June 2019 News

June 2019

6-30-19 Roanoke Times. Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous. “The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for this material lists carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic properties. Scientific data indicates that chemicals that leach from epoxy resins, like this FBE, contain carcinogenic compounds, including benzene, and other compounds that cause significant health threats. A 3M company position paper states that some of the FBE degradation products are toxic to aquatic life. Since FBE is degrading off the pipes, it presents both public safety and health threats.”

6-30-19 The Wilson Times [NC]. Activist rides Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in protest. “A Virginia woman is riding the entirety of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed path on horseback to protest the natural gas project. ‘If there is a time to fight, it’s now,’ said Afton, Virginia resident Sarah Murphy. ‘That’s why I am doing this. The more I talk to people when it is under construction and it is being put in the ground, they are kind of unhappy. I feel like I need to be Paul Revere, letting people know down the line.’ Murphy is currently riding through Wilson County [NC], where 12 miles of 36-inch wide natural gas transmission pipeline are to be installed between Sims and the Buckhorn community. The 605-mile project begins in West Virginia, comes through Virginia and has about 180 miles in North Carolina. Murphy has already ridden the pipeline’s path through West Virginia and Virginia, including the spur that runs from Northhampton County, North Carolina to Chesapeake, Virginia. By the time Murphy arrives at the pipeline’s terminus in Robeson County, she will have meandered a total of 875 miles.”

6-28-19 Roanoke Times. Pipeline protester removed from perch atop MVP excavator. “The person clinging to an excavator parked in the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was barely visible. …. Around midday Friday, Virginia State Police used a mechanized lift to remove Michael James-Deramo from the boom of the excavator, to which he had chained himself about six hours earlier. He was charged with two misdemeanors: entering private property to damage it and preventing the operation of a vehicle. James-Deramo, 26, of Blacksburg, is a former community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and has been active in fighting the 303-mile natural gas pipeline, which is under construction in West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. In a statement released by Appalachians Against Pipelines, James-Deramo said he grew up in the area, playing in the forests as a child and hiking the mountains as he grew older. ‘We have watched as this pipeline has wreaked havoc — from Brush Mountain to Peters Mountain, from Four Corners Farm to Bottom Creek — not just havoc on the land, but on the lives and mental well-being of individuals, and the sanctity of place and safety,’ he said. Mountain Valley has been accused of violating regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation more than 300 times, according to a lawsuit filed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board.”

6-28-19 Roanoke Times. Request to stop work on Mountain Valley Pipeline remains in limbo. “A complaint that seeks to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline is in a state of limbo. Last week, Wild Virginia and other environmental groups filed what they called a formal complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They expected that the action would start an official process, and they asked the State Water Control Board to join in their request that FERC halt construction. But after the board met Thursday in a closed session with an assistant attorney general, member James Lofton said it had been advised that the complaint has yet to be docketed with FERC. The 24-page document — which cites hundreds of environmental violations and the loss of two key sets of federal permits — was filed with FERC on June 21. ‘At this time, the filing is under review by the Commission who will determine how to address the issues raised,’ spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said Thursday by email.”

6-27-19 Clean Virginia. SCC Warns Dominion’s Energy Plan Will Cost Customers an Extra $30 in Monthly Bills. “The State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved Dominion Energy’s revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) today, but it issued a warning that the utility’s long-term energy plan will cause customer bills to increase by nearly $30 a month in the next four years. The approval of Dominion’s IRP comes after months of controversy. In March, the SCC rejected the filing for the first time ever because it failed to be ‘reasonable and in the public interest.’ In April, SCC staff filed motions demanding Dominion explain an $8.14 billion discrepancy between what it told government regulators it planned to spend and what it told investors two weeks later. The approved IRP details $25.4 billion in long-term spending to be paid for by Virginia customers, nearly $6 billion of which was dictated by the General Assembly through new legislation in 2018. The SCC further noted that the $29.37 monthly bill increase ‘does not include the monthly bill impact of several billion dollars of costs for the 2019 coal ash removal legislation that will be recovered from customers.’”

6-27-19 LittleSis. Virginia Legislators Promoting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Have Big Personal Investments in the Pipeline’s Owners. “These State Senators and Delegates have written op-eds in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, signed letters backing the pipeline that were sent to U.S. Senators or federal regulators, or are officially listed on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s website as endorsers – all this, even as they individually own thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in Dominion stock. Dominion is also a top donor to many of these elected officials. That state legislators, some quite prominent, are invested in the pipeline’s main owners, even as they use their elected offices to advocate for the pipeline, raises serious concerns over conflicts of interests. The legislators are using their platform, given to them by voters, to advance a contentious project that they stand to personally profit from.” Article includes “a table of Virginia’s General Assembly members who all officially support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and stand to profit from it because of their personal investments in the companies that own the pipeline. The table also contains donations they’ve received from Dominion and its CEO Tom Farrell as well as some pro-pipeline actions they’ve taken.”

