July 2019 News

July 2019

7-31-19 S&P Global. Dominion to focus on Supreme Court to get Atlantic Coast Pipeline to finish line. “Dominion Energy will focus more attention in the months ahead on gaining a win at the US Supreme Court rather than publicly discussing administrative or legislative actions to get its stalled Atlantic Coast Pipeline completed, amid investor concerns about the project’s future. The game plan outlined by executives Wednesday during a conference call with analysts – and the promise for now to keep to its latest timeline and cost estimate — came as the company reported an 88% drop in second-quarter profit on a big jump in overall operational expenses. …. Some analysts are skeptical Dominion will be able to keep to its current timeline, regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court on the trail crossing dispute. The FWS authorizations issue may be just as pressing. ‘To the extent that Dominion had hoped to restart construction this fall, we view this adverse ruling as precluding such activity unless and until the failures identified in the permits are addressed through a new permit,’ industry research firm ClearView Energy Partners said in a note to clients Monday. ‘Absent new permits that can survive judicial muster, construction on this project cannot resume.’

7-31-2019 WV News. WV AG Morrisey details brief supporting Atlantic Coast pipeline project. “West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he believes legal precedent exists to back up the argument made in a 35-page legal brief supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The brief, written by Morrisey’s office in conjunction with the attorneys general of 15 other states, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that halted construction of the natural gas pipeline project.”

7-31-2019 WFAE.com. Despite Court Rulings, Atlantic Coast Pipeline Still On Track, Dominion Says. “Dominion Energy says it still expects to open the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2021, despite court rulings and ongoing appeals that have delayed key environmental permits and halted construction. Among the holdups is a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in February that the pipeline cannot cross the Appalachian Trail in central Virginia. Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell told Wall Street analysts Wednesday the company expects the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. ‘We expect that in October or November, the Supreme Court will schedule arguments to occur in the spring of next year, with a final decision no later than June 2020,’ Farrell said. ‘We are confident that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling will be overturned.’ Farrell also hinted at a possible deal that could allow the Appalachian Trail crossing. He said the company is exploring the possibility of a land swap, similar to one proposed by another project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline. That would trade private land near the trail for permission to cross.” Includes audio.

7-31-2019 Roanoke Times. Pipe coating is safe, Mountain Valley tells regulators. “A protective coating applied to the massive pipeline under construction in Virginia and West Virginia poses no known harms, developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have told federal regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked for information on the coating July 10, following concerns from some critics that prolonged exposure to the elements could cause toxins to degrade from the pipe and contaminate the surrounding air, soil and water. ‘To Mountain Valley’s knowledge, there is no evidence that the use of epoxy coatings present a risk to human health, aquatic life, or other environmental receptors through any foreseeable exposure pathway,’ Jeffrey Klinefelter, vice president for construction and engineering, wrote in a letter to FERC. It was unclear what steps the lead agency overseeing construction of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline will take next.”

7-30-19 E&E Energywire. Mountain Valley pipeline takes on Appalachian Trail battle. “The Atlantic Coast pipeline wouldn’t be the only project stymied by Supreme Court inaction on a question of whether the Forest Service can authorize crossings of the Appalachian Trail, another developer told the justices last week. Builders of the 300-mile Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia said they’ve already spent $3 billion on a project now in legal limbo, as they urged justices to take up recent petitions from Atlantic Coast backers and the federal government. Their Supreme Court petitions challenge a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the National Park Service, which is bound to a stricter land conservation mandate than the Forest Service, must authorize crossings of the more than 2,000-mile trail (Energywire, June 26). ‘If allowed to stand, the decision below eliminates federal [Mineral Leasing Act] authority to grant or renew rights-of-way for gas pipelines serving the millions of Americans living along the eastern seaboard if the pipeline crosses the Trail, a court-erected barrier from central Maine to north Georgia,’ attorneys for Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC wrote in a Friday ‘friend of the court’ brief. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents groups facing off with Atlantic Coast in court, has noted that existing projects would not be affected if the Supreme Court preserves the 4th Circuit’s finding. More than 50 pipelines that currently traverse the footpath are located on state and private land or along existing rights of way, an attorney for the group wrote in a recent letter to the Forest Service.”

7-30-2019 Utility Dive. FERC staff drafts environmental ‘pass’ for Mountain Valley Pipeline expansion. “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued a draft decision Friday approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) proposed natural gas expansion from Virginia into North Carolina. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) determined “limited adverse” effects from the MVP project, named the Southgate natural gas pipeline. FERC staff also issued recommendations to further reduce the impact of the 73-mile project. Mountain Valley, a joint venture between NextEra Energy, EQT Corporation and others, would meet Dominion Energy’s growing natural gas supply needs by connecting the MVP project and another pipeline to two new delivery points in North Carolina. Dominion Energy also sought to bring more natural gas to the region through a 600-mile project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). …. ‘We determined that, for most resources, the construction and operation of the project would result in limited adverse environmental impacts,’ FERC staff wrote. The adverse impacts ‘would be reduced to less-than-significant levels through implementation of our recommendations and Mountain Valley’s proposed avoidances, minimization and mitigation measures.'”

7-28-19 Virginia Mercury. ‘Unjustified and unreasonable’: Navy, Walmart, attorney general and legal aid workers oppose Dominion’s profit push. “Federal and state agencies, Walmart and a group advocating on behalf of low-income Virginians have emerged as unlikely bedfellows in an effort to push back against a proposal by Dominion Energy Virginia to increase the profits that its shareholders can reap. The U.S. Navy, testifying on behalf of the federal executive agencies, called the proposal ‘excessive and unwarranted.’ The Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Counsel declared that it was based on ‘highly unrealistic assumptions.’ The Virginia Poverty Law Center described it as ‘unjustified and unreasonable.’ And Walmart, while taking a less strident stance, called it ‘counter to broader electric industry trends.’ The proposal in question was put forward by Dominion this spring, when the investor-owned utility asked the State Corporation Commission to increase its allowable return on equity from 9.2 percent to 10.75 percent.”

