February 2020 News

February 2020

2-27-20 The Motley Fool. Dominion Energy Gambles $175 Million on a Supreme Court Decision. “When Dominion released its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings, however, it noted that it had bought Southern’s 5% stake. That brings its control of the project to more than 50%, effectively giving it complete control over the investment. The cost of this acquisition was roughly $175 million and included some other natural gas assets. To be fair, that’s a relatively tiny cost compared to the entire project, which has already spent $3.4 billion on construction efforts and it isn’t close to done yet (the total cost is expected to be about $8 billion at this time, but it could go higher). However, when you consider the increased control it gives Dominion, it is a notable move. And it comes at an interesting time.”

2-27-20 gettingmoreontheground.com [Robert Whitescarver’s blog]. Uplifted Standing In Line at SCOTUS [Includes description of “two kinds of people in line that frigid night: the pipeline fighters and the homeless folks of D.C. hired by a professional ‘line-standing’ company to stand in line for the pro-pipeline people.”]

2-26-20 Forbes. Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Building $7.5B Gas Pipeline Under Appalachian Trail. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a classic struggle between energy development and ecological preservation. If the utilities conclude that the pipeline is necessary to meet future demand and that it is financially viable, they can either wait-and-see what the High Court decides or they could choose now to once again re-route their pipeline. Either way, more legal battles are sure to come, elevating the line’s profile and hardening the positions on both sides.”

2-25-20 Washington Post. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed. “A respectful and prudent owner would reevaluate the 2013 decision to build this now nearly $8 billion gas pipeline. Instead of continuing the fight to build a gas bridge to nowhere, and trying to find a suitable “degree of injury” to the mountains, to the rivers and to historic black communities along the route, an astute owner would refocus its efforts on building a truly clean energy future.”

2-25-20 Utility Dive. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch warns of unintended consequences in Atlantic Coast Pipeline case. “The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from two consolidated cases on Monday, regarding a lower court’s decision to reject the U.S. Forest Service’s authority to issue a key permit for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline. One extreme-case scenario, Justice Neil Gorsuch warned, is that if the lower court’s decision is upheld, more pipelines could inadvertently be “invited” along the Pacific Crest Trail, along the West Coast. The environmental advocates responding in the Supreme Court case and several environmental groups dispute the legal and actionable feasibility of this argument.”

2-24-20 Charlotte Business Journal. Supreme Court justices appear on board with Duke Energy, Dominion argument on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Supporters of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline left encouraged after the hour-long U.S. Supreme Court arguments over a vital permit while opponents said, regardless of the court’s decision, the fight would go on. ‘This fight didn’t start here today and it will not end here today,’ said Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Initiative, at a post-hearing press conference outside the court. David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia, another of the groups involved in the challenge, said his group was confident in its arguments. He stressed that courts have overturned other important permits for the project and said, ‘whatever the ruling in this case, the opposition to this project will continue.’ Though a decision is likely a few months off, there is reason for ACP’s proponents to feel good about the hearing. All five justices in the court’s dominant conservative wing and one in the more liberal minority appeared to question an appeals court’s ruling that voided a permit to allow the pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail.”

2-24-20 NBC29. Supreme Court won’t have final word in pipeline case. “The fight over a partially-built, controversial pipeline linking West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina plays out in front of the world’s most powerful judges. But, the nation’s highest court is unlikely to have the final word in this case. Supreme Court justices will consider one piece of lower court’s decision to block Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. …. Several justices – conservative and liberal – made it clear they saw substantial holes in the arguments made by both sides. Congress could sort out the confusion by passing a new law, but that isn’t likely given Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to agree on the issue. The Supreme Court will decide the case by the end of June. Regardless of what it decides, pipeline developers will need to address environmental concerns raised by the lower court if construction is to begin again.”

2-24-20 Virginia Mercury. ‘Trails’ vs. ‘lands’: High court weighs arguments in case that could decide fate of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Where does a trail end and the land beneath it begin? That’s just one of the thorny questions the Supreme Court grappled with Monday morning during a one-hour hearing on a U.S. Forest Service permit for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline that has been hotly anticipated by both the gas and oil industry supporting the pipeline and the environmentalists opposing the project.”

