January 2018 News

January 2018

1-31-18 Carolina Journal. Virginia, N.C. pipeline deals differ greatly. “On its face, the agreement between the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Commonwealth of Virginia looks similar to the deal the pipeline operators signed with Gov. Roy Cooper. Both allow the pipeline to cross private and public property in each state and deliver natural gas to communities along the way, so long as the ACP follows federal and state environmental laws. Both involve payments of nearly $58 million. Leslie Hartz, a vice president of Dominion Energy, one of the pipeline’s partners, signed both documents. But the similarities largely end there. The Virginia agreement says ACP will pay to ‘mitigate’ any environmental impacts from the pipeline’s construction and operation. It spells out in detail the share of money addressing forest conservation and water quality (including wildlife protections). The agreement is between the pipeline operators and the state. Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward signed the document for the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Read the Virginia agreement here.) In contrast, the North Carolina deal merely states the money will go into an escrow account, and the governor ‘has the authority to direct the disbursement of funds contemplated in this Memorandum of Understanding … on behalf of the state of North Carolina.’ The money can go toward mitigation, but also for economic development and renewable energy projects — uses having nothing to do with environmental protection. The details will be spelled out in an executive order once the pipeline gets final approval by federal and state officials. The deal is between the pipeline operators and the governor of North Carolina. Cooper attorney William McKinney signed North Carolina’s memorandum. (Read the North Carolina agreement here.)”

1-30-18 NBC29. Lawsuit Filed Against FERC Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline Approval. “On January 29, 2018, attorneys representing Wild Virginia and ten other citizen groups filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, asking the court to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Members of the public have revealed gross deficiencies in the evidence and analysis supposedly justifying FERC’s issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity but the Commission has failed to acknowledge or correct those deficiencies. …. FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur echoed criticisms of the Commission’s analyses that have been presented by independent experts and citizens over the last three years, when she voted to deny approval for ACP. She judged that the purported benefits of the pipeline were not proven to outweigh the costs, the standard by which FERC is required to review such projects.”

1-30-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Regulators say Dominion’s legislation could lead to billions in additional costs charged to ratepayers. “State regulators say the package of utility legislation Dominion Energy is pushing this General Assembly session would keep customers from getting any refunds for at least six years, make it more difficult to lower base rates and potentially result “in billions of dollars of additional costs” for ratepayers. Delegates and senators of both parties asked the State Corporation Commission to weigh in this month on the raft of legislation to undo the controversial 2015 rate freeze law, which locked in base rates that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of ‘overearnings’ for Dominion and Virginia’s other large regulated utility, Appalachian Power, while preventing the commission from ordering refunds. Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam also expressed reservations about provisions of the legislative package. In a letter Monday, the commission said the main House and Senate bills effectively extend the current rate freeze six years into the future by switching from the biennial review system in place prior to 2015 to a triennial review. That means the earliest date Appalachian customers could get a refund is in 2024. Dominion customers could receive refunds in 2025.”

1-30-18 Bladen Journal [NC] Experts debate legality of Cooper’s pipeline deal. “Is a financial agreement between the governor of North Carolina and a private party legal just because the governor says so? That’s the gist of the memorandum of understanding hammered out between Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration and the four utilities building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Under the deal, announced Friday, the pipeline operators would pay $57.8 million for projects the governor wants, and, in exchange, the operators get to build the multibillion-dollar pipeline across eastern North Carolina. Former N.C. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, a Wake County attorney in private practice, says the deal violates the state constitution and would take away the rights of North Carolinians to challenge terms of the agreement in court. In contrast, Gerry Cohen, the General Assembly’s former special counsel, said the agreement seems unusual because it didn’t go through normal budget channels. But Cohen thinks it could survive a possible legal challenge.

1-29-18 Augusta Free Press. Rasoul renewable energy bill puts moratorium on new pipelines, fossil fuel projects. “One of the most aggressive and ambitious renewable energy bills was announced today in Virginia. HB 1490, officially introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, calls for the state to make a swift and just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2035. Just as notably, the bill establishes a moratorium on state agency approval of any fossil fuel projects like the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. HB 1490 is one of five state bills across the country expected to be introduced this year modeled on the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act, a federal bill introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Like the OFF Act, it mandates a clean energy transition by 2035, while prioritizing environmental justice and protections for displaced workers in the fossil fuel industry.”

1-29-18 CBS19. Dominion turning to old friends as faces scrutiny of influence in Richmond. “Dominion Energy is relying on longtime allies in the Virginia General Assembly as it faces unprecedented scrutiny of its political influence and hard questions about whether most Virginians’ monthly electric bills are higher than they need to be. Lawmakers, lobbyists and others at the General Assembly say there’s been a noticeable change in attitude toward the company this year compared to three years ago, when Dominion had little trouble passing legislation that has resulted in a windfall for the utility. The company is turning for help to friendly lawmakers who have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. That includes legislation that would allow it to continue charging rates that currently produce what regulators call excessive yearly profits of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

1-29-18 CBS19. Judge dismisses lawsuit over proposed pipeline compressor station. “A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors over a proposed compressor station, which is part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On Jan. 5, 2017, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a special use permit for the compressor station, which would be built in the Union Hill area. Lou Zeller, a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, filed a ‘notice of appeal’ on Feb. 6 without the help of an attorney. ‘I wish I would have gotten better advice,’ said Zeller. Buckingham Circuit Court Judge William Alexander ruled Zeller’s appeal was not filed correctly, comparing it to a ‘letter to the editor.’ ‘It was specious to compare a letter to the editor to a filing which was done not only to the court, but delivered to all the necessary parties,’ said Zeller. Attorney Charles Lawler eventually took the case and filed another appeal on Mar. 8. Alexander dismissed it since Lawler’s appeal was filed more than 30 days after the board’s decision. He said he was uncertain about parts of the case, arguing the plaintiff had good arguments, and he hopes the case will be reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

1-29-18 Roanoke Times. Crawford: Still time to fight pipelines. “In the recent U.S. District Court proceedings where property owners and Mountain Valley Pipeline squared off, I was struck by a stark contrast. MVP claimed “irreparable harm” through the loss of millions of dollars if the project is delayed, while property owners faced even more profound losses. Already, lives have been disrupted, shortened by stress and cast into limbo. This is the true irreparable harm, and the destruction hasn’t even begun. How do we weigh this human toll against the money MVP will lose if the project doesn’t proceed as hoped? Is anyone in MVP really going to suffer? No one asked them to put their millions at risk on such an unprecedented, monumental gamble. The engineering challenges alone leave me aghast. A giant in the opposition efforts taught me that not everything the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves gets built, and not everything begun gets finished. Now is the time to pour it on, to find your strong suit, to realize we have impact. By the time you read this, we may have prevailed for the time being in district court. Regardless, this monster has a long way to go, and we have reasons to keep fighting. For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently stopped construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline, citing the discharge of industrial waste without a permit and the spilling of drilling fluids. The company has 30 days to indicate how they will address these problems. Also, the Constitution Pipeline through New York State and Pennsylvania had been approved by FERC but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that Constitution did not provide enough information to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act, thereby stopping the project. The company appealed NYSDEC’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit and lost. An attitude of ‘Why fight, they’ll build them anyway?’ will send pipeline developers chuckling to their bulldozers. If not engaged yet, don’t think, ‘too late.’ Think: ‘Just in time.’”

