September 2018 News

9-30-18 NC Policy Watch. Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces another court battle; Robeson commissioners under scrutiny for premature approval of permit. “In Prospect [NC], which is near the end of the [ACP] route, the project includes a metering and regulation station — which essentially controls and measures the gas being transported at high pressures through the pipeline — and a 350-foot communications tower whose lights and height will mar the skyline. Both will be built in the heart of the community and across the road from Dwayne Goins. Now ACP, LLC — a company co-owned primarily by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy — faces yet another court battle over the project. A petition filed by Goins brothers, Robie and Dwayne, with Robeson County Superior Court alleges that the county commissioners violated the law and their constitutional rights when the board voted to allow the M&R station and a tower to be built in Prospect to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. During a quasi-judicial hearing in August 2017, the eight-member commission voted unanimously to grant a Conditional Use Permit to ACP, LLC to construct the facility on land previously zoned as agricultural. But the rules governing quasi-judicial hearings, which much like a trial include sworn testimony and evidence, are strict and clearly laid out in state statute. And in deciding on special permits, the governing board, in this case the Robeson County Commission, can’t have a ‘fixed opinion’ on the issue before hearing all of the evidence. To do otherwise would be akin to a judge or jury issuing a verdict before a trial even began. But as court documents show, the commissioners strongly supported the ACP long before they were confronted with the decision to issue a special permit for the station and tower.”

9-29-18 Daily Progress. Judge takes aim at U.S. Forest Service role in approving pipeline. “The chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took close aim on Friday at what he called the shifting position of the U.S. Forest Service in protecting national forest lands on steep mountain slopes in the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a hearing by a three judge panel on environmental groups’ appeal of U.S. Forest Service permits for the $6.5 billion natural gas pipeline, Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory repeatedly questioned a Justice Department lawyer about the federal agency’s alleged change in position on protection of steep slopes. ‘Why would you lower your standards?’ Gregory asked Avi Kupfer, the Justice Department lawyer for the Forest Service. ‘When was that done?’ The judge found the answer he expected later from an environmental group’s attorney. The lawyer pointed to a message in December 2016 – the month after the presidential election — that appears to commit the Forest Service to a regulatory timeline that had been requested by Dominion Energy, the pipeline’s lead developer. …. Gregory expressed skepticism about what he called a ‘reversal’ of the agency’s concerns about the effectiveness of proposed measures to stabilize steep slopes traversed by the pipeline. ‘Who’s running the train station?’ he asked the Forest Service attorney. ‘Is it the private company?’”

9-28-18 Virginian-Pilot. Colonna’s Shipyard battling Virginia Natural Gas over pipeline project. “[Norfolk] City leaders say there was a lot they didn’t know about a new high-pressure pipeline being built by Virginia Natural Gas – including its possible dangers – until concerns were raised by a Berkley shipyard. Colonna’s Shipyard held a news conference Friday to question the safety of the Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline Project – a 9-mile stretch of 24-inch pipe that will link the region’s two existing supply lines and run beneath the shipyard. Colonna’s says VNG has downplayed the scope of the pipeline and its risks to the shipyard as well as to residents along its path. …. VNG says the connector line will create a much-needed loop, enabling the company to more easily move gas across the region and eventually tap into a spur of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that’s headed for Hampton Roads. Most of the connector line has already been laid, largely along electric and city rights of way running through Norfolk and Chesapeake. In other spots, the utility purchased easements from property owners or won them through eminent domain cases in court. Only one physical obstacle remains: the Elizabeth River. VNG plans to begin drilling near Harbor Park, go beneath the river bed and surface on the other side in Berkley. The route requires a 30-foot-wide easement from Colonna’s. On Sept. 18, a Norfolk judge granted VNG access to the property. The shipyard’s 89-year-old owner, Bill Colonna, says he was willing to cooperate until he learned that, despite its name, the Southside Connector Distribution Pipeline will be operating at higher pressures than industry standards for a ‘distribution’ line.”

9-28-18 Triangle Business Journal. Federal judge sides with Atlantic Coast Pipeline over property owners. “A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit lobbed by advocates and property owners trying to stop Dominion Energy’s and Duke Energy’s efforts to forcibly acquire property for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In a complaint filed last year, a clean energy advocacy group called Bold Alliance had challenged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s issuance of permits, including those allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to exercise eminent domain rights on properties in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon signed an order Thursday granting Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s January motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. ‘Because Congress has elected by statute to confer sole jurisdiction on our Courts of Appeals for petitions of this nature, I need not consider whether plaintiffs claims are ripe or properly exhausted,’ Leon wrote in his opinion. ‘Nor can I proceed to the merits of plaintiffs’ claims.’ In an email, Carolyn Elefant, the D.C.-based plaintiff attorney in the case, said Bold Alliance was ‘exploring future legal options, including potential appeal of the ruling. We are very disappointed by the court’s ruling finding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Bold’s constitutional challenges to pipeline’s use of eminent domain under a FERC certificate, and instead must bring those claims first at FERC which has already disclaimed the power to resolve constitutional claims,’ she wrote. ‘As a result of the court’s decision, landowners must wait years – and in most instances, until after their property has already been taken – to challenge the constitutionality of use of eminent domain for FERC-certificated pipelines.’”

