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Roanoke Times Op-Ed: Governor’s Role in Pipeline Review

David Sligh says Virginia’s governor can and must protect us from bad pipeline projects

From the Opinion-Editorial by David Sligh, Roanoke Times, February 23, 2017

David Sligh is conservation director for Wild Virginia, an investigator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, an environmental attorney, and a former senior engineer at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. He lives in Charlottesville.

Contrary to assertions in a February 13th Roanoke Times editorial (“Showmanship”), Virginia’s governor will play a decisive role in determining whether major interstate natural gas pipelines can be built across our state. To play that role correctly, the governor must do two things: make certain the regulatory process for state environmental review is complete and open to the public and empower environmental regulators to reject the projects unless they can ensure full protection of Virginia’s waters. The evidence currently in the public record makes approval impossible for both pipelines.

An overriding problem with the Times’ editorial is the assertion that “[t]he agency that will determine whether the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline go forward is a federal one, not a state one.” This claim, in that it denies Virginia’s authority to reject these pipelines and the governor’s legitimate role, is patently false. Congress explicitly reserved states’ authorities to veto federally-permitted projects, to protect state waters. That authority comes from section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which empowers states to grant or deny a “water quality certification” and forbids federal approval without that certification.

The editorial implied that “environmentalists” are naive or ignorant in being “convinced an anti-pipeline governor could still thwart the pipelines by directing the Department of Environmental Quality to withhold certain permits by find[sic] the pipelines violate the Clean Water Act.” I am neither naive nor ignorant about these matters, having worked on them for more than 30 years, as a VA-DEQ regulator and an attorney working with citizens in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

I do not expect and would never propose that a governor “direct” the VA-DEQ to do anything that’s not supported by science and law but the governor cannot be divorced from the regulatory process. The governor leads the executive branch and is responsible for the soundness of state agency decisions.

The Times’ editorial implied that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo improperly ordered environmental regulators to reject a 401 certification for a pipeline. The evidence does not support that implication nor are pipeline company claims that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” supportable.

In reviewing the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision denying 401 approval for the Constitution pipeline, one finds that the agency cited many areas where the applicant failed or refused to provide the necessary data and analyses or prove water quality standards would be upheld. Many other cases exist where states rejected 401 certifications, for a wide variety of federally-licensed projects. One example pertinent here is Connecticut’s denial of a 401 certification for the Islander East Pipeline, which the federal appeals court upheld.

It is important to note that many of the deficiencies in information and water quality problems cited by the New York DEC apply for both the ACP and MVP. The Virginia DEQ’s own comments on the draft environmental impact statement for the MVP contain dozens of areas in which the company has failed to provide necessary data and where valid impact analyses are missing. Likewise, the U.S. EPA, the Forest Service, and citizens have identified a large body of missing or inaccurate information for MVP.

Citizens have, for many months, sought assurances from Governor Terry McAuliffe and his top officials that the state would conduct a full and open regulatory review for each of these pipelines. We have yet to obtain those assurances. The state must conduct individual section 401 reviews, with public involvement, for each pipeline but VA-DEQ staff indicated this may not happen.

Instead, agency employees said these pipelines might be covered under blanket approvals issued for a category of small projects with minimal impacts. Such an approach would be illegal and we will not accept it. Neither should the governor. VA-DEQ’s requests for sufficient information and adequate protections for MVP cannot remain mere suggestions or requests for proper regulation by FERC. They must become legal mandates from the VA-DEQ.

I again call on Governor McAuliffe to commit to full, public reviews for both ACP and MVP. I make the same call to all those asking to be Virginia’s next governor, because the timeline for decision may well extend into the next administration. I urge all other public officials, all concerned citizens, and The Roanoke Times editorial board to join in this call. I thank Tom Perriello for supporting a fair and open process and for recognizing the enormous harms these pipelines would impose on Virginia’s environment and its people.

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Rover Pipeline Claims Eminent Domain in WV, PA, & OH

by Duane Nichols on February 25, 2017

Eminent Domain Claims Filed for Rover Pipeline in West Virginia

From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, February 23, 2017

WHEELING –As a 29-year U.S. Army soldier and former West Virginia State Police trooper, Larry Helmick said he is no stranger to the federal courthouse in Wheeling, where he and dozens of other property owners face a sweeping eminent domain lawsuit from the company building the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline.

“I have testified in that courtroom to put drug dealers in jail,” Helmick said regarding his work as a trooper in Wetzel County. “Now, I’m going to be there facing them taking my property.”

In both Ohio and West Virginia, the company building the giant natural gas pipeline is filing to use eminent domain to build the pipeline, which will be up to 42 inches in diameter on its route stretching from Doddridge County, WV to Michigan. Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted approval for the project, which will be able to ship up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

The Rover is one of several interstate pipelines — along with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Leach XPress and the Nexus Pipeline — that industry leaders believe are necessary to move natural gas to market.

Helmick, a Sistersville-area resident, is one of numerous West Virginia landowners facing an eminent domain lawsuit in federal court, as Rover’s complaint shows the company is suing such entities and individuals as Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher, Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil, the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, Southwestern Energy Co., Statoil, Consol Energy and American Electric Power.
The company filed a similar federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Ohio, as the pipeline system runs through portions of Belmont, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson counties. There are so many defendants in Ohio that the first 258 pages of the complaint are devoted to identifying them.