6-27-19 Virginia Mercury. Regulators approve Dominion Energy’s long range plan but warn of coming costs. “More six months after an unprecedented rejection, Dominion Energy’s long-range plan for meeting future electric demand for its 2.6 million Virginia ratepayers was endorsed Thursday by the State Corporation Commission. However, the approval of the utility’s integrated resource plan came with a warning: ‘While the SCC said that Dominion’s revised plan met the minimum filing requirements of Virginia law, it also warned that the IRP “may significantly understate the costs facing Dominion’s customers,”‘ the commission said in news release, adding that it projects an increase of $29.37 a month for the average residential customer by Dec. 31, 2023. The commission, fighting back against past legislative attempts to diminish its relevance, has taken a stronger stance on the company’s efforts to push through big spending on grid projects and criticized it for leaving billions in spending that was included in a presentation to Wall Street investors out of its filings with the commission. ‘This information is essential to developing an accurate picture of what Dominion’s customers most likely face in terms of costs in the years to come,’ the commission noted in its order published Thursday. ‘The cost of Dominion’s investment plans is substantially higher than even the highest cost scenario contained in its amended 2018 IRP.’”

6-26-19 Inside Climate news. Former FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur to End Nine-Year Term in August. “Cheryl LaFleur, who has served at FERC since 2010 and headed the Commission twice, and who had planned to step down as early as June 30, said Thursday she would remain at the agency 60 days longer. ‘After nine amazing years, I will be leaving FERC at the end of August,’ LaFleur said in a Tweet. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s open meeting scheduled for July 18 will be her last, she said.”

6-26-19 Reuters. U.S., Dominion Energy ask Supreme Court to hear Atlantic Coast natgas pipe case. “The U.S. Solicitor General and Dominion Energy Inc asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a decision that stopped Dominion from building the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Dominion argued in their filings on Tuesday that the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Cowpasture v. U.S. Forest Service case impedes energy infrastructure development on the East Coast. In December, the appeals court vacated a permit that allowed the Atlantic Coast pipe to cross the Appalachian Trail on National Forest land because the court said the Forest Service lacks authority to grant pipeline rights-of-way across the trail on federal land. ‘After reading the Solicitor General’s arguments, we’re increasing our odds to just under 50% that the Supreme Court decides to hear the case,’ Josh Price, senior analyst at Height Capital Markets in Washington said in a note on Wednesday. ‘We believe the Court may view this as an issue of national importance,’ Price said, noting ‘if the court declines to take up the case or upholds the ruling, we anticipate (Atlantic Coast) owners may cancel the projects.’”

6-25-19 Virginia Mercury. Water board should support call for federal action to halt pipeline damage. “On Thursday the State Water Control Board has another chance to act on the good intentions its members have expressed – that Mountain Valley Pipeline’s violations and the resulting damages to Virginia waters and landowners must stop. A federal agency can make that happen. We just need the board to tell those federal officials: ‘do your job.’ Our seven fellow citizens on the water board have an awesome responsibility. They have the ultimate authority to see that proper state regulations to protect Virginia’s waters are in place and that those rules are enforced. …. The State Water Control Board can and must intervene in the FERC process citizens have started and it must call for a stop to the abuse being heaped upon state waters and landowners by MVP.”

6-24-19 Virginia Mercury. Change Virginia’s ‘hush and hurry’ tendency on environmental regulation. “Last week, New York passed legislation committing the state to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and net-zero carbon emissions throughout the economy by 2050. This progressive environmental policy stands in stark contrast to the shenanigans of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Last Friday, our Air Pollution Control Board granted a new permit for the largest natural gas power plant in Virginia, and one of the largest in the United States. …. Based on Balico’s own projections, the Chickahominy power plant will emit nearly six and a half million tons of carbon every year. Virginians are already threatened by sea level rise and extreme weather from climate change; investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure will accelerate this crisis. …. When Virginia officials make decisions that will impact our air and water quality and the future of our climate, they should look for more citizen involvement, rather than adopt a policy of ‘hush and hurry.’ They should not veil the regulatory process in secrecy, while working to support corporations that intend to pollute our air and water. The emissions projections make it clear that building the Chickahominy Power Plant will be a catastrophe for Virginia, and especially for Charles City County. The decision to permit this project was unethical and definitely undemocratic. Virginia’s citizens deserve better from our regulatory process.”

6-23-19 CBS 60 Minutes. The climate change lawsuit that could stop the U.S. government from supporting fossil fuels. “A lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 kids alleges the U.S. government knowingly failed to protect them from climate change. If the plaintiffs win, it could mean massive changes for the use of fossil fuels. Of all the cases working their way through the federal court system, none is more interesting or potentially more life changing than Juliana versus the United States. To quote one federal judge, “This is no ordinary lawsuit.” It was filed back in 2015 on behalf of a group of kids who are trying to get the courts to block the U.S. government from continuing the use of fossil fuels. They say it’s causing climate change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. As we first reported earlier this year, when the lawsuit first began hardly anyone took it seriously, including the government’s lawyers, who have since watched the supreme court reject two of their motions to delay or dismiss the case. Four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real.”

6-23-19 Forbes. U.S. Natural Gas Prices Have Collapsed. “U.S. natural gas prices have collapsed since Memorial Day. The prompt month NYMEX gas contract is down over 16% so far in June. Natural gas is at its lowest price level since May 2016. Now around $2.20 per MMBtu, gas this time last year was ~$3.00. Nobody saw this coming, especially when prices in mid-November spiked to nearly $5.00. In addition, the ~$2.53 level had offered strong technical support for the past three years, making this collapse utterly unpredictable. There are no contracts on the forwards curve above $3.00 until January 2024.”

