 and 9 meetings. The station would serve the future Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but opponents say it would negatively impact the environment and the predominantly African-American community of Union Hill. Written comments can involve demographics and site suitability for the station, but they may not argue permit conditions. Additionally, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board has said any potential future health assessments discussed at the Dec. 19 meeting will not be considered during this public comment period.”

12-24-18 News Leader. Home for Christmas: Atlantic Coast Pipeline protest by horseback. “Sarah Murphy hopes to be home by Christmas. Since September, the 34-year-old woman from Afton has been on a journey with her horse. She loaded Rob Roy with horse feed, camping supplies and food to sustain them a few days travel. They would have to stop along they way to refuel. Geared with a navigation system, Murphy set out to travel the entire multi-state route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘When you grow up in the land you love, it breaks your heart to see things that are happening — that I don’t think are going to benefit the earth,’ Murphy said. The journey isn’t a blind one. Along the route, Murphy’s eye has remained keen for infractions to report to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality or the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee. …. On Dec. 23, Murphy made it to Churchville, about 20 miles from home. She had enough cell phone service to update her Instagram followers of her whereabouts and posted ‘So close!’ underneath a picture of Rob Roy enjoying some grass. In the spring, Murphy and Rob Roy plan to start the second leg of the protest and venture to the North Carolina pipeline route. ‘She’s working her way back home, she wants to be home by Christmas,’ Seacord said by phone five days before the holiday.”

12-23-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Letter: Virginians want a clean state and a clean future. “The ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline are problematic in many ways. The compressor station is an environmental justice issue affecting communities of color. The pipelines would take habitat away from important biodiversity within our state, and I am continually disappointed with Gov. Ralph Northam’s lack of integrity in not standing up for what the majority of Virginians want. We don’t want this pipeline. We don’t want big business to take precedence over people, our future, or the environment. We want a clean future, a clean Virginia, and for people to come before money.”

12-22-18 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Hope Taylor: A tale of two pipelines and the conscience of our state. “Who is building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and why? Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, two of the nation’s largest electric utilities, say that the ACP is needed to supply much needed gas to the Southeast. But for nearly three years, many of us who follow energy needs and production closely have understood the pipeline to be a boondoggle for two of the nation’s biggest utility companies, Duke and Dominion, to make up to 14 percent profit on the $5.5 billion (now $7 billion!) cost of building the pipeline through rate hikes to electric and gas customers. With electricity demand flat for the two mega-utilities, pipeline building presented a much more lucrative income opportunity. With federal approvals, just building a pipeline, whether it’s needed or ever used, becomes a more profitable bet than generating electricity. We countered the utilities’ claims of need for more gas and electricity by presenting federal and N.C. regulators with studies from several well-regarded energy and financial analysis organizations, and pointed out that it’s customers, NOT shareholders, who would end up paying for the pipeline. We expected the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ignore those studies — they are infamous as a rubber stamp for pipeline projects, only looking at contracts to purchase the gas to flow through the pipeline. But for N.C. regulators to ignore that information was stunning.”

12-21-18 Think Progress. After a year of strong resistance, future looks uncertain for 2 controversial pipelines. “Two natural gas pipelines that would travel from West Virginia into Virginia — the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — have been facing resistance from environmental groups and local residents for almost five years. And that opposition is not expected to stop in 2019. If the developers are successful in getting the pipelines placed into service, the ACP and MVP could help to prolong the region’s dependence on the burning of fossil fuels at a time when climate scientists are calling for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to pipeline opponents. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave both pipelines a green light in October 2017. But the tenacity of the pipeline activists who refused to call it quits since — from occupying trees and setting up grassroots monitoring efforts to using the courts — now appears to have paid off. ‘We’re seeing there is a very real chance that the pipelines might not get built,’ Joan Walker, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, told ThinkProgress. ‘It is a testament to everyone standing for the future that they want… we don’t need to invest and waste any more time in shifting to a safer, cleaner, and more climate-friendly economy.'”

12-21-18 Blue Virginia. Northam Administration Schedules Controversial Comment Period Over Christmas: Governor’s Actions Make Clear He’s for Pipelines, Not People.  Includes full text of press releases from the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter and from Wild Virginia on the abbreviated comment period for the air pollution permit for the ACP’s proposed Union Hill Compressor station.

12-21-18 Daily Press. Herring rebuffs Dominion donations — a signal of change in Virginia politics?  “It’s got to make you wonder when Virginia’s biggest corporate donor to state political campaigns is rebuffed, as when Attorney General Mark Herring told the blog Blue Virginia this week that he won’t accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy. Herring joins 13 House Democrats in declining Dominion’s contributions. It’s a sign, maybe, that the way money talks, or doesn’t, on energy issues in Virginia could be changing.”

12-21-2018 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion executive, company law firm to help host fundraiser for Gov. Northam’s PAC.  “A senior executive at Dominion Energy, a consultant to the company’s CEO and the company’s law firm are among hosts of a Jan. 3 fundraiser for Gov. Ralph Northam’s political action committee, ‘The Way Ahead.’ The fundraiser follows an announcement this week by Attorney General Mark Herring that he will no longer accept campaign donations from state-regulated monopolies like Dominion, their executives or lobbyists as a way “to help restore the public’s trust.” Dominion has been under increased scrutiny in recent years from some lawmakers and news outlets because of its political sway with legislators and governors. …. Northam’s fundraiser will be at the Richmond offices of McGuireWoods, Dominion’s law firm. Bob Blue, Dominion’s executive vice president and president and CEO of its Power Delivery Group, and Eva Teig Hardy, a longtime adviser to Dominion President and CEO Tom Farrell, are on the host committee, according to an invitation from the PAC. Tickets range from $250 to $10,000. A web link to the fundraiser says Northam will use the PAC money to help Democratic legislative candidates. Some Democratic candidates have pledged not to take money from Dominion Energy or public-service corporations.”

12-21-19 Rocky Mount Telegram [NC]. Battle over pipeline continues. “With two crucial permits held up in federal court, the verbal battle rages anew over an interstate natural gas pipeline running through Nash County. he Atlantic Coast Pipeline is critical to the economic and environmental future of our region, said Aaron Ruby, strategic advisor for gas infrastructure communications for Dominion Energy, which is building the pipeline with Duke Progress Energy. …. Opponents vehemently disagree. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an unneeded fracked gas pipeline that will bring trivial economic gain to North Carolina and will devastate the communities and environment it cuts through, said Rachel Velez, communications coordinator for Clean Water for North Carolina. …. “I just want to say that this whole PR campaign from ACP is built on nonsense,” said local farmer Marvin Winstead, founder of Nash Stop the Pipeline. ‘It’s rich to hear an ACP spokesman saying opponents have spent millions of dollars against the pipeline when I’m sure they have spent much, much more on their misinformation campaign alone — not counting the billions spent on this dirty, dangerous pipeline.’ Winstead is embroiled in a lawsuit with the pipeline developers. He said the pipeline isn’t good for the economy because it’s going to tie the future to an antiquated technology. ‘We should be investing that money in clean, renewable energies that are creating jobs all across the country,’ Winstead said. ‘Even big companies like Walmart and Google have said they want to locate in places where they can get power from renewable energy. It’s absurd that they are trying to say that this fracked gas project is somehow good for the environment. They don’t give a damn about the environment. If they did, they would be building solar and wind farms instead of fracked gas pipelines. The only thing they care about is making more money. It’s the same thing with them saying not getting the pipeline is “harming consumers.” If they were so worried about consumers, they wouldn’t be sticking their customers with the $7 billion bill.'”