2-24-20 Washington Post. Supreme Court hears battle over Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The Supreme Court on Monday appeared ready to remove an obstacle to construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, with a majority of justices expressing skepticism about a lower court ruling that tossed out a key permit needed for the natural gas pipeline to cross under the Appalachian Trail. Justices on the court grilled a lawyer for environmental groups who sued and won a 2018 ruling from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal throwing out a special-use permit for the 605-mile (974-kilometer) natural gas pipeline. The 4th Circuit found the U.S. Forest Service did not have the authority to grant a right-of-way to allow the pipeline to cross beneath the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest. But conservative justices, who hold a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, expressed reservations about the ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts at one point saying the lower court’s finding would ‘erect an impermeable barrier’ to any pipeline from areas where natural gas is located to areas where it is needed. ‘Absolutely incorrect,’ attorney Michael Kellogg, representing the environmental groups, responded.”

2-24-20 The Hill. Justices grapple with $8 billion pipeline that would cross Appalachian Trail. “The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a high-profile case that could block construction of an $8 billion gas pipeline seeking to cross the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would carry natural gas 604 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina and would tunnel below the famed trail that runs more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. At issue is whether jurisdiction over the affected land belongs to the U.S. Forest Service or the National Park Service (NPS). The case presents the justices with a complex tangle of federal laws that will determine if the land is open to energy development or must be preserved for recreational use under the park service’s mandate.”

2-24-20 Marketplace.org. Reporter’s notebook: a bitterly contested $8 billion pipeline along the Appalachian Trail. “Opposition to the pipeline comes in many forms. I’ve driven down from my home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs to central Virginia to observe a clash of competing natural resource economies. On one hand, there’s energy; the pipeline project estimates the project will bring more than $15 million in tax revenue to this county over ten years. On the other, there’s water. The creeks in and around the Appalachian Trail feed the Rockfish River, which has carved a valley now thriving in what locals call agritourism: fishing, hiking, boating …. local agri-tourism creates more long-term jobs in this economically challenged area than the pipeline would.” Article quotes local pipeline fighters, Joyce Burton and Richrd Averitt.

2-23-20 New York Times. Will the Appalachian Trail Stop an $8 Billion Pipeline? “Ultimately, the collision between supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and those who want to protect the Appalachian Trail is a clash between two visions for our country: a fossil-fueled future, or a more sustainable economy based on renewables. For more than a century, fossil fuel industries have won these battles, especially in places like Appalachia. Now, as the Supreme Court case suggests, a beloved dirt path can have powerful political and economic muscle. Outdoor recreation contributed $412 billion, or 2 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2016, more than oil and gas extraction, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number of jobs tied to outdoor recreation vastly outstrips those in coal, oil and natural gas combined.”

2-23-20 Washington Post. U.S. Supreme Court to decide winner in case of gas pipeline vs. Appalachian Trail. “The Trump administration has weighed in on behalf of the project, with Solicitor General Noel Francisco arguing that while the National Park Service administers the trail, the land beneath it is controlled by the Forest Service. Environmentalists opposing the construction argue that no pipeline has been granted a right of way across the trail on federal land since it became part of the park system. Other crossings are on private or state lands or on easements that predate federal ownership. Trying to separate the land from the trail is an “elusively metaphysical distinction” that “contradicts the government’s own long-standing approach to administering the Trail,” according to a brief from lawyer Michael K. Kellogg, who will argue for the environmental groups in Monday’s hearing.”

2-22-20 Blue Virginia. Return the Power to the State Water Control Board to Protect Our Water! “Virginia legislators were mistaken when they passed legislation in 2018 to limit the State Water Control Board (SWCB)’s ability to protect Virginia’s water. In light of repeated assaults by MVP construction on our surface and groundwater, the General Assembly must immediately make every effort to restore that power to the SWCB to protect our waterways from the negligence of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Legislators should pass Del. Chris Hurst’s HB 643 and HB 644.”