9-28-18 Energy News Network. Data centers to Dominion: Don’t use us to justify more power plants. “In a letter, five tech companies tell Virginia utility regulators that Dominion Energy isn’t meeting the sector’s need for renewable power. Virginia data center companies and their customers are challenging Dominion Energy’s plans to keep building natural gas infrastructure in the state. The utility behemoth is in the midst of a building spree that includes four new gas-fired power plants as well as the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, for which it is the lead stakeholder. The company’s latest Integrated Resource Plan filed with Virginia regulators envisions the building trend continuing, and it points to projected load growth from the state’s burgeoning data center sector among its justifications. A group of technology companies pushed back on Dominion’s assumptions in a letter last week to the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The letter says the industry is becoming more energy efficient and increasingly looking to power its data center with renewable energy, not fossil fuels. ‘Dominion’s 2018 IRP still under-deploys renewable energy sources, which is inconsistent with the needs and preferences of the sector that constitutes the largest source of load growth for the utility,’ says the Sept. 17 letter, signed by Adobe Systems, Akamai Technologies, eBay, Equinix and”

9-27-18 Augusta Free Press. Augusta County Farm Bureau members oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “In a convincing 46-21 vote Monday evening at the annual membership meeting, the producer members of the Augusta County Farm Bureau voted to formally oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and similar pipelines. …. The resolution that will be sent to the state committee reads as follows: ‘The Augusta County Farm Bureau membership votes to: Oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and similar natural gas transmission line projects on the grounds that the use of eminent domain for such projects is not appropriate. Such projects adversely affect groundwater, crop production, livestock health, public safety, our agricultural heritage, and common natural treasures. Pipelines should be allowed to cross farm lands only with the freely-given consent of the landowners and with proper and appropriate fair treatment and just compensation for landowners who experience damages and disruptions caused by the pipeline construction or occurring after pipeline construction. Therefore any construction should be halted while need and ratepayer costs are evaluated.’”

9-27-18 Construction Dive. Mountain Valley Pipeline costs rise to $4.6B. Mountain Valley Pipeline officials announced Monday that the cost of the 300-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia had risen to $4.6 billion from a previous estimate of $3.7 billion. This is an increase of more than $1 billion since the first cost projections of up to $3.5 billion in 2015. Approximately half of the increase is due to August work stoppages ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a result of environmental lawsuits. These legal actions, pipeline officials said, led to increased material costs and expenses related to “ongoing contractual charges and schedule changes.” In addition to the delays imposed by FERC, the project also lost time and incurred extra costs after crews had to prepare some sites for Hurricane Florence. Developers reported that they also had to pay for and perform erosion repair and install sediment control devices due to significant rainfall during the past several months.

9-26-18 Public News Service. New Documentary Features Impact of Climate Change on NC. “Evidence of climate change is all too real for eastern North Carolina residents confronting the monumental damage from Hurricane Florence. And in the wake of the storm, efforts continue across the state to advance solar power, adapt to sea level rise and for some, to fight the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. They’re featured in a documentary series, ‘State of the Climate: Carolina Stories with Miles O’Brien.’ Rev. Mac Legerton of Pembroke, co-founder of the Center for Community Action, North Carolina Creation Care Network, appears in the film. ‘The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being marketed as being helpful to our state of North Carolina,’ Legerton points out. ‘In reality, the major purpose of this pipeline is to carry gas beyond North Carolina, to where it will be exported.’ A public showing of ‘State of the Climate,’ hosted by Clean Air Carolina, is this Thursday at the Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Clean Air Carolina says it also will post the series on its website at a later date.”

9-26-18 NBC29. Woman Sets Off on Horseback Trek to Protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “One Shenandoah Valley woman is setting off on a more than 600-mile trek on horseback to speak out on behalf of the environment. She plans to ride from Staunton to West Virginia and then down to North Carolina along the route for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Sarah Murphy and her horse Rob Roy took off on Wednesday, September 26, and they’ll spend more than a month on their journey to show her opposition to the pipeline. ‘When you love nature and you love the world around you, you know, everyone has their gifts and what they’re good at, and I think it’s important to use those to better the world,’ Murphy said. ‘This is my way of being able to do that.’ They will spend more than 30 days going from Staunton to Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Robeson County, North Carolina, and then back home to the Shenandoah Valley to call attention to the anti-pipeline cause.”

9-26-18 WVVA. MVP pellets rain down on organic farm. “A pelleted substance rained down on a farmer and his children while harvesting ginseng on their property near Grassy Meadows. Neal Laferriere owns Blackberry Botanicals, an organic certified farm that sits adjacent to the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He explains saying, ‘A helicopter flew over and about ten seconds after it flew over pellets started to come out and drop through, pelting myself, my children.’ According to an EPA spill report the pellets are Earth Guard a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. The pellets were intended for the path of the pipeline but fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path. The EPA spill report says the pellets were dumped two more times on the farm. Neal Laferriere says the pellets have covered nearly three fourths of his farmland. Laferriere explains the damage is permanent saying, ‘I asked specifically of the environmental specialist, “Is there anything we can do to clean this up?” And he said specifically, “No, there is absolutely nothing you can do to clean this up.”‘”

9-26-18 59 News. The sky is falling? Father fed up after erosion-control pellets rain down on his family. “Something smaller than a penny is having a huge impact on a man’s farm and his family… and it is falling from the sky.” View YouTube video of news coverage.

