July 2018 News

July 2018

7-31-18 Herald-Whig. Shareholders of troubled SC utility approve merger plan. “Shareholders of SCANA agreed Tuesday to sell the South Carolina utility to Virginia-based Dominion Energy, which has agreed to swallow billions of dollars in debt from the company’s failed nuclear construction project and other operations. The deal gives Dominion — already one of the nation’s largest utility companies — more of a foothold in South Carolina. The Richmond company already operates a pair of solar farms in the state, as well as gas pipelines purchased from SCANA in years past.”

7-31-18 WSLS10. Grandmother in Ford Pinto protesting Mountain Valley Pipeline arrested. “The 64-year-old who was blocking Mountain Valley Pipeline construction in her 1971 Ford Pinto has been arrested. Authorities charged Becky Crabtree with obstruction and she was released on her own recognizance, according to a friend of Crabtree’s. A West Virginia woman is the latest to join the fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Becky Crabtree, a 64-year-old author and retired schoolteacher, has blockaded herself in a 1971 Ford Pinto that is elevated off the ground at a pipeline worksite, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. The banners read, ‘defend what you love,’ ‘resist all pipelines,’ and ‘this is our home.'”

7-31-18 WHSV3. Environmental organizations hold meeting about pipeline water quality impacts. “Leaders from environmental organizations filled the Staunton Library Monday night to discuss concerns about water quality as construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets underway. ‘We fully believe that they’re going to cause environmental problems, water quality problems. And we don’t intend to let that pass without the citizens acting,’ said David Sligh, Conservation Director with Wild Virginia. Organizers showed those who came out how to detect and report water quality impacts. ‘They can find the problem, they can see what’s going on out there. They can communicate with groups like Wild Virginia, Trout Unlimited, Appalachian Voices, all of which are part of this training and we can help channel those complaints and those problems to the right place,’ said Sligh.”

7-30-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. WVDEP: Pipeline developers failed to control erosion, follow water quality rules. “Developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were cited by West Virginia regulators for failing to control erosion on an Upshur County construction site, among other things. It’s the first finalized Notice of Violation West Virginia state regulators have issued to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. A DEP inspector visited the site, near the Buckhannon River and Laurel Run, on June 28 after after receiving two citizen complaints, according to the inspection report. The inspector, Tim Castro, noted some sediment deposits offsite, and saw sediment-laden water leaving the site. He also noted “excessive erosion” of the fill slope. He issued a Notice of Violation that day, specifically for failing to maintain erosion control devices and failing to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving the site without going through the right device, according to the violation notice. The project was also cited for violating state water quality rules and allowing sediment deposits at the bottom of a tributary. Developers have 20 days to correct the problems.”

7-29-18 Blue Virginia. Dominion Energy Locking Virginia Into Super-Expensive, Natural Gas “Peaker Plants?”   “Many Virginia elected officials are not well informed about energy topics, such as what natural gas ‘peaker plants’ are, so here’s a quick overview. Peaking power plants or ‘peaker plants’ are small natural gas-fired power plants that are used to help meet peak demand for electricity, which is from about 6-9am and 5-8pm on weekdays. “Peaker plants” are smaller than ‘baseload’ gas-fired power plants, and can be built closer to urban areas. The problem is that they are almost the most expensive option for electricity (see chart below). ‘Peaker plants’ are also a very profitable option for the company supplying the gas. If Dominion Energy continues to build natural gas pipelines, they will lock us into using that fossil fuel — and ‘peaker plants’ will be their only solution to ‘modernizing’ our grid. This could leave Virginia with the most expensive electricity in the world, as everyone else moves away from fossil fuels as fast as they can. Please take a look at the cost comparison chart [in the full Blue Virginia article], and keep in mind that wind and solar are expected to continue to drop dramatically in cost, while natural gas prices are expected to increase through 2050.”

7-29-18 News & Advance. Editorial: Subject Pipelines to Highest Level of Scrutiny. “What we must do going forward is hold the developers and their contractors to the highest standards of accountability to protect the environment. With the MVP, that means we should expect the state DEQ to significantly tighten oversight and impose hefty fines and other penalties for construction violations. And with the ACP, the DEQ should use that same level of scrutiny and enforcement powers.”  This editorial also appeared in the Nelson County Times on August 2, 2018.

7-29-18 Blue Virginia. Who Supports/Opposes the Fracked-Gas Pipelines in Virginia? A Tentative List; Let’s “Crowdsource” This. “As far as I’m aware, every elected Republican in the state – other than perhaps Delegates Greg Habeeb (who is resigning) – is either supportive of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast fracked-gas pipelines, or at best neutral. Other than that, here’s where elected Virginia Democrats stand, as far as I can determine, based largely on signatories to several letters – ‘VERE’ (Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus ) on April 17, 2018; legislators’ comments to the State Water Control Board on June 15, 2018; the latest (July 26, 2018) letter to Gov. Northam; and the April 18, 2018 press conference in Richmond (“State Legislators Stand in Support of Peaceful Protesters in Mountain Valley and Raise Concerns on Impact of Pipelines on Virginia’s Water”). Re: those who are listed as supporting the pipelines, check out this March 11, 2016 letter from the Hampton Roads Caucus to Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.” Article includes listings of those who support one/both pipelines, those uncear/neutral, those expressing concerns on one/both, and those definitely agains one, with no one listed as definitely against both pipelines.

7-27-18 Richmond Times Dispatch. Pipeline projects hit legal snags in federal court, work suspended in parts of Virginia, W.Va. “Two multibillion-dollar natural gas pipelines hit legal snags on Friday, as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline voluntarily suspended planned crossings of rivers in West Virginia and a federal appeals court rescinded federal permits that allowed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline across national forest land in Virginia.”

7-27-18 Virginia Mercury. State lawmakers again urge Northam to act on pipelines. “With a crucial meeting of the State Water Control Board looming next month on water-quality reviews for a pair of contentious natural gas pipelines, Democratic state lawmakers again urged Gov. Ralph Northam Thursday to halt the projects and insist on a stream-by-stream review of the hundreds of spots where they will cross Virginia waterways. ‘We believe that your clear and bold leadership on pipelines at this critical time can restore the faith that many of our constituents have lost in their governments’ ability to fight for the public’s interest, at a time when that faith is so desperately needed,’ the 14 lawmakers wrote. …. ‘We also ask you to direct the DEQ to stop work on all construction activities for these two projects until those analyses are complete,’ they wrote. ‘Stream-by-stream analysis is a commonsense solution that environmental experts agree is the appropriate process for these circumstances. You agreed with this standard and forcefully advocated for such analysis in early 2017. We hope you will agree that it is time for DEQ to do this robust study now.'”

