ACP Foes, Supporters Contend in ACP Environmental Hearing

After issuing a water-quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline last week, the State Water Control Board held a public hearing today to consider a comparable certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Public comment this morning tended to focus on the question of whether new Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) rules designed to cover pipeline construction in mountainous “uplands” are up to the task of protecting water quality.

Two hundred or more pipeline foes packed the Trinity Family Life Center in Henrico County to voice their support of speakers critical of the proposed 605-mile natural gas pipeline, mainly on the grounds that it will threaten water quality in mountainous western Virginia communities. But many of the speakers, including state legislators, retired employees of Dominion Energy (managing partner of the pipeline), and others expressed support for the project which they said will promote economic development in eastern Virginia.

Even with speakers limited to three minutes at the podium, the hearing was expected to last into the evening, and the water board was not expected to vote until tomorrow.

Opponents hammered home the argument that DEQ’s regulations were inadequate to protect water quality in steep mountainous terrain with landslide-prone slopes and complex karst geology with sinkholes and underground rivers. In particular, they charged, the Board relied upon ACP erosion-control plans that have not been seen yet to prevent sediment from fouling streams and underground drinking water.

A major sub-theme of those hostile to the pipeline was distrust of the regulatory process, which, given the approval of the MVP project last week, showed every sign of going against the pipeline foes. Typical was Cabell Smith, a Nelson County resident, who said that the regulations provided “no assurance” that water quality standards will be maintained under a “corrupt corporate and political system.”

Some insisted that democracy itself was under assault. Richard Averett, a landowner in the path of the ACP, called the pipeline an “unprecedented threat to eminent domain” and a “threat to democracy.” The pipeline, he said, will scuttle his plans to build a five-star boutique resort in the Rockfish Valley. In an impassioned speech that brought pipeline foes to their feet, he faulted “a corrupt governor more interested in mining the pockets of his pals and future donors than protecting the rights of citizens.”

DEQ devised the certification for upland water quality out of a concern that the existing regulatory framework did not address the unique problems encountered along the proposed pipeline route, said Melanie Davenport, DEQ’s water permitting division director. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates wetlands and streams, while a different set of regulations governs erosion & sediment controls. The 401 water quality certification, she said, fills the gaps.

DEQ acknowledges that the digging of trenches and laying of pipeline on steep, erosion-prone slopes can create problems that pipeline construction does not pose in flatland and hill country. Sediment-generating erosion is particularly problematic in karst terrain when underground water flows are out-of-sight and difficult to track. Therefore, said Davenport, the commonwealth decided to add an additional certification.

According to Davenport, conditions attached to the ACP water-quality certificate provide, among other features:

  • A prohibition against the removal of riparian buffers within 50 feet of surface waters.
  • A narrower construction right of way, 75 feet instead of 125 feet, as pipeline construction nears water and stream crossings.
  • Additional protections to accommodate karst terrain, including the use of dye-tracing studies to update karst maps.
  • Tougher conditions on the withdrawal of surface waters.
  • Tougher conditions on the release of water used in hydrostatic tests (conducted to measure the integrity of pipeline joints and seams).
  • Implementation of water quality monitoring plans to track erosion during and after construction.
  • Spill-prevention plans

A point made repeatedly by pro-pipeline speakers is that the DEQ regulations provide “added layers of protection” to water quality.

Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, Del. Roxanne Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Ashland, all spoke in favor of certifying the pipeline. Wagner said that added gas-transportation capacity is especially critical for economic growth in Hampton Roads, where some 100 large customers were called upon to curtail their natural gas consumption during the intense cold of the polar vortex a few years ago. The tight gas supply will make it difficult to recruit any energy-intensive industry to the region, he said.

“There is not enough upstream capacity today to serve existing customers and new customers,” confirmed Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas, which serves Hampton Roads. Other than the ACP, he said, “We’re out of options for South Hampton Roads.”