9-26-18 Bacon’s Rebellion. A Thumb on the Scale for ACP? “A witness to whom Dominion Energy Virginia had vehemently objected, Gregory Lander of a company called Skipping Stone, had his time on the stand anyway at the State Corporation Commission Tuesday. His testimony might still be stricken, but the two commissioners and everybody else in the room heard it and then a lengthy cross-examination underlined it. If he is correct the entire integrated resource plan filed by the giant utility, a process ordered by the General Assembly to plan the utility’s future, had a fundamental flaw. One single input in a model had a ripple effect in its choices for future generation, some of which it hopes to support with the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. According to Lander, and this was apparently confirmed in interrogatories, the cost of transporting natural gas through the ACP to Dominion generators was simply left out. SCC staff witnesses pointed to the same omission. The commodity cost for gas was plugged in, but the cost of getting that gas to the plant was not. This omission made the choice of natural gas more cost-competitive and perhaps skewed the model in favor of gas. It put a huge thumb on the scale.”

9-26-18 Virginia Mercury. Pipeline’s federal review is looking a lot less ‘thorough and exhaustive’   “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may have to soon figure out how to paper over another defect in the federal permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Environmental groups asked FERC Tuesday for another stop-work order on the 600-mile, Dominion Energy-led project after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond issued a stay of the U.S. Forest Service’s record of decision and a special use permit that would allow the pipeline to carve through national forests in West Virginia and Virginia. …. FERC’s decision to allow work to proceed again forces the opponents to go back to court to get judges to rule on whether the federal agencies have actually addressed the problems the court identified. In the meantime, Atlantic, (and their fellow travelers in seizing other people’s property for fun and profit, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which suffers from many of the same permitting flaws) will push to get as much pipeline in the ground as they can before the courts can catch up with them. …. Turns out though, the reviews don’t appear so fulsome once the courts start looking under the hood. How much of a difference the courts will make when FERC and the agencies required to sign off on the pipelines seem free to sidestep their rulings remains to be seen. But there is growing unease about how FERC approves pipeline projects amid evidence that the U.S. oil and gas industry is overbuilding capacity because of the profit and risk incentives at work, uniting some Republicans and Democrats in Congress. And the biggest case yet will also be heading to the 4th Circuit, challenging FERC’s certificate for the ACP, which underpins the entire project. A ruling vacating that approval might be tough to get around.”

9-26-18 Roanoke Times. Peckman: Regulators were fooled by pipeline. “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not contain required details on how they would prevent the erosion that is currently the problem. Many contend that controlling erosion at half the MVP steepness is not possible. The purpose of the DEIS was to lay out the plans so that we could evaluate them and comment resulting in either an EIS for a bullet-proof successful plan or denying permission. But MVP’s erosion plans were not presented. There are many parts of the EIS that are still missing even though they are legally required. One is a demonstration of public need, which is required before condemning property of private citizens. …. The decision on MVP construction should not be when to resume construction but rather if to resume construction. If they cannot complete the pipeline as required by the EIS, which is not possible, a legal decision should be made to terminate the project. To be fair, if we are going to stop them, we should tell them early so they can cut their losses. That does not mean that they can leave without restoring and stabilizing the scars as much as is possible. They are obligated to us just as we are obligated to them. They must do everything possible to make us whole again by corrective action and by compensation. (It is interesting that they have not yet compensated the landowners and not even negotiated a price, which is against our state constitution.)”

9-25-18 NBC29. Shenandoah Valley Groups Form Preservation Alliance. “Four conservation groups in the Shenandoah Valley have been working together for year, but their partnership was made official on Tuesday. Shenandoah Valley Network, Shenandoah Forum, Community Alliance for Preservation in Rockingham and Augusta County Alliance have joined forces to form the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley. …. Sorrells said the groups will continue to fight against projects such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but with the additional resources the group can do more to stand for things.” [See]

9-25-18 Register-Herald [Beckley WV]. MVP cost to increase nearly a billion dollars. “According to a new release, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is expected to cost an estimated $4.6 billion. That cost estimate is up from an earlier estimate of $3.5 billion. According to the release, the cost adjustment is due to work stoppages in August caused by delays, along with significant rainfall during the summer months. Many of the delays in the project have been caused by legal challenges to the pipeline by environmental groups concerned about the negative impacts that the pipeline may have. While acknowledging the legal challenges, the release responds that challenges have just slowed down the process.”

9-25-18 Seeking Alpha. Dominion says latest court stay should not slow Atlantic Coast pipeline project. “Dominion Energy (D -0.6%) says it does not expect a court decision to stay a federal permit for part of its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to delay construction of the $6.5B project, which it hopes to complete by the end of 2019. The Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals issued an order yesterday staying implementation of a permit from the U.S. Forest Service which had authorized construction and operation of the pipeline on national forest lands in Virginia and West Virginia. Dominion says the Forest Service permit affects only 20 miles of the 600-mile pipeline and will continue working in all other areas of West Virginia and North Carolina, ‘where we are making significant progress.’”

9-25-18 Courthouse News Service. Fourth Circuit Chief Justice Questions Validity of Eminent Domain. “The chief justice of the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday questioned the validity of eminent domain laws, describing them as a holdover from the days when Americans were royal subjects. In a case involving the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of two controversial projects that are currently the subject of appeals before the circuit, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory questioned the long-standing precedents that allow the government to seize land. The case before the court on Tuesday was brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia who are challenging the ‘quick-take’ authority granted the pipeline developer by federal regulators and a lower court which said the project could go forward despite the fact property owners have not been compensated. …. ‘This is something extraordinary the courts have granted and the question is should it happen now before it’s done,’ Gregory said. ‘You want to abort the [normal and lengthy eminent domain] process and take it now. Maybe Sage is wrong.’ he said.”