12-21-18 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Something stinks with air board. “Northam’s office said the new [Air Pollution Control Board] members wouldn’t vote on the Union Hill project at the Dec. 10 meeting because there wasn’t enough time for them to learn about it. That seemed odd. Then that meeting got snowed out. When the air board met Wednesday, a vote on Union Hill was put off indefinitely pending yet more research. Meanwhile, the two new members still didn’t vote — and the governor’s office said they apparently won’t vote at all on the project. What’s up with that? This seems, well, irregular. How long does it take these two board members to study the project? They’re both accomplished people with relevant backgrounds. They’ve now had a month and might have two or more to get up to speed. Why aren’t they voting? Isn’t that the job? Is there any other state board where new members say they’ll abstain apparently forever about an important issue before the board because they don’t know enough about it? This just doesn’t make sense. Meanwhile, there’s another air board member who is not participating in the Union Hill debate for reasons unknown, so instead of a seven-member board we now just have a four-member board. To have just four members vote on a project of this magnitude calls into question the legitimacy of the decision, no matter which way it goes. …. We also point out this: The new water board members started voting right away on what are presumably complicated matters, as well. So why can’t the two new air board members? This may all be a series of blunders that have been compounded and not a conspiracy, but something stinks nonetheless.”  This editorial also appeared in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.

12-21-18 Outside Magazine. The Forest Service Is the Energy Industry’s New Pal.   “New emails reveal how the U.S. Forest Service caved to Dominion Energy in its quest to build a disruptive pipeline along the Appalachian Trail. …. Back in 2016 the Forest Service appeared to think it was nearly impossible to lay the 42-inch diameter natural gas line safely over the mountains. ‘The Forest Service has seen slope failures on lesser slopes and would be able to provide examples,’ the agency told owners in 2016. …. In October 2016, the Forest Service told pipeline builders they’d need to submit ten alternative routes. The company only submitted two. And to dismiss concerns about slides, the owners pointed to another project, the Columbia Gas Transmission Pipeline, a 12,000-mile network that also cross the Appalachians in West Virginia. No matter, though, because in the spring of 2017 the Forest Service said it didn’t need to see the alternative routes. Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have its permit to cross the AT through George Washington and Monongahela national forests. …. The Southern Environmental Law Center, along with several other nonprofits, sued to reject the permit. And after seeing this email chain [detailed in the article] and the Forest Service’s about face, a judge called the agency’s decision sudden and mysterious, made to ‘meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.’ During the case, there was also a coincidence almost too perfect. A portion of the Columbia Gas Transmission Pipeline, the example held up by Atlantic Coast as a great success, ruptured and exploded because of a landslide.”

12-20-18 Backpacker. Court Strikes Down Permit for Pipeline Crossing Appalachian Trail. “If the decision stands, Dominion and its partners will either need to pass another, more rigorous Forest Service review or reroute the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail on state land, a change that could significantly lengthen its path. But Gerken said the SELC would like them to go one step further and reconsider whether the pipeline is necessary at all. ‘Once you peel back all of [the developers’] talking points and get to the truth of the matter, you see this pipeline would cut through National Forests and National Parks for no reason other than that it will make guaranteed profit for its developers,’ [DJ Gerken of the Southern Environmental Law Center] said.”

12-19-18 Roanoke Times. Munley: Herring’s lawsuit against MVP doesn’t go far enough. “The Northam administration has “empowered DEQ” to pursue action …to protect Virginia’s natural resources” (Roanoke Times, 12-7-18) after allowing construction to continue from May to November through continued protests over waterways destruction and 300 documented violations. This is nothing new. DEQ retained authority to quickly stop waterways destruction all along. Attorney General Mark Herring’s legal suit against MVP is show over effective action. Penalties are business-as-usual for pipelines who later charge ratepayers. MVP, an incompetent pipeline tackling an impossible route, is overseen by enablers anxious to finish and bury the deed by continuing Virginia’s corrupt “pay to play” scheme — even while MVP lacks essential permits. This is no way to build a pipeline. …. Scientists warned Governor Northam against MVP crossing Virginia’s Blue Ridge, but Northam’s administration ignored that advice. If MVP ever completes, the future of our Blue Ridge will include landslides, explosions, incinerations and pipeline-caused deaths. While pipelines explode routinely, MVP is especially dangerous. With all this lasting harm, Virginia’s de facto new motto may become ‘Virginia is for pipeline litigation.’ …. Virginia needs leaders who recognize and protect against injustice and harm – not industry collaborators that destroy Virginia’s natural resources and a livable planet. Seriously, Attorney General Herring: Doesn’t this MVP disaster call for a stop-work order and employment of the real tools available to kick MVP right out of Virginia? If not, you, our Attorney General, are burying a crime, so please don’t try to be our next governor.”

12-19-18 WhoWhatWhy. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Loses Key Permit — Energy Companies Scramble. “The tide may be turning for the massive Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Out of the glare of the mainstream media spotlight, environmental groups and residents living in the rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina that the 604-mile $7 billion project will touch have been protesting its construction for years — warning of its potential damage to forests, streams, and environmentally sensitive mountain slopes. Over the past year, the courts have been listening. Last week, the US District Court in Richmond, VA, handed the protestors their biggest victory yet. The court decision has so dramatic an impact on Dominion Energy’s future plans that the energy giant is reportedly asking Congress to include a rider in a must-pass spending bill to override the judge’s ruling.”

12-19-18  Wintergreen property owners settle with ACP. “The Wintergreen Property Owners Association said it has reached a settlement with Dominion Energy over eminent domain for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The WPOA Board said they cannot share details of the financial settlement due to a nondisclosure agreement.”

12-19-18  Virginia Mercury. Air Board delays decision on Buckingham permit and plans new public comment period.  “The State Air Pollution Control Board approved a number of changes to Dominion Energy’s proposed permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County, but again delayed making a decision on the contentious project. Instead, the board will hold another public hearing on documents related to the demographic makeup of Union Hill, a historically black community that activists say will have to live among the pollution, noise and risks of the compressor station, part of the company’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” Coverage in the Virginia Mercury includes details about the differing demographic studies.

12-19-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Air Board puts off vote on Buckingham compressor station for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The board on Wednesday adopted changes to the permit that imposed additional requirements, including the installation of continuous emissions monitoring systems on the proposed station’s four natural-gas fired turbines to monitor nitrogen oxide pollution from their exhausts. Other changes include requirements for additional monitoring of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, and establishment of a new ambient air quality station outside the perimeter of the site. The amendments did not include any reference to the community investment plan that Dominion has proposed for Union Hill to compensate for the project’s effects on Union Hill, established around a former plantation that would be the site of the compressor station. The Southern Environmental Law Center and Chesapeake Bay Foundation had objected to the board’s consideration of the proposed changes without a chance for the public to comment on them, especially in relation to concerns about the site’s suitability and whether it posed a disproportionate impact on Union Hill. The board voted, 3-1, to allow public comment on any new information submitted to the board, including demographic studies about Union Hill the state presented Wednesday that community representatives dispute.”

12-19-18 Washington Post. Virginia regulators unexpectedly delay decision on controversial gas project. “State regulators unexpectedly postponed action Wednesday on a permit for a gas compressor station in a historic African American community. And at the heart of the delay is a strange disagreement about identity. The decision marked the second time members of the State Air Pollution Control Board have delayed action over questions about whether the project, being proposed by Dominion Energy as part of its Atlantic Coast natural-gas pipeline, amounts to environmental racism. More than 100 protesters, many of them residents of the Union Hill community in Buckingham County, chanted and turned their backs on board members Wednesday for what they said was an attempt to impose a dangerous industrial facility on a community of color, including many elderly residents. With two rows of Dominion executives sitting in reserved front-row seats, staffers from Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality told the board that there is no cause for concern. They presented an analysis showing that the area around the proposed compressor is sparsely populated and has no greater concentration of minorities than the rest of the state. In addition, the staffers said, Union Hill has few historic resources of any significance. So how can two depictions of the same community be so different? That question is part of the reason board members delayed their vote and called for an extended public comment period. …. The board voted 3 to 1 to delay action on the permit so the public can submit written comments on the two competing demographic reports, both of which were updated or newly filed since the matter was first considered early last month.”