1-28-18 CBS19. Buckingham judge to hear arguments over proposed ACP compressor station. “A judge in Buckingham County will hear arguments over a proposed compressor station a part of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is suing the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors for granting a special use permit for a compressor station in the Woods Corner area. The Buckingham County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the permit previously. The environmental group alleges the board violated an existing zoning law. Besides the threat of constant noise and pollution, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said the compressor station will be built in a historic African American community. ‘That’s kind of the typical place that they’re put, and are put there because the people don’t have the resources to fight back,’ said Sharon Ponton, of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.”

1-27-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. As pipeline moves closer to construction, Virginia officials brace for confrontations. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the deeply contentious, $5.5 billion Dominion Energy-led project planned to run from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, moved closer to construction Friday after winning a pair of key approvals from environmental agencies in West Virginia and North Carolina. And with tree clearing already approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission along some portions of the 600-mile route, state officials in Virginia are preparing for protests and confrontations between activists and workers, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran and State Police Superintendent Gary Settle told legislators this week.”

1-26-18 WRAL. West Virginia issues permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “West Virginia’s environmental regulators have approved a construction stormwater permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would carry natural gas southeast from the center of the state. The permit covers stormwater discharge associated with the disturbance of approximately 2,500 acres (about 1,000 hectares) of land for the natural gas pipeline along with a compressor station, meter stations, access roads and interconnects, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. It gives the state agency inspection authority along the entire route in West Virginia including water crossings and uplands, the department said.”

1-26-18 Appalachian Voices.  Appalachian Voices slams N.C. approval of Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “The massive pipeline would run through eight rural eastern North Carolina counties, and cross streams, rivers and wetlands 326 times, posing unacceptable long-term risks to drinking water sources, fisheries and watersheds.”  Amy Adams, North Carolina Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, said, “The governor acted in the best interest of North Carolina’s coastal families and businesses when he opposed offshore drilling, but his action today abandons the people who live and work in one of the most disenfranchised regions of our state and whose private property would be sacrificed for this unnecessary pipeline.  Gov. Cooper cannot dress up this pipeline approval by throwing a few million dollars for environmental mitigation, which in itself acknowledges there will indeed be severe impacts to communities and our natural resources. And while his support for renewable energy and cutting climate pollution is commendable, his action today allowing this pipeline utterly undermines those very goals.”  She also noted, “It will be impossible for the agency to do all of the monitoring and enforcement to prevent widespread damage, and they know it. The pressure must have been very intense to make senior DEQ staff and the Governor cave in and accept a deal ahead of permit deadlines.”

1-26-18 NC Policy Watch.  Over widespread opposition, DEQ approves key water quality permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  “Over the past week, there were rumors that Duke Energy was cutting a deal with the Cooper administration for a permit approval. Under the terms, Duke would establish a environmental mitigation fund, which included money for renewable energy. That rumor proved to be true, as within minutes of DEQ publicizing its approval of the ACP permit, Cooper’s office announced that Dominion Power and Duke Energy will put $57.8 million into the fund to be used for environmental mitigation initiatives. These include efforts to “reduce the carbon footprint and expansion of renewable energy sources.”

1-26-18 Charlotte Observer. NC approves Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit through 8 counties. “A key state permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was approved by state regulators Friday, clearing a major hurdle for the interstate natural gas project to move ahead in North Carolina. The state Department of Environmental Quality announced its long-awaited decision more than a year and a half after Duke Energy and other partners filed their application. Opponents immediately vowed legal challenges to try to block the project. The approval for the underground pipeline comes with a number of conditions for testing, monitoring and inspections.”

1-25-18 The State [SC]. How the Dominion-SCE&G deal could trample your property rights. “Dominion’s offer to purchase SCANA is a bad deal for the entire state, not just SCE&G customers, who will stay on the hook for the abandoned nuclear plant. Ultimately, this deal could trample property rights and strangle the opportunity to develop an energy mix that supports efficiency and renewables while increasing our long-term commitment to the price volatility and environmental impacts of fossil fuels. I am convinced that Dominion’s interest in SCANA has to do with only one thing: bringing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into South Carolina. Dominion and Duke Energy are co-owners of the pipeline, which Dominion has said it wants to bring to South Carolina, but Dominion is the operator and stands to profit the most. …. And, because FERC has consistently refused to scrutinize pipeline need in its approval process, Dominion can ‘self-deal’ on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline once it controls SCANA: Ity can sign a contract with itself for a “need” that doesn’t exist. This is what critics say has happened with this pipeline in Virginia and North Carolina: The end customers are the pipeline developers themselves, but the ratepayers wind up paying for it while shareholders profit.”

1-25-18 NC Policy Watch.  Duke Energy, ready to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, goes to the top: Gov. Cooper.  “Anxious to begin cutting trees and clearing land to build the North Carolina portion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Duke Energy has approached Gov. Roy Cooper’s office about the status of its permits, Policy Watch has confirmed.  However, the utility did not use litigation as a cudgel to expedite the permitting process, as has been rumored, according to Ken Eudy, senior advisor to Gov. Cooper.  Eudy acknowledged that the utility has ‘asked about the permits,’ but that Duke did not threaten to sue. Duke Energy did not respond to an email asking about possible litigation.”

1-25-18 Roanoke Times.  Casey: The Virginia legislature’s long, sordid saga of electric-utility ‘regulation’ “If the General Assembly approves a new regulatory scheme promoted by power companies and their legislative lackeys, it’ll be the fourth time in 11 years ratepayers have been screwed. Why are voters putting up with it? In 2015, the General Assembly enacted legislation that froze electric rates and allowed electric monopolies to get away with overcharging customers. Last week, Del. Sam Rasoul took to the House floor and blasted that law as ‘corrupt.’ In politics, those are fighting words. But, if anything, Rasoul, D-Roanoke, understated the problem. Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, sponsored that shameful, dishonest law. Already, it’s cost electric ratepayers an estimated $400 million. The price tag could top $1 billion if the law stays on the books. Passing it was no isolated incident. It was part of a long-running effort by electric monopolies and their pusillanimous patsies in the General Assembly to defang a regulatory framework that protected consumers. Now, there’s more Richmond treachery in the works. Virginia electric customers are about to get royally screwed for at least the fourth time in 11 years. This year, the proposed swindle is even worse. It’s being orchestrated to benefit Dominion Energy and (to a lesser extent) Appalachian Power, the commonwealth’s dominant electric-power monopolies. The former gets special consideration in Richmond because Dominion (by far) is the top corporate donor to political campaigns. That raises blunt questions. Why do voters put up with this? Why haven’t they revolted? Don’t they care that their elected representatives repeatedly have cheated them? The breathtaking fraud foisted upon Virginia consumers goes back to 1999. To understand it, one has to begin in the late 1990s.”

