Posts Tagged ‘FERC’

Public Pushback Against Appalachian Natural Gas Pipelines

Thursday, December 15th, 2016 - posted by molly

Critics cite flaws in Mountain Valley Pipeline’s environmental review process

By Molly Moore

pipeline easement illustration

Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC is seeking an amendment to the Jefferson National Forest Plan that would reclassify 186 acres of old growth forest as a 500-foot-wide “utility corridor.” This image simulates a such a corridor from the perspective of Giles High School in Giles County, Va. Illustration courtesy Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition.

On a quiet Tuesday evening, nine individuals gathered in the small town of Elliston, Va., for a meeting of the eastern chapter of Preserve Montgomery County VA, a grassroots group formed in response to a proposed natural gas pipeline. Some attendees had known each other for years, while others shook hands for the first time. But these individuals shared at least two things in common: all lived along the steep slopes and rolling ridgelines that distinguish Central Appalachia, and all were opposed to a new natural gas pipeline slicing through their home county.

Dozens of major new gas transmission pipelines are proposed for construction across the eastern United States. Two of these, each 42 inches in diameter, are slated to cross the steep slopes and abundant streams of the Appalachian Mountains while carrying high-pressure natural gas from fracking wells in West Virginia to companies in Virginia and North Carolina. Since applications for the projects were filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — in September 2015 by the public utilities backing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and in October 2015 by the private companies behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline — communities along the route have raised the alarm.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline would stretch from Wetzel County in northern West Virginia to Pittsylvania County along Virginia’s southern border, while the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run from Harrison and Lewis Counties, also in northern West Virginia, across Virginia to Robeson County on the southeastern edge of North Carolina.

Both would tie in to the Transco Pipeline, which extends between Texas and New York. Transco also connects to a recently approved natural gas export facility in Maryland, opening the possibility that this gas could go to overseas markets.

The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines would also each require the construction of between three and four compressor stations — industrial facilities that maintain pressure throughout the system but pose concentrated health and environmental risks to nearby communities.

Common Cause

In places like Montgomery County, Va., some residents who might have different perspectives on other issues are united in their opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Community member Ellen Darden serves as the volunteer co-chair for Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights — a coalition of local groups along the proposed route of the MVP. “[It’s] totally nonpartisan,” she says of the group’s name. “It’s really all about water, heritage and rights because those were the elements that were important to different groups and we wanted that represented.”

The coalition is working alongside environmental organizations, including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper.

Many of the residents are outraged at the prospect of losing the use of their land to gas companies or utilities while facing the likelihood of diminishing property values.

“The thing about going through properties, in addition to environmental destruction, is we’re in hollers. The only flat land you have is down by the creek,” says Anita Puckett, a member of Preserve Montgomery County VA. “They want to run it down by the creek because it’s easier to build, so they’re leasing prime farmland, garden land, house-building land.”

In eastern Montgomery County, the MVP would claim a right-of-way through a flat portion of resident Jim Law’s land that he intends to use as a future homesite for his granddaughters. Roughly 100 miles further east, the ACP would bisect a pasture on Carlos Arostegui’s dairy farm.

Other nearby citizens cite worries about the risks that high-pressure gas poses to their homes, farms and lives. Natural gas transmission pipelines can be constructed with thinner walls and with shutoff valves spaced further apart in more sparsely populated areas, increasing the safety risk to nearby landowners.

Environmental impacts are also of concern to many. The construction process involves heavy truck traffic, clear-cutting, and crossing and tunneling beneath waterways, which leads to sedimentation and stream disturbances. Both the MVP and ACP would also traverse fragile karst topography, a porous limestone bedrock that amplifies the risk that groundwater would be affected.

New pipelines also have implications for global climate change. Methane is released during natural gas drilling and transmission and has a climate-altering potential 86 times greater than carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after emission.

Locally, the projects would negatively affect viewsheds and tourism, according to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Appalachian Trail Conservancy. After months of attempting to collaborate with pipeline officials and other stakeholders to minimize risks, in November 2016 the Appalachian Trail Conservancy concluded that it is “strongly opposed to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project.”