12-18-18 WAVY. Nansemond Indian Nation concerned with path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The largest federally recognized Native American tribe in Hampton Roads is concerned with the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Nansemond Indian Nation posted on Facebook last week that they had environmental and archeological concerns with the pipeline’s planned path through parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake. The 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to North Carolina will pass under the Nansemond River just north of the Nansemond Golf Club and will also pass through Chesapeake in the Yankin neighborhood. …. Both places are historically significant to the nation according to Chief Samuel Bass. ‘Our culture and our heritage is rich to us,’ Bass said. ‘We’re concerned with the pipeline going through and the cemetery being disrupted. We have ancestors, it’s culture.’ While the City of Suffolk gave Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC. permission to build and operate within the city limits back in September, Bass said the Nation, which owns property along the Nansemond River in the city, was never consulted. ‘We are not anti-progress,’ Bass said ‘We don’t want anything but the respect of helping us to preserve our heritage.'”

12-18-18 Roanoke Times. Casey: Presenting the 2018 Dano Awards. “The glorious golden trophy may be the least sought-after prize in the commonwealth. It honors glaring public stupidity, and each year, there [is] no shortage of that going around. …. The Dano for ‘Most Efficient Way to Anger Constituent Groups’ goes to Gov. Ralph Northam. In a move some characterized as Trumpian, the Democratic governor removed any remaining vestiges of doubt that he’s totally in the pockets of companies trying to build two enormous gas pipelines across the commonwealth. In November, Northam summarily bounced two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board, less than a week after they expressed grave doubts about plans for a natural gas compressor station along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Buckingham County. The station is slated for Union Hill, a historic black community that doesn’t want it. The move came in advance of a crucial pipeline vote by the board. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called the removals ‘unethical and corrupt.’ It angered not only environmentalists fighting the pipelines, but also the NAACP. The governor got a two-fer!”

12-18-18 WSLS10. Mountain Valley Pipeline says projects may never be finished. “Leaders behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline say the project may never get finished. A report the company filed with a federal agency said the difficulties with getting necessary approval could delay the project, make it too costly or cause it to not get built at all. The company filed the report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in October. It said, in part: ‘Recent decisions by regulatory and judicial authorities in pending proceedings could impact our or the MVP Joint Venture’s ability to obtain all approvals and authorizations necessary to complete certain projects on the projected time frame or at all or our ability to achieve the expected investment return on the project.'” An update added: “An MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company expects to receive the remaining regulatory approvals and permits to complete the project and continues to target a fourth quarter 2019 date to begin service. Cox added that the language in the report that referred to the possibility the project may never get finished is standard risk factor terminology in statements such as those.”

12-18-18 News & Advance.  Editorial: ACP Dollars and a Park in Albemarle. “As part of the overall permitting process for the ACP, Dominion agreed to create a fund to pay for ‘project mitigation’ efforts in the areas affected environmentally by construction — things like creation of new wetlands to take the place of those lost in the pipeline’s path. The path — surprisingly — doesn’t include Biscuit Run Park. …. Lo and behold, the ACP’s project mitigation fund approves $5 million for Biscuit Run Park. And here’s the kicker: The pipeline doesn’t even enter Albemarle County. Nelson County, where it slices across Wintergreen Mountain and crosses numerous creeks and streams? Yes. Buckingham County, where a giant compressor station puts a historic African-American community at risk? Yes. But not one inch in Albemarle. No one can blame the Albemarle supervisors for accepting the $5 million. After all, the lease with the state included no money for development of the park, the first phase of which carries a cost estimate of $15.5 million for construction of trails, playgrounds and park buildings. But to take $5 million in project mitigation dollars from the ACP to pay for them? Really? …. Simply put, we believe the ACP’s project mitigation dollars should be put to use in the localities directly affected by the pipeline construction. That’s where the damage will be, and that’s where the remediation efforts should take place.”

12-18-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Letter: Dominion’s comments on ACP are misleading. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently vacated the Forest Service’s permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby decried the judges’ unanimous decision according to Michael Martz’s news story, ‘Court blocks key permit for project.’ Ruby said that the court ‘undermined the judgment of the dedicated, career professionals at nearly every federal agency that has reviewed this project. … If allowed to stand, this decision will severely harm consumers and do great damage to our economy and energy security. … Public utilities are depending on this infrastructure to meet the basic energy needs of millions of people and businesses in our region.’ I was delighted by the court’s ruling, and I challenge every point Ruby made. Not all of the federal ‘dedicated, career professionals’ had their judgment undermined. The Forest Service staff who reviewed the ACP proposal at the local level established an extensive science-based record of concerns that proved pivotal in the Fourth Circuit’s decision. That record was jarringly at odds with the Forest Service’s final granting of its permit. It was obvious to the court that the field staff’s considered judgments had been overridden by political appointees.”

12-17-18 Blue Virginia. New Clean Virginia Report: Most Virginians Should Be Paying $250 Less Each Year on Energy Bills. “A groundbreaking new report from Clean Virginia has found that most Virginian ratepayers are paying an average of $250 more each year on their energy bills than they should. The calculation analyzes how Dominion and APCO — two utility monopolies that provide service to more than 8 in 10 Virginians — are charging their ratepayers not only for energy use and delivery but also to subsidize excess corporate profits, executive pay, lobbying, campaign contributions, and more. The report proposes how legislators and Virginia government agencies can eliminate this so-called ‘Dominion Tax”’ and put hundreds of dollars back in the pockets of Virginia consumers and businesses through a reform agenda to confront Dominion’s outsized influence in Richmond. …. The report finds that Dominion and APCO are shifting more than $700 million in excess profits and costs onto ratepayers, at an average of about $254 annually per Dominion ratepayer and $89 per APCO ratepayer, including households, businesses, and industry.”

12-17-18 News & Advance. Nelson native spreads knowledge of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Ben Cunningham grew up in Nelson County and has fallen more in love with his home every day. When Dominion Energy announced the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project, a 600-mile long natural gas pipeline, would run through part of Nelson County, Cunningham knew he had to combine his love of Nelson and his interest in geography to help his home. Cunningham graduated from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg in 2016 with a degree in geography and a minor in Spanish. …. ‘I started getting involved with the movement other folks had kindled. I went to events and rallies for Friends of Nelson; they were [the]first of their kind to organize. I got my schooling involved,’ Cunningham said. …. Cunningham served on the board of Friends of Nelson from 2016 to 2017 and now works for the Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance as the Virginia Field Coordinator for the Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) program. Cunningham also is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drone coordinator. Now, Cunningham contracts for Friends of Nelson to help them use the CSI system. …. Cunningham said it’s important to have this system of tracking and monitoring so residents can keep an eye on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in order to make sure the job they are supposed to do gets done and to monitor and document Dominion Energy to make sure they aren’t doing anything they aren’t supposed to be doing. ‘The CSI program is a way of getting evidence-based data,’ Cunningham said.”

12-17-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline sues Nelson County over zoning decision. “Following the denial of permitting requests at the local level this month, Atlantic Coast Pipeline took an unprecedented step in an attempt to move the project forward, filing a lawsuit against a locality — Nelson County — for the first time in the years-long approval process. Three days after Nelson’s Board of Zoning Appeals denied the company’s variance requests for floodplain crossings, ACP filed suit against Nelson County and its board of supervisors. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court’s Western District of Virginia on Dec. 6, is seeking a judgment stating the Natural Gas Act ‘preempts’ the requirements of Nelson’s floodplain ordinance, which would include ‘obtaining any zoning permits for any of the floodplain crossings.'”

12-17-18 Roanoke Times. Stream crossing issues are complicating work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have a plan to part the waters — ‘kind of like Moses,’ in the words of a federal judge — long enough to bury a 42-inch diameter steel pipe under Little Stony Creek and more than 1,000 other streams and wetlands in the project’s path. Or they had a plan, until the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened. In October, the court threw out a federal stream-crossing permit for the pipeline, creating what is perhaps the largest legal obstacle to face the deeply divisive project since it was proposed four years ago. Another potential roadblock popped up unexpectedly last week, when Virginia’s State Water Control Board voted to reconsider its earlier decision to grant a water quality certification to Mountain Valley. With no action likely until next year, construction crews still have state authorization to clear land, dig trenches and bury the pipeline in earth away from water bodies. But before it can complete the 303-mile pipeline, Mountain Valley must again obtain the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for stream crossings.”