1-25-18 WHSV3.  Anti-pipeline group wants more support from board of supervisors towards pipeline. “In Augusta County, some people who are against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are upset with the board of supervisors, after they say certain comments were made in a previous meeting. On Wednesday night, more than a dozen people showed up to the Augusta County board of supervisors meeting with anti pipeline signs and shirts, speaking against comments they say were made in a board meeting on Monday. They say those comments referred to the pipeline being a done deal. Becci Harmon, who is against the pipeline said they want the elected officials to do what’s best for Augusta County. ‘We still want their support by all means, but we definitely want them to tighten up and be extremely strict about regulations,’ said Harmon.”

1-24-18 Washington Post. Lawmakers from both parties raise alarm about rush to redo Dominion oversight. “A bipartisan group of delegates has called for a timeout on a massive effort to redraw the state’s oversight of its biggest electric utility, asking for more information to safeguard the interests of ratepayers. Three Republicans and three Democrats, including senior leaders, have asked the State Corporation Commission to review several pieces of legislation aimed at replacing a rate freeze that Dominion Energy has enjoyed since 2015. …. But critics warn the measure could be worse for consumers in the long term than the existing rate freeze. It would limit the state’s ability to order rebates to consumers for years to come, subject the utilities to state oversight reviews every three years instead of every two, and return to ratepayers only a portion of the excess profits the companies have reaped during the freeze. Lawmakers acknowledge that Dominion’s lobbyists helped craft the bill.”

1-24-18 Aberdeen News [Ohio]  Gas pipeline told to halt drilling under river after spill. “Federal regulators have again told a company building twin natural gas pipelines across northern Ohio to stop drilling under a river because of concerns over a spill. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says in the stoppage ordered Wednesday that it wants the builders of the Rover Pipeline to answer questions about the spill and look at whether there are other options to cross the river. Ohio officials say 200,000 gallons of drilling fluid down have been lost in a drilling hole. Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is developing the $4.2 billion pipeline across Ohio and into West Virginia and Michigan. It’s also was behind the Dakota Access oil pipeline.”

1-23-18 Yahoo Finance. Renewable energy may be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. “Electricity from renewable sources will soon be cheaper than power from most fossil fuels, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In its new report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, the agency revealed that technology improvements, government take-up and proactive project development has pushed the costs associated with renewable energy to a new low, and that by 2020 renewable power will largely undercut fossil fuel.”

1-23-18 Indy Week [NC]. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Unlikely to Bring Economic Development to Three Eastern North Carolina counties, Report Finds. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion infrastructure project, is unlikely to bring economic development to three eastern North Carolina counties, according to a new report by the North Carolina-based energy consultant Nancy LaPlaca. The report contradicts earlier predictions by pipeline developers that the project will encourage development in Johnston, Cumberland, and Robeson counties, three of eight eastern North Carolina counties the six-hundred-mile pipeline is slated to run through. …. LaPlaca’s findings push back on a December report submitted by Dominion to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, which is responsible for issuing water- and air-quality permits for the project, that concluded the ACP would yield a net positive economic impact and minor cumulative impacts.

1-23-18 The State [SC]  Gov. McMaster to veto any bill that keeps the Dominion-SCANA deal alive. “Pass a law that blocks SCE&G from continuing to charge its customers for two abandoned nuclear reactors, and I’ll sign it, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster told state lawmakers Tuesday. The Richland Republican, up for election in November, wrote a letter to the General Assembly asking lawmakers for a proposal ‘that ensures SCANA ratepayers will not pay a single additional dollar towards the failed V.C. Summer reactors.’ He also threatened to veto any bill that ‘continues to place the financial burden of this corporate failure on South Carolina ratepayers.’ The proposal McMaster wants, which the S.C. House and Senate already are considering, effectively would kill Virginia-based Dominion Energy’s deal to buy SCANA and refund its electric customers about $1,000 per household. …. Dominion has said it will walk away if it can’t charge SCE&G’s customers another $2.8 billion for the scuttled project over the next 20 years. That money is necessary to make the acquisition of debt-laden SCANA palatable for shareholders, Dominion officials have said.”

1-22-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline construction start OK’d in West Virginia. “The federal government gave its go-ahead Monday for construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to start in West Virginia. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval was limited to work on access roads and construction yards in five West Virginia counties, it marked the first time Mountain Valley has met all the requirements for preliminary construction to begin anywhere along the 303-mile route of its natural gas pipeline. FERC has yet to take a similar action for the Virginia section of the interstate pipeline, which would pass through the Roanoke and New River valleys.” Article continues with a summary of current status of MVP and ACP activity in WV and VA.

1-22-18 Augusta Free Press. Chesapeake Bay Foundation appeals Atlantic Coast Pipeline certification. “The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Friday filed an appeal of the Virginia State Water Control Board’s water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. CBF has long been concerned about the serious threats to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed posed by the proposed pipeline. The petition for review, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, is the first step in the appeal, which is anticipated to address many issues related to the protection of water quality. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has the potential to damage Virginia waterways from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, so its construction and operation must be held to the strictest environmental standards possible,’ said CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller. ‘We have always maintained that the Water Control Board cannot have reasonable assurance that water quality will be protected unless it evaluates the adequacy of the pipeline company’s plans to prevent construction-caused erosion, dirty stormwater, and other impacts.’”

1-22-18 CBS19. Dominion Energy continues tree felling for proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Hundreds of trees are falling as Dominion Energy started tree felling over the weekend for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. People who live in Buckingham County were surprised to see the work starting so soon, not even a day after the utility company received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. ‘We’ve had crews standing by so that they’re ready to begin as soon as we received approval from the agency,’ said Aaron Ruby, a Dominion spokesman. Ruby said tree felling is different from the actual construction of the pipeline itself. He also said Dominion is not trespassing. ‘We’re not uprooting the stumps, we’re not disturbing the soil or the land, we’re not removing the trees from the right of way,” said Ruby. “We’re only doing this on land where we’ve reached an agreement with the landowner.’

1-22-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Tom Cormons column: This time, our elected representatives must tell Dominion ‘No’   “On Friday, [Dominion] put forth an ambitious legislative package designed to keep electricity rates artificially inflated by circumventing appropriate oversight from Virginia’s independent consumer protection agency, the State Corporation Commission. …. It’s high time for our elected representatives to finally say “no” to Dominion when it comes to its demanding more power over our lives and future for the sake of shareholder profits.”

1-20-18 CBS19. Tree felling for Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins in Buckingham County. “Tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has begun in parts of Buckingham County. Aaron Ruby, a spokesperson for Dominion Energy, confirmed crews are working in areas where they have received approval from the landowner.”

