January 2020 News

January 2020

1-31-20 Oileandgaspeople.com. LNG Prices Fall To 10-Year Low. “The global gas glut continues to grow worse, with LNG prices recently dropping to a 10-year low. NG prices in Asia recently fell below $4/MMBtu, down 40 percent from a year earlier. Prices in NW Europe (TTF) are down by nearly 50 percent, and Europe has record-high inventories for this time of year. Mild weather in Asia, Europe and the U.S. have led to seasonally weak demand, with China in particular proving to be a disappointment to exporters. But a wave of new terminals coming online in the last year has also led to a huge increase in supply, dragging down prices. That means that major markets will exit the winter season with plenty of inventory, which will likely prevent a price rebound. TTF prices (LNG in NW Europe) for summer delivery are trading at around $3.50/MMBtu. Some analysts think LNG prices could fall below $3 by the summer.”

1-31-20 Lynchburg News & Advance. Need for ACP vanishes. “At a time when climate change has finally emerged as a high-priority policy concern, when solar and wind are cost-competitive with coal and gas, when utility stakeholders at all levels are clamoring for renewable energy and when the worldwide investment community is moving away from fossil fuels … at a time like this, why is Dominion still pushing the pipeline? The obvious answer: It’s hard to stop doing the things that have produced so much profit for so many years. This misbegotten project should be stopped. Please join me in thanking Attorney General Herring for this important step in the right direction on ACP.”

1-31-20 Blue Virginia. The Time to Act is Now: Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy Calls on State, Federal Agencies to Revoke Pipeline Permits. “It is now time for the responsible federal and state agencies to take decisive action. With both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines lacking multiple permits that are required by federal law, FERC – which is required by law to consider the question of whether there is a demonstrated need – should revoke the certificates of public convenience and necessity that it previously issued for both pipelines. Virginia state agencies likewise should immediately commence the process of revoking the certifications they issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. And Dominion Energy should be told once and for all that it will not be allowed to build a polluting industrial facility in the heart of the historic African-American community of Union Hill.”

1-30-20 Sierra. Trump Targets the Heart of US Environmental Law. “In one of its most serious attacks on environmental law yet, the administration has proposed drastic narrowing of the criteria for which infrastructure projects have to undergo a NEPA review, and a narrowing of the ‘effects’ and ‘alternatives’ that need to be considered during that review process. If the changes are finalized, they could fast-track hundreds of polluting projects around the country that pose a significant risk to public health and the environment, and limit the ability of communities most impacted by those projects—often low-income communities or communities of color—to slow down or stop them. …. ‘NEPA, like our other bedrock environmental laws, has stood the test of time for 50 years,’ Hasselman says. ‘No one has ever been able to successfully gut these statutes, and the reason for that is that they are incredibly popular. People like clean air; they like clean water; they like wildlife. They care about transparency and accountability. The Trump administration’s sweeping efforts to gut these laws via regulation is fundamentally undemocratic in that it seeks to circumvent values that the majority of Americans hold dear.’”

1-29-20 GreenTechMedia.com. Renewables Set to Overtake Natural Gas in US Power Mix, EIA Says. “It’s official: The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has finally come around to the view that renewables will overtake natural gas in the country’s electricity mix. The EIA has long been known for its implausibly conservative predictions about renewable energy. As recently as last year, the EIA forecast that natural gas would remain the country’s top source of electricity out to 2050. Last year in its Annual Energy Outlook, the EIA put natural gas at 39 percent of the power mix in 2050 under its base-case scenario, far outpacing renewables at 31 percent. Fast forward to the 2020 Annual Energy Outlook, released Wednesday, and that prediction has been turned on its head: Renewables are now forecast to account for 38 percent of electricity in 2050 (up from 19 percent today), while natural gas will see its share drop to 36 percent (from 37 percent today).”

1-28-20 Forbes. Is America’s Fossil Fuel Empire Collapsing? “Since the close of World War II, the United States has overseen an expanding global order built on fossil fuels. That era has come to an end. Where coal powered the British Empire, and oil powered the American Century, renewable energy technologies are now set to drive the post-American world. Europe’s ‘Green Deal’ represents the beginning of this new era.”