“Our city and region need the supply of natural gas from the pipeline,” said Edwin C. Daly, assistant city manager of the city of Emporia in Southside.

Technology has advanced to the point where the ACP will be “the safest pipeline ever built,” said Paul McCormick with the International Union of Operating Engineers.

While a handful of critics disputed the positive economic impact of the pipeline, most pipeline foes focused on the negative impact on water quality.

Tina Smusz, representing the Virginia chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, called DEQ’s regulatory approach a “flawed framework” that ignores the impact of water-born toxins that could pose “grave health threats.” Toxins buried in sediments along stream banks could be exposed by erosion and make their way into local water supplies, she said. DEQ should get predictive data on toxin release before granting certification, she said. While DEQ proposes to monitor water quality and execute contingency plans should problems arise, that’s an inadequate after-the-fact solution, she added.

Other speakers voiced dissatisfaction with after-the-fact remedies. “Mitigation does not guarantee preservation of water quality,” said Georgia Anne Stinnet, of Buckingham County.

“When I apply for a [building] permit for my house, I don’t get to say, I’ll provide the data later,” said Joseph Abbate, representing Yogaville in Buckingham County.

Bill Wilson, president of the Jackson River Preservation Association, said inhabitants of the Allegheny highlands have endured some horrendous floods. “We know a pipeline cannot withstand such powerful flooding,” he said, adding that DEQ should take the past 50 years of flood data to analyze how it would impact the pipeline before granting a certificate.

Most speakers against the pipeline were measured in tone. But at times, emotions ran high.

“Hellfire and damnation!” shouted Jeffrey Poe, an Augusta County native, who said he drinks water from a 50-feet-deep well dug by his grandfather.

“It’s a matter of trust,” declared Irene Leech, leader of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Counsel, whose family’s 1,000-acre farm in Buckingham County will be bisected by the ACP. “I just don’t trust that this company will do the right thing!”

Laura Cross, a 22-year-old woman who said she had worked against the ACP project for three years, decried the routing of the pipeline through a community of descendants of African-American freedmen as the “exploitation of indigenous people.” Also, she said Virginians “are living in the middle of mass environmental destruction!”

Her companion, a young man adorned with an Arab-style head cloth, stirred the audience to applause by addressing the water board directly: “I see through all of this. I see through your suits. You are bored. You are so afraid. You are so scared of a single moment of truth. … This world is dying, you must know that. Our rivers, our land, our people, our climate — it’s all dying. If you can’t face that, perhaps something is dying in you.”

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30 responses to “ACP Foes, Supporters Contend in ACP Environmental Hearing

  1. These lines from Frank Wagner’s VPAP campaign contribution profile tell you all you need to know about his credibility as one of Dominion’s chief water carriers.
    Amount Industry
    $178,941 Electric Utilities
    $82,499 Natural Gas

  2. Virginia needs that pipeline built. Hope Steve Moret heard “Our city and region need the supply of natural gas from the pipeline,” said Edwin C. Daly, assistant city manager of the city of Emporia in Southside, and his team is working on ways the take advantage of it for people like those of Emporia.

    • Really? 6,000 people live in Emporia. 25.2% of Emporia’s population is under the age of 18 while 20.6% are 65 years of age or older. We’re down to about 3,600 working age people. Let’s assume the pipeline is built and Emporia now has access to the gas. Now what?

      Dominion has never made a cogent economic argument for the gas pipeline regarding benefits in Virginia. Dominion has access to so much natural gas they want to reopen Cove Point (aka the Chesapeake Bay Gas Docks) so they liquefy the gas and ship it elsewhere. Cove Point is an interesting reminder of the accuracy of energy and power company predictions. It was originally built to offload natural gas for shipment into the United States because we we dying from a lack of natural gas.