9-24-18 Blue Virginia. FIASCO: Mountain Valley Pipeline Drops Rock-Hard Erosion Control Pellets From Helicopter on Kids’ Heads as Pipeline Cost Skyrockets to $4.6 Billion. “You might be thinking that the headline to this post can’t possibly be true – but believe it or not, it’s serious (see the landowner’s post, below). But first, let’s briefly discuss the after-the-close-of-the-stock-markets press release about the cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline skyrocketing to $4.6 billion.”

9-24-18 Augusta Free Press. Court orders halt to Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction in national forest. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay of the National Forest Service decisions allowing Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. The stay puts an immediate stop to any construction in the National Forest until an appeal filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Sierra Club, on behalf of Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, Wild Virginia and Virginia Wilderness Committee is decided. …. This Friday, September 28th the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in conservation groups’ challenge to approvals issued by the Forest Service and the state of Virginia for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

9-23-18 CBS19. Pipeline opponents join in song on Appalachian Trail. “People against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are joining together to protect the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The third annual Hands Across the AT was held at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center in Nelson County on Saturday. The pipeline will cross the parkway a few miles from the visitor center. Organizers still believe the pipeline will have detrimental impacts on the environment, and this event is one way to get their message across.”

9-22-18 Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion Objects to Testimony on Pipeline Cost. “One of the first decisions the State Corporation Commission may need to make in Monday’s hearing on the Dominion Energy Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is whether to allow and consider testimony about the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion filed a September 7 motion asking that testimony from a witness brought by Appalachian Voices ‘be stricken as irrelevant and improper,’ which the environmental group answered with its own brief filed Friday. Dominion argues the cost of the pipeline is not part of the IRP and is not properly before the commission in this case. It will seek to recover the pipeline capital costs when gas from the pipeline is subject to a future fuel cost review. Gregory Lander of energy consulting firm Skipping Stone states in his disputed testimony that the costs are already built in. ‘The Company’s 2018 IRP embeds the costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into each of the generation scenarios it presents…. (but) has not properly costed-out the all-in cost of increasing, beyond its current pipeline capacity portfolio, the costs associated with the level of pipeline capacity it intends to obtain on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.’ He claims that acceptance of the IRP by the Commission in effect accepts that up to $3 billion of the cost of building and operating it will be passed on to ratepayers over 20 years. Those are in addition to the cost of the gas. Opponents of the pipeline argue it is not necessary to bring natural gas via the ACP to Dominion’s generators, and if it does so it will be supplanting lower-cost alternatives.”

9-21-18 News Leader. West Augusta pipe yard is putting the ‘cart before the horse’   “At the [September] BZA hearing, Dominion’s Emmett Toms told the BZA that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had given approval for ACP to leave the thousand dump truck loads of contaminated gravel from the parking area in a pile in the field after construction, rather than take the cleaned gravel to an approved landfill as is standard procedure. Again, in our due diligence, we contacted FERC about the question of gravel disposal. Kevin Bowman, FERC’s ACP environmental manager, sent an email saying: ‘the contractor/pipe yard you referenced below has not been proposed to FERC.’ …. So it seems logical that if DEQ and FERC do not even know about the site, no due diligence has been done in regard to issues listed above or those raised by the crowd at the September meeting. Obviously the yard has not been approved, but it also makes one wonder how Dominion discussed the contaminated gravel disposal with FERC if FERC doesn’t know about the project. …. Dominion has proposed something that both DEQ and FERC are unaware of in an area that the county has legally promised never to develop. Cart before the horse? In reality there never should have been a cart or a horse proposed here.”

9-20-18 WAVY. Suffolk gives Atlantic Coast Pipeline permission to build through city. “A victory for supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came Wednesday night as Suffolk’s City Council gave the project permission to build and operate within the city limits. The 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to North Carolina will pass under 30 City of Suffolk roadways and two other former railroad rights of way, a deputy city manager said in front of council. The 40-year, $50,000 license agreement between the city and Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC., requires the developer to return all properties to the way they appeared prior to construction and keep the installed infrastructure in good working order at all times.”

9-20-18 FrackCheck WV. Legal Stay Issued for MVP Pipeline in Summers County, WV. “Summers and Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons issued a temporary stay Tuesday to work being done in Summers County on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Specifically, the stay will halt work being done on property where the pipeline will enter the Greenbrier River in Pence Springs. The motion was brought before Irons by Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Ashby Berkley, and Ty and Susan Bouldin, after Berkley was made aware that tree removal had begun on his property last week. Among concerns over due process, the petitioners have argued that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV-DEP) permit for the crossing is not in compliance with the Natural Streams Preservation Act.” See further information in POWHR Coalition press release.

9-19-18 Virginia Mercury. Environmental groups sue over ‘rushed permits’ that allowed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction to resume. “The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Virginia Wilderness Committee. Construction of the 600-mile pipeline ground to a halt the beginning of August when the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled permits issued by the National Park Service allowing the pipeline to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway were ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ This week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the Dominion Energy-led pipeline project permission to resume after the park service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service submitted revised permits. In their court filing, the environmental groups argue the new permits are ‘nearly identical … with no changes to the project.’ ‘The agencies responsible for protections should be prioritizing a real review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, not abandoning a critical process to help developers,’ said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. ‘There is no justification for this unnecessary and dangerous project.’”

9-19-18 The Guardian. Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings. “Recently, secret documents have been unearthed detailing what the energy industry knew about the links between their products and global warming. But, unlike the government’s nuclear plans, what the industry detailed was put into action. In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels). Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections. …. Nor did the companies ever take responsibility for their products. In Shell’s study, the firm argued that the “main burden” of addressing climate change rests not with the energy industry, but with governments and consumers. That argument might have made sense if oil executives, including those from Exxon and Shell, had not later lied about climate change and actively prevented governments from enacting clean-energy policies.”