1-20-18 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline points the wrong way to energy’s future. “Institutional investors, concerned about climate change, are threatening to withhold investments in the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters that are not moving away from fossil fuels. …. Jim Warren of NC WARN, a utility watchdog group that has long challenged Duke Energy’s pricing, pollution issues and plans for new plants, has turned his criticism to a kind of helpful cajoling. He opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as a potential burden on ratepayers and an environmental hazard, but he also sees it as not in Duke Energy’s best interests. If the utility doesn’t aggressively convert to alternative energy sources, he said it risks being locked into an obsolete business model and ratepayers may have to cover the losses. ‘It’s this old guard mentality thinking the monopoly will support them, but the ground is shifting under everybody’s feet,’ Warren said. ‘We’ll find out if they are agile enough to make that transition.” He added, “Right now they are going headlong in the wrong direction.’”

1-19-18 Record-Courier [Ohio].  State asks feds to stop Rover work.   The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants federal regulators to halt Rover Pipeline from boring beneath the Tuscarawas River until the company can show it won’t lose drilling fluid underground. Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler made the request Friday in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after Rover’s attempt to stem the loss with casing and cement failed at the Bethlehem Township drilling site. Rover had lost 146,000 gallons of drilling fluid down the pilot hole as of Jan. 11, according to Ohio EPA. ‘Obviously, they’re in a problem area and the approved fixes were not successful and, then, these temporary fixes were not successful,’ Butler said. ‘Rather than just continue to put a Band-Aid on this, we think they need to stop (and) come up with a permanent solution before they’re allowed to proceed.’ There is no evidence of drilling fluid leaking at the surface or contaminating private wells, but Rover’s underground losses put at risk a nearby wetland and groundwater, Butler said. ‘Just because it’s not coming to the surface does not mean it’s not a problem,’ he said.” [NB: Dominion plans to drill under the James for the ACP.]

1-19-18 Houston Chronicle. U.S. becoming net exporter of natural gas. “U.S. becoming net exporter of natural gas in 2018 for the first time since 1957 due to increased sales to Mexico, the opening of new markets through liquefied natural gas and declining imports from Canada, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The United States is shipping LNG to at least 20 foreign markets, the Energy Department said, and exports of LNG will continue to grow as terminals on the Gulf Coast reach capacity and companies expand or develop new terminals.”

1-19-18 Daily Progress. Agency grants request to begin tree cutting for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a request by the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline to begin cutting down trees along parts of the 600-mile pipeline route in West Virginia and Virginia, despite the fact that the project still lacks some regulatory approvals. In a letter Friday, Dave Swearingen, a FERC official, gave the green light to cutting down the trees using handheld equipment such as chain saws. The approval is limited to spots where easements have been obtained for land access, where surveys have been completed and where no additional state or local permits are required for the activity.”

1-18-18 Kallanish Energy. Constitution Pipeline files petition with U.S. Supreme Court. “Constitution Pipeline Co. is taking its fight with New York state to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kallanish Energy reports. The project sponsors, in a Tuesday statement, said, ‘We continue to believe that this federally-approved project has been unjustly prohibited from construction.’ The $1 billion, 121-mile natural gas pipeline is a joint project of Williams Cos., Cabot Oil and Gas, Piedmont Natural Gas and WGL Holdings. The company has petitioned the nation’s highest court to review the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Last Aug. 18, that court denied Constitution’s challenge after the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation denied the company’s application for water-quality certification. A rehearing request was denied by the appeals court on Oct. 19. On Jan. 11, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld the New York decision, even though FERC had approved the project.”

1-18-18 NJSpotlight. A Few Cold Days Should Not a Pipeline Make. “Most natural gas used by residents and businesses is bought under long-term contracts unaffected by sudden jumps in spot-market prices. As New Jerseyans shivered through the recent cold spell, PennEast tried to use our discomfort with the wintry weather outside as one more opportunity to make a bogus case for an expensive and dangerous pipeline that isn’t needed to meet the state’s energy demands — today or in the future. It is a knee-jerk reaction to claim that more pipelines are needed because prices increase during periods of cold weather. The industry knows better, which explains why Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG, told investors in November, ‘You don’t want to build an interstate pipeline capability for a polar vortex. It’s unnecessary. It’s expensive. There’s no need to do that …’”

1-18-18 Nelson County Times.  Wellman – Letter to the Editor:  Cold snap brings hot PR,  “Ruby fails to mention that, if the ACP is built, its captive ratepayers will be paying for it for decades. So the question for consumers is whether to pay now — $5 billion to $6 billion direct cost of construction plus Dominion’s 14 percent return on equity — or to pay later if and when there are short-term spikes in gas prices.  There are good reasons to opt for the ‘pay later’ approach. If producing electricity is the main reason for the ACP proposal, as Dominion officials claimed when they announced their plan, there is ample pipeline capacity now and more is coming. Independent analyses have shown that existing pipelines have sufficient capacity until 2030. Later this year, modifications of the huge Transco pipeline serving the East Coast are scheduled to be completed, thereby greatly expanding available supplies well before the ACP would become operational.  More broadly, Dominion’s relentless push to build the ACP runs against the global tide — a shift in energy production from fossil fuels to renewables. This shift is necessitated by the threat of devastating climate change and facilitated by the falling cost of solar and wind energy, both of which have reached or are approaching parity with natural gas. Rather than being a bridge to the future, gas is becoming an anchor in the past.  If the ACP were truly in the public interest, Dominion would be stating its case directly and openly, rather than relying heavily on politics and PR. Building the pipeline truly is not for ‘public use and necessity,’ but just another instance of public pain for private gain.”

1-18-18 Nelson County Times.  Recent cold snap fuels argument in favor of Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Aaron Ruby, Dominion’s ever-present ACP cheerleader, wants to convince us that our recent cold weather is a justification for the ACP, telling us the cold “demonstrated in dramatic fashion the real and urgent need for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”   Ruby says that because they used more electricity and gas to run heating systems, customers will see higher utility bills. Yes, we may see higher utility bills for January, but that doesn’t justify the immense long-term cost of the ACP ($2.3 billion more than existing sources, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center) which will be passed to Dominion customers – on every month’s utility bill for years to come.  Ruby cites “severely limited capacity” of existing pipelines serving Virginia and North Carolina as the cause for a spike in gas costs passed on to customers. Yet in the same article, Chris Stockton, spokesperson for Williams Partners, which operates the Transco System that Dominion relies on, said the pipelines “performed remarkably” during the cold weather. “We were able to meet all of our firm capacity contracts. The system delivered a record amount of gas,” said Stockton, noting that the system delivered about 10 percent of the natural gas consumed in the country on that day, Jan. 5. “It’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s a testament to the system that we have.”

