Another delay, cost increase for the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has once again pushed its completion date back and the project cost up. Equitrans Midstream Corp., the lead partner in a joint venture of five energy companies that has faced repeated environmental problems while building the natural gas pipeline, made the announcement early Tuesday. Rather than completing construction early next year, the company said it is now targeting a full in-service date “during the second half of 2021,” a news release stated.
Putting a pipeline through a forest: a foregone conclusion?
Sunday Nov. 1, 2020
When public agencies and boards made crucial decisions about the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the outcome was often influenced by a pro-industry panel called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That, at least, has been the mantra of opponents to the natural gas pipeline being built through the New River and Roanoke valleys. But shortly after the U.S. Forest Service allowed Mountain Valley to pass through the Jefferson National Forest in 2017, one of the agency’s regional planning directors who was involved in the process reached the same conclusion.
The Forest Service “was not in the driver’s seat” when it came to making a final decision, Peter Gaulke wrote in an email to colleagues. FERC was. “It is fair to say there were pains of adjustment as we tried to merge our USFS way of business with the FERC way of business,” Gaulke wrote in a Nov. 28, 2017, review of the process. “This was not easy and still has a level of discomfort for the Forest and the Regional Office,” the email stated. One of the key issues was whether building the 303-mile interstate pipeline — the largest such project ever proposed in the Jefferson National Forest — would produce more erosion and sedimentation than the public woodlands could bear.
Federal court delays stream crossings for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday Oct. 16, 2020
The on-again, off-again pace of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline is off again. A temporary administrative stay of stream-crossing permits was issued Friday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a brief order, the court said the delay — which was requested Thursday by conservation groups concerned about environmental damage from the massive natural gas pipeline — will remain in effect until it has time to consider a full stay that was sought earlier.
“Our streams and wetlands get at least a temporary reprieve from MVP’s destruction,” said David Sligh of Wild Virginia, one of eight environmental groups fighting the pipeline in court. After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued the permits Sept. 25 and a stop-work order was lifted last week, Mountain Valley said it would resume construction “in the coming days.”
New York regulators must act on Con Edison’s contract with Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday Oct. 14, 2020
The CEO of New York gas utility Con Edison recently made the bold statement that natural gas is “no longer…part of the longer-term view” in the transition to a clean energy economy, and that he does not expect the company to make additional investments in natural gas pipelines. Many of the company’s actions — from its clean energy commitment, to its framework for pursuing non-pipe alternatives — place it on a path toward meeting that vision. But Con Ed’s investment and contract with Mountain Valley Pipeline call into question that bold statement and demand further scrutiny from the New York Public Service Commission.
In 2016, Con Ed signed a 20-year contract for service on Mountain Valley Pipeline, a planned 300-mile pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. Mountain Valley would connect with other pipelines on the East Coast to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale for ultimate delivery to the New York region. Since Con Ed entered the contract, the pipeline has been plagued by environmental and economic risks and significant legal challenges, and it is still not in service.
Pipeline opponent falsely said to be part of antifa, lawsuit claims
Thursday Oct. 14, 2020
Shortly before a Mountain Valley Pipeline opponent was charged in 2018 with trespassing in a construction zone, a member of the project’s security force falsely targeted her as “affiliated with Antifa,” a lawsuit claims. The charges against Nan Gray and two of her friends were later dropped by a prosecutor who said there was no evidence to support them. Gray and Gordon Jones then brought malicious prosecution lawsuits against Mountain Valley and its security firm, Global Security Corp., in December 2018. A lawsuit filed last week by a third person arrested, Hazel Beeler, alleges that a conspiracy to have the three Craig County residents charged was based, at least in part, on Gray’s supposed connections with antifa. Duane Moriarity, a security coordinator with lead pipeline partner Equitrans Midstream Corp., told colleagues shortly before Gray was arrested that she is a “leftist biologist” who “consorts with and gives direction to Antifa,” according to the lawsuits. “I hope she gets locked up,” the papers quote Moriarity as writing in a text shortly before Mountain Valley and Global Security officials obtained charges from a magistrate against Gray, Jones and Beeler.
Gray, a soil scientist and outspoken opponent of Mountain Valley, has never been affiliated with antifa, the lawsuit states.
Pipeline opponents react to federal ruling
Tuesday Oct. 12, 2020
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are reacting to a major ruling from federal regulators that gives the company a green light to resume construction. And landowners who live in the path of the pipeline say they now fear a rush to complete the project through steep and challenging terrain. Late Friday afternoon, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted a two-year extension to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, permission that was due to expire this week. And FERC allowed construction to resume along most of the pipeline right-of-way.
The decision wasn’t unexpected, but opponents say it was a major disappointment nonetheless. “Not really surprised, but still it was a gut punch.”
Too Much Sun Degrades Coatings That Keep Pipes From Corroding, Risking Leaks, Spills and Explosions
Monday Oct. 11, 2020
For natural gas pipeline developers hunting for a good deal on a 100-mile section of steel pipe, a recent advertisement claimed to have just what they are looking for. Following the cancelation of the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania and New York, a private equity firm recently offered a “massive inventory” of never-used, “top-quality” coated steel pipe. What the company didn’t mention is that the pipe may have sat, exposed to the elements, for more than a year, a period of time that exceeds the pipe coating manufacturers’ recommendation for aboveground storage, which could make the pipe prone to failure.
FERC study finds no risk from protective coating of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday Oct. 8, 2020
Segments of steel pipe stockpiled along the path of a natural gas pipeline, exposed to the elements for two years while lawsuits delayed construction, pose no risk to the surrounding air, soil or water, a federal agency has concluded. In a report released Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission addressed concerns that have been raised about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. An epoxy coating applied to protect the pipe from corrosion may have released toxins in two ways, the theory goes: into the air after it degenerates from sitting too long in the sun, and into groundwater after the 42-inch diameter pipe is assembled and buried.
Opponents seek further delay of work on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday Oct. 7, 2020
Worried that work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline could resume shortly, opponents are asking a federal court to intervene. The Sierra Club and seven other environmental groups filed petitions late Monday asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay recently issued permits — which allow the natural gas pipeline to burrow under streams and wetlands — until the court can hear their challenge of the authorizations. After nearly two years of review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sept. 25 reissued the stream crossing permits, which were struck down or suspended by a 2018 order of the 4th Circuit. “Here we go again,” attorney Derek Teaney, who represents the environmental groups, wrote at the beginning of a 28-page petition that asserts the Army Corps once again made fatal flaws in giving Mountain Valley a green light to cross nearly 1,000 water bodies in Virginia and West Virginia. At the time the request for a stay was made, opponents feared the resumption of construction was imminent.
The Battle for Brush Mountain
Monday Sept. 28, 2020
Each morning I arise, walk to the bedroom window and gaze out across miles of undulating blue mountain ridges and the moody skies that illuminate the New River Valley. Some days all I see are cottony pillows of dense fog obscuring the land below. Other mornings I witness vibrant sunrises that splash an artist’s palette of color across the sky. I’ll often take a deep breath and contemplate the scene for a few moments. I’m unable to fully express my gratitude for the unexpected convergence of events that brought me to live at the top of Brush Mountain overlooking Blacksburg Virginia. As the sun slowly rises and spills rays across land and sky, I’m held in a state of disbelief at the beauty which has become my little piece of heaven.
Mountain Valley Pipeline regains permit to cross streams, wetlands
Friday Sept. 25, 2020
A path across nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands was cleared Friday for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued three permits for the natural gas pipeline being built in Virginia and West Virginia, nearly two years after they were invalidated by a federal appeals court. “Effective immediately, you may resume all activities being done in reliance upon the authorization” first given in January 2018, William Walker, chief of the Army Corps’ regulatory branch in Norfolk, wrote in a letter to Mountain Valley. With the long-awaited decision, the company moved one step closer to resuming construction of a massive project that has stirred deep controversy in Southwest Virginia since it was first proposed six years ago.
Also on Friday, the U.S. Forest Service released its proposal for the 303-mile pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest, an approval that was struck down in a separate ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision on that permit is not expected until the end of the year.
Mountain Valley seeks to resume construction of pipeline
Wednesday Sept. 23, 2020
After a winter hiatus in construction that stretched into the spring, summer and fall, builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say they are ready to return. In a letter filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Tuesday, an attorney for the joint venture of energy companies requested that a stop-work order issued last Oct. 15 be lifted. Matthew Eggerding asked FERC to act by Friday “so that Mountain Valley can maximize final restoration and complete as many activities as possible before winter,” he wrote in the letter. Since work began in early 2018, litigation has caused cost overruns and construction delays for Mountain Valley. Not long after FERC issued its stop-work order, the company said it expected to be back on the job by April.
But Mountain Valley still lacks two sets of key permits that were set aside after a federal appeals court sided with conservation groups, who argued that building a 303-mile natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia was causing widespread environmental harm. A third suspended permit was reissued earlier this month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which found that construction would not likely jeopardize protected species. That in turn led Mountain Valley to request that it be allowed to resume “all construction activities permitted by law.”
Pipeline opponents call for FERC reforms
Wednesday Sept. 23, 2020
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Opponents of natural gas pipeline projects across the country are calling for changes at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wednesday, a coalition of environmental groups said the agency is aligned with the natural gas industry, and fails to protect the environment and the interests of landowners. Irene Leech said what many others echoed during the online conference. “Based on my experience, FERC is broken,” Leech said during the virtual “People’s Hearing,” organized by the VOICES Coalition. Federal regulators, they argued, are a rubber stamp for the natural gas industry, and dismissive of landowners’ and environmentalists’ concerns. “And the whole process is set up so that the industry has an advantage over landowners every step of the way,” Leech said.
The VOICES Coalition claims the support of 250 environmental groups in 35 states, including a number here in western Virginia.
Up in the trees and on the ground, opposition to Mountain Valley Pipeline continues
Tuesday Sept. 15, 2020
The longest stand against the Mountain Valley Pipeline will likely last at least two months longer. A judge on Tuesday delayed a hearing on Mountain Valley’s motion for an injunction that would force protesters from their tree stands in Montgomery County, where they have blocked the company from cutting some of the last remaining trees in the pipeline’s path. Due to concerns about the growing spread of the coronavirus, Circuit Judge Robert Turk continued until Nov. 12 a hearing that was set for Thursday. Since Sept. 5, 2018, pipeline opponents have positioned themselves about 50 feet off the ground, in a white pine and a chestnut oak. Supporters send up food and water while standing guard in a camp below the trees. A third tree stand went up in March. A changing cast of characters — some masked and anonymous, others speaking openly — have taken to the trees off Yellow Finch Lane, not far from where the pipeline will burrow under the Roanoke River.
The tree-sit is the longest continuing blockade of a natural gas pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines.
Pipeline opponents urge regulators to reject extension
Saturday Aug. 29, 2020
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say the company does not deserve an extension. Earlier this week, MVP asked federal regulators for two more years to complete the project, saying the extension is “necessary and proper.” But landowners in the path of the pipeline, and other opponents, say adverse court rulings and suspended permits show the project is in trouble, and should receive further review.
“It’s kind of a disaster waiting to happen,” said Giles County landowner Georgia Haverty. “And to give them two more years is just… encouraging incompetence.”
“Multiple federal and state agencies gave permits that were faulty, as demonstrated in the courts,” said Montgomery County landowner Bob Jones. “And that itself calls for a restart, a big hesitation, not just an automatic rubber stamp renewal.”
Mountain Valley asks FERC for more time to complete pipeline
Wednesday Aug. 26, 2020
Held up for nearly a year by lawsuits, suspended permits and a stop-work order, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is bidding for more time. The company building the interstate pipeline asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission late Tuesday to extend by two years a key approval that will otherwise expire in six weeks. When FERC determined on Oct. 13, 2017, that there was a public need for the natural gas that will flow through the transmission line, it granted Mountain Valley a three-year certificate for a project the company said would only take a year to build. But multiple legal challenges by opponents — who say burrowing a massive pipeline through Southwest Virginia will scar the landscape, pollute the water and kill endangered fish and bats — led courts to set aside three key sets of federal permits. Mountain Valley has said it hopes to have the permits restored in time to complete the 303-mile pipeline by early next year.
Hurst bill aims to block pipeline worker surge in Southwest Virginia
Monday Aug. 24, 2020
A bill filed by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, to require any employer hiring a crew of 50 or more temporary workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to receive approval from the commissioner of labor and industry would complicate Mountain Valley Pipeline’s plans to deploy 4,000 workers to West Virginia and Virginia once it resumes work. Besides the need to get commissioner approval, HB 5102 would also require such an employer to participate in one of Virginia’s Voluntary Protection Programs. These programs, which can be found nationwide, oversee voluntary worker safety and health management systems that “exceed basic compliance with occupational safety and health laws and regulations,” according to state code.
Northam to halt work on Mountain Valley Pipeline amid pandemic
Monday Aug. 10, 2020
ROANOKE, Va – Some state lawmakers are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to put a halt on work scheduled to take place on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. More than 20 legislators signed a letter urging work stop as pipeline officials recently announced 4,000 workers will be brought into Virginia and West Virginia to continue work on the project. Roanoke Senator John Edwards signed the letter and said bringing in these workers could potentially cause a spike in coronavirus cases in the area.
“Craig and Giles County, for example, don’t have any ICU beds. Pittsylvania county has no ICU beds, so we have inadequate facilities to take care of this problem,” Virginia Senator John Edwards said. Edwards said the letter could come up during the general assembly’s special session set to begin August 18.
Mountain Valley, DEQ reach agreement on environmental fines
Tuesday Aug. 4, 2020
The latest problems with muddy runoff streaming from construction sites along the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s route through Southwest Virginia have been resolved, with the company paying $58,000 in fines. The agreement, reached after several months of negotiations with the Department of Environmental Quality, marks the troubled pipeline’s latest penalty for violating erosion and sediment control regulations. Mountain Valley had balked at DEQ’s initial demand for $86,000, which was made after the joint venture of five energy companies building the natural gas pipeline had paid $2.15 million to settle a lawsuit brought by state environmental regulators. The lawsuit filed in 2018 covered violations during the first year and a half of construction; the latest fines were for problems that persisted even after Mountain Valley was ordered to stop work last fall. DEQ initially had cited Mountain Valley for 29 violations from September through March 10, but agreed to drop seven as part of the negotiation process, according to Ann Regn, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Forest Service to release new report on Mountain Valley’s impacts on Jefferson National Forest
Friday July 31, 2020
Two years after a permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to pass through a national forest was struck down, a new plan will soon be unveiled. The U.S. Forest Service plans to release a draft report on the pipeline’s environmental impacts to the Jefferson National Forest by September, according to a notice published Thursday in the Federal Register. Public comments will then be taken, with a final decision expected by year’s end. Plans call for the natural gas pipeline to come into the forest in Monroe County, West Virginia; cross the state line into Giles County; burrow under the Appalachian Trail at the top of Peters Mountain; and continue southeast toward Montgomery County. Trees have already been cut to clear a 125-foot-wide right of way along a 3.5-mile stretch of the forest. In July 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Mountain Valley’s permit, ruling that federal agencies were too accepting of the company’s assurance that running a huge, buried pipeline along steep slopes would not cause significant problems with erosion and sedimentation.
“They basically caved in to the pipeline company,” said Diana Christopulos, who is leading opposition efforts for the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. “We have no evidence that they’re going to follow the rules they already had.”
Mountain Valley to receive new permit to cross Blue Ridge Parkway
Tuesday July 28, 2020
The Mountain Valley Pipeline will be granted a new permit to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, the first in a string of federal approvals needed before the natural gas pipeline can be completed. In a letter filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Park Service said it intended to issue a right of way permit for the pipeline to pass under the parkway atop Bent Mountain in Roanoke County. Construction of that segment of the 303-mile pipeline was completed in January 2019, but Mountain Valley needs the permit to maintain and operate the transmission line.
Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee wrote in the letter that the approval was “not a wholly new undertaking,” as the initial permit was suspended for technical reasons at the request of Mountain Valley. The joint venture of five energy companies building the pipeline still lacks three sets of key permits — set aside after lawsuits questioned the wisdom of running such a large pipeline through the mountainous terrain of Southwest Virginia — that must be re-granted if the project is to be finished by early next year.
Munley: Virginia doesn’t need McAuliffe, the pipeline cheerleader
Thursday July 23, 2020
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has recently raised $1.7 million in political cash, threatening a potential second term run as Virginia governor. McAuliffe wants to waltz back onto Virginia’s political landscape after literally mutilating our region with a miles-long pipeline ridge scar that disfigures our once-intact Blue Ridge Mountains. With his double boondoggle “pipelines-for-Virginia” idea, McAuliffe’s Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines (ACP and MVP) imposed heartbreaking damage to our region and communities still fighting to preserve their safety. Can Virginia withstand any more McAuliffe wheeling-and-dealing? In an April 1, 2020 interview, McAuliffe boasted a scandal-free, pro-business administration. But under McAuliffe, Charlottesville saw a policing failure in the 2017 white nationalist rally and the state gave $1.4 million to a no-show Chinese company. Then, there are McAuliffe’s pipelines.
ACP’s cancellation validates opponents’ argument that these pipelines are unneeded. Dominion immediately endorsed the Clean Economy Act — demonstrating that stopping pipelines frees clean energy investment. Even the Dominion and Duke builders decided that ACP was an expensive dud. McAuliffe flippantly dismissed the ACP failure as needing to pass regulatory review while expressing no regret for the suffering and damage his pipelines caused by granting them eminent domain for private profit. McAuliffe demonstrates that men with power and no empathy can inflict colossal harms without remorse. Recently defending Virginia pipelines, McAuliffe said, “You can’t have manufacturing jobs without cheap energy.” The cluelessness of this statement demonstrates that McAuliffe is either uninformed that MVP raises gas rates despite plentiful, cheaper existing sources, or he thinks Virginians don’t notice his bait-and-switch pipeline rip-offs. Business does not thrive on increased energy costs for bogus infrastructure. Also, MVP’s 139 granted variances mean the project is significantly altered from the one originally permitted, consuming more land than originally proposed, including around 6,000 acres of prime farmland.
Mountain Valley, DEQ negotiate over environmental fines
Monday July 20, 2020
Mountain Valley Pipeline has agreed to pay $8,000 of the $86,000 demanded by Virginia regulators for the latest environmental violations caused by building the hotly disputed natural gas pipeline. Whether it owes any more — and how much more — is still under negotiation.
In a July 8 letter to Mountain Valley’s lawyer, the Department of Environmental Quality said the latest violations occurred between Sept. 19, 2019, and March 10, 2020. That time period covers problems with erosion and sedimentation that happened after Mountain Valley had agreed to pay $2.15 million for earlier infractions during construction of the pipeline, which began in the winter of 2018. Mountain Valley disputed most of the latest claims but agreed to pay $8,000 in fines for the ones it had no quarrel with. DEQ’s enforcement director, Tiffany Severs, then wrote in her July 8 letter to the company’s deputy general counsel, Todd Normane, that the agency had reviewed its findings and was willing to reduce the fine. “Based on DEQ’s evaluation of the disputed items and taking into consideration the amount paid to date, the remaining amount MVP is liable for is $58,500, plus interest,” Severs wrote.
Mountain Valley Pipeline is a prime example of national permitting failure
Friday July 17, 2020
On April 15, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana suspended the Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 program. While the case at hand specifically dealt with the Keystone XL Pipeline, the court determined the flaws with NWP 12 represented a systemic shortcoming. In fact, by failing to consult with federal agencies in regard to the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it reissued the NWP 12 program in 2017. In spite of a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which allows pipelines other than Keystone XL to continue to use NWP 12 during the appeal process, a previous ruling in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit makes it unlikely the imperiled Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will see its permit reissued anytime soon.
The NWP 12 program generally authorizes a broad class of “utility lines” to cross, or otherwise impact, streams and wetlands. While not the only means of obtaining such authorization, NWP 12 is the most widely sought permit due to its one-size-fits-all approach. Under NWP 12, projects do not need separate, site-specific permits for each individual waterbody; all stream and wetland crossings are authorized under the same permit. Without NWP 12 in hand, MVP is not able to undertake any construction activities that impact the hundreds of streams and wetlands it aims to cross in Virginia.
Letter: Connecting a pipeline to a pandemic
Sunday July 12, 2020
There are interesting similarities between a hazardous substance pipeline and a deadly virus. Like all hazards, both have the potential for harm or loss. If a pipeline accident occurs, or if a person experiences a severe reaction to COVID-19, the potential for harm or loss goes to 100%, and the hazard becomes, by definition, a disaster. Hazard control in either case requires an open-eyed anticipation of the potential for danger and disruption. In this country we, as citizens, expect a well-informed, coordinated, top-down response when a hazard becomes a disaster. Instead we have been exposed to unnecessary harm. When disaster response is neither well-informed nor well-coordinated, we are, of course, alarmed. That alarm is not evenly distributed across the population. There is, instead, variation by social and physical location. In the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, some landowners are more socially isolated than others, and may lack strong connections to kin or neighbors. They may feel alone in their newfound vulnerability in the face of the pipeline’s disruption. For people who take pride in their self-sufficiency, as rural people might, this vulnerability can be deeply disturbing. Vulnerability by physical location is more obvious, particularly for landowners in or near the “blast zone,” where the frequency of harm is low, but consequences can be fatal.
Hileman: Why has it taken so long for MVP to get a new permit?
Sunday July 12, 2020
Jacob Hileman is an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues.
On Oct. 2, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Upon losing this permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, MVP was forced to cease construction at all stream and wetland crossings in Virginia and West Virginia, leaving hundreds of crossings outstanding. That the Corps has been unable to reinstate NWP 12 for twenty-one months, and counting, is truly incredible. Why has the Corps delayed reissuing NWP 12 to MVP for so long? It is likely the Corps has not been able to find a way to reinstate the permit that will withstand legal scrutiny. Since beginning construction in early 2018, MVP has lost numerous permits as a result of opponents’ successful legal challenges. In a number of these cases, the courts thoroughly rebuked the implicated agencies for failing to justify their issuance of permits for the MVP. For example, authorization from the U.S. Forest Service was deemed “silent acquiescence.” The Corps has assuredly seen the writing on the wall. The magnitude of the delay in reissuing NWP 12 to MVP is a stark indication the Corps never should have granted the permit in the first place.
Letter to the Editor: Time has come to cancel Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday July 11, 2020
In response to the July 8 editorial, “Pipeline problems: A bad week,” I’d like to offer a headline revision: “A bad week for corporate polluters in the United States.” The end of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was warranted and overdue. Billions over budget and lacking permits, the project inflicted six years of harm on Virginia communities at a time when our utility monopoly, Dominion Energy, could have invested in clean, renewable energy and the jobs associated with them. It has not “been a bad week for energy production” — it’s been a great week for the people in impacted communities in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina who fought to preserve their homes, water and air from a ruinous project. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would not have brought “plentiful, affordable energy.” Rather, it would have brought energy with enormous production costs to a domestic market that is flat. What this past week also highlights is that the same reasons to end the ACP apply to what should be canceled next: the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). MVP also is environmentally unjust, lacking in permits, billions over budget and unneeded. It would move Virginia further from the clean energy we need to mitigate the climate crisis. The MVP actively harms the communities and waterways of Giles, Craig, Franklin, Montgomery, Roanoke and Pittsylvania counties. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring should take a moment to reflect, then publicly speak out for the cancellation of a project that actively harms their constituents.
7 questions about the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Tuesday July 7, 2020
One down, one to go?
We’ve had lots of shocking news lately, but it’s hard to find anything more shocking than the news that came out of Richmond on Sunday afternoon: Dominion Energy and its partners have cancelled the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have piped natural gas from West Virginia, through Virginia, and onto North Carolina. The news was especially unexpected because less than three weeks ago the project had won a major legal victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it had the right to pass under the Appalachian Trail. When that 7-2 ruling came down on June 15, it seemed like “all systems go” for the ACP. Now the project is dead, with the CEOs of Dominion and Duke Energy saying it’s too hard to get regulatory approval — even with that favorable court ruling. The abrupt cancellation of the ACP raises lots of questions, especially for those interested in the fate of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas business
Sunday, July 5, 2020
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead, abandoned by Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, after the $8 billion project reached a regulatory dead-end. The decision, announced Sunday, ends a six-year effort to build the 42-inch-wide natural gas pipeline through the heart of Virginia to connect gas shale fields in West Virginia with markets in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina. Thwarted by environmental groups repeatedly in the federal courts, the project was more than three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget, with no clear path to completion after federal courts in Montana threw out a nationwide federal water quality permit that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline relied upon to cross hundreds of waterbodies in its path.
…The announcement gave hope to some opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a similar project under construction that will pass through Southwest Virginia. “Now the fight moves to the socially unjust and burdensome Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Ed Reynolds wrote in a mass email Sunday. “We the people will win this fight as well.”
Environmental regulators seek more fines against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday June 29, 2020
Virginia regulators are seeking an $86,000 fine from Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying the company continued to violate environmental regulations after it paid $2.15 million last year to settle a lawsuit. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality brought the suit in 2018, saying that erosion and sediment control rules were broken more than 300 times during construction of the natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia. Since the $2.15 million settlement, DEQ said, there have been repeat cases of noncompliance, mostly during a lull in work.
Melanie Davenport, the agency’s director of water permitting, made the disclosure Monday during a meeting of the State Water Control Board. She did not say whether the fine had been paid.
Letter: Roanoke Gas is fleecing customers
Sunday June 28, 2020
A sheep herder in a remote mountain valley needed to take his flock to market in the city. There was no road over the mountain, and his herd kept growing and growing. He said to the government, “I must build a road to take my sheep to market.” The government decided that sheep were an economic necessity and granted the shepherd permission to build the road. It crossed hundreds of other people’s land, so he paid them a fee, but they had no choice but to give up their property. Landowners could not use the road nor benefit from the sheep…
…Due to the enormous cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Roanoke Gas is fleecing their flock of customers. They must withdraw from this disastrous project immediately. Don’t be sheepish, join the fight for environment justice! https://nrvsierraclub.wordpress.com or https://powhr.org/
Letter: Roanoke Gas should withdraw from contract with MVP
Saturday June 27, 2020
We are writing in support of the views expressed in the recent op-ed by Dr. Hartman and Rev. Jones (“Roanoke Gas should opt out,” June 12), who are co-chairs of Roanoke Interfaith Stewards of the Earth. As Christians, we are concerned about the environmental impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We need to be moving from an extractive economy to a sustainable economy in order to significantly lower carbon emissions and help to lessen the impact of climate change. The MVP is not necessary for energy provision in our area and has had a detrimental impact on the land and will potentially also on residents. We urge the Roanoke Gas Co. to withdraw from their contract with MVP in order to best serve the interests of the community.
Despite another setback, corporate customers stick with Mountain Valley Pipeline
Sunday June 21, 2020
Once again, developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say it will take longer and cost more to finish a natural gas pipeline that has long invoked acrimony along its path through Southwest Virginia. But all five energy companies in the joint venture seem determined to ride it out, despite contracts signed years ago that allow them to withdraw if the project was not completed by June 1. “Roanoke Gas needs the MVP supply,” said Paul Nester, president and CEO of a utility that will tap gas from the transmission line. When completed, Mountain Valley will span 303 miles from northern West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, where it will connect with another pipeline.
Fierce opposition since the project was announced in 2014 has led to repeated cost overruns and delays.
Extension of Mountain Valley Pipeline gets federal approval
Friday June 19, 2020
More than two years into the arduous task of building a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia, Mountain Valley Pipeline has won approval for an extension into North Carolina. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized the company to build what it calls MVP Southgate, which would start at the 303-mile pipeline’s terminus in Pittsylvania County and run south for another 75 miles. In an order posted to its website late Thursday, FERC dealt with some of the same issues — the project’s environmental impact and the question of whether there is a public need for more natural gas — that made the original pipeline so controversial when it was announced six years ago. Several conservation groups were joined by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in arguing that Mountain Valley overstated the demand for the pipeline extension.
U.S. Supreme Court overturns 4th Circuit ruling that would have blocked pipeline crossing
Monday June 15, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down an appeals court ruling that would have blocked construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The court voted 7-2 to overturn the ruling by the 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond. The ruling will allow construction of the 42-inch-wide pipeline to tunnel beneath the trail where it crosses land managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the George Washington National Forest. The decision will enable Dominion Resources and its partners to cross the Blue Ridge between Augusta and Nelson counties to complete the $8 billion, 600-mile project and connect gas shale fields in West Virginia to markets on the Atlantic coast of Virginia and North Carolina. However, construction of the pipeline remains suspended pending the approval of a permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to show that the project would not pose an existential threat to endangered or threatened species in its path. The 4th Circuit overturned the biological opinion issued for the project, as well as a state permit for construction of a natural gas compressor station at the pipeline’s proposed intersection with an existing natural gas pipeline at Union Hill in Buckingham County. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion for the court, and was joined by all of his colleagues in whole or part, except for Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who issued a dissenting opinion.
Although the Mountain Valley Pipeline was not a party to the case, the high court’s decision removes one of the barriers that had blocked the controversial project’s route through Southwest Virginia. Mountain Valley plans to cross under the Appalachian Trail as it runs along the ridgeline of Peters Mountain, through a part of the Jefferson National Forest that straddles the Giles County-West Virginia border. In a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to side with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, attorneys for Mountain Valley wrote that the 303-mile pipeline is about 90% done, and that the unfinished trial crossing is “a key missing link to the almost completed project.”
Jones and Hartman: Why Roanoke Gas should opt out of MVP deal
Friday June 12, 2020
David Jones serves as a pastor at Williams Memorial Baptist Church, Roanoke. Laura M. Hartman teaches Environmental Studies at Roanoke College. They are co-chairs of RAISE, Roanoke Area Interfaith Stewards of the Earth, an affiliate of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.
As people of faith who value the well-being of God’s creation and of God’s beloved poor, we urge Roanoke Gas to exit their contract with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The world is not ours to use or discard. For most people of faith, it was created by, and belongs to, God.
Hadwin: Roanoke Gas has chance to opt out of MVP
Wednesday June 10, 2020
Thomas Hadwin served as an executive for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York. He lives in Waynesboro.
Roanoke Gas Co. has 30 days to save its customers more than $100 million dollars. They should do it. A clause in the utility’s contract with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) allows it to cancel its 20-year agreement if the pipeline is not in commercial operation by June 1, 2020. If Roanoke Gas fails to notify the MVP by the end of June that it wants to get out of its contract, the chance is gone forever. If Roanoke Gas misses this chance, it will owe the MVP $112 million over 20-years, regardless of how much of the reserved capacity is actually used. The gas company expects to be allowed to pass this cost on to its customers.
During construction hiatus, MVP changes plans for Roanoke River crossing
Monday June 1, 2020
Builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline can bore under the Roanoke River to set the pipe at that location instead of an earlier plan to dam the water and dig a trench, energy regulators say. Mountain Valley cannot currently undertake the river crossing in eastern Montgomery County, however, because of a lack of federal authorizations. Construction began in 2018 but has been on hold since fall. On May 20, Mountain Valley asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval to change methods for its planned crossing of one of the region’s major rivers. Its application described the creation of pits on opposite sides of the river where the pipeline route and river intersect in Lafayette. One pit would be nearly 31 feet deep, the other nearly 22 feet. A crew would bore horizontally 316 feet and install the 42-inch pipe directly behind the boring machine, passing at least 6 feet beneath the river bottom, the application said. The project could be completed in 90 days, the filing said.
How a “Bunch of Badass Queer Anarchists” Are Teaming Up With Locals to Block a Pipeline Through Appalachia
Monday May 25, 2020
“Life in these mountains ain’t always been easy, so people around here take a stand when they see something they don’t agree with—and I’m one of them,” says walrus-mustached Jammie Hale in his thick southwestern Virginia mountain accent. “People that grow up in places like this, seeing their environment destroyed, it stirs them, it causes people to want to get involved, and that’s why I’m here.”
In a documentary-style video produced by Unicorn Riot, a left-wing media collective, in 2018, Hale explains his decision to join a protest movement taking on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a 303-mile long, nearly 42-inch-wide pipeline intended to move natural gas from the fracking fields of northern West Virginia to a terminal in southern Virginia that connects to markets and export terminals on the East Coast. Settled in among the hardwood trees on Peters Mountain, near where he’s been occupying an aerial platform with another (pseudonymous) activist known as Nutty, he talks of his family’s 150-plus years in Giles County, Virginia, and how that history motivates him to do all he can to prevent the pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail. Now in 2020, the Peters Mountain blockade no longer exists, and although many tree sits have fizzled out, a group of up to a dozen activists have been camped in a steep hollow along Yellow Finch Lane near Elliston, Virginia, for nearly a year and a half. (Hale lives nearby and visits the encampment several times each week.) It is at least partly to their credit that the Mountain Valley Pipeline remains unfinished. Its production cost has risen from a projected $3.5 billion to $5.5 billion, and the pipeline is two years behind its original timeline due to a series of regulations and litigation preventing it from crossing the Appalachian Trail and multiple rivers and waterways.