7-27-18 ABC13 [Ohio]. NEXUS Pipeline drilling fluid spills into Wood County [OH] creek. “People living near the NEXUS Pipeline project in Wood County are unhappy. They say they were not notified about 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid that ended up in a waterway connected to the Maumee River. The drilling accident started a cleanup effort that the Ohio EPA was not happy with. Neither were neighbors that were left in the dark. …. According to a report filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), after the production pipeline was completed, during something called pipe pullback, ‘… an inadvertent return to the surface of drilling fluid occurred into an unnamed tributary of the Maumee River.’ …. NEXUS did notify the Ohio EPA about the spill on July 17th that affected about three-quarters of a mile of the stream. According to an EPA spokesman, the agency told NEXUS to continue cleanup throughout the night. The Ohio EPA says NEXUS did not and it left the site. So the EPA called in different contractors to do the work over night. EPA will be issuing a notice of violation and will bill Nexus the cost of the cleanup.”

7-27-18 WVNews. Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers ask for and receive river crossing permit suspension. “In an attempt to allay concerns raised by an environmental group, developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have asked for, and been granted, a temporary suspension of a key river crossing permit. The Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, has granted the suspension, giving developers more time to provide plans and additional information with regard to some of the river crossings covered under the permit. …. Attorneys for the Sierra Club argue that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can’t meet the requirements of Permit 12, which call for river crossings to be accomplished in a 72-hour period. …. The motion for a stay asked for the Fourth Circuit to grant the request to keep any permanent damage from occurring while the Army Corps reassesses the situation. But briefs filed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline attorneys on Friday say the stay isn’t necessary. While disagreeing with the fundamental basis of the Sierra Club’s argument, the developers say the stay isn’t necessary now that the permit has been suspended.”

7-27-18 WVTF. Appeals Court Sides With Environmentalists In Pipeline Case. “The unanimous ruling Friday by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond cancels permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut through federal land. The judges accused the agencies of ignoring environmental regulations and acquiescing to justifications offered by the pipeline company on the project’s environmental impact.”  This story was covered in depth in the July 27, 2018, Washington Post.

7-26-18 Blue Virginia. DOJ Official Comes to Historic Union Hill, Watches in “Astonishment” as Dominion/ACP Officials “Unable to Describe the Dimensions of the [Pipeline’s] Kill Zone”    Reposting of an account on Facebook by Water Is Life. Protecte It about a meeting between Union Hill residents and Dominion/ACP.

7-26-18 Inside Climate News. 7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change. “FERC is considering revising how it approves natural gas pipeline projects. These states want it to focus more on costs to the environment and consumers. New natural gas pipelines may not be needed and may not justify damage to the environment, the attorneys general of seven states and the District of Columbia argue in comments filed Wednesday with federal regulators in charge of pipeline approvals. The comments came in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s request in April for comments on whether the commission should revise its current policy for pipeline approvals, set in 1999.”

7-26-18 RTO Insider. FERC Flooded with Comments on Pipeline Permitting. “Environmentalists and state officials called on FERC this week to broaden its review of natural gas pipeline applications while gas producers and electric generators said only minor changes are needed to the commission’s 1999 policy statement. FERC received about 2,000 comments in response to its Notice of Inquiry asking whether it should reconsider how it balances project benefits against adverse consequences in light of the shale gas revolution, global warming and other changes since it last considered the issue almost 20 years ago (PL18-1). …. The commission asked for comments on four topics: the reliance on precedent agreements to demonstrate project need; landowner interests and the use of eminent domain; the evaluation of alternatives and environmental effects under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act; and the efficiency and effectiveness of the commission’s certificate process.” Article continues with an overview of some of the comments made to FERC.

7-26-18 Daily Progress. Pipeline opponents say Va. water regulatory process is broken. “Virginia’s water regulation process is under scrutiny following a series of problems this year that include a meeting being delayed more than two months, a website going down, and struggles by the state to respond to a records request under the Freedom of Information Act. For people concerned about the effects that construction of two natural gas pipelines will have on water quality, it all symbolizes a broken state regulatory process that’s supposed to protect Virginia’s waterways. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality had authority to review hundreds of spots where the federally approved Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross Virginia waterways in order to ensure the water ways wouldn’t be contaminated, but has ceded that authority to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Gov. Ralph Northam, a supporter of the projects, has called for them to be held to high environ-mental standards. In the Democratic primary for governor in 2017, facing populist Tom Perriello, Northam called for DEQ to conduct a site-specific analysis of proposed pipeline water crossings. On April 12, under pressure from concerned property owners and environmentalists, the seven-member State Water Control Board approved a 30-day comment period to solicit public input on whether approvals the Corps of Engineers granted under what’s called Nationwide Permit 12 will adequately protect Virginia waterways. The pipelines would cross some of Virginia’s steepest landscapes and remove trees on mountains. The deadline to mail or email comments ahead of the water board’s June 11 meeting was Thurs-day, May 31. But then things started getting pushed back.” Article details the delays, “technical difficulties,” and other issues that prevented DEQ from doing its job.

7-26-18 Roanoke Times. Protester gets 2 days in jail for blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “A woman who spent 11 days in an aerial blockade of the Mountain Valley Pipeline must now spend two days in jail. Catherine ‘Fern’ MacDougal was led from a Roanoke courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after pleading guilty to trespassing and blocking a U.S. Forest Service road. The case of MacDougal – a 31-year-old University of Michigan graduate student with a history of environmental activism – marked the first adjudication of nearly a half-dozen people who sat in trees or on suspended platforms to block construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline. …. On April 22, three men entered the closed area in an effort to provide food and water to a woman who spent 57 days in another aerial blockade, a platform suspended from pole blocking the Forest Service road. Known as Nutty at the time – and later identified in court records as Danika Padilla – the woman came down from her post in May and is scheduled to appear in court next month. Doug Chancey, 66, John Nicholson, 32, and Galen Shireman-Grabowski, 22, pleaded guilty to violating the closure order and were each fined $100.”

7-25-18 Energy News Network. Citizen group provides extra eyes on the ground for pipeline regulators. “On the frontlines of a fight to protect water and forests from pipeline risks, a volunteer-driven group documents potential environmental violations. …. Meet the Mountain Valley Watch, the volunteer-driven group serving as extra sets of eyes for state regulators as the 303-mile, natural gas pipeline is installed from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields of northern West Virginia to a compressor station in southern Virginia. The project crosses multiple waterways and lots of steep terrain like this along the way.”

7-25-18 Register-Herald [Beckley WV].  Virginia state senator asks Virginian governor to halt MVP. “In a published letter, Virginia State Senator John Edwards, a Democrat, has asked Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, to halt the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in his state. Edwards, who represents Virginia’s 21st Senate District which is made up of the City of Roanoke, part of Roanoke County, part of Montgomery County including Blacksburg and all of Giles County, cites environmental concerns in the letter and harkens back to a May meeting that he had with Northam along with a group of experts. Edwards states in his letter that numerous scientist believes that erosion control efforts along the pipeline will be in vain in areas where the pipeline will have to go over steep terrain. The state senator also mentions the fact that the pipeline will have to go over a large Karst formation that is prone to caves, sinkholes and landslides. ‘It is not an overstatement to say that science dictates that this pipeline cannot be safely built in this area,’ Edwards said in the letter.”