9-18-18 WDBJ7. Impacts from Florence raise concerns from pipeline opponents. “Water was still running from a hillside in Roanoke County two days after the ground gave way below the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Residents of Bent Mountain aren’t blaming construction. The pipeline hasn’t been buried there yet, but they say it shows how water flows through the perched aquifer they depend on for drinking water. Roberta Bondurant is a Bent Mountain resident who opposes the Mountain Valley pipeline. ‘This place has already been established as incredibly fragile,’ Bondurant said. ‘You have an incredibly unsound base on which to lay your 42-inch fracked gas pipe.’ Not far away, heavy rainfall and runoff washed out a drainage area beside the pipeline right of way, causing the ground to subside along a Blue Ridge Parkway access road. ‘If you have drainage that’s just a gentle easy slope such as this, and it’s caused this kind of damage,’ said Bent Mountain resident Robin Austin, ‘what’s going to happen when it’s drainage off of a steep slope?’”

9-17-18 Roanoke Times. Hileman: Northam will be judged by what he does on pipelines. “Gov. Northam, my academic and professional experience in water resources policy and management makes me keenly qualified to say DEQ has presented no evidence providing even a modicum of reasonable assurance that the construction and operation of MVP won’t result in habitual violations of state water quality standards. The collective weight of the scientific community, who have presented many thousands of pages of technical information backing this statement, should keep you up at night. This pipeline is not a critical infrastructure project as MVP faithfully repeats like a broken record. If it were, it would be routed and designed in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the pipeline itself. The biggest barrier to MVP being a successful project is MVP itself; it’s an open secret MVP is in over their heads, and would not develop the project in the same way again. Yet MVP would rather proceed with a critically flawed project than risk not getting their pipeline at all. And DEQ appears to agree. Gov. Northam, if you continue to side with pipelines over the people you were elected to serve, please tell me: what do you and the DEQ know — or fear — that forces you to disregard the law, science, and mountains of legally defensible evidence documenting environmental catastrophes along 103 previously pristine miles of Virginia? Alternatively, please share the evidence the DEQ has presented that gives you confidence this pipeline can be built and operated safely in our state. One thing is certain: whether or not this pipeline ultimately gets built, you will forever be judged by your ongoing silence and lack of action.”

9-17-18 Washington Post. Letter to editor: Don’t blame the weather for excessive pollution in Virginia. “Concerns that the Mountain Valley Pipeline will create massive pollution during the passage of Hurricane Florence were well-founded [“Pipeline officials, environmentalists worry about catastrophic rainfall,” Metro, Sept. 12]. The article quoted Ben Leach of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality blaming extreme weather for the extensive earlier pollution from the pipeline. It said Mr. Leach testified to the Virginia Water Control Board that most storms this year have been greater than the standards of 24-hour rain events that occur once every two years. This was simply not true. The Blacksburg, Va., weather station reports no storms of that intensity this year. Roanoke reports one four-day period in May with storms that may have reached this intensity. Danville reports the same May storm, but for one day only. The extensive pollution is because of DEQ’s approval of plans that are deficient. The plans do not take into account the steep, highly erodible slopes through which much of the pipeline passes. The weather is not to blame. DEQ and the pipeline caused this pollution.”

9-17-18 Virginia Mercury. FERC allows construction to resume on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave permission Monday for construction to resume on the Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Work on the 600-mile natural gas pipeline, which is planned to run though West Virginia, Virginia and eastern North Carolina, had been halted after a pair of decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond tossed key approvals by federal agencies for the project. However, those agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, submitted revised authorizations in the past week. ‘Construction activities along project areas which had previously received a notice to proceed may now continue,’ FERC wrote in a letter Monday, meaning that work can resume in West Virginia and North Carolina.”

9-15-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. ‘I don’t know how you can ignore that call.’ Neighbors join together to protect their water. “You know the stream you can just make out rippling through the treeline at the edge of your property? The one that the neighborhood kids make small rock dams in, sometimes racing leaves and sticks through miniature whitewater rapids. Or that creak that crosses the trail at the perfect resting point on your favorite hike with the wooden footbridge over it that looks old enough to be built by John Muir himself. Or the narrow river where you navigate the banks with fly-rod in hand looking for that pool you know provided you with two nice-sized rainbows that you brought home for Sunday dinner around this time last year. Now imagine looking down on these streams on the perfect summer sunny day, and what was once water so clear you might not notice it was there were if not for the babbling sounds and shimmering reflections, was the color of chocolate milk, the brown color of floodwater though it hadn’t rained for days. In the tight-knit communities of Appalachia, you would ask your neighbor about it. And once you deduced the muddiness may be coming from the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline upstream, the one that promised minimal effects on the mountain streams it traverses, you would ask what can we do about this? That is how the Mountain Valley Watch began. One neighbor asking another what can be done about this?”

