November 2018 News

November 2018

11-30-18 Virginia Mercury. Governor won’t ‘seat’ new air board members, but still plans to swear them in, precluding participation of former members. “Under fire from environmentalists, Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this week he wouldn’t seat two new appointees to the State Air Pollution Control Board until after a critical vote next month on a pipeline compressor station. So what exactly does ‘seat’ mean? The semantics, it turns out, could be important, because some environmental groups argue that under state law the current members serve until the moment their replacements are sworn in, meaning they could still potentially participate in the meeting barring further action by Northam — an interpretation backed by a 2013 attorney general’s opinion. And at least one of the members Northam has slated for replacement was holding out hope she’ll still be allowed to vote. Northam’s administration, however, says it’s planning to go ahead and swear in the new members even if they’re not going to participate in the next meeting. ‘They’ve not been sworn in yet, but I expect they will be sworn in shortly,’ said Northam’s spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, in an email Thursday. Northam’s announcement that they would not be seated ‘was a formal way of saying they would not join the upcoming meeting.’ As for the members slated for replacement: ‘Their service ended when their successors were appointed.'”

11-30-18 News Leader. Editorial: Northam’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline interference disappointing, but not really surprising. “Virginia politicians, regardless of their political bent, must do almost daily calculations of winners and losers. One huge question: What does Dominion Energy want? Dominion lobbies, pays taxes and plays a role in coveted economic development projects. They make campaign contributions and wield power proportionate to the size of their wallets and infrastructure. And what Dominion wants these days is an end to regulatory delays for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 42-inch high-pressure pipeline that will carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, across the mountains, through Central Virginia and – mostly – into North Carolina. But just such a delay seemed likely after the state’s Air Pollution Control Board voted to delay a permit for a compressor station in rural Buckingham County. …. Rather than approving the compressor station, board members delayed action until Dec. 10, saying they wanted more time to review. Union Hill residents considered it a sign that someone was listening to their pleas for environmental justice. After the vote, Gov. Ralph Northam removed two panel members who favored the delay, drawing condemnation from environmental groups. …. The action also reminds us of the reality of politics in Virginia: Rule 1: Dominion eventually gets what it wants. Rule 2: When someone disagrees, refer to rule 1. …. There just aren’t enough people to make Northam or others in the state government care about them more than they care about Dominion. Dominion’s influence is pervasive, and it’s people like Northam who reliably do their bidding. We can be disappointed, but shouldn’t be surprised.”

11-30-18 Washington Post. Letter to Editor: Dominion Energy’s dominion over Virginia goes beyond Ralph Northam. “By giving millions of dollars in political contributions to the vast majority of Virginia legislative and statewide political candidates, Democratic and Republican, and showering even nonelected public officials with gifts, Dominion has the appearance of controlling the Virginia government as a whole. …. the governor went forward with the very abnormally timed removal of two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board after it appeared they may threaten the approval of a Dominion permit for a pumping station. Virginians should ask themselves if they approve of the money they give in (overcharged) utility bills to Dominion being used to donate to officials of all political alignments and to secure enough government influence to interfere with even our citizen regulatory boards. Then all Virginians should demand that the removed board members, Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, be allowed to vote at the air board’s meeting on Dec. 10.”

11-29-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Christmas Carols, Courtesy of Virginia Pipeline Resisters, at VA Governor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony. “Virginia Pipeline Resisters having some fun at the Governor of Virginia’s tree lighting ceremony at the Capital this evening- until they asked us to leave. Was it our singing?”

11-28-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘Working papers’ exemption claimed to shield governor’s calendar amid pipeline permit uproar. “Last week, environmental activists circulated a video of Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell leaving Gov. Ralph Northam’s office. The timing raised eyebrows, coming on the heels of Northam’s much criticized decision to replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, which was due to vote on a key permit for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Asked last week by the Mercury about the meeting, Northam’s spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, said the governor’s calendar falls under the working papers exemption of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act and wouldn’t be released. She did not respond to a question seeking details of the meeting. …. Wild Virginia, a Charlottesville-based environmental nonprofit, filed two FOIA requests last week with the governor’s office seeking information about the meeting with Farrell and more information about the former board members’ removal.”

11-28-18 WVTF. Charlottesville Protest Air Quality Board Changes. “Two dozen people braved a cold, windy afternoon to protest in front of Dominion’s office in Charlottesville. Standing along one of this city’s busiest streets at lunch time, protesters demanded Governor Northam re-instate two opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline who were recently removed from the Air Quality Board. Freeman Alan took the occasion to compose an epic poem. ‘Environment justice laws are being ignored. Now Northam’s fired his air pollution board. Governor Northam, your science board said STOP. You ignored their warning. Corruption at the top.'”

11-27-18 Washington Post. ‘Ugly episode:’ Northam allies slam his decision to alter board before Dominion vote. “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) promised to be a different kind of politician, one who would never lie and always operate aboveboard. But his interference in a controversial vote by air pollution regulators has caused some to question those claims. Observers were shocked when Northam swooped in two weeks ago and replaced two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, which was considering whether to approve a natural gas facility in a historic black community. The board had planned to vote on the project Nov. 9 but delayed after expressing concerns about harming nearby residents. Environmental advocates said Northam used the delay to gut the agency and rig the vote for Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility and one of his political donors. What made it so shocking was that Northam styles himself as an environmental advocate who won’t engage in political tricks. …. This week, Northam tried to defuse the situation by delaying the seating of two new air board members until after the controversial vote, now scheduled for Dec. 10. But that hasn’t cooled the criticism. ‘The awkward lurch to now yank Northam’s new board members does not right the original wrong,’ Shepherd [NRDC] said. …. ‘We believe Governor Northam has made a huge mistake and one that has immensely marred his standing and reputation in the conservation community and one that should impact overall public trust in this administration, as well,’ said Michael Town, head of the [Virginia League of Conservation Votors].”

11-27-18 Community Idea Stations. Air Board Appointees Interviewed Days Before Appointment.  “Governor Ralph Northam’s office has offered a more detailed timeline of his controversial removal of two State Air Pollution Control Board members. Speaking on background, administration officials say the governor was already planning on replacing two board members before a crucial vote on Friday, November 9, and was indifferent to the outcome to the vote. The board’s decision to delay a vote on permits for the Buckingham Compressor Station surprised the governor, the administration says. They said the governor was wary of the possibility of future delays, and opted to make his replacements immediately. The next week, his office interviewed candidates on his short list and named the new appointments on November 16, one week after the air board meeting. …. Activists said that it would be impossible for the new picks to get up to speed on the complexities of the compressor station, which would sit in a historic African American community, before the board meets again on December 10. …. Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said that decision didn’t allay his concerns. ‘One of the the five who are left [on the board] has recused himself, so we are left with four people to finish a process that started with seven,’ he wrote in an email. ‘That’s not how our regulatory process is supposed to work. Governor Northam should let Rubin and Bleicher finish the process or risk having this dangerous compressor station and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline linked to his legacy for years to come.'”