“Rover has not been able to acquire by contract and/or is unable to agree as to the amount of compensation to be paid for the easements …” the company’s West Virginia complaint states.

Helmick said the company offered him $24,000 to cross his property, on which he said he has two houses respectively valued at $300,000 and $150,000. He did not believe the $24,000 was close to a fair price for all the disruption the work will bring for his family.

“It will decrease the value of our property. They are going to be here all the time, disrupting our lives,” Helmick said. “Their temporary construction zone is within 21 feet of our house. We are getting railroaded.

“It’s not right,” Helmick added. “We work. We pay our taxes. We do everything we are supposed to do. And then, to have them come in and just so nonchalantly say, ‘We don’t care what we do to you and your family,’ is really frustrating.”

Rover spokeswoman Alexis Daniel said the company does not discuss the details or financial terms of its negotiations with landowners, but said the firm seeks cooperation.
“It is only when that is not possible that we look to legal options. As a company, we have a more-than-90-percent success rate in negotiating voluntary easement agreements across all our projects,” she said.

Helmick said his opposition to the Rover Pipeline using his property does not mean he is against fossil fuel development.

“I support natural gas. I support workers. I support America,” he said. “Why can they not figure out a better way to do this than to just run over people?”

Helmick said the project plans will make it impossible for him to use a pond where he and his family have held parties. He said the completed pipeline will be about 120 feet from one of the homes on his property and about 240 feet from the other.

Helmick lives in one of the homes with his wife, while his sister’s family lives in the other, he said.

The complaint further states Rover needs to remove all trees in the pipeline’s path by March 31: “To meet all of its shippers’ needs and those of its shippers’ customers, while at the same time complying with applicable regulations and Rover’s obligations as set forth in the (FERC) certificate, Rover must begin construction immediately.”

Rover attorneys state they have the authority to “condemn” the property in question because of the Natural Gas Act. According to the Department of Energy, the act, established in 1938, gives FERC the authority to regulate the natural gas industry.
“Transportation of natural gas and the sale thereof in interstate and foreign commerce is necessary in the public interest,” the act states.

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See Also: Article by Gideon Bradshaw in the Washington PA Observer-Reporter entitled “Rover seeks eminent domain for pipeline project in Washington County”
By Gideon Bradshaw

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LA Airport Police Arrest ‘Frack Master’ from Dallas, TX

February 24, 2017

Dallas ‘Frack Master’ arrested by Los Angeles Airport police From an Article by Jeff Mosier, Dallas News, February 23, 2017 Dallas oil executive Christopher Faulkner, the self-titled “frack master” who federal authorities said ran an $80 million scam, was arrested Sunday in the Los Angeles area. Faulkner, 40, was taken into custody at 5:30 p.m. [...]

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Thousands of Known Spills at Fracking Sites, But How Many Unknown?

February 23, 2017

Fracking Caused 6,648 Spills in Four States Alone, Duke Study Finds From an Article by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch.com, February 21, 2017 Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has long been tied to environmental risks such as spills. The frequency of spills, however, has long been murky since states do not release standardized data. Estimates from the U.S. [...]

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Cracker Plants and Plastics Production Raises Public Health Issues

February 22, 2017

Chemical Plant Boom Spurred by Fracking Will Bring Smog, Plastic Glut and Risks to Workers’ Health From an Article by Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog News, 2/14/2017 On the heels of the shale gas rush that’s swept the U.S. for the past decade, another wave of fossil fuel-based projects is coming — a plastic and petrochemical manufacturing rush [...]

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Small Fracking Earthquakes in Western Pennsylvania Confirmed

February 21, 2017

Fracking caused small earthquakes in western Pennsylvania, PA-DEP confirms From an Article by Dennis Owens, ABC News (WHTM – Harrisburg), February 17, 2017 The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made a big announcement Friday via an online webinar. “The Lawrence County event is properly classified as an induced tectonic seismic event,” droned an unseen scientist. [...]

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Let’s Look for Wisdom on Presidents’ Day (and everyday)

February 20, 2017

George Washington Quotes For Presidents Day This Holiday Was Originally In Honor Of Washington’s Birthday Nearly two and a half centuries ago, George Washington became the first President of the United States. To help commemorate the man behind the chopping of the cherry tree, I’ve collected 13 of the best George Washington quotes for Presidents [...]

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Pipelines Issues with ACP & MVP in our National Forests

February 19, 2017

Atlantic Coast Pipeline — Action to Support our National Forest We need your help to protect one of the wildest, most intact forests in the East. Dominion’s proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross 21 miles of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. Ask the Forest Service to reject Dominion’s efforts to shortcut the [...]

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Letter of Concern to WV-DEP and the WV Governor

February 18, 2017

Open Letter to Gov. Jim Justice and DEP Sec. Austin Caperton TO: Jim Justice & Austin Caperton. From: Tom Bond, Lewis County   How is the air down there in Charleston?  Still clean?  Do you plan to move out into the country near some of the new Marcellus drilling industry?  Maybe near a compressor station [...]

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Attention Citizens: Scott Pruitt Required to Release Emails

February 17, 2017

Senate Confirms Scott Pruitt to Head Environmental Protection Agency 52 – 46 From an Article by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News, February 17, 2017 The U.S. Senate Friday confirmed Oklahoma attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA in a party-line 52-46 vote. Democrats did all they could to delay the final vote, holding another [...]

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