Posts Tagged ‘mountain valley pipeline’

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 appvoices.org/no-mvp-pipeline

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

    Environmental justice in Buckingham County

    Thursday, October 13th, 2016 - posted by Lara Mack

    NO Compressor Station = NO Atlantic Coast Pipeline

    Andrew Tyler, from the Cherokee and Pamunkey nations and a representative of the Coalition of Woodland Nations, gave words of support to local residents and discussed the importance of fighting pipelines across the country for native peoples before the public hearing started.

    Andrew Tyler, from the Cherokee and Pamunkey nations and a representative of the Coalition of Woodland Nations, gave words of support to local residents and discussed the importance of fighting pipelines across the country for native peoples before the public hearing started.

    Stand with community members in Buckingham County on Monday, October 17 at the next Planning Commission meeting.

    On Monday, September 26, the Buckingham County Planning Commission held a public hearing about the special use permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 57,000-horsepower compressor station. Dominion Resources and Duke Energy’s joint project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), is proposed to carry fracked gas 600 miles from West Virginia, through Virginia, into North Carolina. The ACP’s three proposed compressor stations would run engines 24/7 to provide the pressure to push the gas through the pipeline. This permit would allow for huge industrial construction in an otherwise very rural and agricultural community and county. If approval for the construction of these compressor stations is denied, it would severely impact the viability of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project overall.

    Dominion, the project’s lead developer, has already purchased the land for the Buckingham County compressor station from plantation-owner descendants in a largely black historic community called Union Hill. Over the last two years, Buckingham County has received much less media attention than other counties fighting the ACP. When we held a press conference before the public hearing, only one reporter attended from a local newspaper in a neighboring county.

    This is an environmental racism and justice issue at the core. If built, this compressor station would be one of the largest in the country. Surrounding communities would be severely impacted by noise pollution, air pollution, and disruption of the community’s culture. Dominion is doing its best to take advantage of a historically marginalized, low-income, rural and isolated community by locating the compressor station in an area where people are less likely to have the resources to resist. Despite Dominion’s efforts, word is getting out about Buckingham’s fight. Friends and neighbors are rallying to support the effort against the compressor station and pipeline there.

    Members of the Buckingham County Planning Commission look over a packed room of people speaking out against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station.

    Members of the Buckingham County Planning Commission look over a packed room of people speaking out against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station.

    The September public hearing served as an opportunity for those of us working against the pipeline to support Buckingham County residents on the ground. Local folks, neighboring activists and friends flooded the County Administration Building, with almost all attendees wearing “No Compressor Station” stickers to give the planning commission a clear sign of where we stood on the issue.

    Fifty-four people signed up to give public comment, nearly all of them local residents concerned about the potential compressor station. The public comments lasted so long that the planning commission took the rare step of setting up another meeting to hear the rest of the community input. This means that we also delayed the progress of the compressor station a couple more months. The planning commission will hear the rest of the public comments on October 17 and will eventually give a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which will make a final decision on whether or not to allow Dominion the special use permit to build the compressor station.

    Allies from Richmond hold up a supportive message to Buckingham County: Heart of Virginia, we’ve got your back.”

    Allies from Richmond hold up a supportive message to Buckingham County: Heart of Virginia, we’ve got your back.”

    Though a lot of work needs to continue to support and amplify the most marginalized voices in Buckingham County and along the ACP, local residents appreciated the show of support and were invigorated by the strong presence against the compressor station.

    “It was amazingly heartening and inspiring to see all the people that showed up,” said Chad Oba, a local resident and member of Friends of Buckingham. “Every time we come together it gives us all energy to keep the momentum going and it sends a message that we are here and we care about what happens to our air, our water, our homeplaces and all that we hold dear.”

    Consequences and Need for Natural Gas Pipelines Disputed

    Friday, October 7th, 2016 - posted by interns

    By Brian Sewell

    A decision by federal regulators to forgo a comprehensive review of large natural gas pipelines proposed in Appalachia has not diminished opponents’ doubts about the projects, including whether they are needed at all.

    In August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made clear it would not conduct a programmatic environmental impact statement to consider the cumulative impacts of the region’s proposed pipelines, particularly the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite months of requests from landowners and citizen groups.