12-17-18 News & Advance. Letter: Dominion Power caught off-guard. “During the four years since Dominion Energy announced its intention to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, one key regulatory agency, the State Corporation Commission, has been notably silent. Now, the commission’s reticence appears to be lifting. On Dec. 7, the SCC rejected Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), an annual report in which the company lays out investments it intends to make over the next 15 years. The regulators sent the plan back to Dominion with instructions to correct specific shortcomings and re-file within 90 days. This action is unprecedented and may signal a new era of heightened scrutiny over Dominion’s actions. …. Dominion appears to have approached the IRP with a ‘business as usual’ attitude, confident the SCC would approve the plan, like it always has. That same overconfidence contributed to the many problems dogging Dominion’s ACP. …. But Dominion has apparently been caught off guard. Four years after Dominion announced its plan, the pipeline is at least a year behind schedule, a minimum of $2 billion over cost and faces court challenges and adverse rulings on numerous fronts. It’s time for Dominion to reconsider its outmoded business model and follow the lead of forward-looking utilities like Xcel Energy, which just announced its goal of 80 percent clean energy by 2030 rising to 100 percent by 2040. If Dominion had committed as much money and effort to pursuing clean energy as it has to pushing the ACP, they could have vaulted into the top ranks of progressive utilities. Instead, as they slog ahead on the deeply flawed ACP, they are cementing their reputation as a company that relies on political power to plump its profits while giving their customers larger bills instead of 21st century service.”

12-16-18 Blue Virginia. Activists Call Out Northam and His DEQ for Unjust Moves Regarding Pipelines. “Activists from around the Richmond area gathered behind the Office of the Governor and outside the headquarters of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to highlight the deliberate inaction from the administration regarding environmental violations occurring along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and pointed interference in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit process. [They read] a letter drafted to Governor Northam, one of more than 30 over a 10 month duration of weekly protests and letter deliveries…. The letter addressed the rushed, abbreviated comment period on Dominion’s ACP compressor station, passed via motion at the 12/19 Air Board Meeting and then announced a mere two days later…. The action marked ten months of letter deliveries and meetings with Constituent Services, with zero response from the Northam Administration.”

12-15-18 CBS19. Atlantic Coast Pipeline sues Nelson County Board of Supervisors. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sued the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Virginia’s federal court after the county denied Dominion Energy’s request to build the pipeline across waterways. A few days later on Dec. 13, a federal appeals court vacated the pipeline’s construction permits to cross two national forests along the pipeline’s route. According to a Facebook post, Nelson County Supervisor Ernie Reed said Dominion’s lawsuit has no standing.”

12-15-18 Medium. Environmental Racism in Union Hill, Virginia: The Inconvenient Truth. “Former Vice President Al Gore has added his voice to the growing national movement to stop Dominion Energy from building a massive compressor station for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of an historic African American community founded by Freedmen after the Civil War. On December 11, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Presidential candidate tweeted the following: ‘I support the Union Hill community in Virginia fighting this dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and I support Environmental Justice #WeAreAllUnionHill.’ …. Vice President Gore’s #WeAreAllUnionHill tweet is a huge development in the growing national movement to support environmental justice in Virginia. The goal is simple: to save Union Hill by convincing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to reverse course and stop the compressor station.”

12-15-18 WKRN [Nashville]  Gas pipeline ruptures, forcing evacuations in Pleasant Shade, Tennessee. “A natural gas line ruptured near Stone Branch Road in Pleasant Shade, Smith County. No one was injured but 5 families had to evacuate fast. ‘You couldn’t hear because the roar was so loud, well I looked to my right and I thought “Oh God, the gas pipe has blown up.”‘ said Ramona Wilmore, a resident of Pleasant Shade. Ramona Wilmore and her husband, Scott, live about 200 yards from where the explosion occurred, they also farm on the land where it took place. ‘We always knew it was a possibility, but never expected it to happen,’ said Scott Wilmore. The 22-inch natural gas line is owned by Spectra Energy.”

12-14-18 US News. South Carolina Regulators Vote to OK $15B Utility Merger. ” South Carolina regulators on Friday approved a deal to rescue a utility company reeling in the wake of a multibillion-dollar nuclear construction failure. Following more than an hour of comment and debate, the Public Service Commission voted to OK Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s roughly $15 billion cash and stock bid to buy SCANA Corp., the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas. The deal approved by commissioners would cut customer rates by about $22 a month. Friday’s vote marked a pivotal point in the unraveling of South Carolina’s nuclear debacle, which started in the summer of 2017 when privately-owned SCANA and its minority partner, state-owned Santee Cooper, gave up on the reactors they had spent a decade planning and building at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. …. Dominion’s latest offer gets rid of the $1,000 rebate checks to SCE&G customers that dominated much of the merger discussion in 2018. Instead, Dominion proposed keeping SCE&G rates at the same level set by legislators who passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut earlier this year that knocks about $22 off the typical monthly bill. In 20 years, SCE&G customers would add $2.3 billion to the $2 billion they already paid for the mothballed project. Most of the consumer advocacy groups had pushed for more. Watchdogs in the state’s Office of Regulatory Staff wanted about a 20 percent rate cut, removing closer to $30 from monthly bills, and eliminating most of the extra charges for the reactors. Consumers and environmental groups wanted a bigger cut. Dominion Energy said a larger rate cut would force them to walk away from the SCE&G deal, although they made the same threat when lawmakers considered the temporary cut. When that passed, they altered their merger proposal.”

12-14-18 WFAE [Charlotte NC]  Energy Companies To Appeal Loss Of Forest Service Permit For Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “The builders of the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline say they will appeal a federal court ruling Thursday that invalidated a permit allowing the pipeline to be built through two national forests and across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. A three-judge panel at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., threw out the U.S. Forest Service permit for a 20-mile section of the trail near Staunton, Va. The court said the Forest Service lacks the authority to approve the pipeline’s Appalachia Trail crossing. But pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby says the court ignored the opinions of a slew of agencies, including the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Department of the Interior. ‘All of these agencies agree that the Forest Service has the full legal authority to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s crossing of the Appalachian Trail,’ Ruby said. ‘Under Democratic and Republican administrations alike for many years, 56 other oil and natural gas pipelines have operated across the Appalachian Trail.’ None of those pipelines is as big or expensive as this one. The ruling presents a major roadblock to the project, which needs to cross the Appalachian Trail to reach most of its customers in Virginia and North Carolina.”

12-14-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion files to recover $302 million from ratepayers for environmental upgrades. “Dominion Energy is angling to recover roughly $302.4 million from ratepayers across the state to cover the cost of upgrading three coal-burning power plants to meet federal and state environmental regulations. The application filed with the State Corporation Commission on Friday would allow the company to recover the cost of the projects, along with a return of 9.2 percent. Households using roughly 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would see their bills rise by $2.15 starting November 2019. The state’s largest utility has for months touted the projects at its Chesterfield and Clover power plants and the Dominion-owned Mount Storm site in West Virginia, which the company says allow for cleaner disposal of coal ash. The ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains heavy metals including arsenic and mercury. Most of the projects for which the company is seeking to charge ratepayers were carried out at the Chesterfield Power Station on the edge of the James River in the eastern part of the county. The other two plants are Clover Power Station in Halifax County and Mt. Storm Power Station, which is near Bismarck, W.Va. All of the expenses are tied to coal burned by Dominion.”

12-14-18 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]  Editorial: Regulatory decision last, best chance to protect SCE&G customers. “Today, state utility regulators will make a decision that will cap more than a year and a half of wrangling over the fallout from SCANA and Santee Cooper’s decision to abandon construction on two nuclear reactors after spending about $9 billion on them. In deciding the fate of SCANA, their choices will significantly impact more than 700,000 South Carolina residents and businesses for decades to come. Monthly power bills are at stake, and so is the South Carolina economy. The state Public Service Commission must choose with care. The most widely discussed option on the table would allow Virginia-based Dominion Energy to complete its buyout of SCANA and its subsidiary SCE&G. Doing so would mean that Dominion absorbs some of the cost for the failed reactors. But SCE&G customers would still have to cover $2.3 billion over the next two decades. It’s not a very good deal, especially considering the broader implications. Dominion could use its purchase of SCANA to make it easier to expand the natural gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline into South Carolina at ratepayer expense, for example. Our state doesn’t really have a demonstrated need for more natural gas, but that’s largely irrelevant under current regulations. Dominion’s aggressive, months-long pursuit of SCANA suggests that the company sees substantial profit to be made, even though SCANA is saddled with billions of dollars in debt. That’s a perfectly logical aim for a business, but it’s difficult to see how it would benefit ratepayers.”