1-27-20 Virginia Mercury. As schools look to solar, existing state law shuts down further development. “Since 2013, Virginia has run a pilot program allowing customers to use a financing mechanism known as the power purchase agreement, or PPA, with non-utility solar developers. Under a PPA, a developer installs solar panels on customers’ property and then sells the electricity back to them, usually for less than the utility would. ‘PPAs are in a lot of ways a great equalizer,’ said Rob Corradi, public affairs adviser for Sun Tribe Solar, one of Virginia’s most active developers in the PPA market and the company behind Middlesex’s solar. They ‘allow school systems and governments that don’t have access to a lot of capital to be able to access solar at a low cost.’ In Virginia, however, the pilot program came with a major string attached: a 50-megawatt cap on projects in the territory of Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility. Once the State Corporation Commission was notified the program had reached that scale, the process would grind to a halt. Unless they were already in the pipeline, no more projects could be developed.”

1-26-20 Charleston Gazette-Mail. Recovery plan proposed for endangered bumble bee involved in pipeline litigation. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft of a $13.4 million recovery plan designed to secure a stable population of an imperiled bumblebee species that played a key role in a federal appeals court decision that brought construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to a halt 13 months ago. …. The draft recovery plan for the rusty patched bumblebee includes improving the quality and quantity of habitat near established colonies, improving connectivity between colonies and reintroducing the bumblebees to now-unoccupied sites within the insect’s former range. In order for the population to recover enough to be removed from Endangered Species Act protection by 2059, 159 populations — just over 10 percent of the pre-decline number of populations — would have to be maintained in five conservation zones.

1-23-20 GreenTechMedia.com. Bernard McNamee, Trump-Appointed FERC Commissioner, Announces Resignation Plan. “Bernard McNamee, the Trump-appointed commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who has voted to restrict clean energy in key grid regulatory decisions, has announced he will leave after his term ends in June — unless his departure leaves FERC without a quorum. …. McNamee said he intends to remain at FERC through the end of his term, however, and won’t leave the position until his replacement is picked. That’s because his departure would otherwise leave FERC with only two commissioners, Republican Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Democrat Richard Glick. FERC lost its quorum through much of 2017, leaving the agency unable to vote on key decisions for interstate electricity transmission and natural-gas projects.”

1-23-20 New York Times. ‘Environmental Justice Is Not Merely a Box to Be Checked’ “While Union Hill may represent the remarkable history of resilience from our country’s unjust beginnings, it also reveals the country’s continuing imbalance of power and the decisions about whose histories we choose to honor. …. In a win for our client Friends of Buckingham, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit this month threw out the permit for the compressor station, finding that the state failed to adequately consider the potential health effects on Union Hill’s African-American community. As the court noted, ‘Environmental justice is not merely a box to be checked.’”

1-22-20 Buffalo Rising. Governor Cuomo announces permanent ban on hydrofracking in New York. “Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that he will incorporate legislation in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Executive Budget permanently banning fracking in New York. Cuomo stated that the temporary ban that is currently in place has not only been prudent, it has also proved that there are cleaner and more sustainable alternative energy options available, which can help to fuel the economy. The legislation would disallow the Department of Environmental Conservation from issuing permits to frackers, described as ‘those who drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well.’”

1-22-20 New York Times. Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands. “The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.”

1-22-20 NPCA.org.  Press Release: Prominent Park Advocates and Leaders Take Battle Over Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the Supreme Court. “Today, the National Parks Conservation Association joined the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks and prominent park advocates Jon Jarvis, former director of the National Park Service, and Pam Underhill, former Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, in filing a joint amicus brief supporting conservation respondents in U.S. Forest Service, et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, et al. All amici curiae listed above are represented by counsel from Eubanks & Associates, LLC.”

1-22-20 Blue Virginia. In Brief Before U.S. Supreme Court, AG Mark Herring Highlights Deficiencies of Federal Pipeline Permit. “Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending Virginia’s natural resources from damage caused by shoddy and insufficient federal permitting processes. Attorney General Herring’s brief highlights a near complete failure of the U.S. Forest Service to meet its obligations under federal law and regulations, explaining that ‘for Virginia’s natural resources to be adequately protected, federal agencies charged with administering federal lands within its borders must fulfill their statutory obligations. The Forest Service did not do so here, to the detriment of Virginians and others who enjoy the natural treasures in the pipeline’s path.’”