    Yet a new study published by Synapse Energy Economics does examine the need for the projects — and concluded that there is none. Based on existing capacity and projected electricity demand, minor pipeline upgrades would be sufficient to meet demand through at least 2030, the study found. In April, a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis similarly concluded that the industry tends toward overbuilding, benefitting gas companies and electric utilities but putting ratepayers at risk.

    A draft impact statement for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline will arrive in December, with a final statement expected next June. The final statement for the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline will come in March. Citizen groups argue that the draft review released in September fails to fully assess the public need, and likely impacts to water quality and the climate. The release of the draft on Sept. 16 initiated a 90-day public comment period.

    “FERC once again has its blinders on to the full climate consequences of fracked gas,” says Anne Havemann of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, referring to widespread use of fracking to extract natural gas in Northern Appalachia, where the pipelines would begin. Havemann faults the review for acting as if the gas that would be transported by the pipeline “comes from nowhere.”

    Opponents argue that both projects pose risks to the mountainous terrain, watersheds and ecosystems they would cross, including in the national forests that span Virginia’s border with West Virginia. The U.S. Forest Service detailed its concerns about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route through the George Washington National Forest in a September letter to regulators, warning of threats to wild trout streams.

    In order to protect the silt-free gravel stream beds where trout spawn, the forest plan for the George Washington National Forest restricts activities that could disrupt the streams between Oct. 1 and April 1. But the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition reports that the utility intends to request waivers for time-of-year restrictions and other important environmental requirements.

    Dominion CEO Tom Farrell says the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s scheduled environmental review means that “FERC believes that the route is essentially complete.” But opposition has significantly delayed construction and the project’s expected in-service date.
    Read about Appalachian Voices’ involvement here.

    Standing Against the Mountain Valley Pipeline

    Friday, October 7th, 2016 - posted by interns
    Hundreds  of concerned  Virginians attended  a series of meetings about the proposed pipeline.

    Hundreds of concerned Virginians attended a series of meetings about the proposed pipeline.

    Throughout September, we met with hundreds of concerned residents along the path of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline in places such as Summers and Monroe Counties in West Virginia and Roanoke and Montgomery Counties in Virginia. The pipeline would carry natural gas from fracking operations in West Virginia for 301 miles, crossing through public lands, private properties and more than 1,000 waterways.

    At the meetings, which were held along with the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter and the Protect Our Water Heritage and Rights coalition and their local member organizations, we discussed the pipeline’s timeline and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s permitting process, as well as current and upcoming opportunities for public comment. We also reviewed county-specific threats including water quality, vulnerable karst geology, property rights and community safety.

    In mid-September, federal regulators released the draft environmental impact statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The draft fails to adequately assess the public need for the project — a recent report shows that existing infrastructure could meet demand until 2030. The federal review also discounts the widespread threats to private property, public lands, local communities, water quality and the climate. Read more about the pipelines here.

    “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,” says 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.”

    Public comments on the MVP draft environmental impact statement are due Dec. 22. To submit a comment, visit appvoices.org/fight-mvp

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

    Friday, September 16th, 2016 - posted by cat

    Contact:
    Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-520-2324, jlovett@appalmad.org
    Laurie Ardison, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, 304-646-8339, ikeandash@yahoo.com
    Kirk Bowers, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, 434-296-8673, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org
    Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-2022, kelly@chesapeakeclimate.org
    Lara Mack, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373, lara@appvoices.org

    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.

    Virginians challenge Gov. McAuliffe on energy policy, climate

    Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 - posted by cat

    Grassroots Alliance Calls for a ‘March on the Mansion’ in July to Demand Clean Power

    Contact:
    Kelly Trout, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 240-396-2022, kelly@chesapeakeclimate.org
    Amanda Pohl, Virginia Organizing, 804-337-1912, amanda@virginia-organizing.org
    Cat McCue, Appalachian Voices, 434-293-6373, cat@appvoices.org

    MoM Logo & Date Image for Share

    RICHMOND, Va. – An unprecedented alliance of groups and leaders released an open letter to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe today challenging him to stop supporting fossil fuel projects that worsen climate change and harm communities. The letter calls on the Governor to instead join the fight for “energy justice, democratic renewal, and healthy communities” in Virginia.