1-17-18 News Advance. Atlantic Coast Pipeline permitting process unfolds in Nelson. “A chapter of the ongoing permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline began unfolding in Nelson on Tuesday, when the Board of Zoning Appeals took a first swing at reviewing applications for the project to cross a number of floodplains in the county. As a result of updates to the General Floodplain District article of the Nelson County Zoning Ordinance passed in September, the ACP is required to go before the BZA to obtain variances for 11 floodplain crossings in the county. According to ACP’s variance applications, the project would cross 4½ miles of floodplain in the county — 3½ miles of which are the pipeline itself and 1 mile is constituted in access roads. ACP is required to seek variances for the floodplain crossings because under the updated ordinance, the pipeline would qualify as a ‘critical facility’ that normally would not be allowed to be constructed in a floodplain. State law mandates a decision on the applications must be rendered within 90 days of the application date, which was Tuesday. …. The BZA is scheduled to meet next Feb. 5, but discussion during Tuesday’s meeting signaled the BZA would use the meeting to convene a closed session to go over application details with Shreve and Draper Aden Associates. Public hearings for the applications were set for 7 p.m. Feb. 12. The board said Tuesday it plans to hold the meeting in the General District Courtroom of the Nelson County Courthouse but in anticipation of large turnout left open the possibility of moving it to a different site. That information will be included in public notices posted in the Nelson County Times and on the county website. Additionally, the BZA left open the possibility of extending the public hearings a day if there is not adequate time to hear all public comments.”

1-16-18 The State [Columbia SC]. Dominion is ‘bluffing’ over doomsday scenario in deal to buy SCANA, lawmakers say. “South Carolinians will face a dark and uncertain energy future if state lawmakers block Dominion Energy’s buyout of Cayce-based SCANA, the Virginia-based utility told a state Senate committee Tuesday. But state senators promptly called Dominion’s doomsday scenario a ‘bluff,’ some adding they don’t support the $14.6 billion deal offered ‘with a gun’ to lawmakers’ heads. ‘There’s a lot of spin going on. There’s a lot of bluffing,’ said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, who co-chairs the special Senate committee. ‘This is high-stakes poker.’”

1-16-18 Utility Dive. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces another setback in North Carolina. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces setbacks in North Carolina after the state’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources rejected the erosion and sediment control plan for the northern portion of the pipeline’s route across the state. Developers can make changes and refile the application.  The Division of Air Quality in December also requested additional information from the pipeline developer, and is now reviewing an air quality modeling report provided by ACP.”

1-16-18 Farmville Herald. Commission approves ACP yard. “Members of the Cumberland County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Jan. 8 to the Board of Supervisors for a temporary construction yard for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on Salem Church Road following a public hearing where three provided public comment. …. ‘The intended use is a temporary yard for storage of equipment and material for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ the board packet cited about the property, which would use 75 acres out of a 337-acre lot. …. In a presentation, Ron Baker, project manager with the ACP, said this portion of the pipeline that would use the construction yard stretches 59 miles, from Route 626 in Nelson County and will extend south to Route 607. ‘It’s slated for 2018 construction,’ Baker said. ‘Peak use of this yard would be from April to November of 2018. The new yard will be incorporated into the FERC filing.’”

1-15-18 Roanoke Times. Senate panel kills electricity rate freeze bill, promises bipartisan solution to come. “A Senate panel voted Monday to scrap a bill that would undo a utility rate freeze and lower electricity rates for most Virginia residents. For the second year in a row, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee killed a measure to undo a controversial rate freeze that locked customers of Appalachian Power Co. and Dominion Energy into base rates that earned the companies millions. But this year, several committee members said they’re working on alternative legislation to get at the same issue. The bills will be filed later this week, said committee Chairman Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. Sens. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, and Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, pushed the bill that would undo a controversial 2015 law that locked in base rates for most Virginia energy consumers. SB 9 would have allowed the State Corporation Commission to once again review and adjust utility rates, including ordering Dominion and Appalachian Power to issue refunds when necessary.”

1-15-18 EcoWatch. All Renewables Will Be Cost Competitive With Fossil Fuels by 2020. “Generating electricity from renewable energy sources is not only better for the environment compared to fossil fuels, but it will also be consistently cheaper in just a few years, according to a new report. According to a cost analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the best onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects could deliver electricity for $0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2019, much lower than the current cost of power from fossil fuels, which ranges from $0.05 to $0.17 per kWh.”

1-13-18 Roanoke Times. Efforts to take land for the Mountain Valley Pipeline challenged by property owners. “Even as it asks a federal judge to allow it to run a natural gas pipeline through land it does not own, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is considering changes to the pipeline’s route. …. The 11th-hour tweaks show that plans for the buried pipeline are too uncertain, and are changing too fast, for Mountain Valley to obtain the injunction it seeks that would provide immediate access to the land for tree cutting and other preliminary construction, attorneys for the landowners argued. ‘MVP has rushed to use eminent domain without ensuring that they got it right,’ said Norfolk attorney Stephen Clarke. A marathon, two-day hearing ended at 7:45 p.m. Saturday with Judge Elizabeth Dillon saying she will decide later on whether the company is entitled to the easements. ‘These have been long days, and I know this case is emotionally charged,’ Dillon said in asking attorneys to submit brief s before she issues a written opinion.”

1-12-18 The Guardian. New York City just declared war on the oil industry. “Over the years, the capital of the fight against climate change has been Kyoto, or Paris – that’s where the symbolic political agreements to try and curb the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions have been negotiated and signed. But now, New York City vaulted to leadership in the battle. On Wednesday, its leaders, at a press conference in a neighborhood damaged over five years ago by Hurricane Sandy, announced that the city was divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, and added for good measure that they were suing the five biggest oil companies for damages. Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry. And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial. …. Smart money has been pouring into renewables; dumb money has stuck with fossil fuel, even as it underperformed markets for the last half-decade. Just two months ago Norway’s vast sovereign wealth fund began to divest, which was a pretty good signal: if even an oil industry stalwart thought the game was up, they were probably right.”

1-12-18 WAMC. FERC Denies Constitution Pipeline Petition. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dealt a blow to Constitution Pipeline Thursday, rejecting the company’s petition that asked FERC to find that New York state wrongly denied the project a key permit. The pipeline company plans to fight the decision. Constitution Pipeline’s planned 124-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York hit another major roadblock with FERC’s decision. In April 2016, the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation denied Constitution Pipeline a water quality permit, which is required for the project to progress. Constitution challenged the DEC denial and in August 2017, a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the company’s argument that the DEC was “arbitrary and capricious” in denying a water quality permit. In its petition to FERC, Constitution argued that the DEC waived its authority by failing to act on the permit with a certain time period.”

1-12-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley begins legal efforts to take private land for its pipeline. “An overflow crowd packed a courtroom Friday for a hearing in which attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline are attempting to obtain access to private land for the natural gas pipeline. Many of the owners of nearly 300 rural properties the pipeline would cross are fighting the efforts — leading to a shortage of seats in the largest courtroom in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. Some spectators were forced to stand or wait in a hallway. At midday, court officials were making arrangements for a video feed to a second courtroom to accommodate the crowd. Attorneys for Mountain Valley are arguing that the laws of eminent domain give them the authority to obtain easements through the land even though the owners object and have refused to accept payments from the company. Mountain Valley is also seeking an order from Judge Elizabeth Dillon that would give them immediate access to the land, while the issue of how much the property owners should be paid is delayed until another day in court.”