6-23-19 Roanoke Times. The insanity of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Pipeline companies speak proudly of ‘only 0.03 percent events per year per thousand miles of pipeline.’ At that rate, the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline should have one leak every three years. By 2006 the pipe thickness was eroded more than 50 percent, shipping of oil was down 50 percent because of pipe weakness, and there were already more than 500 leaks each year, according to the Christian Science Monitor. By industrial 0.03 percent admitted leaks, the 301-mile MVP line should have only one ‘event’ every ten years. By Alaska Pipeline experience, there should be 188 leaks/year. However, remember that Alaska is under low pressure and Virginia will be under high pressure. Even if there is only one leak/month instead of 15, where would you want it to occur? Franklin County real estate values have already started to decline and home insurance rates to climb. National insurance companies know what happens around pipelines. All of this for a pipeline that is not even necessary.”

6-23-19 Roanoke Times. Pipeline opponents, spurned by the state, ask federal agency to stop work. “It’s hard to count how many times Virginia environmental regulators have been asked to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Since construction of the natural gas pipeline began last year — and was quickly followed by problems with storm runoff clogging nearby streams with sediment — state lawmakers, advocacy groups and individuals have asked the Department of Environmental Quality to halt work on the project time and time again. What is easier to count is the number of stop-work orders issued by DEQ on any construction project since 2002: Zero. …. Frustrated by DEQ’s lack of action on repeated requests to stop Mountain Valley from causing additional pollution, Wild Virginia and other environmental groups are taking a different tack. A complaint filed late Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the lead agency overseeing construction of the 303-mile pipeline, asks that it rescind its earlier approval of the project. The 24-page filing also asks for a stop-work order.”

6-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Massive new Charles City natural gas plant, which will emit millions of tons of carbon, approved by state air board. “The State Air Pollution Control Board has approved a permit for a massive new natural gas-fired power plant in Charles City County. The board voted 6-1 to approve the pollution permit for the Chickahominy Power Station after a marathon meeting Friday over calls from opponents and one board member to delay the decision. If built, the power plant, developed by Chickahominy LLC, a subsidiary of Balico, LLC, would be the largest fossil-fired power plant in Virginia. A second large natural gas plant is also proposed for Charles City near the Chickahominy project. …. Some locals and conservation groups opposed the plant, with many questioning whether there had been adequate public notice of the project.”

6-20-19 Energy News Network. After pipeline feud, Virginia nonprofit aims to reunite community with solar. “A weeklong boot camp in Union Hill, Virginia, trained 10 area residents on the basics of installing rooftop solar. …. Neighbors in this tiny rural community 70 miles west of Richmond have fractured over Dominion Energy’s plan to build a compressor station on wooded acreage off Highway 56. It’s a crucial piece of infrastructure for the giant utility’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would bisect Virginia for roughly 300 of its 600 miles to move hydraulically fractured natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina. ‘We’re family, and we’ve allowed Dominion to let us have a family feud,” Walker said. “We’re going to have to agree to disagree — without animosity.’ The human rift over the fossil fuel project gnaws at his heart because eight generations of his family have called Union Hill home since free blacks and former slaves settled in Buckingham County after the Civil War. Walker, who lives in Richmond, views a united effort toward solar as an energy balm that could heal a schism that has deepened over the last five years as the pipeline — now on hold — has dominated the conversation. Instead of waiting for a solar Superman to soar into Union Hill, the mental health counselor cobbled together a program through his longtime nonprofit, Bridging the Gap in Virginia.”

6-20-19 Virginia Mercury. Virginia isn’t making the grade for environmental justice. “Gov. Ralph Northam has just announced the formation of a new commission charged with identifying and recommending fixes for racial inequities in Virginia law. This would be a long-needed and utterly critical step by the commonwealth; however, the true success of such an initiative is far from certain — especially based on this governor’s record on environmental justice. The Northam administration likes to give itself an “A” when it comes to initiatives on environmental protection. Virginia state officials frequently point to legislation that has passed pertaining to clean energy, energy efficiency, conservation strategies and environmental justice. While it is true that the state has made some incremental progress, we believe this administration is grading on a curve and rose-tints its overall environmental record. We rated this same administration and gave it a failing grade.”

6-19-19 Mail Tribune [Medford OR]. Carrying risks. “A proposed natural gas pipeline through Southern Oregon could expose people to explosions, toxic emissions and contaminated water, while also contributing to global warming, according to a new report by doctors. Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility released ‘Fracked Gas Infrastructure: A Threat to Healthy Communities’ Wednesday. …. The report says communities targeted for gas infrastructure projects have lower incomes, higher unemployment rates and worse health than areas that can mount a stronger fight against the projects. The new projects would further erode health in vulnerable communities, the report said.”

6-19-19 Environmental Health News. 84% of fracking studies show the industry harms human health. “A group of doctors and scientists have released a report showing that 84 percent of studies published from 2009-2015 on the health impacts of fracking conclude the industry causes harm to human health. The report, published by two groups, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York, found that 69 percent of studies on water quality during the same time period found evidence of or potential for fracking-associated water contamination, and 87 percent of studies on air quality found ‘significant air pollutant emissions’ associated with the industry. The report looks at 1,778 articles from peer-reviewed medical or scientific journals, investigative reports by journalists, and reports from government agencies on fracking.”

