September 2019 News

September 2019

9-30-19 Roanoke Times. Forest conservation grants awarded to offset damage from Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Forest conservation grants totaling nearly $4 million have been awarded as part of an effort to offset environmental damage to Southwest Virginia caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation announced the six grants Monday to restore and protect woodlands in Bland, Botetourt, Charlotte, Roanoke and Rockbridge counties. It was the latest disbursement from a fund established last year, when Mountain Valley agreed to pay a total of $27.5 million to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution that was expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe.”

9-30-19 S&P Global. Protestors gain support from Sanders, Warren for idea of recasting FERC. “Opponents of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s role in approving natural gas infrastructure have picked up support from two leading Democratic presidential contenders for their idea of recasting FERC to become an agency dedicated to advancing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse emissions.”

9-30-19 Roanoke Times. Sligh: Clean water rule change threatens state powers. “The Trump administration is proposing changes to Clean Water Act regulations to limit the abilities of states and local communities to protect their waters from harmful federally-licensed projects. This would encroach on Virginians’ rights to protect and preserve our natural treasures and must be met with strong opposition. Attorney General Mark Herring must speak and act against this assault by strongly objecting during a formal administrative process now underway and, if necessary, going to court to protect and defend our interests. …. The Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are examples that foreshadow how much harder it would be to protect environmental resources and maintain water quality standards, if we lose any 401 authority.”

9-30-19 E&E News. 4 pipeline fights to watch this term. “The Supreme Court could decide to wade into the natural gas pipeline wars this term. As the court begins its 2019 session, energy experts are watching whether the justices will weigh in on federal permitting, eminent domain and state sovereignty issues around pipeline construction. So far, the justices have opportunities to consider the Forest Service’s authority to permit the Atlantic Coast pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail and to decide whether developers of the Mountain Valley project can lawfully seize private property before paying. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has urged the justices to hear the Atlantic Coast dispute, which significantly boosts the case’s odds of review. ‘Natural gas and oil pipeline infrastructure is not getting less controversial and the Supreme Court may find it appropriate to issue a ruling that definitively settles the matter,’ ClearView Energy Partners LLC wrote in a recent analysis. A third possible case involving state lands takings for the PennEast pipeline may also be brought before the Supreme Court. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is still mulling a request to reconsider its decision to block developers’ access to New Jersey-owned acreage. Experts also expect that challenges over gas exports from pipelines could soon make their way to the nation’s highest bench. Those exports are problematic, challengers say, because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority to delegate eminent domain power to pipeline builders is limited to projects in service of interstate commerce.”

9-29-19 Blue Virginia. New Studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute: New Natural Gas Pipelines Are a Very Bad Investment from Environmental, Economic Perspectives. “The bottom lines, as the website DeSmog Blog writes, are that: 1) ‘Much like coal, the economics of natural gas production in the U.S. and Canada are unsustainable, and the writing is on the wall for all those willing to read it.’; 2) ‘…not only is natural gas bad for the climate and environment, but like coal, it’s a bad investment. Whether and how quickly society at large comes to terms with these realities could mean all the difference for the future of a livable climate.’ So, given all this, when the hell is Virginia going to do everything it can to cancel the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggles? Clearly, the governor, state legislators, State Corporation Commission, Department of Environmental Quality, etc., don’t need any additional information to know what a disaster these projects are and will be. So again, what on earth are they waiting for? Remember, there’s no Planet B, so we’d better not screw this one up.”

9-29-19 Cavalier Daily. Calhoun: Stop the U.Va. to Dominion career pipeline. “Within the deluge of on-Grounds internship and job recruitment opportunities streaming into my inbox, one company keeps reappearing: Dominion Energy. To most students this name wouldn’t particularly stand out, but for me it elicits a strong feeling of disgust. I’m from Charlottesville. As a high schooler, I attended a meeting hosted by Virginia Organizing, Clean Virginia and Appalachian Voices. Only then did I learn about how Dominion Energy abuses its monopoly power and takes advantage of Virginians, all while maintaining a facade of being energy efficient and eco-friendly. If the University wants to achieve its stated purpose of ‘developing responsible citizen leaders,’ it shouldn’t encourage students to work for an organization which has environmentally irresponsible and damaging practices.”