9-14-18 Mother Jones. The Private Intelligence Firm Keeping Tabs on Environmentalists. “When big oil companies want to monitor activists, they turn to Welund. …. The company appears to have worked on behalf of clients involved in some of the most controversial projects currently moving forward: Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, designed to carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia to processing facilities in Virginia and North Carolina; and the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would greatly expand the capacity for shipping tar sands oil from Western Canada. Dominion, Moran’s former employer, is facing strong headwinds as it seeks to complete its pipeline. Activists have already set up an encampment in an old growth forest known as Miracle Ridge that is in the project’s pathway and is scheduled to be cleared this year. This follows weeks of tree sits—including one by a 61-year-old-woman that garnered national attention—protesting the nearby Mountain Valley Pipeline. …. Welund did not respond to questions about its apparent work for Dominion and Kinder Morgan and whether that work related to the Atlantic Coast or Trans Mountain pipelines. Dominion declined to comment for this story. Kinder Morgan said it does not comment on security-related issues.”

9-14-18 Washington Post. Thousands of residents still out of their homes after gas explosions trigger deadly chaos in Massachusetts. “Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) declared a state of emergency Friday as officials inspected more than 8,600 homes and businesses to determine if it was safe for people to return, a day after a series of gas line explosions left one person dead and injured at least 23. The blasts, which led to scores of simultaneous structure fires across three towns in the Merrimack Valley, filled otherwise sunny skies with thick smoke and pushed thousands of residents out of their homes indefinitely. Electrical power has been cut to the communities, and residents have been told not to enter their homes until each one has been inspected for potential dangers. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, which owns the gas lines involved in the blasts, has thus far given no indication of what might have caused the disaster. Baker and other officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, issued scathing criticisms of the company.”

9-13-18 New York Times. Gas Explosions Erupt at Dozens of Homes in Andover and Lawrence, Mass. “Violent explosions and billowing fires tore through three towns north of Boston late Thursday afternoon, damaging dozens of houses, forcing thousands of stunned residents to evacuate and plunging much of the region into an eerie darkness. One person was killed and more than 20 were injured in the sudden string of explosions caused by gas leaks in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover as blackish-gray clouds of smoke rolled across rooftops and flames shot into the sky. …. The string of explosions, fires and reports of gas odor — at least 70 of them, although officials were still trying to account for all of the damage late Thursday — came suddenly, beginning shortly before 5 p.m., without warning and without an immediate explanation from officials. But natural gas, and the possibility that gas had become overpressurized in a main, was the focus of many local authorities.”

9-13-18 E&E News. Libertarians join battle over pipelines, property rights. A right-leaning think tank is again wading into the debate over landowner rights and oil and gas pipelines. The Niskanen Center filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to side with opponents to the Mountain Valley pipeline, a natural gas project that stretches across West Virginia and Virginia. Niskanen’s brief argues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval process for gas pipelines routinely violates landowners’ constitutional rights. ‘No court has ever held that property owners can be forced to wait indefinitely for the constitutionally-required hearing on the taking of their land, and this Court should not be the first,’ the brief said. At issue is FERC’s rehearing process. Under the Natural Gas Act, pipeline builders can use the power of eminent domain to take property for pipeline construction as soon as they receive a certificate from FERC. Any challenges to FERC’s certificate go through a rehearing process that often stretches out for months or even a year.”

9-13-18 Energy News Network. Gas pipeline gets rare rebuke from North Carolina local government. “When Alamance County passed a resolution last week against a proposal to expand the Mountain Valley Pipeline into north central North Carolina, it became the first county in the state to formally voice opposition to an interstate gas pipeline. ‘We’re plowing new ground,’ said Commissioner Bob Byrd after the unanimous vote. ‘I’m generally considered the more progressive person on this board, but I was pleased that we all came together on this particular one.’ The declaration by the board of four Republicans and one Democrat was submitted to federal regulators before September 10th, the first public comment deadline for a pipeline that’s still in the early stages of development. Though the conservative, rural county has no regulatory authority over the pipeline, its action could signal trouble ahead for the project.”

9-13-18 Blue Virginia. Gov. Northam’s “New Steps to Fight Climate Change, Ocean Acidification” “Finally, it’s worth reiterating that the steps announced by Northam’s administration are utterly swamped by the two new fracked-gas pipelines being rammed through, as they constitute the greenhouse gas equivalent of 45 new coal-fired power plants (‘New analysis: Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are Climate Disasters: Controversial pipelines pushed by Trump a risk to West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and the planet.’). Think about that last number for a second, and imagine the uproar if the Northam administration were pushing to build 45 new coal-fired power plants all across Virginia. Yet that’s essentially what’s going on here, except in gaseous form, via pipeline as opposed to via power plant. Does that make it any better? In sum, it’s hard to see the measures announced yesterday by the Northam administration as much more than ‘greenwashing’ – ‘a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.’”

9-12-18 TruthOut. States Allow For-Profit Pipeline Companies to Seize Private Property. “According to Misha Mitchell, an attorney for a conservation group in Louisiana’s ecologically sensitive Atchafalaya Basin, Energy Transfer Partners and other private oil interests broke the law when they began building a section of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline on a parcel of private land in the iconic river swamp without permission from the landowners. Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the pipeline project on behalf of landowner Peter Aaslestad and his family after construction began on their property in late July, but work continued on the property until Monday, when Energy Transfer Partners struck a deal in a local court with the plaintiffs to temporarily halt construction. The company must now wait until at least November to finish, when a court will decide whether Energy Transfer Partners has the legal right to “expropriate” the property under state law. Workers have already built much of the pipeline easement on the property after clearing trees and grinding them into mulch. The deal is a setback for the company and a victory for environmentalists, but much of the project is already completed. …. As the spoils of fracking and the Trump administration’s pro-drilling agenda increase demand for new fossil fuel infrastructure, private oil companies are seizing private property from landowners to build oil and gas pipelines across the country. In most cases, state regulators and courts have granted private firms like Energy Transfer Partners eminent domain or “expropriation” powers by framing their for-profit pipelines as public benefit. Activists and landowners are fighting back, and some have been jailed in the process.”