      I also find it interesting that Virginia’s state legislators who were so supportive of ACP suddenly change their minds when feeder gas lines are proposed in their districts. http://bit.ly/2jSXlJ8

      Wasn’t Sen. Lionell Spruill (mentioned in the article as opposing the feeder line) a staunch supporter of the ACP? Of course I can understand why Spruill is angry. He’s only gotten $1,000 of the million dollars Virginia Natural Gas has donated to Va state politicians over the years. Dominion has donated almost $37,000 to Spruill over the years so I guess they’ve paid their bar tab.

      • What I wrote regarding Moret was I hoped “his team is working on ways the take advantage of it for people like those of Emporia.” What is wrong with that? And what is wrong with exporting gas?

        • There’s nothing wrong with what you wrote. My issue is what the assistant city manager thinks he might do if he could just tap into an industrial quantity of natural gas. Build a refinery? Smelt aluminum? Start a fertilizer factory using the hydrogen produced from natural gas?

          I hear Virginia politicians make wild claims about how some technology or another is going to be a huge boon for their towns, cities and counties. I’d say that about half the statements are somewhere between naive and flat out wrong. So, when I hear Virginia’s Dominion-funded politicians claiming that access to natural gas from a new pipeline will generate a great deal of economic development I am immediately suspicious.

          As for exportation of gas – there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the use of eminent domain in Virginia to enrich the shareholders of Dominion should be held to a higher bar than the use of eminent domain to enrich Virginia’s citizens.

          Virginia is a crony capitalist’s paradise. Dominion is allowed to absolutely stuff money into the pockets of our politicians. Our politicians hand out company specific and industry specific tax breaks like some meth addled Santa Claus. These tax breaks cost the state $12.5B per year, never expire and are never reviewed for effectiveness.

          Nobody in Virginia should trust any Virginia politician when it comes to Dominion.

  3. Pipelines are hardly new technology, and already crisscross the nation and the world, with plenty of water crossings. Building across mountain chains is more challenging than building across the flat, but the builders have every incentive to do it right. Transporting gas or oil by pipeline is substantially safer than moving the same quantities by road or rail. You want zero risk? Not happening. But the risk is very low. I fully understand people losing property to the project are angry and don’t feel fully compensated.

    But much of the objection is really an effort to prevent any additional use of natural gas as a fuel, to limit the supply by preventing that transportation. Absent these pipelines the fuel will be used by somebody else somewhere, and if the sky is going to fall as a result, fall it still will. It doesn’t matter where the CO2 enters the atmosphere.

    It just amuses the hell out of me that so many in SW VA who are so desperate to heat up that region’s economy don’t see the opportunity that might come with the fresh supply of a popular industrial fuel.

    And TomH has raised my consciousness on the potential problem if the ACP is allowed to pass on to electricity ratepayers inflated costs from an incestuous “sweetheart deal” with the related utility. The price we as ratepayers pay for that gas should be a market price – for the commodity and the transportation charge. (I wouldn’t mind paying slightly more if I knew it represented more compensation for the displaced landowners.)

    • I agree with the sentiment. Basically too much prior focus on coal left the USA with inadequate natural gas pipeline capacity. Nonetheless I realize it may be hard to get approvals for new pipelines for various reasons including politics.

      • P.S.- Yes we demand zero risk and zero pollution. If I get a chance I will do an article contribution about risk communication. Basically the smaller the risk, the more outraged we get about being forced to accept a risk that we do not wish to accept. So we demand less than zero risk, and that means even a perceived risk is unacceptable.

        • TBILL – there are some who are on the extreme end of the “no pollution, let’s all go live “natural” in caves, etc, but most folks want homes with electricity and heat – they just want it done as efficiently and least pollution as possible… and they don’t want pipelines going up and down mountain-sides unless there is a true legitimate need that does justify the risk – and some folks don’t consider for-profit ventures the same as true public necessity in terms of risk.

          Having said that -as Steve pointed out… pipelines are better at moving fuel than tanker trunks on highways.

          However – you don’t need a pipeline to the east coast to produce electricity either.