Lewis: Pipelines endanger health
Monday May 18, 2020
Jennifer Lewis is president and founder of Friends of Augusta. She lives in Waynesboro.
Virginia’s pipeline industry has a troubling record of putting profit before people, a practice that becomes more dire in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. While many Virginians are taking important steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, either by staying home or working essential jobs to provide us all with the care and resources we need during this difficult time, some companies are still jeopardizing community health by sending workers out to do dangerous, non-essential labor. This includes the fossil fuel industry, which has deemed the construction of polluting, unpopular, unnecessary pipelines more important than the health or safety of workers, workers’ families, and ultimately, all of us.
Christopulos: Tulsa-based union is poorly informed about COVID-19 and MVP in Virginia
Thursday May 14, 2020
Diana Christopulos is the retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem.
It would be encouraging if a labor union spoke out for the safety of workers and the surrounding community. Instead, David Butterworth of Local Union 798 (“Getting back to work on MVP,” May 9, 2020) merely repeated the misinformed talking points of the shell corporation Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has no employees and is currently managed by the Equitrans Midstream Corporation (ETRN) of Canonsberg, Pennsylvania. Butterworth’s union is based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Neither MVP nor the union have roots in the Roanoke and New River valleys. In fact, at a rather heated meeting I attended here in Salem with MVP representatives in June 2017, an MVP spokesman suggested we enjoy a pleasant lunch and talk about something we could all agree on, “Like the Steelers.” He apparently thought we were in a suburb of Pittsburgh.
Our concern, which we have stated very clearly (“COVID-19 and an army of pipeline workers don’t mix,” April 1, 2020), is that MVP will follow through on the promise it keeps making to investors and hastily complete the project by the end of 2020 if they secure their many missing permits. The project is less than 20 percent complete in Giles and Craig counties and less than 50 percent complete in Montgomery and Roanoke counties. Residents of those counties and surrounding areas would likely see approximately 1,200 pipeliners descending on the region, the vast majority from out of state.
Federal judge upholds ban on process for permitting pipelines, including Mountain Valley
Tuesday May 12, 2020
A federal judge has declined to lift his temporary ban on a permitting process for the crossing of streams and wetlands by oil and natural gas pipelines, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In an order late Monday, Montana U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris denied the Justice Department’s request for a stay pending an appeal of the case. Morris earlier struck down a streamlined method used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve waterbody crossings, ruling that the agency did not properly evaluate the potential harm to endangered species by the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canada to Nebraska. The sweeping ruling prevented other planned pipelines from obtaining a similar permit from the Army Corps until “completion of the consultation process and compliance with all environmental statutes and regulations” — a process expected to take months. Government lawyers had asked Morris to limit his ruling to the Keystone pipeline. But in a 38-page opinion, Morris wrote that pipeline developers “possess no inherent right to maximize revenues by using a cheaper, quicker permitting process, particularly when their preferred process does not comply with the ESA [Endangered Species Act.]”
Johnson: Yes, pipeline construction is a virus risk
Thursday May 7, 2020
Maury Johnson is a farmer who lives in Greenville, West Virginia.
Being a member of Preserve Monroe and probably one of those “certain individuals” mentioned (“Pandemic isn’t a reason to stop the pipeline,” April 8 op-ed), I must thank them because their response has outraged anti-pipeline, pro-pipeline and even some pipeline workers. Residents have documented MVP workers not following the guidelines, this refutes their statements. Also multiple crews of workers have been observed working along the MVP who aren’t erosion and sediment control (E&SC) workers. Therefore, I challenge their assertion that their activities are “limited to the inspection, maintenance, and repair of necessary erosion and sedimentation controls.” I’m not sure what “misrepresentations”, “factual inaccuracies” and “questionable merits” they may be referring to in their commentary. In no way has anyone asked that genuine erosion and soil control measures be halted; rather they ask that outside crews not be brought in to commence construction under the guise of erosion and soil control. Granted, there is opposition to the project, but this is in no way the intent of the letter from Preserve Monroe, myself or anyone else. Their statement that this request is an attempt to halt the use of “natural gas in general” is an absurd over statement. This is not about whether the pipeline should be finished or not. It is about the risks this will bring to our rural communities?” This is a major concern, it is disingenuous of them to imply otherwise.
Letter: Chambers should disavow pipeline
Monday May 4, 2020
I am aware that for thousands of Virginians, one of the biggest disappointments suffered over the last five years is the unwavering support by some of our “regional power brokers” and “business groups” for the unnecessary, dangerous, and climate-damaging fracked gas pipelines being hog-trenched across Virginia’s beautiful mountains and clear streams. This maligned “big money business support” for these pipelines has in itself created The widest divide between our citizenry and local businesses in Central and Southwestern Virginia, that I have witnessed in my 73 years here in the Roanoke Valley. In fact, the state and regional Chambers of Commerce should be ashamed of their short-sighted, greedy support of the unneeded fracked-gas Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.
Report of pipeline slips in West Virginia under investigation, raises concern
Sunday May 3, 2020
Land movement in a construction area shifted a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline after it was buried along a West Virginia slope, according to a report filed by environmental regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report stated that “crews verified that the installed pipe shifted … in at least three locations south of Brush Run Road” in Lewis County, about 50 miles from where the natural gas pipeline begins a 303-mile route that takes it through Southwest Virginia. Inspectors blamed the problem on what’s called a slip, or the gradual movement of land on its own in an area cleared for the pipeline. Although it was not clear how far the pipe had moved, the report alarmed those who have warned against building such a large pipeline in mountainous terrain. “That’s a big-time concern,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Association. Had pressurized gas been flowing through the finished pipeline, which has been under construction for the past two years, any underground movement could possibly cause a rupture and explosion, Rosser said.
A Mountain Valley spokeswoman, however, said the FERC report focused on environmental concerns and did not delve into technical issues of pipeline construction.
Limpert: Here’s why pipelines are dangerous
Wednesday April 29, 2020
William Limpert is a retired environmental regulator who formerly lived in Bath County along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He now lives in Maryland.
I want to thank Attorney General Herring for his recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Virginia citizens. He states “The (ACP) pipeline threatens Virginia’s natural resources with no clear benefits.” New evidence bolsters his argument, and indicates significant threats to the health and safety of Virginia residents near the ACP, and the MVP. Several years ago we learned that the pipes for the ACP and MVP were coated with a fusion bonded epoxy to prevent corrosion, and explosions. We learned that the pipes were exposed to sunlight at large storage yards. We learned that the coating degrades and becomes thinner when exposed to sunlight. Then we saw four catastrophic pipeline explosions in nearby states.
Mountain Valley says pipeline still on track despite issues with permit program
Friday April 24, 2020
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is still targeting a completion date of late this year, a spokeswoman said Friday, despite reports of the suspension of a nationwide program needed to grant a key permit it lacks. Last week, a federal judge in Montana vacated a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline to cross streams and wetlands in a decision that also applied to other projects, including the controversial natural gas pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia. The Associated Press reported Thursday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which approves the permits on a general basis for pipelines, utility lines and other construction work that must cross a water body — has suspended the process in light of the court ruling. Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company was aware of comments from the Corps about its so-called Nationwide Permit 12, which the AP attributed in part to emails it had obtained. “We are awaiting further developments on the Montana federal court case … to understand any potential impacts on the MVP project,” Cox wrote in an email, adding that the company still was aiming to complete work on the 303-mile pipeline by the end of the year. Mountain Valley was originally slated to be done by late 2018, and delays caused by legal challenges from environmental groups have in large part caused its estimated price to soar from $3.7 billion to as much as $5.5 billion.
Keystone XL ruling could further delay Mountain Valley Pipeline permit
Monday April 20, 2020
A long-suspended permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross streams and wetlands could remain on hold even longer as the result of a decision by a federal judge in Montana. Last week, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris vacated a so-called Nationwide Permit 12 issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Keystone XL pipeline. Opponents had said the Corps did not properly evaluate the harm to endangered species from the 1,210-mile pipeline that will transport crude oil from Canada to Nebraska. The ruling prevents other pipelines, including Mountain Valley, from obtaining a similar permit until systemic problems are addressed, according to an attorney involved in the case and others.
Peckman: The pipeline should be stopped
Sunday April 19, 2020
Bob Peckman has a PhD in Physics and is retired from ITT. He lives in Roanoke.
In the February 17 Roanoke Times, Chris Hurst described his legislation to control future pipelines. But we have two messes to deal with now. I am speaking in detail only about the MVP, which is close enough for me to go out and personally observe, and is further along than the ACP. MVP has demonstrated that they blatantly disregard the rules unless they get caught and are forced to comply. How much did we citizens miss? Several similar large new pipelines have sustained explosions large enough to wipe Newport off the map. When the 737-Maxs plunged into the sea, we investigated and they are grounded until they are fixed. No one seems to care why the brand new pipelines exploded. Will it happen in Newport? Will MVP comply with the safety standards if they are not observable? Are there any safety regulations even capable of preventing this new type of pipeline from exploding? Remember, this is a place where the earth moves and pipelines don’t stretch.
Keystone XL Ruling Has ‘Sweeping’ Impacts for Other Projects (2)
Thursday April 16, 2020
A federal court’s decision striking down a critical Keystone XL permit has broad implications beyond the embattled oil pipeline. The Wednesday ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana tossed a nationwide permit the Army Corps of Engineers uses to approve water crossings for projects all over the country, concluding the agency hadn’t properly considered impacts on endangered species. “This is a sweeping ruling,” said Larry Liebesman, a former Justice Department environmental lawyer now at the water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates. “This judge used his authority to enjoin it nationwide.” That means the Army Corps, for now, won’t be able to greenlight other projects under the streamlined permitting process it typically uses for pipelines, Liebesman said. A spokesman said the agency is still reviewing the on-the-ground impacts of the ruling. Pipeline developers say they’re watching the case closely to assess impacts on their own projects.
Virginia High Court Hears Trespass Case Against Pipeline Firm
Wednesday April 15, 2020
RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Virginia Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to clarify a state law governing how natural gas companies give notice to landowners when they want to survey private property without permission. At issue is surveying for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a more than 300-mile project that aims to bring natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina and beyond.
Community Fights Construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday April 13, 2020
Drive past small houses and cows on Yellow Finch Road, and blue yard signs line the gravel road. “Stream Crossing” is written in big letters, and the logo of the Mountain Valley Pipeline corporation is tucked in the corner. The signs acknowledge the over 1,000 locations where the Mountain Valley Pipeline crosses water bodies. As the road narrows, handmade fabric banners are hung in trees with messages like “Water Is Life,” a motto of the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and “Solidarity: Defend What You Love” with a drawing of a yellow finch. At around this point in the road, a clear difference appears in the left and right sides of the road. The right side has been clear cut, with netting and fertilizer capsules on top to grow grass, while the left side looks like a healthy forest. On the left, a makeshift staircase has been built into the steep land, leading up to a campsite built among the trees. People of all ages are sitting on benches around a small fire with a tarp hung above them. The camp on its own is remarkable as a communal home in the woods, but the camp isn’t the point. A dozen steps from the camp is an oak tree, and 50 feet up in the oak tree is a person living on a small platform. A few steps further is a white pine with another person living in it. They have been in the trees for more than 500 days as of January, “tree-sitting” to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They have received national media attention and they are far from alone in their actions.
Video on Mountain Valley Pipeline to air on C-SPAN
Saturday April 11, 2020
An award-winning documentary on the Mountain Valley Pipeline by two Blacksburg High School students will air Sunday on C-SPAN. Sisters Ava and Mia Lazar were second-prize winners in C-SPAN’s national 2020 StudentCam competition. In addition to earning a check for $1,500, the documentary “Burning the Bridge: The Story of the Mountain Valley Pipeline” will air on the network at 6:50 a.m. and throughout the day…
…In their film, the Lazar sisters examined the nation’s energy policies through the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has generated controversy over the expected emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of natural gas, use of eminent domain to acquire private property, and environmental damage along its 303-mile route through West Virginia and Virginia.
Limpert: Here’s why pipelines are dangerous
Wednesday April 8, 2020
William Limpert is a retired environmental regulator with an emphasis in water pollution and particularly pollution from construction projects. He lives in Bath County.
I want to thank Attorney General Herring for his recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Virginia citizens. He states “The (ACP) pipeline threatens Virginia’s natural resources with no clear benefits.” New evidence bolsters his argument, and indicates significant threats to the health and safety of Virginia residents near the ACP, and the MVP. Several years ago we learned that the pipes for the ACP and MVP were coated with a fusion bonded epoxy to prevent corrosion, and explosions. We learned that the pipes were exposed to sunlight at large storage yards. We learned that the coating degrades and becomes thinner when exposed to sunlight. Then we saw four catastrophic pipeline explosions in nearby states. The pipes for the ACP have now been exposed to the sun for over three years. Inspection reports indicate that most of the ACP pipes showed degrading coating in 2017. PHMSA will not tell us the current coating condition without a FOIA request. We will file that request. Similar sunlight exposure has occurred with the MVP pipes.
Lawsuit: Contaminated soil was Big Run-bound
Sunday April 5, 2020
(ASHLAND, KY) A 2019 car crash lawsuit has revealed a conspiracy to illegally dump contaminated soil at the Big Run Landfill, according to a recently amended complaint. The lawsuit charges three environmental clean-up companies with civil conspiracy, fraud negligence. Two roadside assistance companies were also charged in the suit. The complaint alleges Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. and Valicor Environmental Services, LLC knowingly sent a truckload of contaminated soil from Poca, West Virginia, to the landfill located in Ashland on May 15, 2019. After the truck experienced a blowout on I-64 near Milton, West Virginia, it experienced brake failure, the complaint states. Once it made its way to exit 181 in Kentucky, the complaint states its brakes failed again and slammed into a vehicle with two teenagers inside. The amended complaint sheds light on why the 42,000-pound rollback truck continued its trek after already experiencing brake failure about 20 miles from where it left.
Clean Harbors was contracted with disposing soil contaminated by the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Braxton County, West Virginia, a more than two-hour drive from Boyd County, the complaint states. The soil was dirtied with fracking fluid, which can include lead, radium, uranium, methanol, mercury, hydrocholoric acid and formaldehyde, according to the suit. Due to the nature of the waste, it needed to be tested prior to being dumped at any landfill, the suit further elaborates.
Letter: Concerned MVP construction could expand coronavirus
Monday Mar. 30, 2020
I am writing to express my concern with the potential for Mountain Valley Pipeline’s construction to enable COVID-19 coronavirus expansion. More than 250 people have died as the virus expands rapidly. Confirmed cases in the U.S. doubled over two days to more than 16,000 on March 20. Yet I take some solace in knowing that our area so far has few confirmed cases and that so many here are taking precautions by staying at home, social distancing, limiting travel, etc. But spring is here and I am concerned that Mountain Valley Pipeline may resume construction in a way that accelerates virus expansion. In recent years, MVP has brought hundreds of workers from other parts of the country into this area. We know that people who contract the virus are often contagious prior to symptoms and therefore unaware of their role in spreading it; that many US areas are experiencing virus outbreaks; and that travel by infected persons is a means by which the virus expands. As I write, more than one-third of the nation’s cases with known causes are due to travel; among those are two close to the Roanoke area, one in Mercer County, West Va. and another in the West Piedmont Health District. Also as I write, nearly 1/4 of the nation’s population is under state-level restrictions for even local travel (restricted except for essentials such as grocery shopping). The president has declared a national emergency and Governor Northam has declared a statewide emergency in response to COVID-19’s rapid expansion.
Federal reviews delay Mountain Valley Pipeline yet again
Friday Mar. 27, 2020
A winter hiatus in construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will last well into the spring. The latest delay came this week, with word that two federal agencies will take another month to review one of several approvals — set aside by legal challenges from environmental groups — that must be restored before work can ramp up on the highly disputed natural gas pipeline. Thursday had been the deadline for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finish their reconsideration of the project’s impact on endangered or threatened species of fish and bats. But in a letter Wednesday to FERC, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the agencies and Mountain Valley had agreed to take another 32 days, pushing the completion date to April 27.
Bowers, Christopulos and Smusz: COVID-19 and an army of pipeline workers don’t mix
Wednesday Mar. 25, 2020
Kirk Bowers, from Charlottesville, is pipelines campaign adviser for the Sierra Club Virginia chapter. Diana Christopulos is the retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem. Tina Smusz is retired from 27 years of medical practice in Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care. She lives in Catawba.
We all have grave concerns about COVID-19. Restaurants, public facilities and churches have closed. Everyone is asked to stay home and gather in groups smaller than ten. But out-of-state natural gas corporations either don’t pay attention to current news, or maybe they just don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s owners are preparing to unleash thousands of pipeline workers in six Virginia counties (Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania), most of them non-local. Each of these workers is a potential virus carrier. While the nation is shutting down public and private events and facilities, MVP developer EQT told investors in February that “we are planning to get back to construction at the end of April. . . So construction will start ramping up.” They are pushing hard to complete construction in 2020 and have announced no significant changes.
DEQ notes problems with erosion control during lull in work on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Mar. 10, 2020
At a time when building the Mountain Valley Pipeline was focused almost entirely on controlling erosion, muddy runoff continued to flow from dormant construction sites. In a letter last month to a conservation group that first raised the issue, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said the infractions would be forwarded to the state attorney general’s office, which has the authority to seek tough financial penalties. DEQ is “committed to aggressively and effectively enforcing and maintaining compliance of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction,” Paylor wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to David Sligh, conservation director of Wild Virginia. Sligh made the letters public this week. Sligh had asked the week before about DEQ inspections that showed violations of erosion and sediment control regulations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019 — when construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline was stalled by legal action, leaving workers to concentrate largely on efforts to curb erosion. The violations were especially troubling, Sligh wrote, because they began so shortly after Sept. 18 — the last day covered by a consent decree in which Mountain Valley agreed to pay Virginia $2.15 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged similar problems in the past.
Editorial: What the Constitution Pipeline says about Virginia’s pipelines
Tuesday Mar. 10, 2020
While everyone else has been preoccupied by primaries, purges and pandemics (or at least the threat thereof), there’s been some news involving another “p” word: Pipelines. The proposed Constitution Pipeline has been cancelled. This pipeline wasn’t going to be near us — it would have run from Pennsylvania to New York, where other connections would have sent the gas onto New England (or some believe Canada). However, the lessons learned from the Constitution Pipeline hit very close to home —but not close enough for some pipeline opponents.
The Constitution Pipeline was originally proposed to federal regulators in 2013 with a price tag of $700 million. The Associated Press reports that “legal challenges have driven the costs up by nearly 40%.” Seven years later there was still no pipeline, and developer Williams Partners LP found the costs of the project were “negatively impacting” its bottom line — to the tune of taking $354 million off last year’s books; $145 million for Williams, the rest for its partners. Meanwhile, Natural Gas Intelligence — an industry website — reports that “natural gas prices have hit historic lows and there’s little need for more supply in the Northeast from a greenfield system.” So Williams and its partners cut their losses and moved on, a rational enough business decision when the expected profits don’t justify the costs. Now, here’s the significant thing: Those legal challenges that ran up the Constitution Pipeline’s costs came primarily from New York state government, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed that “any way that we can challenge it, we will.” That’s very different from Virginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe enthusiastically endorsed both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines and Gov. Ralph Northam has stood aside while state regulators have let the projects proceed.
Letter: Pipeline bust or BOOM?
Wednesday Mar. 4, 2020
Mountain Valley Pipeline expects to reap huge profit transporting gas from the Marcellus shale fracking boom. Despite numerous lawsuits, million-dollar fines for environmental damage and falling demand for gas, MVP expects completion in 2020. Although parent company EQT falters near bankruptcy, they forge ahead with this boom or bust proposition. One critical part has been left out of most pipeline conversations. We know that, despite stealing land via eminent domain and destroying environmentally sensitive areas, MVP can indeed build a pipeline. But can they actually operate it safely?
The 303-mile pipeline will consist of over 30,000 sections of 42-inch diameter steel pipe. No pipeline this huge has ever crossed such inhospitable terrain. Each piece must be welded perfectly to the next as it tunnels under rivers and streams, traversing unstable karst terrain and incredibly steep slopes with precarious slip soils. One pinhole leak and a massive explosion is imminent. “Pipelines are safe” is MVP’s typical refrain. But a massive high-pressure gas pipeline burrowing across the rugged Appalachians?
Pristine Waters At Bottom Creek Gorge
Tuesday February 25, 2020
Tucked away in Montgomery County, Va., is a wonderful natural treasure called Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve. In addition to hiking trails, this place is home to the globally rare chestnut lip fern, old growth hemlock forest and Bent Mountain Falls, the second highest waterfall in the state. The falls empty into Bottom Creek, a Tier III waterway. Tier III waters are defined by Virginia as exceptional bodies of water that meet strict criteria. Protection of these creeks and rivers is crucial. Given the designation of Bottom Creek, it might be surprising to learn that the 42-inch fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens the pristine waters of the Bent Mountain community surrounding the preserve…
…While the Mountain Valley Pipeline may not cross this preserve directly, MVP has repeatedly allowed excess sedimentation in nearby waterways, such as the Roanoke River and Little Teel Creek. Instead, the waters and lands surrounding areas such as the preserve should be cherished and protected for future generations to enjoy.
Mountain Valley weighs options should its crossing of the Appalachian Trail be blocked
Monday Feb. 24, 2020
When a federal appeals court ruled that a natural gas pipeline cannot cross under the Appalachian Trail, it erected a “2,192-mile-long barrier” that blocks service to much of the East Coast, lawyers for Mountain Valley Pipeline say in court papers. But that barrier may not be as high for Mountain Valley as it would be for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an earlier ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. For Atlantic Coast, a Dominion Energy-led venture that plans to build a pipeline across Central Virginia, the 4th Circuit’s ruling could doom the project. Last year, the appeals court rejected a permit from U.S. Forest Service that allowed the pipe to burrow under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest, near the Wintergreen resort. Because the land in question was administered by the National Park Service, the 4th Circuit held, the Forest Service lacked authority to issue the permit. Environmental groups who brought the lawsuit say the unneeded pipeline would damage the Appalachian Trail, a scenic footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine.
Pipeline opponents, trail advocates travel to Washington for Supreme Court hearing
Monday Feb. 24, 2020
WASHINGTON (WDBJ7)– Maury Johnson got in line at 6:30 Sunday evening, prepared for a cold night on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court. He was there as a landowner whose property lies in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and as a defender of the Appalachian Trail. “My involvement with the Appalachian Trail probably started 45 years ago as a teenager,” Johnson told WDBJ7 in a telephone interview. “And this case has huge ramifications for the trail regardless of what the ruling is.” Johnson was one of the pipeline opponents and Appalachian Trail advocates from our region, who traveled to Washington to attend the Supreme Court hearing. He was the first in line.
“The big question is: If you want to cross the Appalachian Trail on federal land, can the Forest Service give you a permit to do that, or do you require an act of Congress.” explained Diana Christopulos, a pipeline opponent and Appalachian Trail advocate. The case before the Supreme Court deals specifically with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but it has implications for the Mountain Valley Pipeline as well, because both projects would cross the Appalachian Trail.
Supreme Court Seems Ready to Back Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit
Monday Feb. 24, 2020
A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices seemed supportive of a crucial permit for Dominion Energy Inc.’s planned $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, suggesting the Forest Service acted lawfully by clearing the natural-gas line to cross under the Appalachian Trail. In an hour-long argument in Washington Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts said the position taken by environmental groups opposed to the pipeline would “erect an impermeable barrier” along the 2,200-mile (3540-kilometer) trail, separating consumers on the eastern seaboard from inland energy resources. A ruling in Dominion’s favor would eliminate the biggest obstacle to the 600-mile pipeline, which would carry as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Marcellus shale basin in West Virginia to customers in North Carolina and Virginia. Without the permit, “the whole enterprise is done,” Justice Department lawyer Anthony Yang told the court Monday. President Donald Trump’s administration is backing Dominion, challenging a federal appeals court ruling that tossed out the permit.
Dominion, which is developing the pipeline with Duke Energy Corp., says it expects to begin construction by mid-year and complete it by the end of 2021. The company is still facing a pending administrative review of other environmental issues. The case will also affect EQM Midstream Partners LP’s Mountain Valley gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. Mountain Valley told the Supreme Court in December that the appeals court ruling forced a halt to its project, which is 90% complete at a cost of more than $4.3 billion.
Pipeline protester charged with 3 assaults of MVP workers
Friday Feb. 21, 2020
A protester was arrested this week on three charges of assaulting workers for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As part of a covert operation Tuesday, Virginia State Police went to the site of a tree-sit blockade in Montgomery County, where they arrested Emma Howell, 22, on three outstanding charges, according to spokeswoman Corinne Geller. Two of the charges alleged assaults that happened last year; the third involved an encounter Feb. 14.
According to Appalachians Against Pipelines, police had dressed as workers for a Mountain Valley erosion control crew before making the arrest. “Collusion between police and the multibillion dollar Mountain Valley Pipeline project is clearer than ever,” the organization said in a Facebook post. Geller wrote in an email that police went undercover because it enabled them to find and serve Howell with the outstanding arrest warrants. She declined to say how police were dressed or to provide any other details, citing a policy of not discussing “operational or tactical measures taken as part of a covert investigative effort.”
Hurst: Virginia not doing enough on pipelines
Monday Feb. 17, 2020
Chris Hurst represents Giles County, Radford and parts of Montgomery and Pulaski counties in the House of Delegates. He is a Democrat.
Sediment steadily encroaching onto private property. Road closures and traffic jams. Man-made erosion of the lush Appalachian Mountains. This has become the new normal for the residents of my district and far too many others who live in Southwest Virginia. The unfortunate truth is that this is what so many of us warned about when the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project filed for its construction permit in 2015. Now, almost five years later, following dubious arguments and deceitful reassurances from big energy and stakeholders of the MVP, the commonwealth’s environment and its citizens are more at risk to the consequences of this project than ever before. In 2018, the MVP racked up more than 300 permit violations for carelessly violating Virginia’s water quality standards, failing to repair broken equipment, allowing man-made erosion to occur, poor stormwater management, and more. These violations averaged more than one per day during construction and were unquestionably significant. The commonwealth clearly understands the crisis that these violations bring, as made evident by the Office of the Attorney General’s decision to sue the MVP alongside the Department of Environmental Quality over the high number of violations in late 2018. While I’m proud of the work the Attorney General has done to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable, Virginia is not doing nearly enough to defend our environment from the threats we face.
Mountain Valley Pipeline extension clears environmental review by FERC
Friday Feb. 14, 2020
Plans to extend the Mountain Valley Pipeline 75 miles into North Carolina moved forward Friday, even as the initial project remains mired in legal and regulatory challenges. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that while there would be some environmental damage caused by building the so-called MVP Southgate, it could be minimized to “less than significant levels.” An environmental impact statement released by FERC is a major step forward for the pipeline, which would originate at Mountain Valley’s terminus in Chatham, head southwest through Pittsylvania County and cross into North Carolina, extending to Alamance County near Burlington.
Offset for pipeline damage to more than double size of Read Mountain Preserve
Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020
The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to accept $650,000 for the purchase of 304 acres that will more than double the size of the Read Mountain Preserve. The purchase includes Buzzards Rock, the preserve’s main attraction, which previously has been accessible by permission from the landowner. Money for the purchase came from the latest disbursement of a fund established last year, when Mountain Valley Pipeline agreed to pay the state $27.5 million to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution that was expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried natural gas pipeline project. Virginia then passed the company’s payments on to four conservation groups. The largest share, $15 million, went to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which awarded $3.9 million in its second round of grants.
Environmental problems continue with Mountain Valley Pipeline, group says
Friday Feb. 7, 2020
Problems with erosion and sedimentation along the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have continued, despite a winter slowdown in the work. Inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found repeated violations from Sept. 19 through Dec. 20, 2019, according to an analysis by Wild Virginia, one of the environmental groups opposed to the natural gas pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia. The group’s conservation director, David Sligh, asked in a letter emailed Thursday to DEQ what enforcement actions have been taken, in light of a court order that allows for tougher monitoring and penalties for any repeat violations after Sept. 18. DEQ director of communications Greg Bilyeu did not address that question directly in an email to The Roanoke Times late Friday, instead explaining in general terms how the agency requires corrective action to address problems found during inspections.
Christopulos & Bowers: What you should know about the Roanoke Gas price increase: an open letter to customers and company shareholders
Monday Feb. 3, 2020
Diana Christopulos is a retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem. Kirk Bowers is a retired engineer. He lives in Charlottesville.
Dear Roanoke Gas customers and shareholders in RGC Resources:
Last week the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued a long-delayed decision on Roanoke Gas’s rate increase application. Rate increases require the approval of the SCC, and almost 300 people filed public comments on the case with the majority in opposition because of MVP’s high costs, investment risks and environmental damages. Part of the rate increase was to pay for connections to the controversial and incomplete Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). RGC Resources, the parent company of Roanoke Gas, is a 1% owner of MVP, and Roanoke Gas is a 0.5% customer. In the decision, the Commission ruled that it will not allow recovery from ratepayers of any pipeline-related expenses, including investments in both Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) gate stations, until the pipeline is operational. A few days later, RGC Resources issued a press release explaining what had happened. RGC Resources is holding its annual shareholder meeting in Roanoke on Feb., 3, 2020, and they will probably hear a somewhat incomplete version of the results. Here is a little translation.
RGC statement: the SCC “affirmed the Company’s need for connections to the MVP and plans to acquire firm capacity from the MVP.”
SCC ruling: “the cost or prudence of the purchase of firm pipeline capacity [in MVP] is not an issue in this proceeding,” meaning those questions will arise if and when Roanoke Gas tries to charge customers for gas from MVP. The SCC did not allow Roanoke Gas to charge its customers for construction of gate stations in Montgomery and Franklin counties until MVP is in service.
RGC statement: the SCC ruling reduces the average customer’s “monthly bill approximately 8% or $3.25 from the rates implemented January 1, 2019.”
Impacts to Roanoke Gas customers: it is a “reduction” only in the sense that we have all been overcharged since January 1, 2019, even though the company never offered any explanation on our bills. We are all getting REFUNDS for the overcharge.
Impacts to RGC shareholders: less income and more uncertainty about recovery of MVP-related costs. The decision adds additional risk because it closes the possibility of an SCC bailout for pipeline-related costs if MVP is never operational or if the gas it contains turns out to be too expensive to justify using.
Completion of the MVP remains questionable. Construction is shut down after the loss of three sets of federal permits. The project is now at least two years behind schedule, with costs ballooning to between $5.0 to $5.5 billion dollars. Industry expert Thomas Hadwin has noted in The Roanoke Times that the high cost of MVP construction means its cost to consumers could be 500-800 percent higher than gas from the existing East Tennessee and Columbia pipelines. Customers are at risk of huge price increases if MVP is completed and the SCC approves future rate increases.
Several things that RGC did not say at all…
Charge dismissed against Mountain Valley Pipeline opponent
Thursday Jan. 30, 2020
A misdemeanor charge that an opponent obstructed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County was dismissed Thursday. General District Judge Gino Williams ruled that pipeline officials brought the wrong charge against Phillip Flagg during a July 13 encounter in which Flagg secured himself to a concrete structure in the pipeline’s right of way, blocking work for several hours. Flagg was charged with obstructing the free passage of others in a public place. But the easement on which the incident occurred was private property, according to defense attorney Jennifer French of Wytheville. French said she was prepared to make that argument after the prosecution presented evidence Thursday, but Williams dismissed the charge with no prompting.
SCC approves Roanoke Gas rate increase in part; customers to get refunds
Monday Jan. 27, 2020
State regulators have approved a rate increase less than what Roanoke Gas Co. sought and implemented last year on an interim basis, leading to refunds of $30 to $40 for the average residential customer…
…During a yearlong regulatory review of the rate increase, Roanoke Gas’ involvement in the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline took a high profile. Opponents argued that there was no need for the company to purchase gas from the 303-mile pipeline, and that the investment of a sister company, RGC Midstream, as a 1% partner in the joint venture would lead to higher rates for customers. Roanoke Gas officials, however, said the pipeline was needed to meet demand — a position the SCC agreed with. The decision to build two gate stations, in Franklin and Montgomery counties, to connect with the pipeline “was reasonable and prudent in order to provide additional capacity to meet Roanoke’s public service obligations,” the commission said in its 24-page decision…
Seventy-six-year-old pipeline protester found guilty of trespassing, told to stay off work sites
Monday Jan. 13, 2020
CHRISTIANSBURG — A 76-year-old pipeline protester who chained herself to a crane last fall at a Montgomery County work site resolved her charges with a plea agreement Monday and said she has no regrets. “Why did I do it? Because pipelines are poisoning our Mother Earth and I can’t sit around and do nothing while this was happening,” Glenna Benjamin of Durham, North Carolina, said after a hearing in Montgomery County General District Court. Benjamin faced five misdemeanor charges from a Sept. 27 incident near Elliston, where protests against the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been continuous for more than a year. Benjamin attached herself to construction equipment, locking down her arm inside a pipe marked with the word “Resist.”