11-27-18 Connection Newspapers [Northern Virginia]. Letter to the Editor: Patently Unethical. “I am a physician, an independent voter, and a resident of Mount Vernon. My main voting issue is climate change from global warming, caused largely by human consumption of fossil fuels. I voted for Governor Northam because he promised that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be fully evaluated, including the environmental impact at each water crossing. He has not honored that promise. Failure to honor campaign promises is typical of politicians, but I had expected Northam to have higher ethical standards. Now he is disrupting a governmental process by changing citizen members of the state Air Pollution Control Board and the state Water Control Board in the midst of their hearings and deliberations. These members were the very ones that expressed concern over Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline plan. This is patently an unethical political action. I am outraged by this! These board members have spent hours becoming fully informed on these matters, and it is no time to bring in others new to the issues. These board members have seen face to face the passion of Union Hill residents, environmentalists, and people concerned over the consequences of global warming. They have heard scientific facts from lawyers of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Southern Environmental Law Center which debunked inadequate studies by Dominion. …. I regret my vote for Governor Northam. I am ashamed of him. He should be ashamed of himself!”

11-27-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. 4th circuit opinion explains reasoning behind vacating pipeline permit in Oct. “When the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection waived its authority required for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, it made the project ineligible for a water-crossing permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, a panel of judges wrote in an opinion Tuesday. The opinion from the judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals comes after the panel vacated the key Clean Water Act permit for the pipeline in October, saying regulators lacked legal authority to ‘substitute’ one kind of construction standard for another. That order came four days after the panel heard oral arguments in the case brought by a coalition of environmental and citizen groups that challenged the federal government’s approval of the 300-mile long pipeline.”

11-27-18 PV Magazine. Senate committee advances pro-fossil ideologue to FERC. “Over the protests of Democrats, a Republican majority in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has advanced Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He must still be approved by the full Senate. He worked on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) failed bailout of coal and nuclear power plants. He has tried to remove carbon dioxide from being considered as a pollutant. He took ‘great pleasure’ in seeing the Clean Power Plan “put to death”. And he’s claimed that the intermittency of renewables ‘screws up the whole physics of the grid.’ And now, the nomination of Bernard McNamee, who has worked for Koch Brothers-backed think tanks and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – the top recipient of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. Senate – has been advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This vote to advance McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appears to have been done over the protests of the Democrats on the Committee, who according to UtilityDive attempted to get a delay in the vote after a video surfaced showing McNamee’s strong bias towards fossil fuels.”

11-26-18 News & Advance. New air board members won’t be seated until after Dec. 10 vote on compressor station for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Following intense criticism from environmental groups, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office said Monday that two new appointees to the State Air Pollution Control Board will not be seated until after a Dec. 10 meeting when the board is scheduled to take a controversial vote related to the Atlantic Coast pipeline.”   Originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

11-26-18 Virginian-Pilot. “Independent expert” Norfolk hired to review Virginia Natural Gas pipeline did work for VNG. “One of the people hired by the city to do an independent analysis on a controversial Virginia Natural Gas pipeline previously did work for the company – a fact he didn’t mention to city officials. At a meeting Nov. 20, the Norfolk City Council received reports from two natural gas industry experts – a reaction to a very public battle over a high-pressure pipeline called the Southside Connector currently being installed in Norfolk and Chesapeake. Over the last few months, first Colonna’s Shipyard and then others in the community raised concerns about the pipeline, arguing it was more dangerous than VNG was saying and that more needed to be done to ensure safety for areas including Berkley. This follows similar issues raised by Chesapeake residents last year. Norfolk hired consultants to give reports to the City Council on the project after the mayor called for further analysis. However, one of those consultants who was billed as independent by the city, Richard Felder, had previously done work for VNG. That fact was not disclosed to the council during the meeting, either by Felder during his presentation by video call or by city staff.”

11-26-18 Utility Dive. Senate Dems seek to postpone McNamee FERC vote over video. “Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee say they will seek to postpone a Tuesday vote on Bernard McNamee’s nomination to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after the release of a video that shows the nominee criticizing renewable energy and environmental groups. Democrats will ask McNamee to answer written questions about comments claiming renewable energy “screws up” the grid and environmental groups want to “return us to … administrative tyranny” before his nomination can move forward, Peter True, press secretary for Democrats on the committee, told Utility Dive. Republicans, who control the committee, could still force a vote on McNamee despite additional questions, referring his nomination to the full Senate. Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski’s office did not immediately return a request for comment, but the senator said before the video’s release that she hopes to have McNamee confirmed before year’s end.”

11-25-18 Daily Progress. Local consultant joins state air board amid controversy. “After drawing criticism for removing two members from the State Air Pollution Control Board, Gov. Ralph Northam appointed an Albemarle County resident to fill one of the vacancies. Northam’s office on Nov. 16 named Kajal B. Kapur, principal at Kapur Energy Environment Economics in Charlottesville, to the board. …. Kapur declined to comment on the compressor station project. ‘I have not really had the time to study that in great detail,’ Kapur said. ‘I am a very analytical person. I like to have all the materials associated with a case or project and review them.’ Kapur also said she is unsure when she will complete her orientation and be sworn in as a member of the air board. The board is scheduled to vote on the Buckingham compressor station on Dec. 10.”

11-25-18 Post and Courier [Charleston SC]. SC nuclear fiasco opens the door for competing pipeline builders. “South Carolina’s nuclear boondoggle could become a boon for natural gas, providing an opportunity for some of the country’s largest energy corporations to charge utility customers throughout the Palmetto State with costs to build multi-billion dollar pipelines. …. A pair of large utilities, weighing whether to expand their presence in South Carolina, plan to charge customers in other states for natural gas pipeline construction. …. Any proposal to extend the pipelines into South Carolina could put hundreds of thousands of ratepayers on the hook for the projects’ growing costs and the built-in profit margins for the developers. This is how Dominion plans to recover costs to build its pipeline in Virginia.”

11-23-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion’s $5.1 million pledge for Union Hill – part of air permit or not?  “Dominion Energy has given Virginia the option of making the company’s proposed $5.1 million investment in Union Hill part of the air pollution permit for a natural gas compressor station it wants to build next to the historically African-American community in Buckingham County. The Richmond-based energy giant has insisted that the proposed ‘community enhancement’ package is not tied directly to the proposed air permit for the compressor station, which is essential to operation of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline through three states. But Dominion proposed to include the pledge in a series of new conditions proposed for the permit on Nov. 9, the day the State Air Pollution Control Board decided to delay its decision for a month. In deferring action, the board cited unresolved concerns about the potential ‘disproportionate impact’ of the 55,000-horsepower compressor station on residents of Union Hill and the adjacent Union Grove and Shelton Store communities.”

11-23-18 Virginian-Pilot. Chesley: Northam can seek independent voices, or mere rubber stamps, for his boards. “If Gov. Ralph Northam wants lapdogs to serve on the nearly 300 boards and commissions for which he appoints members, then by all means, just say so. Applicants could write the following line on their résumés: ‘Will do guv’s bidding, even if it means curbing my best analysis.’ Northam deserves the criticism after he recently removed two members of the state Air Pollution Control Board, right before a key vote on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. Northam, a Democrat, has said he supports the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and another 300-mile pipeline passing through Southwest Virginia, as long as they withstand strong scrutiny. He ‘understands the concerns raised and has been clear on what the state’s role is with respect to these projects: to follow the law and to hold them to the highest environmental standards possible,’ Ofirah Yheskel, a Northam spokeswoman, told me by email. That stance seems to contradict the jettisoning of board members who were providing just that type of examination.”