9-29-19 Blue Virginia. Hundreds Celebrate Fourth Annual “Hands Across the Appalachian Trail.” “Events in three locations hosted attendees from VA & WV, Youth Leaders and State Officials. On Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29, hundreds of community members, youth leaders, environmental groups and protectors of the Appalachian Trail, including State Delegate Chris Hurst and State Senator Creigh Deeds, gathered for the fourth annual ‘Hands Across the Appalachian Trail.’ This two-day community event featured speakers, music, artmaking and calls for attendees to protect and preserve the Appalachian Trail, currently under threat from the fracked-gas Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, and to take immediate action on the climate crisis.”

9-28-19 Roanoke Times. Plans for pipeline work area atop Poor Mountain draw objections from Roanoke County. “Roanoke County is objecting to a temporary workspace for the builders of a natural gas pipeline, saying its location at the top of Poor Mountain could be seen for miles. Mountain Valley Pipeline has yet to make a formal request for the workspace, which would involve clearing about an acre of woods where Honeysuckle Road runs along a row of television and radio towers. But tentative plans call for water tanks to be placed on the land for hydrostatic testing, which involves pumping large amounts of water through the 42-inch diameter pipe to check for leaks before it begins to transport natural gas. Once the testing is completed, the area will be ‘revegetated to facilitate its return to pre-construction conditions,’ Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox said. Based on the company’s interest in the land, outlined in documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Roanoke County asked the commission in a letter Thursday to deny any request it may be asked to consider. ‘The top of Poor Mountain is one of the most visible locations in Roanoke County,’ Assistant County Administrator Richard Caywood wrote in the letter.”

9-27-19 Virginia Mercury.  A closer look at a cascade of clean energy announcements in Virginia. “Is Virginia off to the clean energy races? Last week saw a cascade of clean energy announcements in Virginia. On Tuesday, Governor Northam issued an Executive Order aimed at achieving 30 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050, and with near-term state procurement targets. On Thursday, Dominion Energy announced it would fully build out Virginia’s offshore wind energy area by 2026, in line with one of the goals in the Governor’s order. Then, Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Virginia unanimously passed resolutions endorsing the Virginia Green New Deal and a goal of net zero carbon emissions for the energy sector by 2050. Finally, on Saturday Arlington became the first county in Virginia to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, and economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. So is Virginia off to the clean energy races? Well, maybe we should take a closer look.”

9-26-19 E&E News. Inside the Supreme Court showdown over Atlantic Coast. “The drive up to Three Ridges Overlook is decorated with little blue signs that read “No Pipeline,” emblems of a looming courtroom battle that could alter the face of this prized recreational area. …. In the coming weeks, the high court will announce whether it will review a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Forest Service did not have the power to authorize the 600-mile project to cross the Appalachian Trail. Many more federal and state permits for the pipeline hang in the balance.”

9-26-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: What shade of green is Northam’s energy plan? “Why no mention of natural gas pipelines? It’s easy for the governor to set a goal for something 31 years in the future. Northam curiously overlooks the present, and the two big natural gas pipelines in the works – the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ACP is a project of Dominion Energy. If Virginia’s electric grid is really going to be carbon-free, then in theory Dominion won’t need the ACP for its own needs, but we don’t exactly see Dominion cancelling that project. That’s one of the important things to keep in mind about Northam’s executive order: It’s more aspirational than actionable. Simply because he’s signed it doesn’t really make any of these things happen. Regulating utilities is a lot more complicated than that: When the General Assembly mandates that the State Corporation Commission require utilities go carbon-free, well, then things might happen. …. Make no mistake: Northam’s move is a good one, but it’s not the deepest shade of green available.”

9-25-19 Maplight. Energy Giants Spend Big on Lobbying to Clear Pipeline Path Through National Forests, Appalachian Trail. “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure ‘to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.’ Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

9-25-19 Huffington Post. The $109 Million Lobbying Effort To Run A Pipeline Through National Treasures. “A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile-long project that has been compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress.”