      • TBill,

        We are not short of pipeline capacity in the U.S. In the last ten years we have added 121 Bcf/d of capacity to the national gas transmission system. The average gas usage in the U.S. was 75 Bcf/d in 2016, with a peak usage of 93 Bcf/d in January 2017. More than 25 new pipelines are expected to come into service in the next year or two.

        Existing pipelines that serve Virginia and the Carolinas are adding four times the capacity of the ACP.

        The “we don’t have enough pipeline capacity” is a myth created by an effective PR campaign. It has never been examined by a regulator yet, in the current permitting process.

      • Exports of gas are absolutely critical to national security, and gas is essential to reliability of growth of green power. It is big mistake not to build this new pipeline, and let Virginia reap the rewards, instead of others. Virginia needs this pipeline.

        • Reed,

          It has been ACP’s public position since it was announced that it would not be used to export gas.

          This was not widely believed each time it was announced. It appears even less likely now that Dominion has posted powerpoint presentations that show the possible connection of the ACP with Dominion’s gas network in South Carolina that also show a possible link to the Elba Island LNG facility.

          South Carolina and Elba Island are already being adequately served by the Transco pipeline at a much lower price than could the ACP.

          I would like to better understand why you say that exporting gas is critical to national security. It seems to me that having an abundant supply of reasonably-priced gas would be the best for our economic and strategic security. Exporting gas will only increase its domestic price much faster. That has happened in each country that has aggressively exported its gas.

          Exports will also more rapidly deplete our reserves. Shale gas wells typically reach peak production and begin to decline within 3-5 years instead of the several decades it takes conventional wells to decline.

          I don’t understand how Virginia would reap the rewards from using a new pipeline (the ACP) that is several times more expensive than using cheaper existing pipelines that can carry more capacity. The ACP will increase our energy costs in Virginia.

          Russia has by far the largest reserves of natural gas. Trying to play geopolitics with them when they have pipeline connections to Europe and we have to add $4-$5 /mcf to liquify and transport our gas to Europe makes it a difficult game for us to win.

          Gas is helpful but not essential for the development of renewables. The more expensive gas becomes, the quicker gas-fired peakers will be displaced by batteries or other forms of storage. In this high gas-cost scenario, the gas-fired plants would be used only in periods of prolonged bad weather.

          We have four times the capacity being added to existing pipelines as might be provided by the ACP. Anything that you mention can be accomplished in Virginia without building a new pipeline, at a much lower cost.

        • Tom –

          Really enjoyed meeting you at our recent Bacon’s Fry. Hope Bacon gives us another Bacon Fry before too long just between us contributors to his great blog, which owns so much to contributors like you. And I mean that.

          But here, on this particular subset of the hydra headed issues under the rubric Energy as it relates to electric power generation, and collateral issues, your particular argument here recalls Thomas Malthus, and his famous trap as regards peoples’ obsessive compulsion habits to replicate. For example:

          “Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.” From an Essay on the Principle of Population.

          Yet, somehow, despite the great Divine, we and gas always seem to muddle through, and the solutions to our problems will surely never by found by abandoning the field to those intent on our destruction.

          • Reed,

            Thomas Malthus had many useful insights that we should still heed today. However, in today’s energy system we are experiencing things that would have turned some of his predictions upside-down. Today we are growing in population and economic activity yet our consumption of electricity per capita is declining. This flies in the face of the Malthusian conundrum of a population that increases geometrically consuming resources (food) that increase only arithmetically.

            With far more pipeline capacity than we have gas usage, would not good husbandry tell us to use what we have before building something new?

            If the new item costs us more than what we have and provides no other benefit, what is its value?

            Wouldn’t Malthus approve of us intelligently using our gas so that we maintain an adequate supply at a reasonable cost? Overbuilding power plants and pipelines, and exporting gas increases prices and diminishes reserves. The general population is not served by this, but only a few. In a few short years, Malthus is proved right. Ignorance of our situation and our failure to wisely respond to it leaves us worse off and vulnerable to overseas manipulation and foreign adventures.