11-23-18 Franklin News Post [Rocky Mount VA]. Supervisors move forward with natural gas plans for Summit View. “Despite some vocal opposition, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors moved forward with plans to provide natural gas to Summit View Business Park on Tuesday. Supervisors voted 4 to 3 to sell 2.8 acres of land at the park to construct a gate station that would tap off the Mountain Valley Pipeline that passes nearby. Rocky Mount District Supervisor Mike Carter, Union Hall District Supervisor Tommy Cundiff and Blue Ridge District Supervisor Tim Tatum all voted against the sale. All seven speakers at the public hearing opposed the sale — often interrupting supervisors during the meeting. Jenny West of Ferrum asked supervisors to delay a vote until more research can be done. ‘What is happening is scaring the crap out of me,’ she said. Judy Sink of Rocky Mount questioned if the route for the pipeline could be moved due to permit issues and asked the board to delay the sale. ‘Don’t sell it to them until you have all of the information and all of the answers.’ After the public hearing, Carter also questioned whether the sale should move forward with recent delays in and efforts to stop pipeline construction. ‘It’s way premature in my opinion,’ Carter said. With the property sale approved, Roanoke Gas is requesting a special use permit from the county to allow construction of a natural gas distribution line. A public hearing will be next month on that request.”

11-21-18 Farmville Herald. Two meetings for the ACP Dec. 10. “Dec. 10 could potentially yield two large decisions concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) effect on Buckingham County. The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing for the ACP floodplain path through Buckingham on Monday, Dec. 10. On December 10 in Richmond, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s )DEQ) State Air Pollution Control Board could potentially make a decision on the air permit ACP submitted for the Buckingham Compressor Station, proposed to be off Route 56 near the Union Hill community area. …. Concerning the floodplain, ACP, according to a memo sent by Buckingham Zoning and Planning Administrator Rebecca Cobb, submitted applications for variance to conduct work in the floodplains in Buckingham, or areas subject to flooding. KCI Technologies, Inc., Cobb said, was hired to review those documents and provide an assessment of compliance or non-compliance with granting a variance for the county’s ordinance. Cobb said that KCI conducted an initial review in June and found that there was insufficient information to grant a waiver to the floodplain ordinance, and said KCI met with ACP and requested further documentation. Cobb said KCI provided a review dated Oct. 24. ‘In summary, KCI reports that the documents they were given should not be accepted as justification of “no-rise” because they do not meet industry standard,’ the memo cited. KCI proposed two options, according to the memo, to either provide conditional approval with final approval contingent upon proper documentation or delay any decision until proper documentation is provided. ‘ACP received a copy of the review and has responded with the attached letter dated November 1, 2018,’ the memo cited. ‘In summary, ACP disagrees with KCI’s assessment and asserts there is no industry standard, and they wish to move forward with a public hearing for the floodplain variance. ACP agrees to a conditional approval and has suggested some of their own conditions. Many of the conditions do align with KCI’s but not all are the same.’ The memo asked the board of supervisors to set a public hearing for the floodplain development request from ACP and to consider both sets of conditions.”

11-21-18 KPVI6. The Virginia air board members Northam replaced had expired terms. So do 235 other appointees. “Roughly 235 people are serving on Virginia boards and commissions under terms that expired by June 30, according to Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, a number that shows the two air quality regulators Northam recently replaced were hardly alone in staying past their end dates. …. Northam’s office has said the governor was simply exercising his constitutional authority to fill the thousands of seats on Virginia’s 294 boards. But the governor has hundreds of other appointments to make before getting all state boards up to date. A state website lists 25 vacancies for positions that expired in 2015, including five seats on the Coal and Energy Commission and 12 seats on the board of regents for the James Monroe Law Office Museum and Memorial Library. The site lists more than 80 vacancies for positions with terms that expired in June, the same month when the two replaced air board members — Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher — reached the end of their terms.” [This article was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 20, 2018]

11-21-18 Think Progress. Former Virginia pollution board member questions logic of replacing her before key pipeline vote. “The timing of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) decision to remove two members of Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board ahead of a pivotal vote on a controversial natural gas pipeline project was ‘very unfortunate,’ according to one of the board members dismissed by Northam. …. Bringing two new board members on board has interrupted ‘an in-depth review, by an intact board, of the record and two days of hearings,’ Rubin explained. The knowledge she and Bleicher obtained over the course of the board’s review of the compressor station project is ‘both fundamental to a responsible vote and irreplaceable,’ she added.”

11-21-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Army Corps suspends permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross streams in three states. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a national permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross more than 1,500 streams in three states, raising a potential new barrier for construction of the project through Virginia. About half of the 600-mile pipeline would be built in Virginia from West Virginia to North Carolina, but Dominion Energy and its partners are still waiting for federal regulators to allow them to proceed with construction here. The Army Corps’ offices in Norfolk, Wilmington, N.C., and Pittsburgh issued orders late Tuesday to suspend the Nationwide 12 permit’s use for the project’s stream crossings.

11-21-18 Community Ideas Stations. New Air Board Member Says Appointment Was ‘Delightful Surprise’   One of Governor Ralph Northam’s new appointments for the State Air Pollution Control Board says she was first contacted ‘a few days ago’ about the role. Kajal Kapur, who runs a Charlottesville-based environmental consultancy, said her appointment was a ‘delightful surprise’ after first applying to a vacancy in 2015. ‘They called sometime to discuss the qualifications,’ said Kapur. ‘I believe it was a few days ago.’ For critics of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the timeline casts further doubt on Northam’s motives for replacing two former board members who’d voiced skepticism about a piece of pipeline infrastructure. ‘Clearly, this was a sudden, rushed decision by the Governor,’ said Mike Tidewell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. ‘The timing is stunningly suspect.'”

11-20-18 Utility Dive. FERC nominee McNamee slams renewables, green groups in Feb. video. “Bernard McNamee, President Trump’s nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, sharply criticized renewable energy and environmental groups while calling for a ‘unified campaign’ to support fossil fuels in a Feb. 2018 speech before Texas lawmakers, a video obtained by Utility Dive shows. McNamee, at the time working for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), said fossil fuels are “key to our way of life,” but renewable energy ‘screws up the whole physics of the grid.’ He also portrayed industry lawsuits with environmental groups as a ‘constant battle between liberty and tyranny.’ McNamee’s comments come to light as the Senate considers his nomination to FERC. The former Department of Energy official told senators last week he would separate his previous policy work from his regulatory considerations if confirmed, a pledge he reiterated in a statement to Utility Dive.”