9-24-19 Virginia Mercury.  Virginia can’t reach its 2050 climate goal if it keeps allowing natural gas infrastructure. “On Sept. 16, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a forward-looking objective of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for Virginia by 2050. Unfortunately, Virginia cannot reach this goal if the governor, the General Assembly, and the state air and water control boards continue rubber-stamping natural gas pipelines and electric power plants that will further disrupt our climate and exacerbate environmental and public health problems in Virginia. Just last November, the authors of this article were purged from our positions as members of Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board and State Water Control Board by Northam after we questioned the approval of new pipelines for fracked natural gas that, in addition to having serious impacts on public health, air and water quality, would drastically increase Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis.”

9-23-19 RTO Insider. Stalled Pipeline Overshadows Dominion’s OSW Project. “Dominion Energy proposed the largest offshore wind project in the U.S. last week on the heels of Virginia’s policy turn toward clean energy, but environmental groups see the announcement as a hollow gesture given the ongoing development of the company’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. ‘“It’s really a stretch to believe anyone at Dominion is concerned about a transition to clean energy as long as it’s pursuing close to an $8 billion fossil fuel project that would lock Virginians into fossil fuels for many decades to come,’ Tom Cormons, executive director of Appalachian Voices, told RTO Insider. ‘The company now has two very expensive proposals on the table, and one of those is completely antithetical to any state commitment to clean energy.'”

9-23-19 WSLS10. Climate change protesters take to downtown Roanoke, make case to stop pipelines. ” Hundreds of protesters came together Monday morning to continue their fight against the pipeline. The Climate Emergency: Tri State Pipeline Strike Rally was a part of Global Climate Strike Week that took center stage in the Star City Monday with a focus on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. ‘I’m a native of Roanoke, was born and raised here, so what’s happening to the area around here in Southwest Virginia and Roanoke’s water is of great personal heartache and concern to me,’ said Kay Ferguson with Artivism Virginia. The rally was a different style from previous protests, taking place in the shadow of pipeline investor Wells Fargo and the most colorful call to action yet. Activists used artwork to send a clear message on a complicated issue. The cause brought together politicians, more than 40 organizations and activists from all across the commonwealth, West Virginia and North Carolina.”

9-20-19 Daily Progress. Climate change protest led by children draws hundreds to Downtown Mall. “Hundreds marched to the free speech wall on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall on Friday as part of the global Youth Climate Strike movement. Organized locally in part by Gudrun Campbell, the 12-year-old co-founder of the Cville Youth Climate Strike Network, the protest largely focused on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, the former of which involves a proposed compressor station in the historically black Union Hill community of Buckingham County.”

9-19-19 Sandusky Register [Ohio]   Court questions pipeline land grab. “Why was building a pipeline that exported some of its natural gas to Canada enough to justify taking property away from land owners using eminent domain? The decision to construct the NEXUS natural gas pipeline is still being challenged, even though the pipeline has been operating in Erie County and across much of Ohio since 2018. Earlier this month, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the landowners who opposed the pipeline. On Sept. 6, the court ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to answer why the pipeline was needed that it required the use of eminent domain, a government power to seize land for public use. Robert Wheeler of Milan, one of the local landowners who battled the pipeline, said he hopes the ruling will help other landowners defending their rights. ‘Obviously, the pipeline’s there to stay,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to go away.’ Property rights are a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, but using eminent domain to take property is one way around that. ‘We fought this as hard as we could,’ Wheeler said. ‘Maybe it will help people in the future.'”

9-19-19 E&E News. NPS to superintendents: Opposed to drilling? Call us first. “Any national park superintendent who fears the effects of nearby energy development may want to think twice before speaking out. David Vela, the acting deputy director of operations for the National Park Service, has ordered superintendents to flag Washington before making any official comments on projects that pertain to Interior Department priorities, including energy development. In a memo made public today, Vela said it’s important that the Washington office be notified in advance ‘to ensure that NPS comments receive appropriate senior level awareness and coordination.’ Critics denounced the plan as another example of how the Trump administration has sought to silence experts who manage parks and public lands. ‘The administration is touting this guidance as a way to provide coordination and engagement between federal agencies, but in reality this is nothing more than an intimidation tactic, deterring park experts on the front lines from expressing views that might contradict the administration’s aggressive pro-fossil fuels energy policy,’ said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association.”