In contrast, pipeline backers emphasize potential for construction jobs and tax revenue — a 2014 economic impact study commissioned by MVP anticipated that a four-year construction phase would contribute to roughly 8,000 direct and indirect jobs.

According to the ACP’s website, that pipeline would generate $8.3 million in property tax revenue in 2018, a figure that would rise and top $30 million each year by 2025, when considering all three states. But different projections were reached in a 2016 study by Key-Log Economics, LLC, which predicted the pipeline would result in a net loss of property taxes.

The ACP has the explicit support of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and President-Elect Donald Trump’s First 100 Days platform calls for removing barriers to new energy infrastructure projects. But even with such high-profile support, the pipelines still face regulatory and potential legal hurdles.

Federal Procedure

Before breaking ground, interstate pipeline projects must first be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency is designed to be nonpartisan and independent, so instead of relying on financial support from taxpayers, it is funded by fees from the companies it regulates. Pipeline opponents nationwide have alleged that this is a conflict of interest that favors industry.

Since 2009, FERC has approved 170 major natural gas pipelines, though the commission isn’t obligated to review whether or not these pipelines are needed.

Yet even if FERC approves a pipeline, it’s not a done deal. Privately financed projects like the MVP still need to find and retain financial backing. Pipelines can also be denied at a state level even if they have federal approval — in April 2016, the state of New York halted construction on the Constitution Pipeline by denying a water-quality permit.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC is required to prepare an in-depth analysis of the environmental impacts of significant projects like these and to assess alternatives, as well as consider public input before making a decision and issuing a final environmental review. At FERC, these documents are often prepared by contractors and subcontractors who are paid directly by the gas companies or utilities.

FERC has been criticized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for repeatedly accepting environmental assessments for new pipelines that the EPA deems insufficient. In October, the EPA issued a letter charging that FERC’s review of the LeachXPress pipeline — which would carry natural gas through parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — omitted significant information.

The environmental review process is intended to give the public a chance to be heard by submitting public comments or attending formal in-person FERC listening sessions. The draft environmental review for the MVP was released on Sept. 16 and the deadline for public comment set for Dec. 22. Release of the ACP’s draft environmental assessment is expected in December 2016. [Editor’s note: The ACP environmental review was released Dec. 30. Read the full draft here and environmental groups’ press statement here.]

Residents across the country can submit comments for interstate pipelines like MVP and ACP. But the effectiveness of public comments also depends on how thorough the initial assessment is — for instance, if the draft doesn’t describe how pipeline builders plan to mitigate landslides, it’s harder for local residents to weigh in on whether that plan is sufficient. Attendees at FERC’s seven public listening sessions held along the MVP route in November stated that the draft environmental statement was “woefully inadequate.”

Incomplete Review

In October, the nonprofit law firm Appalachian Mountain Advocates submitted a letter to FERC outlining shortcomings in the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s draft environmental impact statement. The 15-page letter, sent on behalf of 27 conservation and community groups, called on the agency to revise or supplement the draft and questioned whether the MVP was even necessary.

According to Ben Luckett, staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, FERC published an incomplete review. “FERC even acknowledges it still needs information about impacts on drinking water sources, as well as important streams and wetlands,” he stated in a press release. “The public must have access to this crucial information if its review of FERC’s analysis is to have any meaning.”

In its application, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, stated that it has secured contracts for the two billion cubic feet of pressurized natural gas it would transport each day. Yet separate studies by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, commissioned by Appalachian Voices, and by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., both concluded that pipelines carrying gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations are being overbuilt and that there is enough pipeline capacity to meet demand until 2030.

The Appalachian Mountain Advocates letter also points out that some information — such as surveys for a proposed route change — can be omitted until the end of the comment period, and even more information can be withheld until after FERC grants a certificate of approval. These components include plans for avoiding active mines, mitigating landslides, installing permanent culverts and permanently filling waterbodies and wetlands along the route.