2-21-20 NPR. Supreme Court Pipeline Fight Could Disrupt How The Appalachian Trail Is Run. “Those who manage the Appalachian Trail are not involved in the litigation of the case. Instead, they say it has become a football between two sides: the pipeline company and the environmental groups who oppose it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the private organization that oversees the day-to-day management of the trail, is not involved because – perhaps surprisingly – the group does not oppose the pipeline. The group coordinates efforts with federal and state agencies, more than 30 smaller regional groups and thousands of volunteers, and warns that a ruling could upend this complicated structure that allows them to maintain the trail.”

2-21-20 Columbia Journalism Review. A pipeline runs through Southern news deserts. “All three states crossed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have a dearth of local newspapers, according to the UNC report. The counties along the route are some of the most rural and economically depressed parts of the US, in a region that is historically reliant on extractive fossil fuels. In North Carolina, seven of the eight counties the proposed pipeline would run through are predominantly black. These places lack consistent, informative local coverage of energy, justice, and the environment because of the declining number and resources of print news outlets, shifting the balance of news sources toward expanding corporate media monopolies. The areas are also overlooked by national media, which mostly parachute in to cover major updates or catastrophes or if they need a tie-in to President Trump’s policies—a dynamic that can perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about these places. The absence leaves ample space for powerful campaigns by Duke and Dominion, the pipeline’s developers and buyers of its natural gas, as well as industry-aligned lobbyists and politicians, to shape the pipeline narrative. Another result is misinformation and confusion about the status of a massive energy project that affects tens of thousands of people, several endangered species, and a variety of fragile ecosystems. The number of permanent jobs the pipeline is estimated to create varies, depending on whom you speak with. In some cases, property owners have been caught unaware of their rights or legal options when Dominion came knocking to claim eminent domain.”

2-21-20 News & Observer [Raleigh NC]. Bill aims to answer pipeline question: ‘Is this necessary?’ “As Dominion Energy spearheads the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Virginia lawmakers are advancing legislation sponsored by a Republican who says he wants to protect the company’s captive ratepayers from possible overcharges. Under legislation from Del. Lee Ware, Dominion’s Virginia electric utility would have to demonstrate the need for a new fuel source and show that it ‘objectively studied’ other options, among other conditions, before the State Corporation Commission could approve passing along costs from the natural gas pipeline. Ware said his bill ‘makes very clear the question that I’ve always wanted answered: Is this necessary for the ratepayers … or is this entrepreneurial on Dominion’s part?’”

2-21-20 Daily Star [Oneonta NY]  Energy giant drops proposed Constitution Pipeline. “Williams Companies, the Oklahoma energy giant, confirmed Friday that it has shelved the Constitution Pipeline, a proposed interstate natural gas pipeline that triggered a prolonged battle between environmental activists and pro-development advocates. ‘Williams — with support from its partners, Duke, Cabot and AltaGas — has halted investment in the proposed Constitution project,’ the company said in response to questions from CNHI. ‘While Constitution did receive positive outcomes in recent court proceedings and permit applications, the underlying risk adjusted return for this greenfield pipeline project has diminished in such a way that further development is no longer supported,’ Williams added. Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer who helped form the opposition group Stop the Pipeline, said the group ‘fought this epic 8-year battle with courage, conviction and intelligence,’ adding: ‘Perseverance pays off.’”

2-20-20 Tribune-Democrat [PA]. Supreme Court pressed to nix ruling hindering Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that impact two natural gas pipelines in West Virginia, including Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that runs through Monroe and Giles counties but is now stalled at the Appalachian Trail crossing on Peters Mountain. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACC), which traverses several counties in the eastern part of the state is also stalled by an Appalachian Trail crossing. …. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has led an 18-state coalition that continues to urge the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.”

2-20-20 The Quartz. The Forest Service says the Appalachian Trail isn’t “land” in a pipeline fight at SCOTUS. “The federal government basically argues that the Appalachian Trail isn’t ‘land’ for the purposes of the case. Instead it’s a ‘footpath’ or a ‘trail’ that happens to be administered by the National Park Service. …. ‘The central flaw in the court’s logic lies in the fact that the Appalachian Trail is a “trail,” not “land,”‘ the government explains. Advocates for the trail didn’t hesitate to run—and pun—with this perplexing claim from government attorneys. How can land not be land, they asked? And they did it with as many rhetorical flourishes as one brief can stand. The scenic national footpath stretching across states patently is land, the trail’s advocates explained with a kind of literary deadpan, writing, ‘Land is what you walk on.’”