            Our gas reserves are a national strategic resource, not a playground for CEO’s seeking bigger bonuses. Abandoning the field to those who serve only their own short-term interests will make our families, friends, and neighbors poorer for our lack of insight and willingness to tolerate whatever an apparently stronger force wants us to do.

            Awareness of the facts and the willingness to act on them makes us like wind and water against the rocks. What at first appears impossible, becomes attainable through perseverance.

  4. I don’t think you need a pipeline that long to supply electricity. Those plants could be located much closer to the source of the gas.

    So this is basically a business venture to get that gas to markets beyond electricity.

    I’m fine with that and I agree with the points Steve makes. The gas IS going to be used.. like any other fuel – we need to take care not to pollute the methane but the fundamental fact is that renewables are a no go without gas and renewables are how we ultimately cut back burning of fossil fuels overall.. It’s how we close the coal plants and replace them with renewables with gas backup.

    Tom points out that the best ROI is demand-side conservation and I agree.. but even then we still do want to be able to harvest renewables and for that you do need the gas until the day we have cost-effective storage – which I think needs another decade or so to be real.

    I think Dominion could have built much more support for the ACP by offering every county and jurisdiction through which it passed – a tap… to use for attracting industry. Give everyone along the page an opportunity.

    Dom just can’t seem help itself.. they’re a lot like the old VDOT where the unstated but very real mentality was ” we’re going to shove this thing down your freaking throats” and then proceeded to try to do so. Very similar to the power lines over the James… quite a few actual alternatives including utilizing existing power line paths not only down the Peninsula but the Route 17 crossing of the James ..but no.. it’s gotta be where Dom wants it or else.

    With the gas why can’t or won’t they offer people and jurisdictions they impact some opportunity to use the gas in exchange for getting the right-of-way? Make it a win-win?

    I just think Dom’s “our way or the highway” just is beyond the pale.

    If this pipeline is truly in the public interest – it sure don’t act like it. It walks and talks like a for-profit venture … that they are relying on ratepayers as a safety net … as well as the justification for eminent domain.

    It’s a smelly way to do business in my view.

  5. “Dom just can’t seem help itself..”

    They don’t need to help themselves. Their gifts and donations to members of The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond gets them all the help they need.

  6. here’s your storage battery by the way: ” Solar–hydrogen energy cycle is an energy cycle where a solar powered electrolyzer is used to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen and oxygen produced thus are stored to be used by a fuel cell to produce electricity when no sunlight is available.[“

  7. This hearing only dealt with the water aspect of the pipeline. It was not designed to address any of the other myriad of issues, including need for the pipeline and much more.

    My family farm is 1,000 acres. It is a business we have nurtured for over 100 years, providing jobs and local property taxes in a county without the benefit of land use tax reductions. Yet Dominion insists on plowing through the middle of it for a mile – through the areas we use every day. They will not move it to the edge of our property so at least part of our buildings would be out of the incineration zone, and where we’d have to cross the pipeline fewer times each day.

    I struggle with how another business – that will not serve us (we are coop members) and that has no intention of developing a distribution system or any other benefits to us – can effectively take over use of the land that is the base of our business. I have lost faith in the existence of the American Dream. Why would anyone work for something if someone else can just take it away? They say we can continue to use the land but the truth is that we will have to remember and take steps to protect the pipeline every day. We’ll not even be allowed to park farm equipment over the right of way overnight. Too much risk of spark that could ignite gas we will not be able to see, smell, or taste. This industry accepts a certain quantity of regular gas loss across the system as a cost of doing business. Note that two people died in a field in Illinois due to a natural gas explosion last week. There is supposed to be extra soil over ag fields – in this case, there wasn’t. Inspections in rural areas are rare – essentially landowners are at the mercy of the pipeline owner. How was the farmer to know there wasn’t depth there? No one knew, apparently. And can you imagine having to call a company that inserted a ticking time bomb into your land to get approval every time you do even routine tasks like plowing?