1-11-18 Roanoke Times. Roanoke, Blacksburg Democrats roll out pipeline-related bills. “Spurred by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, Democrats from the Roanoke and New River valleys introduced a slew of pipeline-related bills this week, but the legislation is unlikely to stop the projects. Sen. John Edwards and Del. Sam Rasoul, both of Roanoke, and Del. Chris Hurst of Blacksburg introduced a package that increases landowners’ rights, adds pipeline safety measures and increases oversight of natural gas projects. ‘We are tired of being bullied, we are tired of being pushed around,’ Rasoul said Thursday at a news conference in Richmond.”

1-11-18 Rigzone. Natural Gas Survey Outlines Effects of Anti-Pipeline Fervor. “The majority of participants in a recent natural gas industry survey reported that they have encountered resistance to pipeline projects from activist groups, bureaucrats and others. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the 338 utility, municipal, commercial and community stakeholders polled by the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm Black & Veatch reported at least one type of project impediment from pipeline foes. As the list below implies, respondents often selected multiple negative impacts.”

1-10-18 The Guardian. New York City plans to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue oil companies. “New York City is seeking to lead the assault on climate change and the Trump administration with a plan to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming. City officials have set a goal of divesting New York’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in what they say would be “among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date”. Currently, New York City’s five pension funds have about $5bn in fossil fuel investments. New York state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels.”

1-10-18 Southeast Energy News. Atlantic Coast Pipeline hits more delays in North Carolina. “North Carolina regulators Wednesday announced the latest round of setbacks for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline — delaying a decision on the project’s clean water certificate until as late as February and postponing several other environmental permits. Virginia-based Dominion Resources had hoped to break ground last year on the $5.5 billion pipeline, slated to transport natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and the Tar Heel state. Duke Energy, which seeks fuel for its gas-fired power plants, is the venture’s second major investor. The feds approved the project in October, and just a few regulatory hurdles remain in the Virginias. But in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has moved more slowly — soliciting nearly 24,000 citizen comments on the pipeline and repeatedly asking for more information about its impact on air and water quality. So far, regulators here have issued only one of several licenses Dominion needs to begin construction.” The article lists the status of five tests the pipeline must pass to become reality in North Carolina, tests on air quality, rivers and streams, sedimentation and erosion, polluted runoff, and environmental justice.

1-10-18 The Recorder. Dominion applies for permits to create pipeline yards in Highland County.  “The Highland County building and zoning department has accepted conditional use permit applications from Dominion proposing to allow land in west of Veterans Bridge in McDowell and at Jack Mountain Village in Vanderpool to serve as satellite storage yards for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If the planning commission approves a public hearing for the permits, the hearing would take place Feb. 22. Both proposed construction laydown yard sites are more than 10 miles from Dominion’s proposed pipeline route, raising concerns over severe damage to the southern halves in Highland of two north-south arterial highways by heavy equipment during the yearlong project. The highways are Route 671, Bullpasture River Road, and U.S. 220, Jackson River Road. Zoning administrator Joshua Simmons noted project plans for McDowell incorrectly labeled the site zoning as industrial instead of agricultural. Simmons entered initial review of the proposals for the commission’s Jan. 25 meeting agenda. He noted the planners will not receive public comment at that meeting and would defer comment to a public hearing in February if scheduled then.”

1-10-18 The Recorder. Dominion Energy ignores protections for water quality over pipeline project.  “The requirements set forth in the amended Water Quality Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for additional water quality testing within 1,000 feet of the centerline in karst terrain do nothing to assure water quality violations will not occur, and do little to protect private water supplies. Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Health sent a memo to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in response to DEQ’s request for comments on the ACP. The Virginia Department of Health advised DEQ that protecting water quality for property owners who are reliant on springs and wells is a paramount concern, and recommended a complete sanitary survey at least 1,000 feet along each side of the pipeline’s path be performed by a team of persons with expertise in geology, hydrogeology, epidemiology, and public health. They also recommended the team contact local health departments to obtain records to assure appropriate separation distances will be maintained between the proposed pipeline and private wells and springs serving nearby properties. DEQ apparently disregarded this advice, and conjured up a smokescreen of useless regulation in the amended WQC as follows.” The letter continues with discussion of why these amendments are inadequate in protecting private drinking water sources in karst terrain, and how they should be corrected.

1-10-18 The Recorder. State DEQ bending over backward for Dominion Energy. “At the December 2017 hearings before the Virginia State Water Control Board, over 100 speakers argued to the SWCB that those issues had to be considered by DEQ as part of a proper analysis. DEQ had to ‘eat crow’ on that one, so DEQ is now, by order of the SWCB, in the process of determining how hurricanes and other large water events would affect the proposed ACP. The JRPA and CRPA believe that any proper analysis of those issues will dictate a conclusion that there can be no reasonable assurance that Virginia’s water quality will not be damaged. We have asked for DEQ’s schedule and volunteered to guide their people throughout the Allegheny Highlands as they do their study. So far, we have no response. Dominion now wants to cut trees in the proposed rights of way so it can stay on schedule and — guess what? — DEQ agreed with Dominion’s request, saying the cutting of trees has nothing to do with erosion and sedimentation! Does the reader get the impression that DEQ is bending over backwards to do Dominion’s bidding?”

1-10-18 News Leader. Letter to the editor by Ryan Blosser [Blosser’s organic farm borders DOminion’s proposed construction yard]  Dominion, you are killing my farm, crushing my dream. “An open letter to Dominion and the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals: It was a tough weekend in the Blosser household. I am the owner of Dancing Star Farm. Just five days ago my wife and I discovered the full breadth of the proposal for an Industrial Materials Management Yard to be built one hundred feet from our property boundary, uphill and upwind from us. Your decision was to table the vote until next month’s meeting on Feb 1st. I am worried. My wife and I view the project as an assault on the safety of our family and a threat on the viability of our small business. I have not heard one word from you, Dominion, with the exception of that folksy aww-shucks half-step of a presentation you made to the BZA. Your lack of preparation was shocking. There have been some heartbreaking moments in the last few days. Like when my 4-year-old son woke up Saturday morning with tears in his eyes. He ran to the window looking out on the field next door and frantically asking ‘Is the pipeline coming? Is this our last day at our home?’ This home is one we’ve been working on for 13 years. Today as I write this, construction is beginning on two more high tunnels that will allow us to produce lettuce and greens year-round. I initiated the project months ago. This infrastructure investment is now money I can’t get back that may prove obsolete in a month. January is the month I typically start to market and receive income for our CSA program. It’s important to me that you both know that my customers take food very seriously. Now, shares are not selling. Just the possibility of this project moving forward is already costing me thousands. Dominion, you are killing my farm, you are crushing my dream. I’m aware that this venue is one that favors brevity. So I’ll finish-a yes on this decision will ruin my business and threaten my family. We are already being financially and emotionally impacted and I’m heartbroken that you are asking me to accept this.”