9-19-19 E&E Energywire. Judge bars ‘riot boosting’ law aimed at Keystone XL protests. “South Dakota must halt enforcement of a “riot boosting” law the state passed earlier this year, a federal court ruled yesterday. The law targets those providing aid to demonstrators who become violent, and was enacted after high-profile protests over the Keystone XL pipeline in neighboring North Dakota. The legislation passed earlier this year in anticipation of a similar response to expansion of the pipeline into South Dakota. It drew sharp criticism for wording that criminalized advising, encouraging or soliciting certain protests. Plaintiffs in the case said such broad language would make individuals who gave directions to a protest, donated to a cause or offered food to protesters liable if a peaceful protest ever became violent. The U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Western Division, issued an injunction preventing the enforcement of the rule yesterday afternoon as the legal challenge to the law continued.”

9-19-19 New Republic. How Energy Companies Corrupt State Politics. “The ripple effects of corporate donors like Dominion steering legislative agendas also have far-ranging consequences for other political battles. Massive political spending by utility companies has kept incumbent Republicans and conservative Democrats in charge in statehouses across the country. For years that has meant not only regressive environmental policies but also no Medicaid expansion, no gun reform, no increases in education spending, and more. The incumbents’ control over election districts then perpetuated these trends. This November, Clean Virginia’s supporters say, could be the moment that signals what will be possible in the state, and for campaign finance and climate change activists nationwide. Virginia has ‘tremendous potential’ if the right changes are made, Hernandez told me. ‘I would be so proud if in the coming years we could emerge as a center of excellence for resilience and clean energy. It will take work to get there, but I can see that future.'”

9-18-19  IEEFA update: Low natural gas prices – a negative outlook for energy sector. “With the news from IHS Markit that natural gas prices in the United States will drop below $2 MMBtu in 2020 and remain low through at least 2024, if not longer, heads must be exploding in the board rooms of oil and gas producers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The profit picture is now imploding. The ramifications run deep, far and wide. The mantra that more pipelines will rationalize the market has been upended. This view from the oil and gas industry never made sense. As IHS Markit makes clear, new pipeline capacity contributes to an oversupply of natural gas forcing down prices and profits.”

9-18-19 Oil  Natural Gas Could Be Replaced Within 15 Years. “The share of renewables in the U.S. in the overall power production differs from state to state. While gas has become the primary source of electricity production, technological advancements are about to make fossil fuels more expensive and therefore uneconomic compared to renewables. The tipping point could come much sooner than certain utilities and investors are expecting, which could hit current investment plans for gas-fired power plants. …. The transformation of the U.S.’ power sector is coming much sooner than incumbent producers were expecting. Currently, the combination of solar, wind, storage, and demand response are already more efficient, and therefore cheaper, than the use of fossil fuels. This should have a profound impact on investments plans. However, there is an estimated $90 billion reserved for new gas-fired power plants in the coming years until 2035. According to the report from the Rocky Mountain Institute, U.S. consumer could save $29 billion if renewables and additional technologies such as storage and demand response replace the proposed gas plants.”

9-18-19 Virginia Mercury. Renewable energy providers cleared to operate in Virginia. “Two renewable energy providers will be allowed to operate in Virginia after the State Corporation Commission ruled Wednesday that they meet state standards for selling renewable energy and don’t need to measure up to more stringent benchmarks proposed by Dominion Energy, the commonwealth’s largest utility. The ruling means that Virginia consumers will continue to be able to purchase fully renewable energy from Direct Energy and Calpine, the competitive service providers challenged by Dominion.”

9-17-19 PBS News. Virginia governor sets renewable energy goal of 100 percent by 2050. ” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he signed an executive order setting a goal for the state to produce 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. Such a shift will help address climate change, a challenge that ‘poses potentially devastating risk to Virginia,’ the order said. …. Virginia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has previously thwarted attempts to limit carbon emissions from power plants. Control of both the House and Senate are up for grabs in November’s elections. The state’s largest electric power producers, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, said they were willing to work with the administration on the proposal. ‘Challenge accepted,’ said Dominion spokeswoman Audrey Cannon. Environmental and clean-energy advocacy groups largely applauded the move. …. But others said the order didn’t go far enough and suggested the state’s sign-offs on two major natural gas infrastructure projects currently under development were at odds with the goals of the executive order.”