6-17-19 Washington Post. Land swap may allow pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail. “A land swap with the federal government could allow a developer to install a natural gas pipeline that crosses the Appalachian Trail. The Roanoke Times reports details of the deal were disclosed Monday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The U.S. Department of the Interior could allow the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in exchange for property that Mountain Valley owns next to the Jefferson National Forest.”

6-17-19 NC Warn. ACP Would Cost NC $20 Billion, A Cruel Hoax — News Release from Energy Justice NC Coalition. “If ever completed, a stalled and controversial fracked gas pipeline would cost North Carolinians over $20 billion due to ongoing cost overruns, make energy bills soar and amplify statewide climate impacts, the Energy Justice NC Coalition* told Governor Roy Cooper today. In addition, they say Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, the owners of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, have played a cruel hoax on economically depressed counties along the proposed route by promising natural gas for new industry while planning to use nearly all of it in Duke’s own power plants. …. In a letter sent today, the coalition detailed how North Carolina would be saddled with two-thirds of the ACP costs because they would be passed on through the fuel pricing system.”

6-17-19 Roanoke Times. Letter: Corporations should be held accountable for violations. “The Roanoke Times recently announced the $266,000 settlement between West Virginia and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for environmental violations that have despoiled many miles of streams. The article stated that the settlement came to less than 1% of the project cost. The settlement is much less than 1%. It comes to less than .0058% of the project cost. It is less than the proverbial drop in the bucket, and is an incentive for the MVP to continue, to pollute West Virginia waters. In fact, the MVP may have saved money under this deal by not installing the required environmental controls. …. The MVP and other wealthy corporations need to be held truly accountable for their crimes, and a slap on the wrist like this doesn’t come anywhere close to reasonable accountability. A public comment period regarding this settlement is open until June 22. West Virginia citizens should demand a more substantial enforcement action against the MVP. Virginia citizens should tell Attorney General Mark Herring as well, that they will not accept a closed door sweetheart deal for the more than 300 MVP violations that were documented in Virginia last year.”

6-17-19 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline will take longer and cost more to complete, company says. “Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline may have found a way to cross the Appalachian Trail, but it will delay the project’s completion until the middle of next year and boost its cost to as much as $5 billion. The disclosure was made Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by EQM Midstream, the lead partner in the joint venture. Previously, Mountain Valley had said it would spend $4.6 billion to have the natural gas pipeline finished by the end of this year. The latest plan relies on a land swap in which the U.S. Department of the Interior would allow the company to keep its current crossing of the trail —– at the top of Peters Mountain along the West Virginia-Virginia line — in exchange for a piece of private property that Mountain Valley owns adjacent to the Jefferson National Forest, according to the filing. Boring under the trail was cast in doubt in December, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service had improperly allowed a similar project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to cross the national scenic footpath farther to the east, in the George Washington National Forest. …. The land swap would have to be approved by several federal agencies, which is one reason Mountain Valley made official its latest delay — which had been predicted for some time by partners in the project and a financial analyst following the project.”

6-16-19 Roanoke Times. Delays raise new questions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Of the two types of steel pipe that snake through their land, Anne and Steve Bernard are not sure which scares them more. One they can’t see: the portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that construction crews buried last summer. The other is in plain sight: an approximately 120-foot-long section of the pipe floating in water that fills a trench.” Article discusses at length the hazards of pipes sitting in water-filled trenches for months in uncompleted sections of the MVP, coating degradation of pipes sitting in open air for far longer than expected, and potentially weakened welds.

6-15-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Is Now The Cheapest Option – Even Without Subsidies. “In recent years, the world has marched towards renewable energy. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds that the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory. …. These new statistics demonstrate that using renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective compared to other sources, even when renewables must compete with the heavily-subsidized fossil fuel industry.”

6-15-19 Forbes.  United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education. “The fossil fuel lobby has actively worked in many countries to protect their subsidies and avoid the imposition of carbon taxes. Doing so protects their profits. US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers. Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding.”

6-14-19 NAtural Gas Intel. Lower 48 Associated Gas, Market Forces Seen Muscling Out Appalachian Growth. “Growth prospects for Appalachian operators remain limited as the natural gas outlook continues to dim on a variety of factors, according to a panel of analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML), which recently shared its forecast at the LDC Gas Forums Northeast in Boston. …. In Appalachia, a slowing pipeline buildout, cutbacks in spending and weaker longer-term demand are part of the reasons activity is being curbed. As the strip faces downward pressure, operators are expected to spend even less. ‘We got the pipes here, we got the growth,’ said BofAML analyst Clifton White, who led the panel. ‘Looking ahead, we see a transition from the Northeast on the growth trajectory to associated gas plays — it’s West Texas, Oklahoma, the Bakken, Rockies and Western Canada. We’ve seen that transition play out over the last year or two,’ with growth in both the Northeast and associated gas. Appalachian growth is expected to be more restrained, however. Pipeline capacity has grown at an astounding rate in the Northeast in recent years to about 23 Bcfe/d, with about 6 Bcf/d of takeaway under construction, according to a recent analysis by Moody’s Investor Service. Basis has improved in the process, and White said stronger local prices aren’t likely to spur an expanded infrastructure buildout. ‘That’s kind of going to be it,’ he said. ‘In our view, basis doesn’t really support a further wave of pipelines.’ Additionally, three of the region’s major pipeline projects — at more than 1 Bcf/d each — are facing consistent challenges from environmental groups. Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline has been hindered by repeated court challenges and the PennEast Pipeline has had difficulties obtaining permits.”