2-20-20 Virginia Mercury. Democratic-led Senate committee kills bills to beef up regulation of pipeline construction. “By this time last year, Southwest Virginia landowners and residents had been begging the [State Water Control Board] for months to do something about the [MVP] pipeline construction, which had unleashed torrents of mud that covered roads and choked streams. Ultimately, it decided it couldn’t revoke the water certification it issued for the project, even in the face of a criminal investigation and widespread violations of state law that would lead to a more than $2 million fine and consent decree. Two of three bills introduced by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, to fix the obvious inability of state regulators to halt the damage wrought by MVP or similar projects, went down in the Democrat-led Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on identical 13-1 votes. The committee did advance Hurst’s bill increasing penalties for violations by the largest natural gas pipelines but not one that would have assessed additional fines for cumulative violations nor another that would give the water board stop work authority, among other provisions.”

2-18-20 S&P Global. Morgan Stanley: $64B capex upside for utilities replacing coal with renewables. “‘We believe this project [the ACP] will not move forward due to legal risks, and as a result [Dominion] will pursue additional renewables investments that will allow them to maintain their 5.5% EPS growth target,’ analysts wrote. In a sign of its confidence in the pipeline, Dominion on Feb. 11 announced its plan to take on a greater share of the project through acquiring Southern Co.’s 5% equity stake. ‘We continue to see significant risk in getting that project completed,’ [Morgan Stanley analyst Stephen] Byrd said.”

2-18-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Letter: Environmental justice not served at Union Hill. “The Fourth Circuit Court recently rejected the air quality permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s compressor station at Union Hill in Buckingham County. …. The court has spoken. The DEQ and the Air Pollution Control Board — which was guided by the DEQ and manipulated by Northam — have both failed in their missions. Northam has likewise failed the commonwealth. Northam’s call for 100% renewable energy by 2050 also will fail if natural gas infrastructure projects are allowed free rein. It is long past time for Northam and his agencies to aggressively challenge the deeply flawed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

2-17-19 WV News. Dominion still banking on end of 2021 completion of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “Dominion Energy CEO Thomas Farrell recently confirmed the company still anticipates completing construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by the end of 2021, and introducing the first product into the system in 2022. ‘Project costs of approximately $8 billion are in line with the high end of the “judicial option” range we provided about a year ago,’ Farrell said recently during an earnings report conference call. Farrell also said he’s confident the U.S. Supreme Court by May or June will reverse the Fourth Circuit on a ruling regarding a U.S. Forest Service permit where the pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail.”

2-16-29 Daily Progress. Effort to stall Trump rollback of environmental regulations continues in Charlottesville court. “The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a motion to prevent the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality from moving forward with proposed environmental policy changes until the organization provides requested public documents. The request for a preliminary injunction, filed Thursday by SELC attorneys, is the latest development in a federal lawsuit from the Charlottesville-based organization against the agency. Spurred by a notice of proposed changes to the regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the lawsuit argues that requests made by the SELC under the Freedom of Information Act have not been met. …. ‘The irony of all this is that the comment process puts a high value on informed input from the public, but at the same time, the Trump administration is keeping information away from the public,’ Kym Hunter, a senior SELC attorney who filed the request for the preliminary injunction, said in a news release. ‘The rules call for openness and transparency, but instead the administration has shut the door and boarded the windows.’”

2-16-20 Roanoke Times. Hurst: Virginia not doing enough on pipelines. “Sediment steadily encroaching onto private property. Road closures and traffic jams. Man-made erosion of the lush Appalachian Mountains. This has become the new normal for the residents of my district and far too many others who live in Southwest Virginia. The unfortunate truth is that this is what so many of us warned about when the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project filed for its construction permit in 2015. Now, almost five years later, following dubious arguments and deceitful reassurances from big energy and stakeholders of the MVP, the commonwealth’s environment and its citizens are more at risk to the consequences of this project than ever before. …. While I’m proud of the work the Attorney General has done to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable, Virginia is not doing nearly enough to defend our environment from the threats we face. …. With the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Expansion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects looming, it is the paramount responsibility of our legislature to ensure every Virginian is protected from the threats these projects pose both currently and in the future.”

