An evening of learning and action around the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is no more, but the fight over unjust, unnecessary pipelines is not over.

Please consider joining Wild Virginia, POWHR Coalition (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights), Appalachian Voices and West Virginia Rivers Coalition as they explain why this pipeline is so dangerous, and what you can do about it.

This online event will take place Tuesday, March 16, from 6:30 – 7:30 PM EDT.

Register here.

Photo of beautiful healthy river, with inset photo of how a river would look with pipeline construction damage.

How Can You Help Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

Learn about the specific actions you can take this month to help stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and protect our water.

 

Join Wild Virginia, POWHR Coalition (Protect Our Water Heritage Rights), Appalachian Voices and West Virginia Rivers Colaiition for an evening of learning and action around the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

Presenters will explain why this pipeline is so catastrophic for ecosystems, endangered species, public lands, communities, and the climate at large. You will have a chance to hear from directly-impacted landowners, grassroots leaders, and lawyers fighting the project.

We will share where MVP stands today, what could happen if it is put into service, and how your action is essential before March 22nd to stop that from ever occurring. Learn how to submit a public comment or motion to intervene on MVP’s request to change the crossing method for 180 streams and wetlands.

We will provide background information, talking points, and opportunities to ask questions. Your voice is a valuable and needed addition to the public record. In addition to technical comments and filings, public testimony is a crucial part of the campaign against the pipeline — especially if you have direct, personal connections to the land and water being harmed.

Whether this is your first time tuning into the MVP fight or you have resisted this project since the beginning, your voice is needed now.

 
Register
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Online

FREE

Friends of Nelson Asks FERC to Order Release of “Zombie” Pipeline” Easements

Friends of Nelson, a non-profit organization originally formed to oppose the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to release private landowners from the easements it obtained to cross their land.

Friends of Nelson cites statements by Atlantic that it does not intend to voluntarily release the easements, and has not ruled out transferring the easements to another party, saying only “it has no plans to do so at this time.” “These easements represent a severe, continuing, and — in the wake of the project’s cancellation — a totally unwarranted burden on the properties along the Pipeline’s 604-mile route,” the comment letter to FERC says, adding, “With no ‘public use’ justification remaining, FERC must ensure that landowners’ full property rights are re-stored.”

The comment letter says Atlantic and FERC bear joint responsibility for the “zombie easements,” so-called because the easements live on even though the pipeline proposal is officially dead. FERC bears responsibility because it awarded the essential certificate of “public convenience and necessity” that opened the door to Atlantic’s use of eminent domain. Faced with powerful corporations with huge financial and legal resources, most landowners felt forced to grant easements rather than take their chances in court. Atlantic is owned by Dominion Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy Corporation, two mega-corporations.

“By remaining in place even after the cancellation of the project, these easements burden landowners’ ability to use or sell their property—and also their peace of mind, due to the threat that Atlantic could someday transfer the easements to the developer of another project” the comment to FERC states.

Friends of Nelson has researched the more than 250 easements and easement modification agreements that were filed at the Nelson County Courthouse between October 2015 and July 2020. “The owner is prohibited from doing many things within the Permanent Easement,
including, but not limited to erecting structures such as a house or barn, planting
trees and moving earth. These prohibitions continue forever, even though the pipeline will never be built,” the Friends of Nelson letter to FERC says, and it cites specific examples of Nelson County landowners’ agreements that constrain the use of their land.

The Friends of Nelson’s letter to FERC asks the agency to order Atlantic to contact all owners along the pipeline’s entire 604-mile route to inform them that Atlantic will release the right-of-way easement within 90 days of a written request from an affected landowner.

Friends of Nelson also wants FERC to order Atlantic to provide landowners with a written release of the easement, pay reasonable attorneys’ fees the landowners incur in negotiating the release of the right-of-way, and file the release in the land records of the appropriate jurisdiction.

Friends of Nelson’s request was filed on March 3. A full copy of the letter can be viewed here. 

News You May Have Missed

Recent post-ACP-cancellation news articles of interest. More detailed information on our In the News page.

 

 

Eminent domain for energy projects could be on its way out.

From Sierra. Reformers Set Sights on Corporate Land Grabs for Energy Projects. February 22, 2021. 


Williams Companies Inc. used the power of eminent domain to obtain an easement for a gas pipeline it wanted to build across private property in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Even though it didn’t have all of its paperwork in order, Williams Companies’ construction crews proceeded to cut down 90 percent of the family’s maple-syrup-producing trees, some of them over 200 years old. The damage done to the maple-syrup operation was a complete waste as Williams later announced it was abandoning the pipeline. “To FERC, the destruction of the Holleran’s maple business is just collateral damage for their real job, which is facilitating whatever the pipeline companies want to do,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, during a December 2020 virtual House hearing titled “Pipelines Over People: How FERC Tramples Landowner Rights in Natural Gas Projects.”


Among its many other responsibilities, FERC is charged with regulating interstate energy projects, including gas pipelines. During the past few years, protracted pipeline battles such as the fights over the Mountain Valley, and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, to name a few—have aimed a new light on the agency and its practices. Now, landowner rights groups and lawmakers from across the country are calling for change.