6-13-19 S&P Global. Gas-fired generation could see more battles under Bloomberg campaign. “Proposals for new gas-fired generation are likely to face mounting opposition under Bloomberg Philanthropy’s new Beyond Carbon campaign that aims not only to retire remaining US coal plants but also to ‘stop the rush’ of new gas-fired units. Bloomberg last week announced plans to put $500 million toward moving the US economy to 100% clean energy by supporting state clean energy policies, backing the climate movement, electing state and local representatives, and moving beyond coal and gas. Bloomberg officials declined to disclose a breakdown of how funds would be allocated, but said the cash infusion could come over the next several years, although that could be extended. The focus on the gas side will be on fighting proposals for new gas-fired generation at public utility commissions and environmental agencies that issue permits, said Jeremiah Baumann, program lead for Beyond Carbon at Bloomberg Philanthropies, ‘especially in many places in the country where a combination of energy efficiency, wind, solar and storage can actually be more cost-effective and cheaper for ratepayers than a new gas plant.’ The effort will include partnerships with national groups like the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as with state and local groups and frontline communities, he said.”

6-13-19 CleanTechnica.com. Trump v. Earth: Who Put The Appalachian Trail In The Way Of The Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “In a December ruling that put the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on hold, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the National Park Service has jurisdiction over the Appalachian Trail. If that’s true, the pipeline’s proposed route is likely unworkable, because the law requires the NPS to keep its lands ‘unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.’ Building a natural gas pipeline certainly seems incompatible with that mandate. …. Trump administration lawyers argue that the Appalachian Trail is actually under the control of the Forest Service. The Forest Service is allowed to grant rights of way to energy projects on any lands not within the National Park System. Rather than delve into reams of dusty legal history, I suggest we all take a step back and ask a simple question: How should we treat the Appalachian Trail? It has been a place where returning soldiers could gradually reintegrate themselves into society, where the disabled have accomplished amazing feats, and where great writers have gone for inspiration. The Appalachian Trail is obviously far more like a national park than the average plot of federal land. Even if the administration finds a footnote buried in a typewritten document from 1971 that suggests the trail is under the control of the Forest Service, it still deserves national park–level treatment.”

6-12-19 Virginia Mercury. ‘They care about corporations:’ Landowners demonstrate pipeline project’s toll. “Two dozen people trudged through the mud and muck, surveying what was once a key pasture for Four Corners Farm, now gashed and treeless in anticipation of the pipeline. ‘We’re walking along an open trench with a huge pipe that’s been sitting in it for about 10 months that is eroding away slowly as the trench is getting deeper and wider,’ said Carolyn Reilly, one of the owners of the farm, during a tour last weekend. ‘This was the lowest and flattest part of our 58-acre farm, and right now a quarter mile of it has been trenched and plowed through by the MVP.’ …. Four Corners Farm is emblematic of the struggles of landowners along the pipeline route. …. ‘The people, the agencies and the organizations that are supposed to be out there to protect us don’t really care about us,’ Coles said. ‘They care about corporations. Corporations have more rights than individual people do. And it’s all about the bottom line. It’s all about money.’”

6-12-19 Roanoke Times. Munley: Seven ways to stop the pipeline. “What should happen? 1. Virginia’s top law-enforcer, Attorney General Herring: Don’t negotiate MVP crimes. Stop work! 2. Banks: Divest from pipelines. 3. Voters: Rid Virginia of corporate Democrats. 4. Equitrans (ETRN): At your Pittsburgh stockholder meeting: Recognize that your MVP “engineering marvel” is an investors’ black hole and cut your losses. 5. Federal courts: Respect environmental rights over corporations. 6. FERC: Transform to “FREC” (Federal Renewable Energy Commission). 7. Congress: place fracking under the Clean Water Act. MVP advanced with dependence on and faith in corruption but did not count on the following: Appalachians’ tenaciously waging multi-front battles against despoliation and robbery; the fast-evolving energy markets overtaking expensive fracked gas; a few good local and federal judges (excepting Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s initial action granting MVP’s ‘quick-take’ theft of private property); and the power of the Endangered Species Act. MVP epitomizes failed democracy. As we fight to end this corporate takeover of our future, we implore empowered leaders, federal courts, legislators and agencies to help stop pipeline injustice while ‘We the people’ struggle in our now dangerously-fragile and significantly-diminished democracy to retain clean water, safety, and a habitable earth. Virginia leaders abdicate in protecting Virginians over thieving corporations. ‘Stop-work’ is long overdue. MVP and accomplices have no rightful place in our democracy. Our plea: Help end the MVP siege of Appalachia!”