7-26-19 Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Judge Halts Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Land-Grab Attempt. “In a July 24th ruling, US District Judge Terrence Boyle extended a [North Carolina] stay on Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) request to use “quick-take” proceedings in order to gain access to properties along the route of the pipeline. ‘Quick take’ allows the company to gain access to land even though adjudication of compensation has not occurred. In his 2-page order Boyle wrote: ‘Defendants again cite ACP’s suspension of construction activities, the uncertainty of the pipeline’s route in light of ongoing litigation, and the burden of the expense of litigation if required to proceed at this time in support of their request for a continued stay. The Court again finds that any prejudice to ACP imposed by a brief additional stay does not sufficiently outweigh the burden imposed on the moving defendants.'” Court order here.

7-26-19 Reuters. U.S. court vacates Dominion Atlantic Coast natgas pipe permit. “A U.S. appeals court on Friday vacated a permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allowed Dominion Energy Inc to build its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina in areas inhabited by threatened or endangered species. Dominion suspended construction of the long-delayed project in early December after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, stayed the Fish and Wildlife Service’s permit, called an incidental take statement. The court on Friday found the Fish and Wildlife Service “fast-tracked” its decision to reissue an incidental take statement in 2018 a mere 19 days after federal energy regulators resumed formal consultation with the agency following the court’s decision to stay a version of the permit from 2017, Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory said in the court’s opinion.” This story was reported in many different media outlets.

7-25-19 Richmond2day. Richmond-area group marks 75 weeks of pipeline protests. “This week marked the seventy-fifth of weekly protests against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines outside of Governor Northam’s office. The protests, which started in February 2018 shortly after Northam’s gubernatorial term began, have continued as a result of Northam’s continued support for the two pipelines. Northam also continues to accept money from the pipelines’ corporate owners, doing so in light of the growing list of related violations, investigations, and lawsuits. Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP) has accrued hundreds of violations during construction, has had several permits suspended or vacated, and is under criminal investigation. Despite continued damage to water quality, private property and personal livelihoods of residents along the pipeline’s route in Southwest Virginia and not having the permits in place to complete the project, pipeline construction continues. MVP offers proof of what activists have said all along regarding the pipelines: the terrain through which they would traverse is far too dangerous to harbor a pipeline, and the pipelines cannot be completed without substantial adverse impacts to water quality and the communities in the pipelines’ paths. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, not yet under construction in Virginia, has similarly lost necessary permits in the courts, giving more proof that regulatory agencies have erred in evaluating these pipelines.”

7-25-19. Bacon’s Rebellion. New Front In Dominion’s War Against Competition. “So to review the three fronts: 1) Dominion has cut off transfers of its customers to two competitive suppliers offering a renewable product and asserts to the SCC they are operating illegally, 2) continues to contest efforts by medium size retail customers to aggregate enough load to depart the monopoly, and 3) is working hard to offer a lower-priced alternative to those customer who already have enough load to leave. One question common to all of the cases is whether customers who choose to remain with Dominion, or who have no choice under the law, end up hit with additional costs because the others have left or because the large users will have this new, lower-cost rate alternative. That is the reason the SCC has cited for denying most petitions by retailers for aggregation of their load.”

7-25-19 E&E News. Battle lines form over pipeline cyberthreat. “Under pressure to ensure U.S. oil and gas pipelines don’t fall prey to hackers andpose a threat to public safety, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are puzzling over which agency should have cyber oversight. …. Top intelligence and homeland securityofficials have warned that new reliance on digital controls, online threats from adversaries like China and Russia, and cybersecurity workforce shortages collectively pose a huge risk to the hundreds of thousands of energy pipelines crisscrossing the nation. Though cyberattacks on control systems are extraordinarily rare, researchers have shown how pipeline networks could be disrupted by skilled hackers, potentially harming other sectors or even resulting in leaks or explosions.”

7-23-19 GreenTechMedia. The Battle for Virginia’s Corporate Renewables Market Heats Up.  ” Tensions are escalating in Virginia between Dominion Energy, rival electricity suppliers and the state’s growing list of big corporations demanding renewable power. Direct Energy and Calpine, two competitive service providers (CSPs) working in utility Dominion’s Virginia territory, alleged in separate motions filed Monday that Dominion has stopped processing their 100 percent renewable electricity enrollment requests for large customers in recent months. The two companies asked state regulators to swiftly intervene to restart enrollment. Virginia allows competitive service providers to offer 100 percent renewables to large customers as long as the regulated utility does not provide that option itself, which Dominion currently does not.”

7-23-19 Courthouse News Service. Third Circuit Raps Pipeline on Fair-Market Failures. “Natural gas companies can no longer rely on federal law to pay less than fair-market value for land seized by eminent domain for pipeline construction, the divided Third Circuit ruled Tuesday. The reversal comes two years after a federal judge denied a $3 million demand by King Arthur Estates in compensation for the 7 acres of land in Pike County, Pennsylvania, seized by Tennessee Gas Pipeline. In a 2-1 opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Greenaway Jr. noted that federal law is typically used to determine compensation value, but the law lacks real guidelines as to what constitutes just compensation. ‘Because federal law does not supply a rule of decision on this precise issue, we must fill the void with a common law remedy,’ Greenaway wrote for the majority. The 32-page opinion also emphasizes that, under Pennsylvania law, private property owners are able to get more money out of the condemned than they would under federal law. This would mean the pipeline would have to pay approximately $1 million more in compensation under state law than federal.”

7-23-19 WVTF. Pipeline Politics; MVP and ACP Face Rocky Road. “The long journey of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast natural gas pipelines recently got longer. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the appeal of a case that denied the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permission to cross the Appalachian Trail. Construction on the ACP is on hold, while work continues on the MVP. Several legal and environmental challenges have muddied the waters on pipeline construction in Virginia and one analyst says pipeline politics in this country are changing.” Includes audio.

7-22-19 Axios. Energy regulators divided over natural gas and climate change. “Regulatory decisions about America’s bounty of natural gas are in the hands of an obscure and understaffed federal agency with a limited mandate to think about climate change. Why it matters: With America’s production of oil and natural gas soaring and Congress not acting on climate change, the once-sleepy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is finding itself at the center of protests and lawsuits. Interviews with all 4 FERC members illustrate their division over how to handle greenhouse gas emissions. Driving the news: Democratic FERC Commissioner Richard Glick wants to require companies seeking approval for pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to offset significant greenhouse gas emissions, similar to the way companies compensate for more traditional environmental impacts like creating wetlands. …. The other side: ‘I just fundamentally disagree with Commissioner Glick on this matter,’ said Neil Chatterjee, the panel’s Republican chairman. ‘The approach the commission has been taking is what we are statutorily obligated to do.’ …. What’s next: Once LaFleur resigns at the end of next month, the two GOP commissioners will have a clear majority and be able to approve controversial projects over Glick’s opposition.”