    Originally Dominion promised us state of the art fiber broadband monitoring of every inch of the pipeline 24/7 even though it will be monitored somewhere in West Virginia instead of locally by people who would also be at personal risk if something goes wrong. Guess costs got too high. They reverted to last century point-to-point microwave and will not have the capacity to add the latest monitoring technology. Cell service is horrible and undependable across the territory they plan to cross. The industry lives to standards when built – not increasing them later. Note that instead of upgrading existing 50 year old pipe money is proposed to be spent on new pipeline and Virginia faces decommissioning of old pipe that we still need but won’t be lucrative enough to warrant replacement. Congress passed new natural gas safety legislation in 2011 but PHMSA has not been able to implement it, citing “conflict of priorities.” The pipe installed today is much bigger, 42 inches in our case, and under much higher pressure. Safety rules have needed to be updated since these newer diameters and pressures have been put into service. The industry seeks to avoid government rules and to self-regulate.

    Some time ago Congress directed PHMSA to use lower standards and less frequent inspections in rural areas instead of providing sufficient funding for it to do the job it was assigned. Currently we expect additional cuts to their budget. States can inspect but PHMSA has not had money for the necessary training and if states find problems, they are not empowered to take action, they can just pass the info to the feds who use the Congressional direction to prioritize activities.

    Our property is only 4 miles from the compressor station so gas will be at the highest pressure when it crosses our property. If there is an accident – and I know they happen, my brother was killed at age 7 in a farm accident, my grandmother was killed in an auto accident, my father died unexpectedly at 62, I’ve experienced the Virginia Tech shootings, my husband was working on the Pentagon when 9-11 happened, one of my students got meningitis and lost parts of all 4 of her limbs – our losses will be tremendous. The 1804 house I planned to retire to will be totally in the incineration zone – how can we develop agri-tourism or other activities that would lure people to the property and give us a more diverse income with that risk? (We raised hogs for breeding stock, as well as cattle until Smithfield took over that business and our major income diversity source). If we have to give up our business and want to plant the place in trees, we’ll not be able to use a mile long strip of our land.

    Since there is unwillingness of the company or the public to pay enough to have real safety oversight, and an analysis that less would be lost so standards can be lower in rural areas, we are effectively sacrificed. The risk assessment made if their risk, not ours, as decisions are made by them and with no input from us.

    We are offered a one time easement payment. We will live with the risk of the pipeline every day. We will continue to pay property taxes and they refuse to even remove the pipe if they decommission. They could sell the infrastructure and we’d have no say. A foreign, not friendly entity could buy it. There is no compensation for the loss of value and permanent loss of use of our land. The industry wants to self-regulate and is already campaigning to get local governments to establish 660 foot no development zones on either side of its 50 foot right of way to avoid “encroachment.” The need for it will be greatest in rural areas where safety standards are lowest. Since they propose that it be done through zoning and for safety reasons, it will not have to pay us a penny for the loss of that additional land. We will be expected to accept this for the public good. Of course, like the exportation of the gas that will flow through the pipeline, this campaign is not mentioned in the decision making realm.

    Buckingham’s local government was won over by Dominion before this process started and it has not listened to any of our concerns. It’s treated us as the enemy, with Dominion employees inside the buildings while we were locked out. It’s convinced the county attorney to refuse to even hear our concerns.

    FERC ignored the issues we raised in the DEIS process, simply declared them of no significance or “mitigatable” and pressed on. Nothing we have is of historical value in its analysis and neither we nor anything we have is worthy of protection. (Same goes for our neighbors even though the compression station is sited in a historic freed slave community with more population than official sources recognize. Absentee descendants of white plantation owners scored huge bucks to sell their land, while many of the descendants of the African American freed slaves will get nothing since the infrastructure will not be sited on their land.)