6-11-19 Bloomberg Environment. Virginia Pipeline Projects Could Drive Voters to the Polls. “Increasing attention to pending natural gas pipeline projects in Virginia may drive opponents as well as supporters to the polls in the state’s critical state legislative elections this fall. Control of legislatures is politically vital in states like Virginia, where it is central to redrawing voting district maps after the 2020 census. Primaries for legislative seats in the Commonwealth are set to be held June 11. Opposition to the pipeline projects—the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—is strongest in the areas directly impacted by their routes, but the issue is taking hold in other parts of the state. In addition to environmental impacts, opposition has cropped up over taking of land that is needed to build the pipelines, as well as concerns about potential gas leaks and explosions. But the industry and its supporters say natural gas is an abundant and affordable fossil fuel that is cleaner than coal and oil. They say the pipelines are needed, and that their construction and operation help boost local economies. ‘I have no doubt it will affect’ participation in the upcoming elections in Virginia, Richard Shingles, a professor emeritus with Virginia Tech’s political science department and an anti-pipeline activist, told Bloomberg Environment.”

6-11-19 Virginia Mercury. SCC considers ‘prudence’ of Dominion’s 2015 Chesterfield investments. “Dominion Energy faced pointed questions from a State Corporation Commission judge Tuesday over whether the utility should have spent several hundred million dollars in 2015 to retrofit two of its coal-fired units to comply with new state and federal environmental regulations. ‘Dominion moved forward that spring on retrofitting these plants knowing that [under] the Clean Power Plan, these plants were going to be the first on the list for the executioner,’ said Judge Mark Christie. ‘[These units] were not going to be viable under that scenario, so why spend money on a retrofit?’ Christie posed the questions during a hearing on whether Dominion should be allowed to recoup $302 million it spent beginning in 2015…. The company is seeking to recover those costs through a rate adjustment clause known as Rider E that would add an estimated $1.62 to the monthly bill of a residential customer that uses 1,000 kilowatt hours.”

6-11-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Should pipeline tree-sitters get 20 years in prison?   “What penalty should be paid by pipeline protestors who try to block construction? …. So far, that 14-day sentence against “Nutty” remains the most severe. The Trump administration, though, has different ideas. It proposes that that penalty for the types of anti-pipeline protests described above be up to 20 years in prison. While everybody was pre-occupied last week with whatever it was President Trump tweeted that morning, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asked Congress to make several changes to the laws governing her department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The most significant: To dramatically stiffen the penalties for those who try to interfere with pipelines. There’s already a federal law against ‘knowingly and willfully damaging or destroying’ natural gas pipelines and related facilities — that penalty is a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Or, if someone dies during the vandalism, a life sentence for the perpetrator. The Trump administration wants to expand that definition from ‘damaging or destroying’ to include ‘vandalizing, tampering with, impeding the operation of, disrupting the operation of, or inhibiting the operation of’ a natural gas pipeline. …. If the pipeline project collapses, it’ll be either because the courts rule against it or the underlying economics change. If the tree-sitters really want to help their cause, they’d be out raising money to pay for the lawyers — or buying stock in the pipeline companies to work against the project from within. Or working to elect politicians who will reform the whole system for approving pipelines —although that’s a long-term project that won’t stop this one in time. Does sitting in a tree to block pipeline construction merit 20 years in prison? Of course not. But it shouldn’t merit adoration, either, not even from pipeline opponents, because ultimately it’s a distraction from things that might really make a difference.”

6-10-19 Virginia Mercury. Democratic legislators call on court to overturn Union Hill permit. “Twenty-eight Virginia General Assembly members are urging a federal court to overturn a controversial permit granted by the State Air Pollution Control Board for a compressor station key to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on the grounds that it would irreparably harm Buckingham County’s historic freedman’s community of Union Hill. ‘Placing the industrial site in that community runs the real risk of doing what 150 years of slavery, war, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow could not do: tear apart Union Hill and disperse the descendants of its founders,’ an amicus brief says. The brief, filed Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, is also signed by the Virginia State Conference NAACP and the Center for Earth Ethics, an institute within the Union Theological Seminary founded by Karenna Gore that seeks to combat ecological destruction.”

6-10-19 NBC29. Buckingham Community Gets Help in Fight Against Compressor Station. “People in Buckingham County are getting support from a nonprofit in their legal fight against a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The historic African American community of Union Hill is appealing the State Air Pollution Board’s approval of the plan. On Friday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a brief, saying the station would erase Union Hill’s history and hurt the environment. The group also argues industrial pollution and its impacts unfairly target African-American communities.”

6-10-19 LawyersCommittee.org. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Files Brief Supporting Environmental Justice for Historic African American Community in Virginia. “On Friday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus curiae brief or ‘friend of the court’ in the case Friends of Buckingham, et al. v. State Air Pollution Control Board, et al., a case pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the potential harms facing Union Hill; an African American community in Buckingham County, Virginia. The brief was filed in support of the community’s challenge to a permit granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the construction of a compressor station on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The suit alleges that the compressor station will have disastrous effects on the community’s environment and threaten to erase the community’s history and culture.”