Raskin’s December hearing builds on an investigation his subcommittee launched early last year looking into FERC’s treatment of landowners. The numbers from the subcommittee’s report are damning: In the past 20 years, FERC has granted 1,021 certificates but rejected just six—an approval rate over 99 percent. In that same period, FERC did not grant a single appeal from a landowner. The report also called out FERC’s routine use of “tolling orders,” which effectively block a landowner from appealing a project by delaying the agency’s response, sometimes for months. Meanwhile, pipeline companies can initiate work even without final approval.


Groups opposing the ACP and other pipelines have challenged FERC’s practices and called for changes to the Natural Gas Act to level the playing field for landowners. Now the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which Raskin chairs, is working in parallel to a host of other efforts to reform FERC.


Lawmakers on both coasts have introduced bills aimed at leveling the playing field for landowners. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have introduced the Pipeline Fairness, Transparency, and Responsible Development Act of 2020. Oregon’s two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have each proposed legislation to reform FERC’s processes. All three bills have been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.


Glick, the new chair of FERC under the Biden administration, has regularly dissented from decisions that pushed forward pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects, often citing his colleagues’ failure to consider the full climate impacts of projects and advocating for landowner rights.


Changes were afoot at FERC even before Joe Biden took office. On December 27, an omnibus spending bill funded FERC’s long-awaited Office of Public Participation. The new office will give environmental justice groups a voice in FERC proceedings and ensure those who can’t afford legal representation can participate.

A pipeline-loving agency could be key to Biden’s climate plan

From Grist. A new commission chair could change the way FERC regulates energy projects.  February 18, 2021

There’s a saying about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: It’s never seen a pipeline it didn’t like. But the commission’s new chair could make that adage a thing of the past.

Established by Congress in 1977 to regulate the United States’ energy landscape. FERC wields an enormous amount of power, overseeing the nation’s pipelines, natural gas infrastructure, transmission lines, hydroelectric dams, electricity markets, and, by association, the price of renewables and fossil fuels. It’s made up of up to five commissioners — no more than three members of the same party can serve at a time — including one chair, who sets the commission’s agenda.

Historically, the commission has not done a good job of taking climate change and environmental justice into account as it has approved and regulated energy projects across the U.S. A system for accounting for climate impacts isn’t baked into FERC’s structure. That could change as President Joe Biden executes a “whole of government” approach to tackling climate change.

In January, President Joe Biden appointed Richard Glick, formerly the sole Democratic vote on the commission, to chair FERC. Some of Glick’s priorities? Environmental justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation. At his first press conference since being appointed to lead the commission, Glick announced that FERC will create a senior-level position dedicated to assessing the environmental justice impacts of proposed projects. For the first time, the commission will take a look at how developments like natural gas pipelines affect surrounding communities to make sure they don’t “unfairly impact historically marginalized communities”.

Experts say Glick’s influence on the commission will extend far beyond the new environmental justice position. Under Glick, FERC could liberate renewables from “artificial impediments” and allow clean energy to hit the grid at the lowest possible cost. In addition to taking a hard look at MOPR (Minimum Offer Price Rule that keeps energy prices at a level gas generators needed in order to operate in a profitable manner), Glick is expected to develop a more cooperative attitude toward states and their green energy objectives. Glick could also update electricity transmission policy to encourage more transmission infrastructure — the backbone of America’s power system, without which power from power plants wouldn’t be able to flow to customers. System reliability is going to be a priority, too, especially considering the power issues Texas and other states are experiencing right now.

Glick is in a powerful position as head of FERC, but he still has to work with the Republicans on the commission, at least until June, when Republican commissioner Neil Chatterjee retires and Biden appoints his replacement.

Electric school buses would be good for Virginia, but it has to be done right

From Power for the People VA. Buses present a strong case for electrification because they serve more people of all income levels, and are mostly diesel now. February 15, 2021

Switching to electric buses, especially school buses, would save money on fuel and improve air quality, especially for children riding them. The only electric school bus bill that would have much immediate impact is so deeply flawed and counterproductive that the environmental community is largely united in opposition.


The proposed bill allows Dominion to deploy an unproven technology, electric school bus batteries used to support the electric grid, and collect the costs from ratepayers. The bill, SB1380 (Lucas), specifies that these school buses connected to the grid are in the public interest, and therefore ratepayers must pay for them, including the guaranteed profit for the utility. Also of concern is that the bill does not ensure that the buses will always be available when the schools need them for transporting kids.


While vehicle-to-grid technology is not new, it has never been deployed at this scale to support a utility’s electric grid. SB1380 will allow Dominion to charge ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars for this unproven technology, without a thorough State Corporation Commission evaluation.


The environmental community supports battery storage as a key part of the transition to renewable energy, and adding battery storage to the grid is needed for utilities to meet storage targets of 250MW by 2025 and 1200MW by 2030. However, the vehicle-to-grid technology that enables electric buses to support the electrical grid has never been implemented at this scale. Dominion has begun a pilot program, but it is in its infancy.