There are many organizations resisting the pipelines, and those listed below can also help identify local groups in your area. Learn more or submit a comment asking FERC to reject the MVP at

  • Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance: Coalition of local groups opposed to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
  • Appalachian Voices: Advocacy organization fighting against the ACP and MVP
    Visit: Call: (434) 293-6373
  • NC WARN: N.C. organization working to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
    Visit: Call: (919) 416-5077
  • Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights: Coalition of local groups resisting the Mountain Valley Pipeline
  • Speaking Out

    FERC’s seven listening sessions on the MVP were held in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania during the first part of November. Some were sparsely attended, while others had high turnout, including more than 150 attendees in Roanoke, Va.

    Instead of speaking publicly before attendees and the commission as is the custom for public forums, individuals were led into a room with just a FERC official and a stenographer, an atmosphere that Lara Mack, Virginia field organizer with Appalachian Voices, calls “sterile and disempowering.”

    Yet as attendees met with FERC individually, community groups and the Sierra Club Virginia hosted alternative meeting spaces in the same building for people to share their comments with one another and learn more about the pipeline. In Weston, W. Va., local organizations also held their own forum with a stenographer taking comments in a public space so that residents could hear each other’s concerns.

    In the face of proposals like the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, building connections — whether between organizations or between neighbors — is key.

    “This is not just a local fight,” says Darden, noting that if one proposal fails, companies will likely try another route. “The [pipelines] are coming. This is just the start. And the companies just all want their own profit, there’s no collaboration, no coordination.”

    Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline draft environmental assessment was expected December 2017. The draft was expected in December 2016, and was released Dec. 30. Read the response to the draft from Appalachian Voices and other citizens groups.

    Why stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

    Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 - posted by Peter Anderson
    A sign in eastern Montgomery County, Va., announces local opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

    A sign in eastern Montgomery County, Va., announces local opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently taking public comments regarding the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would ship fracked gas via a 42-inch underground pipe 301 miles from northwest West Virginia into southern Virginia, with a short connector into Pennsylvania.

    The public comment period gives citizens a chance to share their concerns with FERC on the record. Here are some of my concerns with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) proposal:

    Existing pipelines are sufficient – Studies (here and here) show that there’s more than enough capacity on existing pipelines to carry the gas needed to meet customer demand in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. As many states shift their electric generation from coal and gas to wind, solar, and other renewables, it’s likely that demand for gas will decrease in the long run. But right now, bad policies are creating incentives for companies to overbuild the pipeline network.

    Public safety – There is no way to justify the risk of an explosion or leak to the people who live within the quarter-mile blast radius of the proposed pipeline. The National Transportation Safety Board tracks data on pipeline incidents, and its website is riddled with reports of gas pipeline explosions and fires that have resulted in deaths and the destruction of property. Figures from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration show that onshore gas pipelines installed in the 2010s have incident rates more than five times greater than pipelines installed in the 1990s and 2000s.

    Water quality – The MVP’s proposed route would cross three major aquifers and come within one tenth of a mile of two public water supplies, not to mention an untold number of private drinking wells not yet identified by the project partners. The project would also cross 377 perennial waterbodies across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. Are we willing to risk the failure of an underground pipeline that carries 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day when headwater streams, wells, and municipal drinking water supplies are so close?

    Climate change – The MVP would enable significantly more gas to be shipped, which means significantly more gas can be extracted using fracking techniques in the Marcellus shale region. Natural gas is predominantly methane. While methane does have a lower global warming impact than coal during electricity generation, it still accelerates climate change. Methane leaks directly into the atmosphere during fracking and distribution, and its global warming effect is 86 times greater than carbon dioxide’s over a 20-year period, and 36 times greater than carbon dioxide’s over a 100-year period.

    Traditional air pollutants – Three large compressor stations have been proposed to move gas along the route in West Virginia, and there may yet be a fourth sited in Virginia. FERC expects one of the West Virginia compressors to violate local air quality standards and require a permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

    Forests & the Appalachian Trail – FERC concedes that there will be permanent adverse impacts to forests. The MVP would cross thousands of acres of prime forest land and habitat for species listed as threatened and endangered. It would cross national treasures like the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The U.S. Forest Service has raised several of these forest impact issues, yet they have not been addressed by FERC or the project partners.

    What can you do to help protect Appalachia? You can make your voice heard. You can send a comment online today; the deadline is December 22.