7-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion Energy’s new programs are really about limiting choices. “[H]ere in Virginia, Dominion Energy expects to reduce carbon emissions less in the future than in the past, and it has no plan to produce 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. For all the talk here of solar, Virginia still had one-seventh the amount of solar installed as North Carolina at the end of 2018 and no wind energy. Dominion has developed a few solar projects and new tariffs to serve tech companies and other large customers, but ordinary residents still lack meaningful choices. So this spring, Dominion decided to do something about that. The wrong thing, of course.”

7-22-19 The Hill. Ditching fossil fuels can tackle affordable housing and climate change. “With the passage of one of the nation’s most ambitious climate policies earlier this year, D.C. has sparked an important conversation — how can all this new clean power be used to lower housing costs and reduce air pollution? The answer is clear: by replacing gas as the primary means of heating and cooling our buildings, and cooking our food, we can slash carbon pollution and lower the cost of new housing. At a time when the fossil fuel industry is doubling down on gas, Berkeley, California last week became the first city in the U.S. to ban the fuel source in new homes. This is yet another example of how, even while the federal government continues to prop up the pollution economy, local governments are pioneering necessary climate solutions. …. Using gas to power our buildings may have made sense when coal was our primary energy source and we ignored gas’s serious health and safety issues. But today it only remains the default thanks to the myopic business tactics of fossil fuel companies. They have misled the public on the impacts of gas, calling it ‘natural’ and ‘clean’— even though it is neither.”

7-20-19 Clean Technica. Speakers At DCD-San Francisco Ask, “Why Won’t Utility Companies Give Us The Renewable Energy We Want?” “At this year’s Data Center Dynamics conference in San Francisco, speaker after speaker took to the stage to lament how utility companies refuse to provide even the largest corporations with the renewable energy they want. Utility companies are accustomed to having things pretty much their own way. Their attitude is ‘It’s our electricity, damn it. We will decide how it is made, how it is distributed, and how much you will pay for it!’ The tech industry and its data centers want renewable energy for two reasons. First, there will be no need of data if a warming planet leads to the extinction of humans. Second, businesses crave predictability. Renewable energy power purchase agreements mean stable long term electricity costs with no fluctuations if a hurricane shuts down refineries in Houston (as happened last week) or Iran seizes a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz (as happened yesterday). …. The DCD – San Francisco panelists agreed that changes are coming — albeit slowly — in the utility business. But there’s one utility company — Dominion in Virginia — that has been particularly stubborn. The company is a strong proponent of the highly controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which has drawn the ire of residents and businesses along its proposed route.”

7-20-19 WFXR-TV. Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters making their voices heard. “A group of 40 protesters descended upon the Mountain Valley Pipeline site in Montgomery County, Virginia Saturday morning. Many voicing their frustrations. ‘It’s an environmental tragedy really, and for the folks who live in Virginia as well,’ says pipeline fighter Amanda Tandy. Pipeline fighters from as far as Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. participated in the protest to make sure their voices were hear. They joined fellow demonstrators who were already stationed on Yellow Finch Lane. ‘All of these pipelines are going to affect all the rivers in Virginia The major rivers. The James, Potomac, and the Roanoke, so if people can’t live in a place where they can have clean water then what are they supposed to do,’ explains Tandy. For activist Tina Badger, this fight is about something greater. ‘There’s plenty of pipeline capacity already. We actually need to stop fracking and stop fossil fuel extraction and move toward smaller scale cleaner renewable energy,’ says Badger. As demonstrators lined the highway, Tandy says these protests show no sign of slowing down.”

7-20-19 Daily Progress. Letter – Wellman: Renewables deserve level playing field. “What is most needed now are breakthroughs in our public policies that will encourage a rapid transition to clean energy. A good place to start would be to stop using taxpayer money to subsidize fossil fuels. Since we’re now phasing out solar and electric car subsidies, so we should phase out direct subsidies (think tax breaks) and indirect subsidies (think air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions) for fossil fuels. These subsidies are huge; for the U.S., in 2015 they added up to $649 billion in direct and indirect costs paid by taxpayers. A level playing field for fossil fuels and renewables would more nearly represent true market capitalism than does the distorted energy market we now have. It would call forth the investment capital, scientific expertise and entrepreneurial creativity needed to develop cheaper and more efficient ways of producing and delivering electrical energy.”

7-20-19 Blue Virginia. Mountain Valley Pipeline Flips Another Excavator, Sends Huge Tree Stump Rolling Off Right-of-Way that Almost Hits Bystanders. Information “courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines, on the latest debacle with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) – this one yesterday on Yellow Finch Lane in Elliston (Montgomery County), Virginia. As Jonathan Sokolow writes, ‘MVP is gonna kill someone before this is done.’ The question is, will it take someone getting killed to prompt Virginia regulatory authorities to step in and deal with this situation? …. MVP has flipped an excavator above Yellow Finch Lane and knocked a huge tree stump off the ROW nearly hitting several bystanders monitoring construction. This company needs to be SHUT DOWN!!! Bystanders are shook up but ok. Excavator operator is banged up but ok.”

7-18-19 E&E News. LaFleur’s exit will leave 3 commissioners — and anxiety. “Today will be Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s last public meeting as a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after nearly a decade of service. When the former New England utility regulator officially departs next month — after serving the third-longest tenure in the commission’s history — two of FERC’s five commissioner slots will be vacant. LaFleur, 64, will leave behind three commissioners who combined have less than half her years of experience. For former FERC officials who have managed with a skeleton crew and those watching from Capitol Hill and the White House, two empty commission seats is a source of anxiety given the billions of dollars of energy projects, market reforms and rulemakings that hang in the balance. …. The commission will still be able to make decisions as just three members are needed to constitute a quorum. And Chairman Neil Chatterjee will have a perceived ally in Commissioner Bernard McNamee, a fellow Republican. Commissioner Richard Glick, a Democrat whose top issue has been climate change, will round out the panel whose mission is serving as the independent economic regulator of the electricity and natural gas industries. But that lineup doesn’t necessarily guarantee a smooth future for major items on FERC’s plate, as McNamee has shown a disposition to think independently….”