7-25-18 Langelle Photography. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Already Destroying Forests. Photojournalism used to expose the social, economic, and ecological injustice of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-25-18 Roanoke Times. Completion of Mountain Valley Pipeline delayed to early 2019, even with long work days. “Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue into 2019, longer than expected and sometimes with 15-hour workdays that are irking its neighbors. Shareholders of NextEra Energy, one of the pipeline’s developers, were told Wednesday that an anticipated completion date of late this year is no longer viable for the massive natural gas pipeline. Work on the pipeline ‘has faced some recent challenges,’ John Ketchum, executive vice president and chief financial officer of NextEra Energy, said during a quarterly earnings conference call. He cited a stay issued by a federal appeals court that put a hold on stream crossings the buried pipeline must make in West Virginia.”

7-25-18 NBC29. 4th Circuit sides with pipeline in eminent domain case. “A federal appeals court has sided with the Mountain Valley Pipeline in an eminent domain lawsuit brought by landowners in the project’s path. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the ruling of a lower-court judge who didn’t rule on the case’s constitutional issues but dismissed them, saying she lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Justin Lugar, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients are evaluating the opinion and possible next steps.”

7-24-18 Virginia Mercury. Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets permission to begin North Carolina construction. “The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the more than $6 billion natural gas project led by Dominion Energy, won approval to begin full construction in North Carolina today. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes amid a federal court challenge that seeks to halt construction of the hotly contested pipeline following a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond in May. The court invalidated a key environmental review — finding it too vague to be enforced — that dealt with risks to sensitive species, a decision opponents of the project argued should have stopped it in its tracks. However, FERC has allowed the pipeline, which will run from West Virginia through much of central Virginia and the eastern third of North Carolina to plow ahead in certain areas where it already has state approvals.”

7-24-18 Roanoke Times. Letter: High pressure pipeline energy poses danger.  “The destructive capability of the mechanical energy in a 1,440 psi pipeline is realized by finding that a two foot break in the pipeline analyzed above would release mechanical energy sufficient to propel a small (3,000 lb) car 2,816 feet in the air. A fully loaded (80,000 lb) tractor-trailer truck would be blown 106 feet upward. The energy released could raise the 494,000 lb J611 locomotive 17 feet above the track. The mechanical energy stored in a pressurized pipeline is significantly reduced by reducing the pressure. For example, if the pressure is reduced 30 percent, from 1,440 psi to 1,000 psi, the mechanical energy is reduced 55 percent. This may or may not reduce the failure damage by 55 percent but does lead one to question the necessity of operating a 42-inch pipeline at 1,440 psi. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will clearly pose extreme danger to those living nearby.”

7-23-18 Public News Service. WV Groups Sue Pipeline Companies for “Abuse” of Permitting Process. “Clean water groups say getting a single, general permit to cover work at hundreds of separate sites by gas pipeline companies is an abuse of the permitting process. A coalition of six citizen and conservation groups is asking federal courts to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from using one, nationwide permit for its work at all water crossings. The issue has already stalled some work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Cindy Rank, a longtime advocate with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, says this type of general permit is intended for small projects, like building a single road over a single creek. ‘However, with the giant pipelines, we’re crossing hundreds and hundreds of these small headwater streams with a nationwide permit, without looking at the overall impact on watersheds,’ she points out. The pipeline companies argue it would be too much red tape to get separate permits for each water crossing.”

7-23-18 Roanoke Times. Photos: A pipeline’s progress. “These aerial photos track the development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline route across Southwest Virginia, including areas of Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery counties.”

7-23-18 Roanoke Times. Environmental regulators cite Mountain Valley Pipeline again. “For the sixth time, environmental regulators have cited Mountain Valley Pipeline for failing to contain muddy water flowing from construction sites. A notice of violation was recently issued against the Pittsburgh company by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, according to a filing Thursday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Four similar actions have been taken in West Virginia since early April; a single notice of violation that addresses problems in six Southwest Virginia counties was filed July 9 by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.”

7-22-18 Daily Progress. Historic black community in Buckingham among groups worried about pipeline. “[T]he future of this pastoral community — dotted with family plots and churchyard burial grounds, with some families who trace their lineage to local plantations — is clouded by Dominion Energy’s plan to build a gas-fired compressor station in Union Hill that would pump fracked natural gas through the proposed $5.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Opponents say the station will emit toxins that cause respiratory problems, allergies, fatigue and other health issues and that its depressurizing “blowdowns” will be as loud as a jet engine. They contend that the pipeline and compressor station — still winding their way through the permitting process — represent an assault on a historically significant black community and an environmental injustice that would leave Union Hill’s properties worthless to sell or pass down. Preservation Virginia agrees, citing Union Hill among its endangered places in 2016. ‘Post-Emancipation African-American settlements and burial sites, like those at Union Hill in Buckingham County, reveal the successes and struggles of generations of African-Americans in Virginia,’ the nonprofit wrote. Advocates for Union Hill detect a pattern, citing a civil rights complaint by North Carolina advocacy groups that federal regulators failed to assess the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s disproportionate impact on people of color.”

7-20-18 Daily Progress.  Nelson County Service Authority denies pipeline proposal.  “A month after the Nelson County Service Authority’s Board of Directors deadlocked on a vote related to a rate and connection fee that would be used in the sale of water to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the board voted to deny authorizing the figures Thursday. The board, which consists of three new members appointed since last month’s meeting, voted unanimously against setting a rate of more than 10 cents per gallon and a connection fee of $500,000 for ACP. All five members — Gary Sherwood and David Hight and newly appointed members Jesse Rutherford, Ernie Reed and Justin Shimp — voted against the measure. If approved, it would have allowed ACP to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day for the horizontal directional drilling method, sourced from Lake Monacan in Stoney Creek, and would have resulted in about $3.5 million in revenue over two years for the service authority. Instead, ACP is obtaining water from a different source.”

7-19-18 NBC29. Group Files Appeal Against Buckingham Supervisors and Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A group opposing the Atlantic Coast pipeline has now filed an appeal in Virginia’s Supreme Court over a compressor station planned for Buckingham County. This is the next step in the fight for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, who originally filed the suit in February of 2017. The league’s chapter, Concern for the New Generation, was also a part of the appeal. A Circuit Court judge had dismissed the case against Buckingham supervisors in January, who approved the plans for the compressor in the Union Hill area. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League says environmental issues have been overlooked by the group in planning the compressor station.”