4th Circuit vacates state air permit for Buckingham pipeline compressor station
Tuesday Jan. 7, 2020
A federal appeals court dealt another blow to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Tuesday with a ruling that vacates a state air pollution control permit for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County for failing to consider the disproportionate health effects on the surrounding, predominantly African American community of Union Hill. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the State Air Pollution Control Board had “failed to grapple with the likelihood that those living closest to the compression station … will be affected more than those living in other parts of the county.” The 47-page ruling, written by Judge Stephanie Thacker of West Virginia, concluded that the board improperly relied on federal and state air quality standards without deciding whether the compressor station represented an environmental injustice to Union Hill residents, some of whom are descendants of slaves who founded the community after the Civil War.
Virginia Landowners file constitutional case against FERC & Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Jan. 6, 2020
Word is the Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline is that the project is nearly complete, but construction remains on hold for the winter and several environmental permits are still in limbo. Last week, landowners in the pipeline’s path filed a lawsuit against the company and the Federal Energy Regulatory commission, challenging the constitutionality of a practice known as ‘eminent domain.’ The lawsuit calls into question what the plaintiffs call, eminent domain for private gain, when private companies are granted the right to take private property for public use. The law requires “just” compensation to be given to the original owner.
Letter: Nonrenewable energy crossing the (pipe) line
Monday Jan. 6, 2020
Traveling through 469 miles of Virginia and North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is one of the most historical environmental landmarks of the Appalachian region. Recent reports from the National Parks Service have shown that the BRP supports 16,000 jobs for local parkway employees. In 2018, the BRP had over 14.7 million visitors who spent $1.3 billion on the parkway alone and spent $20.2 billion in surrounding counties supporting 329,000 jobs. According to the 2018 National Parks Service Visitor Effects Spending Report, visitation of the parkway has been declining since approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in June of 2018. From 2017 to 2018 alone visitation dropped by 1.4 million and spending dropped $100 million leading to job and salary cuts in the region. Although some believe that visitation will increase upon completion of the pipeline, local consensus attributes the decline to MVP construction. Gambling away a definite source of income for a short-term infrastructure with questionable economic benefits is a mistake. Since the MVP was announced in 2014, many locals and visitors to the region have resisted its construction in order to protect the mountains, waterways and jobs in Appalachia. At the federal level, Virginian legislators Senator Kaine, Senator Warner and Representative Griffith have been working to gain support from other members of Congress to revise Federal Energy Regulatory Commission standards for future pipeline approval. The proposed Pipeline Fairness and Transparency Act is a start but must be made much stronger to prevent unnecessary destruction of natural landmarks for fossil fuel infrastructure that is outdated before it even goes into service.
Latest lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline contests the taking of private land
Friday Jan. 3, 2020
Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline might be stalled for the winter, but that has not stopped the legal challenges against the embattled project. In the latest attack, brought Thursday, three couples who had their land taken for the natural gas pipeline are contesting the seizures, arguing that as a private company, Mountain Valley should not have been allowed to use the laws of eminent domain. The lawsuit — filed on behalf of Cletus and Beverly Bohon of Montgomery County, Wendell and Mary Flora of Franklin County and Robert and Aimee Hamm of Roanoke County — seeks a remedy that would extend far beyond the pipeline’s 303-mile route. Because Congress improperly delegated legislative power to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which in turn gave a private company the authority to invoke eminent domain, all pipeline approvals that led to land being taken under the process should be invalidated, the lawsuit claims.
Letter: Colossal blunder
Thursday Jan. 2, 2020
Even as winter halts construction, the Mountain Valley Pipeline disaster continues. It’s like a sleeping fire-breathing dragon that has torn its way across the landscape, terrorizing the inhabitants and ripping landowners lives apart. Even in slumber it remains incredibly dangerous. We must kill it before it reawakens.
This beast, born out of pure greed, should never have been conceived. Fundamentally flawed from the start, it’s been nurtured by FERC, the corrupt agency that stamps YES on every pipeline they review. This monster project was encouraged by myopic Virginia governors, politicians and civic leaders blinded by promises of bounty. Inexplicably, government agencies, established to protect our natural resources, ignored their own rules and assisted the birth of this destructive creature. Luckily, the justice system is forcing a reassessment of these erroneous decisions.
Editorial: 20 questions for 2020
Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020
Happy New Year. What kind of year will this be? Check back in another 365 days and we’ll tell you. Meanwhile, here are 20 questions, the answers to which will help shape what kind of year 2020 will be:
12. Will either or both of the proposed natural gas pipelines get built? Right now, both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been slowed by court action. Speaking of court action . . .
13. How will the U.S. Supreme Court rule on the ACP? In February, the court will hear a case on whether the Appalachian Trail can block pipelines from burrowing under it. This specific case concerns only the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but the ruling — however it goes — will have much larger ramifications.
Editorial: 19 questions, and 19 answers, for 2019
Tuesday Dec. 31, 2019
When the year began, we posed 19 questions, the answers to which we thought would help shape what kind of year 2019 would be. Here’s how things turned out…
10. Will we see any big changes in other local elections? Umm, not really, unless you count two anti-pipeline activists winning seats on their Soil and Water Conservation Boards in Roanoke and Montgomery County.
11. Will either or both of the proposed natural gas pipelines get built? Not yet. The Mountain Valley Pipeline says it’s about 85% complete but construction has been halted by court rulings. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is likewise held up in the courts, including one case that’s before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Natural gas development is speeding up in Virginia. Legislators will have to square that with state climate goals.
Monday Dec. 30, 2019
This September, Gov. Ralph Northam took the stage at the inaugural Virginia Clean Energy Summit to announce he was committing the state to a carbon-free grid by 2050. “I always say that I want Virginia to be a welcoming place, with our lights on and our doors open,” he said. “Well, I also want those lights to be powered by clean energy.” But as the governor received a standing ovation, elsewhere in the commonwealth work was underway to massively expand infrastructure supporting a very different — and decidedly not carbon-free — type of energy: natural gas.
The past year has seen a flow of investments in natural gas in Virginia, from ongoing work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and continued efforts to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to plans by state utilities and private investors to build up to 12 new natural gas plants. Now, as the General Assembly prepares to convene this January under new Democratic leadership, lawmakers are struggling to chart a course for Virginia’s energy policy in a state split between carbon-free goals and intensive natural gas investment.
Looking back at some of 2019’s local news stories and asking ‘What Happened To?’
Monday Dec. 30, 2019
As 2019 concludes, the news staff looks back to some of the stories we’ve covered in the past year and explains “What Happened To? … ”
Mountain Valley Pipeline construction stalls
Then: In July, Anne and Steve Bernard’s view of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was discomforting: Part of the pipe was floating in water that filled a trench dug by construction workers about 150 feet from their home and art studio in Franklin County. The 120-foot section of steel pipe, which tilted upwards from where it was supposed to be buried, had been that way for a year — long enough for the Bernards to worry that the spot where it was welded to the underground part of the pipeline might be weakened as the water level rose and fell. Crews were in the process of burying the pipe in July 2018 when a series of revoked and suspended permits, struck down by a federal appeals court for environmental reasons, stopped their work in mid-process. For more than a year, the Bernards’ fears of an explosion or other problem with the natural gas pipeline remained as suspended as the piece of pipe on their land.
Now: Crews returned to the site in September, spent about a day pumping out ground water that had filled the 10-foot deep trench, and covered the section of pipe with dirt. But then it was clear that Mountain Valley would not have its permits restored until the following year, and the company was stabilizing unfinished work sites before winter set in. Before construction can be completed, the federal government must reissue three sets of key permits: for the 303-mile pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest, to cross more than 1,000 streams and wetlands, and to be built in a way the protects endangered species of bats and fish. If that happens, crews will return to the Bernards’ property to complete a nearby stream crossing. “We can’t walk out of the door without being reminded of it,” Anne Bernard said of the spot of bare earth where the pipe once protruded. “We can’t forget about it.”
Editorial: How will we remember 2019?
Sunday Dec. 29, 2019
When future historians — or even just ordinary people — look back on 2019, they’ll have a lot to remember…
…This was the year carbon in the atmosphere hit 415 parts per million — the highest level in human history — and a teenage climate activist from Sweden commanded the world stage…
…This was the year that saw construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline both continue and get halted by various court rulings.
Photos: Pipeline protesters continue tree-sitting on Christmas Day
Thursday Dec. 26, 2019
An unidentified pipeline protester swings in a hammock while reading Wednesday at the camp off Yellow Finch Lane.
Pipeline protesters push past Christmas
Wednesday Dec. 25, 2019
ELLISTON — Tree-sitters protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline weren’t especially concerned that Santa Claus didn’t show up with presents Wednesday. The group of about 12 protesters — only two of which are stationed high above the ground in a white pine and a chestnut oak — mingled around the makeshift campsite off Yellow Finch Lane in Elliston, treating the day as if it was any other. Some protesters and supporters — most declining to be named or giving pseudonyms — said they’ve been there on and off since early September 2018, making it the longest active blockade of a natural gas pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines.
Wilson: Forest Service wants to reduce public input
Wednesday Dec. 18, 2019
William Wilson is an attorney in Covington and president of the Jackson River Preservation Association.
The Jackson River Preservation Association (JRPA), is a small, non-profit corporation, located in the Alleghany Highlands of Virginia, dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Jackson River. The Jackson River flows through Highland, Bath and Alleghany Counties, all in Virginia, and joins with the Cowpasture River to form the James River. I am honored to be the president of the JRPA and have been since its inception in 2016. Almost from the beginning, our organization has been fighting to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) proposed to run from Wetzel County, West Virginia, down to the Virginia coast and on into North Carolina and South Carolina. The pipeline is supposed to be 42 inches in diameter and, if built, will run up and down some of the steepest mountains in Virginia. That cannot be done, in our opinion, without huge and permanent environmental damage. I mention that to you because early on in the debate, the U.S.F.S. appeared to be protecting the public’s interest in the George Washington and Monongahela National Forest but when the word came down from the “Administration” that the ACP should be built, the U.S.F.S. did an about face and started making decisions that played into the hands of Dominion Energy, the project’s developer. The U.S.F.S. was not the only agency to roll over. So did the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Perhaps you have kept up with the decisions of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals? If so, you know that permit after permit has been voided by the Court on the ground, mainly, that the permits were “arbitrary and capricious” and sometimes rushed through to completion. The same kind of thing has happened at the state agency level in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. It is a sorry mess, and, frankly, I am ashamed of our agencies which, supposedly, were designed to protect the public and its property…
…Now, in the alleged names of “economy” and “efficiency,” the U.S.F.S., by “rule” change, proposes to reduce the public’s participation in projects that affect the national forest. Why would they do that? Could it be because the Trump Administration wants to continue bulling the agencies as they have been doing with deregulation and Executive Orders? I think so, and the sad thing is that I am getting vibes that the U.S.F.S. personnel are going to be complicit in that effort. I hate to say that because I love this country but I have watched that “rollover” syndrome for almost four years regarding the ACP — and MVP.
Dominion still sees U.S. Atlantic Coast natgas pipe online in 2022 despite Morgan Stanley’s doubts
Monday Dec. 16, 2019
(Reuters) – Dominion Energy Inc (D.N) said on Monday it was confident it will complete the proposed $7.3-$7.8 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina by early 2022, in response to a prediction by investment bank Morgan Stanley that a court decision would likely scuttle the project…Dominion made its comments after Morgan Stanley said in a report that “Atlantic Coast will likely not be completed given the Fourth Circuit’s likely (in the bank’s view) rejection, for the third time, of a newly issued Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement that we expect to come by the first quarter of 2020.” In July, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) second Biological Opinion because the court found the agency’s decisions were arbitrary and would jeopardize the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and other endangered species. Federal agencies use Biological Opinions when authorizing projects that could adversely affect threatened or endangered species or critical habitats, and issue take statements to limit the number of those species that could be harmed…
…Dominion suspended construction of the 600-mile (966-kilometer) project in December 2018 after the Fourth Circuit stayed the FWS’ second Biological Opinion. Dominion and its partners, Duke Energy Corp (DUK.N) and Southern Co (SO.N), are also working through a dispute over where the pipeline can cross the Appalachian Trail…
…The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the Appalachian Trail case, which is also important for the construction of EQM Midstream Partners LP’s (EQM.N) Mountain Valley gas pipe from West Virginia to Virginia.
Judge approves $2.15 million settlement of lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday Dec. 12, 2019
Mountain Valley Pipeline will pay $2.15 million for the environmental damage it has caused so far in building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, while facing additional penalties for any new violations that may occur. Those were the conditions of a settlement, approved this week, of a lawsuit brought against the company by state regulators. Attorney General Mark Herring, who filed the case a year ago on behalf of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board, called the financial penalty one of the toughest ever imposed by the state in such a case…
…Pipeline opponents called the agreement too lenient, saying that the $2.15 million fine amounts to just 0.038% of the project’s total cost of $5.5 billion. “The financial penalty is so small, in fact, that polluters will not see it as a deterrent to future crimes and offenses, but rather as a mere pittance, the cost of doing business in Virginia,” the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights coalition said in a written statement.
Munley: Past time for water board to stop pipeline
Thursday Dec. 12, 2019
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is engineered, constructed and fatally-flawed because of its contractor’s gross underestimate of stormwater runoff. Mounting evidence of engineering failure started with a landslide on Cahas Mountain Road in May 2018. The State Water Control Board (SWCB) is the citizenry’s ultimate defense against schemes by government leaders under the influence of campaign contributions and an industry colluding with the predatory Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In August 2018, the SWCB came one vote shy of revoking MVP’s 401 permit. In December 2018, it voted to reconsider, but after three months of silence, the board met in private for four hours with the Attorney General’s counsel. Without explanation, the board announced it “lacked authority to revoke” — abandoning its more accountable new direction along with science and mounting, documented violations.
Early plans unveiled for proposed Brush Mountain trail network
Sunday Dec. 8, 2019
BLACKSBURG — Draft plans have been unveiled for a new network of natural trails on Brush Mountain. Project diagrams, viewable on Blacksburg’s town website, were put on display Thursday night during an information session at the Blacksburg Library. More than 100 people attended the event, which was hosted in part to field community questions about the recreational project. The network of dirt trails are set to be located on two properties totaling 552 acres located north of Meadowbrook Drive, close to Gateway and Heritage parks in northwest Blacksburg. The New River Land Trust purchased the Brush Mountain properties with the aid of a $1.2 million grant originating from payments generated from the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline to offset the surface impacts caused by the project’s construction.
Texas construction company no longer working on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Dec. 3, 2019
A Texas corporation that has put down roots in Raleigh County is no longer working on a controversial natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, after the pipeline’s major stakeholder unexpectedly cancelled the Texas company’s contract last month. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint project of EQM Midstream Partners LP, Con Edison Transmissions Inc., NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October halted construction of the 303-mile, interstate pipeline in October, pending the outcome of a series of court challenges launched by environmental groups. In the last week of November, EQM Midstream Partners LP cancelled a work contract for Trinity Energy Services of Argyle, Texas, Trinity spokesman Bob McKibbon verified Monday. “We’ve all been kind of in the dark with it, as far as not much detail,” McKibbon said Monday. “There’s nobody else talking to us about it.”
Despite setbacks, Mountain Valley Pipeline inches forward
Monday Dec. 2, 2019
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is three years behind schedule, $2 billion over budget and has lost four required permits it needs to continue construction. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stopped work on the pipeline to review a lawsuit over one of those permits, and another suit over environmental violations ended with MVP paying a $2.15 million civil penalty…
…Diana Christopulos, a member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy President’s Leadership Council and president of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, questions the need for the MVP and has fought the pipeline for years. She admits the odds favor the MVP, but she doesn’t think its completion is inevitable. “The question becomes how long do they want to keep throwing this money around and how long do the investors want to keep loaning them money?” she says. “It is death by a thousand cuts. You never know when you’ve got to the thousandth one because they’re little.”
Editorial: Newspapers stories don’t just happen
Saturday Nov. 30, 2019
…Pipeline oversight. One of the major stories in our midst is the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline burrowing through the region. Suspicions have swirled around the pipeline project and others like it for years. In the spring, reporter Laurence Hammack confirmed one of those, namely that regulatory oversight equates to taps on the wrist. He found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — largely made up of former company officials — had issued just one fine to the natural gas pipeline company since 2005. This despite the surge in natural gas pipeline projects over that same span. That explained, in the minds of some pipeline foes, why MVP had not been issued a single “serious violation” despite problems largely oriented around erosion. A gravel parking lot washed out and caked a Lindside, West Virginia, church in mud. Sediment-laded water gushed into a Pittsylvania County stream. Elsewhere, there have been mudslides. But no serious violations. Hammack’s reporting reveals that such scenarios are not uncommon. None of these were stories produced by national news organizations. They weren’t produced by CNN or Fox or MSNBC or The Washington Post or the New York Times and they certainly weren’t produced by Facebook or Twitter, although they may have been shared there. They were produced by your neighbors who work for The Roanoke Times, by reporters who sit through government meetings while you’re at your kid’s soccer game, or study government documents while you’re going about your daily life…
Pipeline opponents ask court to reject agreement between Virginia and MVP
Wednesday Nov. 27, 2019
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A coalition of groups that oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline are asking a court to reject an agreement between the pipeline company and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. Wednesday was the deadline for public comment on the the agreement that was negotiated to settle alleged violations of environmental laws.
Members of the POWHR coalition said the agreement ignores almost a year of violations, lacks adequate safeguards and fails to mitigate the damage effectively. “What we would like to see is for the court to hear directly from impacted folks along the route and reject this agreement,” said POWHR Co-Chair Russell Chisholm,”because we don’t believe they have all of the information that should be considered. In its leniency, lack of transparency and lack of accountability, the Attorney General’s proposed agreement with MVP is little more than a ‘pay to pollute’ scheme,” said POWHR Co-Chair Roberta Bondurant, “which broadcasts to out-of-state extraction interests that the Commonwealth is open for business to anyone who can pre-pay their crimes.”
Public comments being taken on lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Nov. 22, 2019
Before a judge decides whether to approve a $2.15 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging environmental damage caused by building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, state regulators will consider public comments on the proposal. About 130 people had submitted input by midday Tuesday, according to Ann Regn, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The deadline for written comments is Wednesday.
DEQ and the State Water Control Board sued Mountain Valley last December, saying the company violated state regulations meant to limit erosion and sedimentation more than 300 times in building the largest natural gas pipeline ever to cross Southwest Virginia.
Bondurant and Leech: The ‘public need’ argument for the MVP grows weaker
Thursday Nov. 21, 2019
Roberta Bondurant is Co-chair of Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition. She lives in Roanoke County.
Irene Leech is a member of Preserve Montgomery County. She lives in Montgomery County.
Public need is the core constitutional requirement for the taking of private property in eminent domain. The question of public need for Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has been questioned since private corporation EQT first proposed it in 2014. The volume of skepticism and public outrage regarding MVP has recently reached a record decibel with new evidence from the State Corporation Commission and EQT/MVP executive decision makers. Since 2014, economic experts and FERC Commissioners alike have emphasized that FERC failed to evaluate and MVP failed to establish true public “need” in support of FERC certification of natural gas pipeline projects. In February 2017, former FERC Enforcement Chief and Chair Norman Bay questioned the use of “precedent agreements” or shipping contracts, as proof of public need. Bay urged further consideration of additional factors such as assessment of present infrastructure, cost-benefit analysis, market competition and long term economic stability. He warned of the results of overbuild, including stranded assets and economic instability, where producer-shippers are allowed to drive infrastructure development. In June 2018 dissents on the MVP certificate rehearing appeals, Commissioners Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur repeated Bay’s concerns. Glick noted that MVP, a limited liability corporation, had relied solely on agreements with its own affiliates. La Fleur, a career banking and energy official, cited due process offenses by FERC for accepting precedent agreements alone while allowing MVP and affiliates to keep documents embodying those agreements hidden from the public.
The above concerns, as well as direct evidence from communities in the path of MVP, are now before the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC). An independent analyst, reviewing the real demographic numbers of local need, recommended against increasing rates —stating “there is little evidence to support that the rate is growing at the rate reported by RGC,” and as such, there appeared to be “no immediate need to expand the size of the natural gas portfolio.” A recently released SCC Hearing Summary raises questions — such as why, after Roanoke Gas has asserted for decades it was not economical to bring natural gas to Franklin County, MVP now makes it financially advisable?”
Smaller rate increase for Roanoke Gas customers recommended by SCC official
Wednesday Nov. 20, 2019
Roanoke Gas Co. acted prudently when it decided to build two gate stations, in Franklin and Montgomery counties, to connect with the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a hearing examiner for the State Corporation Commission has determined. The company’s involvement with the controversial natural gas pipeline has been a bone of contention in its request to increase base rates for residential customers by nearly 11% — a proposal that now goes to the full commission.
Crawford: Why pipelines will lead to higher energy prices
Tuesday Nov. 12, 2019
Dan Crawford is chair of the Sierra Club Roanoke Group. He lives in Roanoke.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline claims to have over 230 miles of pipe laid, but they have a lot of complicated, expensive construction challenges ahead, not to mention the numerous suspended permits and legal challenges due to work that fails to meet numerous regulatory requirements. You’ve heard the old saying; Don’t throw good money after bad. Read on, please…
The Rocky Mountain Institute recently reported that the role of natural gas as a “bridge fuel“ is behind us. The past decade has seen a dramatic reduction in the costs of wind, solar, and storage technologies. At the same time, sophisticated utilities and market operators are increasingly able to procure grid reliability from these non-traditional resources. As a result, leading U.S. utilities are now prioritizing investment in “clean energy portfolios” (CEPs) that can cost-effectively provide the same reliability as traditional gas-fired power plants.
Letter: What’s next?
Sunday Nov. 10, 2019
The Roanoke Times and national media recently covered numerous climate strike activities with lots of signs, chants and speeches. Since this climate emergency impacts us all, where do we go from here? What can we personally do? First, educate yourself. Do you know who Greta Thunberg is? Have you learned actual details of the proposed Green New Deal? Do you know where your power comes from? Ignorance is our biggest challenge, but as sixteen-year-old Greta says: “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”…
…Finally, get involved. Corrupt leadership, inaction and stupidity got us into this mess. We are the ones we have been waiting for to bring about real change! Support renewable energy. Vote out politicians who will not take decisive action. We must immediately halt dangerous fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. We must subsidize renewables rather than the fossil fuel industry. Join the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Greenpeace or other environmental organizations. Support the local pipeline fight at powhr.org
Mountain Valley co-owner puts cap on investment in pipeline
Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019
Con Edison, the large New York-based utility company, is scaling back its investment in the troubled Mountain Valley Pipeline. Con Edison (NYSE: ED) revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that its subdiary CET Gas will cap its investment in MVP, the 300-mile pipeline that has been mired in legal cases on the state and federal level, to $530 million. Con Edison has already spent about $488 million. CET Gas has a 12.5 percent interest in MVP, which is also owned by EQM Midstream Partners LP (NYSE: EQM), which is a related company of Pittsburgh-based Equitrans Midstream Corp. (NYSE: ETRN). Con Edison said in the filing that limiting investment is part of the joint venture agreement, although it’s not clear if any other of the companies in the joint venture agreement have also done so. That will likely whittle Con Edison’s MVP stake to 10 percent, according to the filing. The pipeline is owned by EQM Midstream Partners, NextEra Capital Holdings, Con Edison Transmission, WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.
Pyramid Scheme or Fraud?
Monday Nov. 4, 2019
The Jig is Up: EQT to Sell MVP – Pyramid Scheme or Fraud?
EQT just quietly informed its shareholders in its quarterly report that it will sell its share of EQM next year, valued now at only $750 Million. EQM is the spin-off company that EQT shed into a separate company to own its share of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Construction costs were originally expected to be $3.5 Billion, MVP is now projected to cost at least $5.5 Billion, if it is ever completed at all. The Mountain Valley Pipeline project was conceived by EQT five years ago. Plans were drawn up in their offices in Pittsburgh. The story is that they drew a line on a map for the 300+ mile route they intended to carve through the Appalachian Mountains to build this behemoth pipe to make a fortune and control the sale of their fracked gas. EQT was sure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would approve the project because the industry lobbyists had gotten the Natural Gas Act passed and it would be easy. The FERC approval would guarantee MVP an 18% government-assured return on the massive $3.5 Billion construction costs and more important, give them the incredible power of eminent domain to take private land from anyone, an authority originally intended for projects that are required for the public good.
Under questioning by 4th Circuit at pipeline hearing, state concedes Union Hill’s racial status
Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019
Lakshmi Fjord began to cry after an attorney for the State Air Pollution Control Board conceded in federal court Tuesday that Union Hill, a community established by freed slaves in Buckingham County after the Civil War, is indeed overwhelmingly populated by African Americans. Deputy Solicitor General Martine Cicconi made the concession under sharp questioning by Chief Judge Roger Gregory in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It came during a hearing on the legality of an air pollution permit the state board issued in January for a natural gas compressor station on the site of a former plantation where the forebears of some Union Hill residents worked as slaves. The outcome remains uncertain, but two environmental organizations’ appeal of the state air permit represents yet another hurdle at the 4th Circuit for the 600-mile, $7.75 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Pipeline contractors owe about $1.5 million in unpaid taxes, Franklin County says
Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019
ROCKY MOUNT, Va (WDBJ7) – In back lots, and on roadways, you’ll find them waiting: the excavators, the bulldozers, the trailers. Each one is a vital piece in constructing the Mountain Valley Pipeline. And each one, says Franklin County’s Commissioner of Revenue Margaret Torrence, is a piece of taxable property. “Even though we do not have a business license, we do tax the assets,” she said.
But those taxes haven’t been getting paid. Over the last year, Torrence says dozens of different contractors and subcontractors have been operating in the county. During that time, those companies have racked up what she estimates is a $1.5 million personal property tax bill.
Christopulos named Cox Conserves Hero, scores $60K grant for Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tuesday Oct. 22, 2019
Good news is great, but it’s even better when it arrives ahead of schedule. And a five-figure award from a national competition? That has little shortage of appeal, too. On Tuesday around noon, Diana Christopulos got both: early glad tidings in the form of a sudden, oversized check for $60,000. That was the prize for being named the 2019 National Cox Conserves Hero, an annual award presented by Cox Enterprises and the Trust for Public Land.
Christopulos, 71, is president of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy and the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition and a former president and current vice president of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. She’s an outspoken environmental watchdog, most recently with regard to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and a vocal advocate for conservation who has campaigned for reductions in the carbon footprints of local governments.
Another delay, cost increase for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Oct. 22, 2019
The projected cost of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline has gone up by another half a billion dollars. And the expected completion date, most recently slated for mid-2020, has been pushed back to the end of that year. In an announcement Tuesday, Mountain Valley attributed the latest delay and revised cost estimate — now at between $5.3 billion and $5.5 billion — to “various legal and regulatory challenges.” The Pittsburgh-based company has lost three sets of federal permits, following legal challenges by environmental groups that argued the buried natural gas pipeline would pose risks to the water, land and wildlife along its 303-mile route.
Reynolds: Virginia chambers should renounce pipelines
Tuesday Oct. 22, 2019
Ed Reynolds is retired from a global engineering and technology company. He has worked in the Roanoke city schools for the last eight years as a volunteer and substitute teacher. He lives in Roanoke.
The national media headlines read. ”After skepticism, U.S. Chamber of Commerce forms Climate-Change Task Force.” Holy smokes — and major wildfires, and killer hurricanes, and massive flooding, and continental droughts, and oceans rising, and diseases spreading globally, and major health issues abound — what in the world is going on??? That’s what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decided it wanted to know, when it announced that it was forming a climate change task force to ascertain just how their members and consumer/customers are positively responding to the huge global challenge of mitigating the horrendous consequences to humanity and Mother Earth of rapidly advancing climate change. Make no mistake: This is a bold and admirable response by the National Chamber of Commerce to this national climate change emergency.
Here’s a more urgent message to Barry DuVal, President and CEO Virginia Chamber, the Northam Administration and regional chambers across the state: Given the recent actions by your national chamber, yet shackled with your tone-deaf and vision-less unmitigated support of the private profit Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, it is regrettable that your organizations are clearly out-of-step with the global mobilization to fight the problem of our changing climate.
Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline is winding down
Sunday Oct. 20, 2019
Winter is coming early for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Although construction is winding down for the season, it’s not just because of the coming freezing temperatures that will make it difficult to dig trenches along mountain slopes for the buried natural gas pipeline. Even if it was being built in the tropics, this project would be stalled. Mountain Valley has lost three sets of key permits — all suspended because of the pipeline’s impact on the environment — that have fallen like slow-motion dominoes for a project that was supposed to be done by now. The most recent blow came last week, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the company to “cease immediately” all work on the interstate pipeline, at least until questions raised by the latest legal challenge are resolved.
Appeals court orders stay of Mountain Valley Pipeline permit
Friday Oct. 11, 2019
Already slowed by the loss of two permits and a lawsuit that challenges a third one, construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline hit another major roadblock Friday. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay to a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pending its review of lawsuit brought by environmental groups headed by the Sierra Club. Following the late afternoon stay, the club said it “effectively means construction must stop” on the 303-mile pipeline. Mountain Valley suspended new construction on some stretches of the pipeline in August, three days after the lawsuit claimed that an approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately protect endangered species in the project’s path.
Mountain Valley Pipeline to pay more than $2M in environmental violation suit
Friday Oct. 11, 2019
RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) – The Commonwealth of Virginia has reached an agreement with Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC that will force the company to submit to court-ordered and court-supervised compliance with environmental protections and impose additional layers of independent, third-party monitoring on the project, and require the payment of a $2.15 million civil penalty. The agreement resolves the lawsuit filed in December 2018 by Attorney General Mark R. Herring on behalf of the State Water Control Board and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and includes the following key terms: (see report)…
…In December 2018, Attorney General Herring, DEQ, and the State Water Control Board filed suit against MVP, LLC alleging environmental violations in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, and Roanoke Counties, particularly violations that occurred during significant rain. The suit alleged that MVP violated the Commonwealth’s environmental laws and regulations, as well as MVP’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, by failing to control sediment and stormwater runoff resulting in impacts to waterways and roads. The matter was referred to the Office of Attorney General by the director of DEQ after numerous inspections identified violations at multiple construction sites.
Editorial: How Appalachian natural gas is connected to Ukraine (sort of)
Monday Oct. 7, 2019
Here’s a riddle for you: How is the Mountain Valley Pipeline connected to the controversy — perhaps even an impeachable controversy — over President Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Joe Biden? The answer is a broad one: The global market for natural gas.
Pipeline executives say the gas that will flow through the MVP is intended for the domestic market in the Southeast but haven’t ruled out exports. A minority partner said in 2016 that it’s possible some of the gas it bought could wind up being exported to India. In any case, it’s hard to talk about the domestic market for natural gas without pointing out that natural gas exports have surged over the past 15 years. For years, the nation’s natural gas exports were barely measurable. But since 2000, they’ve jumped from 0.24 trillion cubic feet to 3.61 trillion cubic feet last year — a 15-fold increase. You can thank (or blame) the fracking of the Appalachian shale fields. President Trump has been an especially vocal pitchman for natural gas exports. Even if no Mountain Valley Pipeline gas goes overseas, it indirectly helps send other American natural gas overseas by increasing the nation’s surplus of natural gas. That leads us to the global market for natural gas, and once we start talking about that, it’s hard not to talk about Russia, which means it’s hard not to talk about Ukraine.
Justices reject pipeline, wildfire cases
Monday Oct. 7, 2019
The Supreme Court will not wade into a closely watched battle over a practice that allows natural gas pipeline developers to access private lands before paying.
Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline, a case that deals with a type of eminent domain known as “quick take,” was among a long list of petitions the justices rejected this morning.
The high court declined to consider landowners’ plea that the builders of the 300-mile pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia should not be able to begin construction on their property without first paying “just compensation,” as guaranteed under the Constitution. “Obviously, we are disappointed; we felt like our position and our arguments were correct and that some of these courts had gotten this issue completely wrong,” said attorney Chris Johns, who represented landowners in the case. This is at least the second time the Supreme Court has declined to review the issue of quick take. Court watchers had considered it unlikely that the justices would take up the case
Franklin Co. candidates give thoughts on business park, pipeline at forum
Monday Oct. 7, 2019
MONETA — As Election Day draws near, the Summit View Business Park has once again emerged as one of the top campaign issues in Franklin County. All three board of supervisors candidates who spoke at a Monday night election forum voiced concerns about the multimillion dollar effort to develop a 550-acre business park…
…Questions from the audience helped to guide the discussion. In addition to asking about the business park, candidates were also prompted to weigh in on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Supreme Court showdown set over pipeline crossing of Appalachian Trail
Friday Oct. 4, 2019
The stage is set for a high-stakes showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed crossing of the Appalachian Trail. The court agreed on Friday to hear an appeal of a decision by a Richmond-based federal appeals court last year. That court revoked the permit the U.S. Forest Service issued to allow a partnership led by Dominion Energy to build the proposed natural gas pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail between Augusta and Nelson counties in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December that the Forest Service did not have authority to allow the $7.75 billion pipeline to cross beneath the trail at a critical chokepoint for the 600-mile project to link shale gas wells in West Virginia with energy markets in southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina.