7-18-19 Washington Post. Feds reconsidering permit for power lines near historic Jamestown, but there’s a hitch: They’re already built. “There was a catch to the public forum this week about whether Dominion Energy should be allowed to build a power line across the James River near historic Jamestown: The power line is already built. So while the Army Corps of Engineers painstakingly gathers public comment and studies aspects of the “proposed” project to see if it merits a permit, the 500,000-volt lines have already been strung across the James. Atop 17 new towers, some of them 300 feet high. Since February. ‘To my knowledge, we have not had an instance like this,’ said William ‘Tom’ Walker, regulatory chief of the Army Corps’ regional office in Norfolk. Opponents want authorities to order Dominion to tear down the towers. The utility argues that doing so would be disastrous for the power grid. It’s a fittingly strange final chapter for a project that has stirred strong feelings for years. …. Opponents argued that Dominion had viable alternatives, such as a right of way that it already owns down the middle of the peninsula or even burying the lines under the river. Building the crossing, even in the face of court challenges, ‘is just really the height of arrogance,’ said Glen Besa, 68, of Richmond, who retired in 2016 as Virginia director of the Sierra Club. Dominion has faced similar criticism in recent years for other projects, most notably its efforts to build the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the western and southern parts of the state. There, too, federal judges have halted work and chastised federal agencies for taking shortcuts in approving work permits.”

7-18-19 Utility Dive. Berkeley sets historic law banning natural gas from new buildings. “The Berkeley, California, City Council unanimously voted this week to ban natural gas infrastructure in new low-rise residential buildings, beginning Jan 1. 2020. The legislation also requires that all new buildings in Berkeley be ‘electric-ready,’ with proper panels and wiring conduits to support electric infrastructure. The natural gas ban does not apply to new industrial or commercial buildings, as the California Energy Commission (CEC) has not yet proven that it is cost-effective or plausible to make such buildings all-electric. ‘We’re doing this on a rolling basis as the CEC finds these things to be effective,’ said Councilwoman Kate Harrison, who sponsored the bill. The law also does not apply to renovations. The bill received unanimous public support during the city council meeting, particularly in comments from PG&E and Sierra Club, and members of the community. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also praised the move in a statement, noting, ‘cities are leading the way to a clean energy future, providing hope and optimism in the face of increasingly dire climate disruption.'”

7-18-19 WDBJ7. Northam announces broadband expansion, faces pipeline opponents. “Governor Ralph Northam visited Franklin County to announce a broadband expansion that will bring service to more homes and businesses there. He also encountered a protest by opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The broadband announcement Thursday morning brought Northam to the Summit View Business Park, one of the locations in Franklin county that will get broadband service because of the public-private partnership. A grant from the tobacco commission and investment by Shentel will provide service to more than 600 homes and 100 other customers. ‘You know Virginia is doing well. Our unemployment rate is very low right now. We’re bringing in a lot of capital investment, but we’ve got to do everything we can to lift up rural Virginia,’ Northam said. ‘And the one thing I hear every day is we need universal broadband.’ The business park is also a location where Roanoke Gas will tap into the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fact not lost on the pipeline opponents who gathered within sight of the tent where the Governor made the broadband announcement. They renewed their call for a stop work order on the controversial project.”

7-17-19 DC Media Group. Organic Farm in W.Va. Imperiled by Gas Pipeline Construction. “In the four years since finding stakes mysteriously implanted in the ground of their newly acquired farm, Neal LaFerriere and his family have worked as best they could with Mountain Valley Pipeline representatives to preserve the integrity of their organic farm. Having no choice but to sign an easement to allow the gas pipeline to go through his land, he and his wife Beth have tried to hold MVP to the management plan it filed with a federal agency. ‘We have always been willing to sit down at the table and meet with them to try to work out the issues,’ LaFerriere said. But even before clearing for construction started on the right of way on Monday, the effect of MVP’s actions on the family’s business have been catastrophic, he says, threatening the farm’s organic certification and bringing such financial hardship that their ownership of the farm is in jeopardy. And, already this week, a clumsy accident involving heavy machinery has resulted in a spill of contaminating fluids on the organic farm.”

7-17-19 Roanoke Times. Construction materials for pipeline washed into Smith Mountain Lake. “Large wooden mats, used as temporary roadways for construction equipment building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have been swept down the Blackwater River by heavy rains in recent weeks. At least two of the so-called timber mats made it into Smith Mountain Lake, where critics say they posed a public safety risk. …. At least a dozen of the timber mats placed on construction sites in the county were washed downstream by floodwaters in late June, according to an environmental compliance monitoring report filed this week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Two of the mats were found in the Blackwater channel, not far from the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center near Union Hall.”

7-17-19 Roanoke Times. Belinsky: Here’s how the pipeline is lawless. “Today a public servant questioned my description of the ongoing construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as lawless. Here’s an accounting.” Article discusses suspended authorizations, invalidated permits, and pending court cases.

7-16-19 Blue Virginia. Photos, Video: Excavator for Mountain Valley Pipeline Topples Over, Spills Fluids on Organic Farm. Information published in Blue Virginia from Preserve Floyd and Blackberry Springs Farm. “In Summer’s County WV, the [Mountain Valley Pipeline – MVP] flipped an excavator while trying to construct without consent on Blackberry Springs Farm. The driver is not severely injured (walked away with help of his own accord), they are attempting to clean up obvious spills (which are devastating to the organic status of this farm) and we will update as more information becomes available …. Sometime after three PM on Tuesday, July 16, the excavator that toppled over on Blackberry Springs Farm while trying to construct without consent from the landowners was returned to an upright position.” Article includes phtoos and video.