1-10-18 Chesterfield Observer. Letter to Editor: Pipeline project won’t benefit county. “While attending the State Water Control Board hearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Dec. 11, I listened to Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and former state Sen. John Watkins give misguided praise to the project, citing vague claims of benefits it would bring to Chesterfield. What they claim will help the county will actually endanger the James River, one of three major drinking sources for Chesterfield residents. The ACP would choke the headwaters of the James, allow sediment dumps and herbicides into the river, alter the water’s temperature through removal of forest tree cover and introduce lubrication chemicals into the historic waterway as they drill under the James River for construction. Chesterfield’s representatives should have the health and welfare of its citizens in mind, not the perspective of the state’s utility monopoly presenting an unneeded and destructive 600-mile-long project. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bring no benefit to Chesterfield. It will not bring employment opportunities as Dominion’s own report listed less than 50 permanent jobs from the project. It will not bring natural gas availability to the county, as the fracked gas’ eventual use will be for export, via connections to existing pipelines and its secondary path into Tidewater. What it will bring is ruinous results to a drinking source. …. Our representatives should not tout new ways to threaten the James. The county and state’s water supply should be protected, not exploited as an expendable resource.”

1-10-18 Roanoke Times. Wilson: Pipeline endangers outdoors-based economy. “I testified before the State Water Control Board on Dec. 11 and told them basically the same thing I have been telling the Department of Environmental Quality for the past several years as president of the Jackson River Preservation Association, Inc., and that is that the proposed ACP cannot withstand a flood like the one that hit the Alleghany Highlands in 1985. …. The environmental community is up in arms and just about every environmental organization I know is against the ACP and MVP. They have formed coalitions and have hired experts who have rendered the opinion that the ACP and MVP will do horrendous environmental damage. Sadly, the state and federal agencies we depend upon to protect our environment are paying them little heed. People in more populous areas do not understand that our future in the Alleghany Highlands is tied to recreation and the quality of our rivers, mountains and streams. Once those assets are seriously damaged, so is our future. The time for us to defend our quality of life and our future is now. It will be too late when the floods come and the damage is done. We can’t put ‘Humpty Dumpty’ back on the mountainsides.”

1-10-18 News Leader. Letter to Editor: Dominion tramples roughshod over landowners. “Two important areas of concern from the application document did not appear in the article and should be highlighted. First, VDOT did not recommend approval due to the lack of sightline distance and lack of safe ingress and egress along Rte. 42. …. the second area of concern refers to the Augusta County Zoning Ordinance Section 25-74I, which reads, ‘The business and anticipated enlargements thereof will be appropriate for agriculture areas.’ …. It’s easy to see that rather than being appropriate for this area’s agriculture zoning, the ACP’s storage yard conflicts with that zoning…. This special use permit application from ACP again highlights the incompatibility between a very large pipeline and our agricultural county. Dominion Energy will not gain any customers here in Augusta County. Perhaps, because we don’t rank as potential customers, Dominion tramples roughshod over landowners, big and small, along the proposed pipeline route.”

1-9-18 Washington Post. Some birds are so stressed by noise pollution it looks like they have PTSD. “[I]n a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Guralnick and his colleagues say there is a clear connection between noise pollution, abnormal levels of stress hormones, and lower survival rates. This is the first time that link has been established in a population of wild animals, they argue, and it should make us all think hard about what our ruckus is doing to the Earth. ‘Habitat degradation is always conceived of as clear-cutting, or, you know, changing the environment in a physical way. But this is an acoustic degradation of the environment,’ Guralnick said. ‘We think it is a real conservation concern.’ …. A human is likely to experience cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal issues, extreme fatigue. Meanwhile, the western bluebird — a common, hardy species that is generally considered to be noise-tolerant, was smaller, its feathers bedraggled. ‘The body is just starting to break down,’ Lowry said. To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.” Or families in the Union Hill area living in close proximity to the proposed ACP compressor station.

1-9-18 Virginian-Pilot. Norfolk delays decision again on gas pipeline that would run under drinking-water reservoirs. “The City Council again postponed a vote on whether to let a controversial natural gas pipeline run beneath the city’s reservoirs in Suffolk. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would run between West Virginia and North Carolina, is slated to include a spur that would run through Hampton Roads to a terminal in Chesapeake. To get there, the pipeline would run beneath the Lake Prince and Western Branch reservoirs in Suffolk, which are on property owned by the city of Norfolk and supply drinking water. The pipeline is being built by Dominion Energy and other companies through a firm called Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which is asking Norfolk for an easement to run the pipeline under the reservoirs. The project has won federal approval and a tentative state certification, pending further study from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. That state review is why the Norfolk council delayed its first scheduled vote on the pipeline in November. It’s also why City Manager Doug Smith recommended Tuesday that the vote be delayed again. The council voted Tuesday evening to put off the decision.”

1-9-18 WVMetroNews.  Environmental groups try to halt Mountain Valley Pipeline in federal appeals court.  “Environmental groups have filed a federal appeal to try to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  The groups filed a motion asking for a stay of the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The motion was filed late Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The motion argues that the federal court system needs to act immediately to stop ‘irreparable environmental harm’ that would occur once construction of the natural gas pipeline begins. The motion to stay contends property owners along the pipeline’s path would suffer damage to their property and lifestyles.  ‘Petitioners, whose members reside near, recreate on, and own land that will be taken and degraded by the MVP, seek the stay to prevent irreparable injury to their property, environmental, aesthetic, and recreational interests pending the Court’s review.’  The motion contends FERC’s didn’t critically evaluate the purpose and need for the MVP.  The environmental groups also contend FERC lacked substantial evidence to support its finding of public convenience and necessity.”

1-8-18 Blue Virginia. Thoughts on the Pipelines…and How to Disagree Respectfully.   Carrie Pruett discusses the January 4, 2018, letter State Water Control Board member Peter Wayland wrote to the Richmond Times Dispatch, a letter which did not discuss substantive questions about the pipeline permits or explain his votes on them, but focused instead on what Mr. Wayland called “schoolyard behavior” from attendees.  After commenting on the heavy police and private security presence at the ACP hearing, and the photographing by security people of the faces and license plates of citizens attending the hearings, Ms. Pruett says, “If Mr. Wayland is truly concerned with civility and respect, he should not ignore the power dynamics that were at work during these hearings. This is not an excuse for those who behaved poorly, but it does begin to explain their frustration. The circumstances of the hearings, in which permit opponents were set up as adversaries to state officials, were not calculated to produce a harmonious outcome.”