11-20-18 Daily Progress.  Editorial:  Air board appointments shock, surprise.  “Mr. Northam has just gotten rid of two State Air Pollution Control Board members less than a week after they voiced concerns over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station planned for Buckingham County. You’d have to twist yourself into a pretzel trying to come up with a position on this decision other than the obvious one: Gov. Northam deliberately removed the two people most likely to object to approval of the compressor station. The decision and its timing are just too conspicuous to be coincidental — although the governor says there is no connection. If you believe that the governor never intended to eliminate dissent, then you’d also have to conclude that he was clueless…. Right before a major decision is typically not a good moment to upend a group’s membership, all other things being equal. To opponents of the replacement maneuver, however, that aspect of timing is only part of the issue. More critical is the implication that the governor deliberately dumped compressor critics — and perhaps even replaced them with people more likely to smooth the facility’s path. We seriously doubt that Gov. Northam was clueless about how this maneuver would be perceived.”

11-20-18 Medium.  I Can’t Breathe: Ralph Northam Takes Off the Mask and Reveals He Works for Dominion Energy.  Jonathan Sokolow discusses Northam’s “brazen power play” on November 15 when he fired two members of the Air Pollution Control Board “precisely because it appeared likely that Dominion, which has given lavishly to Northam and to most politicians in Virginia in both parties, was about to be denied the permit it so desperately seeks for the only compressor station in Virginia to service the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” He describes how, at the November 9 Air Board hearing, “at least three of the six board members — and perhaps a fourth — saw through the web of lies they were being told by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, led by its longtime Director, David Paylor. Multiple board members made it clear that they knew they were being misled by DEQ and that they intended to assert the authority granted to them by the legislature to right this wrong.” And he says that before the Board broke for lunch, “David Paylor had been visibly upset as he witnessed first one, then another, then a third board member politely but firmly challenge DEQ.” It is unknown what Paylor did during the lunch break, but when the Board returned from lunch, “one of the board members read from her tablet a motion to defer the permit decision until December 10. The board then adjourned and abruptly left the room. It was like the oxygen had been sucked right out of that room. Union Hill had been about to win. Now the board was gone. It was hard to understand what had just happened. It was hard to breathe. Six days later, the mask came off. Northam fired Bleicher and Rubin. …. The next day, Northam named two new members to replace Bleicher and Rubin. And if they vote on December 10 as Dominion hopes they will vote, the compressor station will be approved and the fate of Union Hill will be sealed. All because Ralph Northam rigged the vote.”

11-20-18 WINA. Harrison Wallace joins the program to discuss logistics of the pipeline project involving Buckingham County.

11-20-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Top FBI official in Richmond leaving to head security for Dominion Energy. “The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond division, who led the agency’s public corruption investigation into former Gov. Bob McDonnell and was on the short list last year to direct the FBI, is joining Dominion Energy as a vice president and chief security officer. Adam S. Lee, 50, a California native, on Tuesday announced his retirement after 22 years with the bureau and nearly five years in the top post in Richmond. He will join Dominion on Dec. 1. …. In his role for Dominion, Lee will be responsible for physical and cyber security across the energy giant’s footprint covering 6 million customers across 19 states. He will direct the development and implementation of corporate security policies and procedures to protect physical and cyber assets, and comply with laws and regulations, including those dealing with privacy, according to a news release from Dominion.”

11-20-18 Washington Post. Letter: Northam has cemented these pipelines as part of his legacy. “Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board recently delayed a decision on a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County that is part of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Last Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ousted two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, and at least one member of the State Water Control Board, more than four months after their terms ended [“Northam removes 2 board members ahead of key vote on pipeline project,” Metro, Nov. 17]. Each was a voice of reason, opposing the dangerous, dirty pipelines. This seemingly is not a mere coincidence but a clear move by Mr. Northam to ensure that the construction of these destructive pipelines proceeds. …. The approval of these pipelines has officially become part of Mr. Northam’s legacy as governor.”

11-19-18 Daily Progress. Williams: Where Dominion’s gas compressor station is concerned, Buckingham deserves the same treatment as Mount Vernon. “Gov. Ralph Northam empathized with concerns raised in June by a caller during the “Ask the Governor” radio show about a proposed Dominion natural gas compressor station’s impact on the view from George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Surely something could be done, the caller said, noting Northam has the ear of Dominion’s CEO. The facility in Charles County, Md., wasn’t on Northam’s radar, he replied, ‘but it’s something that would concern me, and I will be glad to look into it.’ …. Northam wasn’t alone in his concerns about the Mount Vernon view possibly being sullied by smokestacks across the Potomac River. The project also was in the crosshairs of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which bills itself as ‘the oldest women’s patriotic society in the United States.’ When people of power and privilege speak, those in high places listen. In October, a compromise was crafted. Dominion agreed to find an alternative site. …. Perhaps Union Hill should borrow the clout of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. ‘There are people there who have money and status,’ Oba said. ‘They weren’t people of lower income who weren’t in a position to push back. Why is the health of one community more important than the other?’ Someone, somewhere, made the decision that the preservation of a pristine view from a historic slave plantation carries a higher value than the health and welfare of this pocket of Buckingham populated by the descendants of slaves. For the marginalized, environmental injustice isn’t a blot on the horizon. It’s up close and personal.”

11-19-18 Marcellus Drilling News.  Virginia Gov. Northam Replaces Regulators Before Compressor Vote.  Northam “canned two board members who voted to delay a vote on an ACP compressor station…. The timing of their replacement sends an unmistakable signal to the board: You WILL approve this compressor station, or else.”

11-19-18 Virginia Mercury.  A governor meddles with the air board as it weighs a Dominion Energy permit and a former member gets déjà vu.  “Sadly, Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision last week to replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, even as the board considers a crucial permit that would allow a compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, is far from an anomaly.” She goes on to describe the multiple times between 2006-2010, during her second term on the Board, when then-Governor Kaine and the General Assembly undermined both the Air and the Water Control Boards. Each time, the courts upheld Board decisions. She says, “The new members will find it difficult to get up to speed quickly with the complicated technical, legal, ethical and policy issues involved. Based on my experience, they will be fed information supportive of DEQ’s and Gov. Northam’s position and pressured to approve DEQ’s proposal. The board members face the possibility that the governor and the General Assembly will override whatever they decide. But, ultimately, the board members must exercise their broad discretion in a reasoned, lawful manner that protects the board’s short- and long-term integrity and credibility. They should remember that the air board is supposed to exercise its independent judgment, and that, when we did so between 2006 and 2010, courts supported our decisions.”

11-19-18 Blue Virginia. Video: Dominion CEO Tom Farrell Gets Into Car After Meeting with Gov. Ralph Northam. “In the video, you can see Dominion CEO Tom Farrell – who earns around $15.5 million a year – get into a car, after leaving a meeting earlier today (around 12:45 pm) [November 19, 2018] with Ralph Northam and Virginia DEQ Director David Paylor (yeah, THIS guy). I’d add that Dominion CEO Tom Farrell basically has had open access to Virginia governors since…forever, while environmentalists, anti-pipeline activists, etc. have to BEG for a ‘seat at the table, ‘ or even to get their emails/calls returned, or to get the governor to meet with them or to tour pipeline destruction/construction sites. Clearly, we can see where Gov. Northam’s priorities lie.”