    More than 60 groups and leaders from mountain counties to coastal communities to the DC suburbs signed the letter, which sets July 23 as the date for a mass rally at the Governor’s mansion to demand a just transition to clean energy now.

    The alliance outlines how Governor McAuliffe, after running on a platform of clean energy, has yet to act with the urgency the climate crisis demands or protect communities on the front lines of fossil fuel pollution threats. McAuliffe’s support for offshore oil drilling, for example, threatened to expose the state’s coast to an oil spill on the scale of the BP disaster. The Governor’s support for major fracked-gas pipelines would destroy farms, drinking water, and property rights while triggering nearly twice as much greenhouse gas pollution as all of Virginia’s current power plants combined.

    “On the biggest, most polluting issues of our time, the Governor simply has not shown he has heard the voices of affected communities or joined the growing statewide call for justice,” the letter states. “For too long, the powerful few have made energy decisions that adversely affect the vulnerable many. Now the historic moment is before us – and the duty is ours – to change that forever.”

    Speakers released the letter, as well as a website to promote the “March on the Mansion” rally on July 23 in Richmond during a tele-press conference on Wednesday.

    Signers range from faith groups like Virginia Interfaith Power and Light to regional coalitions like the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, and Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) to environmental and justice groups like Appalachian Voices and Virginia Organizing to clean water groups like the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and New River Conservancy to Mothers Out Front in Hampton Roads and the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

    The groups lay out their own vision for energy policy in Virginia that would match the scale of the climate crisis, give local communities a voice, and advance social and environmental justice, calling for “a state where energy development means prosperity and health for everyone, without pain and harm for sacrificed regions, without property rights denied and whole regions left behind.”

    “If our voices have gone unheard from our separate regions of the state, we have a duty to bring those voices together until we are heard,” the groups state. “If the governor has difficulty hearing our specific concerns and our even more specific proposed solutions, we will help him hear them by bringing our voices directly to him.”

    The letter outlines a series of steps Governor McAuliffe can take – wholly within his authority and not dependent on Congress or the Virginia General Assembly – to lead Virginia unequivocally toward a clean energy future.

    These solutions include using state authority to challenge water permits for proposed fracked-gas pipelines under the Clean Water Act, dropping support for offshore drilling, and intervening to protect communities from reckless coal-ash disposal plans. They also include committing to regulations under the federal Clean Power Plan that would put a strong cap on total, aggregate greenhouse gas pollution from Virginia power plants now and into the future.

    RESOURCES:
    Letter released today to Governor McAuliffe
    Details on the July 23rd March on the Mansion rally in Richmond.
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    Recent Studies Question the Economic Benefit of Pipelines

    Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 - posted by interns

    By Elizabeth E. Payne

    New studies raise challenges about the financial harm of two natural gas pipeline projects proposed for West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina — the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

    A study released in May by Key-Log Economics LLC estimated that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would cost local communities more than $8 billion. The study was commissioned by The POWHR Coalition (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights), an alliance of citizen groups from eight Virginia and West Virginia counties along the pipeline’s proposed route.

    The study’s authors calculated one-time and annual costs to the eight-county region from lost property values and taxes, and decreased natural beauty and quality-of-life that would result in fewer people moving to or visiting the area.

    According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the capacity to generate power from natural gas is expanding rapidly, particularly around major shale plays. In the mid-Atlantic, Virginia is projected to have the greatest increase in capacity over the next two years.

    In another study, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis concluded that pipelines from the Marcellus and Utica shale beneath Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — the source for both proposed pipelines — are being overbuilt.

    The study also concludes that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “facilitates [this] overbuilding” and that much of the cost of construction would likely be passed on to ratepayers.

    “None of the economic interests within the natural gas industry have any incentive to seriously consider whether alternatives to natural gas — energy efficiency, renewable energy or other forms of power generation — may be cheaper,” write the authors of the report.