6-9-19 WVNews. WV Gov. Justice issues response to Bloomberg’s ‘Beyond Carbon’ initiative. “Gov. Jim Justice on Sunday issued a statement in response to the recently announced ‘Beyond Carbon’ initiative. Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg pledged $500 million to support the effort, which his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, is spearheading along with the Sierra Club, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The goal of the initiative includes putting the country on track to shift to a completely green-energy economy through the closure of all remaining U.S. coal-fired power plants by the year 2030 as well as ‘(stopping) the rush to build new gas plants,’ according to a press release from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Justice called the initiative ‘short-sighted, nonsensical’ and said it would be severely detrimental to West Virginia and its workers. ‘West Virginia is an “all-in” energy state,’ Justice said. ‘We mine coal, produce natural gas and we have a growing renewable portfolio. These industries provide life-sustaining jobs and have made our economy one of the fastest growing in the country. Michael Bloomberg and the radical Sierra Club organization have declared war on the American worker. If this campaign is successful, massive numbers of West Virginians will lose their livelihoods and the U.S. economy will suffer greatly,’ he added.”

6-7-19 Blue Virginia. Virginia NAACP, 28 Members of the General Assembly, Center for Earth Ethics File Amicus Brief: Union Hill “deserves our protection and our respect.”   “[A]micus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. According to the brief. …. Here’s a key excerpt from the conclusion: For the African-American community of Union Hill, the marker of belonging is both life and death: the place where the first generation of free people came to life, and where now their ancestors rest in the ground. Union Hill is a unique, living, breathing community where the American history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction resides both in the cemeteries of former slaves and the memory of their descendants. It deserves our protection and our respect. For the above reasons, amici respectfully ask the Court to vacate and remand the permit order for further consideration.”

6-7-19 WMRA. Key Pipeline Case May Get Supreme Court Appeal. “After a federal court invalidated a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, lead partner Dominion Energy has said it intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. As WMRA’s Andrew Jenner reports, the deadline to file that appeal was recently extended to the end of June. …. An initial deadline for that appeal was in late May, but both parties on the losing end of the 4th Circuit’s decision – Dominion and the U.S. Forest Service – asked for an extension. The Supreme Court agreed, setting a new appeal deadline of June 25th.”

6-7-19 Green Tech Media. Bloomberg Commits $500M to Close All US Coal Plants by 2030, Halt New Natural Gas Plants. “Michael Bloomberg unveiled a $500 million “Beyond Carbon” campaign on Friday, aimed at closing every U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030 and halting the construction of any new natural gas plants. The new campaign will direct its funding toward environmental groups’ lobbying efforts in state legislatures, city councils and public utility commissions, as well as to elect local politicians with pro-clean energy policies, a Bloomberg spokesperson told The New York Times. The campaign expects to spend the $500 million in the next three years, although that time frame could be extended, the spokesperson said. The campaign’s goals exceed even the most aggressive clean energy and zero-carbon mandates set by states such as Hawaii, California, New York and a growing roster of others. But it’s unclear how the push will ultimately affect either the coal industry’s accelerating decline, or the current plans in much of the country to rely on natural gas-fired electricity for decades to come.”

6-7-19 Phys.org. Industrial methane emissions are 100 times higher than reported, researchers say. “Emissions of methane from the industrial sector have been vastly underestimated, researchers from Cornell and Environmental Defense Fund have found. …. The use of natural gas has grown in recent years, bolstered by improved efficiency in shale gas extraction and the perception that natural gas is a less dirty fossil fuel. ‘But natural gas is largely methane, which molecule-per-molecule has a stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide,’ Albertson said. ‘The presence of substantial emissions or leaks anywhere along the supply chain could make natural gas a more significant contributor to climate change than previously thought.’”

6-5-19 Common Dreams. Not ‘Freedom Gas’ But ‘Failure Gas’: First-of-Its-Kind Report Details Planetary Perils of US Fracking Infrastructure Boom. “A first-of-its-kind report [Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos] released Wednesday by Food & Water Watch details the more than 700 new U.S. facilities that have been recently built or proposed for development ‘to capitalize off of a glut of cheap fracked gas,’ and the consequences for the planet and its inhabitants if these projects are allowed to continue. The report comes a week after top Energy Department officials, in a press release about natural gas exports, referred to fossil fuels as ‘molecules of U.S. freedom’ and ‘freedom gas.’ Climate campaigners characterized that widely ridiculed language as just another example of the Trump administration’s demonstrated commitment to planetary destruction. ‘The Trump administration calls it “freedom gas,” but what we’re really talking about here is failure gas,’ Food & Water Watch’s Seth Gladstone told Common Dreams about the report. ‘Continuing to invest in fracked gas would represent a failure to address plastics pollution, a failure to prioritize human health and safety, and a failure to protect future generations from climate chaos.’”

6-4-19 E&E News. Landslides, explosions spark fear in pipeline country. “TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling pledged “years of safe, reliable and efficient operation” last year when his company launched the Leach Xpress natural gas pipeline. Five months later, it blew up, snapped by a landslide. …. The blast was one of at least six pipeline explosions caused by landslides and similar hazards since early 2018 in Appalachia. They’re piling up just as companies work to export the bounty of the Marcellus Shale by planting a new crop of pipelines across the region’s valleys, ridgetops and hillsides. The blasts are alarming federal pipeline safety regulators and inspiring fear along the paths of the big, high-pressure gas lines. ‘We have those same steep slopes,’ said Tina Smusz, a retired physician fighting the Mountain Valley pipeline being built through the area where she lives near Roanoke, Va. ‘I don’t know what they’re thinking. This is such a setup for ruptured pipelines.’ The Moundsville blast even contributed to the Atlantic Coast pipeline getting put on hold by a federal appeals court, which cited it in a ruling.”