Forest conservation grants awarded to offset damage from Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Sept. 30, 2019
Forest conservation grants totaling nearly $4 million have been awarded as part of an effort to offset environmental damage to Southwest Virginia caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation announced the six grants Monday to restore and protect woodlands in Bland, Botetourt, Charlotte, Roanoke and Rockbridge counties. It was the latest disbursement from a fund established last year, when Mountain Valley agreed to pay a total of $27.5 million to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution that was expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe.
Sligh: Clean water rule change threatens state powers
Monday Sept. 30, 2019
David Sligh is Conservation Director for Wild Virginia.
The Trump administration is proposing changes to Clean Water Act regulations to limit the abilities of states and local communities to protect their waters from harmful federally-licensed projects. This would encroach on Virginians’ rights to protect and preserve our natural treasures and must be met with strong opposition. Attorney General Mark Herring must speak and act against this assault by strongly objecting during a formal administrative process now underway and, if necessary, going to court to protect and defend our interests…
…The Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are examples that foreshadow how much harder it would be to protect environmental resources and maintain water quality standards, if we lose any 401 authority. In 2017, then-Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam called for analyses of every proposed waterbody crossing, transparent state processes, and full public involvement in pipelines reviews. The Virginia DEQ refused to conduct those individual crossing reviews, in part blaming a lack of resources. That failure also limited the chance for the public to be involved and affect the outcomes of those processes…
Demand for MVP Southgate pipeline exaggerated, state says
Saturday Sept. 28, 2019
Many opponents have said there isn’t a real need for the MVP Southgate pipeline proposed to come through Alamance County (NC), but now state and federal environmental regulators and other, competing, pipeline companies are saying the same. “At this time the department remains unconvinced that the project satisfies the criteria for the commission to deem it in the public interest, and whether it is essential to ensure future growth and prosperity for North Carolinians,” Sheila Holman, assistant secretary for the environment at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Without demonstrated demand, the pipeline would just give Dominion Energy, formerly PSNC, an exclusive excess capacity, the DEQ writes. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate would be a 72-mile line connecting to the existing MVP in Pittsylvania County, Va., to carry Marcellus Shale gas to the distribution system south of Graham.
Plans for pipeline work area atop Poor Mountain draw objections from Roanoke County
Friday Sept. 27, 2019
Roanoke County is objecting to a temporary workspace for the builders of a natural gas pipeline, saying its location at the top of Poor Mountain could be seen for miles. Mountain Valley Pipeline has yet to make a formal request for the workspace, which would involve clearing about an acre of woods where Honeysuckle Road runs along a row of television and radio towers. But tentative plans call for water tanks to be placed on the land for hydrostatic testing, which involves pumping large amounts of water through the 42-inch diameter pipe to check for leaks before it begins to transport natural gas.
Energy Giants Spend Big on Lobbying to Clear Pipeline Path Through National Forests, Appalachian Trail
Wednesday Sept. 25, 2019
A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis. The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
Virginia can’t reach its 2050 climate goal if it keeps allowing natural gas infrastructure
Tuesday Sept. 24, 2019
On Sept. 16, Gov. Ralph Northam announced a forward-looking objective of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for Virginia by 2050. Unfortunately, Virginia cannot reach this goal if the governor, the General Assembly, and the state air and water control boards continue rubber-stamping natural gas pipelines and electric power plants that will further disrupt our climate and exacerbate environmental and public health problems in Virginia. Just last November, the authors of this article were purged from our positions as members of Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board and State Water Control Board by Northam after we questioned the approval of new pipelines for fracked natural gas that, in addition to having serious impacts on public health, air and water quality, would drastically increase Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the climate crisis…
…Instead of urgently investing entirely in new highly efficient wind and solar electricity generation, Virginia’s utilities are fixated on spending over $8 billion on new methane infrastructure. Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bring fracked methane to Virginia and the Carolinas. Roanoke Gas Company, which is determined to support the Mountain Valley Pipeline, is seeking higher rates to help finance it. Virginia’s governor, General Assembly and regulatory boards are approving these methane fossil fuel projects without regard to their adverse climate impacts.
Hadwin: Roanoke Gas customers will pay for MVP
Monday Sept. 23, 2019
Thomas Hadwin served as an executive for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York. He lives in Waynesboro.
Citizens of Roanoke must choose their energy and economic future. Existing businesses want to expand and new ones want to move here. RGC Resources will invest over $50 million to become a 1% owner of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) intending to make a big profit by owning part of a pipeline. The MVP has been routed through the Summit View Industrial Park in Franklin County. Roanoke Gas claims it will be cheaper to use the MVP than expanding the existing system to serve this area. The shorter connections to the MVP are cheaper than a connection to the East Tennessee pipeline from Franklin County. But that’s not the whole story. By connecting to the MVP, Roanoke Gas must pay at least $71 million over the next 20 years, even if only some or none of its capacity reservation is used. Escalating prices for the delayed pipeline will make the cost of that contract closer to $100 million. Roanoke Gas intends to spread these higher costs among its existing customers.
Letter: Governor cares for big money
Friday Sept. 13, 2019
The irony of Gov. Ralph Northam announcing the broadband expansion into Franklin County on the very site where Roanoke Gas will tap into the Mountain Valley Pipeline was not lost by protesters on the scene. The broadband need is understood, yet it is inconceivable Northam was in Franklin County while not surveying the MVP damage nearby, and that breaks my heart. Note some problems encountered by landowners:
-A 120-foot section of pipe floating (about a year) in water in a trench on Anne and Steve Bernard’s property. The Bernards worry this could weaken the joints. Mountain Valley Watch notes about a dozen similar situations. (Roanoke.com, June 15).
-The Reilly’s Four Corners Farm closed (2018) when their land was devastated by MVP/flooded, with a section of pipe in water. (Roanoke.com, June 15). Photographs show Little Teel Creek, formerly clear, now is a muddy river.
-MVP has 300+ violations of environmental regulations and faces a lawsuit from Attorney General Mark Herring.
Editorial: Can the Appalachian Trail block pipelines?
Sunday Sept. 8, 2019
Who owns the Appalachian Trail? Sometime this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will have something to say on that, even if only indirectly. The immediate question is a procedural one: Will the nation’s highest court decide to hear an appeal of the case styled Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. U.S. Forest Service? Behind that, though, is a practical question that hits home in this part of Virginia — and beyond: Who owns the trail? Here’s why that matters: One possible answer could make it difficult, if not impossible, to build either the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
After a year in the trees, opponents continue to block work on the pipeline
Friday Sept 6, 2019
ELLISTON — Along a 303-mile corridor of land stripped bare for a natural gas pipeline, the only trees left standing are here, on a steep mountainside in Montgomery County. And it is here, not coincidentally, that opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are stationed high above the ground in a white pine and a chestnut oak. Meant to block construction of the deeply divisive project, the tree-sit marked its one-year anniversary Thursday in a patch of forest that has remained largely untouched as developers build the massive pipeline from northern West Virginia through Southwest Virginia to connect with a pipeline near the North Carolina line. From her vantage point in the woods, pipeline opponent Lucy Branham had no doubt that the two protesters, who sat in tree stands about 50 feet above her head, were making a difference in the fight.
David Seriff: In Virginia, we’ve been there and done that with gas pipeline
Sunday Sept. 1, 2019
I consider the Greensboro area my second home since I lived there about 10 years ago before moving to Blacksburg, Va. Therefore, I was distressed to learn the area faces the same disaster we’ve confronted in southwest Virginia. Nearly five years ago people across West Virginia and Virginia received letters in the mail announcing that their homes and farms would be in the path of the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile-long, 42-foot-wide, high-pressure pipeline carrying natural gas produced by fracking. The project was promoted as an economic boon that would provide numerous jobs and cheap energy. It didn’t take long for citizens to discover that the pipeline — MVP, for short — was a get-rich quick scheme riddled with lies by energy companies. As Virginians continue to fight this assault on citizens’ rights and our environment, I was horrified to learn that my friends in North Carolina are now being fed the same exact lies.
2 West Virginia Mountain Valley pipeline protesters arrested
Friday August 30, 2019
LAWN, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities say two people who locked themselves to equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site have been arrested. WOAY-TV reports 22-year-old Andrew J. Saltzberg and 21-year-old Cameron B. Angeiopouus were charged with trespassing on Thursday. The station says the two were protesting the pipeline in Lawn, an unincorporated community in Greenbrier County. Conservation groups have railed against the 303-mile natural gas pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, and have asked a federal court to toss two key permits for the project.
FERC asks for new review of endangered species in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday August 28, 2019
The fate of endangered species is becoming more of a danger to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a letter Wednesday, the lead federal agency overseeing construction of the natural gas pipeline asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its earlier finding that the project would not significantly harm protected fish and bats in its path. The request from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and word from the Fish and Wildlife Service that it will comply, came two weeks after the Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed a legal challenge to the service’s 2017 opinion.
Although the two agencies’ actions appear to do what the legal challenge had asked for, at least partially, it was not clear Wednesday whether ongoing work on the pipeline would have to stop.
Munley: Northam is ‘greenwashing’ MVP
Wednesday August 28, 2019
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is working hard greenwashing his Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) boondoggle mess. On July 18, Northam celebrated a tobacco commission broadband grant for rural Franklin County, only a half-mile from the multi-generational Werner/Reilly Four Corners Farm, recently forced by MVP damage to cease operation. Regarding Summit View Industrial Park’s MVP energy source, Northam stated that “energy comes from different sources… including natural gas,” ignoring the urgency for rapid renewable energy transition and a recent Virginia State Corporation Commission staff report concluding that MVP is unneeded. Later, Northam announced his “Office of Outdoor Recreation” at Carvins Cove Reservoir stating: “Outdoor recreation…improves the growth potential of our communities, …aligns with our goals on land conservation, workforce development and public health.” Our Roanoke Valley recognized and acted on these visionary ideas decades ago, enacting the CVC’s biennial valley-wide and river cleanups, Roanoke’s Greenways and highlighting the Roanoke River and its floodplain as the centerpiece of our Roanoke Valley’s recreational life. Northam cunningly chose the pristine reservoir for his “Outdoor Recreation” rollout, carefully ignoring and avoiding the nearby MVP-dirtied Roanoke River.
Report outlines improvements for an underfunded, struggling DEQ
Saturday August 24, 2019
Virginia’s environmental agency has a daunting to-do list: dealing with climate change, offsetting regulatory rollbacks at the federal level, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and monitoring work on the largest natural gas pipeline ever built in the state, to name just a few. Yet the Department of Environmental Quality is being asked to do more with less state funding, fewer employees, and an outdated set of regulations. That’s according to a report issued by Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. In April 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam commissioned the report as part of an executive order that called for the “revitalization” of DEQ…
…The report also mentions natural gas pipelines, which have drawn controversy in Southwest Virginia with the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. DEQ has established a work group to find ways to limit methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure. And more referrals to the state attorney general’s office should be made for enforcement actions, such as one last year that led to a lawsuit accusing Mountain Valley of violating state regulations meant to curb erosion and sedimentation more than 300 times, Strickler wrote.
Environmental groups seek total halt to work on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday August 22, 2019
A voluntary suspension of work on parts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline does not adequately protect endangered species, environmentalists say in their latest legal strike against the besieged project. In a motion filed late Wednesday, seven organizations asked a federal appeals court to stay a 2017 approval for the pipeline by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Attorneys for the Sierra Club had earlier challenged two permits issued by the service: a biological opinion, which found no significant harm to federally protected fish, bats and plants along the 303-mile route of the natural gas pipeline, and an incidental take statement, which allowed limited impact to the species and their habitat.
Why the Mountain Valley Pipeline is uniquely risky
Thursday August 22, 2019
On Aug. 8, Mountain Valley Pipeline requested “emergency authorization” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to repair an eight-acre landslide that “has progressed to the point where a residence directly downslope is unsafe to be occupied.” Unfortunately, events like this are almost expected; MVP chose to route, and FERC chose to approve, this titanic 42-inch diameter, 303-mile pipeline across several hundred of miles of “high landslide potential” areas. While MVP is not the first pipeline to cross unstable terrain, nor the first pipeline to be located in landslide-prone Appalachia, is MVP actually any different from previously built pipelines?The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” In fact, it appears MVP has the notoriety of crossing more miles of high-risk terrain than any other major natural gas transmission pipeline in the past two decades. And perhaps ever.
Letter: MVP and Yellow Finch tree-sitters
Thursday August 22, 2019
Once again the Mountain Valley Pipeline wastes time and money going to court to try to convince a judge to give them permission to remove the tree-sitters. Currently the MVP doesn’t have the permit to cross waterways and the stream where the tree-sitters are located is not a viable place to bore under. The MVP also doesn’t have the ability to cross the Appalachian Trail or build through the forest. The MVP’s breakneck pace of construction is putting their workers at risk by not adhering to OSHA’s safety guidelines while choking our waterways with sediment because they didn’t take the time or money to install adequate erosion controls.
Sunday August 18, 2019
Unfortunate for Emily Hamilton that her letter asserting the safety of natural gas pipelines (“Build the pipeline, August 2), which are, in her words, “extremely safe …. and working constantly without any issues” appeared across from the article about the gas pipeline explosion in Junction City, Kentucky where one person was killed, many hospitalized, and many homes were destroyed. The irony did not escape me.
Mountain Valley Pipeline suspends some construction
Saturday August 17, 2019
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Mountain Valley Pipeline has suspended some construction activities that could affect threatened or endangered species. WVPR-FM reports pipeline officials sent a letter on Thursday telling federal regulators about the voluntary suspension in areas where construction could impact protected bat and fish species. The move follows a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups on Monday that challenged approvals by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservation groups are asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss two key permits issued to the 303-mile natural gas pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia. The 4th Circuit last month threw out the same Fish and Wildlife approvals for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Regulators say the pipeline may not resume the suspended construction without first seeking approval.
Mountain Valley suspends work on pipeline
Thursday August 15, 2019
Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have voluntarily suspended work on parts of the embattled project, three days after a lawsuit raised questions about its impact on endangered species. In a letter Thursday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Mountain Valley said the suspension covers “new activities” that could pose a threat to the lives of endangered bats and fish, or potentially destroy their habitat. Less clear was how much of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline will be affected.
“MVP’s voluntary suspension is not a matter of miles, it is a matter of doing the right thing,” spokeswoman Natalie Cox said in an email. “The voluntary suspension pertains to areas along the route that may potentially have an impact related to the Endangered Species Act; however, MVP expects to continue with construction, where permitted, in other areas along the route,” she said. The move will have no “material impact” on the number of workers employed, she said, nor does it push back an expected completion date of mid-2020.
Va. widow leads eminent domain fight at Supreme Court
Tuesday August 13, 2019
NEWPORT, Va. — The day Clarence Givens died, he and his wife were set to hire a lawyer to guide them through a brewing battle over a natural gas pipeline slated to pass through this mountainous farming community. Karolyn Givens, now 77, was at her husband’s side as he was shuttled to the local hospital and airlifted to a medical unit in Roanoke. What she initially thought was a stroke turned out to be a fatal complication from a cluster of veins and arteries near the base of his brain — a birth defect he never knew he had. He died at 80 years old. After her husband collapsed in their basement, Givens was a widow with three rural Virginia properties in her charge and a phone number at her fingertips. Knowing she didn’t want to abandon their hard-fought efforts to block the Mountain Valley pipeline from crossing their historic farm, Givens called landowner attorney Chris Johns the day after her husband died. “We didn’t skip a beat,” Givens said. Since teaming up with Johns in August 2017, Givens and a host of other residents living along the 300-mile Mountain Valley project have joined calls for federal courts to address a quirk in the pipeline eminent domain process that enables pipeline developers to gain access to private property before paying to use the land.
Mountain Valley Pipeline faces new legal challenge, this one over endangered species
Monday August 12, 2019
Foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have filed another legal attack, this one over the pipeline’s impact on endangered species such as the Roanoke logperch. The petition, filed Monday, asks a federal appeals court in Richmond to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its earlier opinion that burrowing a 42-inch diameter pipe across rugged mountain slopes and through unspoiled streams will not significantly harm the threatened fish, bats and plants that live there. At the same time, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups sent a letter to the service requesting it immediately stay its permits pending legal review — a move that could bring work on the beleaguered project to a standstill. Already, construction of the natural gas pipeline across streams and wetlands and through the Jefferson National Forest has been stalled by earlier legal challenges.
Virginia pipeline company asks county to remove 2 protesters
Thursday August 8, 2019
ELLISTON, Va. (AP) — Attorneys for a company constructing a controversial natural gas pipeline through Virginia are asking a county judge to remove tree-sitters that are blocking work on the project. A federal court denied a similar request last week.
Letter: Forest Service proposes cloak of secrecy, shutting out public
Wednesday August 7, 2019
You are in danger of being shut out of your national forests. The public has until August 12 to comment on an extreme agency-wide proposal by the Forest Service to end long-standing requirements to notify the public, allow for public comment, and analyze environmental impacts of most projects on our public lands. If this Trump administration proposal goes through, new clear-cutting and logging projects up to 6.6 square miles in size, pipelines, and massive road-building projects could proceed in the dark – absent the input of neighboring landowners, absent science, and absent the input of people who love to hike, fish, hunt, ride horses, paddle and bike in their favorite non-wilderness places in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the Allegheny Highlands, the Glenwood Ranger District, the Mountain Lake area and throughout the entire 193 million acres of national forests from sea to shining sea. For more information, see https://www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/news-feed/make-your-voice-count-forest-service-proposing-to-cut-public-out-of-project-planning . The website portal OurForestsOurVoice.org provides a secure portal to submit your own comments.
Don’t Abuse Property Rights to Build Pipelines
Wednesday August 7, 2019
The demand for American energy independence and expansion of the natural gas industry have led to a marked increase in the construction of new gas pipelines. The Natural Gas Act empowers the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delegate to private pipeline companies the power to take private property to build these pipelines, so long as they pay the just compensation due under the Fifth Amendment. Not content with the power to begin construction after judicially authorized transfer of title, however, these companies have claimed the equivalent of government power—not mere delegated authority—by taking property before any adjudication by means of preliminary injunctions, with even fewer owner protections than statutory “quick takes” (expedited title transfers).
Karolyn and Clarence Givens had farmed their land for a decade before a pipeline company undertook to construct a 303-mile pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia, including a segment that would cross their property. Since Clarence’s death in 2017, Karolyn has depended on rents from the farm to maintain her income. That income has been jeopardized by an early taking, forcing Karolyn to move her cattle onto a parcel occupied by a current tenant. Like other landowners in the area, Mrs. Givens has expressed concerns over the potential environmental and safety risks posed by the new pipeline. These concerns too have been vindicated as the company’s efforts have left her farm scarred by potholes, erosion, and twisted fencing. Courts in three federal districts have granted preliminary injunctions allowing for the possession of Givens’s land before a final determination of just compensation, subject to a bond. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld these injunctions on appeal.
Stop-work order does not go far enough, pipeline opponents say
Tuesday August 6, 2019
A stop-work order on a 2-mile section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline doesn’t stop the widespread environmental problems along the remaining 301 miles of the project, opponents said Tuesday. Less than a week after the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ordered work to cease on a section of the pipeline in eastern Montgomery County, a citizens group monitoring construction called yet again for a full stop-work order. “There are too many unresolved questions to allow this project to continue with impunity,” said Russell Chisholm, lead coordinator for the Mountain Valley Watch and co-chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights coalition.
Regulators stop work on 2 miles of Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County
Friday August 2, 2019
Virginia regulators ordered Friday that all work cease on construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline along a 2-mile section of the route in eastern Montgomery County. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in stopping work on the project for the first time, cited lapses in compliance with an approved erosion and sediment control plan. Agency director David Paylor said in a news release that his agency is “appalled” by findings during a Thursday inspection. Inspectors found a work site without control measures near U.S. 11/460, DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said. Elsewhere in the same area were control devices that had not been maintained, she said. “It’s a violation of the certification,” Regn said of the lapses found. “We did this certification to ensure natural resources are protected. We said all along we were going to hold them to a high standard.”
Letter: Falsehoods asserted by MVP allowed to stand
Robbins: Effective Ethical Behavior by Courageous Organizer is Excellent Example of Escalation, Follow Through and Long-Term Commitment
Thursday August 1, 2019
Mara Robbins is a founding member of Preserve Floyd.
On June 28, the day after the State Water Control Board met in Richmond and once again refused to take emergency action to immediately stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP), Michael James-Deramo chained himself to an excavator and stopped construction in that location for more than six hours. The state police removed him and charged him with two misdemeanors. And how, exactly, did this help stop the pipeline?Consider, first and foremost, that this was an action taken by a person who has effectively resisted the MVP for five years, who has supported communities in their struggle, who has commented to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), The State Water Control Board (SWCB) and shown up consistently with local governments and community groups to help in whatever way possible. Consider that there is robust and sophisticated legal strategy by excellent, innovative lawyers working closely with those engaging in direct action. Consider the frustratingly stifled efforts of a handful of politicians who try to genuinely represent their beleaguered constituents…
Pipe coating is safe, Mountain Valley tells regulators
Wednesday July 31, 2019
A protective coating applied to the massive pipeline under construction in Virginia and West Virginia poses no known harms, developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have told federal regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked for information on the coating July 10, following concerns from some critics that prolonged exposure to the elements could cause toxins to degrade from the pipe and contaminate the surrounding air, soil and water…
…Tina Smusz, a retired physician and assistant professor of medicine from Montgomery County, has warned that toxins could be released in two ways: into the air after the coating breaks down from sitting too long in the sun, and into groundwater after the 42-inch diameter pipe is buried.
Pipeline vital for current and future customers of Roanoke Gas, company says
Tuesday July 30, 2019
Natural gas from a pipeline being built through Southwest Virginia is needed to reliably serve the customers of Roanoke Gas Co. and to meet future demand, the company says…
…Critics of the pipeline argue that Roanoke Gas already has an adequate supply from the Columbia Gas and East Tennessee pipelines and that tapping into the beleaguered Mountain Valley project will lead to higher rates for customers.
Letter: Roanoke Gas needs more gas because it’s a gas company
Tuesday July 30, 2019
Of course Roanoke Gas Co. is asking for more gas. If you give a gas company a pipeline, they will ask for some gas. If you give them some gas, they will ask for some more with a glass of milk. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a business venture, not an energy savior coming to liberate the people of Roanoke. As such, they are trying to sell as much gas as they can. So, because Duke Energy wants to make an extra buck, they sell more gas to local distributors and the citizens of Roanoke are supposed to pay more for energy.
Letter: Identify new uses for pipeline natural gas
Monday July 29, 2019
To all supporting the pipelines across Virginia: Please identify all of the specific and verifiable new uses within Virginia for this new huge supply of natural gas. It’s not enough for the gas to replace an existing source. To legitimately claim Virginia needs the gas, we need concrete examples of new uses. It’s not enough to describe possible future uses of the natural gas. What is genuinely being built or expanded to use the gas? Is anything happening in Franklin or Roanoke or Buckingham or anywhere else in Virginia beyond preparations to make gas available IF a new user appears?
Appeals court vacates key Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit
Friday July 26, 2019
RICHMOND — A U.S. appeals court on Friday tossed out a key permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that deals with the project’s effects on threatened or endangered species, saying a federal agency had apparently “lost sight of its mandate.” A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had made decisions that were “arbitrary and capricious” in its authorization for the pipeline. “In fast-tracking its decisions, the agency appears to have lost sight of its mandate under the [Endangered Species Act]: ‘to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species and their habitats,’ ” the court wrote. The decision is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the 600-mile pipeline, the construction of which has been on hold since December…
…Joined by two other environmental groups, the Sierra Club asked the agency to reexamine its earlier decision — a move that could stop work on the 303-mile Mountain Valley pipeline. A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said Friday that it has not taken that step. More sediment than expected from pipeline construction is reaching streams and causing problems for the Roanoke logperch and the candy darter, the Sierra Club wrote in its letter. Other endangered or threatened species in the pipeline’s path include the Indiana and northern long-eared bats and the small whorled pogonia, an orchid that grows mostly in stands of hardwoods. The Sierra Club said in May that it would “evaluate next steps,” which could include litigation. As of Friday, no legal challenge had been filed.
Toby Rice: New EQT means lots of new faces, ‘happiness campaign’
Thursday July 25, 2019
In the two weeks that Toby Rice has been at the helm of EQT Corp., after a contentious proxy battle that flipped the board of directors and ousted the previous CEO, he is “extremely pleased to report that the Rice team had accurately diagnosed the issues that have long prevented the company from realizing its full potential”…
…The company also indicated that investors are likely to see an uplift from share buybacks, since EQT’s stock price is at a decade-long low. The stock plunged more than 7% during morning trading. As several analysts tried to give EQT a way out of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project — a troubled and much delayed $4.6 billion pipeline that’s intended to run 303 miles through West Virginia and Virginia — the company said there is no way to get out of its commitment to the project without incurring an exorbitant penalty. When asked how much that could be, Chief Commercial Officer Blue Jenkins said: “We’re not going to walk away from the project. That’s probably the short answer.”
Letter: High pressure pipeline energy poses danger
Wednesday July 24, 2019
The opinion article “West Virginia explosion shows danger of pipelines” by Irene Leech (June 20), sparked my interest in the mechanical (pressure) energy carried in a 42-inch natural gas pipeline pressurized at 1,440 psi. An approximation can be calculated using the gas energy equation from my undergraduate thermodynamics course. Using data for methane (the primary component of natural gas) I found a 42-inch methane pipeline pressurized at 1,440 psi is holding 4,224,608 ft-lbs of mechanical energy per foot of pipe. This energy is in addition to the chemical energy released by gas combustion that frequently accompanies a pipeline failure. The photo in the article by Ms. Leech shows the release of chemical energy.
Pipeline protest continues in Montgomery County, despite recent conflict with police
Monday July 22, 2019
MONTGOMERY CO., Va. (WDBJ7) It was quiet along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Monday in Montgomery County, a sharp contrast to last week, which included conflict between protesters and police. Tree sitters are still in place near Elliston, 321 days after pipeline opponents established a camp there, but they say recent activity in the area has been chaotic, as construction crews moved closer, and state police made arrests. On Friday, an excavator overturned on a steep slope, and a large stump rolled down the hill into an area where pipeline opponents had gathered.
“It just tells me that they’re reckless,” said one of the tree sitters we spoke with Monday afternoon. “And I already knew that.” During our visit, we also heard concern for the three pipeline opponents who were arrested on Saturday, and who were still in jail on Monday morning. “The easement line was unmarked,” another person told us. “They weren’t given a warning. And I personally believe they were not trespassing on the easement.”
Authorities arrest three stemming from pipeline protests in Elliston
Saturday July 20, 2019
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7)— Three people have been arrested in connection with protests this morning along a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site in Montgomery County. Authorities responded to an organized protest in Elliston along Cove Hollow Road Saturday in opposition to the continuous development of the MVP in the region. During the event, three protesters were arrested and brought in on three different individual charges of unlawful rioting, obstruction, and assault on law enforcement.
Northam announces broadband expansion, faces pipeline opponents
Thursday July 18, 2019
FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Governor Ralph Northam visited Franklin County to announce a broadband expansion that will bring service to more homes and businesses there. He also encountered a protest by opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline…
The business park is also a location where Roanoke Gas will tap into the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a fact not lost on the pipeline opponents who gathered within sight of the tent where the Governor made the broadband announcement. They renewed their call for a stop work order on the controversial project. Eric Anspaugh is Chair of the group Preserve Franklin. “We are seeing the results of the degradation and devastation taking place,” he told WDBJ7, “plus we don’t know what this pipeline’s going to do in the future.”
Construction materials for pipeline washed into Smith Mountain Lake
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Large wooden mats, used as temporary roadways for construction equipment building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have been swept down the Blackwater River by heavy rains in recent weeks. At least two of the so-called timber mats made it into Smith Mountain Lake, where critics say they posed a public safety risk. If a boat were to hit one of the sections of wood floating in the water, “that could be a major catastrophe,” said Mike Carter, a member of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors. At least a dozen of the timber mats placed on construction sites in the county were washed downstream by floodwaters in late June, according to an environmental compliance monitoring report filed this week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Belinsky: Here’s how the pipeline is lawless
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Tammy Belinsky is an attorney in Floyd County.
Today a public servant questioned my description of the ongoing construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as lawless. Here’s an accounting. First, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the two federal agency decisions to build the pipeline in the Jefferson National Forest. Another Fourth Circuit decision on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline created an additional barrier for MVP by denying authority to cross the Appalachian Trail. After the Fourth Circuit vacated the Corps of Engineers stream crossing authorization in West Virginia, the Corps itself suspended the same authorization in Virginia. These permits are each and all prerequisites for the FERC certificate, and yet FERC allows construction to continue. MVP, LLC also has been sued by the Commonwealth of Virginia for violating numerous conditions of the certification that was intended to protect water resources.
Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“the Service”) admits that it lacked vital information when it issued the Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement (“BO”) that regulates impacts to endangered species. Perhaps the only reason for this late admission is the scathing analysis it received in October 2018 from Virginia Tech professor Paul Angermeier, the pre-eminent expert on the Roanoke Logperch. The endangered fish has been subject to 30 years of recovery-plan implementation, all funded by taxpayers.
2 pipeline protesters arrested in Montgomery County
Monday July 15, 2019
A Giles County man was charged with assaulting a Mountain Valley Pipeline worker during a protest at a construction site Monday. Virginia State Police were called to an area in eastern Montgomery County near where the natural gas pipeline crosses Flatwoods Road and found about 15 protesters blocking access to a worksite, Sgt. Rick Garletts said. The demonstrators were advised they were breaking the law by obstructing the roadway and were told to leave. “After some discussion,” Garletts wrote in an email, “all complied.” Jammie Hale, 46, was charged with assaulting a Mountain Valley employee, a misdemeanor. He was later released on a $2,500 bond. Hale, who said the water system on his farm failed after Mountain Valley began to dig trenches to bury a 42-inch diameter steel pipe nearby, is a regular participant in pipeline protests.
MVP’s violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’
Monday July 15, 2019
Ever since Mountain Valley Pipeline first proposed to gouge a 303-mile long, 125-foot wide scar across the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, countless experts have warned of the uncontrollable erosion the project would provoke. These warnings have since proven to be well founded: We have witnessed sediment-laden water flowing off the right-of-way and into adjacent streams, roads buried in up to a foot of mud, and even one erosion event so extreme that two segments of steel pipe – each weighing just over 13,000 pounds – skidded hundreds of feet from a worksite and onto private property. In spite of the fact that MVP has been sued by both Virginia and West Virginia for hundreds of violations related to failed sediment and erosion control measures, MVP has insisted these are isolated events and largely “the result of unprecedented rainfall through the spring and summer of 2018.” However, new revelations from filings MVP has made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission confirm erosion is pervasive year-round, and occurring on a project-wide basis.
Regulators ask Mountain Valley Pipeline about the safety of pipe’s coating
Thursday July 11, 2019
A federal agency is asking Mountain Valley Pipeline officials about the safety of a protective coating on the 42-inch diameter steel pipe being buried through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Delays in construction of the natural gas pipeline have led to some sections of pipe being stored above ground for more than a year, generating concerns that the coating could degrade over time and contaminate nearby air, soil and water. In a letter Wednesday to Mountain Valley’s corporate attorney, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requested “toxicological, environmental and health information” on a coating used to prevent corrosion of the pipe.
Tina Smusz, a retired physician from Montgomery County, has been sounding the alarm on what she calls “serious unanswered questions” about the coating, 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233. “The health and lives of citizens in Virginia and West Virginia, and those yet to be born, depend on your conscientious oversight of energy projects,” Smusz wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to FERC.
Seriff: Pipeline hurts, not helps, our economic growth
Wednesday July 10, 2019
David Lee Seriff is a training manager with a technology company and lives in Blacksburg.
On Feb. 4, 2015, The Roanoke Times published my commentary titled “Virginia’s Gold Rush.” My words decried the rush to build two massive 42” high-pressure gas pipelines across our state. I wrote: “Like the 49ers who rushed into California to stake their claims and strike it rich, energy companies are staking claims to lay fracked gas pipelines across both states. The mining claims of 160 years ago stole land from Native Americans, often through violence, and without compensation. These current land claims will commandeer private citizens’ property via the law of eminent domain. Big corporations will dictate what they pay, and landowners’ rights will be quashed in the name of progress.”