    Environmental advocates and homeowners along the routes continue to voice concerns about the harm the pipelines are likely to cause if constructed. Most recently, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation announced its opposition to the construction of both pipelines, each of which are projected to cross the parkway. And the Board of Supervisors of Augusta County, Va., also asked FERC to reject the current route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

    Fracked-gas Pipelines Would Threaten Homes and Dreams

    Thursday, February 18th, 2016 - posted by interns

    A Tale of Two Families

    By Cat McCue

    Jill Averitt and her dog, Cliff, enjoy a moment outdoors. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cut through her land, along the hillside just beyond the swing set. Photo by Cat McCue

    Jill Averitt and her dog, Cliff, enjoy a moment outdoors. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cut through her land, along the hillside just beyond the swing set. Photo by Cat McCue

    At the top of Sinking Creek Mountain in western Virginia, where Craig, Giles and Montgomery Counties meet, sits a 50-acre parcel of land with views in all directions. To Judy and Steve Hodges, who built their dream home here in 2003, it’s heaven.

    “We’re from the ‘70s. Leftover hippies, that sort of thing,” says Judy. “We love it here. We have lovely neighbors.”

    But to a Pittsburgh-based company, their land is just one of over 1,000 parcels to survey and whose owners have to be dealt with in order to build what would be the largest-diameter natural gas pipeline ever to cross the central Appalachian mountains.

    In June 2014, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, announced plans to run a 301-mile line between West Virginia and Virginia to carry gas from the Marcellus and Utica fracking fields. The project would plow a 125-foot-wide construction zone of clear-cutting and excavation across the two states, and require a permanent 50-foot easement.

    The pipeline would bisect the Hodges’ land and come so close to their house that an explosion could damage or entirely destroy it. “From everything I’ve heard, this is a new animal we’re dealing with, these 42-inch, high-pressure pipelines,” Judy says. “We don’t want it.”

    Same story, different pipeline

    To the east, about 110 miles as the crow flies, live Jill and Richard Averitt, who share a similar story to the Hodges. They found property in rural Nelson County in 2005 and built a home where they are raising two children and plan to grow old. The Averitts had done their research to assess the potential for new highways or other public projects that might disturb their idyllic setting.

    They didn’t consider pipelines.

    In September 2014, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, announced plans for a 564-mile line, also 42 inches in diameter, also originating in West Virginia and slicing through Virginia, but continuing into North Carolina. This pipeline would run so close to the Averitts’ home that should it explode, their house would be damaged or destroyed. It would also cross a separate parcel where the couple is planning a resort complex that could employ up to 150 people.

    Photos by Jill Averitt

    Photo by Jill Averitt

    Prayers Not Pipelines

    Seeking to demonstrate community solidarity against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in fall 2015 Jill Averitt initiated a community art project. White squares of cloth, with colorful, affirming messages written by local residents, line either side of Scenic Route 151 in Nelson County, Va., near the Rockfish Valley Foundation Natural History Center. The display stretches 125 feet on either side of the road — the width of the proposed pipeline.

    “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,” she wrote in an email when the project began.

    At press time, Averitt was continuing to add new flags with messages from the public.

    Photos by Jill Averitt

    Photos by Jill Averitt

    Since that summer, both families have joined other property owners and climate and clean energy activists (including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper) to attend public meetings, research the issue, write letters and make phone calls to company and elected officials, hold rallies and stage press conferences.

    “It’s been all-consuming,” Jill says. “It’s been incredibly stressful.”

    Law against landowners

    For Richard Averitt, the most egregious aspect is the 2004 Virginia law that allows natural gas companies to access private property without the landowner’s permission to conduct surveys, even prior to securing federal approval for a project.

    “The law transgresses on private property for profit,” he says. “It’s inconsistent with American beliefs. It’s inconceivable this is allowed.”

    The Averitts refused to allow pipeline surveyors on their land, and are now being sued by the company, along with about 150 other landowners in Nelson County alone who also refused access to the surveyors. Some landowners, the Averitts included, are fighting back, hiring attorneys to challenge the law’s constitutionality. The cases were unsuccessful in the lower courts and are now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia, says Ben Luckett with the Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a nonprofit organization representing some of the plaintiffs.