7-16-2019 DeSmog Blog. ‘We Can’t Sit on the Sidelines and Be Climate Deniers,’ Dominion VP Warns Natural Gas Industry. “Donald Raikes arrived at 2019’s DUG East conference, a major shale gas industry gathering in Pittsburgh, with a mixed set of messages for his fellow fossil energy officials. ‘We are faced with a lot of challenges in this industry,’ Raikes, senior vice president of gas infrastructure at Dominion Energy, said. ‘And this morning what I plan to do is use my time to carve out a call for action for all of us. We need to be very aware of the forces that are out there and how they are coming against us.’ What sorts of forces? Raikes warned specifically about opposition from environmental groups. But Raikes also warned that the oil and gas industry was doing itself no favors by denying that it affects the environment, and he even dipped his toes into the issue of climate science denial. ‘Regardless of how we feel about the term “climate change,” the one thing I hope we all agree on is that each of us individually, as companies, impact the environment,’ he said. ‘And it is our responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that we can be respectful in terms of that impact. The second thing I’ll tell you that I think is very critical when we look at these issues and communication is this: We can’t sit on the sidelines and be climate deniers. We can’t, because we disagree with what they’re saying, we can’t stick our head in the sand,’ he added. ‘We have to be a player at the table or this policy will be set without us.’

7-16-19 E&E News. Va. lawmakers oppose Atlantic Coast project. “A collection of 18 Virginia state lawmakers pressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today to stop the progress of the Atlantic Coast pipeline over fears that ballooning costs could fall on the state’s ratepayers. In a letter to FERC, the state lawmakers, largely Democrats, argued that the pipeline developer, Dominion Energy Inc., overestimated the demand for natural gas, potentially calling into question the viability of the project. At issue, the group said, is Dominion’s refiled 2019 integrated resource management plan, which altered the forecast for six proposed gas-fired power plants. The company’s plan now relies more on renewables, and Dominion’s demand for the ACP comes overwhelmingly from utility affiliates, the lawmakers said — a sign that there is not as much market demand as previously thought. ‘As confirmed by the rejection and refiling of the Dominion IRP, Dominion has historically overstated its load forecast, overemphasizing the need for additional gas supplies,’ the state lawmakers wrote. ‘The ACP is unnecessary to meet demand of power generation in the Commonwealth.'” Read the full letter here.

7-15-19 Virginia Mercury. MVP’s violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’ “In spite of the fact that MVP has been sued by both Virginia and West Virginia for hundreds of violations related to failed sediment and erosion control measures, MVP has insisted these are isolated events and largely “the result of unprecedented rainfall through the spring and summer of 2018.” However, new revelations from filings MVP has made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirm erosion is pervasive year-round, and occurring on a project-wide basis. …. Since March 18, 2018, FERC has approved 125 variance requests filed by MVP. Analysis of these variances reveals the extent of MVP’s existential erosion crisis. …. These variances prove that MVP is not only having to make substantial adjustments to its work plan in order to address widespread erosion problems, but that erosion events are actually responsible for a large fraction of all such adjustments MVP has made. The variances also suggest MVP may be portraying erosion differently, depending on whether it is addressing state agencies or FERC. Lastly, and perhaps most alarmingly, these variances are just the tip of the iceberg; they represent only those erosion events that required MVP to deviate from its work plan in order to address.”

7-14-19 WSLS10. Man arrested after blocking pipeline progression in Montgomery County. “Pipeline fighter Phillip Flagg was arrested after he locked himself in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline near Elliston on Saturday. Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, he was taken out from his blockade and arrested. He has been charged with misdemeanor obstruction and released on $1,000 bail.”

7-14-19 Augusta Free Press. Interfaith organization launches Climate in the Pulpits program. “Virginia Interfaith Power & Light hosted an interfaith worship service at the Bell Tower on Capitol Grounds on Thursday to launch Climate in the Pulpits, on the Bimah, and in the Minbar, an initiative to bring awareness about environmental justice, stewardship and creation care to houses of worship. ‘We have a moral call to speak up, to stop climate silence, and to shine a light on the ways we can move forward as an interfaith community in love and with hope.’ said Kendyl Crawford, Director of Virginia interfaith Power & Light. Crawford said, ‘Climate in the Pulpits is an exciting opportunity for faith communities across Virginia to raise up the moral concerns we have surrounding climate justice and the transition to a renewable energy economy. We hope that our Virginia decision-makers like Governor Northam will join with the faith community in raising up these moral concerns around global climate change and will address environmental injustice right here in Virginia.'”

7-12-19 Washington Post. Opinion: A coalition in Virginia is transcending polarization to take on entrenched special interests. “A vigorous drive to stand up to our most powerful institutions animates progressives, conservatives and independents alike and cuts across the geographic, racial and cultural lines that often divide us. The political establishment has learned the hard way that this grass-roots discontent cannot be belittled or ignored. Polarization, however, can prevent people from seeking redress of their grievances in a powerful, united way. When Americans are too paralyzed by animosity to work together, the privileged special interests that are the biggest reason for our ire remain unscathed by reform. But what if we were to channel our shared dissaffection in ways that transcend right and left? What if politically engaged citizens put more of their energy toward action on common values and interests — coming together across lines of division to confront some of our most powerful and privileged institutions? This can happen. In Virginia, a state often viewed as a national bellwether, citizens are proving the power of diverse, nontraditional coalitions by taking on one of the most blatant examples of legalized corruption: the government-granted monopoly on electricity sales that allows selected utilities to reap inordinate profits from their captive customers. …. Virginians understand it’s not a coincidence that their state’s dominant utility, Dominion Energy, is the single biggest corporate contributor to state candidates, and citizens have teamed up across ideological lines to counter the company’s inordinate power over our democracy.”

7-12-19 Roanoke Times. Regulators ask Mountain Valley Pipeline about the safety of pipe’s coating. “A federal agency is asking Mountain Valley Pipeline officials about the safety of a protective coating on the 42-inch diameter steel pipe being buried through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Delays in construction of the natural gas pipeline have led to some sections of pipe being stored above ground for more than a year, generating concerns that the coating could degrade over time and contaminate nearby air, soil and water. In a letter Wednesday to Mountain Valley’s corporate attorney, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requested ‘toxicological, environmental and health information’ on a coating used to prevent corrosion of the pipe. …. William Limpert, a retired environmental regulator from Bath County, has raised concerns similar to Smusz’s about Atlantic Coast’s use of the same kind of coating. Last week, FERC requested information from the developers of that pipeline, which include Richmond-based Dominion Energy. Mountain Valley was given 20 days from Wednesday’s letter to respond.”  [Related story on ACP:  7-8-19 E&E News. FERC presses Atlantic Coast developer to answer critics. ]

