Andrew Downs, Appalachian Trail Conservancy

MVP siting process has ignored our trails, scenic views and public attitudes

Commentary by Andrew Downs, Virginia Regional Director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Roanoke Times, May 22, 2017

In less than seven weeks, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could give the nod to questionable plans Mountain Valley Pipeline has proposed. These plans have been rolled out in a way that prevents the public from adequately understanding the effect of major infrastructure on local communities and the world-famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Like all pipeline proposals that traverse more than one state, Mountain Valley Pipeline is required to present a plan to FERC for public review and comment. FERC’s responsibility, in turn, is to evaluate the plan on need, safety considerations, community and environmental impacts, and other factors. FERC is also charged with addressing public concerns.

From the outset, when the company laid out plans to transport natural gas for more than 300 miles through Virginia and West Virginia, the problems with the routing were apparent and grievous because of inaccurate and incomplete information. What the company has since added to their plans is downright disrespectful to the legally-required public engagement and review process.

Therein lies the rub. Since September 2016, when MVP published its draft plan for a 90-day public review (which closed December 22) the company has added nearly 16,000 pages of additional information to their proposal. Sixteen thousand pages.

What all that added information means to the pipeline proposal is a mystery. The added information has not been entered in context, and there is little reference to what it all means. FERC can and should require the pipeline company to go back, sort out and integrate – not simply append – all the information it has added. That is essential to ensure good decisions and make certain that routing does not gravely damage private and public lands. Clear and accessible information about the impacts of this project is our public right.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy strongly objects to MVP’s proposed route. The ATC’s mission is to ensure the Appalachian Trail and the scenic landscape that surrounds it is preserved and protected for generations to come. More than one-third of all Americans are within a day’s drive of the magnificent Appalachian range which draws all types of visitors – picnickers, campers, hunters and hikers – and contributes to the economic health of local rural communities such as Pearisburg and Narrows, as well as larger communities such as Roanoke and Blacksburg. As the Roanoke Valley has demonstrated, the outdoor-recreation assets of the region are a huge draw for new corporations and important to us.

The ATC finds that MVP’s proposed routing could not be worse. The route snakes through the Appalachians requiring thousands of acres of forest to be cleared and creating gashes the width of a 12-lane highway. The resulting eyesores would be devastating to the trail and surrounding landscape, and would be seen from as far as 20 miles away.

In 2015 the ATC spent considerable time outlining reasonable and workable criteria for energy companies to consider when locating proposed natural gas projects in the Appalachians. The MVP proposal seems to have not considered any of these guidelines.

In addition to the permanent damage to our views of the mountains and our recreation experiences, routing for the MVP crosses numerous waterways. An active seismic zone increases the possibility of natural gas leaks and contaminated groundwater. Proposed routing across steep mountainsides sets ups the certainty of landslides. Furthermore, routing requires the Forest Service to drastically alter a management plan supported by the public.

Thousands of people and communities such as Giles, Montgomery, Craig and Roanoke counties have expressed their serious concerns and objections to the proposed MVP. The ATC, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, and many other stakeholders provided input on how the project could be adjusted to avoid unnecessary environmental hazards and unsightly alterations to Appalachian vistas — including building the pipeline alongside existing roads, highways and power lines. Unfortunately, advice from the ATC and many other stakeholders was ignored.

In light of this deeply insufficient process, no one individual nor entity – including FERC – could make a well-informed decision on this proposed pipeline. FERC has a responsibility to see that the public has access to information and that the process is sufficient.

The ATC invites your participation in requesting that FERC requires MVP submit a new document, a supplemental environmental impact statement, which puts more than 16,000 pages of information in context. When that new plan is submitted, we hope the company presents a plan that balances energy infrastructure needs with our mountain heritage, the preservation of our communities and the Appalachian Trail.

For more information about the MVP and the harmful effects to the Appalachian Trail, visit appalachiantrail.org/MVP.

{ 0 comments }

McAuliffe: Virginia will regulate carbon emissions; ‘the threat of climate change is real’

From an Article by Robert Zullo, Richmond Times – Dispatch, May 16, 2017

Gov. Terry McAuliffe today directed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to begin assembling regulations to reduce carbon emissions from Virginia power plants, a move that was celebrated by environmentalists and renewable energy businesses who see the state as a laggard when it comes to solar and wind capacity and energy-efficiency programs.

Virginia Republicans, however, condemned the Democratic governor’s carbon directive as overreach that would raise electric prices and hamper economic growth.

“The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it. Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the commonwealth’s power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs,” the governor said in a statement. “As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void. Beginning today, Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon and lean in on the clean-energy future.”

Though it does not lay out the 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 that environmental groups wanted, McAuliffe’s executive directive instructs the DEQ to develop a proposed regulation for the State Air Pollution Control Board to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide from power plants that will “allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state trading program.” The proposed regulation is due to be presented to the board by Dec. 31, just before McAuliffe leaves office.

Last summer, McAuliffe convened by executive order a working group consisting of cabinet officials and leaders of the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department Mines, Minerals and Energy to develop recommendations on cutting carbon from power plants. The market-based carbon trading aspect was a key component of the group’s report, which was sent to the governor last week.

Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility, has recently pointed to its own emission reductions, a push toward developing new solar installations and acceptance of carbon regulation as “settled public policy.”

“Dominion has been preparing for carbon regulation for some time now and appreciates being a part of the stakeholder engagement process,” spokesman David Botkins said, adding that the company’s two new gas-fired power plants in Brunswick and Greensville counties are subject to some of the strictest carbon-dioxide limits “on record.”