1-22-20 NRDC. A Walk in the Woods: Pipelines and the Appalachian Trail. “You may know the Appalachian Trail from Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods and the movie NRDC Trustee Robert Redford made about it. Or you may have walked pieces of it. About 3 million people hike at least some part of the Trail every year—snapping photos, writing blogs, and making memories. A unit of the National Park System, the Appalachian Trail crosses federal, state and private land as it winds its way over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Nearly fifty years ago, Congress amended the Mineral Leasing Act to shield federal Park System lands from fossil fuel development. Despite this, in an unprecedented move, the developers of the beleaguered Atlantic Coast Pipeline want to cut through the Appalachian Trail on federal land. Today, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court explaining why this gas pipeline’s proposed route is unlawful.”

1-21-20 Rolling Stone. America’s Radioactive Secret. “Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America. …. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. ‘All oil-field workers,’ says Fairlie, ‘are radiation workers.’ But they don’t necessarily know it. …. In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer. ‘Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,’ says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ‘Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,’ says Fairlie. ‘It is just madness.’”

1-19-20 Yahoo Finance. America Is Awash With Natural Gas and It’s About to Get Worse. “Prices briefly dipped below $2 per million British thermal unit on Friday for the first time since 2016. At that level, U.S. producers simply don’t make money. It’s forcing a wave of multibillion-dollar writedowns, layoffs and spending cuts. Still, the industry is powerless to stop a wave of additional gas hitting the market as a byproduct of rising shale oil output in places like the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico. Even exports of liquefied natural gas provide little relief, as the international market is also oversupplied. ‘The industry is a victim of its own success,’ said Devin McDermott, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. ‘You don’t just have oversupply in the U.S. — you have oversupply in Europe, oversupply in Asia, and really oversupply across the globe.’ Gas prices have been in the doldrums for a while. The Henry Hub benchmark, named after a key Louisiana pipeline facility, has dropped for three years straight. This winter is proving to be unusually warm and inventory levels are above their seasonal average. Futures prices show traders aren’t expecting gas prices to rise above $2.60 even in the coldest months, when demand typically peaks.”

1-17-20 National Law Review. D.C. Circuit En Banc Review of FERC Tolling Orders Could Have Profound Implications for Infrastructure Projects Requiring FERC Approval. “On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit), sitting en banc, will hear arguments challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) use of ‘tolling orders.’ Because FERC routinely uses tolling orders across all areas of its responsibility, the Court’s actions could have profound, and potentially extremely negative, implications for any FERC-regulated industry. In particular, a decision forcing FERC to curtail its use of tolling orders could create new legal risks and barriers for natural gas and oil pipelines, electric transmission lines, and other energy infrastructure requiring FERC approval.”

1-17-20 WV News. Environmental group calls for formal stop to already halted ACP construction. “Environmental advocates are again calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to formally stop construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. Dominion voluntarily halted all major construction activities on the pipeline in December 2018 following a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that denied a permit issued by the Forest Service allowing the pipeline’s route to go through two national forests and under the Appalachian Trail. However, the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents a coalition of environmental groups, has sent a letter to FERC asking for an order that would prevent the resumption of construction in light of a separate ruling from the Fourth Circuit on Jan. 7. …. Citing the court’s decision, [SELC’s Greg] Buppert wrote that allowing construction to continue would ‘violate the condition of the Commission’s certificate of public convenience and necessity’ that requires the ACP to obtain all applicable authorizations required under federal law before commencing construction. ‘The Commission cannot merely rely on Atlantic’s temporary work stoppage to address this issue,’ he wrote. ‘It should issue a stop-work order.’”