11-19-18 Energy News Network. Facing a second controversial gas pipeline, North Carolina takes a new tack. “Still confronting backlash for its role in approving one interstate gas pipeline, the administration of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is taking a different tack with a second project on the horizon. In a letter this month to federal pipeline authorities, a top Cooper environmental official sharply questioned the need for Southgate, a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Virginia into Rockingham and Alamance counties. …. The letter marks the second time this year state officials have written the feds expressing concern about the need for more pipeline infrastructure, citing insufficient demand, the threat of climate change, and other critiques that match those raised by pipeline foes.”

11-18-18 Wall Street Journal. A Green Logrolling Classic: Offshore wind for 78 cents a kilowatt-hour. On the open market: 3 cents. “For a perfect example of green daydreaming gone awry, look to the waters off Virginia Beach, which will soon feature two wind turbines with blades rising as tall as the Washington Monument. It’s impressive engineering, but it makes zero economic sense, according to Virginia’s utilities regulators. They’ve issued a scorching order that approves the project. Yes, the surprise ending is that their factual analysis doesn’t matter under a green fiat from the state Legislature.”

11-17-18  Blue Virginia. Who Are Ralph Northam’s New Appointees to the State Water and Air Pollution Control Boards? “The question, though, is who these folks are exactly – strong environmentalists or folks who will vote Dominion’s way regarding the Union Hill compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? I asked around with leading Virginia environmentalists, and I got very similar reactions to what Mike Town of the Virginia LCV said – “frankly, we have no idea who they are.” So I did the next best thing: I Googled them. What I found was that they SEEM ok, albeit with limited information, at first glance, but that it’s basically impossible to tell where they’re coming from on the pipelines, compressor station, etc. …. Bottom line: these people all seem to have experience in the energy/environment arena, but have unknown views on the big issues currently facing the Virginia Air and Water Boards. …. Why would Northam want to remove people with a great deal of expertise on this issue and replace them with ‘newbies’ who almost certainly don’t have a great deal of knowledge regarding this specific issue? Seems verrry strange to a lot of Virginia environmental groups, as well it should. But frankly, this is WAY beyond an environmental issue, as it touches on corporate power (in this case Dominion Energy) over/possible ‘capture’ of our government officials and regulatory bodies. That should concern EVERY Virginian, not just those who care deeply about protecting our environment or about environmental racism (which should be 100% of Virginians, by the way).”

11-16-18 Virginia Mercury. Gov. Northam names new members to state air, water boards as pipeline opponents fume. “Gov. Ralph Northam named new members for the state’s air and water boards a day after he ignited the ire of environmental groups by removing air board members whose terms expired months ago just as the panel weighs a crucial permit for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘We hope these new board members are qualified, but, frankly, we have no idea who they are,’ said Mike Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. ‘What we do know is that they are replacing two highly respected, well-qualified board members who dared to ask the hard questions about Dominion’s unnecessary and destructive pipeline, and that their appointments come just weeks before an important final vote on this project and on the heels of a contentious hearing where they raised serious concerns.'”

11-16-18 WIS10 [NC]. Dominion CEO says he ‘would hope’ to be able to extend the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into SC. “A Virginia based energy company called Dominion Energy has presented two plans in a proposed merger with SCANA after SCE&G used billions of customer dollars used to pay for their failed VC Summer project. Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell took the stand for his second day of testimony at the Public Service Commission hearing to decide SCE&G’s fate, and commissioners had their chance to get their question answered. …. Commissioners also asked Farrell about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion has plans to run through North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia. Some South Carolinians have been concerned that the natural gas pipeline will be extended through the Palmetto State. ‘We would hope that that demand will arise and that the pipeline would be extended into South Carolina,’ Farrell said. ‘We have no plans to do so today, but I would hope that that happens.'”

11-16-18 Washington Post. Northam removes two board members ahead of crucial vote on pipeline project. “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has removed two members of the state Air Pollution Control Board ahead of a key vote on a controversial natural gas pipeline project, drawing condemnation from environmental groups. The air board had delayed a vote last week on a permit for a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing concerns that the facility was disrupting a historically African American community in rural Buckingham County. …. Board members surprised supporters and opponents by delaying action until Dec. 10, saying they wanted more time to review the matter. …. But that hope turned to outrage Thursday night as word spread that Northam was altering the board’s membership. His office acknowledged that he was removing two members whose terms expired in June but had been allowed to continue serving. Both Samuel A. Bleicher of Arlington and Rebecca R. Rubin of Fredericksburg were among those who had raised questions last week about the location and safety of the compressor station. Northam’s office acknowledged Thursday night that the governor was replacing them but denied that it had anything to do with the pipeline issue.”

11-15-18 Houston Chronicle. Senators warn FERC nominee of need for impartiality. “Senators warned President Donald Trump’s pick to sit on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday that they needed assurances of his impartiality in light of his work at the Department of Energy. Bernard McNamee, policy director at the Energy Department who previously served in top positions with Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, has come under fire for questions around his role in crafting the administration’s efforts to prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants. He appeared before the Senate Thursday morning for his confirmation hearing.”

11-15-18 WBOY12 [Clarksburg WV]. Environmental activist travel the pipeline on horseback. “‘It’s beautiful county. That part of it is really amazing, and that’s the part that breaks my heart is to know that 600 miles of mountains, all the way down to North Carolina, that’s all going to be disrupted and the natural state of things is going to change,’ said Environmental Activist Sarah Murphy. Sarah Murphy and her horse Rob Roy headed out of Stanton, Virginia on September 26 with the goal of creating a conversation by riding 600 miles from one end of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to another traveling through Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. …. It has been nearly two months, more than 170 miles, and Murphy and Rob have made their way through West Virginia to Lewis County to show her opposition and concerns about the pipeline. ‘Eminent domain is about to take over. That’s really something that was intended for state parks for things to better society and community as a whole. It wasn’t something that was created for an independent company to use to put in a pipeline,’ said Murphy. …. Murphy says she has been in contact with Dominion Energy representatives and has been issued a trespass notice for traveling along an Atlantic Coast Pipeline right of way. She says she hopes her ride inspires others to speak out.”

11-15-18 Olean Times Herald [NY]. West Clarksville couple wins eminent domain appeal on Northern Access Pipeline. “A state appellate court ruled Friday that National Fuel Gas Corp. could not use eminent domain proceedings to cross a Clarksville couple’s property for the Northern Access Pipeline from McKean County, Pa. to Western New York. The Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department overturned an earlier State Supreme Court ruling granting eminent domain powers to National Fuel Gas in order to cross the 200-acre parcel owned by Joseph and Theresa Schueckler. The property lay in the path of the proposed 97-mile $455 million Northern Access pipeline. While National Fuel officials are still hopeful about the project’s future, the Schueckler’s attorney Gary Abraham thinks differently. ‘The pipeline is dead,’ he said. …. He said there will be no eminent domain ‘unless and until National Fuel Gas can prevail against DEC’ in the Second Circuit or against the FERC conditions in the D.C. Circuit. ‘They don’t have authorization from FERC to begin construction,’ Abraham said. He cited one portion of the decision, which said: ‘given the State’s WQC denial, there simply is no viable public project. Consequently, petitioner [National Fuel] has no right to force respondents [the Schuecklers] to sell something that is not for sale.'”