12-14-18 Roanoke Times. Nature-based preschool in pipeline’s path raises funds for move. “A day at Mayapple School always ends the same way. The 3- to 6-year-olds gather for a song featuring the words “Goodbye Mayapple,” and they softly sing farewell to their classmates. …. Next week the children, as well as their teachers, will be singing goodbye forever to the nature-based preschool’s home at the Newport Recreation Center as they relocate. The move isn’t ideal, but it’s necessary because of worries over the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which carved a path through the forest where the children often played, the school’s leaders said. Because parents wouldn’t want their small children near the pipeline, the school’s founder and teacher Melissa West said she feared she may have to close the school but quickly decided that wasn’t an option. ‘We can’t just quit,’ West said. ‘We have to keep going for them [the children].’ The risk presented by a potential pipeline explosion was too much and was of concern to parents, West said. Its presence was also antithetical to the environmental focus of the school, she said. So West and a dedicated group of parents jumped into action earlier this year, locating a space in the basement of the Quaker Friends Meeting house in north Blacksburg. The school will move there next week after three years at their Newport home. …. Being near the pipeline, which West said scarred the woods she loved, was difficult for the children. She said she had a difficult time explaining why the forest the children loved to play in was being chopped down in part to make way for the pipeline.”

12-13-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Federal court throws out permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail. “The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service that would allow the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail and 21 miles of steep national forest land in Virginia and West Virginia. The court on Thursday found that the Forest Service had ‘abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources’ and sent the permit back to the federal agency to correct under the guidance of the 60-page ruling, written by Judge Stephanie D. Thacker of West Virginia. The decision creates a major barrier for Dominion Energy, lead partner in the project, which had changed the proposed route in early 2015 to cross the Appalachian Trail on Forest Service land expressly to avoid the need for an act of Congress to allow the pipeline to cross the national scenic trail. The original route would have crossed the trail about 8 miles north near Afton, but the Park Service said it had no authority to permit it. Dominion’s allies in Congress reportedly are considering an amendment to a pending appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that would permit the crossing of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway near Reed’s Gap.”

12-13-18 Roanoke Times. State board to reconsider key permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline. “After issuing a water quality certification that allowed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to move forward one year ago, a state board on Thursday seemed to be having second thoughts. On a vote of 4-3, the State Water Control Board decided to hold a hearing to consider revoking the certification, which was based on its earlier finding of a “reasonable assurance” that streams and rivers would not be contaminated. Since then, Mountain Valley has been cited more than 300 times for violating regulations meant to limit erosion. Muddy runoff from work sites has repeatedly washed harmful sediment into nearby streams, inspections by the Department of Environmental Quality have found. No date was scheduled for the hearing. Details on the process will be worked out over the next few weeks, DEQ said in a news release following the board’s meeting in Richmond.”

12-13-18 Virginia Mercury. Former water board member: Lawsuit over pipeline violations is also an indictment of DEQ’s regulatory approach.  [Op-ed column by Roberta Kellum, until recently a member of the Water Control Board] “After months of citizen complaints about deleterious impacts to waters of the commonwealth from Mountain Valley Pipeline construction, many cheered when Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that an enforcement action had been filed last week. Upon closer inspection, however, the complaint filed by Herring is as much a critique of Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor’s program to prevent the degradation of state waters as it is a catalog of violations of state laws designed to protect water quality. …. Along with promising the best and most stringent stormwater management and sediment control from a technical standpoint, DEQ also promised that in the event that weather situations changed and rapid adjustments needed to be made, the agency had the full authority to direct additional stormwater management measures as well as to issue a stop work order to prevent imminent degradation of the commonwealth’s surface water resources. …. What the complaint doesn’t tell us, however, is how the DEQ allowed so many violations to occur unabated, for months and months, or how major erosion and sediment control structures failed in spite of pre-approved plans.”

12-13-18 The Guardian. Revealed: FBI kept files on peaceful climate change protesters. “On 15 May 2016 three friends from Fairfield, Iowa, made the five-hour drive to an oil refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan to participate in what was part of a series of protests and acts of civil disobedience in the fight against climate change. They had every intention of getting arrested. What they didn’t expect was to end up in an FBI file for taking part in a peaceful protest. But according to documents obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit, the file on the Iowa protesters was part of a larger effort by the FBI to assess the danger posed by the climate change activist group in the run-up to a series of actions that were part of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign. The FBI released seven pages and withheld 25. …. The FBI is prohibited from investigating groups or individuals solely for their political beliefs but has been criticized in the past for treating non-violent civil disobedience as a form of terrorism. In 2010 the Office of the Inspector General released a report detailing how the FBI, particularly in the post-9/11 era, had inappropriately tracked activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker for engaging in non-violent protest.”

12-13-18 Energy News Network. Dominion refutes criticism linking rejected energy plan to pipeline. “Dominion Energy has lashed out at environmental advocacy organizations for linking its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline to an order from state regulators that Virginia’s largest utility redo its long-term energy plan. Spokespeople from Dominion told reporters in an e-mail distributed Tuesday evening that both the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) ‘took a footnote from the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) order out of context, distorting facts to confuse and misinform the public.’ The footnote in question, No. 14, does not mention the pipeline. It directs Dominion to correct its 2018 Integrated Resource Plan by including ‘a reasonable estimate of fuel transportation costs … associated with all natural gas generation facilities.’ …. SELC staff attorney Will Cleveland, who was quoted in the Energy News Network’s article published Monday, agreed that the footnote on page 5 of the SCC’s 10-page decision does not mention the pipeline. He also said the footnote had nothing to do with his comments to news organizations connecting the natural gas pipeline to Dominion’s plan being rejected. ‘You could take footnote 14 out of the order and I would have said the exact same thing,’ he said in a Wednesday interview. The big picture, Cleveland explained, is that Dominion has claimed that it needs the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as part of the infrastructure required to generate enough electricity for its customer base. And now that the commission has thrown out Dominion’s plan and its electricity load forecasts, ‘how credible is their claim that they need the pipeline for power generation?’

12-12-18 WRAL [NC]. Lawmakers move ahead with pipeline investigation. “[NC] Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday they will sign a contract with a private investigation firm to probe Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration’s dealings on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, despite a letter from the administration promising records lawmakers requested by Dec. 20. A special joint oversight committee tasked with looking into the deal between Cooper and pipeline developers heard from Eagle Intel Services, a firm comprised of retired federal investigators Frank Brostrom, Tom Beers and Kevin Greene. ‘Barring any unforeseen circumstances, a contract with Eagle Intel will be finalized in the coming days,’ said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.”

12-12-18 PRI.  Judge halts Keystone XL pipeline, citing ‘complete disregard’ for climate. “A year and a half after President Donald Trump reversed an Obama administration decision to block TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, a federal district judge in Montana has halted the project again, citing an insufficient review of the project’s environmental impact. In his ruling, Judge Brian Morris said ‘the Trump administration completely disregarded the climate effects of building the Keystone pipeline,’ according to Vermont law professor Pat Parenteau. ‘The Trump administration dismissed, with barely a paragraph in the decision document they issued, the whole idea that the pipeline would be contributing to climate change and the judge said that’s not good enough,’ Parenteau explains. ‘[He said], “You really do have to take into account the growing body of science that we all know and you have to explain why it makes sense, given that, to authorize yet another major piece of fossil fuel infrastructure that will take 40 years to pay off.”‘ Morris is a former justice on the Montana Supreme Court and is considered a ‘very moderate judge,’ Parenteau adds. ‘He’s hardly a radical environmentalist. There are some judges on the federal bench who are more pro-environment …, but Judge Morris isn’t in that same category.'”