1-6-18 News Virginian. Letter to editor by Bill Limpert: FERC’s faulty data there for all to see. “Highland County reassessment office records show a very large drop in land values within a half mile of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. I’m sure that virtually all properties on or near the proposed pipeline have lost value as well. We knew this would happen, although both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in their environmental impact statements, and the ACP told us that natural gas pipelines do not lower property values. This is a real blow to affected property owners. It is also a blow to our communities, as lower property values mean lower tax revenues, and reduced community services. We all worked hard to buy our properties and our homes, and to make our community a place where we all prosper together. FERC and the ACP used faulty data. They cherry-picked industry studies that were without scientific merit. Almost all of the studies were located in urban or suburban areas. One study was claimed to be a rural study in Katy, Texas, but which is described elsewhere as the fastest growing suburb of Houston, with a population over 15,000. That’s about twice the population of Bath and Highland Counties combined, and hardly rural. FERC also stated that they contacted real estate appraisers who confirmed that property values would not fall. An examination revealed that FERC consulted with only one appraiser, in Pennsylvania, and he could not determine if natural gas pipelines affect property values. Despite comments to the FERC record citing numerous non industry studies and legal precedent indicating substantial loss of property value, FERC maintained its erroneous opinion throughout the ACP application process. Despite comments to the FERC record demanding that they contact real estate professionals in rural Virginia, or conduct an independent study of Virginia property values, they refused to do so. FERC then approved the ACP, dooming over 10,000 property owners, and many communities to economic hardship. FERC and the ACP are responsible for these financial losses, and their apparent ignorance and disregard for the facts, as well as their faulty data, are in the public record for all to see.”

1-5-18 News Leader. Farmer Ryan Blosser takes stand against Dominion pipeline yard. “More than 30 acres of land next to his farm could potentially be rezoned, which would allow Dominion to utilize the property as a storage yard for pipeline construction materials, equipment, fuel and worker trailers. Armed security would patrol the premise 24 hours a day, a tall barbed wire fence surrounding the storage yard, large fuel tanks along with pipes and pipe fabrication equipment. Blosser said it could be used to store large machinery being used to dig the pipeline through Augusta County. That could result in major hazardous runoff to his farm, smoke and fumes and who knows what, Blosser said. The western winds head directly to his home, so anything that happens at that site would be carried over to their property. …. He hasn’t been able to advertise for his upcoming CSAs because he’s uncertain of what will happen. Quite frankly, he said, he can’t sell food with the storage yard next to his farm. ‘I can’t tell my customers that it’s safe,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to eat that. My family will not eat the food that I grow if that’s next door. I can’t ask my customers to.’” Blosser has yet to be contacted by Dominion.

1-5-18 News Leader. Letter to editor: Outlaws are more ethical than Dominion’s pipeline company. Letter regarding Dominion’s proposed Churchville construction yard. “Dominion made their plans without negotiating with adjoining property owners, except the farmer whose land they would rent. Dominion representatives initially stated at the meeting that they have “no responsibility” to their neighbors. Later, when pressed by the board, Dominion said they could take actions such as preparing erosion and sedimentation plans (which would in any case be required prior to construction) and conducting water tests. It was not clear to me what steps, if any, Dominion might take to make amends for damage and inconvenience they cause, nor whether they were truly prepared to be good neighbors.
Shame on you, Dominion! I can only conclude that outlaws are more ethical than the pipeline company. I call on Dominion to withdraw their zoning appeal application, and to select another site with safer highway access, on land that is already in industrial zoning, where they will not threaten their neighbors’ families and businesses.”

1-5-18 Think Progress. Utility giant prioritizes fossil fuel projects over renewables in merger proposal. “Acquisition would clear way for extending the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A proposed merger between two major energy companies could have offered the promise of accelerated renewable energy growth in the Southeast. Instead, the deal between Dominion Energy and South Carolina-based SCANA Corp. is expected to prioritize expensive fossil fuel projects, a move that could have long-term implications for millions of utility customers. South Carolina electricity customers and lawmakers are still reeling from the demise of a major nuclear power expansion project in the state. The project’s failure means SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) — and Dominion, if the merger succeeds — will need to find alternatives to the 2,200 megawatts of electric generating capacity that will not be coming online. Nowhere in their Wednesday merger announcement did Dominion officials mention a commitment to building new renewable energy projects to replace the electricity from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. Energy efficiency also wasn’t proposed as a way to help avoid the construction of new fossil-fueled power plants.”

1-4-18 News Leader. Augusta County residents pack meeting to oppose pipeline storage yard in Churchville. “The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals voted to delay making a decision Thursday on whether to issue the Atlantic Coast Pipeline a special use permit for a storage yard in Churchville. …. The marathon meeting lasted nearly four hours and drew over 250 people, nearly all of whom were in opposition to the permit. Over 40 people addressed the board to speak against the project, whereas less than five people spoke in favor of it. The board will take more time to consider the proposal and where to go from here and revisit the request at its meeting in February….”

1-4-18 Think Progress. An Oregon court just dealt local climate action a huge win. “The Oregon Court of Appeals dealt one of the most progressive climate policies in the country a major victory on Thursday when it ruled that Portland’s fossil fuel infrastructure ban does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The ruling overturns an earlier decision by the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals — an administrative body charged with deciding land use conflicts — which found that the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure within city limits violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. …. The ban, which was finalized in December of 2016, changed the city’s zoning code to create a new class of regulated land use for bulk fossil fuel terminals, which was defined as anything with a storage capacity in excess of 2 million gallons — things like massive storage facilities for natural gas, or export terminals for fossil fuel. And while it allowed current fossil fuel infrastructure to continue operating, it prohibited the construction of new infrastructure within city limits. …. The Oregon Court of Appeals did not completely overturn the Land Use Board of Appeals’ earlier decision, finding that the city of Portland failed to make the plan consistent with Oregon’s statewide planning goal that requires a city to submit an “adequate factual base” when creating land use changes. Specifically, the court found that the city failed to provide enough evidence that future use of fossil fuels would likely decline throughout the state; the city now has the option of submitting a body of evidence to satisfy this requirement. Until then, the ban cannot go into effect. It’s also likely that opponents of the ban will appeal the court’s decision, volleying the issue to federal court. Still, proponents of the ban cheered Thursday’s decision as a crucial win for local climate action, which has emerged in the last year as a powerful tool to counter the Trump administration’s federal deregulatory agenda.”

1-3-18 Bloomberg. Dominion to Buy Scana for $7.9 Billion After Nuclear Flop. “Dominion Energy Inc. will buy Scana Corp. for $7.9 billion in a stock-for-stock deal, scooping up a utility battered by a failed nuclear project that’s drawn scrutiny from federal and state regulators. …. Scana, based in South Carolina, made an attractive target as the company’s market value plummeted after the utility halted expansion of its V.C. Summer nuclear plant in late July. …. ‘Dominion acquiring Scana makes a lot of sense,’ Shahriar Pourreza, a New York-based analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said by phone Wednesday. Dominion is building a major natural gas pipeline, the Atlantic Coast line, to the South Carolina border, and state officials want it extended, he said. The line could serve Scana customers.”

1-3-18 NBC29. Augusta County Reviews Proposal for Dominion Energy Construction Yard. “An Augusta County board is reviewing a proposal by Dominion Energy to build a construction yard for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline on 34 acres of farmland near Churchville. Pipeline opponents are rallying against the proposed site. The energy company needs to get a special use permit from the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals to allow a construction yard on agricultural land. …. Opponents worry it will add too much truck traffic on winding, country roads and damage the farmland. …. The Virginia Department of Transportation recommends the board deny the permit if Dominion can’t find a safe entrance for traffic to the site.”