11-15-18 Virginia Mercury. With compressor station decision pending, Northam replaces two members of state air board. “Gov. Ralph Northam will replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board and at least one member of the State Water Control Board more than four months after their terms ended. Notably, the decision to replace the two members of the air board — Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, whose terms ended in June — comes a week after the board delayed a vote on a permit for a contentious pipeline compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The board was scheduled to take up the permit again next month. Both boards have wrestled with key permits for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The water board also wrangled with a permit for the separate Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is being developed by EQT Midstream Partners of Pittsburgh. Environmental groups, which provided major financial support to Northam’s campaign, were stunned and furious at the air board decision.”

11-15-18 E&E News. No penalties for 90% of pipeline blasts. “Since the beginning of 2010, interstate pipelines have exploded or caught fire 137 times, according to an E&E News analysis of interstate pipeline enforcement and incident data. In about 90 percent of those cases, PHMSA [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] sought no fine. The fines totaled $5.4 million in the 13 explosion and fire cases where PHMSA did seek civil penalties in that eight-year period. That’s less than one day of profits for TransCanada Corp., the company that owns the Keystone XL pipeline and that in 2016 bought the line that blew up near Sissonville. It’s about $2 million less than TransCanada CEO Russ Girling’s total compensation last year. TransCanada did not respond to repeated requests for comment. NiSource, which owned Columbia Gas Transmission at the time of the Sissonville explosion, declined comment. Some cases are still pending with PHMSA, such as a 2016 ammonia pipeline leak in Nebraska that killed a farmer and a 2016 gas line explosion in Pennsylvania the same year that left a man so badly burned that parts of his right arm and leg were amputated. PHMSA records show the agency has not taken steps to levy fines in those cases. In other high-profile cases, such as the 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people, states had jurisdiction rather than PHMSA. California authorities prosecuted and won felony guilty verdicts against the company that owned the San Bruno pipeline. They also levied a $1.6 billion fine.”

11-15-18 Roanoke Times. Judge dismisses charges against Roanoke County women who sat in trees to block pipeline. “A judge dismissed charges Thursday against a mother and daughter who for more than a month lived in the trees, trying to save them from a pipeline cutting its way through their Bent Mountain homeplace. Theresa ‘Red’ Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, had a ‘good faith’ belief that they could protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline by occupying two tree stands in its path, Roanoke County General District Judge Scott Geddes ruled. ‘Stepping into the shoes of the defendants … the court has serious doubts that the Terrys intended to commit a criminal offense by their actions,’ Geddes said before dismissing charges of trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.”

11-15-18 EcoWatch. Cash Buys Elections—and Continued Fossil Fuel Dominance. “One of the ways Dominion buys policy in Virginia is through its multi-million dollar political and lobbying operation. Since 1998, the company has built the infrastructure to buy off policy and is the biggest corporate contributor to political campaigns in Virginia—with its political action committee and employees plowing more than $10 million into Virginia campaign coffers. Whether it’s meals, cocktails, sporting tickets or other associated spending, it’s repeatedly bought access to policy through the state’s elected officials.”

11-14-18 Washington Examiner. Environmental activists are turning to the courts to block pipelines. “Environmental activists are successfully using the courts to stymie the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, especially oil and natural gas pipelines, with the latest example being a federal judge last week blocking the long-disputed Keystone XL pipeline.”

11-14-18 Charlotte News Observer. NC lawmakers will hire investigators to look at governor’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund. “North Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to hire private investigators to look into whether Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration improperly issued a state permit to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this year on condition of securing a $57.8 million contribution from the energy consortium that’s building the natural gas pipeline. While Cooper’s office dismissed the move as a political stunt, the lawmakers were praised by an environmental activist group that has fought the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and has been frustrated by Cooper’s silence. The Republican co-chairs of the subcommittee that focuses on the pipeline said a professional investigation is required because Cooper’s office has refused to answer key questions this year on how and why the deal was negotiated. Lawmakers said the deal’s time line, as reconstructed through public records, suggests the pipeline permit was initially withheld by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to strong-arm the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to pay for a ‘slush fund’ that the governor could dole out for pet projects.

11-14-18 News Leader. Video: Sinkhole opens on Swoope farm. “Bobby Whitescarver, an Augusta County farmer and soil conservationist, uses a surveyors rod to measure a sinkhole on Scott Miller’s farm in Swoope. He investigates the sinkhole, which is 2.6 miles from the route for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, at the request of his neighbor on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.” Whitescarver said, You might remember that we shut down 81 about every other year because a sinkhole opens up. So this is kind of dnagerous to put a high pressure pipeline.”

11-12-18 Progressive Pulse (NC Policy Watch). MVP Southgate officially files with feds to build natural gas pipeline; DEQ joins chorus of opponents questioning its necessity. “Now that MVP Southgate has submitted its official 582-page application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a new natural gas pipeline in North Carolina, opponents are increasing their pressure on state and local officials to stop the project. …. Thousands of North Carolinians, including environmental groups and even the Alamance County Commissioners, have submitted public comments opposing the project. The reasons are voluminous: The pipeline would cross private land, including centuries-old family farms, that would be subject to eminent domain; it would present safety issues for residents in the ‘blast zone’ — the area vulnerable to loss of life and property damage in the unlikely, but not unheard of event of an explosion. …. In a Nov. 5 letter to FERC, the NC Department of Environmental Quality wrote that, ‘as of this date we have been unable to determine whether there exists an overarching need and demand … for the Southgate project as proposed. We remain unconvinced that the Southgate project is necessary.'”

11-12-18 Roanoke Times. Leech: Dominion wants to fleece its customers for an unneeded pipeline. “As president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, I have dealt with issues affecting consumers for decades, and I have concluded that the decision-making process for natural gas pipelines built through our state is anything but common sense. Instead, irrational and illogical, it turns the law of supply and demand (as well as the balancing of costs and benefits) on its head. At the wheel is Dominion Energy, a for-profit corporate giant that operates as a monopoly in Virginia’s energy market. Dominion tells us that what we need is what they’re selling, namely the $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would slice through 600 miles of private property, national forest and other public lands, and would cross hundreds of streams and rivers. What Dominion doesn’t want the public to know is that this project is not needed in the first place, and that the decision-making process used to approve it is unfair and fundamentally flawed. Why? Because the only proof of need required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is a developer’s contracts with other companies who will use the pipeline for gas they might transport. Guess who Dominion’s contracts are with? You guessed it, Dominion.”

11-12-18 WAVY. Residents voice concerns at gas pipeline meeting in Norfolk. “The controversial issue of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline took center stage on Sunday at a meeting in Norfolk. As plans continue to move forward across the area– people met at the Attucks Theater to voice their opposition and concerns about the proposed pipeline. Part of the proposed natural gas pipeline would run through Downtown Norfolk. 10 On Your Side spoke with a lot of citizens that say they’re unsure about the potential danger a pipeline like this could cause. During the meeting, the panelists spoke on the history of high pressure natural gas pipelines. They showed examples of recent explosions and potential impact radius, which includes multiple schools, churches and medical facilities.”