9-17-19 The Hill. Dangerous oil and gas industry exemption slipped into highway bill. “A landmark five-year, $287 billion highway bill moving in the Senate contains a poison pill provision that must be eliminated. The measure — which would be the largest highway legislation in history — is noteworthy for its inclusion of the first climate title in a surface transportation bill. The climate provisions are an important step toward addressing the urgent need to reduce transportation emissions and invest in infrastructure engineered to be more resilient to the increasingly severe effects of climate change. Unfortunately, buried in this 510-page bill is an unrelated toxic provision that would establish a sweeping environmental exemption for thousands of natural gas, oil and wastewater pipelines — known as “gathering lines” — compressors and pumps on federal or Indian lands. The provision would exclude such facilities from environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If this provision becomes law, these pipelines could be built without public input or sound environmental review meant to analyze their potential impacts.”

9-17-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents raise more concerns about environmental impact. “Opponents of the project question whether work that continues, and inadequate erosion controls along the route, are doing just that.”

9-15-19 DeSmog. Cheap Renewables Could Make 90% of Proposed Gas Power Plants — and Many Pipelines — Obsolete by 2035. “A pair of reports released this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a nonprofit that supports the transition away from fossil fuels, outlines some of these ongoing changes. ‘The analysis presents compelling evidence that 2019 represents a tipping point,’ RMI concluded, ‘with the economics now favoring clean energy over nearly all new U.S. gas-fired generation.’ That, however, assumes that utilities, regulators, and investors all respond to rapidly changing market dynamics and build the right kind of infrastructure in time — with tens of billions of dollars on the line.”

9-15-19 Daily Progress. Opinion/Editorial: Biscuit Run Park: Show us the money. “To develop the park, Albemarle was to receive $5 million from a “mitigation fund” supported by money paid to the state by developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The idea was to somehow counterbalance environmental damage elsewhere in our region by creating the new park here and protecting much of its land as perpetual forest. The pipeline’s future is in doubt, however. And if the pipeline doesn’t go through — a result devoutly desired by many — then the mitigation fund money won’t go through, either.”

9-13-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion, Navy, Walmart and government groups spar over utility’s request to boost profits. “Over seven hours of testimony spanning two days, Virginia’s largest utility and a diverse array of consumer protection, business and government groups battled before the State Corporation Commission over whether Dominion Energy investors should get a bump in their guaranteed profits. The case, which Dominion attorney Joseph Reid noted had sparked ‘a lot of charged comments,’ concerned whether the return on equity guaranteed to Dominion Energy Virginia investors should be raised from 9.2 to 10.75 percent for projects paid for through rate adjustment clauses, more commonly known as riders. …. The average bill for a Dominion customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month has gone up more than 25 percent since 2007, largely as a result of riders, the SCC reported last month. The commission will have until Nov. 30 to rule on the case. Because the SCC opted to have participants file closing briefs rather than make closing arguments and set a deadline for those briefs of Oct. 18, a decision isn’t expected until November.”

Fall 2019 Save the Bay Magazine. The Fight for Environmental Justice at Union Hill. “Richard Walker has been visiting his family’s ancestral home since he was growing up. The homestead is under threat from a proposed compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

9-11-19 Utility Dive. Renewables, storage poised to undercut natural gas prices, increase stranded assets: RMI. “Carbon-free resources are now cost competitive with new natural gas plants, according to a pair of reports released Monday by the Rocky Mountain Institute. Wind, solar and storage projects, combined with demand-side management, have reached a “tipping point,” one report finds, meaning they’re now able to compete alongside natural gas on price while providing the same reliability services. But unlike the fluctuating price of fuels, these technologies’ prices are expected to continue dropping, the reports’ authors told Utility Dive. This reality could leave many natural gas investors and utilities with stranded infrastructure assets, the second RMI report finds, and new gas investments should be made with caution.”

9-10-19 NRDC. Planned Gas Plants & Pipelines Likely “Stranded” in Future. “A new Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) study finds that most proposed gas power plants—and the pipelines that are being built to serve them—are likely to become uneconomic and unnecessary by 2035, as cheaper, cleaner energy alternatives outcompete them. In many cases, the captive customers of monopoly utilities would be the ones stuck footing the bill for these ‘stranded’ assets.”