    I’ve outlined several of my concerns above, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Whether you or a loved one would be impacted by the construction of this pipeline, or you are concerned about global climate change, this is your fight. The federal government must listen to citizen comments and address them before allowing the proposal to go forward.

    Community and conservation groups condemn FERC’s review of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

    Friday, September 16th, 2016 - posted by cat

    Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-520-2324,
    Laurie Ardison, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, 304-646-8339,
    Kirk Bowers, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, 434-296-8673,
    Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-2022,
    Lara Mack, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373,

    The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline has drawn sustained criticism from landowners, localities, lawmakers and conservation groups since first being announced in 2014. Photo courtesy CCAN

    The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline has drawn sustained criticism from landowners, localities, lawmakers and conservation groups since first being announced in 2014. Photo courtesy CCAN

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Federal regulators today released a draft environmental review for the proposed fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline that public interest advocates say fails to adequately assess the public need for the project and the widespread threats to private property, public lands, local communities, water quality and the climate.

    The controversial $3.2 billion pipeline, proposed by EQT and NextEra, would cut 301 miles through West Virginia and Virginia — crossing public lands and more than 1,000 waterways and wetlands — and require the construction of three large compressor stations. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of six major pipelines proposed for the same region of Virginia and West Virginia where experts warn the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure.

    >> See below for a bulleted list of major impacts as defined by FERC.

    In preparing its draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relied heavily on gas company data to assess the public need for the project, the groups say. A report released earlier this month concludes there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet demand through 2030. The groups also fault the agency for dismissing clean energy alternatives.

    In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC has extended the usual 45-day period for public comment to 90 days. Comments are due December 22.

    While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review the nearly 2,600-page document, they have identified major gaps in FERC’s analysis, including:

    • The core issue of whether the massive project is needed to meet electricity demand, and whether other alternatives including energy efficiency, solar and wind would be more environmentally responsible sources;
    • A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline;
    • Any accounting of other environmental and human health damage from the increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline; and
    • Thorough analysis of damage to water quality and natural resources throughout the pipeline route.

    “It’s shameful that FERC did not prepare a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement,” said Joe Lovett, Executive Director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “It would allow a private pipeline company to take private property for private profit. Apparently FERC decided it didn’t have to do the hard work necessary to determine whether the MVP is necessary. Such a lack of diligence is remarkable because FERC has the extraordinary power to grant MVP the right to take property that has, in many cases, been in the same families for generations.”

    “The resource reports MVP has already submitted to FERC are the alleged backbone upon which the DEIS is created. These reports are, however, uncatalogued collections of partial surveys, studies and desktop engineering notions which are rife with omissions, and inadequate and incorrect data”, said Laurie Ardison, Co-Chair of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR). “The DEIS is fatally flawed for a variety of process and substance matters, not the least of which is MVP’s insufficient, unsubstantiated foundational material.”

    “FERC once again has its blinders on to the full climate consequences of fracked gas,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “FERC’s limited review ignores the full lifecycle of pollution the pipeline will trigger by acting as if gas comes from nowhere. FERC also provides no clear explanation of exactly how it arrived at its limited estimate of emissions. If FERC did a full accounting of the climate harm of this fracked-gas project and clean energy alternatives, it would have no choice but to reject it.”

    “Recent studies have shown that our region has the necessary energy to meet demand through 2030 already. We know that clean, renewable energy is available and affordable, and by this time, it will be the only choice to preserve our environment and climate. Additional fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley project, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and industrial facilities in production — despite the claims by MVP developers,” said Kirk Bowers, Pipelines Campaign Manager with the Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club.

    “This would be the first fracked-gas pipeline of this size to cross the Alleghany and Blue Ridge mountains. Running a massive gas project through the steep, rugged terrain laced with dozens of rivers and headwater streams is a perfect storm for major damage to our water resources,” said Lara Mack, Virginia Campaign Field Organizer with Appalachian Voices. ”FERC also fails to meaningfully address the safety issues and other concerns so earnestly voiced by hundreds of homeowners and landowners along the route.”