11-10-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Questions about ‘disproportionate impact’ on Union Hill move air board to delay action on compressor station permit. “Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board is waiting a month to act on a proposed permit for a natural gas compressor station to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Buckingham County because of unresolved concerns about whether it would have a ‘disproportionate impact’ on the majority-black community of Union Hill. After a day and a half of public meetings on the proposed air pollution permit, the regulatory board voted unanimously Friday to delay its decision until Dec. 10. Several board members made clear their discomfort with the state’s approach to concerns about environmental justice because of the 55,000-horsepower compressor station’s proximity to Union Hill and the adjacent neighborhoods of Union Grove and Shelton Store, whose residents are predominantly African-American. …. Other board members also wanted more information about the suitability of the location of the compressor station, proposed on the site of a former plantation whose freed slaves founded the adjacent community after the Civil War.”

11-9-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘God knows what’s right, and hopefully you do, too:’ Opponents urge air board to reject permit for pipeline compressor station. “Dozens of detractors and supporters had their say Thursday about a natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy plans to build in Buckingham County as part of its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, as the State Air Pollution Control Board met to review a proposed permit for the facility.”

11-9-18 Washington Post.  Federal judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline, saying Trump administration review ignored ‘inconvenient’ climate change facts. “A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries. The judge, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana, said the State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires ‘reasoned’ explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions.”

11-8-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Pipelines repeatedly cited by state regulators for environmental issues. “As battles over two major natural gas pipelines play out in court, state regulators have continued to cite the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline for environmental problems. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has received 19 violation notices from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for failing to comply with the project’s West Virginia/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general water pollution control permit. The violation notices date back to early April, and the most recent was issued in early October, according to the DEP’s database. …. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would also start in northern West Virginia and span 600 miles into North Carolina, has been cited twice for problems in Upshur and Randolph counties. Neither pipeline company responded to inquiries about the violations.”

11-8-18 Roanoke Times. Charges heard against Roanoke County mother and daughter who sat in trees to block a pipeline. “A mother and daughter who sat in trees for more than a month trying to block a natural gas pipeline from being built on their land atop Bent Mountain continued their fight Thursday, this time in a courtroom. Theresa “Red” Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, are contesting criminal charges stemming from what they contend was the only way to stop tree-cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. After hearing several hours of testimony, Roanoke County General District Judge Scott Geddes allowed lawyers to submit written arguments before he renders a decision. Geddes told the Terrys to return to his courtroom Nov. 15, when he will decide whether they are guilty of three misdemeanor charges: trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.”

11-8-18 Daily Progress. Dominion offers $5.1 million in plan to aid Buckingham community next to pipeline compressor station. “Dominion Energy is offering $5.1 million for a package of improvements — including expanded emergency services and a new community center — for a predominantly African-American community next to the site of a natural gas compressor station Dominion is proposing in Buckingham County to serve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  The package, which Dominion negotiated with members of the Union Hill/Union Grove/Shelton Store community over the past three years, is emerging as the pipeline company is seeking a state air permit for the 53,783-horsepower compressor station in a two-day public meeting of the state Air Pollution Control Board that begins on Thursday.  Carlos Brown, vice president and general counsel at Dominion, said the package of community benefits is ‘not something that is directly tied to the compressor station air permit. It’s a community need that we want to address,’ Brown said in an interview. However, the proposed improvements are tied to the ‘successful completion’ of the $7 billion pipeline project, which would extend 600 miles from West Virginia through the heart of Virginia to eastern North Carolina. The package is welcomed by some and derided by others in the community, which has become the flashpoint in an intensifying debate about whether the pipeline compressor station represents an environmental and racial injustice because of its site on a former plantation that enslaved the ancestors of some residents who live and own property there. ‘They’re using it as a divide-and-conquer technique,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, pastor of the Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches, which sit close to the 58-acre site proposed for the compressor station. Wilson said he was part of some discussions with Dominion in its attempt to engage the community, but contends the company deliberately left the church out of the discussions that led to the agreement it reached with other residents.”

11-8-18 Virginia Mercury. State board will decide permit for Buckingham compressor station, focus of Virginia’s biggest environmental justice debate. “‘Operating compressor stations have been observed to have such highly variable emissions, including large spikes of harmful VOC emissions,’ the SELC wrote. ‘One compressor station in Pennsylvania emitted dangerous amounts of ethylbenzene, butane and benzene on some days and hardly detectable amounts on other days, resulting in averages that did not appropriately indicate the compressor station’s threats to human health.’ The whole proposal is tantamount to environmental racism, says Rose. ‘They are putting this [compressor station] in this neighborhood because we are black,’ says Rose, a claim she says she has voiced at every public meeting about the station without a response from Dominion. ‘They are putting it right in the middle of our community. Would they want it in theirs, with the pollution and noise and everything it’s going to bring? What makes it all right to put in ours?'”

11-8-18 The Recorder. Pipeline coatings a risk to environment, human health. “The coating being used on these pipes is 3M ScotchKote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233. This coating can degrade in sunlight or with wind, rain, or other exposure to the elements. According to a 2009 technical brief from 3M, some of the epoxy resins in fusion bonded epoxy coatings have ‘poor ultraviolet light resistance.’ According to the National Association of Pipe Coating Applicators, ‘Above ground storage of coated pipe in excess of six months without additional ultraviolet protection is not recommended.’ If the integrity of this coating is not maintained, risk of explosions could increase. …. According to a June 2018 letter from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Dominion Energy has admitted that ‘the duration that the pipes will be stored at pipe laydown yards will exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations.'”

11-7-18 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley submits application for new pipeline to North Carolina. “The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have taken the first formal step in seeking federal approval for a 73-mile extension of the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina. An application filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission details Mountain Valley’s plan for a new project that will begin in Pittsylvania County, at the end point of a 303-mile pipeline the company is currently building in West Virginia and Virginia. Called MVP Southgate, the underground pipeline would run to Alamance County and provide gas to PSNC Energy, a local distribution company that plans to expand a system that serves more than 563,000 customers in North Carolina. …. The estimated cost of the project is $468 million. …. The company said this week that it hopes to obtain approval in time to begin work on MVP Southgate in early 2020 and have the pipeline operational by the end of the same year. Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to be completed in late 2019.”

11-7-18 Charleston Gazette-Mail. 4th Circuit orders temporary halt to Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “A federal appeals court ordered a temporary halt Wednesday afternoon to a water-crossing permit needed to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The order came one week after a group of environmental and citizen groups asked the court to stay the so-called ‘Nationwide Permit 12’ needed to build the 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is primarily being built by Dominion Energy, and will run from northern West Virginia into North Carolina. The court shouldn’t allow the reinstatement of the project’s Nationwide 12 permit because it can’t meet two separate conditions, particularly when building the pipeline across the Greenbrier River, lawyers for the environmental and citizen groups wrote. The two conditions, inserted by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to protect the state’s water quality, stipulate that stream crossings must be completed in 72 hours, and that structures authorized by the permit cannot impede fish from swimming upstream or downstream. …. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the two-page order from Chief Judge Roger Gregory, with the concurrence of Judge James Wynn and Judge Stephanie Thacker Wednesday.”