12-11-18 Daily Progress. Mallek expresses regret over county’s acceptance of pipeline mitigation funds. One Albemarle supervisor is having second thoughts about the county’s acceptance of $5 million in Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation money for a future park. ‘It makes me grievously uncomfortable that we are being paid off to be silent and not stand up and protect our neighbors,’ board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek said last week. Earlier this year, $5 million of pipeline mitigation money was allocated to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to distribute to Albemarle for ‘infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park.’ Virginia entered into a memorandum of agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which includes Dominion Energy, in late 2017 for mitigation of forest fragmentation impacts of the ACP. The controversial agreement allocated $57.85 million to six organizations to be used for forest conservation and water quality protection. Mallek said she wants to find out if there is a way for Albemarle to direct the $5 million to a county more directly affected by the ACP, as the pipeline will not be coming through Albemarle. ‘I think that’s certainly, from the people who have been contacting me, that is really their main concern, that we’re a long, long way from these impacts,’ she said.”

12-11-18 Philadelphia Tribune. NAACP duped into backing pipeline in Virginia, foe says.  A massive winter storm delayed a closely watched vote in Virginia on a natural gas pipeline compressor station that has been the frequent target of protests, including an accusation that the NAACP was duped into supporting the project. …. Richard Walker, who says his great-grandfather bought a 25-acre homestead in Union Hill for $15 in 1885 as a freed slave, said the company is engaged in ‘environmental racism.’ He said Dominion recently duped the state NAACP into sending a letter to public officials saying it was satisfied with the progress Dominion was making with Union Hill residents. The NAACP quickly reversed course and reaffirmed its opposition to the compressor station after the letter was made public. NAACP president Kevin Chandler did not return a request for comment. ‘The same exploitation that took place 100 years ago is still taking place,’ said Walker, who currently lives in Richmond but has several elderly cousins who live in Union Hill. Dominion has strongly denied the charge and has said it has deep respect for the community and wants to be a constructive partner. The company has recently offered to give more than $5 million to help improve Union Hill.”

12-10-18 Roanoke Times. Ellerbrock: Of pipelines, people and principles. “When economics and ethics clash, bet on the dollar. For example, where the Mountain Valley (MVP) and Atlantic Coast (ACP) pipelines traverse rural counties (< 29 people per square mile), they are allowed to use thinner Class III pipes, whereas citizens in urban localities are better protected with thicker Class I pipes. Also, since EQT’s MVP crosses much rural landscape, it will not include a chemical odorant (Mercaptan) to alert neighbors of a dangerous natural gas leak. Why? Because Mercaptan is expensive. The benefit/cost ratio speaks clearly: Urban lives are considered more valuable to protect than rural lives. When finance trumps integrity, we all lose.”

12-10-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Letter: Governor ignores pipeline dangers. “What is it about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline that Gov. Ralph Northam doesn’t understand? …. Does the governor not understand the cutting and clearing of a swath some 300 miles long through our Virginia forests and fields, and the killing of countless fish and other aquatic life every time these pipelines are dug across the streams and rivers in their paths? What else does he not understand? Is it the leakage and attendant harm to the atmosphere of an estimated 91 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from the production and transmission of fracked gas from West Virginia gas fields? Is it the possibility of natural gas explosions resulting in the death of real people and the destruction of property? The pain and expense any such explosion would inflict on fellow citizens who are unfortunate enough to be forced to live near these pipelines is unconscionable. Is it the siting of the 53,000-horsepower compressor station in an African-American community in Buckingham County? Who will stand up and speak for the people there — defending their right to live in a community free from noise and air pollution and the risk of gas explosions — if not the governor? …. We elected Gov. Northam to guide us into a better future — not lead us backward into a more polluted world. Clean air, clean water. What about this doesn’t he understand?”

12-9-18 KOLD13 [Tucson AZ]  Panel to take closely watched vote on pipeline station. “A normally low profile citizen panel that votes on air pollution permits is set to take a closely watched vote Monday on whether Virginia’s most powerful corporation can build a natural gas compressor station in a historical African-American community. Dominion Energy needs the State Air Pollution Control Board to sign off on a permit to build a station in Buckingham County to pump gas through the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The board’s vote has become a flashpoint in the yearslong fight over the pipeline and a political imbroglio for Gov. Ralph Northam, who has come under intense criticism for his recent removal of two board members ahead of the vote. The proposed site is about an hour west of Richmond in Union Hill, a community founded by freed slaves.”

12-9-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion asks 4th Circuit to reconsider stay of federal permit. “Dominion Energy has asked a federal appeals court to clarify or reconsider a decision last week that temporarily suspended a federal permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and prompted a halt in construction of the $7 billion project in three states. The Richmond-based company asked for guidance from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday after the court issued a stay of the permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the entire length of the pipeline, which runs 600 miles from West Virginia through Virginia to the Atlantic coast and eastern North Carolina. Dominion voluntarily suspended work on the project in Virginia (where only tree cutting was underway), North Carolina and West Virginia after the Richmond-based court stayed the biological opinion issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service to allow construction of the pipeline through habitat for endangered or threatened animals and plants. The company contends the 4th Circuit order ‘grants significantly broader relief than necessary’ to protect potential effects on four threatened animal species in a roughly 100-mile portion of the pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, and asked the court to limit the stay to those four species while allowing construction to proceed in other areas. …. Dominion, lead partner in the pipeline project, cited the ‘expansive impacts’ of the stay and asked the court to narrow its decision.”

12-9-18 Washington Post. Big company, big dollars, small community: Dominion deal sparks dissent in community facing gas project. “For four years, Oba, 71, has worked to prevent Dominion from building a natural-gas compressor station near her home in rural Buckingham County. It’s always been a long-shot quest, going up against the most powerful corporation in Virginia. Now, just as the matter is about to come to a head next week over a crucial state permit, Oba and her fellow protesters face a new obstacle: Some neighbors are speaking out on behalf of Dominion. They have been swayed, in part, by an unprecedented $5.1 million ‘community investment package’ offered by the utility to the few hundred people in the area known as Union Hill. Dominion has promised to build a community center, buy an ambulance, improve local 911 lines and more. It’s a powerful inducement in a place with a difficult history, a remote area settled by free blacks and emancipated slaves after the Civil War. Dominion bought the compressor-station property from white descendants of a former plantation family. Unmarked graves of African American laborers are scattered throughout nearby woods. However, the money has done what it usually does when injected into a volatile mix of strong feelings, racial tension and fear of change: It has sharpened divisions.” Some see “Dominion’s package is an 11th-hour tactic to buy off concerns about environmental justice. …. Other residents — black and white — see the money as a sincere offer of help.”

12-9-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Mitigation of pipeline is tenuous. “Hiking trails in Albemarle County will not mitigate the effects of a pipeline in Nelson, in Buckingham, in Augusta. Not directly, it won’t. Not in a way that helps the people affected. Albemarle’s planned Biscuit Run Park will receive $5 million in pipeline ‘mitigation’ money from an agreement between the state and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC. The influx of funds is welcome; the park will be greatly enjoyed; and we don’t blame the county Board of Supervisors for taking the money. But we do think the money could be better spent. It should go directly to the counties affected, and specifically to reduce, repair or remediate direct impacts from the pipeline in those localities. Only the slimmest of threads ties an Albemarle park to the broad environmental impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ACP doesn’t even pass through Albemarle — but that wasn’t a criterion for distribution of the money, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Joshua Saks said. However, he said: ‘The project is nearby counties where the pipeline goes, and certainly this mitigation will allow for the people who are impacted by the pipe to still avail themselves of the outdoor opportunities.’ Folks in Nelson aren’t going to be interested in driving to Albemarle to go hiking if a pipeline leak fouls their drinking water or pastureland or an explosion takes out their house.”