9-10-19 WSET. Climate activists to hold ‘Circle of Protection: Bent Mountain’ in Roanoke. “Sept. 20 to 27 is Global Climate Strike Week. According to officials, millions of people from across the world will join climate strikers to demand climate justice and an end to the age of fossil fuels. There will be multiple events in Roanoke during the strike week. On Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., ‘Circle of Protection: Bent Mountain’, produced by ARTivism Virginia, will bring awareness to the climate emergency and what can be done to stop it.”

9-10-19 Dominion Asks Regulators to Ignore the Voices of Virginian Customers and Legislators in Boosting its Profits. “In one remarkable intervention, Dominion’s lead attorney argued to the SCC judges that the Commission should make a decision on its return on equity ‘regardless’ of the voices of the hundreds of Virginians who wrote in opposition to the increase and the comments of 36 Virginian legislators also opposed. [Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan] Gilmore said, ‘while bold and arrogant action from Dominion is all-too-common in Virginia, trying to silence the voices of sitting legislators and hundreds of Virginian consumers is a new low.'”

9-9-19 WRIC. Activists demand refund from Dominion Energy during Monday rally. “Activists rallied Monday outside Dominion Energy’s offices in Richmond to demand a refund for customers after the utility company made hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profits. A new report from the State Corporation Commission revealed Dominion Energy collected nearly $380 million in over-earnings in 2017 and 2018. Due to a new Virginia law, Dominion Energy isn’t obligated to return the money to customers as refunds. The company can reinvest the money into projects, like updating the state’s electrical grid. Activists say customers are hurting.”

9-9-19 WFPL [Kentucky]  Bill Pre-Filed In Kentucky Legislature Would Make Pipeline Protests A Felony. “Acts of civil disobedience against pipeline operations in Kentucky would be considered a felony under legislation filed ahead of the 2020 regular session. …. The bill makes trespassing on “key infrastructure assets” including pipelines a second degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment.”

9-8-19 WVNews. Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains halted as developers wait on court decisions. “The developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline remain at a standstill as they wait for court rulings that could impact the future of the project. There are currently two federal permits under review — one issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and one issued by the U.S. Forest Service — that are needed if construction is to continue.”

9-8-19 Roanoke Times. Editorial: Can the Appalachian Trail block pipelines? “Who owns the Appalachian Trail? Sometime this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will have something to say on that, even if only indirectly. The immediate question is a procedural one: Will the nation’s highest court decide to hear an appeal of the case styled Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. U.S. Forest Service? Behind that, though, is a practical question that hits home in this part of Virginia — and beyond: Who owns the trail? Here’s why that matters: One possible answer could make it difficult, if not impossible, to build either the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Do we have your attention now? The case certainly has the attention of those who care about the pipelines, both pro and con.”

9-6-19 Richmond Times Dispatch. Dana Wiggins column: Dominion doesn’t need more profits. “Virginia is once again faced with a demand from its largest energy monopoly to increase the amount of our power bills. Dominion Energy is asking the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for an increase in its authorized rate of return on equity (or allowed profit level), which would, in turn, increase your electric bill. Dominion’s latest push for more profits is not justified and would result in real harm to its Virginia consumers. Before the SCC hears this case on Sept. 10, our state regulators and elected officials should tell Dominion Energy, ‘No. Enough is enough.'”

9-6-19 Fortune. Why Solar Execs Say the Game Is Already Over for Non-Renewable Energy. “Solar power may currently make up less than 2% of the world’s energy mix, but the outlook of solar company executives is, uh, sunny. ‘What’s important is new [energy] generation, and in the US, renewables are 70% of new generation. It’s game over,’ said Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower, the California-based solar company, speaking at the Fortune Global Sustainability Forum on Thursday in Yunnan, China. ‘That’s why big companies in electric distribution, oil and gas are flooding into renewables.’ Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, CEO of Statkraft, the Norwegian renewable producer, was similarly bullish. ‘Solar will be the biggest source for electricity on the planet from 2035,’ he said, adding that his calculations show renewables accounting for 80% of electricity production by 2050. …. What about the argument that you can’t power things when the sun isn’t out and the wind isn’t blowing? Werner conceded storage is a challenge—particularly going from summer to winter—but argues that’s a tired argument. He points to ongoing innovation around storage and energy distribution, and says a flexible grid will be a large part of the solution.”