9-12-18 Virginia Mercury. ‘As if we don’t exist:’ Opponents call on air board to reject pipeline compressor station permit. “Scores of people came out Tuesday night against a proposed compressor station in rural Buckingham County for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The public hearing, held by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, was intended to solicit input on a draft air quality permit to construct and operate a 54,000-horsepower natural gas compressor station in Buckingham but often strayed into a referendum on the entire controversial project. …. ‘This thing is opposed in our community because of the disruption and what it means to our community,’ said the Rev. Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church and an outspoken opponent of the compressor station. ‘There have been too many things that the industry has done that has not been truly representative and fair to communities such as ours.’ Ruby Laury, a member of the Friends of Buckingham group that has mobilized in response to the pipeline project, put it more bluntly: ‘You people have looked over us as if we don’t exist.’ The environmental justice concerns raised Tuesday night were not isolated calls. Last month, the Virginia Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, a board established by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year, recommended that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Clean Water Act certification be rescinded and that all further permits for the project be delayed ‘to ensure that predominantly poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.’”  See additional news coverage in Augusta Free Press and Blue Virginia.

9-11-18 Washington Post. Hurricane could devastate Virginia pipeline project that is already struggling with changing weather. “Work crews are racing to prepare for catastrophic rain from Hurricane Florence in mountainous areas where a major natural gas pipeline is under construction, as an abnormally wet summer has already overcome some efforts to prevent runoff and erosion. The situation places a spotlight on the unusually demanding environment being crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline, as well as the stress being put on state regulators to keep up after years of budget cuts. …. The pipeline’s route through extraordinarily rugged terrain and steep slopes crisscrossed by streams has already caused significant issues with erosion and runoff. State officials have said that while the project is meeting all construction guidelines, those guidelines are based on standards that do not account for recent changes in weather patterns. …. In some cases, a level of rain that once may have occurred every two years has instead happened more than once in a month, staff members said.”

9-10-18 Blue Ridge Outdoors. Underwater Rainbow: Can the Candy Darter Survive the MVP? “Southern Appalachia is a global hotspot for aquatic species. Half of all freshwater fish species on the continent are found here. One of the most spectacular—and most threatened—is the candy darter. This small fish is often called an “underwater rainbow” with its vibrant blue-green, red, and orange stripes. Candy darters are incredibly rare and currently are only found in 4 streams in all of Virginia and several in West Virginia. Of the 35 known candy darter populations, only 17 remain. Deforestation, sedimentation, and increasing water temperatures have already reduced candy darter habitat and populations. Now candy darters are facing additional threats from the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300+ mile long fracked gas pipeline that is intended to run through the region. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline, which was approved by FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), claimed that the project would not pose a threat to the species. However, Since beginning construction, the pipeline project has been issued 6 notices of violation for failing to control erosion and sediment and for damaging water quality, something for which the project has been widely criticized from the start.”

9-10-18 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Officials believe landslide may have triggered massive gas pipeline explosion in Beaver County. “An explosion in a gas pipeline shook parts of Beaver County early Monday, destroying a house, garages and several vehicles and possibly bringing down six high-tension electric towers. Emergency crews responded to the explosion of the 24-inch methane line shortly after it was reported at 4:54 a.m. near Ivy Lane in Center Township, according to Center police Chief Barry Kramer and county emergency officials. ‘It lit this whole valley up,’ Chief Kramer said. ‘People looked out their window and thought the sun was up.’ …. A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Corp. said that while an investigation is underway, officials believe a landslide may have ruptured the line.”  See additional news coverage of the explosion on WPXI, KDKA2 (CBS), and on CBS.

9-9-18 Post and Courier [SC]. Dominion’s 600-mile gas pipeline heading in direction of South Carolina. “Bolt by bolt, a major pipeline is running toward South Carolina. Conservation advocates fear it could mean that exporting natural gas from the state is getting closer to reality. It would be one of the more controversial fallouts from the sale of SCANA to Dominion Energy, if that agreement actually goes through. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline being built by Dominion is projected to pump 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of gas fracked from the ground under various Northern states. It would run from West Virginia to North Carolina. It could be expanded to cross into South Carolina near the mixing of Interstate 95 and South Carolina’s inland port shipping facility near Dillon, conservationists say. The route would put it on a line to continue on to ports such as Georgetown or Charleston, they warn. A Dominion spokeswoman said that’s not part of the company’s current plans.”

9-9-18 CBC. Even under a drill-friendly Trump, pipeline battles rage on in the U.S., too. “Pipeline protesters suspending themselves in trees. Lawyers halting construction with sharp legal challenges. Hand-wringing over the state of national co-operation. Canada is no stranger to pipeline battles, especially in recent weeks. But this isn’t a scene from B.C’s. Lower Mainland. This is how the fight is playing out in parts of America, under the drill-friendly Trump administration. Though members of Canada’s oilpatch may look to the U.S. with yearning as the Trans Mountain pipeline saga drags on, similar projects aren’t getting an easy ride south of the border. While some Canadians may think they’re the only ones tying themselves in knots over the future of energy infrastructure, that’s not the case. ‘There is a worrisome trend of pipeline construction projects getting more difficult to proceed in many jurisdictions in the United States,’ said analyst Samir Kayande, of RS Energy Group. Worrisome for industry but galvanizing for environmentalists, U.S. pipeline opponents believe they’re gaining traction at both the grassroots level and in the legal system.”