2-14-20 Roanoke Times. Mountain Valley Pipeline extension clears environmental review by FERC. “Plans to extend the Mountain Valley Pipeline 75 miles into North Carolina moved forward Friday, even as the initial project remains mired in legal and regulatory challenges. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that while there would be some environmental damage caused by building the so-called MVP Southgate, it could be minimized to ‘less than significant levels.’ An environmental impact statement released by FERC is a major step forward for the pipeline, which would originate at Mountain Valley’s terminus in Chatham, head southwest through Pittsylvania County and cross into North Carolina, extending to Alamance County near Burlington. …. Meanwhile, Mountain Valley’s efforts to regain three sets of suspended federal permits for the original pipeline project hit another snag this week.”

2-14-20 Virginian-Pilot. Letter: Put a stop to ACP. “Re ‘ACP project essential to Virginia’s energy future’ (Other Views, Feb. 7): Kevin Doyle’s Op-Ed accused our community in Union Hill of ‘abuse of the justice system’ for bringing a legal case against an Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit. That permit was for air pollution from a pipeline compressor station that Dominion Energy wants to force on Union Hill. Ancestors of John Laury and other freedmen and freedwomen founded this community at the end of the Civil War. Descendants of those founders still call this home. But during the permitting process, Dominion denied that a minority community even existed here. When federal judges reviewed this permit, it was the first time our voices were heard. Doyle is wrong. Three judges of the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously threw out the compressor station permit because Dominion tried to bully us out of the way. There is no abuse of the system here, just justice.”

2-12-20 Bacon’s Rebellion. Huge Dominion Pipeline Project Loses Partner. “The delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is undergoing a major change due to rising costs and legal delays – The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is backing out of the project as an equity partner. According to an announcement late Tuesday, Dominion Energy will acquire The Southern Company’s 5% stake in the natural gas project whose cost has risen from $5.1 billion to $8 billion thanks largely to legal challenges by environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The new ownership structure will be 53% Dominion and 47% Duke Energy, based in Charlotte. …. According to S&P Global, The Southern Company bailed on the pipeline because of its concerns of delays and soaring costs.”

2-11-20 E&E Enerywire. FERC vows rapid responses in eminent domain legal brawl. “Federal energy regulators told a court yesterday that they would attempt to reach final decisions within 30 days on complaints from property owners who have their land seized for construction of projects like natural gas pipelines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pledge comes as the agency faces a high-profile showdown in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over its delayed response to landowner grievances — even as pipeline developers move forward with construction. ‘While this reorganization will not eliminate complaints about delayed judicial review from all parties, the Commission has chosen to allocate its resources to ensure the speediest review for those litigants placed in the most vulnerable position by Commission decisions,’ FERC wrote in a filing with the D.C. Circuit. Challengers of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the project targeted in the lawsuit, said the court is unlikely to put much stock in FERC’s ‘nonbinding’ commitment.”

2-11-20 S&P Global. Dominion agrees to buy Southern stake in Atlantic Coast Pipeline as project costs soar. “Southern Company is out as an equity partner in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after majority owner Dominion Energy agreed to buy its stake, amid ballooning costs and legal challenges that have stalled the 1.5 Bcf/d US Northeast natural gas project. Dominion disclosed the new ownership structure Tuesday as it released financial results for the final three months of 2019. It will own 53% and Duke Energy will own 47%, with Dominion acquiring Southern’s 5% stake in the pipeline and gas transmission assets, which include an interest in a small LNG project in Florida, for $175 million. Southern will remain an anchor shipper on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The 600-mile pipeline, which would run through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, moving Appalachian Basin gas to Mid-Atlantic markets, is now expected to cost approximately $8 billion, slightly above the high end of Dominion’s previous guidance range of $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion. And while Dominion expressed confidence it will eventually finish the pipeline, it isn’t talking about the pipeline’s growth potential in the same way it has before.”