9-6-19 Daily Progress. With pipeline money in question, Albemarle seeks $15M from state for Biscuit Run Park. “Albemarle County is asking the state for $15 million over three years to help fund Biscuit Run Park. County staff and the Board of Supervisors on Thursday presented the county’s legislative priorities for the 2020 General Assembly session to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath; Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle; and Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville. ‘This is one that we have to make happen,’ Deeds said about the request in relation to discussions with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and other localities in his 25th District. In 2018, $5 million of Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation money was allocated to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to distribute to Albemarle for ‘infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park.’ …. After realizing the $5 million in mitigation money may never be available, the board included about $2 million in the fiscal year 2020 capital budget for a portion of the first phase of Biscuit Run.”

9-6-19 E&E Energywire. Utility to feds: No unsafe construction on Atlantic Coast. “The builders of the Atlantic Coast pipeline are contesting federal officials’ allegations of unsafe construction practices on the line. Dominion Energy Inc., which is leading construction on the $7.5 billion project, said inspectors looked at the pipeline at a time when a court had suspended all construction activities and before construction was finished. Dominion is asking the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to withdraw a warning letter it sent to the company in July (Energywire, Aug. 15). ‘This misunderstanding could lead the public to conclude that there are problems with [Dominion’s] construction practices, a claim that is not supported by the record,” Dominion executive Brian Sheppard wrote in a letter received by PHMSA on Aug. 26 and posted yesterday. PHMSA reported finding two West Virginia worksites where crews had laid pipe in ditches lined with rocks, which make the line more vulnerable to damage or stresses as a result of movement or settlement. The agency decided against seeking a fine, instead sending a warning letter.”

9-5-19 WDBJ7. Pipeline opponents celebrate first anniversary of Montgomery County protest. “On September 5th, 2018, Montgomery County resident Lauren Bowman and another protester climbed onto wooden platforms suspended about 50 feet off the ground. They told reporters that protecting the environment, especially the region’s water supply, was their goal. ‘Educate yourself about what’s going on, because you might be in a position right now where you can ignore these issues,’ Bowman said, ‘but sooner or later we’re all going to deal with them.’ Days stretched into weeks, and other tree sitters took their place. …. Today, Mountain Valley Pipeline says the project is 90% complete. In a written statement Friday morning, the company said the best way to protect the environment and minimize potential erosion and sedimentation is to ‘complete construction and finalize restoration activities on the project’s right-of-way.'”

9-5-19 The Recorder.  Letter: The pipeline, national security, and Dominion’s PR machine. “‘Military Stands Behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline.’ This attention-grabbing headline appeared as an ‘announcement’ — likely orchestrated by Dominion — in a recent issue of Virginia Business Daily. It turns out that the ‘military’ is not the Pentagon, but seven retired officers who think the ACP should be built for national security reasons. They claim an attack on the only pipeline now supplying gas to four eastern Virginia bases might lead to an ‘intense disruption of military response.’ The article raises questions. …. Rather than admit the ACP is a bad idea, Dominion continues to crank out public relations pieces like the “announcement” from the retired officers. It’s time for Dominion’s leaders to shift their focus from quarterly profits to building the new energy economy we must have.”

9-1-19 News & Record [Greensboro NC]. David Seriff: In Virginia, we’ve been there and done that with gas pipeline. “I consider the Greensboro area my second home since I lived there about 10 years ago before moving to Blacksburg, Va. Therefore, I was distressed to learn the area faces the same disaster we’ve confronted in southwest Virginia. …. The Aug. 19 News & Record article, ‘We have some homework to do …,’ expressed local residents’ concerns and questions about the project’s extension into North Carolina. In fact, these questions have already been answered by our experience with MVP in Virginia. We’ve discovered that, despite numerous public hearings, citizens’ comments and concerns have been swept aside in the rush to build this monstrosity. Expert opinions that decry profound environmental consequences have been ignored.”