11-7-18 WVTF. Experts Predict the Price of Power Will Rise. “The State Corporation Commission or SCC is supposed to make sure electric rates charged by utilities are fair and reasonable. Last month it held hearings on Dominion’s plans to supply power for the next 15 years. The company offered five different scenarios, combining various amounts of nuclear energy, gas, solar and wind power. Whichever one Dominion settles on, some experts say customers will be paying more.”

11-5-18 WVTF. MVP Protestors Pass 50 Day Mark Sitting in Protest Above its Path. “As winter approaches, two Mountain Valley Pipeline protestors in Elliston, VA, continue to live among the trees along its route . Much of the work has been on hold since early October, after permits to cross waterways in its path, were suspended by the Army Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless the tree sitters and up to a couple of dozen supporters and protestors, persist. The tree sitters recently passed the 50-day mark, perched on their platforms above the pipeline work site. Lauren Bowman Clontz recorded the sound of crews cutting trees in September. In an essay for Blue Ridge Outdoors, she recalls growing up in those mountains, reveling in their wild beauty. But, she writes, she never thought about the ‘price of these things.’ Nor did she know that ‘people were willing to destroy everything that’s above ground to get what’s under it.’ So, the 24-year-old is living in a tree to protest construction of the pipeline because, ‘It’s the only thing left to do.'”

11-3-18 NBC29. Woman Begins Second Leg of Horseback Trek along Pipeline Route. “A Shenandoah Valley woman is riding over 600 miles on horseback to speak out for the environment. Sarah Murphy embarked on her trek along the entirety of the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on September 26. …. Murphy says she plans to continue to do what she can to prevent construction on the pipeline from proceeding. She says she plans to be back home in Staunton in about a month.” Earlier story: 9-26-18 NBC29. Woman Sets Off on Horseback Trek to Protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

11-3-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch. Dominion customers will bear the risks of $300 million offshore wind pilot; SCC puts responsibility on legislators.  “The State Corporation Commission said it bowed to legislative mandate by approving a $300 million offshore wind power pilot that it otherwise would have found imprudent because customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will bear all of the costs and risks of the project. The SCC concluded in a scathing 20-page order on Friday that the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project isn’t needed to serve Dominion customers and will cost more than any other option for generating electricity to serve the utility’s 2.6 million customers. The commission was especially direct in noting that the project’s developers won’t bear any of the risk for a project to be built 27 miles off the Atlantic Coast. ‘The economic benefits specific (to the project) are speculative, whereas the risks and excessive costs are definite and will be borne by Dominion’s customers,’ the order states.”

11-2-18 Washington Post. Supreme Court refuses to block young people’s climate lawsuit against U.S. government. “The Supreme Court on Friday night refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to take action on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial. The suit, filed in 2015 by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment, is before a federal judge in Oregon. It had been delayed while the Supreme Court considered the emergency request from the government.”

11-2-18 Washington Post. Op-ed by Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, who served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2010 to 2014.  Virginia has a pipeline problem. “I am not opposed to natural-gas pipelines, and I’m not opposed to eminent domain for appropriate and necessary projects. But I am opposed to captive monopoly customers shouldering the cost and risk of Dominion projects that are rubber-stamped without anyone at any level asking whether the pipeline provides value to Virginians. Dominion Energy testified before the Virginia State Corporation Commission in September that the company has not analyzed how much the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cost its customers. That answer is, frankly, shocking, especially after a non-Dominion expert testified that the pipeline would raise power bills by $2.5 billion over the next 20 years. Dominion intends to charge its customers for all of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline contract costs, regardless of whether it actually uses the pipeline. …. From my view as a former Virginia attorney general, the process that allows Dominion to do business this way is broken, and Virginia consumers will be left holding the bag.”  The op-ed was published first online, and will appear in the print edition on Sunday November 4.

11-2-18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Boyle and Shabazz column: Does Governor Northam care about environmental justice?  “A year ago this week, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe took an important step in creating the state’s first Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. Heeding the principle that ‘protection of our natural resources applies equally to all individuals,’ the council’s charge is to provide the administration with recommendations for action. It’s fitting that the council’s first priority was to examine the largest industrial projects proposed in Virginia in a generation — the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, and in particular the 53,000-horsepower compressor station slated for a majority African-American community in Buckingham County. …. So far, the administration’s actions on environmental justice fail to match its public statements. …. Northam can remove all doubt by immediately issuing an executive order continuing the council, and demonstrate his commitment to environmental justice by issuing a meaningful response to the council’s seven recommendations on the pipelines, none of which are off-limits to state action, including rescinding state water pollution permits. The governor has an obligation to act in the best interest of all Virginians. It’s been made abundantly clear the pipelines are not needed and pose irreparable harm to communities.”

11-1-18 Washington Post. The Energy 202: New Trump-chosen chair of independent energy agency promises to avoid politics. “Neil Chatterjee, the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has pledged to keep politics out of the agency’s decisions, including high-profile issues about whether to prop up coal and nuclear plants that have been beset by competition from renewables and natural gas.”

11-1-18 News Leader. County board of zoning appeals denies Atlantic Coast Pipeline storage yard request. “The pipeline storage yard will not be built in Augusta County. The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Thursday to deny Dominion Energy’s second request this year to build a pipeline storage yard in the county. The storage yard would have aided the energy company construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The board voted 4-1 to deny the special-use permit, following three months of deliberation over request. The permit vote was tabled twice after a heated public hearing and additional questions came up about the project.”

11-1-18 “Pumpkins Not Pipelines”: Activists Stage Halloween Parade Outside the Governor’s Office. “Richmond residents from Broad Street to North 9th were witness to a parade of costumed protesters Wednesday, warning of ‘a place where the air is so polluted it causes headaches, nosebleeds and illness. A place where your water is the color of toxic mud.’ ‘On this Halloween day, you may think we are giving the details of a horror story,’ said Stacy Lovelace of the Virginia Pipeline Resisters, speaking through a megaphone. ‘But sadly this is, and will be, the reality for those along the path of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.’ The activists marshaled outside the Governor’s Office at the Virginia State Capitol, as they have every week since early February, in protest of the Northam administration’s continued approval of the Mountain Valley (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipelines (ACP). …. [T]he group marched several blocks west to the Office of the Attorney General, chanting all the way. Their protest was joined by unexpected ‘guests’: life-sized props of Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, hands stuffed with cash, with cardboard rods sticking out from their noses. ‘They dressed as Pinocchio, which is fitting, because they’ve been telling lots of fibs lately,’ Lovelace remarked. For her own costume, she wore posters with quotes from multiple studies about the pipelines’ potential to negatively impact the region.”

11-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Why Am I Up Here?  “I am 24 years old now, and for over a month, I have been living in a tree platform in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Looking back, it is clear to me that this was the only thing left to do. Regulations have been ignored or altered to suit the interests of the pipeline. Our state agencies are not working for the people; they are working for the pipeline. Our governor, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, has turned his back on his own constituents. …. I’m up here because the alternative is to be complacent, and the cost of complacency is too much. Change is never going to happen if we keep playing by their rules and trying to ask politely. It’s time to stop playing nicely. …. We may lose, yes. But we lose so much more if we fail to show up in the first place.”