2-10-20 The Week. America needs to stop its natural gas pipeline mania. “But despite the gusher of Big Carbon profits, like all natural gas infrastructure proposed or under construction, the ACP is a risky project both financially and in its direct effect on the landscapes and communities through which it will run. Worse, it is doubling down on a losing hand — locking in huge investments in assets which will very likely be worthless long before they are exhausted. Far from being a relatively clean “transition fuel,” natural gas is a climate disaster that might even be worse than coal. The ACP and all other expansions of gas infrastructure should be stopped permanently.”

2-10-20 New York Times. Trump Weakens the Nation’s Clean Water Efforts. “The Environmental Protection Agency made a startling admission last month when it announced that many of the nation’s streams and wetlands would no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act, perhaps the nation’s most successful antipollution law. The agency said it could not predict how many miles of streams and acres of wetlands would lose their protection because of ‘existing data and mapping limitations.’ In other words, the E.P.A. was sharply narrowing the reach of a landmark environmental law without understanding the consequences of its actions.”

2-10-20 Bloomberg Environment. Natural Gas Pipeline, Iconic Trail at Odds in Supreme Court Case. “The resulting Supreme Court dispute is one of many clashes between the Trump administration’s quest for energy dominance and environmentalists’ efforts to protect the nation’s wild lands. More broadly, it spotlights a persistent challenge that transcends political winds: how to build America’s infrastructure without ripping up America.” An excellent summary of the U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association case, U.S., No. 18-1584.

2-7-20 Roanoke Times. Environmental problems continue with Mountain Valley Pipeline, group says. “Problems with erosion and sedimentation along the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have continued, despite a winter slowdown in the work. Inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found repeated violations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019, according to an analysis by Wild Virginia, one of the environmental groups opposed to the natural gas pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia. The group’s conservation director, David Sligh, asked in a letter emailed Thursday to DEQ what enforcement actions have been taken, in light of a court order that allows for tougher monitoring and penalties for any repeat violations after Sept. 18.”

2-6-20 Crozet Gazette. Friends of Nelson Get Update on Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The annual meeting of Friends of Nelson at Rockfish Valley Community Center January 12 included an update on efforts to keep the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from crossing the county. …. The gathering shared a supper and members welcome [renewing] board members Jim Bolton, Ron Enders, Kathy Versluys, Marilyn Shifflet, Doug Wellman and Julie Burns to two-year terms. Continuing on the board are Ellen Bouton, Connie Brennan, Woody Greenberg, Charlie Hickox, Cheryl Klueh and David Schwiesow. Helen Kimble retired as president. Kim and Jimbo Cary provided the music and there was a spirit of celebration.”

2-5-20 S&P Global. Credit risks mounting for US gas producers, S&P Global Rating says.  “Deteriorating conditions in US natural gas markets this year are posing growing credit risk to the industry’s producers and even midstream developers, S&P Global Ratings said Wednesday. In an industry outlook webcast, ratings analysts at S&P said that recent supply gains, weaker expected demand growth and lower prices in 2020 are putting new pressures on the gas trade. In the US upstream, low prices have created the biggest risk for individual producers. On Monday, S&P downgraded its credit rating on six of Appalachia’s most prolific shale gas producers. It also adjusted its credit outlook to negative on eight of nine Appalachian producers under its review.”

2-3-20 NBCNews.com. Racism and ecological injustice combine in ‘reckless, racist’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline fight. “Although it is not new, under the current administration, powerful and wealthy corporations are given free rein to despoil and destroy our sacred and treasured lands. …. Nearly four decades since the birth of the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, we face a new Goliath of ecological injustice. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a project that starts in West Virginia and cuts through Virginia and North Carolina — is poised to threaten poor, rural, black and indigenous communities across those states, forcing us to recognize and respond to the fact that marginalized communities still bear the bulk of our nation’s environmental burden.”

2-3-20 E&E News. FERC reorganizes to address landowner disputes. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is launching a reorganization to better focus on rehearing requests from landowners affected by energy infrastructure permits, the chairman announced late last week. The reorganization includes a new ‘rehearings’ section within the Office of the General Counsel to focus on requests filed under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act, which details FERC’s responsibilities to permit interstate pipeline projects. ‘Our objective today is to reinforce the Commission’s commitment to ensure landowners are afforded a judicially appealable rehearing order as quickly as possible,’ FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said in a statement.”