Despite citizen and environmental groups best efforts to halt these plans, the Mountain Valley Pipeline became a reality. In a blitzkrieg attack MVP mowed down hundreds of miles of forest, forever scared farms and fields, and destroyed many landowners lives in the process. However, during this ill-conceived quest for quick profits, reality suddenly hit. Gold rushes historically result in a small group of people getting rich at the expense of numerous others. They also cause long lasting environmental degradation. In this case dozens of experts had warned about the treacherous mountain slopes and karst terrain in the pipeline’s path. They were ignored. The dire predictions came true in the form of erosion, mudslides, and water contamination.
Letter: DEQ should stop construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Laurence Hammack questioned why we have a Department of Environmental Quality in his most recent article (“Pipeline opponents, spurned by the state, ask federal agency to stop work,” June 22 news story.) After some digging in their website, I found the answer in their mission statement. They “protect and enhance Virginia’s environment, and promote the health and well being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.” Yet, with over 300 violations of sedimentary runoff and counting, DEQ has only issued warnings to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite their mission statement.
Landowners ask U.S. Supreme Court to bar taking their property for pipeline
Thursday July 4, 2019
A group of Southwest Virginia landowners whose property was taken for a natural gas pipeline is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the use of eminent domain. The appeal challenges a decision by a Roanoke-based federal judge who gave the Mountain Valley Pipeline immediate possession of about 300 disputed parcels in a decision that cleared the way for tree-cutting to start last year. Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s ruling applied to the Virginia portion of the pipeline. The Supreme Court is being asked to review her decision along with that of a West Virginia federal judge who made a similar decision for the section of the 303-mile pipeline that passes through his state. A decision on whether the high court will consider the appeal is expected in the fall.
Landowners ask justices to nix companies’ ‘quick take’ power
Tuesday July 2, 2019
The Supreme Court will soon have a new shot at examining an unusual wrinkle in pipeline land seizures that some legal experts say saps private landowners of their constitutional rights. Unlike standard eminent domain proceedings, which require just compensation in exchange for acquiring land, immediate possession or “quick take” power allows developers to take private property months or years before paying. Although Congress did not convey quick-take authority to pipeline developers in the Natural Gas Act, several appellate courts have interpreted the law to allow those firms to take property to build their projects before landowners ever receive a dime.
…The Supreme Court will soon have the opportunity to review a quick-take case involving the Mountain Valley pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia. Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline will challenge a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a lower court properly allowed developers to obtain immediate possession of property in the project’s path.
State regulators question Roanoke Gas Co.’s need for new pipeline
Monday July 1, 2019
Potential new business for Roanoke Gas Co. is not strong enough to support an investment by its sister company in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, an analysis by state regulators has found. In more than 500 pages of documents filed Friday, the State Corporation Commission questioned the company’s assertion that it needs more natural gas from the pipeline, which has generated intense controversy since it was proposed five years ago. The SCC’s report was made as it considers a proposed rate increase by Roanoke Gas. Drillinginfo, a consultant for the SCC, “found that there is little evidence to support that load is growing at the rate reported by RGC,” John Stevens, deputy director in the agency’s division of public utility regulation, said in written testimony.
Letter: Corporations should be held accountable for violations
Monday July 1, 2019
The Roanoke Times recently announced the $266,000 settlement between West Virginia and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for environmental violations that have despoiled many miles of streams. The article stated that the settlement came to less than 1% of the project cost. The settlement is much less than 1%. It comes to less than .0058% of the project cost. It is less than the proverbial drop in the bucket, and is an incentive for the MVP to continue, to pollute West Virginia waters. In fact, the MVP may have saved money under this deal by not installing the required environmental controls.
Limpert: Pipeline coating is dangerous
Sunday June 30, 2019
William Limpert is a retired environmental regulator with an emphasis in water pollution and particularly pollution from construction projects. He lives in Bath County.
I much appreciate Laurence Hammack’s article regarding the horrific life-changing impacts to residents along the Mountain Valley Pipeline (“Mountain Valley Pipeline will take longer and cost more to complete, company says,” June 17 news story.) We landowners along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stand in solidarity with them The Roanoke Times has been a steadfast source of information, and a voice for residents of Virginia for many years. We appreciate the great service that Mr. Hammack and the Roanoke Times has provided to this community, and southwest Virginia. Nevertheless, I have concerns with statements made by the MVP and the regulatory agencies for the article. My issues are not with Mr. Hammack, nor the paper. The MVP, and the ACP are coated with 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 (FBE) which is designed to protect the pipes from corrosion, which leads to leaks, and explosions. FBE degrades, chalks off the pipes, and becomes thinner and less protective when exposed to sunlight.
Pipeline protester removed from perch atop MVP excavator
Saturday June 29, 2019
IRONTO — The person clinging to an excavator parked in the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was barely visible. A crowd of fellow protesters, blocked from getting any closer to the scene, stood at the edge of Bradshaw Road, yelling, chanting and using megaphones to be heard. “We love you up there,” one person shouted. Others then joined in a refrain: “One, two, three; f— the MVP,” they chanted. Around midday Friday, Virginia State Police used a mechanized lift to remove Michael James-Deramo from the boom of the excavator, to which he had chained himself about six hours earlier. He was charged with two misdemeanors: entering private property to damage it and preventing the operation of a vehicle.
Request to stop work on Mountain Valley Pipeline remains in limbo
Friday June 28, 2019
RICHMOND — A complaint that seeks to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline is in a state of limbo. Last week, Wild Virginia and other environmental groups filed what they called a formal complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They expected that the action would start an official process, and they asked the State Water Control Board to join in their request that FERC halt construction. But after the board met Thursday in a closed session with an assistant attorney general, member James Lofton said it had been advised that the complaint has yet to be docketed with FERC.
The 24-page document — which cites hundreds of environmental violations and the loss of two key sets of federal permits — was filed with FERC on June 21.
Letter: Actions of tree-sitters are working
Wednesday June 26, 2019
Your June 11 editorial, “20 years for tree-sitters?,” belittles tree-sitters’ form of protest as “colorful,” and their actions as “ultimately futile.” And yet, the actions of those tree-sitters are the only actions that are working! The Mountain Valley Pipeline was supposed to be finished by 2017, yet thanks to the tree-sitters (day 280 at Yellow Finch), there are trees along the condemnation path, in the national forest and on private land, that are still standing, and the pipeline is far from finished.
Pipeline opponents fight Roanoke Gas rate increase
Tuesday June 25, 2019
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are asking the State Corporation Commission to reject a rate increase requested by Roanoke Gas. During a news conference Tuesday morning, they said customers will pay a price for the company’s involvement in the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The SCC will hold a public hearing Wednesday in Richmond to receive comment on the 10.6% increase. Roanoke Gas holds a 1% interest in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and opponents who spoke out Tuesday said the company’s customers will be affected by an expensive project that isn’t needed to supply the region with natural gas.
Irene Leech is an Associate Professor of Consumer Studies at Virginia Tech. “We’re looking at a utility that already has two dependable sources,” she told WDBJ7, “and no documented reason why we need a third.” Leech joined others at the Roanoke news conference.
Water board should support call for federal action to halt pipeline damage
Tuesday June 25, 2019
On Thursday the State Water Control Board has another chance to act on the good intentions its members have expressed – that Mountain Valley Pipeline’s violations and the resulting damages to Virginia waters and landowners must stop. A federal agency can make that happen. We just need the board to tell those federal officials: “do your job.” Our seven fellow citizens on the water board have an awesome responsibility. They have the ultimate authority to see that proper state regulations to protect Virginia’s waters are in place and that those rules are enforced.
Pipeline opponents, spurned by the state, ask federal agency to stop work
Saturday June 22, 2019
It’s hard to count how many times Virginia environmental regulators have been asked to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Since construction of the natural gas pipeline began last year — and was quickly followed by problems with storm runoff clogging nearby streams with sediment — state lawmakers, advocacy groups and individuals have asked the Department of Environmental Quality to halt work on the project time and time again. What is easier to count is the number of stop-work orders issued by DEQ on any construction project since 2002: Zero.
Christopulos: Good thing Martin Luther King didn’t rely on The Roanoke Times for strategy
Wednesday June 19, 2019
Diana Christopulos is the retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem.
In a recent editorial (“Should pipeline tree sitters get 20 years in prison?” June 11, 2019), the Roanoke Times makes many good points about the latest efforts by the oil and gas industry to turn peaceful citizens into felons serving 20 years in prison. Sadly, the editor’s conclusion reveals a serious lack of understanding about change in the face of entrenched power.
The Roanoke Times dismisses the dangerous and physically draining act of tree-sitting as a “gleeful” and “colorful” activity and labels such direct action “futile,” lecturing pipeline opponents that they should raise money to pay for lawyers, compete with hedge fund managers by buying stocks in pipeline companies to “work against the project from within,” and work to elect politicians who will reform the whole system. Tree sitting is a “distraction.” Ignoring, for the moment, the fact that opponents have been doing ALL of these things since 2015, I can’t help but be thankful that Martin Luther King and others who engaged in civil disobedience did not rely on sources like this. If King had confined himself to buying company stock, hiring lawyers and working on political campaigns, he never would have written a letter from the Birmingham jail after being arrested for civil disobedience. Instead of “I Have a Dream,” he would have said, “I Have a Proxy Vote.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline will take longer and cost more to complete, company says
Monday June 17, 2019
Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline may have found a way to cross the Appalachian Trail, but it will delay the project’s completion until the middle of next year and boost its cost to as much as $5 billion. The disclosure was made Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by EQM Midstream, the lead partner in the joint venture. Previously, Mountain Valley had said it would spend $4.6 billion to have the natural gas pipeline finished by the end of this year. The latest plan relies on a land swap in which the U.S. Department of the Interior would allow the company to keep its current crossing of the trail —– at the top of Peters Mountain along the West Virginia-Virginia line — in exchange for a piece of private property that Mountain Valley owns adjacent to the Jefferson National Forest, according to the filing. Boring under the trail was cast in doubt in December, when a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service had improperly allowed a similar project, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to cross the national scenic footpath farther to the east, in the George Washington National Forest. In that case, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Forest Service lacked authority to grant a right of way for the pipeline to cross the more than 2,100-mile long trial, which is administered by the National Park Service. Although Mountain Valley was not named in that case, legal experts said that its Appalachian Trail crossing could be jeopardized by the ruling.
But if the land swap is approved, “the applicable federal agencies would grant the MVP venture an easement and right-of-way” to cross the trail at its originally planned location, which was approved in 2017 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, EQM wrote in the SEC filing.
Letter: Corporations should be held accountable for violations
Monday June 17, 2019
The Roanoke Times recently announced the $266,000 settlement between West Virginia and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for environmental violations that have despoiled many miles of streams. The article stated that the settlement came to less than 1% of the project cost. The settlement is much less than 1%. It comes to less than .0058% of the project cost. It is less than the proverbial drop in the bucket, and is an incentive for the MVP to continue, to pollute West Virginia waters. In fact, the MVP may have saved money under this deal by not installing the required environmental controls.
Delays raise new questions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday June 15, 2019
BOONES MILL — Of the two types of steel pipe that snake through their land, Anne and Steve Bernard are not sure which scares them more. One they can’t see: the portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that construction crews buried last summer. The other is in plain sight: an approximately 120-foot-long section of the pipe floating in water that fills a trench. As the Bernards recently stood near the pipeway’s path — which passes about 150 feet from their Franklin County home and a studio behind it where the two artists work — Anne recalled what happened the last week of July 2018. “They came in with a storm of machinery and they dug the trench in two days and then they dropped the pipe in it,” she said. “They were in such a hurry.” The next day, the Bernards saw where the buried 42-inch diameter pipe extended to a part of the trench that had filled with water in a low-lying pasture, before work crews had a chance to cover the pipe with dirt. “I called MVP and said, ‘Your pipe is floating here,’” Anne Bernard said.
Nearly a year later, the section of pipe remains suspended — as do key parts of a $4.6 billion project to build a 303-mile pipeline to transport newly drilled natural gas from northern West Virginia, through the New River and Roanoke valleys, to connect with an existing pipeline near the North Carolina line.
Letter: What business will use this gas?
Thursday June 13, 2019
On May 16, Joseph Elligson of Roanoke posited that those opposed to the natural gas pipelines obstruct economic contributions from manufacturing (“No proposed alternatives”). What specific business is actually building new or expanded manufacturing to use this gas? Please prove the need, that current infrastructure is inadequate, the new infrastructure will be fully used for its entire lifecycle, and that it will not harm the environment or health. Only Franklin County expects new access to natural gas but where are specific plans for new industry or residential distribution? Because Buckingham County has had gas transmission without local use for more than 50 years, I am skeptical. Eminent domain is intended for projects that provide public benefit, not private profits. We’ve heard many grandiose benefit projections but seen no proof any will materialize. Given global markets, it appears that the gas will be exported, increasing currently low U.S. prices.
North Carolina denies water permit for MVP Southgate pipeline
Wednesday June 12, 2019
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a key water quality permit for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate, dealing the project a setback. The permit is required under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act and would allow the pipeline company to temporarily or permanently impact multiple streams, wetlands and more than eight acres of protected riparian buffers in the Haw River watershed. In a letter dated June 3, the DEQ noted that it had twice informed the pipeline company that its permit application, first submitted in November 2018, was incomplete. The agency also wrote that crucial information it needed to assess the project’s water impacts would not be available until after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, anticipated in July. The DEQ informed the pipeline company that it could reapply for the permit once the draft impact statement is issued, but that any work done within waters of the state or riparian buffers before a 401 permit is issued may be a violation of North Carolina law. “This may seem like just an administrative decision, but it shows just how hard the pipeline company wants to rush this project by trying to get a state permit that has to be grounded in information that’s not even out yet,” said Ridge Graham, North Carolina Field Coordinator with Appalachian Voices.
‘They care about corporations:’ Landowners demonstrate pipeline project’s toll
Wednesday June 12, 2019
WIRTZ — Little Creek ran chocolate-milkshake brown, surging with flood water as it splashed over its banks just feet from where lengths of the Mountain Valley Pipeline lay mounted on wooden blocks and submerged in ditches. Two dozen people trudged through the mud and muck, surveying what was once a key pasture for Four Corners Farm, now gashed and treeless in anticipation of the pipeline. “We’re walking along an open trench with a huge pipe that’s been sitting in it for about 10 months that is eroding away slowly as the trench is getting deeper and wider,” said Carolyn Reilly, one of the owners of the farm, during a tour last weekend. “This was the lowest and flattest part of our 58-acre farm, and right now a quarter mile of it has been trenched and plowed through by the MVP.”
Planting a stake for bereaved landowners
Wednesday June 12, 2019
HINTON — As shareholders took part Tuesday in an EQM meeting in Pittsburgh, a different type of stakeholders held their own meeting in Summers County concerning EQM’s 300-mile pipeline project through West Virginia and into Virginia. For the last few years, a vocal group of local landowners has fought the energy giant, trying to halt construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) through protests and legal battles. A small group of those landowners argued Tuesday in Hinton that the pipeline interest and the government need to be held accountable — for how business has been conducted and for the possible implications of the massive pipeline project bisecting the state north to south.
Munley: Seven ways to stop the pipeline
Wednesday June 12, 2019
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Democracy, justice, rule-of-law and export-sized gas pipelines cannot coexist. Our minority-ruled and corporate-dominated political system is woefully inflexible to meet 21st century existential environmental imperatives. While global warming smacks us with fires, floods, tornados and rising tides, America stokes the fires with fossil fuels privileges and subsidies. Fracked gas is no “bridge fuel.” Its long-lived “fossil” pipelines help rescue a financially-failing industry dispose of a post-2008 over-invested fracked gas glut while shredding our democracy. High-capacity pipelines require a gamut of injustices: secret and done deals, charades of public comments, collusion, environmental devastation and criminalizing non-violent citizens who our contorted justice system expects to behave passively while criminal corporations shake them down, stealing the lives and homes they created, their health, safety and clean water along with Appalachia’s natural beauty. Civil and property rights — bedrocks of civilized society also enumerated in the Virginia constitution — are discarded.
Editorial: Should pipeline tree-sitters get 20 years in prison
Tuesday June 11, 2019
What penalty should be paid by pipeline protestors who try to block construction? Virginia Tech professor Emily Satterwhite locked herself to excavating equipment for 14 hours until state police finally used a blow torch to cut her free. A Montgomery County judge dismissed the criminal charge against her if she performed 200 hours of community service and stayed out of trouble for a year.
Two Roanoke County women — Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter, Theresa Minor Terry — camped out in trees on their own property for more than a month. Both avoided potential jail time. Instead, a Roanoke County judge dismissed the charges, saying they had a “good faith” belief they could occupy trees on their own property.
Catherine “Fern” MacDougal, an environmental activist from Michigan, spent 11 days living in a small platform suspended by ropes from trees — effectively blocking a road through the Jefferson National Forest in Giles County that Mountain Valley Pipeline workers used to get to the\ construction zone. A federal judge sentenced her to two days in jail.
Danika R. Padilla — better known as “Nutty” — spent 57 days likewise blocking a construction access road in the national forest; she camped out on a different time of aerial platform. Federal prosecutors asked that she be sentenced to 30 days; instead a federal judge gave her 14 days.
We could go on — there have been other cases — but these are the most famous ones against anti-pipeline protesters in this part of the country. So far, that 14-day sentence against “Nutty” remains the most severe. The Trump administration, though, has different ideas. It proposes that that penalty for the types of anti-pipeline protests described above be up to 20 years in prison.
West Virginia court finds in favor of landowners in legal dispute with EQT Corp.
Friday June 7, 2019
Despite five years of legal battles in West Virginia courts, EQT Corp. said its drilling operations won’t be significantly impacted by a court decision that both landowner advocates and oil and gas industry experts said would be a landmark ruling for shale gas development. On Wednesday, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Downtown-based EQT Corp. trespassed on the property of two Doddridge County landowners when it drilled nine horizontal wells from a pad placed on their land without their permission.
Supreme Court ruling gives residents more say over natural gas drilling
Wednesday June 5, 2019
Natural gas producers in West Virginia no longer can drill on one person’s property to reach gas reserves under adjoining or neighboring tracts, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in a much-anticipated ruling that gives additional leverage to residents struggling with the effects from the booming industry.
In a 5-0 ruling, the justices upheld a lower court ruling and jury verdict against EQT Corp., siding with two Doddridge County residents who had sued the state’s second-largest gas company. Justice John Hutchison wrote that gas and other mineral companies must obtain permission from surface owners to use their land to reach reserves under other properties…
…In the case, two people who live on a 300-acre farm in Doddridge County said EQT came onto their land to extract gas from underneath adjacent properties. The two people, Beth Crowder and David Wentz, warned EQT that the company would be trespassing. EQT entered the property anyway. Crowder and Wentz sued, and a local circuit judge ruled in their favor, and a jury two years ago awarded them nearly $200,000 in damages.
Landslides, explosions spark fear in pipeline country
Tuesday June 4, 2019
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — TransCanada Corp. CEO Russ Girling pledged “years of safe, reliable and efficient operation” last year when his company launched the Leach Xpress natural gas pipeline. Five months later, it blew up, snapped by a landslide. “It was 4:10 in the morning, and it was like daylight,” recalled Charlie Friend, who lives here, near the steep hollow where the 36-inch pipe ruptured about a year ago.
The blast was one of at least six pipeline explosions caused by landslides and similar hazards since early 2018 in Appalachia. They’re piling up just as companies work to export the bounty of the Marcellus Shale by planting a new crop of pipelines across the region’s valleys, ridgetops and hillsides. The blasts are alarming federal pipeline safety regulators and inspiring fear along the paths of the big, high-pressure gas lines.
“We have those same steep slopes,” said Tina Smusz, a retired physician fighting the Mountain Valley pipeline being built through the area where she lives near Roanoke, Va. “I don’t know what they’re thinking. This is such a setup for ruptured pipelines.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline urges judge to remove tree-sitters
Wednesday May 29, 2019
After staying up in the trees for nearly nine months, blockers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are facing an attempt to bring them down. Lawyers for the company said in a recent court filing that it needs to have two tree-sitters removed by Friday so workers can finish clearing a path for the massive natural gas pipeline.
On Sept. 5, 2018, two protesters took up residence in a white pine and a chestnut oak that stand in a construction easement for the pipeline in eastern Montgomery County. While the tree stands have switched occupants a number of times, they remain standing — in what is now the longest active blockade of a pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines.
How eminent domain is blighting farmers in path of gas pipeline
Tuesday May 28, 2019
Compulsory purchase – or the threat of it – of property on the route of a pipeline for fracked natural gas has left a slew of grievances and lawsuits in West Virginia and Virginia.
Keep Virginia clean and beautiful
Friday May 24, 2019
Virginia is a beautiful state bounded by rolling green mountains and the timeless sea. Unfortunately, our forests and waterways are threatened by unneeded fracked-gas pipelines that undermine property rights and threaten Virginians’ safety and drinking water. The Transco Pipeline, at only 57 percent capacity, is enough. Work on the 300-mile-long Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has wreaked environmental havoc. Development includes routes down steep mountains, the clear-cutting of trees, and weak sediment/erosion controls. Further, the MVP is will cross many head water streams of the Roanoke River, which provides drinking water to Roanoke and Salem. This pipeline could double Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions, worsening the climate crisis.
Hileman: MVP renders the law meaningless
Thursday May 23, 2019
Jacob Hileman is an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues.
“To hell with your permits.” These five words recently adorned a non-violent protest that temporarily halted construction along a portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Alarmingly, this phrase is likely the exaggerated pretense for bringing the felony charge of “threats of terrorist acts” against the protester, 22-year-old Holden Dometrius. While the threat of felony charges may ultimately prove to be only an intimidation tactic, this phrase will be used to paint a picture of reckless and steadfast disregard for authority by protesters, and perhaps even a call to lawless and violent actions. Ironically, “to hell with your permits” perfectly encapsulates the ethos of MVP.
Since beginning construction on its titanic fracked gas pipeline last year, MVP has had five permits suspended, been charged with more than 300 violations, and is mired in a criminal lawsuit for building during a federally-mandated stop work order. Indeed, the actions taken by MVP seem to indicate it never intended to take the permits seriously. Nor does MVP have to — state and federal agencies have shown a willingness to change permit conditions on the fly to accommodate the pipeline. Last June, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended Nationwide Permit 12 issued by the U.S.
West Virginia DEP Proposes $265,972 Fine Against MVP, Releases Consent Order for Public Comment
Tuesday May 14, 2019
CHARLESTON, WV — Today, the West Virginia DEP publicly released their draft Consent Order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, in which they propose a fine of $265,972 for 26 Notices of Violation issued between April 3 and November 30, 2018. The release of a draft initiates a public comment period that will be open until June 14, 2019. Attached to the draft order were 160 pages of photos showing inspections of violations by DEP staff. Cited violations include failure to implement perimeter controls, failure to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving the site without going through an appropriate device, and causing conditions not allowable in waters of the State. The draft Consent Order was submitted to MVP for review April 19, 2019 and was signed by Robert Cooper, Senior Vice President, Engineering and Construction for MVP, LLC, and returned to DEP May 6, 2019.
Maury Johnson, POWHR Executive Committee Member and WV Impacted Landowner: “Today’s Consent Order, assessing fines in excess of over $265,000 for damages to WV streams, springs and wetlands though November of 2018 from the Mountain Valley Pipeline is welcome, but it is a pittance to the true cost of the damages citizens have documented in Summers and Monroe Counties alone. $265 million dollars might be a little closer to the real damages that have occurred across the state on this one unnecessary fracked gas pipeline.
Mountain Valley agrees to pay $266,000 for pollution problems in W.Va.
Tuesday May 14, 2019
Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have agreed to pay a fine of nearly $266,000 for violating environmental regulations in West Virginia. The agreement, outlined in a consent order from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, marks the first financial penalty for problems with storm water runoff caused by building a 303-mile pipeline that will also cross the New River and Roanoke valleys. Photographs included in the 179-page document show a “drastic change” in streams since work on the buried pipeline began last winter, said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “These are clear-running streams and they have been forever,” Rosser said. “And you look at the photos now and they are just brown.”
Mountain Valley faces similar issues in Virginia. A lawsuit filed in December by the Department of Environmental Quality alleges more than 300 violations of erosion and sediment control measures. Online court records indicate the case is still pending.
Letter: Damage far outweighs value of pipeline
Saturday May 11, 2019
In her letter printed March 30, “Natural gas is a clean fuel,” Jennifer Brown expresses her disappointment with the opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Although she considers herself a “conservationist,” she says there is a need for natural gas, and an alternative of wind farms “would impact our landscape.” Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, but the burning is just one part of the equation. Natural gas is extracted by high-pressure pumping of millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into wells bored thousands of feet through soil, shale and water tables in the process called “fracking.” The discharge of the toxic polluted water is a risk to land and water resources, and human, animal and plant health. Subterranean cavities caused by the fracking weaken the structure of the ground, and there has been an increase in earthquakes in some areas as a result.
Letter: A pipeline took the farm
Friday May 10, 2019
This summer is sure to bring lots of changes to the Roanoke and New River valleys. I may take the grandkids to Monroe County to pick blueberries but the farmer is gone. A pipeline took the farm. We may go to Craig County to pick blackberries but the farmer is gone. A pipeline took the farm.
Fourth Circuit Urged to Block Pipeline Threatening Bees
Thursday May 9, 2019
RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – The Fourth Circuit was abuzz Thursday morning as environmentalists asked for a second time that a three-judge panel stop a natural gas pipeline from being constructed through the Appalachian Mountains, specifically raising concerns about its impact on an endangered bumblebee species.
Property owners protest pipeline procurement process
Monday May 6, 2019
FALLS CHURCH — Much to Gary Erb’s chagrin, a natural gas pipeline now cuts across his 72-acre homestead in Conestoga Township, Pennsylvania. To his even greater chagrin, he remains unpaid for the 6 acres of land that were taken from him under eminent domain to build the pipeline. With the help of a Virginia-based legal group, he is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to end what he and his lawyers say has become a common practice in the pipeline industry: taking the land first, and paying later. “They’re making millions in profit, and we still haven’t gotten a dime,” Erb said in a phone interview. “They’re exploiting a broken system.”
There have been more than 200 instances of courts granting pipeline companies immediate possession of land, while at the same time deferring the issue of how much the property owners will be paid for it, said Robert McNamara, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm based in Arlington that is representing Erb and others in similar situations. Those cases have occurred in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, McNamara said.
Pipeline Safety: Potential for Damage to Pipeline Facilities Caused by Earth Movement and Other Geological Hazards
Thursday May 2, 2019
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is issuing this advisory bulletin to remind owners and operators of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines of the potential for damage to pipeline facilities caused by earth movement from both landslides and subsidence in variable, steep, and rugged terrain and for varied geological conditions. These conditions can pose a threat to the integrity of pipeline facilities if those threats are not identified and mitigated.
MVP properly followed surveying law, Roanoke County judge rules
Wednesday May 1, 2019
A civil dispute over surveying for the Mountain Valley Pipeline was resolved Wednesday by a Roanoke County judge, three years after it began. The decision by circuit court Judge David Carson, finding that Mountain Valley officials followed the law properly, could end a lengthy legal battle that began when the pipeline’s route was being established. Mountain Valley had sued Fred Vest, a landowner along the project’s route through Bent Mountain, claiming that he interfered with surveyors in April 2016 when he had them charged with trespassing. Those charges were later dismissed, but Vest filed a countersuit alleging that Mountain Valley’s actions were nonetheless improper and caused him mental anguish, embarrassment and emotional distress.
After hearing arguments Wednesday, Carson granted a motion by Seth Land, an attorney for the pipeline, who argued that there was no need for a jury trial to find in the company’s favor. While Carson did not allow Vest’s countersuit to move forward, Mountain Valley agreed to drop its claim for $25,000 in damages against the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran.
Judge dismisses landowner lawsuit against pipeline company
Wednesday May 1, 2019
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A circuit court judge has ruled against a Roanoke County landowner, who accused the Mountain Valley Pipeline of trespassing when crews surveyed his property. Fred Vest lives on Bent Mountain. His land lies in the path of the project. During a motions hearing Wednesday morning, his attorneys questioned the language of a state statute that allows access, as well as MVP’s interpretation of the law. His case was scheduled for a jury trial in June, but Judge David Carson said the issues Vest raised are questions for the state legislature, not the legal system.
Land Grab: Property Owners Fight Back Against Pipeline IOUs
Sunday April 28, 2019
When the land men first came for his property nearly two years ago, Elijah Howard tried to negotiate on his own, without a lawyer. The agents represented Mountain Valley Pipeline, a joint venture by five energy companies that aims to transport two billion cubic feet of natural gas through 303 miles of West Virginia and Virginia, Howard’s home state.
MVP wanted permission to lay a 42-inch wide steel pipe underneath less than half an acre of Howard’s remote mountain top land, and agents said they’d pay him for it. But their initial offer was “hardly anything,” he recalls: Court documents show the pipeline appraised his tracts at $342, even though it later asserted agents had offered at least $3,000. Howard rejected them at first, considering that the route would prevent future building on that part of his plot. But after a little back-and-forth, he thought he and the land men had agreed to a higher price point, one that felt fair.
“Two weeks later, I got served with a stack of papers about a foot thick,” he told Law360, laughing. The lawsuit marked Howard’s introduction to the world of pipeline eminent domain disputes. Thanks to a law called the Natural Gas Act, gas companies wield the same authority as the government to seize private land for public use as long as they pay owners “just compensation.”
“To the River” No Pipeline Anthem SUN SiNG
Premiered Sunday Apr. 28, 2019
The SUN SiNG project had these goals: 1) lift up the pipeline resistance and future lovin’ hearts of those long fighting the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines with a magical theatrical concert 2) tell the story of these corrupt robberies to the newcomer 3) create a new no pipeline anthem and song video for the work and messaging ahead for all pipeline fights everywhere 4) strengthen our ability to respond as a state and as a region to this serious threat 5) create a yes for the #SolaRevolution to come 6) have the SUN SiNG collective create trust, ensemble and an entire body of no pipeline music and art 7) empower new artists for ARTivism Virginia and 8) raise money to support Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice and the work ahead.
Mountain Valley Pipeline gets good and bad news on court challenges
Thursday Apr. 25, 2019
A state regulation that delayed a key part of work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline — the crossings of more than 1,000 streams and wetlands in the two Virginias — has been revised in a way likely to benefit the project. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection wrote in a letter Wednesday to federal regulators that it has modified about 50 conditions to permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the conditions was that the pipeline needed to be built across four major rivers in West Virginia within 72 hours. The Army Corps improperly bypassed that rule when it issued what’s called a Nationwide Permit 12 to the natural gas project, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in throwing out the authorization in October. Although several more steps need to be taken before water body crossings can resume, a revised condition doing away with the time restriction in certain cases was seen as a victory for Mountain Valley.
Fife: The pipelines aren’t local
Thursday Apr. 25, 2019
Darlene Fife is a partner in two businesses in Lewisburg, West Virginia.
Re: “The real cost of pipeline activism,” April 11 commentary by Craig Stevens.
I read your article “The Real Cost of Anti-Pipeline Activism” published in the Roanoke Times. You say of anti-pipeline protestors — “Their efforts are not the local, grassroots movement they’d like the public to believe.”
I live near Lewisburg, West Virginia, near the proposed path of the pipeline and have written letters against the pipeline and have lived in the area for 45 years. You who speak for the pipeline — do you live near the pipeline path? Are your efforts local and grassroots? You are identified in the article as a spokesperson for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting infrastructure development.
In the website for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) is listed the members of coalition which are organizations such as the Iowa Association of Business and Industry and Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association. Member headquarters are in Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. None are local. None are near the Mountain Valley Pipeline proposed path.
Pipelines draw support at energy conference in Roanoke, while opponents gather outside
Thursday Apr. 18, 2019
American Electric Power is working to diversify its energy mix with more renewable sources, but it won’t happen as quickly as some critics want, the company’s top official said Thursday…
…Later in the day, opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a natural gas transmission line currently under construction in Southwest Virginia — questioned what they called the conference’s ties to fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Mountain Valley and other pipeline-related companies sponsoring the conference “have brought suffering, heartbreak, destruction and a diminished future to our region by building the MVP,” Cynthia Munley, an organizer of Preserve Salem, said during a news conference at the nearby Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge. Despite problems controlling muddy runoff from construction sites, Mountain Valley has been allowed to move forward by state and federal regulators. The company says it hopes to regain permits suspended in two areas — the Jefferson National Forest and streams and wetlands to be crossed by the 303-mile pipeline — in time to complete construction by late this year.
Cathcart: Mountain Valley Pipeline is a Titanic mistake
Sunday Apr. 14, 2019
Freeda Cathcart of Roanoke is a former reinsurance specialist for Shenandoah Life Insurance Co.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is an economic disaster on par with the Titanic. The same arrogance, ignorance and incompetence that led to the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic is at the foundation of the impending doom for the MVP. While there has been much focus in the press on the protesters and legal challenges for obstructing the construction of the MVP, the predominant obstructionists have been nature and the weather.