7-19-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Mountain Valley Pipeline cited 5th time by state regulators for violations. “For the fifth time since April, state regulators are citing the Mountain Valley Pipeline for water quality violations along the project’s construction route in West Virginia. The notice of violation was issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection after inspectors visited construction sites in Doddridge and Harrison counties. The violation notice is for construction in Doddridge. The inspection report and violation notice were made public Thursday afternoon when they were filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Although the report is dated July 6, the inspection actually happened June 6, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the DEP.”

7-19-18 The Robesonian. Tribal Council again rejects pack with ACP. “For the second time in two months, the Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday rejected a resolution regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The council voted 10-7 to kill a resolution calling on tribal administration to form a committee of community members, legal experts, council members and others to come up with a ‘Plan of Action’ to address the pipeline’s effect on health, the environment and cultural resources, and establish better communication between the tribe and the builders of the pipeline that would carry natural gas from West Virginia to a point near Pembroke.

7-19-18 WVTF. Tent Pitching Protest Against the ACP. “Camping is a popular summer activity, and some opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are hoping to capitalize on that – inviting those who’d like to pitch a tent in a beautiful place to come on down. Sandy Hausman reports on this novel approach to protest.” Audio and images of the campout on the Limpert’s Miracle Ridge property in Bath County VA.

7-19-18 Wall Street Journal. Pipeline Builders Abuse Eminent Domain – How FERC denies landowners the right to meaningful appeal. “When FERC approves the use of eminent domain to build a pipeline, landowners have the right to appeal to a federal court only after they have asked the agency to reconsider its decision and had their request denied. But FERC has developed the habit of granting these requests so that it can draw out the time it spends “thinking” about them. While FERC dawdles, the pipeline companies use eminent domain to snatch thousands of landowners’ properties free from judicial review. Furthermore, FERC’s approval comes with eminent domain authority, allowing pipeline companies to seize property before seeking other necessary approvals. In one instance, a company seized part of a Pennsylvania family’s property to build a FERC-authorized pipeline only to have the project fall apart when officials in New York refused to grant a permit to build another part of the pipeline. The taking, which also involved cutting down more than 500 of the family’s trees, was ultimately for nothing. …. As rotten as these procedural shenanigans are, FERC is guilty of a more consequential deception. Under current law, the agency can approve a pipeline without telling property owners that decisions will be effectively unreviewable unless they file an immediate appeal. When states have behaved this way, federal courts have deemed it unconstitutional. Yet FERC continues to harm eminent-domain victims by failing to inform them how to protect their rights.

7-18-18 WDBJ7. DEQ investigates pipeline concerns on Bent Mountain. “Staffers from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were in Roanoke County Wednesday investigating complaints involving construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Some residents of the area say they believe the work has affected their water supply, and they’re calling on the state to stop construction. The complaints are currently focused on the area where the pipeline crosses under Route 221. Some neighbors on Rocky Road have reported sediment in their drinking water supply, a problem they attribute to pipeline construction.”

7-18-18 WV Public Radio. How Would You Improve the Natural Gas Pipeline Process? “Seventy-five-year-old farmer Curtis Johnson doesn’t object to pipelines, but does take issue with some of their construction practices. Johnson sold easements to the nearly completed 713-mile Rover Pipeline, which originates in the Ohio Valley and is designed to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Michigan and Canada. In May, he submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency in charge of approving interstate natural gas pipelines. In his comments he described problems he encountered during pipeline construction where good topsoil got mixed up with sub-soils like clay on his Ohio farm. ‘I do not think the pipeline should be given certificates to proceed without all the land owners knowing and agreeing to what is going to happen with the installation process,’ he said in his letter.” Includes links to comments of people mentioned in the article and instructions on how to file with FERC.

7-18-18 Roanoke Times. Pipeline explosion in W.Va. cited by opponents of Mountain Valley Pipeline. “An explosion of a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia was triggered by the same conditions — steep slopes prone to landslides — that exist along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a conservation group is warning. Work on the Mountain Valley project, which is cutting a swath through the mountains of Southwest Virginia, should be suspended pending a review of the potential danger of a similar explosion, the Indian Creek Watershed Association wrote in a request filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

7-18-18 Highland Recorder. Dominion CEO urged to consider fellow citizens, environment, justice. “After four years of evaluating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it is abundantly clear the negative impacts this project would bring far outweigh any benefits. This conclusively shows it is not in the public interest. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to the public interest. I am confident, Mr. Farrell, that you are fully aware of this, despite your statements to the contrary, and those of your lobbyists, and well trained public relations staff. There is no question this project would bring windfall profits to your company, and increased wealth to your shareholders. However, these profits would not be earned through the free market system. They would be guaranteed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is fully funded by the energy industry. Worse yet, they would be obtained at the expense of your fellow citizens, and our environment. Let me count the ways….”

7-18-18 Virginia Mercury. Local and state cops have already spent nearly $126,000 policing pipeline protests. “Construction has begun on one of two major natural gas pipelines in Virginia and state and local officials have already reported spending almost $126,000 responding to protests aimed at halting work. It’s a number that is only likely to rise this year as construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline progresses and work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins, raising questions among some local officials about just who should pay for all that policing. At least two counties have discussed seeking reimbursements from the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s lead developer, EQT Midstream Partners. Other governments and agencies, including the Virginia State Police, said they’re planning to shoulder the cost themselves.”

7-17-18 Before It’s News. Mountain Valley Pipeline impacts halt construction; rollbacks for Atlantic Coast Pipeline revealed. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline announced today that they are suspending construction activities of the project in Virginia. Citizens have repeatedly called on the state to order a halt of construction due to dozens of documented violations of the state’s water quality standards. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of news yesterday that, at Dominion Energy’s request and without public input or knowledge, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries rolled back key protections of trout and endangered species habitats from impacts of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction.”

7-17-18 WSLS10. More complaints against pipeline as construction continues. “Construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues this week, after the company got approval to resume working on many sites in southwest Virginia. More Franklin County landowners are complaining of runoff onto their property. One family, who lives on Cahas Mountain Road, said Tuesday that mud in one of their creeks came from a nearby construction site after heavy rain in May. They didn’t see it until this week because they don’t often walk through all 60-plus acres of their property. …. After the company voluntarily stopped work last month, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has since given approval for construction to begin at most of the work sites, 33 in total, including three sites in Franklin County. A DEQ spokeswoman told 10 News Tuesday the agency has not yet heard back from MVP officials after asking for a meeting when it delivered a notice last week that the company violated erosion prevention laws.”