    It is likely that FERC will grant the company tolling orders so it can begin building. By today, FERC should have responded to our requests for reconsideration of the decision to grant the certificate of public necessity and convenience. We fully expect them to simply not bother and to thus keep us from filing further lawsuits. Typically, they do this until the pipeline is in the ground.

    These companies should have to negotiate with willing landowners, like cell companies do. They need to share ongoing financial benefit with landowners, pay the property taxes, site the facilities in a mutually agreed upon place/way, pay the liability insurance. Cell companies do all of this. I know. We have a tower – on the edge of our property in a mutually agreed upon spot. FERC is the most independent agency I know of and there is no oversight by Congress, the President, or any other agency. Folks cry about the CFPB, but its decisions can be overturned by a committee of agency heads and since its budget is set as part of the Federal Reserve, it is not open to industry influence. FERC’s budget is all from the industry and there is no oversight. FERC has refused to balance its power in any way or to add a consumer division. We’ve asked three times during my career – all before the pipeline was a personal issue.

    You will likely also dismiss my concerns. I’d challenge you to check the information. I’m not twisting it. This is the truth we face. It’s time for the rules to be changed. Eminent domain should not be available to companies like this for non-public purposes like this. If a pipeline was going to bring Buckingham jobs, it’d have done it 50 years ago when Transco came through. As it is, ACP crossing the Transco line 4 miles from our property makes us live in a dangerous terrorist target area.

    There’s more but I’ll stop. We will keep fighting because the rules are wrong and even if we cannot stop this for ourselves, it must be stopped. No one else should experience this or have their assets effectively taken and have to live with daily risk against their will.

    Just wondering. Would you welcome this infrastructure on your property? Can you really condemn me for fighting for mine?

    • Thanks for pointing out the typo. Correction made.

      To answer your question, no, I do not condemn you for fighting the pipeline. I hope I haven’t given that impression. I am not taking sides. I try to make sure all points of view are reflected in my reporting. And I am happy for you to use Bacon’s Rebellion as a forum to air your views.

  8. It’s pretty clear that the impacts to property owners is not “insignificant” – there is a real loss of property rights and the question is – is this project one of true public necessity, one that is vital for Virginians or is it more of a private venture with economic development benefits for some – at some expense to others – through the force of government?

    I’ve never had a problem with Dominion or Transco or any other private sector company seeking economic opportunity for it’s benefit and it’s investors.

    But I do have a problem with such companies taking property from others for their venture.

    It’s not necessary to run this pipeline the distance proposed in order to provide electricity to Virginia. That extra length is being touted as an economic development opportunity for others – but it at expense to other property owners who are not even given an equivalent opportunity to participate – for instance tapping into the pipeline to use for economic development of their own properties or access to gas that would increase the value of their properties to others for economic development.

    That’s fundamentally wrong in my view and a disservice to all Virginians.

  9. If the opponents have a good case, appeal the permitting decision to court.

    • Easy to say, difficult to undertake given the expense and difficulty in finding adequate legal counsel in a necessarily restricted pool of attorneys.

      Interestingly Sen. Peterson has filed a bill this year to address just that.

      SB 13 State Corporation Commission; intervenor compensation.
      Introduced by: J. Chapman Petersen
      SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
      State Corporation Commission; intervenor compensation. Establishes a process under which a public interest organization or a retail customer, including an entity representing retail customers, of a public service company that intervenes in a utility proceeding is compensated for its expenses. To be eligible for compensation, the Commission is required to find that the intervenor’s participation in the proceeding made a substantial contribution to the adoption of the Commission’s order or decision, the intervenor’s participation in the proceeding without an award of compensation imposes a significant financial hardship, and the intervenor represents an interest material to the proceeding which but for an award of compensation would not be adequately represented.
      http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?181+sum+SB13

      • A number of states allow for reimbursement of attorney fees and related costs for intervenors that truly make a difference in a case. If that standard is fairly administered, I would certainly support it. I wouldn’t support anything that was a sweetheart deal for professional intervenors.