MVP would like to claim last year’s rainfall was historic and have tried to blame it for their failure to protect our streams and rivers from erosion. A climate hydrologist with TerraPredictions did an analysis proving the 2018 rainfall in the area of the MVP was not historic. MVP refused to heed the many warnings from experts about why it would not be possible to build a 42 inch pipeline through the mountains without incurring extreme damage to our environment and astronomical costs.
Foe of Mountain Valley Pipeline allowed to participate in Roanoke Gas rate increase case
Friday Apr. 12, 2019
The Sierra Club will be allowed to participate in the regulatory review of a proposed rate increase by Roanoke Gas Co., which the club says is connected to the company’s involvement in the contentious Mountain Valley Pipeline. A hearing examiner for the State Corporation Commission on Thursday denied a motion by Roanoke Gas to exclude the environmental organization from participating in the commission’s review of the rate increase, which is scheduled for a June 26 public hearing. In motions filed with the SCC, Roanoke Gas argued that the Sierra Club lacked standing and that its role in the case amounted to “a fishing expedition to gather information which it can use in its campaign to ‘stop and oppose’ the MVP.” But at Thursday’s hearing in Richmond, hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan rejected that assertion — allowing the Sierra Club to move forward in its efforts to obtain information from Roanoke Gas through the discovery process.
Trump signs orders making it harder to block pipelines
Wednesday Apr. 10, 2019
CROSBY, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump’s support for shifting more power to states took a back seat Wednesday to his affinity for oil and gas production as he aimed to make it harder for states to block pipelines and other energy projects due to environmental concerns. At the urging of business groups, Trump signed two executive orders designed to speed up oil and gas pipeline projects. The action came after officials in Washington state and New York used the permitting process to stop new energy projects in recent years. “Too often badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies and radical activists,” Trump complained…The Trump administration insisted it was not trying to take power away from the states but, rather, trying to make sure that state actions follow the intent of the Clean Water Act…
…Trump’s orders were not expected to impact the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which began construction through Southwest Virginia last year. Mountain Valley obtained a water quality certification from Virginia in December 2017, shortly before starting work. The State Water Control Board later decided to consider revoking its certification, but reversed course at a meeting in March and let the permit stand. Other setbacks to the project — the loss of a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest and the suspension of an Army Corps of Engineers approval for more than 500 stream and wetland crossings — were imposed by a federal appeals court and would not be affected by Trump’s order.
Yancey, Hammack lead Roanoke Times state press winners
Saturday Apr. 6, 2019
NORFOLK — The Roanoke Times won 29 state press awards Saturday, taking two of the contest’s top four honors. Reporter Laurence Hammack was named Virginia’s Outstanding Journalist and, for the second consecutive year, Editorial Page Editor Dwayne Yancey won the D. Lathan Mims Award for Editorial Service in the Community…
…Hammack’s winning entry included a series of stories on the Mountain Valley Pipeline project as well as pieces on Natural Bridge and a planned Botetourt County wind farm. His work on the pipeline also was recognized with a first-place award in general news writing.
After 212 days, tree-sitters are still standing against the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Apr. 5, 2019
ELLISTON — The 212th day was a lot like the first, which for foes of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was a good thing. Since Sept. 5, 2018, two people have occupied tree stands in a white pine and a chestnut oak, perched about 50 feet off the ground while supporters camped on the ground sent up food and water in plastic buckets and kept watch over the peaceful protest. On Thursday, they celebrated another day of blocking tree-cutting for the controversial natural gas pipeline, which is destined to run across this wooded slope in eastern Montgomery County on its way from northern West Virginia to Chatham. One thing new to the scene was 69-year-old Scott Ziemer, who earlier in the week climbed up the white pine to replace another protester. He joined Phillip Flagg, a millennial who has been living in the oak tree since October. For Ziemer, Flagg and the protesters who preceded them, the tree-sit is now the longest active blockade of a natural gas pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines, a group that has helped organize the effort.
Pipeline’s coating carries health, safety risks
Tuesday Apr. 2, 2019
We’ve heard of the many negative impacts from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Nevertheless, like the TV ads say, “But wait, there’s more.” The “more” is more public risk.
Both pipelines are coated with a fusion-bonded epoxy to reduce pipe corrosion and risk of explosion. FBE degrades in sunlight, and it is chalking off the pipes and becoming progressively thinner. Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers admit the pipes have been stored longer than the manufacturer’s recommendation. Experts advise me the pipes may be safe for up to two years, but their safety is questionable thereafter. The ACP pipes have already been stored outside for three years and counting, since the ACP is now on hold. Mountain Valley Pipeline developers testified in court that they are concerned about FBE loss as well. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration confirms the FBE loss, but states that the pipes have been inspected and remain safe. Nevertheless, no inspection results for pipe safety, blasting, hydrostatic tests, welding and backfilling will be available to the public until these dangerous projects are completed, and by then it may be too late to correct public safety issues There have been three catastrophic gas pipeline explosions in nearby states in the past 10 months. Landslides in steep terrain similar to that of the ACP and MVP caused two of them to explode shortly after installation. But wait, there’s more…
Va. pipelines set off ‘an alarm bell’ for skeptical energy regulator
Monday Apr. 1, 2019
WASHINGTON — Most Americans have no idea who Cheryl LaFleur is. The wonkish attorney, a Massachusetts native and electricity expert, has spent nearly a decade as a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a federal agency that regulates the transmission of oil, electricity and natural gas pipelines, among other responsibilities. It’s not often that she gets recognized in the supermarket. “I believe we have important jobs, but there’s a lot more famous people in this town,” LaFleur told the Virginia Mercury in a recent interview in her office a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. “It’s not like being a congressperson where every time you’re sitting and having a glass of wine with a friend, somebody might be snapping you on their iPhone. Being a FERC commissioner is definitely not like that.”
But while she’s not one of Washington’s best-known policymakers, LaFleur, who is not being nominated for a new term, has been central figure in the battles playing out in Virginia and around the country over the necessity and environmental impacts of gas pipelines — behemoth infrastructure projects that can cost developers billions of dollars and that often ignite fierce opposition campaigns. “LaFleur has been an important voice in mobilizing the conversation for a comprehensive approach to analyzing climate impacts,” said Gillian Giannetti, a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Work continues on Mountain Valley Pipeline, despite repeated problems
Sunday Mar. 31, 2019
Last September, torrential rains swept muddy water from a pipeline construction zone into the nearby United Methodist Church in Lindside, West Virginia, washing out the gravel parking lot and leaving a layer of muck in the basement. In other places along the 303-mile route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, large rocks rolled off the construction right of way, tumbling more than 100 feet downhill. “This has been an ongoing issue,” regulators wrote in a July 2018 report that also documented problems with erosion control measures and mudslides. And in February, a contractor working on a Pittsylvania County stretch of the pipeline submitted paperwork stating that erosion maintenance repairs had been made, when in fact they had not. Those cases — along with scores of instances in which sediment-laden water flowed unchecked from work zones into nearby streams or onto adjacent private property — are listed in weekly environmental compliance monitoring reports filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Malbon: Pipeline has corrupted our government
Friday Mar. 29, 2019
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon Malbon retired from the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech in 2016, after 36 years of teaching. Known nationally and internationally for her work on narrative criticism of the Gospel of Mark, currently she volunteers as a Trout Unlimited-trained water monitor for streams and springs in the Catawba Valley of Montgomery County.
It is, sadly enough, common knowledge that the executive branch of Virginia’s state government has been corrupted by corporate interests, especially Dominion Energy, with its Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and Mountain Valley Pipeline. While it was the former governor who made secret deals that favor these two pipelines over protecting the environment of all Virginians, the current governor has certainly taken up the same pattern, pushing it even further by ending the terms of members of citizen boards who ask too many questions about a huge compressor station to be built in the neighborhood of formerly enslaved persons in Buckingham County (Where was the rage over that racist action?) or about the clean water certification of the already impressively destructive MVP.
The most recent case in point was the change in advice to the State Water Control Board, which dared in December 2018 to raise the question of a second look at the clean water certification of the MVP in light of the 300-plus violations mentioned specifically in the suit filed by the Attorney General. Because the board meeting on March 1 to consider this issue was “closed,” one can only guess what new advice a member of the Attorney General’s staff gave board members, but it would seem it had a great deal to do with MVP’s letter of Feb. 12 threatening to sue (the board? Individual members?) if they claimed their clear statutory authority to re-examine the state permit they themselves had issued.
Northam’s push to overhaul DEQ moving forward
Wednesday Mar. 27, 2019
LEXINGTON — Plans to overhaul the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, launched one year ago, are starting to take shape. A report with recommendations will be released next month pursuant to an executive order from Gov. Ralph Northam, who directed DEQ staff, in consultation with the secretary of natural resources, to review the agency’s permitting, monitoring and enforcement activities. What administration officials call a “revitalization” comes as Virginia deals with the construction of two massive natural gas pipelines, the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other natural resource issues…
…In addition to expressing concerns about the compressor station, the council last year urged Northam to address widespread problems with erosion and sedimentation from construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is farther along than the Atlantic Coast project. A lawsuit filed by DEQ and the State Water Control Board alleges that Mountain Valley crews have violated environmental regulations more than 300 times. Pipeline controversy was mentioned only briefly by Strickler and Northam at the symposium, which is now in its third decade of bringing state officials, business leaders and environmental advocates together for presentations and discussions.
Bowers and Christopulos: Local volunteers honored by Appalachian Studies Association
Tuesday Mar. 26, 2019
Kirk Bowers is pipelines campaign adviser for the Sierra Club Virginia chapter. He is from Charlottesville. Diana Christopulos is the retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem.
In 2001, the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) instituted the Helen Lewis Community Service award, honoring educator and activist Helen Lewis. In 1969, Lewis taught one of the first known courses in Appalachian Studies at Clinch Valley College (now University of Virginia at Wise). The Helen Lewis Award is given to an individual or an organization that has made exemplary contributions to Appalachia through involvement with and service to its people and communities. In March 2019, the Appalachian Studies Association awarded the Helen Lewis Community Service Award to the Protect Our Water Heritage and Rights (POWHR) coalition for their outstanding work in opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). ASA presented the award at their annual conference in Asheville, North Carolina. POWHR is an interstate coalition representing individuals and groups from counties in Virginia and West Virginia dedicated to protecting the water, local ecology, heritage, land rights, and human rights of individuals, communities and regions from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. POWHR members promote the preservation of the property rights, pristine waters, air quality, historical landmarks, cultural attachments, biodiversity, geologic integrity, and the optimal wellness and prosperity of all residents living in the region.
Pipeline opponents meet with German environmental activists
Thursday Mar. 21, 2019
BLACKSBURG — Environmental activists from Germany, who have organized mass mobilizations against coal mining operations in their country, are meeting this week with opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Members of Ende Gelande shared stories and advice with about 50 people who gathered Wednesday night in a meeting room at Virginia Tech. A second meeting in Roanoke is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the CoLab on Grandin Road. Concerned about the environmental impacts of mining and burning coal, the organization has recruited hundreds — and in some cases thousands — of volunteers. Clad in white coveralls, the protesters converge en masse at strategic spots, “and with our own bodies, stop the destruction that is happening,” Ende Gelande member Daniel Hofinger said at the Tech meeting.
Anatomy of a Farce, Part 2: How Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and the State Water Control Board Ignored the Law to Protect Corporate Criminal Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Mar. 19, 2019
In part one of this series, we explained how in December 2017, the Virginia State Water Control Board issued a certification that allowed construction to begin on the 300 mile long, $4.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline. We noted that the certification said it was “subject to revocation for failure to comply with the above conditions and after a proper hearing.” We also noted how fourteen months later, on March 1, the board went into a secret session for four hours with staff from the Department of Environmental Quality and a junior attorney from Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, then emerged to announce, without explanation, that it had no authority to revoke after all. Even though Mark Herring has himself sued MVP for over 300 violations during construction. Even though MVP is under criminal investigation by the US. Attorney’s Office as a result of its actions. As we put it, the board and Mark Herring’s office “folded like so many cheap suits.”
To date, no state official has publicly described how the board could possibly have concluded that it could not revoke its own certification, particularly when the certification itself says that it can. Their silence speaks volumes. Privately, however, people with knowledge of what transpired in that secret meeting have described to this author what happened. And it’s not pretty.
Delegate Chris Hurst calls for immediate stop work order for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Mar. 18, 2019
“I applauded the efforts (during the 2018 legislative session) to enact emergency legislation to address concerns the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would potentially harm existing stormwater management and erosion and sedimentation control laws,” wrote Hurst in the letter. “Unfortunately, the landowners in my district and many others cannot continue to guess what it will take for a reasonable stop work order for the Mountain Valley pipeline project.” SB 698 and SB 699 allow DEQ to issue a stop work order on a part of the construction site that has caused “substantial and adverse impacts to water quality or are likely to cause imminent and substantial adverse impacts to water quality,” according to a news release from Hurst.
Earlier this year, DEQ directed Attorney General Mark Herring to file a lawsuit against MVP, alleging more than 300 violations between June 2018 and November 2018. The lawsuit, filed in Henrico County Circuit Court, is still pending. “Clearly there is evidence of violations and a lack of seriousness on the part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC,” said Hurst. “What remains unclear is a lack of action to enforce these laws today.”
Pipeline to pay $500,000 toward renovation of Bent Mountain Community Center
Wednesday Mar. 13, 2019
Roanoke County is accepting $500,000 in mitigation money from the Mountain Valley Pipeline to compensate for the project’s impact on historically significant areas around Bent Mountain. The county had pushed for a bigger sum and objected to the pipeline’s overall mitigation plan as inadequate. But the final payment offered reflects what was approved by federal authorities, said Assistant County Administrator Richard Caywood. The county plans to put the money toward renovating the circa-1911 Bent Mountain Community Center. Taking the money from the controversial natural gas pipeline project spurred misgivings among some pipeline opponents. “This $500,000 is fracked gas money,” said Roberta Bondurant, a Bent Mountain resident who’s been active in the fight against the pipeline. Bondurant reiterated the multiple concerns about the pipeline project while speaking Tuesday during a meeting of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors shortly after the mitigation plan was considered. “As we go, we would ask you to rethink the money that you accept, how you spend it, and what you can do as individuals and as a government to push back on this project,” she concluded.
State board’s vote in Mountain Valley Pipeline’s favor raises questions for opponents
Sunday Mar. 10, 2019
For nearly four hours, while members of the State Water Control Board huddled with their attorney behind closed doors, observers we re left to wait and wonder what the board would do about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They eventually found out what, but they’re still asking why. At a March 1 meeting, the citizen panel charged with protecting Virginia’s water voted to withdraw its earlier decision to hold a hearing on whether to revoke a water quality certification it issued for construction of the natural gas pipeline in December 2017. After emerging from a closed session, several members expressed concerns that the board lacked authority to revoke the certification. The state’s earlier approval was premised on a “reasonable assurance” that pipeline construction would not pollute nearby streams and wetlands; since then there have been widespread problems with erosion control measures. Board members said they were relying on advice from an assistant attorney general. But no legal explanation of why the board was powerless to stop construction — or even try to — was provided to the public before the board’s unanimous vote.
Editorial: Something’s not right with water board
Thursday Mar. 7, 2019
What should we make of the State Water Control Board’s surprising decision not to hold a hearing on whether to revoke the water certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline? We say “surprising” because in December the board — also surprisingly — voted 4-3 to hold a special meeting to set in motion just such a hearing. Then last Friday, the board voted unanimously not to do anything. What happened? Well, a closed-door meeting with an assistant attorney general happened. Afterwards, the board announced that, on the advice of counsel, it had concluded it did not have authority to revoke the certification, after all. Something here doesn’t feel right.
Organic farmers say known carcinogen found in pellets dropped in MVP construction
Wednesday Mar. 6, 2019
(Greenville, WV) In September of 2018 suspicious pellets rained down on an organic farm near the path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Now, those pellets have been found to contain a cancer causing chemical- and are continuing to be dropped in Monroe County. Organic farmers near the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say suspicious pellets dropped from a helicopter in the sky are ruining their livelihood. Beth and Neal Laferriere own Blackberry Springs Farm. Beth said of the pellets, “It has effectively decimated our business.” According to an EPA spill report, the pellets are Earth Guard, a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. Blackberry Springs Farm is adjacent to a path cleared for the pipeline. The pellets fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path, contaminating the organic certified farm. Beth said,“Our organic certification is destroyed.” According to the manufacturer’s GHS sheet, the pellets were found to contain a chemical called acrylamide. The FDA says acrylamide is a known animal carcinogen and human neurotoxicant, which means it can cause cancer and birth defects. Neal said of the chemical, “It’s in our water system.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and State Water Control Board Members Fold Like Cheap Suits
Saturday Mar. 2, 2019
In December 2018, Virginia’s State Water Control Board voted 4–3 to begin the process of revoking a permit it had issued one year earlier to allow construction in Virginia of the 300-mile, $4.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The surprising vote came on a motion by new Board member James Lofton, who had been put on the Board by Governor Ralph Northam to replace Roberta Kellam. Weeks earlier, Northam had fired Kellam after she raised serious questions about the damage being wrought by MVP to the water and land resources of southwest Virginia, which has been documented in photos, videos and drone footage by concerned citizens and landowners.
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) simply ignored the Board’s directive — until it received a stunning letter from MVP on February 12. In that letter, MVP not only objected to the Board commencing a revocation process, but argued that the Board had no authority to do so (“Unilateral action by the board at this time cannot amend or invalidate that license or otherwise block construction”), and that MVP would sue the Board if it went any farther. In a stunning demonstration of corporate arrogance, MVP told the Board that if Virginia actually revoked the state permit, MVP would simply ignore the action and continue construction anyway as long as it had a federal permit.
State water board reverses course again on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Mar.1, 2019
RICHMOND — After starting a process that could have pulled a key permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a state board responsible for protecting Virginia’s water reversed course Friday. On a unanimous vote, the State Water Control Board withdrew its earlier decision to hold a hearing to consider revoking a water quality certification it issued for the controversial natural gas pipeline in December 2017. Coming after a four-hour closed session, the vote shocked and angered a crowd of pipeline opponents.
“Shame on you!” One person in the audience shouted at the board members as others joined in. “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
MVP asks state board to discontinue process aimed at stopping pipeline construction
Thursday Feb. 28, 2019
Facing another snag in a complex permitting process, the developers of the largest natural gas pipeline ever built in Southwest Virginia are pushing back. In a Feb. 12 letter to state regulators, an attorney for the Mountain Valley Pipeline asked the State Water Control Board to discontinue a process it started last year that could lead to the revocation of a water quality certification for project, which has been cited repeatedly for violating environmental standards. The water board is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the details of a future revocation hearing…
…A lawsuit filed last year by Attorney General Mark Herring, on behalf of DEQ and the water board, alleges more than 300 violations of state regulations meant to curb muddy runoff along a linear construction zone spanning six Virginia counties — Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania. In many cases, the lawsuit alleges, harmful sediment made its way into nearby streams. Loss of the state’s authorization is not the only worry for Mountain Valley. Legal challenges filed by environmental groups last year led to the suspension of two federal permits, one for the pipeline to cross through the Jefferson National Forest and another for it to burrow under more than 500 streams and wetlands.
A failure to act by the water board on Mountain Valley Pipeline will allow more violations
Thursday Feb. 28, 2019
On Friday, the Virginia State Water Control Board will meet to discuss whether it should revoke a key permit previously issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline. The permit in question, the 401 Water Quality Certification, authorizes pipeline construction in upland areas; essentially everywhere except wetlands and stream crossings. Crucially, this permit does not authorize MVP to discharge water, sediment or other materials into waterways in Virginia, and was issued by the board after it determined “there is reasonable assurance that [MVP] activities covered by this certification will be conducted in a manner that will not violate applicable Water Quality Standards.” Now that MVP is being sued by the state for more than 300 individual violations — an average of more than one violation per day during construction — and is also under federal criminal investigation for illegal construction activities, the board has no choice but to suspend its prior issuance of the water quality certification.
Munley: Northam should intervene on pipelines
Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
In announcing his “redemption tour,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam stated: “Virginia needs someone…who has empathy, courage and a moral compass.” May Northam begin by ending a toxic, noisy ACP compressor station targeted for African-American Union Hill, then hear many grievances long-borne by Virginia’s African-Americans. Genuine listening would be a transformation for Northam who has been stone-deaf to loud outcries over pipeline injustices. He wants forgiveness while his pipelines destroy water and land resources for regions and generations of Virginians.
After calling for the science on pipelines, Northam ignored the advice of six experts who responded and warned on May 16, 2018, that Virginia’s steep slopes cannot safely support MVP. Now, we learn in a filing by the Indian Creek Watershed Association to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Dec. 21, 2018 that within months of beginning construction, MVP requested from FERC a major, environmentally-harmful variance for stream crossings, admitting that their plan “…did not take site-specific constructability issues (elevations, terrain, and workspace) into account…” ( https://www.ratc.org/new-proof-entire-mountain-valley-pipeline-project-based-on-known-falsehoods/).
Editorial: How quickly will water board act?
Monday Feb. 25, 2019
If the Mountain Valley Pipeline never gets built, it won’t be because of some protesters sitting in trees to block construction crews. It will be because of people like Jean Ann Salisbury, an analyst for a New York investment management company you’ve probably never heard of. But it controls $538 billion worth of assets —or a bigger pile of money than the gross domestic product of Belgium, Norway and most of the other countries in Europe. The tree-sitters are colorful but, ultimately, inconsequential. A Wall Street analyst who specializes in natural gas pipelines is not necessarily the former, but is potentially the latter. Environmentalists who see the pipeline as an unnecessary polluter that will only heat up the earth even faster may not think of Wall Street money-managers as natural allies, but in this case they might be.
In January, analysts with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC briefed their clients — and in the process issued some warnings about the two pipelines being routed through Virginia. Let’s quote what S&P Global Market Intelligence had to say about the briefing:
Court won’t revisit ruling that tossed Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s permit to cross Appalachian Trail
Monday Feb. 25, 2019
A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request to reconsider a ruling throwing out a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request from lead pipeline developer Dominion Energy and the U.S. Forest Service to hold a full-court rehearing. In December, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit sharply criticized the Forest Service, saying the agency lacked authority to authorize the pipeline’s crossing of the trail.
The panel also said the agency “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it approved the pipeline crossing the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, and a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trial. “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,’ ” the judges wrote in December’s ruling, quoting the Dr. Seuss classic “The Lorax” to summarize their decision. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups.
Bowers and Limpert: Water board should revoke MVP certificate
Sunday Feb. 24, 2019
By Kirk Bowers and William Limpert
Bowers is pipelines campaign adviser with the Sierra Club and is based in Charlottesville. Limpert is a landowner in Bath County.
The State Water Control Board announced Dec. 13 that they would reconsider rescinding the Water Quality Certificate (WQC) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). That was more than two months ago. The Board should promptly revoke the WQC. After more than 300 violations documented by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were used in a lawsuit by Attorney General Herring, it is obvious that the certification is flawed. The certification was approved based on DEQ’s assurance that there would be no water quality violations from the project. Three hundred violations is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more violations that were not documented in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.
The facts show that DEQ misinformed the Board in this process. DEQ has promoted the MVP, instead of regulating it. This promotion has occurred at State Water Control Board meetings where DEQ publicly congratulated themselves on a job well done, and told the Board that the pipeline projects have undergone the most rigorous review ever. But what they didn’t tell the Board was that the review was flawed by incorrect engineering assumptions.
Full Fourth Circuit Urged to Stop Pipeline Land Grab
Wednesday Feb. 20, 2019
RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Landowners impacted by the construction of a natural gas pipeline through the Appalachian Mountains filed an appeal late Tuesday asking the en banc Fourth Circuit to reconsider a three-judge panel’s approval of a “take first, pay later” approach to eminent domain. The Fourth Circuit’s 2004 ruling in East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. v. Sage created a loophole under the Natural Gas Act allowing companies to take land and begin construction prior to compensation being paid out for the property. This precedent, landowners argue, has shifted the balance of power in eminent domain claims in favor of gas companies and violates the separation of powers doctrine. The Sage ruling was cited two weeks ago by a three-judge Fourth Circuit panel that lifted an injunction blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the path of many landowners. Now the landowners are asking the Fourth Circuit to rehear the case en banc and overturn the 15-year-old precedent, in the hopes of evening the playing field.
Court dismisses challenges to MVP’s federal government approval
Tuesday Feb. 19. 2019
An appellate court made short work Tuesday of a sweeping challenge of the federal government’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, dismissing 16 claims made by opponents. “None of the challenges succeeds,” a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote in a five-page order. In perhaps the most comprehensive legal attack on the controversial pipeline, opponents had hoped to find a fatal flaw in the key approval it received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2017. The determination by FERC that there was a public need for the natural gas to be transported through the 303-mile pipeline opened the gate for a series of other approvals by state and federal agencies. Although several of the permits have since been suspended, Mountain Valley construction crews have been able to continue work over the past year with FERC’s ultimate authority intact.
Al Gore Among Guest Speakers Opposing Pipeline Construction in Buckingham County
Tuesday Feb. 19, 2019
BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) .The debate over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the compressor station proposed for a historic African-American section of Buckingham County is the center of a community conversation Tuesday evening. Several community leaders and former Vice President Al Gore spoke out against the pipeline on Tuesday, February 19, saying it will do more harm than good. Tuesday’s event was part of the former vice president’s environmental justice tour.
Criminal investigation of Mountain Valley Pipeline underway, document shows
Friday Feb. 15, 2019
One of the companies building the Mountain Valley Pipeline has confirmed the project is facing a criminal investigation into possible violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws. EQM Midstream Partners, the lead company in the joint venture, made the disclosure in an annual report filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Since construction of the buried natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia started last year, crews have repeatedly run afoul of regulations meant to keep muddy runoff from contaminating nearby streams and rivers. Although Mountain Valley has been named in enforcement actions brought by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Mark Herring, this week’s filing is the first confirmation of a criminal investigation.
On Jan. 7, EQM received a letter from the U.S. attorney’s office in Roanoke stating that it and the Environmental Protection Agency were looking into both criminal and civil violations related to pipeline construction, according to the SEC filing. About a month later, a grand jury subpoena was issued “requesting certain documents related to the MVP from August 1, 2018 to the present,” EQM reported in the filing.
Mountain Valley still on track to complete pipeline this year, company officials say
Thursday Feb. 14, 2019
Despite a series of legal and regulatory road bumps, the Mountain Valley Pipeline remains on track to be completed by the end of the year, executives of the joint venture’s lead company said Thursday. “I think where we are right now is where we are, until we have different information,” Thomas Karam, CEO of EQM Midstream Partners, said during a teleconference to discuss 2018 year-end results with financial analysts. EQM of Pittsburgh is one of five companies that make up Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. It will foot $2.2 billion of the project’s $4.6 billion cost and will operate the 303-mile pipeline, which will transport natural gas at high pressure from northern West Virginia to connect with an existing pipeline in Pittsylvania County. Since work began last February with tree-cutting, Mountain Valley has run afoul of environmental regulations meant to control erosion and sedimentation at construction sites.
Two sets of key permits — one that will allow the pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest and another for it to burrow under more than 1,000 streams and wetlands — were thrown out last year by a federal appeals court.Company officials say they are working with federal and state agencies and expect to have the permits restored. Yet at the same time, Virginia’s State Water Control Board has begun proceedings that could lead to the revocation of a water quality certification it issued for the pipeline in December 2017.
Can the pipeline be stopped? State board ponders its next move on MVP
Sunday Feb. 10, 2019
Wading back into what could become a legal quagmire, the State Water Control Board may soon decide whether to revoke its earlier approval for a natural gas pipeline under construction in Southwest Virginia. The unusual proceeding was initiated in December, when the board voted 4-3 to reconsider a water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. When it first issued the certification in 2017, the board determined there was a reasonable assurance that work on the buried pipeline would not contaminate nearby streams and wetlands. Since then, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has found more than 300 violations of erosion and sediment control measures. What will happen next seems as clear as the muddy water that frequently flows from construction sites. If the board were to reverse its earlier position, “it doesn’t necessarily kill the project, although it’s possible that it could,” said Jill Fraley, an associate professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law who specializes in environmental law.
Appeals court allows quick-take of land for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Feb. 5, 2019
An appeals court has upheld the “take first, pay later” approach to building the Mountain Valley Pipeline, in which the company condemned private property in the project’s path before paying opposing landowners for their losses. The ruling Tuesday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a blow to pipeline foes, who have long decried the use of eminent domain to take parts of family farms and rural homeplaces to make way for a 303-mile natural gas pipeline. In their appeal, the landowners did not contest the laws that allowed Mountain Valley to obtain forced easements through nearly 300 parcels in Southwest Virginia. But they challenged a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon, who granted Mountain Valley immediate possession of the disputed land before deciding how much each property owner should be compensated.
Kellam: DEQ’s oversight of pipeline is lax
Sunday Feb. 3, 2019
Roberta Kellam served two terms on the Virginia State Water Control Board. She is a former instructor of environmental law and policy at the University at Buffalo Law School. She lives in Northampton County.
Visiting the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction corridor was a promise I made to the local residents while I was a member of the State Water Control Board. It was a promise that wasn’t kept until Jan. 2, when I toured many farms and residential lands impacted by the MVP construction activities. Unfortunately, it came after I was removed from the board by Gov. Ralph Northam. My visit was timely though in that it came just a few weeks after Attorney General Mark Herring had filed a complaint against MVP alleging several hundred water quality-related violations and the Water Board had voted to consider revoking the MVP Water Quality Certification. My tour of the MVP corridor traversed areas of very steep slopes, floodplains and freshwater wetlands. I observed threats to water quality, such as unprotected steep slopes, and water quality impacts, such as sediment-covered stream bottoms (the attorney general’s complaint identifies almost two miles of sediment-covered stream bottoms). But what struck me even more than the environmental impacts was meeting the people dealing with the pipeline construction and its failed erosion control measures on their own properties — farmers and other land owners who graciously invited me to visit their properties and see for myself. It was clear that many people had lost faith in DEQ and felt that DEQ was not protecting their water quality to the extent promised during the water quality certification hearings.
Environmental groups attack federal approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Jan. 28, 2019
WASHINGTON — The good of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a steady supply of needed natural gas — met the bad Monday, when opponents told a federal appeals court there’s really no public need for a project that is already polluting Southwest Virginia. In a sweeping attack, a coalition of environmental groups asked the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a federal agency’s approval of the 303-mile pipeline. When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission green-lighted the pipeline in October 2017, it voted 2-1 that its public benefits will outweigh any adverse impacts. But in finding there was a market demand for the natural gas, FERC relied entirely on contracts between the pipeline’s owners and its shippers, which are all part of the same corporate structure. The complex affiliations of Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC were not the result of “arms-length negotiations” that would have demonstrated a true market based on public need, the court was told by Ben Luckett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a nonprofit law firm that represented pipeline opponents during Monday’s oral arguments.
Holes in Pipeline Approval Provoke DC Circuit Scrutiny
Monday Jan. 28, 2019
WASHINGTON (CN) – Digging its teeth into plans for the already delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline, the D.C. Circuit appeared critical Monday of a glaring hole in the government’s environmental research. Critical to this morning’s hearing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off on 300-mile pipeline after determining that the daily transportation and burning of 2.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas would generate 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide downstream emissions every year. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to consider “reasonably foreseeable” environmental impacts of projects they approve, but the commission did little to probe the downstream effects here. U.S. Circuit Judge David pressed FERC attorney Lona Perry in particular Monday for arguing that downstream effects are not “reasonably foreseeable” because the end destination of the gas remains unknown. where the gas will go after it is shipped out.
Appeals court set to review FERC’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Sunday Jan. 27, 2019
The most important regulatory approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was flawed in more than a dozen ways, opponents say in a court case to be argued Monday. A challenge of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision, which allowed construction of the deeply divisive project to move forward, runs the gamut of issues: Is there a public need for the natural gas to be shipped by the pipeline? Should the company building it have been allowed to seize private land through the laws of eminent domain? Did regulators fail to anticipate the environmental damage caused by burrowing a mammoth steel pipe over the mountains and through the streams of Southwest Virginia? Oral arguments on those and other questions are scheduled for Monday morning before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is expected to issue a written opinion within three to six months.
Munley: Prayers to stop the pipeline
Saturday Jan. 26, 2019
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
The prayer circle that gathered under Martin Luther King Jr.’s statue on Sunday, January 6 carried many prayers for justice concerning Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The following prayer was read by the group in turns:
Bad news for environmental justice in Virginia
Thursday Jan. 24, 2019
Sam Bleicher was a member and vice-chair of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board until November 2018. He is also a member of the Board of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.