7-11-19 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Landslide caused West Virginia pipeline explosion, TransCanada reports. “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration incident report, provided to the Post-Gazette by environmental activist organization Climate Investigations Center, indicates that officials inside Columbia’s control room got an alert about low pressure on the line at 4:16 a.m. on June 7 and sent someone to investigate. Marshall County 911 reported getting calls just a few minutes later reporting an explosion. At 4:37 a.m., the emergency agency called Columbia to report the news. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.'”  [For more on landslides on pipeline routes, see A Landslide Study of the ACP in Nelson]

7-11-19 WVTF. Standing Their Ground in the Path of the MVP. “Construction continues on the Mountain Valley Pipeline in southwest Virginia, but several challenges to it remain unresolved. One that is still up in the air– tree sitting protestors in Elliston. They’ve managed to hold their ground in an encampment along its route for almost a year, preventing construction, at least for now, in one small mountain hollow. There’s been a loud silence since last winter when the Mountain Valley Pipeline company asked federal Judge Elizbeth Dillon to remove protestors camping out on a steep ravine in the path of the pipeline. Tammy Belinski is an environmental lawyer who has been following the legal challenges. ‘The absence of a ruling so far, in my view, means that she doesn’t have a way to rule in Mountain Valley Pipelines’ favor.'”

7-11-19 ProPublica. A Resolution Condemning Pipeline Challengers Passed Easily. A Pipeline Lobbyist Wrote It. “It was getting late on March 7 [2019] in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber. …. But one resolution seemed different from the others, Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, said. He asked that House Resolution 11, titled ‘Recognizing the importance of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,’ be read and voted on separately. ‘I understand this is just a resolution and that it’s late, but I just want to make sure people have read this resolution,’ said Hansen, one of two delegates to speak up against it. House Resolution 11, sponsored by nearly half the delegates, praised the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a major natural gas project. Then, the resolution sharply condemned the citizens’ groups that challenged the project in court, calling their legal challenge an ‘all-out assault’ with the goal of ‘forcing its cancelation.’ The resolution passed 80 to 17. What wasn’t mentioned on the House floor that night was that the resolution was drafted by the pipeline company itself. Bob Orndorff, a lobbyist for Dominion Energy, wrote the resolution and sent it to the House of Delegates, according to documents obtained through a public records request filed by the Charleston Gazette-Mail with the clerk of the House of Delegates.”

7-11-19 News Advance. Official: Atlantic Coast Pipeline seeks to lease Amherst site for storage, transporting workers. “Amherst Town Council is set to hold a public hearing next month on a proposal by Dominion Energy, the Richmond company backing the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to lease an area in a town industrial park for storing equipment and transporting workers to pipeline construction sites in other localities. Council voted 4-0 Wednesday to advertise the hearing for leasing the property within the L. Barnes Brockman Sr. Business and Industrial Park on U.S. 60 in Amherst for a two-year period. The vote followed a closed session during which council met with a Dominion representative behind closed doors, Town Manager Sara Carter said. The meeting agenda listed the reason for that portion of the closed session as ‘discussing a possible lease of [town] property for an economic development prospect where no previous announcement has been made.’ …. Carter said the lot Dominion proposes to use is about 45 acres in the back of the industrial park, which is a short drive from U.S. 29 Business in Amherst and directly on the U.S. 60 corridor. The use of the land is for storage, placing equipment and mobilizing workers to bus to Nelson and Buckingham counties, which are among about 30 localities on the pipeline’s route through Virginia and North Carolina. …. Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the county was aware of Dominion’s plans and it was a reason the county last summer didn’t stage its first fair in many years at the Brockman park and opted instead to have the event at another location. Rodgers said the lease with Dominion is an excellent short-term revenue generator for the town. The hearing is expected to take placed during council’s 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Amherst town hall meeting room, 174 South Main St., Amherst.”

7-11-19 Nelson County Times. Letter: Needed change in pipeline policy. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) policy guaranteeing a high return on equity (ROE) for gas pipeline builders should be revised. It is a subsidy that incentivizes pipeline overbuilding and is increasingly out of step with the times. As FERC policy now stands, utilities are guaranteed ROEs of up to 15 percent, far exceeding the returns the private market would normally provide (Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC has claimed a 14 percent ROE). When this policy was established in 2005, it could have plausibly been argued that a high incentive was needed to strengthen the U.S. energy system against over-reliance on foreign sources of oil and gas. The fracking revolution changed all that, and the U.S. is now a major exporter of both oil and natural gas (as liquified natural gas). FERC is now reviewing the ROE policy. Growing scientific evidence about the looming threat of global climate change, coupled with the rapid advance of renewable energy, make FERC’s review of ROE policy timely and important. …. Energy independence, the key justification for the 2005 amendments, can best be achieved by exploiting our abundant, free wind and solar resources. For the shift we must make to a clean energy economy, our most critical human resources are scientific and technological knowledge, and to bring this knowledge to bear most effectively, we must update our policies. Changing FERC’s ROE policy is just one of many such changes, but it is an important one.”

7-10-19 Forbes. Cheap Clean Energy Makes New Natural Gas A Risky Bet Utility Regulators Should Avoid. “The math of recent solar-plus-storage projects, particularly Nevada’s June NV Energy procurement, signals that clean and dispatchable energy is available for less than the cost of new natural gas – a death-knell for new gas plants and harbinger of future economic concerns. …. With potentially tens of billions in stranded assets already from uneconomic coal plants, regulators who approve massive investments in new gas plants could be facing a new wave of junk assets on utility books sooner rather than later. New natural gas is extremely risky in this context, and regulators would be wise to question its prudence.”

7-10-19 Christian Century. A church is fighting back against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “You’ve probably heard the statistics: the earth’s surface is more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was a century ago. Scientists predict that with the current upward trend in greenhouse gas emissions, the increase could more than double by 2050 and might reach as high as 10 degrees by 2100. At that point, Virginia temperatures will be like those of Florida. You can’t have that kind of temperature hike and the climate changes that go with it—droughts, floods, soil erosion, and rising seas pushing salt water onto fertile coastal plains—without affecting agriculture. By the end of the century, studies predict, worldwide vegetable crop yields could drop by more than a third, and production of corn—which feeds much of the planet’s livestock—could be cut in half. What can any of us do about it? How do we force big business to move toward solar and wind energy rather than continuing to burn coal, oil, and shale gas? If you’re John Laury and his neighbors in Union Hill, Virginia, you fight like hell. They’re up against some of the biggest energy companies in the world and the fracked gas pipeline these companies want to run through town. Laury, Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church, and their neighbors in Union Hill—which was settled by freed slaves 150 years ago—are on the front lines of the climate struggle. They’re vying to preserve the health of their community and the health of the planet. They’re aware that over the years communities of color have been disproportionately afflicted with the consequences of environmental degradation.”