1-16-20 Blue Virginia. Clean Virginia Chronicles the “Dominion Scam”: $2 Billion in Overcharges by Dominion Energy in the Past Decade. “As Dominion Energy lobbyists were hard at work this week in Virginia’s General Assembly, advocacy organization Clean Virginia released a groundbreaking new report detailing how the monopoly overcharged its Virginia customers by at least $2.3 billion in the past decade. ‘The Dominion Scam: How a Utility Monopoly Overcharged Virginians $2 Billion (And Got Away with It)‘ describes how Virginia’s dominant utility monopoly worked with allies in the General Assembly to pass a series of utility-friendly laws that allowed the company to overcharge Virginians by hundreds of millions of dollars each year beyond its authorized profit level.”

1-15-20 Energy News Network. In Virginia, anti-pipeline activists feel ‘justice was served’ with court ruling. “What retiree Ella Rose describes as her “most wonderful birthday present ever” was belated by four-plus weeks. But it was so worth the wait. A federal appeals court decision Jan. 7 to toss out a state permit for construction of a natural gas pipeline compressor station roughly one-third of a mile from her home was announced exactly one month after the activist’s 76th birthday. ‘I am so happy and elated and surprised,’ she said, recalling the phone call she received last week from Chad Oba, co-founder and president of the Friends of Buckingham. ‘We were screaming in each other’s ears and I was the happiest person in the world. I’m still over the moon and I can’t come down.’ …. The momentous decision by a three-judge panel from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is potentially a huge setback for Dominion Energy’s pipeline and a gargantuan gain for environmental justice in a state where that topic is only recently being broached.”

1-14-20 Blue Virginia. Both this session’s big energy omnibus bills could be better. “Climate and energy activists have been pinning their hopes on the 2020 legislative session to produce a framework for transitioning our economy to 100 percent carbon-free energy. After years of talking big but delivering little in the way of carbon reductions and clean energy, the General Assembly is under pressure to finally deliver. Much of the initial focus and discussion so far has been on two very different omnibus bills, the Clean Economy Act and the Green New Deal Act. …. [L]et’s take a look at the two omnibus bills that have energized so many activists. Both have their strong points; both would benefit from strengthening amendments.”

1-14-20 OilPrice.com. U.S. Gas Giant Downgraded To Junk Status. “The largest natural gas driller in the United States just announced a massive write-down for its assets, offering more evidence that the shale sector faces fundamental problems with profitability. In a regulatory filing on Monday, Pittsburgh-based EQT took a $1.8 billion impairment for the fourth quarter, as the natural gas market continues to sour. EQT said that the write down comes as a result of the ‘changes to our development strategy and renewed focus on a refined core operating footprint,’ which is a jargon-y way of saying that some of its assets are now worth much less. [EQT is the principal in the Mountain Valley Pipeline]

1-14-19 New York Times. BlackRock C.E.O. Larry Fink: Climate Crisis Will Reshape Finance. “Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, announced Tuesday that his firm would make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager with nearly $7 trillion in investments, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit. Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that ‘present a high sustainability-related risk,’ such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.”

1-13-19 Bloomberg Environment. Time to Overturn Precedent on FERC Orders, Landowners Tell Court. “Federal judges should seize an opportunity to reverse a ‘fundamentally flawed’ precedent that keeps pipeline opponents out of court until it’s too late to halt a project, lawyers for landowners and environmentalists said in new court filings. ‘The United States Constitution and federal common law guarantee property owners a meaningful opportunity to be heard in opposition to a faulty public use determination before their property can be permanently taken,’ the Jan. 10 brief says, referring to a stretch of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania. …. If landowners, environmentalists, or others want to challenge a FERC permit, they must first file a petition with the commission and wait for it to be resolved before pursuing a lawsuit. The Natural Gas Act gives FERC 30 days to take action on a challenge, but the agency routinely issues ‘tolling orders,’ which indefinitely extend the deadline for resolving the petition. FERC litigants have long criticized tolling orders as unfair and unconstitutional. Challengers often can’t get to court to challenge a project before construction has begun—or sometimes finished.”