On Jan. 8 — after months of public protest, two postponements and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) ham-handed removal of Rebecca Rubin and me from the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board after we questioned the suitability of the site Dominion chose — the remaining four Air Board members unanimously approved the air pollution permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station, an integral part of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The practical impact of the decision is not as enormous as it seems. Contrary to the dreams of pipeline opponents, rejection of the Buckingham permit would not have ended its construction. The only legal grounds for denying the permit would have been based on the specifics of the chosen site, in the heart of Union Hill, a community founded by freed slaves. Dominion could have avoided those issues at some expense by moving the compressor station to a location a few miles away and applying for a new permit.
Pipeline protester ‘Nutty’ gets 14 days in jail for 57 days on pole
Thursday Jan. 24, 2019
ROANOKE — A 22-year-old woman, widely known as “Nutty” during the 57 days she spent blocking work on a natural gas pipeline from atop a pole, must spend the next 14 days as inmate Danika R. Padilla. After pleading guilty to blocking a U.S. Forest Service road, Padilla received a jail sentence Wednesday from U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou. Padilla is one of about a dozen protesters who have impeded construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from a variety of posts — tree stands, poles, platforms suspended from ropes and the booms of excavating equipment — in the project’s path. The aerial blockades have served as “megaphones” for the message that the pipeline is causing widespread environmental damage, defense attorney William DePaulo said in arguing that Padilla should not be punished harshly for taking a principled stand. Shortly before her sentence was pronounced, Padilla said she had no regrets for her role in trying to stop a massive buried pipeline from plowing through the Jefferson National Forest and under the Appalachian Trail. “We don’t need pipelines,” she said. “We need breathable air and drinkable water and wild places.”
Roanoke attorneys seek criminal investigation of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019
Crews building the Mountain Valley Pipeline may have violated civil and criminal laws by continuing construction in streams and wetlands after a permit was suspended, two Roanoke attorneys say in asking for a federal investigation. Charlie Williams and Tom Bondurant told The Roanoke Times this week that they have shared with the Environmental Protection Agency a “substantial body of evidence” gathered by Preserve Bent Mountain, an organization they represent. After reviewing photographs and other documentation from the group, which spent weeks monitoring pipeline construction, Williams and Bondurant asked the EPA in a Nov. 26 letter to conduct a formal investigation. “We concluded there was enough evidence of violations of criminal law, particularly the Clean Water Act, that we could make a good-faith submission to the EPA,” said Williams, who specializes in environmental law at the firm of Gentry Locke.
U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear challenge of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case in which a group of landowners argued that their property was illegally taken through eminent domain laws for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In October, about a dozen landowners along the pipeline’s route asked the high court to reverse the dismissal of their lawsuit, heard in Roanoke’s federal court, that challenged the way developers of the natural gas pipeline were allowed to obtain forced easements through their property. In an order filed Tuesday, the Supreme Court did not explain why it is not taking the case…
…Among the constitutional questions raised by the lawsuit was whether eminent domain — a power normally invoked by governmental bodies for projects such as highways and power lines — should be awarded to a private company in pursuit of profits. In what the lawsuit called “a government sanctioned-land grab,” Congress through the Natural Gas Act has allowed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delegate the power of eminent domain to companies like Mountain Valley, once it determines there is a public need for the natural gas they plan to ship through massive buried pipelines.
New proof: entire Mountain Valley Pipeline project based on known falsehoods
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019
Before approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had to show that it would do no substantial environmental harm, supposedly demonstrated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) they issued on June 23, 2017 (Accession No. 20170623-4000). In granting the FEIS, the FERC relied on MVP’s stream scour and erosion analyses and plan containing specific information about pipeline construction at stream crossings along the entire pipeline route. Yet within months of starting the project, MVP submitted a variance request asking permission to change its plan. In doing so, MVP admitted to the FERC that:
Six senators vote against Northam’s pick to lead environmental agency
Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019
Gov. Ralph Northam disappointed some members of his transition team and left environmental groups seething last year when he reappointed David Paylor to his longtime job as director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Business interests, including the state’s big utilities, chief among them Dominion Energy, like Paylor’s light touch with the regulatory powers his office wields. Conservationists loath his agency’s deference to polluters, from the utilities to poultry farms and industrial emitters. On Monday, that debate spilled onto the Senate floor. Six senators, three Republicans and three Democrats, cast a vote to pull Paylor’s reappointment out of a list of gubernatorial appointments for Senate confirmation. Sen David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, led the unsuccessful charge. As is customary in the Senate, though, there was no mention of Paylor’s name or floor debate on the appointment…
…Paylor’s agency has been the lightning rod at the center of controversial state regulatory board votes on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines and he has faced major criticism in the past for accepting a trip to the Masters golf tournament on Dominion’s dime. The agency has also been blasted for its handling of permits that would allow Dominion to close coal ash ponds at four sites across the state.
Letter: We don’t need pipelines
Saturday Jan. 19, 2019
In his op-ed on January 9th, state Senator Frank Wagner argued that Hampton Roads, and by extension, Virginia, “needs” the Atlantic Coast Pipeline because the military needs more natural gas (“Hampton Roads urgently needs the Atlantic Coast Pipeline”). The evidence suggests otherwise: according to PJM, an electricity grid operator, Dominion has overestimated future gas needs for the region by 2,734 megawatts – -equivalent to the output of nearly two power plants. Rather than building for regional needs, it’s more likely Dominion is preparing to ship natural gas abroad to generate profits for shareholders. What the region definitely does not need is the extreme weather and rising sea levels that will result from the 30 million tons of methane emissions the ACP will generate.
Former state board member was accused of ‘working for the opposition’ after raising concerns about pipeline construction damage
Friday Jan. 18, 2019
Roberta Kellam recently served two terms on the Virginia State Water Control Board and previously was an instructor of environmental law and policy at the University at Buffalo Law School and in private practice in upstate New York. She lives in Northampton County.
Visiting the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction corridor in southwest Virginia was a promise I made to local residents while I was a member of the State Water Control Board. It was a promise that wasn’t kept until Jan. 2, when I toured many farms and residential lands impacted by the MVP construction activities. Unfortunately, it came after I was removed from the board by Gov. Ralph Northam. My visit was timely though in that it came weeks after Attorney General Mark Herring had filed a complaint against MVP alleging several hundred water quality-related violations. The board had voted to consider revoking the MVP Water Quality Certification it issued for the project in late 2017. Based on what I observed along about 30 miles of MVP construction, it continues to be unclear to me why the DEQ has not instructed MVP to stop work in accordance with its authority.
Court filing asks judge to deny Mountain Valley’s request for injunction against tree-sitters
Thursday Jan. 17, 2019
A federal judge should not act as an “enforcer” for the Mountain Valley Pipeline by using her power to remove two protesters from trees blocking the path of the controversial pipeline, supporters are arguing in court. U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon was asked in a brief filed Wednesday to deny Mountain Valley’s request for a preliminary injunction, which the company says it needs to evict two people identified in court records only as “Tree-sitter 1” and “Tree-sitter 2.” Since early September, two protesters have been living in tree stands about 50 feet above the forest floor on a steep mountainside in eastern Montgomery County, frustrating Mountain Valley’s efforts to complete tree-cutting. But Mountain Valley is “improperly seeking to enlist this Court to act as its enforcer in its dealings with persons opposing pipeline activities and construction,” Roanoke attorney John Fishwick wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the tree-sitters.
Mountain Valley Pipeline starts the new year with new complications
Wednesday Jan. 16, 2019
When work began last February with tree-cutting, the plan was to have the Mountain Valley Pipeline completed by now. Instead, developers of the natural gas pipeline are facing what could be another setback for the project, which has already seen construction delays and cost overruns caused by legal challenges from opponents. The latest twist came last week, when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reopened a public comment period for modifications to a combined state and federal permitting process that Mountain Valley must complete before it can dig trenches through streams and wetlands for its buried pipeline. With written comments now being taken through March 4, it appears that Mountain Valley will have to wait longer than expected before seeking what’s called a Nationwide Permit 12 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Such a permit — which clears the way for the 42-inch diameter steel pipe to cross through more than 1,000 waterbodies on its 303-mile route through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia — was issued by the Army Corps in December 2017. But the permit was struck down last year by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Siding with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, the court ruled that the Army Corps lacked the authority to bypass a requirement by West Virginia regulators that pipeline stream crossings must be completed within 72 hours to limit environmental harm.
Franklin County supervisors approve permit for natural gas gate station
Tuesday Jan.15, 2019
ROCKY MOUNT — Roanoke Gas Co. secured a special-use permit Tuesday to build a natural gas gate station in Franklin County. The gate station will be located on a 2.9-acre parcel in the county’s 550-acre Summit View Business Park, where it will tap the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The county board of supervisors voted 6-1 to grant the special-use permit. Rocky Mount District Supervisor Mike Carter opposed doing so. Carter argued the county should wait until the State Corporation Commission makes a decision on granting Roanoke Gas a certificate to serve other parts of Franklin County. A public hearing on that matter is scheduled to be held in Franklin County next week. Carter was also dissatisfied with the inability of Roanoke Gas executives to say when those outside the business park who want natural gas might be served.
Letter: Stop work on MVP’s operation
Tuesday Jan. 15, 2019
Mountain Valley Watch and the People’s Patrol have been doing the government’s work. Thanks to their high quality reports Attorney General Mark Herring filed charges against MVP for hundreds of environmental violations. MVP has also been operating unlawfully but there has been confusion on how to call law enforcement to report the violations. MVP is not allowed to do construction in the dark. One night there were workers on top of Fort Lewis mountain working in a foot of snow in the rain. This endangers the workers and creates doubt about the quality of work that can be accomplished under those conditions. A new U.S. Congress went into session on January 3. There should be congressional oversight about why law enforcement has not responded to protect the people and workers in southwest Virginia from MVP’s negligence.
Mountain Valley Pipeline files response to state’s lawsuit
Friday Jan. 11, 2019
Widespread erosion during construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was caused by “extraordinary” rainfall and other uncontrollable forces of nature, attorneys for the company said Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental regulators. In its first detailed reply to a legal enforcement action brought by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board, the company asked a judge to dismiss some of the claims. But the 28-page filing in Henrico County Circuit Court also indicated that Mountain Valley is interested in a “potential negotiated resolution” of a lawsuit that accuses it of violating environmental regulations more than 300 times. It was unclear to what degree a settlement has been discussed.
Pipeline opponents renew call for stop work order
Wednesday Jan.2, 2019
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline renewed their call for a stop work order, during a meeting Wednesday afternoon in Roanoke County. Recent court rulings have restricted construction on National Forest land and at stream crossings in Virginia and West Virginia. Opponents of the natural gas pipeline project say work should be suspended along the entire length of the project. Tammy Belinsky is an attorney who has worked with groups that oppose the pipeline. “We are very appreciative that the State Water Control Board finally heard us, finally recognized the concerns, valid concerns, and whether or not their duty had been fulfilled,” Belinsky told the audience at the Bent Mountain Community Center, “but they didn’t stop work.”
Also attending the meeting was former State Water Control Board member Roberta Kellam. Kellam visited several sites in Franklin and Roanoke Counties, where landowners say pipeline construction has caused problems with erosion and sedimentation. Later, she said the Governor and Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources should get a firsthand look at conditions along the pipeline corridor.
Opponents want Mountain Valley Pipeline to stop work until lawsuit date is set
Wednesday Jan.2, 2019
BENT MOUNTAIN, Va. (WSET) — Today, Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents came together calling for a stop to building, saying the recent lawsuit against the pipeline is meaningless unless officials make them stop work. Attorney General Mark Herring and the Department of Environmental Quality filed a lawsuit in December, saying the pipeline committed several hundred environmental violations, but as of right now there is no set date for the hearing. The suit alleges that between June and November, DEQ inspectors found more than 300 violations, mainly improper erosion control and storm-water management. The complaints include things like “sediment in the spring” or “cloudy or milky water”.
Daniel: What does trespassing on your own property mean?
Monday Dec.31, 2018
Adam Daniel is a surveyor, naturalist, urban farmer and science educator who worked at the Science Museum of Western Virginia for four years, taught at William Fleming, and with the Virginia State Parks. He lives in Roanoke.
The Roanoke area has a spotlight put on our neighboring mountain. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is throwing light on the realities of fossil fuel use such as unseen costs, and the blatant disregard of private land, public water, and natural capital, as in the value of our beautiful mountains which are as deeply rooted to our culture as our lineage. Red Terry and her daughter come from seven generations on the land of Bent Mountain. There is no grandfather or grandmother clause against eminent domain, but there should be. Sometimes people don’t really get how close and intimate country people, or any tribe or old-school people, are with the land. It’s as much a part of our life as anything. True for everyone but more so experienced as an extension of our lives, a life-support system, a sense of place. Beyond our deep familial connection to these mountains, mountains provide millions of dollars of ecosystem services from improving water quality, minimizing erosion, cycling nutrients, and attracting tourism and cash into local economies to name but a few. The pipeline does not do these things. Pipelines of this size over steep mountains and karst terrain have the dangerous potential to eventually cause contamination into our water and provide a gut punch to our way of life for those close to it’s proposed path. From Bent Mountain and Giles to waters also supplying Roanoke and Salem, we could be impacted. The question always is, to what extent?
Federal judge in Roanoke to weigh in on Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters
Friday Dec. 28, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. – A federal judge in Roanoke will decide whether or not to order protesters down from their tree sits along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route. For about 100 days, two people have been camping at the top of trees in the Elliston area. Despite spending Christmas alone, high in the sky, Phillip Flagg is in good spirits. “I’d say I’m doing pretty well, reading a lot of books up here, watching a lot of Bob Ross videos and it’s an easy life,” Flagg said. Flagg is one of two tree-sitters blocking construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In the 100 or so days they’ve been there, work has continued on either side of them in the Elliston area. But MVP appears to have had enough. On Friday, their lawyers filed a motion to grant an injunction against the tree-sitters forcing them to come down, writing, “The tree-sitters are preventing MVP from clearing trees and from using and enjoying the easements on the property. The express purpose of the tree-sitters is to impede construction.”
Focus on the courtroom as pipeline fight continues in 2019
Friday Dec. 28, 2018
CRAIG Co., Va. (WDBJ7) 2018 has been a year of construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but also a period of frequent protests. And while the company says it is more than half-way toward completing the natural gas pipeline, opponents say they believe the courts are now paying attention to their concerns. Construction started in February. And earlier this month the company said it expects to have approximately 70% of the project complete by year-end.
Pipeline company wants Elliston-area tree-sitters out
Thursday Dec.27, 2018
Two people face removal from trees because they are blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline project near Elliston, a pipeline attorney said in court papers. Even though the project has by slowed legal and regulatory impediments related to alleged environmental violations, Mountain Valley recently said in court papers the company “intends to seek removal of these individuals,” calling them Tree-Sitter 1 and Tree-Sitter 2. It’s not clear from the filings whether Mountain Valley knows their names. While they don’t own any of the land involved, they can be sued as “persons claiming an interest in the property,” Mountain Valley’s Dec. 20 filing said. “The tree sitters are occupying the property with the express purpose and intent of preventing MVP from exercising its rights under the Court’s order.”
Supreme Court deciding whether to hear Mountain Valley Pipeline lawsuit: the case deals with eminent domain and the Natural Gas Act of 1938
Wednesday Dec. 26, 2018
ROANOKE, Va – A lawsuit involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline may be headed to our nation’s highest court. Wednesday, Virginia landowners filed a reply arguing their case does have merit to be heard after non-decisions by lower courts.They want to challenge the constitutionality of eminent domain before the United States Supreme Court, arguing the system is flawed and needs re-working. It even has the backing of some conservative legal scholars.
Munley: Herring’s lawsuit against MVP doesn’t go far enough
Wednesday Dec. 19, 2018
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
The Northam administration has “empowered DEQ” to pursue action …to protect Virginia’s natural resources” (Roanoke Times, 12-7-18) after allowing construction to continue from May to November through continued protests over waterways destruction and 300 documented violations. This is nothing new. DEQ retained authority to quickly stop waterways destruction all along. Attorney General Mark Herring’s legal suit against MVP is show over effective action. Penalties are business-as-usual for pipelines who later charge ratepayers. MVP, an incompetent pipeline tackling an impossible route, is overseen by enablers anxious to finish and bury the deed by continuing Virginia’s corrupt “pay to play” scheme — even while MVP lacks essential permits. This is no way to build a pipeline.
Stream crossing issues are complicating work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday Dec. 15, 2018
PEMBROKE — The clear, cold waters of Little Stony Creek cascaded over granite bedrock as Rick Sizemore watched from the banks and wondered. How could a natural gas pipeline run through this wild trout stream, on a piece of wooded property so sacred to Sizemore that he named it after a Bible verse and promised in court records never to develop the land? How will the company building the pipeline, after taking his land and water, return them to their natural state? “How do you put something back that God did?” Sizemore said.
The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have a plan to part the waters — “kind of like Moses,” in the words of a federal judge — long enough to bury a 42-inch diameter steel pipe under Little Stony Creek and more than 1,000 other streams and wetlands in the project’s path. Or they had a plan, until the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals intervened.
State board to reconsider key permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Dec. 14, 2018
After issuing a water quality certification that allowed construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to move forward one year ago, a state board on Thursday seemed to be having second thoughts. On a vote of 4-3, the State Water Control Board decided to hold a hearing to consider revoking the certification, which was based on its earlier finding of a “reasonable assurance” that streams and rivers would not be contaminated. Since then, Mountain Valley has been cited more than 300 times for violating regulations meant to limit erosion. Muddy runoff from work sites has repeatedly washed harmful sediment into nearby streams, inspections by the Department of Environmental Quality have found. No date was scheduled for the hearing. Details on the process will be worked out over the next few weeks, DEQ said in a news release following the board’s meeting in Richmond.
Lawsuits claim false arrests by Mountain Valley Pipeline’s security company
Friday Dec. 14, 2018
Two Craig County residents are suing the security company working for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, claiming they were falsely accused of trespassing on a construction right of way. The charges against Nan Gray and Gordon Jones were dropped after police and prosecutors found no evidence to support them, according to the two lawsuits. Gray and Jones are each seeking $4 million in damages from Global Security, one of its employees and Mountain Valley. While interactions between pipeline observers and the company’s security officers have sometimes been tense since construction began earlier this year, the malicious prosecution lawsuits are believed to be the first of their kind related to the project filed in Virginia.
Federal court throws out permit for Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail
Thursday Dec. 13, 2018
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces an escalating legal battle for its existence after a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday blocked a critical crossing of the Appalachian Trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains near Wintergreen Resort. Dominion Energy, lead developer of the $7 billion project, vowed to immediately appeal the panel’s ruling to the full 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, while opponents asked federal regulators to revoke the certificate they issued 14 months ago to build the 604-mile natural gas pipeline through three states. The Southern Environmental Law Center, based in Charlottesville, asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to revoke the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. The move came after the 4th Circuit vacated a permit that the U.S. Forest Service issued to allow construction of the pipeline beneath the Appalachian National Scenic Trail between Augusta and Nelson counties…
…Mountain Valley Pipeline: The 4th Circuit ruling on the Forest Service permit raises some of the concerns the same panel cited in a July 27 decision that vacated a permit the federal agency issued for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest in Southwest Virginia. In that decision, the same appeals panel faulted the Forest Service for its “silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forest lands” by changing its position on the potential threat of landslides, erosion and sediment runoff into national forest streams. On Thursday, the State Water Control Board began a process to potentially revoke the state water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Attorney General Mark Herring announced last Friday that his office had filed suit against the 300-mile project, citing 300 violations of water quality standards during its construction.
Ellerbrock: Of pipelines, people and principles
Monday Dec. 10, 2018
Mike Ellerbrock is director of the Center for Economic Education at Virginia Tech, vicariate deacon for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, and appointed member of U.S. EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Governor Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.
When economics and ethics clash, bet on the dollar. For example, where the Mountain Valley (MVP) and Atlantic Coast (ACP) pipelines traverse rural counties (< 29 people per square mile), they are allowed to use thinner Class III pipes, whereas citizens in urban localities are better protected with thicker Class I pipes. Also, since EQT’s MVP crosses much rural landscape, it will not include a chemical odorant (Mercaptan) to alert neighbors of a dangerous natural gas leak. Why? Because Mercaptan is expensive. The benefit/cost ratio speaks clearly: Urban lives are considered more valuable to protect than rural lives. When finance trumps integrity, we all lose.
Letter: We are financing an unneeded pipeline
Sunday Dec. 9, 2018
If you failed to read Irene Leech’s informative article about Dominion”s “unneeded pipeline” in the Nov. 12 Roanoke Times (“Dominion wants to fleece its customers for an unneeded pipeline”), then I would encourage you to do so. It is an eye opener on many levels. We are getting royally fleeced. Everyone’s bill is going up. It is not to our benefit!
Virginia Attorney General, DEQ sue Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Dec. 7, 2018
Together, the two are suing the Mountain Valley Pipeline for repeated environmental violations.
Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Dec. 7, 2018
The construction of a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia has violated environmental regulations and permits more than 300 times, a lawsuit filed by Virginia’s top lawyer alleges. The lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline seeks “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations,” according to an announcement from Attorney General Mark Herring. Since work began earlier this year, inspections have found that construction crews failed to prevent muddy water from flowing off pipeline construction easements, often leaving harmful sediment in nearby streams and properties.
First grants awarded from Mountain Valley Pipeline mitigation fund
Friday Dec. 7, 2018
The first grants from a $27.5 million fund established to offset the environmental damage caused by building the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been awarded to seven forest conservation projects in Southwest Virginia. Before starting work on the natural gas pipeline in February, Mountain Valley struck an agreement with several state agencies to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe. The state then passed the company’s payments on to four conservation groups. The largest share, $15 million, went to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which announced this week that it has awarded $3.6 million of that sum to projects in the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Pittsylvania, Roanoke and Rockbridge.
How money stokes divide of historic black community in Virginia pipeline battle
Friday Dec. 7, 2018
BUCKINGHAM, Va. — The battle at Union Hill began four years ago, when Dominion Energy fired the opening shot: Not only was Virginia’s largest utility proposing that its multistate natural gas pipeline traverse this wooded countryside, but it also suggested that a sprawling gas-fired compressor station must be built nearby. As Dominion sought the proper permits for the pipeline and the station, the historically black community of Union Hill in Buckingham County joined a growing number of environmental groups concerned about the health and climate risks — and critics who say projects like it disproportionately burden minorities and lower-income people. But the energy company, in a push to win the hearts and minds of the county’s 17,000 residents, has taken a different turn, unveiling a series of long-sought benefits to residents who live closest to the compressor station site — a move that has further divided a populace already strained by an undercurrent of suspicion.
“Dominion is an expert at the divide-and-conquer tactic,” said the Rev. Paul Wilson, a leader of two historically black churches in Union Hill who was arrested in 2016 during an anti-pipeline protest outside of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion in Richmond, the state capital. “There’s a group of people who are even moving to get me out as pastor. Once you inject money into the conversation, it becomes a wedge.”
Hileman: Northam should reinstate air board members
Thursday Dec. 6, 2018
Jacob Hileman is an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues.
On Dec. 10, the State Air Pollution Control Board will vote on whether to approve an air permit for a highly controversial compressor station for Dominion Energy’s equally controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Notably, the board is expected to do so without two of its long-standing members, who were recently removed by Gov. Ralph Northam. Now, an already contentious vote has suddenly been thrust into the national spotlight, and Gov. Northam’s administration is scrambling to contain the fallout. Compressor stations are necessary for moving natural gas over long distances, and at high pressure, through pipelines. They are large, loud, polluting, and potentially explosive beasts you don’t want in your backyard. In this case, the metaphoric backyard is the majority Black community of Union Hill, which was founded by freedmen – former slaves – at the end of the Civil War. While the board was supposed to vote on the air permit at a Nov. 9 meeting, it decided to delay the vote until Dec. 10 in response to grave concerns raised about environmental injustice. Two members of the board, Samuel Bleicher and Rebecca Rubin, were especially outspoken in their questioning of the siting of the compressor station. It is precisely these two members who were relieved of their positions, and in spite of Gov. Northam’s efforts to explain away the controversy, it is exceedingly unlikely this was a routine changing of the guard.
Letter: Roanoke Gas should disinvest in MVP
Tuesday Dec. 4, 2018
Roanoke Gas Company’s October 30 Facebook Halloween post says: “What’s scarier than ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night?… Dig with CARE and Keep Virginia Safe!” I wish we could believe that Roanoke Gas Company has safety concerns for the public. However, RGC’s recent one percent investment in the Mountain Valley Pipeline demonstrates a disregard for the disastrous 100 miles of trenching in our area which will harm our area’s water supply.
Congress considers changing law for pipeline crossing of Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway
Monday Dec. 3, 2018
Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is “tucked into the omnibus spending bill” being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee..
…Environmental groups have waged war in federal court against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as well as the Mountain Valley Pipeline under construction in Southwest Virginia.
Letter: Natural gas exploitation
Monday Dec. 3, 2018
Michael Thompson’s November 20 op-ed “Natural gas is important to Virginia” is both misleading and manipulative to readers for a multitude of reasons. Here are a few simple clarifications surrounding the importance of “natural” gas.
First off, the claim that fracking natural gas will create jobs is deceptive…Secondly, Thompson provides a detailed cost analysis of how fracked gas is less expensive than other fossil fuel related options for consumers…Thirdly, the claim “natural gas is one of the cleanest energy sources in the world” is a blatant lie.
Letter: Gov. Northam, climate change is here
Saturday Dec. 1, 2018
For decades, most Americans, at least those of us who acknowledged the reality of man-made climate change, thought of our warming planet as an unhappy legacy we’d be leaving to our children and grandchildren. But on October 8, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a damning report authored by nearly 100 of the world’s top scientists, sounded an alarm about the insufficiency of current carbon reduction efforts. The primitive part of us, the part that’s still in touch with the seasons and the weather, already sensed what the U.N. report laid out so starkly: climate change is already happening. Here. Now.
Meanwhile, Gov. Northam and our other elected officials are doing far too little to protect our future. Yes, Northam has an enviable record on health, pushing Medicaid expansion and devoting funding and attention to our region’s opioid epidemic. Those efforts will save individual lives. But what is he doing to prevent our entire species from suffering the consequences of our own rampaging appetite for resources? It is within the power of our leaders to stop one of the most visible symbols of humans’ environmental recklessness—the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The MVP and its cousin, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, pose a grave threat to our region’s water, air, and farmland.
Member of Appalachians Against Pipeline Group uses body to stop pipeline construction
Tuesday Nov. 27, 2018
UNION, WV (WVNS) – Driving through Monroe County, certain residents make it apparent they do not a agree with pipeline construction. The protest group, Appalachians Against Pipelines, makes it their mission to take action against the cause; this time to new heights. For more than eight hours, a member of the Appalachians Against Pipelines group locked his body to a boom tractor, suspended in the air, to block construction at a Mountain Valley Pipeline site off Ellison Ridge Rd. on Tuesday, November 27. Supporting protesters told 59 News this person hiked almost 30 minutes to the site early Tuesday morning to use himself as a human shield and stop a fracking gas operation. Something they believe is detrimental to the environment. “It’s known to cause earthquakes and contaminate aquaphors,” a protester said. “All research shows it’s an incredibly unnecessary and environmentally destructive way of extracting natural gas.”
Judge dismisses charges against Roanoke County women who sat in trees to block pipeline
Thursday Nov. 15, 2018
A judge dismissed charges Thursday against a mother and daughter who for more than a month lived in the trees, trying to save them from a pipeline cutting its way through their Bent Mountain homeplace. Theresa “Red” Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, had a “good faith” belief that they could protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline by occupying two tree stands in its path, Roanoke County General District Court Judge Scott Geddes ruled. “Stepping into the shoes of the defendants … the court has serious doubts that the Terrys intended to commit a criminal offense by their actions,” Geddes said before dismissing charges of trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.
Tree-sitters in Montgomery County maintain protest against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday Nov. 15, 2018
A tree-sit protest of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County, now in its third month, is playing out more quietly than other such attempts to block work on the controversial natural gas pipeline. Since Sept. 5, two protesters have been camping out in tree stands along the project’s route on a steep wooded slope off Yellow Finch Road near Elliston. About a dozen similar aerial blockades have gone up in Giles, Franklin, Montgomery and Roanoke counties and Monroe County, West Virginia, since tree-cutting began in February. All of those protesters came down voluntarily or were removed by police.
Leech: Dominion wants to fleece its customers for an unneeded pipeline
Monday Nov. 12, 2018
Irene Leech is president of Virginia Citizens Consumer Council and associate professor of Consumer Studies at Virginia Tech.
When you make a big investment in your home — say a new roof or a heating and cooling system — it’s usually because you have carefully considered your options and decided that there’s a real need and that the benefits outweigh the costs. And as smart consumers, when we do invest in our home’s infrastructure, we ‘right size’ it for our house, our budget, and our needs. Common sense tells us that the same should be true of investments in infrastructure intended to serve the public interest—including natural gas pipelines. As president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, I have dealt with issues affecting consumers for decades, and I have concluded that the decision-making process for natural gas pipelines built through our state is anything but common sense. Instead, irrational and illogical, it turns the law of supply and demand (as well as the balancing of costs and benefits) on its head. At the wheel is Dominion Energy, a for-profit corporate giant that operates as a monopoly in Virginia’s energy market. Dominion tells us that what we need is what they’re selling, namely the $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would slice through 600 miles of private property, national forest and other public lands, and would cross hundreds of streams and rivers.
Charges heard against Roanoke County mother and daughter who sat in trees to block a pipeline
Friday Nov. 9, 2018
A mother and daughter who sat in trees for more than a month trying to block a natural gas pipeline from being built on their land atop Bent Mountain continued their fight Thursday, this time in a courtroom. Theresa “Red” Terry, 62, and Theresa Minor Terry, 31, are contesting criminal charges stemming from what they contend was the only way to stop tree-cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. After hearing several hours of testimony, Roanoke County General District Judge Scott Geddes allowed lawyers to submit written arguments before he renders a decision. Geddes told the Terrys to return to his courtroom Nov. 15, when he will decide whether they are guilty of three misdemeanor charges: trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of the pipeline company.
Mountain Valley submits application for new pipeline to North Carolina
Wednesday Nov. 7, 2018
The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have taken the first formal step in seeking federal approval for a 73-mile extension of the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina. An application filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission details Mountain Valley’s plan for a new project that will begin in Pittsylvania County, at the end point of a 303-mile pipeline the company is currently building in West Virginia and Virginia. Called MVP Southgate, the underground pipeline would run to Alamance County and provide gas to PSNC Energy, a local distribution company that plans to expand a system that serves more than 563,000 customers in North Carolina.
Roanoke Gas Co. applies for increase to base rates
Wednesday Oct. 31, 2018
Customers of Roanoke Gas Co. will see their monthly bills go up by nearly 11 percent if regulators approve the company’s request for a base rate increase. An application filed with the State Corporation Commission states the company is seeking $10.5 million in new revenue from the increase. Roanoke Gas needs to recover costs associated with ongoing infrastructure investment programs, increases in operations and maintenance expenses, and a new utility plant, it said in a statement Wednesday…
…The company said the increase is not related to its partnership with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Some opponents of the controversial project have argued that its massive price tag — which recently rose to $4.6 billion — would lead partners in the venture such as Roanoke Gas to pass the cost along to their ratepayers.
Opponents target Roanoke Gas for partnership with Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Oct. 30, 2018
olding up anti-pipeline signs and chanting, about a dozen demonstrators gathered Tuesday outside the headquarters of Roanoke Gas Co. to question its involvement with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As one of five corporate partners in the project, Roanoke Gas plans to tap into the 42-inch diameter pipe at two locations, expanding its service area to parts of Montgomery and Franklin counties. The company has a 1 percent ownership stake in the pipeline, which for the most part will transport natural gas at high pressure to other parts of the country.
U.S. Supreme Court is asked to hear pipeline eminent domain case
Thursday Oct. 25, 2018
A group of landowners whose property was taken against their wishes for a natural gas pipeline is seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeal, which involves the use of eminent domain by Mountain Valley Pipeline, is believed to be the first time the nation’s highest court has been asked to consider a challenge involving the controversial project. Whether that will happen is far from certain; the court agrees to hear oral arguments and render a decision in only about 80 of the approximately 8,000 cases that get filed each year. “We are hopeful,” said Mia Yugo, one of three attorneys from the Roanoke firm of Gentry Locke involved in the case, “because of the gravity of the issues involved.”
Thirteen landowners along the pipeline’s route are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit, filed last year in Roanoke’s federal court, challenging the way Mountain Valley used a law that allows the condemnation of private land for a public use. Among the constitutional questions raised is whether eminent domain, a power normally invoked by governmental bodies for projects such as highways and power lines, should be awarded to a private company in pursuit of profits.