Environmental groups, who were some of the largest contributors to his 2013 campaign, hailed McAuliffe’s move as strong climate leadership in the face of a March executive order by President Donald Trump aimed at unwinding the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature regulation aimed at cutting emissions from power plants. Trump’s order was seen as a death blow for the plan, which has been stalled in federal courts.

“This bold action demonstrates that when Washington fumbles and falls, with the right leadership, the states can lead,” said attorney Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville. “Hopefully Gov. McAuliffe’s actions today will inspire policymakers in other states to follow a similar course.”

The Virginia Conservation Network, a consortium of more than 100 environmental groups that includes the law center as well as the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices, called McAuliffe’s directive “the largest step taken in the United States to tackle climate change since President Trump took office.”

“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, especially when it comes to its devastating impacts on Virginia’s most vulnerable communities,” said Mary Rafferty, the network’s executive director. “It is imperative that every level of government steps up to be a part of the solution.”

The Republican Party of Virginia, however, was less impressed. “Governor McAuliffe’s executive order is the worst kind of virtue signaling,” spokesman David D’Onofrio said. He criticized Obama’s Clean Power Plan as an expensive and ineffectual measure that he said would have reduced global temperatures by .015 degrees while increasing electricity costs by billions.

“If reducing emissions for the entire country gets .015 degrees, how much less would a Virginia-only plan do? D’Onofrio said. “Meanwhile the free market has led to significant year-over-year reduction in CO2 emissions in the U.S. Terry McAuliffe’s decision to ”resist’ common-sense environmental policy will drive up prices for consumers, cost Virginians jobs and make it even more difficult to grow our economy.”

Environmentalists argued that the final Clean Power Plan rule was too soft on Virginia and that opponents greatly overstated the cost of compliance. Dominion itself filed a legal brief in support of the plan, saying that “effects on power plants and customers can be successfully managed” provided that the rule allows market-based compliance measures, such as emissions trading, and allowed states to create flexible timelines.

“The rule is compatible with long-term industry trends influenced by market conditions and prior environmental regulations,” the company wrote.

Channing Martin, chairman of law firm Williams Mullen’s environmental and natural resources section, called the directive an aggressive move for the final year of McAuliffe’s term. “They’re going to have to get cracking to get that thing done,” he said. “It will be a significant rulemaking and it is no question going to be challenged at every opportunity.”

And though Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion last week that the air board can regulate carbon under its existing authority, Martin predicts that the issue will surface again.

“The question will be does the board on its own have the ability to promulgate these regulations or does the General Assembly have to pass legislation to authorize it?” he said. “There’s going to be many parties participating in it and it’s going to result in litigation. If any regulations get enacted it will be after the governor leaves office.”

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, who is retiring, said McAuliffe’s directive is “a broad assertion of regulatory authority, Washington-esque in both its nature and scope” that ignores the legislative process.

{ 0 comments }

Wind Energy is Significant and of Growing Importance

May 21, 2017

Wind energy for America in Rational and Recommended Essay by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV Wind energy is growing rapidly in many parts of America. It is the least incentivized form of energy, less than 3% of all federal energy incentives, but it is growing by leaps and bounds. A new turbine [...]

Read the full article →

US Industry Seeks Faster Permits, Simpler Rules

May 20, 2017

US Industry Seeks Faster Permits, Simpler Rules From an Article by Reuters News Service, May 18, 2017 U.S. industry groups have told President Donald Trump’s administration that they want two main things from his promised regulatory overhaul: a speedier permit process and simpler environmental rules. Associations representing the drilling, refining, mining, and building industries have [...]

Read the full article →

U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank to Stop Financing Pipeline Construction

May 19, 2017

U.S. Bank Becomes First Major Bank to Stop Financing Pipeline Construction From an Article by EcoWatch.com, May 17, 2017 U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual [...]

Read the full article →

The Oceans are Clogging With Billions of Plastic Bits — Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific, etc.

May 18, 2017

Pollution is now as dense in the northernmost ocean as it is in the Atlantic and Pacific. From an Article by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic Monthly, April 20, 2017 The Arctic Ocean is small, shallow, and—most importantly—shrouded. Unlike the other large oceans of the world, it is closely hemmed in by Asia, Europe, and North [...]

Read the full article →

We have Less than 100 Years of Civilization Remaining, Then What?

May 17, 2017

Humanity has 100 years to save itself from doom, says Stephen Hawking From an Article by Mike Wehner, BGR Blog, New York Post, May 5, 2017 While much of humanity concerns itself with saving the planet from the ravages mankind has inflicted upon it, one of the world’s brightest minds is already warning that we [...]

Read the full article →

Schedule for Environmental Review of Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)

May 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC​Docket Nos. CP15-554-000 & CP15-554-001 Dominion Transmission, Inc. ​Docket No. CP15-555-000 NOTICE OF REVISED SCHEDULE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW OF THE ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE AND SUPPLY HEADER PROJECT (May 12, 2017) ​This notice identifies the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff’s revised schedule for the completion [...]

Read the full article →

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at United Nations Must be Funded

May 15, 2017

Climate negotiators rally to protect IPCC science funding From an Article by Karl Mathiesen in Bonn, Climate Change News, May 12, 2017 National delegates in Bonn rejected a proposal by UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to stop funding science reports from its core budget Indignant countries at climate talks in Bonn have demanded that [...]

Read the full article →

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in a Nutshell (WV, VA, NC)

May 14, 2017

The Existing Natural Gas Pipeline Infrastructure in Virginia is Adequate Guest Column by Thomas Hadwin, Augusta County Alliance (VA), February 2017 Dominion and its partners in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) have made what appears on the surface to be an enticing proposal. They have said that we need a greater supply of natural gas [...]

Read the full article →