7-14-18 Los Angeles Times. A pipeline cutting through the iconic Appalachian Trail sparks a fight over natural gas expansion. “The stretch of Appalachian Trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains here is prized by hikers from around the world for its open ridgelines, spectacular geologic formations and challenging slopes. But one of the country’s most iconic viewsheds could soon be changed forever to make room for an energy project favored not just by fossil fuel industry boosters like President Trump, but also Virginia’s Democratic governor. …. ‘Everybody, not only in the East, but around every national scenic trail, should be concerned about this,’ said Andrew Downs, regional director with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the 90-year-old nonprofit organization entrusted by the National Park Service decades ago with the task of managing the trail. The conservancy has never found it necessary to get involved in a pipeline fight in this way, but times have changed. ‘We’ve never seen pipelines of this size and magnitude,’ Downs said.”

7-13-18 EnergyWire. Explosion triggers safety notice for TransCanada. “Federal regulators yesterday said that land movement may have triggered a natural gas pipeline explosion at a remote West Virginia site last month and that similar conditions exist at a half dozen other spots along the line. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warned TransCanada yesterday that it intends to impose new safety-related requirements on a portion of the Leach XPress pipeline in response to the risk of land subsidence, which might have been responsible for an explosion last month that blew an 83-foot section of pipe into the air, released 165 million cubic feet (mmcf) of natural gas and triggered a fireball that burned for several hours. The incident took place in a remote area and no injuries or damage to private property was reported. PHMSA’s notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, points to geological factors in the incident and could pose a challenge for other projects proposed for construction in similar steep, unstable Appalachian terrain. The pipeline that failed was constructed last year and went into service early this year, raising questions around why it failed so quickly and dramatically. ‘The preliminary investigation suggests that the failure was the result of land subsidence causing stress on a girth weld,’ PHMSA said in the notice. An initial report on the incident filed by TransCanada and released earlier this week notes the cause of the failure as a landslide not related to heavy rains or floods. ‘Since the failure, TransCanada has identified six other points along the pipeline that, based on their geotechnical flyover, are areas of concern to the existence of large spoil piles, steep slopes, or indications of slips,’ it said. Those six additional locations, combined with the fact that the pipeline was operating well below its maximum rated pressure when the explosion took place, led PHMSA to conclude that ‘the continued operation of the affected segment, without corrective measures, poses a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property and the environment.'”

7-13-18 WV Public Broadcasting. Feds Say Land Shift Likely Caused Explosion, Pipeline Still at Risk. “A natural gas pipeline explosion that occurred last month in Marshall County was likely caused by land subsidence, or movement, according to federal regulators. In a notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. this week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said shifting land likely triggered the explosion of the Leach Xpress pipeline. ‘The preliminary investigation suggests that the failure was the result of land subsidence causing stress on a girth weld,’ PHMSA said. …. The full federal investigation is still ongoing, but PHMSA’s proposed safety order states TransCanada should conduct extra surveillance and analysis on a 50-mile section of the pipeline that is buried in terrain geologically similar to where the explosion took place. …. In the order, the federal safety agency also said it identified six other locations where similar geography could cause the pipeline to fail. It outlines a series of additional corrective actions the company should undertake.”

7-13-18 Blue Virginia. Dominion Remains in Extremist ALEC as ExxonMobil Joins “exodus of firms from lobbying group” “How horrible is Dominion Energy? Here are a few recent news items that basically answer the question, but you can decide for yourself. Enjoy! First off, yesterday Reuters reported that ExxonMobil just ‘ended its association with the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], a conservative political group that several other prominent U.S. corporations have left in recent years.’ Reuters added that ALEC ‘has lost dozens of members, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell Group, Ford Motor, and Expedia Group’ over the past few years, in part over ‘its stance on climate change, tort reform and gun control.’ Those stances, by the way, are uniformly far right, way out of the mainstream of the American public, not to mention science in the case of man-made climate change. Reuters further noted that ‘Exxon’s decision not to renew its membership followed a split with the lobby group last year over the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.’ In other words, ALEC is so crazy and awful that even ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, etc. can’t take it any more…but Dominion is comfortable remaining a member of this group? That, my friends, is what is known as ‘seriously f’ed up.'”

7-13-18 E&E Daily. Murkowski warns of FERC impasse without quick pick. “Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said yesterday she wants the Trump administration to quickly nominate a replacement for Robert Powelson, who recently announced he would resign in August from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wary of the potential pitfalls stemming from the 2-2 partisan split that will remain at the five-member independent agency once Powelson leaves, the Alaska Republican said she is going to ‘put a fire’ on the issue. Powelson’s departure to lead the National Association of Water Companies will upend FERC, giving Democrats at the agency the opportunity to wield more influence on a number of issues. Particularly important will be pipelines, as Democrats Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur have dissented on FERC’s approval of several recent natural gas projects, citing their disagreement with the Republican majority’s decision to limit consideration of greenhouse gas emissions. With the 2-2 split, any natural projects up for final approval at FERC could be delayed until a new Republican commissioner is confirmed.”

7-13-18. PublicNewsService.org. White House, Congress Take Aim at Environmental Review Law. “A law for evaluating the environmental impact of infrastructure projects is being targeted for changes by the White House and Congress. The National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA lays out the review process for federal agencies when considering major projects. Western Environmental Law Center staff attorney Susan Jane Brown says NEPA allows agencies to ‘look before they leap.’ But it’s garnered criticism from Republicans, including Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who says the NEPA process paralyzes activity in the West. Brown says the Trump administration wants to follow his lead. ‘There are many in the administration that have taken the House’s willingness to gut NEPA as a green light to proceed with larger policy initiatives coming from the executive branch that have the same sort of impact,’ says Brown.”

7-12-18 State Impact – NPR. A company cut trees for a pipeline that hasn’t been approved. The landowners just filed for compensation. “A Pennsylvania family that lost more than 500 trees to make way for the stalled Constitution Pipeline project asked a court on Thursday to dissolve an injunction that gave the company access to their property, and to determine compensation that remains unpaid. The Hollerans of New Milford Township in Susquehanna County argue that the pipeline will never be built after it was blocked by New York state environmental regulators, and say they have not received compensation more than two years after chain-saw crews felled the trees before the natural gas pipeline received all its needed permits. The family received widespread media attention when federal marshals armed with semi-automatic weapons and wearing bulletproof vests patrolled the isolated 23-acre farm in early March 2016 in an attempt to protect the tree-cutting crews from a handful of protesters. Twenty-eight months later, the Hollerans are asking a judge to overturn the injunction that allowed Constitution, operated by the Williams Companies, possession of about five acres of their property on which to build the pipeline. ‘The continued injunction has, and will continue to, wreak severe hardship on the landowners who continue to play involuntary host to a … company that has not paid a dime of compensation for the occupation and destruction of the landowners’ trees, land and business, or the retaliatory harassment inflicted on them for exercising their First Amendment rights to oppose occupation of their property,’ the family said in a document filed in federal court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.”