12-8-18 Blue View. Northam threatens Air Board independence on eve of controversial decision. “Gov. Northam has failed the citizens of Virginia with his sudden decision to appoint two new members to the State Air Pollution Control Board just as the board is considering a controversial permit for a natural gas pipeline compressor station in Union Hill, an African-American community in central Virginia. …. But the problems go deeper in this case than the appointments chaos and skepticism about the proposed permit’s stringency. In effect, the governor, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dominion are saying that an historically African-American community is suitable for this compressor station. The governor seems to be ignoring his own environmental justice commission, which has pleaded for more analysis of the pipeline project’s impacts. …. Both of us have witnessed from the inside Virginia’s bipartisan “climate of capitulation” to the state’s energy and electric utility interests, and one of us has written a book based on her experiences (Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation, 2017). The current leadership of DEQ has been complicit, giving the regulated community what it wants and fighting—overtly and covertly–board members’ efforts to impose environmentally protective permit standards and to undertake appropriately strict enforcement.”

12-7-18 Roanoke Times. Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The company building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia violated environmental regulations more than 300 times, a lawsuit filed Friday by Virginia’s top lawyer alleges. Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing ‘the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations,’ according to a statement from Attorney General Mark Herring. Since work began earlier this year, inspections have found that crews failed to prevent muddy water from flowing off pipeline construction easements, often leaving harmful sediment in nearby streams and properties. Covering a span of seven months and nearly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route through five counties, the lawsuit is one of the most comprehensive summaries to date of the environmental toll taken by running a 42-inch diameter pipeline across rugged slopes and through pure mountain streams. Herring’s office filed the case on behalf of Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor and the State Water Control Board.”

12-7-18 Virginia Mercury. For the first time, regulators reject Dominion Energy planning document, invite utility to refile. “The State Corporation Commission, which regulates Virginia utilities, has shot down for the first time ever a long-range plan filed yearly by Dominion Energy and intended to outline how the company will meet its electric service obligations. ‘The commission finds, based on the record of this proceeding and applicable statutes, that the company has failed to establish that its 2018 IRP, as currently filed, is reasonable and in the public interest,’ the commission wrote in an order filed today. ‘The commission further finds that the company shall correct and refile its 2018 IRP subject to the provisions of this order.'”

12-7-18  Blue Virginia.  For the first time, Virginia officials reject Dominion Energy’s long-term #energy plans. “According to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), ‘BREAKING: For the first time, Virginia officials reject Dominion Energy’s long-term energy plans, including inflated energy projections.’ See below for the order by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC), which states that: ‘…the Commission finds, based on the record of this proceeding and applicable statutes, that the Company has failed to establish that its 2018 [Integrated Resource Plan – IRP], as currently filed, is reasonable and in the public interest. The Commission further finds that the Company shall correct and refile its 2018 IRP subject to the provisions of this Order.’ Among other problems, the SCC found that ‘The Company did not, however, model $870 million in energy efficiency programs, nor did it model a battery storage pilot required by Senate Bill 966,’ also that it ‘did not include costs associated with the Company’s Strategic Undergrounding Program (‘SUP’), Grid Transformation Plan, or Transmission Line Undergrounding Pilot, each of which was contained in, or modified by, Senate Bill 966.1.'”

12-7-18 WVNews. U.S. Fourth Circuit stays two Atlantic Coast Pipeline authorizations Friday, work halted until Dominion receives clarification. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a ruling Friday staying two important authorizations for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The ruling orders Dominion to halt all construction activities on the project immediately, except for stabilization activities needed to protect public safety and the environment, according to Atlantic Coast Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby. The two stayed authorizations came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The authorizations are the Biological Opinion, which covers the entirety of the pipeline project, and the Incidental Take Statement, which applies to roughly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route in West Virginia and Virginia.”

12-7-18 NBC News. How money stokes divide of historic black community in Virginia pipeline battle. “Neighbors and families are pitted against one another over a natural gas pipeline project in Union Hill. In the end, who stands to lose? …. As Dominion sought the proper permits for the pipeline and the station, the historically black community of Union Hill in Buckingham County joined a growing number of environmental groups concerned about the health and climate risks — and critics who say projects like it disproportionately burden minorities and lower-income people. But the energy company, in a push to win the hearts and minds of the county’s 17,000 residents, has taken a different turn, unveiling a series of long-sought benefits to residents who live closest to the compressor station site — a move that has further divided a populace already strained by an undercurrent of suspicion. ‘Dominion is an expert at the divide-and-conquer tactic,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, a leader of two historically black churches in Union Hill who was arrested in 2016 during an anti-pipeline protest outside of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, the state capital. ‘There’s a group of people who are even moving to get me out as pastor. Once you inject money into the conversation, it becomes a wedge.'”

12-6-18 Daily Progress. Letter: Northam shows lack of leadership. “The headline of The Daily Progress’ Nov. 20 editorial, ‘Air board appointments shock, surprise,’ captures the feelings of many around Virginia. Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — and associated projects like the huge, hazardous compressor station proposed in Buckingham County — have long been frustrated by Gov. Ralph Northam’s lack of leadership in protecting Virginia’s environment. However, the governor has at least assured us that scientific evidence and a transparent process would guide the state’s decisions. Citizens have believed that we can rely on the expert judgment of independent boards that operate outside of political motivations. Then the appearance of executive neutrality fell away. Gov. Northam used his discretionary power to replace Air Pollution Board members Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher after they had expressed reservations about approval of the compressor station, but before they could participate in the (mysteriously delayed and rescheduled) vote.”

12-6-18 Roanoke Times. First grants awarded from Mountain Valley Pipeline mitigation fund. “The first grants from a $27.5 million fund established to offset the environmental damage caused by building the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been awarded to seven forest conservation projects in Southwest Virginia. Before starting work on the natural gas pipeline in February, Mountain Valley struck an agreement with several state agencies to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe. The state then passed the company’s payments on to four conservation groups. The largest share, $15 million, went to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which announced this week that it has awarded $3.6 million of that sum to projects in the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Pittsylvania, Roanoke and Rockbridge.”

12-6-18 RTO Insider. Senate Confirms McNamee to FERC. “The U.S. Senate voted 50-49 on Thursday to confirm Bernard McNamee as a FERC commissioner, restoring the commission to full strength and Republicans’ 3-2 majority. Every Democratic senator voted against McNamee, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who had joined Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in its 13-10 vote Nov. 27 to advance the nominee to the floor. McNamee has served in the DOE Office of Policy since June. Prior to that, and after FERC’s rejection of the NOPR in January, he worked briefly as the director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Action, a group that files legal challenges over what it views as government overreach. It was in this role that McNamee promoted the center’s Life: Powered initiative — described as a project to ‘reframe the national discussion’ about fossil fuels — in a February speech captured on video. In the speech, McNamee described the effort to change public opinion about fossil fuels, which he called “the key not only to our prosperity [and] quality of life, but also to a clean environment.” He also attacked environmental groups, describing their activism against fossil fuels as a ‘constant battle between liberty and tyranny’ and criticized renewable resources. ‘Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole the physics of the grid,’ he said. ‘So, when people want to talk about science, they ought to talk about the physics of the grid and know what real science is, and that is how do you keep the lights on? And it is with fossil fuels and nuclear.’ The video — which was apparently taken down from the TPPF’s YouTube channel when McNamee was nominated — was uploaded to YouTube by the Energy and Policy Institute, a liberal advocacy group, on Nov. 20. The speech was a stark contrast to McNamee’s promise days earlier at his confirmation hearing to ‘be a fair, objective and impartial arbiter in the cases and issues that would confront me as a commissioner.””

12-6-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: Northam should reinstate air board members. “If we assume each board and commission member serving beyond his or her term has an equal chance of being removed on any given day by the governor, the odds of the two board members in question being randomly selected are 1 in 27,966. …. Around this same time, Gov. Northam also removed Roberta Kellum of the State Water Control Board. Ms. Kellum was similarly known for asking tough questions about both the ACP and equally egregious Mountain Valley Pipeline, and was also serving after her term expired. While these events are bad enough on their own, they are occurring against the backdrop of Gov. Northam threatening to shut down his own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice after it concluded he should not support either pipeline project. Notably, if one is to believe the current debacle is just terrible optics, no one on his public relations team has yet had his or her job axed. …. Until Gov. Northam invites Mr. Bleicher and Ms. Rubin back to vote on the air permit, which they have spent months studying, he will continue floundering in negative press of his own creation.”