6-4-19 S&P Global. DC Circuit upholds US FERC orders in GHG case, offers ‘misgivings’ on NEPA effort. “The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Tuesday upheld on procedural grounds Federal Energy Regulatory Commission orders in a case testing the agency’s greenhouse gas considerations in natural gas pipeline reviews, but the court expressed ‘misgivings’ about FERC’s ‘less-than-dogged’ efforts to obtain information for its National Environmental Policy Act review. …. Commissioner Richard Glick, who has dissented in gas project cases, said the ruling ‘unambiguously affirms FERC’s obligation under NEPA and the [Natural Gas Act] to consider the reasonably foreseeable upstream and downstream GHG emissions caused by an interstate natural gas pipeline. Although the court denies the petition on procedural grounds, the opinion puts to bed any suggestion that NEPA and the NGA do not permit FERC to seriously consider the GHG emissions caused by a pipeline,’ Glick said.”

6-4-19 New York Times. Companies See Climate Change Hitting Their Bottom Lines in the Next 5 Years. “Many of the world’s biggest companies, from Silicon Valley tech firms to large European banks, are bracing for the prospect that climate change could substantially affect their bottom lines within the next five years, according to a new analysis of corporate disclosures. Under pressure from shareholders and regulators, companies are increasingly disclosing the specific financial impacts they could face as the planet warms, such as extreme weather that could disrupt their supply chains or stricter climate regulations that could hurt the value of coal, oil and gas investments. Early estimates suggest that trillions of dollars may ultimately be at stake. Even so, analysts warn that many companies are still lagging in accounting for all of the plausible financial risks from global warming.”

6-3-19 National Parks Traveler. Appellate Court Chastises Corps Of Engineers, Dominion Power Over James River Towers. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Dominion Energy subsidiary were chastised by a unanimous appellate court for asking that a line of transmission towers in the James River be allowed to remain even though the Corps was found to have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by letting the nearly 300-foot-tall towers be put in place without first conducting an environmental impact study. That the Corps and Dominion had promised to remove the towers had they lost the legal battle brought by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation over the NEPA requirement wasn’t lost on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in its ruling Friday [May 31].”  See the petition for removal of the towers from National Trust for Historic Preservation.

6-3-19 Fayetteville Observer [NC]. Mac Legerton: No public need for Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects. “There are many reasons why the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Facility in Robeson County and the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline are unneeded, highly dangerous and a burden to all ratepayers and consumers of energy in North Carolina. The reasons include….”

6-3-19 Politico. Trump administration seeks criminal crackdown on pipeline protests. “The Trump administration is joining calls to treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country. The Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a proposal Monday calling for Congress to expand a law that threatens fines and up to 20 years’ prison time for ‘damaging or destroying’ pipelines currently in operation. The expanded version would add ‘vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting or inhibiting the operation of’ either existing pipelines or those ‘under construction.’ …. PHMSA insists it doesn’t want to inhibit legitimate protests, but free speech advocates worry that efforts to impose massive fines and years in prison for ‘impeding’ pipeline construction could also infringe on activists’ First Amendment rights. ‘The proposed penalty is far and away more extreme than what we’ve seen at the state level,’ said Elly Page, attorney for International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, a nonprofit group that has tracked anti-protest bills through state legislatures. ‘When you combine provisions that vague to penalties that extreme, that creates uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.’”

6-3-19 Star Tribune [Minnesota]. Court throws replacement of Enbridge Line 3 into limbo; judges rebuke state agency. “The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by state utility regulators on the environmental impact statement for Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, throwing new uncertainty on the controversial project. The court ruled Monday that the statement was ‘inadequate because it did not address the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed.’ The decision to omit this issue was ‘arbitrary and capricious,’ the appeals court ruled. The court, acting on appeals from two environmental groups and three American Indian tribes, remanded the adequacy decision back to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and, it would appear, to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which conducted the environmental impact statement, or EIS. Redoing even a small part of the voluminous EIS could take months, raising questions about more delays in Enbridge’s schedule for Line 3. The PUC granted Enbridge a ‘certificate of need’ for Line 3 last June, the company’s most critical approval. Still, Enridge needs several other state permits and the blessing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those permitting decisions aren’t expected until November at the earliest. And the remaining state permits now can’t be issued until Line 3’s EIS is retooled, the appellate court ruling notes.”

6-2-19 Washington Post. Costco, Walmart and other big retailers try to break Dominion Energy’s grip in Virginia. “Some of the nation’s biggest retailers have been waging a regulatory war against Virginia’s powerful utility monopoly, Dominion Energy, saying the state gives it too much freedom to raise electricity rates and earn profits. Costco, Walmart, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Target and Cox Communications have all petitioned the State Corporation Commission for permission to buy energy from sources other than Dominion. The commission denied Costco’s request this week and denied Walmart’s in February, ruling that if those big companies leave the network, costs will only go up for everyone who remains. The other requests are likely to meet the same fate. But in their rulings, regulators have included a surprising message: The complaints are legitimate, and the companies should take their battle to the state legislature.