    “The Mountain Valley Pipeline could result in taking people’s property in West Virginia solely to benefit out-of-state companies,” said Jim Kotcon, West Virginia Sierra Club Chapter Chair. “To make matters worse, it will affect all West Virginians because it will result in higher gas prices for local consumers. Low cost energy is one of the few advantages that West Virginia has in attracting new businesses, and this pipeline will make our energy costs higher while lowering costs for competitors in other states. That pipeline is bad business for West Virginia businesses.”


    Highlights of major impacts of the MVP route as identified by FERC in the DEIS:

    • About 67% of the MVP route would cross areas susceptible to landslides.
    • The pipeline would cross about 51 miles of karst terrain.
    • Construction would disturb about 4,189 acres of soils that are classified as potential for severe water erosion.
    • Construction would disturb about 2,353 acres of prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance.
    • The pipeline would result in 986 waterbody crossings; 33 are classified as fisheries of special concern.
    • The MVP would cross about 245 miles of forest; in Virginia, it would impact about 938 acres of contiguous interior forest during construction classified as “high” to “outstanding” quality.
    • In West Virginia, the pipeline would result in permanent impacts on about 865 acres of core forest areas which are significant wildlife habitat.
    • The 50-foot wide operational easement would represent a permanent impact on forests.
    • FERC identified 22 federally listed threatened, endangered, candidate, or special concern species potentially in vicinity of the MVP and the Equitrans projects, and 20 state-listed or special concern species.
    • MVP identified 117 residences within 50 feet of its proposed construction right-of-way.
    • Construction would require use of 365 roadways.
    • A still incomplete survey of the route shows the pipeline could potentially affect 166 new archaeological sites and 94 new architectural sites, in addition to crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway Historic District, North Fork Valley Rural Historic District, and Greater Newport Rural Historic District, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Prayers not pipelines

    Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 - posted by guestbloggers

    Special to the Front Porch: Welcome to our occasional feature where we invite a guest to “pull up a chair” and share their views on issues important to you. Our guest today is Jill Averitt, who, together with her husband, sisters and in-laws, is raising seven kids, lots of chickens, and vegetables on 130 acres in Nelson County, Va. Jill created the “Prayers Not Pipelines” project to express her concerns about a massive fracked-gas pipeline that is proposed to cut right through her family’s land.


    When the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was first announced, it took us a few months to understand the reality of the proposal. The original route was going through our friends’ property on Shannon Farm and it seemed unreal. We decided to get involved because we could feel their anxiety and wanted to help.

    Soon after, the pipeline route was moved. A victory! We thought. Until Dominion announced the new proposed route was going through our property, which we share with my in-laws, my two sisters and their families. And not just our home, but right through the middle of the land where we had begun building our dream project – a nature-oriented resort.

    The pipeline would clear our forests and put our lives in jeopardy if there was an explosion. We have seven children between us and four homes on 130 acres where we have spent the last ten years raising our kids. No amount of money can replace that.

    We really got into the fight at this point. There are many nights of anger, fear and frustration from being bullied by Dominion. It has more money, it seems to be heard more quickly and have a special immunity to accountability. My husband, Richard, has worked tirelessly, reaching out to our senators, congressmen, Board of Supervisors, and governor’s representatives, not to mention the endless meetings with advocacy groups and lawyers trying to find angles to fight this behemoth.

    I have been sad and physically sick a lot of nights after talking all day about our fight. I wanted to do something positive and uplifting for my family and community who have been spending any little time they have in their busy lives experiencing the same emotions.

    So I came up with the idea of the prayer project that was later named Prayers Not Pipelines. This is what I sent to a few friends:

    “I’m thinking of creating an art piece on both sides of Route 151 where the pipeline would intersect the road. Imagine a ‘wall’ of white gauzy fabric on both sides of 151 that you can see through to the trees, but blocked enough to imagine their loss. It would be 125-feet long, the width of the path of the proposed pipeline.

    “In front of that white wall we would stand hand in hand with our ‘No Pipeline’ shirts. We would line both sides of 151. As we filter in and out to take turns, we could set up a station at the Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center to hand out information flyers. While the community is waiting their turn to stand, we would have a table for folks to create their own prayer flag. We would have white squares of cloth with markers and people can make their own statement, intention, artwork or prayer. We will collect them and pin them to a ribbon and hang them on the wall. One for each side.