7-12-18 News Leader.  Gov. Northam: These natural gas pipelines aren’t being done ‘right’   “‘If we are going to this, we are going to do it right,’ Dr. Ralph Northam said on the campaign trail to become governor of Virginia, referring to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, two, 42-inch diameter gas pipelines planned to be built across Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  Gov. Northam, it’s not being done right, and without the right steps forward from your administration, Virginia’s water resources and everyone in the path of these projects will remain at risk.  I hear from the opposite side that these pipelines have been through the most rigorous environmental review process in history. If this is true then we have a flawed system. Various permits have been revoked by the courts, there are more lawsuits than I can count, landslides and soil-covered roads, yards, and driveways, repeated Notices of Violations and the Virginia DEQ has shut down the MVP because the state’s Erosion and Sediment Control standards are not adequate to handle the siltation from a project of this magnitude.  The pipeline builders, EQT and Dominion, are not “doing it right.”

7-11-18 StateImpact – NPR. Federal appeals court dismisses pipeline case that charged FERC with bias. “The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed a case brought by environmentalists that charged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with bias in pipeline cases. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a federal lawsuit in 2016, alleging FERC favored industry in disputed pipeline cases. The lawsuit, brought by the organization and its director, Maya van Rossum, asserted that FERC is incapable of making objective decisions regarding pipeline projects because its funding, set by Congress, is recovered by fees imposed on the industries it regulates, including pipeline companies. DRN argued that ‘the Commission is insulated from Congressional budgetary oversight,’ and therefore deprives individuals opposed to new pipelines of their 5th Amendment right to due process. The three-judge panel rejected that argument and upheld a lower court’s decision, saying FERC’s pipeline approvals are not tied to its budget.
DRN also argued that FERC approves all pipeline projects that come before it, fails to enforce terms and conditions of its certificates, and issues “tolling orders” that allow construction of pipelines despite appeals of the agency’s decisions that leave challengers in ‘legal limbo.’ Although the federal Natural Gas Act requires the agency to issue a decision on appeals within 30 days, FERC can extend the deadline indefinitely by issuing a ‘tolling order.’ Meanwhile, construction can continue. The court affirmed its previous decisions, saying the Natural Gas Act allows for the practice, and stating this case did not challenge a particular tolling order.”

7-11-18 WSLS10. MVP wants ability to work longer hours on pipeline, landowners react. “People living along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have new concerns about construction noise. MVP filed a request Tuesday asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if its workers can begin before 7 a.m., the typical start time for construction work in close proximity to residential areas, and work later than 7 p.m. …. Jacki Lucki remembers conversations about work hours during the pipeline’s planning stage. ‘We had discussed this over a year ago when they were trying to say they could come and go on our properties at any time. I thought it had been resolved,’ Lucki said. Roanoke lawyer and pipeline opponent Tom Bondurant says workers have already been on-site outside of those hours. ‘It’s just unconscionable to work before they go to school or work and to have them working outside your window late at night when you get home,’ Bondurant said. MVP spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in a statement that the company made this request because it wants to work quickly to minimize environmental impacts.” [We’ve already seen the disastrous environmental impact of MVP’s quick work.]

7-11-18 E&E News. Court order favoring FERC avoids ‘tolling order’ challenge. “A federal court’s rejection yesterday of environmentalists’ claims that pipeline regulators are biased sidestepped another contentious issue the litigants raised: tolling orders. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission routinely issues tolling orders to give itself more time to consider rehearing requests from pipeline critics and others concerned about various FERC approvals. According to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and other groups, the orders are unfair because they block pipeline opponents from the courtroom until it’s too late. Parties generally must wait until rehearing requests are fully resolved by FERC before filing a lawsuit, and pipeline construction can move forward in the meantime. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday avoided digging into the issue in a decision on broader allegations about whether FERC’s funding structure makes it biased in favor of pipeline developers. The court rejected the primary claims and also ruled that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network had not properly raised the question of whether tolling orders are constitutional.”

7-11-18 Blue Virginia.  Alert: West Virginia’s Pipeline Explosion Caused by a Landslide on Steep Terrain. Virginia’s Mountain Valley Pipeline, Being Built by a Serial Landslide Perpetrator, is Next. “The landslide risks at issue in the Dominion/Precision Pipeline lawsuit are terrifying because the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are proposed to be built through some of the steepest terrain in Virginia, with slopes as steep as 78% in places. This mountainous terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides when fill material generated by construction is deposited on slopes after the pipelines are buried.”

7-11-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, Columbia Gas reports.  “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”

7-10-18 WSLS10. DEQ: MVP broke the law, has inadequate erosion controls: DEQ announces notice sent to pipeline company, could involve fines. “The company building a natural gas pipeline through southwest Virginia now faces penalties for breaking erosion control laws. The Virginia Department of Environment Equality announced Tuesday that it has served Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC with a notice explaining how it violated Virginia law. The letter said MVP failed to install proper erosion controls. The company could face up to $32,500 per day and up to an additional $100,000 for the violations, and the DEQ has the authority to deliver an injunction, meaning it could ask MVP to stop construction at certain sites. In a statement, a DEQ spokeswoman said of the notice of violation: ‘The issuance of an NOV is the first step toward generating enforcement action by DEQ.’ In the letter, the DEQ asks MVP officials to respond with 10 days to set up a meeting with DEQ staff.”  This story was also reported by the Roanoke Times.

7-10-18 APnews.com. Dominion increased political spending while pushing for law. “Recently filed disclosure forms show the state’s biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. That’s about 10 times what the company said it spent in last year’s filing. The spending came during a period when the company successfully pushed through legislation that could lead to substantial increases to electric bills. Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the company’s stepped up ‘education outreach’ was needed ‘to break through the fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups.’ Most of the increase in reported spending was due to a boost in communications spending, which the company said totaled nearly $700,000. Dominion’s media blitz while lawmakers were debating the bill included a TV ad that ran during the Super Bowl. Dominion had 22 registered lobbyists this last session, a mix of full-time employees and well-connected hired guns. Dominion hired lobbyists from McGuireWoods, Reed Smith and Williams Mullen, three of the top lobbying firms in Virginia. The regulated monopoly also hired David Hallock, a close political advisor to Gov. Ralph Northam, as an outside lobbyist. The $1 million figure likely does not include the full scope of the company’s efforts, as Virginia law requires only that a narrow definition of lobbying expenses be made public.”

7-10-18 News Leader. Pipeline equipment moved from Staunton Tractor lot ahead of zoning appeal hearing. “On the same day that the Staunton Board of Zoning Appeals was supposed to have a hearing over the zoning violation it gave Staunton Tractor for housing Dominion Energy equipment in its parking lot, the equipment was moved. Citizens saw the Dominion Energy equipment being moved from the lot around 9 a.m., said Marilyn Shifflett, who is on the board for Friends of Nelson, a Dominion Pipeline monitoring coalition. The hearing was supposed to take place Tuesday afternoon, but it was rescheduled last week to meet requirements as described in the Code of Virginia for the appropriate advertisement of such hearings.”