        My main point is no one is going to carry your water. If people want to have an impact, they need to be willing to bear some costs. Sometimes it’s money; most often it’s time.

        I worked with a small group of residents of communities surrounding Tysons Corner. Over 5 plus years we each probably devoted multiple hundreds of hours attending meetings, learning the facts, testifying before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, writing letters to the editor and op-eds, spending time we didn’t have with reporters, complaining about the process that was excluding the community. But we had a seat at the table when the compromises that lead to the 2010 Comp Plan amendment were reached. We got the supervisors to reject the plan proposed by the so-called Task Force, which would have permitted Tysons to grow to 230 million square feet.
        We had two engineers map the entire Dulles Toll Road to show how much private and public (Wolf Trap) land would need to be taken top widen the DTR to handle Tysons traffic. We raised questions that neither the landowners nor the county staff could answer. We raise these questions in public. We implemented a couple of bombard-the supervisors with emails campaigns. We won some and lost some, but we affected what was adopted. And then we pushed the County so hard that the Supervisors transferred more than $400 million in infrastructure costs over 40 years from taxpayers to the developers.

        I’ve seen other people devote hours and hours to smaller projects, such as Sunrise’s request to build an assisted living center on about 3.6 acres of land when the rules require 5 acres. They won.

        The big boys and girls can be beaten. But few people are willing to put in the work (much of which is analysis) to win. And sometimes that requires a financial contribution to go to court. I have to believe that Dominion is no tougher than combined Tysons landowners and developers. And now I even get invited to their annual Holiday Party.

    • TMT,

      The courts do not want to deal with the issue until appeals of the FERC Certificate have been exhausted. The FERC process has been designed to make it almost impossible to have a successful appeal. FERC uses a process called tolling orders in their appeal process. The tolling orders prolong the time FERC has to rule on request for a rehearing, for example. The process has deadlines such as Step 2 must be initiated within so many days after the request to initiate Step 1. If FERC delays making a decision on Step 1, it is impossible to meet the requirements of Step 2, and the appeal falls apart.

      In other projects, FERC has delayed their responses and decisions in the appeal process while allowing construction to proceed. Before the appeals process is complete the project is built, making any court appeal moot.

      Dominion is counting on this. They have purchased nearly all of the material required for the pipeline and have staged it in multiple locations. They are planning on having 11 simultaneous construction zones to complete the project, or at least get a substantial portion of it done, before any court appeal could begin. They expect that this could dissuade the court from reversing the FERC decision, even if the case had merit.

      This is a huge financial risk. They are also taking a risk that the SCC will pass the billions of extra costs for the ACP on to Virginia ratepayers. I suspect they believe that their political clout will carry the day even if it becomes widely known that this project will cost Virginia residents billions of dollars unnecessarily.

      • Tom – I feel your pain. I’m used to the FCC manipulating and ignoring their rules, the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act to get desired results. This is not a political issue. Both Parties have done this. when they have the 3-2 vote margin. (As an aside, I chuckle at the headlines – FCC repeals Network Neutrality Rules on a party-line vote. The rules were adopted in 2015 on a party-line vote.) But if you don’t work the process, you will lose to those companies, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, Spectrum, that do work the process.

        To be successful, you need to know the law and how to serve up to staff and commissioners alike. You need to develop facts and answer your opponent’s arguments, as well raise issues that they cannot address.

        I’ve battled all these big companies since I left US West (know CenturyLink) 20 years ago. I’ve lost a number of fights, but I’ve won some too. People who don’t like something need to work at least three times as hard and smart as the proponents.

  10. My sense is that the opponents have a poor case, and would lose on appeal, as to general fitness of the case under applicable eminent domain law.

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