    The group also challenged a similar law in West Virginia over the Mountain Valley Pipeline. There, however, the statute requires that such projects are in the “public interest,” and because the pipeline was not providing natural gas to local communities, the landowners won. The company has appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

    Unlike the Averitts, the Hodges did allow surveyors on their land; they were told they would be responsible for court costs if they sued and lost. “So we pretty much caved at that point and let them on the land,” Judy says.

    Several teams of surveyors arrived on different days. One day, the surveyors packed up and left, telling Judy the land was “unbuildable” due to the steep slope, karst geology and multiple sinkholes.

    Yet when Mountain Valley Pipeline filed for its federal permit in October, the proposed route still ran smack through the middle of the Hodges’ land.

    Forest Service Denies Atlantic Coast Pipeline Route

    In January, the U.S. Forest Service announced it had denied a “special use permit” to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, to cross 50 miles of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia and George Washington National Forest in Virginia. The agency declared that the proposed route failed to protect “highly sensitive resources, including Cheat Mountain salamanders, West Virginia northern flying squirrels, Cow Knob salamanders, and red spruce ecosystem restoration areas.” The decision means the company must find an alternate route that does not impact the areas of ecological concern to the forest agency.

    Editor’s note: A new route that cuts through Highland, Bath and Augusta counties was proposed on Feb. 12, 2016. Read the response from environmental groups including Appalachian Voices.

    Re-route of fracked gas pipeline threatens new areas of Va., West Va.

    Friday, February 12th, 2016 - posted by cat

    Contact:
    Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-645-0125
    Hannah Wiegard, Appalachian Voices, hannah@appvoices.org, 804-536-5598
    Drew Gallagher, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, drew@chesapeakeclimate.org
    Kirk Bowers, Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, kirk.bowers@sierraclub.org

    Dominion Energy announced plans today to re-route the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline through Highland, Bath and Augusta counties. The new route comes in response to the United State Forest Service’s decision in January to reject the old route due to the environmental damage it would cause on public lands. (See map here.)

    The new route would cut through Fort Lewis and come close to Warm Springs, home of the historic Homestead Resort. It would also still slice a large and permanent clear-cut through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests.

    The entire project would run over 550 miles to carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, through Virginia and North Carolina. It would be larger in diameter than the Keystone XL, and cut large and permanent clear-cut throughout the entire length of the pipeline.

    “This new route would still cause dramatic forest fragmentation through some of the most high-quality forest habitat in our region,” said Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

    The new route would impact about 249 new landowners in Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia, and in Highland, Bath and Augusta counties in Virginia. Appalachian Mountain Advocates has been representing landowners in both states pro bono in their efforts to bar Dominion’s surveyors from their private property. “We’re disappointed Dominion would threaten a whole new set of Virginians and West Virginians when the pipeline is not even necessary to meet our energy needs,” Luckett said.

    “Whatever the route, this proposed pipeline would lock us into decades more of dirty fossil fuels and block us from fully shifting to clean energy. Whether you’re in the path of this destructive project or not, we will all be negatively affected, and should take every opportunity to voice our concerns,” said Hannah Wiegard, Virginia Campaign Coordinator for Appalachian Voices.

    And at a cost of more than $5 billion, the ACP represents a major investment in an outdated fossil fuel. Many climate scientists believe that natural gas causes even more damage to the climate than coal. Ratepayers would be saddled with paying for the pipeline for decades, rather than investing those same funds in developing affordable clean energy.

    Conservation groups remain highly concerned about the impacts of building this or any gas pipeline. The groups have called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the entire slate of natural gas projects proposed for the region.

    “While we’re pleased Dominion has chosen not to ram this pipeline through sensitive habitat areas, it remains a wrecking ball for our climate. There’s only one sure way that Dominion can help protect a livable future for vulnerable species and all Virginians: by investing in truly clean energy solutions, not a dirty and dangerous pipeline. Reliance on fracked gas wrecks our climate on par with burning coal. When Hampton Roads residents face rapid sea level rise and Richmond ranks among the top asthma capitals in the U.S., we need to invest 100% in solar, wind and energy efficiency solutions, not new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Drew Gallagher, Field Organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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