1-13-20 Virginia Mercury. General Assembly will decide whether to build environmental justice into Virginia law. “Two years after Virginia established its first formal advisory body on environmental justice, legislators will weigh several bills proposing to weave the principle into the daily workings of state governance. ‘Environmental justice isn’t just theoretical. It actually happens all the time,’ said Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, who has put forward one bill making an advisory council on the issue permanent and directing all state agencies to develop policies to promote consideration of environmental justice in their regular operations. Case in point to the delegate: the State Air Pollution Control Board’s January 2019 issuance of a permit to build a controversial natural gas compressor station in the historic freedmen’s community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. That decision was struck down by a federal court Tuesday partly on environmental justice grounds. ‘Clearly with the 4th Circuit decision we now know the state has to do a better job with environmental justice,’ said Keam.”

1-9-20 Virginia Mercury. DEQ’s failure on compressor station review is another sign new leadership is needed. “The air board is made up of citizens appointed by the governor who work without pay to promote transparency via public debates and votes and to broaden the base of regulatory decision making. Those board members rely on DEQ’s staff and leaders to provide them with both a wide range of regulatory alternatives and also with insightful, complete analyses. Clearly, DEQ failed the board on both counts. I wish I could say I was surprised. In 2008, when I was on the air board, two fellow board members suggested that the 1987 board statement on site suitability should be revised, to clarify the board’s powers with respect to site suitability. The board members’ ideas were rebuffed by senior officials in the administration of then-Gov. Tim Kaine, including DEQ managers. …. The air board must assert its right to have the full picture on best technologies. Since the 4th Circuit has now decided that the board’s legal obligation includes formally assessing the environmental justice implications of its decisions, the board must revise and take public comment on its 33-year-old site suitability policy, before making any other permit decisions. And finally: It is long past time for new management at DEQ. The dedicated staff at DEQ deserve to be led by someone who will take them to high ground and help them hold it.”

1-9-20 Washington Post. White House wants to change environmental rules to speed up highway projects, pipelines and more. “The White House is moving to exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews that have been required for 50 years, a major shift that would make it easier to build mines, expand airports and lay pipelines, among other things, according to three people familiar with the proposal. The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because President Trump is expected to unveil the plan Thursday morning. The proposed changes would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the impact of a major project before a spade of dirt is turned and to include the public in the process.”

1-7-20 Washington Post. Federal court revokes gas project permit in win for historic African American community in Va. “A panel of federal judges has thrown out the permit for a natural gas pumping station in the historic African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, saying state regulators failed to consider whether the facility would disproportionately affect a vulnerable population. The ruling is another setback for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a controversial 600-mile, $7.5 billion project being led by Dominion Energy. Issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the decision faulted Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board for an action that it said was ‘arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.’”

1-7-20 New York Times. Court Tosses Permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Station. “A permit needed to build a natural gas compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Virginia was thrown out Tuesday by a federal court that found the state failed to adequately consider the potential health effects on a historic African American community. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for opponents of a proposal to build the station in Union Hill, an unincorporated community that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War.”

1-7-20 Richmond Times-Dispatch. 4th Circuit vacates state air permit for Buckingham pipeline compressor station. “A federal appeals court dealt another blow to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Tuesday with a ruling that vacates a state air pollution control permit for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County for failing to consider the disproportionate health effects on the surrounding, predominantly African American Union Hill community. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the State Air Pollution Control Board had ‘failed to grapple with the likelihood that those living closest to the compression station…will be affected more than those living in other parts of the county.’ The 47-page decision, written by Judge Stephanie Thacker, also vacated the permit and returned it to the air board to explain why it had failed to consider requiring electric-powered turbines to eliminate most of the pollution emitted by four natural gas-fired turbines at the for the 58,162-horsepower compressor station.”

1-6-20 Heartland Institute. North Carolina Governor Accused of ‘Pay-for-Permit’ Scheme. “North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper improperly used his office to secure $57.8 million for a fund under his control in return for granting construction permits along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a report requested by the state legislature concludes. Although Cooper did not personally benefit from the fund, the scheme had the appearance of a ‘pay-to-play’ or ‘pay-for-permit’ arrangement in which the Cooper administration approved a permit for the pipeline in 2018, the report states.”