    “Our intention for this is to send out positive messages to the community and the forest. Blessings and protection, if you like. So what is left is not a bunch of ‘No Pipeline’ signs, but prayers going out to the world that this is a protected and sacred place.”


    After sending this out, the project took on a mind of its own, and in 12 days our community hosted the Prayers Not Pipeline event. It was a fantastic event that was covered by four news stations, three newspapers and several websites. But mostly it did exactly what we intended it to do and it continues to reverberate those feelings every day. You can’t drive past the wall of flags without feeling that this energy is real and that the pipeline is not coming through this area.

    After the event, we left the fabric wall up for two days. By the third day it started to rip and I took it down, leaving the prayer flags to blow in the wind and do their thing. I called the Virginia Department of Transportation to ask them to let me know when they wanted to take the flags down because I wanted to keep them. They said I could leave them up.

    That lead me to the second half of this project, which is happening right now.


    Each week I go to Trager Brothers Coffee at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County to collect the flags that folks have made during the week and I add them to the others. As I approach, the flags flapping with each car that flies by, I can feel the power of the collective intentions. It’s strong and with every blast of wind, I can feel the expansive release of blessing rushing around me. It fills me with a sense of calm that is hard to come by for those of us working on this fight. I have come to realize that tending to the wall has allowed me to hold my intentions firm in times when I start to lose faith. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and feel that protection.

    I will keep pinning up these flags and making sure they fly securely to remind us all not to lose faith or give up hope. This pipeline will not come through our county and I believe it will not be built at all. How that happens or what it looks like I do not know, I just have faith that our collective work will stop it. Our community in Nelson County is the most loving, caring, sharing community I have ever lived in. That has a lot of power.

    So please stop by to participate in this amazing collection of blessings and add yours. I can see thousands of flags flying and yours is one of them. You can stop by the Natural History Center on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 to 4 p.m. Enjoy a scenic walk on the nature loop while you’re here. Or stop and have a coffee at Trager Brothers in the Community Center and make your prayer flag there.

    (Email Jill here.)

    30 Groups Demand Single FERC Study of Fracked-Gas Pipelines

    Monday, October 26th, 2015 - posted by cat

    Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-645-9006,
    Joanna Salidis, Friends of Nelson, 434-242-5859,
    Tammy Belinsky, Preserve Craig, 540-874-5798,
    Kirk Bowers, Sierra Club, 434-296 8673,
    Hannah Wiegard, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373,
    Monique Sullivan, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 202-440-4318,

    Thirty organizations in Virginia and West Virginia, including Appalachian Voices, have joined forces to call on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct a combined, comprehensive review of all four of the major natural gas pipeline projects currently proposed for the Blue Ridge and Central Appalachian region. Many of the groups are based in counties where the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or Mountain Valley Pipeline would cut through family farms and national forest land, traverse steep slopes and dozens of streams.

    In a letter sent to FERC today, the groups said the agency must do a single review, called a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, in order to evaluate the true need for each of the pipelines in relation to the others, as well as to assess the direct, indirect and cumulative environmental and social impacts of all the pipelines. Legal experts say that, under the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC is required to do a single, comprehensive review of all related projects in a single geographic region.

    Joining landowner and environmental advocates in a tele-press conference this morning were Virginia state Sen. John Edwards and Del. Joseph Yost, whose districts include sections of the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both have stated to FERC their opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

    Senator John Edwards (D), 21st District: “The many environmental impacts to this region include: in the event of an earthquake (which is likely due to a fault line in Giles), a 42 inch high pressure natural gas pipeline would likely rupture, causing a large explosion and extensive damage. There is also risk to numerous pure aquifers, and the mountainous terrain and limestone topography make building such a pipeline unsuitable. There are also many threatened and endangered species and other environmental and safety issues that need extensive and careful study.“

    Delegate Joseph Yost (R), 12th District (in his letter to FERC): “Balancing the need for energy infrastructure while also respecting an individual’s property rights and safeguarding our natural resources for future enjoyment is no easy task. However, I again would like to state my opposition to the proposed MVP project. It is my hope you will examine this project closely over the coming months taking these and many other considerations under advisement and determine the same.”