7-10-19 Roanoke Times. Seriff: Pipeline hurts, not helps, our economic growth. “Despite citizen and environmental groups best efforts to halt these plans, the Mountain Valley Pipeline became a reality. In a blitzkrieg attack MVP mowed down hundreds of miles of forest, forever scared farms and fields, and destroyed many landowners lives in the process. However, during this ill-conceived quest for quick profits, reality suddenly hit. Gold rushes historically result in a small group of people getting rich at the expense of numerous others. They also cause long lasting environmental degradation. In this case dozens of experts had warned about the treacherous mountain slopes and karst terrain in the pipeline’s path. They were ignored. The dire predictions came true in the form of erosion, mudslides, and water contamination. …. Meanwhile renewable energy has become a cheaper cleaner smarter alternative to fossil fuels. Our leaders fail to comprehend this reality. Gov. Northam lacked awareness in the 1980’s of the negative impact that blackface might have in the future. Northam will eventually experience far more embarrassment and regret over his role in allowing this pipeline’s sting impact on our environment. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is the last gasp of a dying industry. Continued construction stands as an ongoing crime against our environment and the citizens of Virginia. MVP is unneeded. It will add little value to Virginia’s economy. It is highly destructive to our planet. Sadly, government leaders are ignorant to this truth.”

7-9-19 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Woman rides horses across three states to protest Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Sarah Murphy and her two horses, named Rob Roy and UFO, are slowly making their way along the country roads of North Carolina to protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 600-mile, $7 billion natural gas pipeline is to run from the mountains of West Virginia to eastern Virginia and to the flatlands of Robeson County south of Fayetteville. Murphy has been traversing the route on foot and on horseback from her home near Charlottesville, Virginia, on and off since September. She reached Cumberland County northeast of Fayetteville this week and expects to finish in the next week or so at the terminus site near Pembroke.”  This story appeared in many news outlets, including the New York Times.

7-8-19 Energy News Network. Energy audit inspires Virginia yogis to ‘stand up for something that’s important’ “Yogaville leaders were heartened when they learned five years ago that Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be buried a few miles from their property line in Buckingham County. They figured having access to a cheap and abundant natural gas supply to power their 660-acre spiritual center along the banks of the James River would provide significant utility bill relief. Their enthusiasm abated, however, when they found out locals weren’t allowed to tap into the energy resource. That discovery prompted them to organize a team that dug relentlessly into the carbon footprint of fossil fuels, their retreat’s own energy footprint and the far-reaching impact of pipeline infrastructure. ‘It was eye-opening and prompted us to take a stance against a pipeline we didn’t want near us,’ said Jeeva Abbate, director of Yogaville Environmental Solutions, an internal group abbreviated as YES. ‘But some of our visitors said they saw all of this no, no, no to the pipeline and the compressor station and asked if we could find a solution we could say yes to.’ That key question spurred not only the birth of YES, but also a link to the group Green Faith and an energy audit that revealed Yogaville’s campus was ideal for solar installations. ‘When we saw the possibilities, that audit kind of became our Bible,’ Abbate said. ‘This whole process has activated us to protect this pristine land.’ ‘It turns out that adversity is a blessing in disguise,’ said Swami Dayananda, part of YES at Yogaville. ‘The pipeline made us realize how climate change is upon us and made us move into making solar a priority.'”

7-8-19 E&E News. FERC presses Atlantic Coast developer to answer critics. “Federal regulators have asked the builders of the Atlantic Coast pipeline to answer project opponents’ questions about the durability and potential toxicity of protective coating on the pipes. Critics in the pipeline’s path, along with environmental groups, have raised suspicions that anti-corrosion coating on the steel could have deteriorated from exposure to sunlight during months of storage, and that chemicals from the pipes could leach into groundwater.If the concerns are true, degraded materials could leave the pipeline prone to corrosion and ruptures, potentially contaminating nearby communities’ water supplies. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week passed on those questions to Dominion Energy Inc., the lead company on the pipeline. The agency wants answers within 20 days.

7-8-19 WhoWhatWhy.org. Will Corporate ‘Clout’ Kickstart Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Will Dominion Energy, Inc., Virginia’s largest investor-owned utility, be able to use its political clout to push through its long-delayed, controversial 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)? …. Environmental and civil rights groups, small businesses, and many homeowners in its path all oppose the project, charging that the pipeline is not needed and would jeopardize environmentally sensitive lands, fell hundreds of trees, and harm water quality. Initially, Dominion was able to secure permits from federal, state, and county regulators. Last year, however, environmental lawyers won key victories in federal court that have prevented the pipeline from moving forward. But late last month, Dominion scored a victory of sorts. The Trump White House stepped into the fray; its solicitor general joined the corporation in a request that the Supreme Court hear Dominion’s appeal of a federal court’s decision blocking the ACP from crossing the Appalachian Trail. Dominion lobbyists also are prowling the halls of Congress, environmental advocates charge, urging lawmakers to pass a law that would allow the project despite the court rulings.”

7-8-19 The Guardian. ‘Protesters as terrorists’: growing number of states turn anti-pipeline activism into a crime. “From the Standing Rock camps in North Dakota to tree-sits in Texas, activists have attempted to stop pipeline construction with massive shows of civil disobedience. Now they could be forced to change those tactics, or face heavy penalties under a wave of new anti-protest laws that civil liberties advocates say violate the first amendment. Conservative lawmakers have put forward laws criminalizing protests that disrupt the construction and operation of pipelines in at least 18 states since 2017. Seven states have passed laws that ratchet up the penalties for activists protesting or even planning protests of oil and gas pipelines and other ‘critical infrastructure.’ At least six more states are considering such laws. In each case, misdemeanors are elevated to felonies, and criminal and civil punishments are escalated drastically. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights have mounted challenges against such laws in Louisiana and South Dakota. ‘This is a trend that shows no sign of slowing, let alone stopping,’ said Elly Page, who has been tracking anti-protest legislation for more than two years as a legal adviser for the International Center for Non-Profit Law. The laws purport to only criminalize violence and property damage in service of pipeline safety, but critics say their greater intent appears to be to deter nonviolent civil disobedience by framing it as potentially violent in itself.”