7-10-18 E&E News. Unorthodox [FERC] chief of staff speaks out — to Breitbart. “The chief of staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a former White House adviser, gave an unusual interview to a Breitbart News Network radio show this weekend. Anthony Pugliese’s arrival at the agency in August raised eyebrows because of his background in partisan politics and lack of experience in energy policy and law were unusual for a chief of staff pick (Energywire, Dec. 13, 2017). In the ‘Breitbart News Sunday’ appearance, Pugliese mostly stuck to explaining FERC and its role, but he also bashed Democrats and praised President Trump.

7-9-18 Greenwire. Pipeline foes turn up the heat on Va. Gov. Northam. “Getting elected governor of Virginia didn’t solve Ralph Northam’s pipeline problems. In fact, it added a new layer of difficulty for the Democrat, who was challenged by pipeline opponents during his campaign and has faced continued criticism for what some say is a failure to take action against two controversial natural gas projects being built in the Old Dominion. Since becoming governor in January, Northam’s critics say he should be doing more to slow or halt the construction of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, two hotly debated projects approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2017. …. Northam had promised that construction of the pipelines would meet the highest environmental standards, but the Mountain Valley project, in particular, has been hit with complaints over water pollution and last week the company behind it halted construction after a consultation with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (Greenwire, June 29). ‘People are seeing how inadequate the DEQ oversight is, they’re seeing how haphazard and irresponsible the companies are being,’ said Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter. ‘I think Gov. Northam is underestimating the political significance of this issue.'”

7-9-18 WSLS10. Roanoke County asks MVP for reimbursement as construction resumes. “Work has resumed at some of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction sites in southwest Virginia, and now there’s a new debate over construction concerns. Two local governments are asking the pipeline company to pay them back for police activity. Roanoke County leaders said Monday that they want the company to reimburse them for police involvement around the extended protests. They’re including out-of-the-ordinary situations, like police spending weeks monitoring tree-sitters Red and Minor Terry in Bent Mountain, but not normal calls for service. A county spokeswoman said the activity has cost the department $91,955. More than $53,000 of that is overtime pay. County attorney Ruth Ellen Kuhnel told 10 News Monday that the county will be sending an invoice in one to two weeks. ‘It shouldn’t be fair for our average citizen who’s just paying their real estate tax bill to shoulder that burden if MVP, who stands to profit from this, could reimburse us for those costs,’ Kuhnel said.”

7-8-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Mountain forest becomes classroom camp in pipeline fight. “The trees — mostly oak and hickory — aren’t as big as the massive sugar maples on the lower slopes, but they’re just as old, surviving hundreds of years on shallow, rocky soil in high winds. Loggers haven’t touched this forest, nor have non-native plants invaded what Virginia’s Division of Natural Heritage has declared a conservation site of ‘very high significance.’ Now, the mountain ridge is becoming a classroom camp in the escalating battle over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would level the forest and more than 3,000 feet of ridgeline on its 600-mile path from the West Virginia shale fields to natural gas markets in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina. ‘We anticipate people camping right where the pipeline is proposed,’ said Bill Limpert, whose 120-acre property includes the mountainside he began calling Miracle Ridge after he and his wife, Lynn, purchased it nine years ago. The Limperts have opened their land to an anti-pipeline encampment, beginning Friday and extending to Sept. 9, about a week before a seasonal window opens for tree cutting to resume on the pipeline route planned by Dominion Energy and its partners.”

7-7-18 Roanoke Times. Franklin County wants pipeline company to reimburse it for public safety costs. “Franklin County plans to ask the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cover public safety costs it has incurred as a result of the project. The idea to bill the pipeline’s builders stemmed from a meeting between pipeline and county officials to discuss public safety. After concerns were raised that an influx of calls to law enforcement during construction would pose a financial burden to the county, a pipeline representative suggested such costs be passed on to them, according to multiple county officials in attendance. Supervisors Ronnie Thompson and Mike Carter, both opponents of the pipeline, attended the meeting. Thompson recalled being told the pipeline ‘was to never cost the municipality anything when it came down.’ He took that to mean Franklin County can bill Mountain Valley for associated costs, and directed county staff to look into doing so.

7-7-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. One week after suspension, some work resumes on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Eighty-one complaints have been logged through the first week of July, according to a summary on DEQ’s website. Of those, 73 have been closed. The most common reasons listed for closing a complaint were that it was not substantiated, it did not fall under DEQ’s purview, or the problems with runoff had been corrected by Mountain Valley. Eight cases remain under review. So far, DEQ has not issued any notices of violations. State environmental regulators in West Virginia, where the pipeline will originate and run for about 200 miles before entering Virginia in Giles County, have issued at least four notices of violations to Mountain Valley in the past two months.”

7-6-18 News-Leader. Staunton delays zoning appeal over Staunton Tractor’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard. “A hearing by the Staunton Board of Zoning Appeals regarding an Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard on land owned by Staunton Tractor will be rescheduled. It was originally planned for Tuesday, July 10. The Board of Zoning Appeals will still meet as scheduled on July 10 to set a new date and time for the hearing. The hearing has been postponed to meet requirements as described in the Code of Virginia for the appropriate advertisement of such hearings.”

7-6-18 Roanoke Times. One week after suspension, some work resumes on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “After coming to a brief halt, construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is resuming piecemeal along its approximately 100-mile route through the New River and Roanoke valleys. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which said the temporary suspension began June 29 after Mountain Valley failed to control runoff from work sites, identified two segments this week where improvements by the company were sufficient for work to restart. …. Critics said the brevity of the suspension, and the scarcity of details provided by DEQ, call into question the agency’s commitment to addressing problems and concerns that reached a critical mass as work on the interstate pipeline ramped up in May and June. ‘We believe that this was all a public relations stunt,’ said Rick Shingles of Giles County, a volunteer for Mountain Valley Watch, a citizens group that has been monitoring pipeline work and making reports to DEQ. ‘This was not a serious cessation of work until they dealt with the serious problems that we were reporting.’”

7-6-18 WDBJ7.  Water in pipeline trench raises concern on Bent Mountain. “One week after the Mountain Valley Pipeline suspended construction to correct problems with erosion and sediment control, pipeline opponents say water in a pipeline trench on Bent Mountain is raising concerns. Ground water has seeped into a trench at the point where the pipeline crosses under Route 221. Opponents say it raises questions about the integrity of pipeline construction, and the potential for contamination of drinking water. Bruce Coffey is a Bent Mountain landowner. ‘We hope DEQ definitely gets involved in this and comes out and inspects the sites,’ Coffey told WDBJ7 Friday afternoon. ‘I have not seen a DEQ inspector out here on property itself. We’re hoping they will finally get the word that this is probably not the best thing to do.'”