    On Friday, Appalachian Voices and 15 other groups filed a formal protest of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in which they said Dominion Transmission, Inc., and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, had presented flawed and exaggerated information about the need for the pipeline, while ignoring the impacts to the environment, landowners, communities and the general public. The groups contend that FERC must evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of cleaner sources of energy that development of the pipeline would displace.

    Also on Friday, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC filed its permit application with FERC to build a massive natural gas pipeline spanning 301 miles from the fracking fields of West Virginia, over the mountains and into Virginia. It follows on the heels of the application filed in September for the 564-mile, $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would also carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina.

    Both projects have sparked intense opposition among local, state and regional organizations representing tens of thousands of people, including landowners whose property or communities would be affected, forest and wildlife conservationists, land preservationists, outdoor recreationists, climate activists and others. Preserve Craig sent a brief to FERC requesting a meeting to discuss the benefits of regional review of the Marcellus Shale natural gas pipelines.

    New England is facing a similar situation of fielding proposals for multiple natural gas pipelines. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently asked FERC to conduct a combined review of those projects “to avoid piecemeal review, utilize a common analysis of regional gas demand, and compare each project’s impacts and benefits.”

    Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson: “The least we, as unwilling citizens of a directly impacted community, deserve is the assurance that the federal regulatory process responsible for approving and siting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is fair, thorough and accurate. We believe FERC’s current plan to review the ACP in isolation from the three other high-pressure, large-diameter pipelines proposed for our region is negligent in light of the ACP’s threats to our property rights, economy, health and safety.”

    Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates: “FERC may not allow Dominion to build the ACP until it understands whether the pipeline is necessary. The FERC certificate may not be issued until FERC carefully analyzes whether there is sufficient capacity in existing infrastructure to transport the gas to market. Dominion has not come close to showing FERC that there is such need.”


    Alpha Pays $209 Million in Upper Big Branch Settlement

    Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 - posted by jamie

    Alpha Natural Resources, the global coal company that purchased Massey Energy in January 2011, reached a settlement with victim’s families and the Mine Safety and Health Administration for $209 million in civil and criminal penalties for a mine explosion that killed 29 workers last year.

    The explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, one of the worst underground mining disasters in 40 years, occurred while still under the ownership and operation of Massey. The settlement includes $46.5 million for families of the victims and those injured in the explosion.

    The settlement also includes $80 million to improve safety and infrastructure in all underground mines owned by Alpha; $48 million to establish a mine health and safety foundation; and approximately $35 million in fines from prior violations to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, including $11 million for violations at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

    Federal prosecutors are pursuing cases against a number of Massey executives they say are partially responsible for the explosion. But with weak mining laws, prosecutors may face a grueling battle to criminally convict top-level executives such as former Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

    Under the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act, safety violations are categorized as misdemeanors, presenting a challenge to prosecutors building the criminal case. Hughie Stover, the mine’s security chief at the time of the blast, was the only individual criminally prosecuted after being found guilty of lying to investigators and disposing of thousands of security-related documents.

    Proposed changes to the Mine Health and Safety Act were not passed by Congress last session, but many argue that the explosion brought more awareness to federal inspectors from the Mine Safety and Health Administration which could result in new rules and increased fines.

    Alpha Natural Resources says that the company is focused on improving safety in former Massey mines.

    Duke, Progress Energies Appeal FERC

    In mid-December of last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made a second rejection of the proposed merger between energy giant Duke Energy and Progress Energy, citing concerns that the merger of the two utilities may create an energy monopoly.

    Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy and Raleigh, N.C.-based Progress Energy combined could potentially dominate power markets and manipulate wholesale prices. The results would also eliminate more than 1,860 jobs in North Carolina alone.

    The companies claim that the merger would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for customers and would hold down rising electricity costs.

    Announced over a year ago, Duke and Progress were planned on finalizing the $26 billion deal by the end of 2011 but have been forced to set back their merger completion date to no earlier than May or June of 2012. The new date for the completion of the merger will allow both companies to revise the deal to accommodate recommendations of the commission.

    Once FERC approves revisions to the merger, the N.C. Utilities Commission will approve the measures if they prove beneficial to the state.