7-6-19 Appalachian Voices. Front Porch Blog: Mountain Valley Pipeline soils all in its path. “It can often seem as if government and business are on the same side. In the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the agencies that exist to safeguard the health of citizens and the environment have decided to take a back seat, remaining quiet while industry, at the wheel, plays loose with the law. In the absence of government help, organizations like Mountain Valley Watch take up the regulatory slack. Their trained volunteers carefully track construction on the MVP. As of an April 2019 report, the Watch’s monitors have found 562 problems. …. The court may still hit the MVP with a civil penalty, with the money going to the state. However, the state is not required to use this money to help those affected by the pipeline’s violations. There is little suggestion that MVP has learned from its mistakes. Mountain Valley Watch volunteers continue to document environmental degradation along the pipeline’s route with its data tool, the Dashboard. Nothing short of a work stoppage will provide relief to those who live in the MVP’s path.”

7-5-19 Blue Virginia. STILL Confused Why Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines Must Be Stopped? New Paper Explains Why We Need to Cancel All New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure. Immediately. “At this point, given the overwhelming amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence (e.g., the current heat waves in Alaska and Europe; another hottest month ever worldwide in June; the ‘precipitous’ decline in Atlantic sea ice) available, all pointing to climate catastrophe if we don’t act immediately, there’s simply ZERO excuse for anyone to deny, minimize, or to be ‘skeptical’ about the man-made climate crisis. …. Here in Virginia, what that means is very clear and urgent: we can not and *must not* build the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Mountain Valley Pipeline. How bad are these two pipelines from a climate perspective? VERY bad, as in ‘together contribut[ing] as much greenhouse gas pollution as 45 coal-fired power plants — some 158 million metric tons a year.'”

7-3-19 Roanoke Times. Landowners ask U.S. Supreme Court to bar taking their property for pipeline. “A group of Southwest Virginia landowners whose property was taken for a natural gas pipeline is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the use of eminent domain. The appeal challenges a decision by a Roanoke-based federal judge who gave the Mountain Valley Pipeline immediate possession of about 300 disputed parcels in a decision that cleared the way for tree-cutting to start last year. Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s ruling applied to the Virginia portion of the pipeline. The Supreme Court is being asked to review her decision along with that of a West Virginia federal judge who made a similar decision for the section of the 303-mile pipeline that passes through his state. A decision on whether the high court will consider the appeal is expected in the fall.”

7-3-19 WV Public Radio.  Jobs and Risk — Atlantic Coast Pipeline Shutdown Divides W.Va. “Along the ACP’s route, there are dozens of communities like it that were taken by surprise when construction suddenly ground to a halt. According to pipeline developer Dominion Energy, which has a majority stake in the project, an estimated $478.7 million in total economic impact was put at risk when the pipeline shut down. That figure includes taxes and other spending on equipment and lodging. Across West Virginia, the company said the project intends to employ more than 2,000 workers, of which 600 positions are allocated to local residents. The jobs and tax revenues associated with the construction of multi-billion dollar natural gas pipelines are significant during their months-long construction. In Appalachia, there have been multiple pipeline projects, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. But environmental groups and a growing number of citizen activists argue that the environmental risks associated with these projects outweigh the temporary economic benefits. Installing large natural gas pipelines encourages the extraction and use of natural gas, a fossil fuel, at a time when the window for taking action to curb carbon emissions and prevent the worst climate change predictions is narrowing, the groups argue. They also say pipeline construction negatively affects communities and the state’s natural resources. ‘There’s not at all long-term economic benefits for the communities,’ said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels program. ….’There is long-term pollution associated with the construction of the pipelines and with the fracking for the gas that feeds them,’ she said. ‘The risk here is that communities are left with the cleanup and with the pollution, but without the economic benefit.'”

7-2-19 E&E News. Landowners ask justices to nix companies’ ‘quick take’ power. “The Supreme Court will soon have a new shot at examining an unusual wrinkle in pipeline land seizures that some legal experts say saps private landowners of their constitutional rights. Unlike standard eminent domain proceedings, which require just compensation in exchange for acquiring land, immediate possession or ‘quick take’ power allows developers to take private property months or years before paying. Although Congress did not convey quick-take authority to pipeline developers in the Natural Gas Act, several appellate courts have interpreted the law to allow those firms to take property to build their projects before landowners ever receive a dime. ‘The courts seem to think this is inevitable, that eminent domain is one of those things that’s going to happen whether the property owner wants it or not,’ said Robert Thomas, a land-use and appellate lawyer at Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. ‘That may be true in many cases but not necessarily true under the law,’ he said. The distinction is important, legal experts say, because immediate possession of property can rob landowners of their ability to negotiate a fair price, which the condemner then has the option to either pay or decline.”

7-1-19 Forbes. New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear. “Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin. Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city’s electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries. ‘This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States,’ said James Barner, the agency’s manager for strategic initiatives, ‘and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today. So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry.’ It’s half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant. Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor who developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent renewables, hailed the development on Twitter Friday, saying, ‘Goodnight #naturalgas, goodnight #coal, goodnight #nuclear.'”

7-1-19 E&E News Energywire. Dominion cancels gas pipeline, blames FERC. “Dominion Energy Inc. on Friday abandoned a pipeline project to bring Marcellus Shale natural gas to market, faulting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its failure to act on the application. “The project has been adversely impacted” by FERC’s inaction, Dominion said in a statement, informing the commission that customers for the project had pulled out. FERC’s processing of pipeline applications has been bumpy since the agency in May of last year ended its practice of considering the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas impacts of gas projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Dominion’s cancellation of the Sweden Valley Project comes days after FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said after an agency meeting that the gas industry is “largely satisfied” with the way the agency is moving to advance projects. The $48 million project inOhio and Pennsylvania called for less than 5 miles of pipeline, modifications to an existing compressor station and construction of two measuring stations. It would have delivered 120 million cubic feet per day into the Tennessee Gas pipeline in eastern Ohio.