1-5-20 Daily Progress. Legal details could have big effect on pipeline’s fate. “This winter the U.S. Supreme Court will examine legal questions connected to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, thrusting the pipeline project into the national spotlight and intensifying the accompanying debate. The focus of the court’s inquiry — the Appalachian Trail — provides a fascinating counterpoint to the proposed pipeline. The trail and the pipeline are both long and winding paths, but one of them is a wooded trail envisioned as a tool for harmonizing humans’ relationship with nature, whereas the other is a metallic tube that embodies our mastery of it.”

1-3-20 Roanoke Times. Latest lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline contests the taking of private land. “Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline might be stalled for the winter, but that has not stopped the legal challenges against the embattled project. In the latest attack, brought Thursday, three couples who had their land taken for the natural gas pipeline are contesting the seizures, arguing that as a private company, Mountain Valley should not have been allowed to use the laws of eminent domain. …. Because Congress improperly delegated legislative power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which in turn gave a private company the authority to invoke eminent domain, all pipeline approvals that led to land being taken under the process should be invalidated, the lawsuit claims.”

1-3-20 Post and Courier [SC]. SC utility regulators reverse course in case between Dominion and solar developers. “South Carolina utility regulators have reversed course in a case involving Dominion Energy and solar developers, bowing to public pressure and potentially opening the door to more competition in the energy market. The S.C. Public Service Commission announced Friday it had reconsidered an earlier ruling that decided how much Dominion, an investor-owned utility, must pay solar developers who want to supply power to the grid in South Carolina. The commission’s earlier decision was widely criticized by environmental organizations and lawmakers who passed legislation last year to expand solar power in the state.”

1-3-20 S&P Global. Analysis: Low prices, investor pressure drive slowdown in Appalachian gas production. “Appalachian gas production last month registered its first monthly decline since May as producers in the dynamic US Northeast shale basin responded to low prices and growing pressure from the investment community. In December, output across the Marcellus and Utica averaged 33.1 Bcf/d, having declined nearly 380 MMcf/d compared to the prior-month average, S&P Global Platts Analytics data shows. Last month’s slowdown comes amid sustained low gas prices in the region. In the fourth quarter, cash prices at the Appalachian benchmark Dominion South averaged just $1.78/MMBtu, marking a two-year low and testing producers’ margins for profit. …. Low gas prices aren’t the only challenge producers are facing, though. In 2019, some of Appalachia’s biggest drillers saw company stock prices tumble as a skeptical investment community increasingly turns its back on the dry gas industry.”

1-3-20 Washington Post. White House update of key environmental law would exclude climate change. “The Trump administration will instruct federal agencies to no longer take climate change into account when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects, according to two senior administration officials — a sweeping overhaul of one of the nation’s most consequential environmental laws. The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act are aimed at speeding approvals for pipelines, oil and gas leases, highway construction and other kinds of development. The law, which was last updated in 1978, has proved one of the most potent stumbling blocks to President Trump’s push to accelerate oil, gas and coal extraction across the country. Under NEPA, agencies are required to analyze the extent to which proposed federal actions affect everything from endangered species to water quality to greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.”

1-3-20 Inside Climate News. 2020: A Year of Pipeline Court Fights, with One Lawsuit Headed to the Supreme Court. “After years of mounting opposition to the increasing build-out of oil and gas infrastructure, 2020 is shaping up to be the year that pipeline opponents get their day in court. One case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court takes a closer look at whether parts of the Appalachian Trail are off-limits to fossil fuel infrastructure and may determine the fate of two multi-billion-dollar pipelines. …. Meanwhile, a question of potentially greater significance looms: Can pipeline companies continue to justify taking private land as the public benefits of fossil fuel pipelines are increasingly questioned and the risks they pose to the environment and climate increase?”

1-2-20 Roanoke Times. Letter: Colossal blunder. “Much to their chagrin, the companies who perpetuated this disaster [the MVP] are now discovering that MVP is a colossal financial blunder. The market for methane gas is collapsing due to overproduction. Fracking enterprises are going bankrupt left and right. The stock prices for the companies behind MVP have crashed. Multiple other pipeline projects either beat MVP to market or are stalled. Intense growth in renewable energy is eliminating demand for gas.”