7-6-18 Daily Progress. Virginia Supreme Court upholds pipeline survey law, but with dissent. “The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld, for the third time, a hotly debated state law allowing natural gas companies to enter private property without landowner permission to survey possible routes for new pipelines. But the court delivered the 6-1 decision on Thursday after a linguistic battle with Justice Arthur Kelsey in a biting dissent that challenges the 2004 law’s central premise of allowing gas companies to enter private property without permission and a federal permit that allows them to exercise eminent domain. While the majority opinion written by Justice Cleo E. Powell said the General Assembly clearly intended ‘to grant natural gas companies access to private property for the purpose of conducting certain activities related to the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline,’ Kelsey’s 23-page dissent contends the ruling turns private property rights upside down. ‘It subordinates the ancient common-law rights of private property owners to the commercial interests of a pipeline company that is under no legal requirement to enter onto another’s land,’ he said. The case arose from a legal challenge by William Barr and five other landowners in Nelson County who opposed use of the law to survey their properties for the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5.5 billion project to move natural gas from West Virginia shale fields to markets in southeastern Virginia and North Carolina.”

7-5-18 News Leader. Dear Dominion: Your Staunton pipeline parking lot proves you’ve learned nothing. “And in an America so divided, we are united on the issue of your pipeline. We don’t want it. This is not a partisan issue for us; we are the party of the people and within our ranks standing shoulder-to-shoulder are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, and those from both the Green Party and the Tea Party. …. We play by the rules. We recognize that we live in communities where the rules help us all prosper and get along. If we have to follow the laws and ordinances so should you. In a letter to Staunton Tractor, the city of Staunton made it clear your ‘contractor’s equipment storage area’ is not a permitted use at that site. The city’s letter reads ‘as we understand it, this [Dominion’s] equipment is not part of your inventory for sale and is not present for repair work to be done on it. This part of the property is being used essentially as a contractors’ establishment, serving as an operation staging site for a contractor.’ Staunton Tractor has appealed the notice of violation, claiming that the equipment is being stored there so that it can be repaired and maintained. That sounds to us like typical Dominion doublespeak. We are asking the community to come out on Tuesday, July 10 in order to reiterate that rules are there for a reason and everyone has to play by the same rule book.”

7-4-18 PBS News Hour. The U.S. natural gas industry is leaking way more methane than previously thought. “Natural gas is displacing coal, which could help fight climate change because burning it produces fewer carbon emissions. But producing and transporting natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas that also contributes to climate change. How big is the methane problem? For the past five years, our research teams at Colorado State Universityhave made thousands of methane emissions measurements at more than 700 separate facilities in the production, gathering, processing, transmission and storage segments of the natural gas supply chain. This experience has given us a unique perspective regarding the major sources of methane emissions from natural gas and the challenges the industry faces in terms of detecting and reducing, if not eliminating, them. Our work, along with numerous other research projects, was recently folded into a new study published in the journal Science. This comprehensive snapshot suggests that methane emissions from oil and gas operations are much higher than current EPA estimates. …. All told, based on the results of the new study, the U.S. oil and gas industry is leaking 13 million metric tons of methane each year, which means the methane leak rate is 2.3 percent. This 60 percent difference between our new estimate and the EPA’s current one can have profound climate consequences.”

7-3-18 Belt Magazine. In Appalachia’s ‘Alcohol Alley,’ booze purveyors say a pipeline is threatening their industry. “Whether it’s a glass of estate Chardonnay on the grounds of Afton Mountain Winery or a Full Nelson IPA on Blue Mountain Brewery’s sprawling patio, the breathtaking Shenandoah views are a common ingredient in the region’s various alcoholic beverages. Terrific views sell booze, and many of Nelson County’s producers have capitalized on the landscape to power on-site appeal at their facilities. Virginia doesn’t track tap room & tasting room sales volumes across categories of alcoholic beverage, and besides, it’d be impossible to extrapolate how much of that revenue was directly due to the scenery. But on-site sales are a crucial source of revenue for small alcohol producers across the country, and the ACP’s impending construction in the Rockfish Valley may threaten that.” The article discusses the importance of unspoiled scenery to the alcohol beverage industry in Nelson County – employing 425 locals directly, and helping to bring in almost $200 million in tourism expenditures in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available). All this would be threatened by Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

7-3-18 Huffington Post. Fighting Climate Change Means Fighting Inequality And Intolerance. “Intersectionality is a big word with a simple meaning: social, economic and political issues are all connected. Climate change is emblematic of this truth. Though it’s usually regarded as a technological or scientific issue, climate change’s disproportionate impact on minority communities makes it an issue of racial inequality. The fact that those who have the fewest resources are the least capable of rebuilding after a disaster renders it an issue of economic inequality. Climate change also disproportionately hurts women, people with disabilities, the elderly and the very young. Furthermore, widespread discrimination mars efforts to study the rise in temperature and advocate for solutions. Dealing with climate change means dealing with inequality and intolerance.”

7-3-18 WVPublic Broadcasting. Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Under Fire from Environmental Advocates. “Environmental advocates asked a federal court Tuesday to review a federal permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a law firm representing a coalition of environmental and citizen groups, filed a petition with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The groups, which include the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, are asking the court to review a federal permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.” Includes audio.

7-3-18 Blue Virginia. At 5:30 PM on Fourth of July Eve, Virginia DEQ and Their Mountain Valley Pipeline Masters Pull a Fast One. “When this news came the other day (‘Based on issues identified during inspections and complaint inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project team has agreed to temporarily suspend pipeline installation in Virginia.’), some of my friends and allies were gleeful…. Now, though, the Virginia DEQ has done almost exactly what the cynical, suspicious side of me always felt would happen,” with two areas released for resumption of pipeline construction, “at 5:30 pm the evening before the Fourth of July, clearly for minimal public attention.” See the MVP Suspension Update on DEQ’s Web page.

7-2-18 Roanoke Star. Pipeline / Eminent Domain Debate Strikes A Nerve With Grandin Theatre Audience. “In late June the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy helped sponsor the screening [in Roanoke] of a film based on the Kelo case, Little Pink House, starring Catherine Keener and Jeanne Trippelhorn. It drew an almost full house and afterwards a panel discussion on eminent domain and its relationship to the pipeline followed. As for the ‘massive interstate pipelines [like MVP], those weren’t even on the radar screen when the [Virginia law regarding use of eminent domain for utility projects] was passed,’ says David Perry, executive director for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.”

7-2-18 E&E News. Powelson’s departure means fallout for pipelines, policies. “Robert Powelson’s decision to exit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission less than a year into his term could leave natural gas pipeline developers in the lurch and policy critics scrambling for how to approach the commission’s coming 2-2 partisan split.”