9-6-18 News Leader. Atlantic Coast Pipeline staging yard public hearing leads to 30 day delay on permit vote. “A fleet of cars, glued with black and white “No Pipeline” bumper stickers, parked outside of the Augusta County Government Center Thursday afternoon. The passengers poured into the public meeting room inside. They were there for public hearing on the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline special use permit application, which the company needs to use land in the county as pipeline storage yard for approximately two years. It’s the second application of its kind the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals has reviewed this year. In March, the board denied a request from Dominion for a pipeline storage yard after three months of discussion. …. The board members voted to table any further decisions on staging yard until the next meeting. They cited concerns about Dominion’s ability to restore the property to agricultural use at the end of project. Many members said they wanted more information and told Dominion representatives that they’d be receiving a list of questions.”

9-5-18 News Leader. Dominion proposes second pipeline storage yard use in Augusta County this year. “Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline builders hope to obtain a special use permit to use land in Augusta County as a pipeline storage yard for approximately two years. In March, the board denied a request from Dominion for a pipeline storage yard after three months of discussion. That request would allowed for more than 30 acres of land in Churchville along Va. 42 to be used as a storage yard for pipeline construction materials, equipment, fuel and worker trailers.”

9-5 18 NRDC. VA Pipeline Compressor Station Threatens Nearby Community. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) is considering a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County, Virginia, that would compress natural gas for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline so it can be transmitted farther along the pipeline route. The compressor station slated for Buckingham would be massive, with four large compressor turbines. Compressor stations are known to emit air pollutants that are harmful to human health, including toxic air pollutants. A recent study of compressor stations in New York State found 70 chemicals that were released, with many linked to multiple categories of human disease. According to the proposed permit for the Buckingham compressor station, it would emit nitrogen oxides (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter (PM). Exposure to these pollutants can increase the risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and developmental diseases. Examples include: eye, nose, and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, worsening of asthma, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and headaches. …. Yet the draft permit does not ensure the maximum feasible reduction in nitrogen oxide, nor does it ensure adequate monitoring of nitrogen oxide to ensure compliance with permit conditions. It also uses flawed modeling of emissions of nitrogen oxide and VOCs formaldehyde and hexane. And it lacks an emissions limit for ammonia.”

9-5-18 Roanoke Times.  Pipeline protesters take to the trees near Elliston.  “As construction crews got back to work this week on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, so did the tree-sitting protesters. Early Wednesday morning, two women climbed about 50 feet up onto wooden platforms assembled in a white oak and a white pine, part of a strip of forestland to be cut and cleared for the natural gas pipeline. The trees will live on — along with opponents’ hopes of blocking the controversial project — for as long as the women can hold their stands on a steep wooded slope in Montgomery County.”

9-4-18 Progressive Pulse. Alamance County [NC] Commissioners give a big thumbs down to Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate.  Alamance County Commissioners unanimously voted this morning to approve a resolution opposing the MVP Southgate, a controversial natural gas pipeline project planned for northwest-central North Carolina. MVP Southgate would enter Alamance from Rockingham County, then run diagonally from the northwest corner and continuing near Graham and Haw River. Like many landowners and environmental advocates, the commissioners said they were concerned about the potential harm to the Haw River, which the pipeline would cross twice, drinking water, erosion, public safety and property values. MVP Southgate is owned by a consortium of energy companies, including Dominion Energy — a major stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (In typical convoluted corporate fashion, Dominion is buying a stake in an energy company SCANA, a subsidiary of PSNC, which is a co-owner of the MVP.) The southern extension would begin in Chatham, Va. and enter North Carolina near Eden.

9-4-18 Medium. Pipeline Politics: The Appalling Silence of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that would become a bedrock document of the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking to leaders who, despite good intentions, failed to speak up against injustice, King famously wrote: ‘We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.’ Ralph Northam seems to have found the time and motivation to speak out on everything from the view from Mount Vernon to his views on oysters. Meanwhile, two of those closest to Northam, his Chief of Staff Clark Mercer and his Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, have demonstrated not only tone deafness but little inclination to do anything for the people of Union Hill and many other front-line communities. Thousands of people stand to have their lives, water, land and future devasted for generations to come by these proposed pipelines. All for two massive and unnecessary fracked gas pipelines that together represent more than $10 billion in new investment in fossil fuel in Virginia. These pipelines come at exactly the wrong time. when climate change continues apace and is becoming an existential threat to our entire planet. Also to be harmed by these pipelines: Northam’s beloved Chesapeake Bay, including, by the way, the oysters. Northam’s silence is more than just embarrassing. His failure to listen to his own appointees is more than just insulting. One might say his silence is appalling. It needs to stop now.”

9-4-18 Energy News Network. Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents regroup as construction resumes. “The push to cut, clear, grade and trench the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline across the central Appalachia is underway once more. A pair of developments last week allowed construction that had slowed through August to resume at near full force. The setbacks for pipeline opponents left activists questioning their momentum as well as contemplating new legal and regulatory strategies against the project. …. Despite the uncertainty, Chisholm said the Mountain Valley Watch has continued its work. They don’t know what else to do. ‘We’re at a point where we have to continue to do this work, simply because people feel like the public’s voice has been left out of the process,’ Chisholm said. ‘Even with victories here and there in court, and citations by the DEQ [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] and DEP [West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection], we feel like we have to keep going, have to keep documenting, have to keep reporting, even though we might be fairly cynical about what the results may be.’”