12-6-18 Blue Virginia. Two Numbers: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would More than Double Dominion Energy Virginia’s Current Carbon Pollution. “24 million tons per year, total current carbon emissions from Dominion’s existing Virginia based power plants in 2018. 30 million tons per year, carbon pollution from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Today’s headline in the Washington Post, Global Carbon Reaches Record, begs the question in Virginia, what is Dominion Energy, our largest utility, doing about climate change? These two numbers tell you that Dominion Energy Virginia, a monopoly supposedly regulated by the state, is putting corporate profit over climate protection, aided and abetted by the Virginia political and business establishment. Many of these political and business leaders state that they understand climate change is real, but they have obviously not yet faced up to their responsibilities to take appropriate action.”

12-5-18 News & Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline hits another speed bump in Nelson County.  “Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project hit a speed bump after the Nelson County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Monday to deny four variance requests needed to construct part of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline through designated floodplain areas in Nelson County. The board’s denial in a 3-2 vote Monday means construction of the pipeline in certain areas of Nelson County will be on hold until ACP can gain the necessary approval to build through designated floodplain areas.”

12-5-18 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Air board controversy continues. “The Northam administration has decided not to seat two new members of the State Air Pollution Control Board until after a controversial vote next week on the Buckingham compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The governor faced intense criticism for failing to reappoint two members who had raised questions about the compressor. Instead, he announced that they were being replaced by two brand new appointees. The governor’s office said the action had nothing to do with the board members’ objection to the compressor station. The new appointments were merely the result of the natural progression of replacements and reappointments. Like some 230 other members of state boards and commissions, the terms of the departing Air Pollution Control Board members had expired several months ago, and they were continuing to serve until Gov. Ralph Northam took action. In standard operating procedure, the governor has rolled out numerous appointments over recent months. But either he was badly advised on the timing of these two appointments, failing to understand that removing compressor critics at such a significant juncture would appear to be politically motivated — or the decision actually was politically motivated. …. Gov. Northam’s office, in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explained: ‘Given the compressed timeline the governor’s new appointees face, as well as the level of attention trained on their willingness to serve the commonwealth, they will not be seated until after the upcoming meeting of the air board on Dec. 10.’ The obvious retort: Mr. Northam’s decision created ‘the compressed timelime.’ Mr. Northam’s decision created the unfavorable ‘level of attention’ — which was to some degree trained on the new members, but more accurately trained on the governor himself. …. Surely it would have been better to have left the board intact for a while longer, preserving a breadth and diversity of opinion in deciding an issue that will affect the residents of Buckingham for a long — a very long — time.”

12-5-18 Virginia Mercury. Northam’s struggle to explain air board move suggests it’s exactly what it appears to be. “Can Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to yank two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board as it weighs a permit for the compressor station Dominion Energy plans for Buckingham County be seen as anything other than what it appears to be: a clumsy attempt to tip the scale for the influential utility? In the nearly three weeks since the decision, Northam’s administration has offered nothing in the realm of the remotely plausible that explains the move and its timing. In fact, he’s sunken deeper into this mess of his own making by preventing his handpicked replacements from voting on the contentious air permit next week, which, curiously, Northam now says was the plan all along. …. ‘It just was,’ is evidently the best answer the administration can muster for why it has now cast a deep shadow of illegitimacy over a vote on an ultra-contentious project already seen as a dubious power grab by an energy giant mainly focused on shareholder profit.”

12-5-18 Washington Post. ‘We are in trouble.’ Global carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018. “As nations assemble in Poland for climate talks, the figures suggest there is no clear end in sight to the growth of humanity’s contribution to climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide are reaching the highest levels on record, scientists projected Wednesday, in the latest evidence of the chasm between international goals for combating climate change and what countries are doing. Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. Those hopes appear to have been dashed. In 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent. The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by a nearly 5 percent growth of emissions in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while those of the European Union declined by just under 1 percent. As nations continue climate talks in Poland, the message of Wednesday’s report was unambiguous: When it comes to promises to begin cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, the world is well off target.”

12-5-18 Nelson County Times. ‘Close to home’: Sarah Murphy rides to raise awareness of natural resources along pipeline’s path. “Sarah Murphy grew up in Augusta County and now has a small farm in Nelson County. Six years ago, she participated in a trail ride through Kentucky and West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal and soon realized the mountains in her area were in danger. Concerned the Atlantic Coast Pipeline may damage the mountains and waters she loves, Murphy again is on the trails to protest and bring awareness to as many people as she can about how the pipeline could endanger natural resources around its path. ‘All of this hits close to home as far as our natural resources and I wanted to bring attention to the situation,’ Murphy said. …. In September, Murphy and Rob Roy, her Percheron thoroughbred, completed over 100 miles of the ride from Staunton to West Virginia to raise awareness of the potential impacts of the pipeline on Nelson County. …. It was a huge eye-opener to actually see everything being built in West Virginia, Murphy said in the beginning of November. ‘It’s different to actually see the actual pipes and the meters in the yard and smelling the gas leaks,’ Murphy said. Murphy started her ride back on Nov. 3 and believed it would take about a month to complete. But the snow in West Virginia and the wind chill have been issues during the return ride home. On Nov. 30, Murphy was about 40 miles from the West Virginia, Virginia border.”

12-4-18 NBC29. Rutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Look at Lawsuit Regarding Pipeline Construction. A nonprofit in Charlottesville is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take a look at a lawsuit from Virginia landowners that challenges the Mountain Valley Pipeline after it was dismissed by a lower court. In October of 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave natural gas and energy companies the green light to begin obtaining private properties for the project. The lawsuit the Rutherford Institute is referring to asks for a hearing to argue that the government has violated property owners’ right by allowing pipeline companies to take their property.

12-3-18 KPVI6. Congress considers changing law for pipeline crossing of Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway. “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘Congress is considering a legislative amendment that would explicitly authorize the park service to grant a permit for such a crossing,’ Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an emailed statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The park service has twice issued permits for the pipeline to cross the parkway, the second one after the 4th Circuit vacated the original permit in early August as an ‘arbitrary and capricious’ exercise of the agency’s powers. The 4th Circuit has issued a stay of the permit the U.S. Forest Service issued for the pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail on land within the George Washington National Forest, which is under appeal in the Richmond-based court. ‘It’s disappointing but not surprising that Dominion would try to bend the law to its will,’ said Austin ‘DJ’ Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has appealed both federal permits for the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline. ‘It’s already tried to bend the agencies to its will.’

12-3-18 News Leader. Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard will be in Fishersville, avoids need for review. “Dominion Energy secured its Augusta County location for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard. The storage yard will be located at Wilson Trucking Corporation in Fishersville. Since the area is already zoned for industrial use, Dominion does not need to obtain a special-use permit from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals, said county planner Leslie Tate. The storage yard won’t need oversight from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals, the governing body that denied two special-use permit requests from Dominion this year. There will not be a public hearing for this storage yard, due to the fact that Dominion did not need to get a special-use permit for the location. Tate said the lot’s zoning gives Wilson Trucking Corporation a ‘use by right,’ so it’s not subject to special review and approval by a local government. …. Wilson Trucking Corporation confirmed Monday that Dominion Energy is one of its tenants. But it would not discuss the terms of the lease and declined to comment any further on the project.”

12-1-18 Daily Progress. $5M in pipeline funds to support new Albemarle park. “Though the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route does not cross through Albemarle, $5 million in pipeline mitigation money is earmarked for the future Biscuit Run Park in the county. Portions of the 600-mile pipeline that spans from West Virginia to North Carolina will cross into Nelson and Buckingham counties, which border Albemarle. Virginia entered into a memorandum of agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which includes Dominion Energy, in late 2017 for mitigation of forest fragmentation impacts of the ACP. The controversial agreement allocated $57.85 million to six organizations, including $5 million to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to be used for forest conservation and water quality protection. In an agreement letter dated and signed Jan. 12, CACF agreed to accept the $5 million to distribute to Albemarle for ‘infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park. The infrastructure investments that Albemarle County will make at Biscuit Run include the following: access roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic shelters and trails for both walking and biking,’ the letter states. ‘Additional infrastructure investments may also include sporting fields and related facilities if funding permits.'”