Mountain Valley Pipeline loses another water-crossing permit
Wednesday Oct. 24, 2018
Federal regulators have pulled another permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction project, which now lacks authority to build through streams and wetlands along the project’s entire 303-mile route. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended its authorization of water body crossings for the first 32 miles of the natural gas pipeline, starting where it originates in Wetzel County, West Virginia. In a letter Friday to Mountain Valley officials, Jon Coleman of the Corps’ regulatory division in Pittsburgh cited an Oct. 2 federal appeals court decision that vacates a similar permit issued by a different division for the rest of the pipeline’s route through West Virginia.
6 arrested at Mountain Valley Pipeline site in West Virginia
Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018
BECKLEY (AP) — Six protesters who blocked traffic into a Mountain Valley Pipeline site in West Virginia for three hours have been arrested. The Register-Herald reports that the protesters were part of a larger group that blocked trucks from entering and exiting the lay down yard alongside U.S. 19 near the border between Raleigh and Fayette counties on Monday. An Appalachians Against Pipelines news release says one protester was locked to a truck that was hauling pipe. Each protester was charged with multiple misdemeanors, with total bail set at $17,000. The 300-mile (483-kilometer) natural gas pipeline will run through Virginia and West Virginia and connect to new and existing pipelines. Protests and legal challenges concerned with environmental impact have set back its estimated completion and increased its cost by approximately $1 billion.
Montgomery County supervisors OK permit for gate station to tap Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Oct. 22, 2018
CHRISTIANSBURG — The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors on Monday night narrowly approved a special use permit needed for a natural gas gate station that would tap into the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. The board voted 4-3 along party lines on the permit request from Roanoke Gas, which services approximately 60,000 customers across the Roanoke Valley and a tiny section of eastern Montgomery County. The gate station itself would go on approximately 3 acres of private land in the Elliston area near the border of Montgomery and Roanoke counties. Plans call for the station to be located just off Stones Keep Lane.
Advisory council asks Northam to stop pipeline work, but governor passes
Thursday Oct. 18, 2018
Asked by his own advisory council to suspend work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Gov. Ralph Northam made no such promise in a letter sent to the panel this week. The Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommended in August that Virginia’s water quality certification for construction of the natural gas pipeline be “rescinded immediately.” The same request was made for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which like Mountain Valley has drawn fierce opposition from those who say the projects will mar rural landscapes, pollute streams and invade private property.
In Virginia, local pipeline votes come with economic stakes attached
Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018
County supervisors who opposed Mountain Valley Pipeline now face decisions that could bring gas and jobs to their communities…
…Montgomery County’s planning commission has also endorsed plans to build a gate station. In both localities, the board of supervisors must vote on the project for it to receive county approval. Both have been loudly opposed by residents and pipeline opponents, and yet the boards look likely to approve both gate stations, in part due to hope that natural gas service may result in more economic development and job creation.
Munley: We don’t need zombie pipelines
Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Prepare for higher natural gas prices locally, unless EQT — rushing to complete its Zombie MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline) — is stopped. America’s overbuilding of pipelines (now at only 50 percent capacity), is endless. The industry-funded Federal Energy Regulatory Commission virtually permits every pipeline request, failing to scrutinize claims of public need and supposed benefits. The methane-leaking natural gas industry exerts disproportional influence on America, unloading its overinvested fracked gas glut. Similarly, despite cancelling its gas-powered plants, Dominion Energy exploits Virginian ratepayers for a 15 percent “guaranteed” rate-of-return for unneeded ACP (Atlantic Coast Pipeline), confirming Dominion’s “No need, only greed!” motive. Instead of externalizing costs by stealing people’s land, water, scenic beauty, health, and future — all uncompensated while planting miles of explosive pipelines — fossil fuels industries should pay upfront for all those harms including damages from catastrophic climate changes. (Remember: Big Tobacco finally paid!) Then, watch how fast this freeloading, over-privileged industry is replaced by free-market renewables. Researchers now conclude that a 1.5 degree centigrade rise will hit hard by 2040, so transition is urgent.
Opponents seek a stop to ‘reckless’ construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018
Despite the loss of permits allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross streams and wetlands, construction on other phases of the project is proceeding at what opponents call an aggressive and reckless pace. Three environmental groups and a nonprofit law firm are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop work on the natural gas pipeline, which is continuing outside of the water bodies. A stop-work order from FERC has been due since Oct. 2, the opponents say, when a federal appeals court vacated a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that Mountain Valley needed before it could start digging trenches through more than 500 streams and wetlands in West Virginia. A similar permit that covered Southwest Virginia was suspended three days later.
Reynolds: Virginia’s ‘gold rush’ or rush to the gold will never materialize
Monday Oct. 15, 2018
What happens when a “ad project gets worse, then really heads south?? Yes I’m talking about the rumbling disaster called the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In this particular case, a smooth operating big-money energy company tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes except Virginia’s in-the-know power-brokers, and political insiders, and fast-track a dangerous, mammoth fracked-gas pipeline down the throat and across the lands of a large section of hard-working Virginia citizenry.
Flood carries a piece of the Mountain Valley Pipeline into the hands of opposing landowner
Friday Oct. 12, 2018
It’s one thing for rain to wash mud and sediment away from where the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being built; that’s happened many times. But when part of the pipe gets swept away, that’s another story. It happened Thursday on Dale Angle’s cornfield in Franklin County. And Angle — who has been complaining for months about runoff from construction damaging his land — says he’s not ready to give Mountain Valley its pipe back.“They called this morning wanting me to sign a permission slip” that would allow company workers onto his property to retrieve two 80-foot sections of steel pipe that floated away, Angle said Friday.“I said I couldn’t do it right now. They’ve done destroyed enough of my property. I’m not going to let them do it again.”
Garst: A message for pipeline workers
Wednesday Oct. 10, 2018
Beth Garst lives on a farm at the foot of Cahas Knob in Franklin County, 200 yards from the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Dear Mountain Valley Pipeline construction people,
As the beeping and growling of engines started up thirty minutes later, waking my husband and making it necessary to close the doors and windows so he could hear the news, I thought about what that man said, and tried to look at things from his perspective. He was hired to do a job, as he told me, and no one wants to be heckled and rudely treated for just doing their job.
But let’s look at things from my perspective…
Stream-crossing permit suspended for Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia
Friday Oct. 5, 2018
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a permit allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross more than 500 streams and wetlands in Southwest Virginia. The action comes three days after a similar permit for West Virginia water crossings was vacated by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Uncertainty about the process prompted the corps to pull the Virginia permit to “await clarity on this issue,” William Walker, chief of the regulatory branch of the corps’ Norfolk division, wrote in a letter Friday to Mountain Valley officials. “Effective immediately, you must stop all activities being done in reliance upon the authorization under the NWP,” the letter stated, referring to a Nationwide Permit 12 authorization that was issued to Mountain Valley in January. Mountain Valley recently stepped up work digging trenches along stream bottoms to bury its natural gas pipeline, and the suspension marked the latest in a number of setbacks for the $4.6 billion project.
Blue Ridge Caucus: Del. Chris Hurst honored for pipeline opposition efforts
Thursday Oct. 4, 2018
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has honored Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, for his efforts at combating the two major natural gas pipelines being built in Virginia. The group presented Hurst with the 2018 Legislative Leadership Award in Newport on Wednesday. Days into the session as a freshman delegate, Hurst, along with other lawmakers from the Roanoke and New River valleys, introduced a suite of bills addressing the pipelines. “Since my election I have pushed for a more thorough review of the path of construction and additional safeguards to prevent damage to the beautiful environment of the New River Valley, and I won’t let up,” Hurst said in a statement. “I will continue to do everything in my power to give a voice to the landowners and advocates whose health and safety are put in jeopardy by the construction of natural gas pipelines.”
Stabilization plans approved while pipeline work is on hold in Jefferson National Forest
Wednesday Oct. 3, 2018
Federal regulators have approved a plan to stabilize a section of the Jefferson National Forest where construction of a natural gas pipeline began but was later halted by a lawsuit raising environmental concerns. The measures required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — along with a separate decision by the U.S. Forest Service to reopen two of its roads that had been closed for construction — indicate that it could be months before work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline is allowed to resume in the forest. In July, a federal appeals court invalidated an approval by the Forest Service for a 3.5-mile segment of the buried pipeline to cross public woodlands in Monroe County, West Virginia, and Giles and Montgomery counties.
Court vacates pipeline stream-crossing permits in West Virginia
Tuesday Oct. 2, 2018
Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline hit another hitch Tuesday when an appeals court vacated a permit the project needed to cross streams and rivers in southern West Virginia. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, less than a week after hearing oral arguments in the latest legal challenge to bedevil the controversial natural gas pipeline. The Sierra Club and other conservation groups asserted that the Army Corps overlooked a requirement, imposed by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, that work on four major river crossings should be completed within 72 hours to limit potential environmental harm.
MVP pellets rain down on organic farm
Wednesday Sept 26, 2018
(Summers County, WV) A pelleted substance rained down on a farmer and his children while harvesting ginseng on their property near Grassy Meadows. Neal Laferriere owns Blackberry Botanicals, an organic certified farm that sits adjacent to the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He explains saying,”A helicopter flew over and about ten seconds after it flew over pellets started to come out and drop through, pelting myself, my children.” According to an EPA spill report the pellets are Earth Guard a product to prevent erosion and provide soil stabilization. The pellets were intended for the path of the pipeline but fell over a quarter of a mile away from the pipeline path. The EPA spill report says the pellets were dumped two more times on the farm. Neal Laferriere says the pellets have covered nearly three fourths of his farmland.
Peckman: Regulators were fooled by pipeline
Wednesday Sept 26, 2018
Bob Peckman, a retired physicist, a long-time trail builder of the Appalachian Trail and a jazz drummer living in Roanoke for the past 36 years.
Construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline has resumed because there will be less erosion by completing the pipeline sooner than completing it later. When is the only decision being considered. When is the only decision ever considered. The Environmental Impact Statement process should have determined if the pipeline should be built, not when. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not contain required details on how they would prevent the erosion that is currently the problem. Many contend that controlling erosion at half the MVP steepness is not possible. The purpose of the DEIS was to lay out the plans so that we could evaluate them and comment resulting in either an EIS for a bullet-proof successful plan or denying permission. But MVP’s erosion plans were not presented.
Fourth Circuit Chief Justice Questions Validity of Eminent Domain
Tuesday Sept 25, 2018
RICHMOND (CN) – The chief justice of the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday questioned the validity of eminent domain laws, describing them as a holdover from the days when Americans were royal subjects. In a case involving the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of two controversial projects that are currently the subject of appeals before the circuit, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory questioned the long-standing precedents that allow the government to seize land. The case before the court on Tuesday was brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia who are challenging the “quick-take” authority granted the pipeline developer by federal regulators and a lower court which said the project could go forward despite the fact property owners have not been compensated. As Tuesday’s hearing got underway, Gregory began by question a ruling the circuit handed down 14 years ago in the case East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. v. Sage.
Estimated cost of Mountain Valley Pipeline increased to $4.6 billion
Tuesday Sept 25, 2018
he projected cost of building the Mountain Valley Pipeline has increased by nearly $1 billion. In a revised estimate announced this week, the developers of the natural gas pipeline said they now expect to spend $4.6 billion on the project, a jump of about 25 percent over their previous calculation of $3.7 billion. About half of the cost increase was attributed to a lull in construction for most of August, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered that work be stopped after two key permits were invalidated by a federal appeals court.
Trespassing charge against pipeline protester taken under advisement
Friday Sept 21, 2018
A judge found Thursday that an opponent of the Mountain Valley Pipeline entered a closed-off area while taking photographs of a chaotic clash between protesters and police in the Jefferson National Forest. Although U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou said the evidence was sufficient to convict Emily Satterwhite of violating a closure order, he opted to take the petty offense charge under advisement — meaning it will be dismissed in 12 months if there are no other problems. Satterwhite, who has been active in protests against a natural gas pipeline that is cutting a swath through Southwest Virginia, was camped in the forest with other opponents at the time of the April 22 incident.
Montgomery Co. planners support plan to tap into Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday Sept 20, 2018
CHRISTIANSBURG — An advisory arm of the Montgomery County’s governing body voted Wednesday night in favor of a special use permit needed for the proposed construction of a natural gas gate station near the border of Montgomery and Roanoke counties. The 4-2 vote from Montgomery County’s planning commission came amid overwhelming opposition from local residents who spoke out against the gate station during a public hearing Wednesday. The permit, which will need to be approved by the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, was requested by Roanoke Gas, which services approximately 60,000 customers across the Roanoke Valley and a tiny section of eastern Montgomery County.
Judge issues stay in Summers County MVP case
Tuesday Sept 18, 2018
HINTON — Summers and Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons issued a temporary stay Tuesday to work being done in Summers County on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Specifically, the stay will halt work being done on property where the pipeline will enter the Greenbrier River in Pence Springs. The motion was brought before Irons by Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Ashby Berkley, and Ty and Susan Bouldin, after Berkley was made aware that tree removal had begun on his property last week. Among concerns over due process, the petitioners have argued that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit for the crossing is not in compliance with the Natural Streams Preservation Act.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets green light after federal agencies issue new permits
Tuesday Sept 18, 2018
Federal regulators on Monday allowed construction to resume on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after U.S. agencies reissued two critical permits that a federal appeals court had vacated last month. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lifted the stop-work order it imposed on Aug. 10 on the 600-mile pipeline. It had imposed the order in response to a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that tossed out permits allowing the project to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and affect the habitat of endangered or threatened animal species…
…Late last month, Turpin authorized construction to resume on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, weeks after the commission halted work on the 303-mile project in response to a 4th Circuit decision that vacated its permit from the U.S. Forest Service to cross national forest lands.
Letter: Where does Gov. Northam stand on the pipeline?
Tuesday Sept 18, 2018
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered by Gov. Ralph Northam’s lack of response to the gas pipeline controversary facing the people of Virginia. After calling his office for an answer to my question, “Where does the governor stand on the pipeline issue?” Although a direct question to my governor, the first answer I received from his assistant was he could not speak for the governor. Undeterred, I called the governor again. Asking the same question again I got no answer. During the third call I left my email address and was promised a reply…none was received. It’s a simple question, Either you are for clean air, clean water and the health of the people of this state or you’re for the greedy corporations.
Hileman: Northam will be judged by what he does on pipelines
Monday Sept 17, 2018
To Dr. Ralph Northam, governor of Virginia:
On Aug. 21, I was one of countless Virginians who stared mouth agape at the Machiavellian farce that was the State Water Control Board meeting where members reconsidered permitting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). During an unhinged four-hour session, I watched leadership from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) repeatedly ignore, gloss over, and misrepresent the overwhelming evidence that this pipeline should never have been approved, has already resulted in numerous violations of state water quality laws, and will continue to violate laws the state is obligated to enforce…
…Gov. Northam, if you continue to side with pipelines over the people you were elected to serve, please tell me: what do you and the DEQ know — or fear — that forces you to disregard the law, science, and mountains of legally defensible evidence documenting environmental catastrophes along 103 previously pristine miles of Virginia? Alternatively, please share the evidence the DEQ has presented that gives you confidence this pipeline can be built and operated safely in our state. One thing is certain: whether or not this pipeline ultimately gets built, you will forever be judged by your ongoing silence and lack of action.
Pipeline in Hurricane Florence’s Potential Path Poses Added Danger
Thursday Sept 13, 2018
(By Barbara Gottlieb) As Hurricane Florence churns menacingly toward the Mid-Atlantic coast, residents of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia hold their breath, wondering where the massive storm surge, howling winds and torrents of rain will hit hardest. More than 300 miles inland, southwest Virginia residents may also face dangerous flooding, and some worry that Florence may exacerbate the threats from a different, manmade hazard: the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Hurricane Florence is projected to be an “extremely dangerous” storm, poised to inflict life-threatening impacts on low-lying coastal communities—and it may also dump vast quantities of rain over a limited area after making landfall, catastrophic rainfall and flooding as Hurricane Harvey did last year to Houston, Texas. Forecasters don’t know where such flooding will occur, but one possible target is the Appalachian Mountains, including mountainous southwest Virginia—the site of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)…
…Anti-pipeline activist Tina Smusz, a retired Emergency Medicine physician who has lived in the region’s mountains for 33 years, is monitoring conditions. She notes, “If we have as much rain as they’re predicting, we’re expecting landslides. We’ve already had one road closed by eight inches of mud washing down from a worksite. And that was not an extraordinary rain. We have bare soil and denuded slopes all along the pipeline corridor,” she added. “Trees, brush and vegetation have been removed, tree roots have been pulled out. So you’re looking at highly erodible soil expanses and the danger of massive erosion on our slopes.” In addition, Smusz worries about the impact that erosion would have on buried pipes once gas is flowing through the line: “Those pipes may be exposed as the soil over them is churned off when we have torrential rain. That could lead to pipeline ruptures, with the pipe buckling on itself” as the supporting soil under the pipe is washed away.
Mountain Valley Pipeline halts construction as Hurricane Florence takes aim at Carolinas, Virginia
Tuesday Sept 11, 2018
Devastating erosion from Mountain Valley Pipeline could result from significant rainfall. With Hurricane Florence forecast to make landfall later this week, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) halted construction on its 303-mile pipeline project on Tuesday and is taking measures to prevent extensive damage to its construction zone. Forecasters are expecting an unprecedented amount of rainfall from Florence across portions of Virginia, starting late this week and continuing through the weekend. MVP said it is taking “all possible precautions in Virginia” in consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to maintain erosion and sediment controls along the pipeline’s right of way.
Locals, however, worry about the impact heavy rainfall will have on the land. From the tree-clearing phase to the laying of the 42-inch-diameter pipe into trenches, MVP has faced problems with erosion and sediment controls when it rains. In July, the Virginia DEQ served the company with a notice of violation for failing to install proper erosion controls.
Construction halted on Mountain Valley Pipeline as storm approaches
Tuesday Sept 11, 2018
The task of building a natural gas pipeline through the mountains of Southwest Virginia while trying to curb storm water runoff is about to meet its toughest test. With Hurricane Florence fast approaching, the developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline said Tuesday they were stopping construction and devoting all resources to preparing for the storm. “We are taking all possible precautions in Virginia to ensure the safety of our crews and communities, as well as to protect and maintain erosion and sediment controls along MVP’s right-of-way,” the company said in a written statement. The decision to temporarily halt construction and focus on stabilizing the strips of bare earth that mark the buried pipeline’s path was made in consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Heavy rain contributed to Beaver County pipeline blast
Monday Sept 10, 2018
An explosion from a natural gas pipeline operating for only a week sparked a fire early Monday that destroyed a Beaver County home and two garages and prompted authorities to evacuate about two dozen other homes in the area. The 24-inch pipeline’s owner, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Corp., said it was investigating but an early assessment of the explosion site showed there had been “earth movement in the vicinity of the pipeline. ”Center police Chief Barry Kramer attributed that to heavy, continuous rain over the weekend, but he said he’d leave determining the exact cause “up to the experts.” Nearly 5 inches fell between Friday night and Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Gas explosion rocks western Pennsylvania community
Monday Sept. 10, 2018
A pipeline owner is blaming “earth movement” amid heavy rains for an early morning methane gas explosion in Pennsylvania that destroyed one home, prompted evacuation of others and closed an interstate. No injuries were reported. Beaver County officials say the blast in Center Township was reported shortly before 5 a.m. Monday. Officials say a home, two garages and several vehicles were destroyed by fires. Pipeline owner Energy Transfer Corp. says the valves to the pipeline were shut off and the fire was out by 7 a.m. The Dallas-based firm blamed the blast on “earth movement in the vicinity of the pipeline.” About 25 to 30 homes were evacuated as a precaution. The Central Valley school district canceled classes. Interstate 376 was closed due to danger from falling power lines.
Pipeline protesters take to the trees near Elliston
Wednesday Sept.5, 2018
ELLISTON — As construction crews got back to work this week on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, so did the tree-sitting protesters. Early Wednesday morning, two women climbed about 50 feet up onto wooden platforms assembled in a white oak and a white pine, part of a strip of forestland to be cut and cleared for the natural gas pipeline. The trees will live on — along with opponents’ hopes of blocking the controversial project — for as long as the women can hold their stands on a steep wooded slope in Montgomery County.
Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents regroup as construction resumes
Tuesday Sept. 4, 2018
A pair of developments last week were a setback for pipeline opponents but left doors open for new strategies against the project.
The push to cut, clear, grade and trench the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline across the central Appalachia is underway once more. A pair of developments last week allowed construction that had slowed through August to resume at near full force. The setbacks for pipeline opponents left activists questioning their momentum as well as contemplating new legal and regulatory strategies against the project. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of two being laid from West Virginia to terminals that will connect the gas fracked in the Marcellus Shale region with markets in the Southeast and beyond. Much of the conflict hinges on the effects of pipeline construction on waterways, which provide drinking water for local residents and drain into major watersheds on both sides of the eastern continental divide.
Federal court allows stream crossing work for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday August 29, 2018
Another roadblock to completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been dismantled, this time by a federal appeals court. After issuing a stay in June that kept developers of the natural gas transmission line from running the buried pipe through streams and rivers in West Virginia, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday lifted the temporary ban. The court also rejected a request for a similar stay in Southwest Virginia. Environmental groups had sought both stays, contending that pipeline construction will pollute the more than 1,000 water bodies it will cross.
Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline allowed to resume
Wednesday August 28, 2018
Federal regulators are allowing construction to resume along most of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 303-mile route through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. The authorization from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission comes less than a month after it issued a stop-work order for the project. In a letter dated Wednesday, FERC cited a recent analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management concluding that the pipeline’s earlier approved route through the Jefferson National Forest is the best of several alternatives….
…At a meeting Tuesday in Richmond, the governor-appointed Advisory Council on Environmental Justice raised concerns about how Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a similar project planned in Central Virginia, “are likely to be felt most severely in our poor, minority and marginalized communities.” A key issue raised in a 12-page letter approved by the council concerns a compressor station that Atlantic Coast plans to build in a predominately African-American community in Buckingham County. But the letter also pointed to archeological sites and burial grounds of enslaved blacks and Native Americans that lie in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “The MVP cultural resource plan was incomplete, and the risks are high,” the letter stated.
Montgomery Co. supervisors hear about proposal for nature park
Tuesday August 27, 2018
…The land trust is hoping to win a share of an expected $3 million in first-round grants this year from a Mountain Valley Pipeline forest mitigation fund. The grant money the land trust is seeking this year is being administered by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The mitigation funds come from the pipeline project’s payments to the state to offset forestland impact caused by the pipeline’s construction…
Bent Mountain construction a continuing concern for pipeline opponents
Friday August 24, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A construction site on Bent Mountain continues to be a focal point in the fight over the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Crews have been working on both sides of Route 221 near the point where the pipeline passes underneath the highway. Residents of the area say the work raises fresh concerns, about the impact of the project on groundwater, and their supply of drinking water. “And again the trench has been opened here,” Roberta Bondurant told WDBJ7. ” It’s like reopening sutures. The sanctity of this pipe is in question.” A spokesperson for the company said work in the area is part of the stabilization plan authorized by federal regulators.
Northam unveils Giles County sculpture; pipeline protesters demonstrate
Thursday August 23, 2018
PEARISBURG — Despite a political demonstration just yards away, Gov. Ralph Northam pulled back a giant sheet with a wide smile stretched across his face. Northam was in Giles County on Tuesday for the unveiling of a public art installment in downtown. The piece, created using a collection of rocks that were decorated by county children, spells out the word “LOVE” and is part of a statewide effort through Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote the “Virginia is for Lovers” state slogan. Of the more than 100 in attendance, about two dozen people were opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They stood at the rear of the event with banners, some of which read “Northam bought by gas and oil” and “Save our children, no pipeline.”
State water board declines to reconsider stream-crossing permits for pipeline
Wednesday August 22, 2018
RICHMOND — Facing a crowd that went from frustrated to furious, the State Water Control Board voted 4-3 Tuesday against reconsidering a stream-crossing permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. A second proposal, with more general language aimed at tougher enforcement of environmental regulations, then passed unanimously — but failed to appease the nearly 200 pipeline opponents who packed a hearing room. Throughout the four-hour meeting, board members and officials with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were repeatedly interrupted and heckled by those who say the state is failing to protect streams and wetlands from pollution caused by pipeline construction…
…“It’s a travesty for the state to see DEQ not stand up and not have enough backbone to do what’s right, and that’s to help the people,” James Hargett, who has been monitoring issues in Franklin County, said during a public comment period Tuesday that was dominated by pipeline opponents. When the meeting ended, some members of the crowd approached the dais — prompting police officers who had been standing guard to form a line that prevented them from getting any closer to the board members and DEQ Director David Paylor.
“Fire David Paylor!” they chanted as he left through a side door. “Fire David Paylor!”
State Water Control Board calls for aggressive enforcement, declines to revoke pipeline permits
Tuesday August 21, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) The State Water Control Board has approved a motion calling for aggressive enforcement on two natural gas pipeline projects. But on Tuesday afternoon, the board stopped short of revoking permits for the controversial projects. Opponents of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines marched through downtown Richmond, rallied in Capitol Square and packed the meeting of the State Water Control Board.
J.B. Hargett came from Franklin County. “And I’ll show you mud washed down in driveways,” Hargett told board members. “I’ll show you ponds that are beyond use. I’ll show you streams where the fish are dead because of the mud.”
Bernard and Limpert: State Water Control Board should look anew at pipeline permits
Monday August 20, 2018
Anne Bernard lives in Franklin County on land the Mountain Valley Pipeline would pass through. Bill Limpert lives in Bath County on land the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would pass through.
Virginia is blessed to be a water-rich state. From rushing mountain streams to the tidal rivers of the coast, millions of Virginians have a direct connection to the waters flowing through their property, farms and communities. They put their faith in public officials to act in the public interest and make the right choices to protect these waters. This week, the State Water Control Board will take a fresh look at whether permits from the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines are sufficient to do so. As landowners along the pipeline routes, we urge our fellow Virginians on the board to wield its full authority to protect our waters, especially in light of multiple recent findings by federal courts and agencies that the companies’ construction plans are gravely deficient.
As state board takes up pipeline permits, thousands of comments await
Sunday August 19, 2018
The Mountain Valley Watch has seen enough. After three months of monitoring construction of the largest natural gas pipeline ever to plow through Southwest Virginia, the citizen watchdog group has reached a conclusion about the Mountain Valley Pipeline: “This project cannot be constructed through steep, mountainous, rocky terrain without causing severe water quality damages to downstream properties and communities,” the monitoring group stated in a report sent to the State Water Control Board.
When the board meets Tuesday in Richmond, the report urges it should rethink its earlier finding that construction of the pipeline will not pollute the more than 500 streams and wetlands it will cross.
Filled with technical analysis, photographs and case studies, the Mountain Valley Watch report runs for 34 pages — yet represents just a tiny piece in a pile of reading material.ore than 13,000 written comments have been submitted to the water board since it invited public comment on the sufficiency of federal permits granted to Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a similar project that will run through Central Virginia.
Read the full Roanoke Times article. Click on link above to read the Mountain Valley Watch report.
Mountain Valley Pipeline cuts workforce, delays project completion to late 2019
Friday August 17, 2018
As construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline decelerates, the company says a temporary stop-work order has forced it to release half of its workforce and push back an expected completion date to late next year. The actions were taken “to address an idled workforce and protect the integrity of the project,” read a statement posted to the company’s website. About 2,100 people were working on an approximately 100-mile stretch of the natural gas pipeline in Southwest Virginia earlier this summer. It was not clear how many remained Friday.
Letter: Jobs do not override dangers of pipeline
Friday August 17, 2018
Your editorial of August 9, “The great disconnect”, emphasizes the role of jobs as the reason to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Certainly, job creation is very important. But jobs do not justify the social and environmental havoc wrought by this pipeline. It rides roughshod over the property rights of citizens in its path, endangers the public through risk of explosions, destroys forests, worsens climate change and aggravates air pollution.
Head of Jefferson National Forest temporarily reassigned as pipeline controversy continues
Thursday August 16, 2018
A switch is coming to the Jefferson National Forest’s top leadership, a job complicated by conflict over plans to run a natural gas pipeline up and down mountainsides and under the Appalachian Trail. Forest supervisor Joby Timm has been temporarily assigned to the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office in Atlanta, according to an agency spokeswoman…
…Timm took over supervision of the Jefferson National Forest in May 2016, when plans for the pipeline were still taking shape. “He has found himself in a very politicized environment, one that probably took him by surprise,” said Rupert Cutler, a Roanoke resident active in environmental causes. Cutler helped oversee the Forest Service from 1977 to 1980 as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s assistant secretary for natural resources and environment during the Carter Administration. Cutler said he tended to agree with speculation by some that Forest Service staffers in Roanoke were forced by higher-ranking officials in Washington, D.C., to amend a forest management plan to accommodate the pipeline.
Request from Cynthia Munley of Preserve Salem :
Folks, please read Northam’s piece in the Roanoke Times (BELOW) and comment on it online. There aren’t many comments. Northam’s staff likely will be monitoring the comments to this piece, so don’t miss this chance! Give Ralph your thoughts on economic development. Notably, in today’s piece, Governor Ralph Northam makes no mention whatsoever about the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines being part of “building an economy for everyone.” In fact, the pipelines are moving VA backwards economically and in building jobs. Even if one doesn’t care about Virginia’s environmental and property pipeline damage, as Governor– one should care about its economic future. ACP and MVP are a serious mistake that will profoundly harm Virginia’s future for decades. Remember, the State Water Control Board has a chance to undo the Nationwide 12 and replace it with the Clean Water Act’s Stream-by-stream water certification next Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2018
Northam: Working to build a Virginia economy for everyone
Wednesday August 15, 2018
Ralph Northam is governor of Virginia.
As governor, my mission is to build economic opportunity for all Virginians, no matter who you are or where you live, and our administration has hit the ground running. We’ve worked across the aisle to pass a balanced state budget that expands healthcare access to working Virginians, and invests in core priorities such as education, workforce development, and public safety. And we deposited money to the Commonwealth’s financial reserves to help us during the next economic downturn — preserving Virginia’s AAA bond rating in the process.
Pipeline opponents warn of economic harm
Tuesday August 14, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Opponents of two natural gas pipelines say the projects are bad for Virginia’s economy. Waynesboro’s Thomas Hadwin has worked for utilities in other states. Tuesday, he joined local activist Freeda Cathcart outside the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. They said the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines aren’t needed to meet demand for natural gas, won’t generate permanent jobs and will raise energy costs. “This is not a good economic deal for Virginia,” Hadwin told reporters. “So why should we sacrifice our mountains, our clean water and all of those other issues just so that we pay more, and a few energy companies make more.”
Plan to stabilize the shutdown Mountain Valley Pipeline approved by federal regulators
Monday August 13, 2018
One week after ordering a stop to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a federal agency is allowing some work to guard against the environmental and safety risks posed by leaving such a large project half-done. A temporary stabilization plan submitted by developers of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline was partially approved Friday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Some parts of the plan call for the installation of segments of steel pipes that have already been laid along trenches dug for them — a move that critics say amounts to further construction under the guise of stabilization. “The law is clear that construction must not occur unless and until a route across the Jefferson National Forest has been approved,” attorneys for the Sierra Club and other conservation groups wrote in a letter to FERC. The Sierra Club was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged approvals by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for a 3.5-mile segment of the pipeline to cross through the forest near the West Virginia line.
Hileman: State water board should suspend MVP’s permit
Sunday August 12, 2018
To the Members of the State Water Control Board:
On July 9, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a formal Notice of Violation to Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for numerous failures to prevent sediment-laden runoff from entering waterways in the project area. These violations are a direct consequence of the application of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Nationwide Permit 12 to MVP, which allowed the project to proceed without first analyzing the expected impacts on a stream-by-stream basis. These violations will continue so long as this permit remains in place, including years after construction of the pipeline is completed if this issue is not addressed now. Given Nationwide Permit 12 is the subject of an upcoming meeting of the Board on August 21, and in light of the recent violations, now is the time to critically examine the impacts of MVP to date.
South Dakota tribes weigh in on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday August 9, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) When we hiked though the woods on Bent Mountain in mid-March, we saw archeological work under way along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. But representatives of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota say they believe contractors hired by the pipeline company have missed sites of significance. Ben Rhodd is Tribal Historic Preservation Officer with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He has submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and says a formal report is in the works.
Editorial: Pipeline opponents and the governor are talking two different languages
Thursday August 9, 2018
Environmentalists cannot fathom why one Democratic governor, namely Terry McAuliffe, endorsed the two natural gas pipelines cutting across Virginia and why his successor, Ralph Northam, has done nothing to stop them. It’s actually pretty simple, and has nothing to do with either governor being “in the pocket” of “special interests,” as some pipeline opponents claim. They simply see the world differently. We’ll try to explain. No minds will get changed — that’s not really the goal — but perhaps pipeline opponents will have a better understanding of why Northam has taken such a “hands off” approach.
Munley: On pipeline, Northam has abandoned us
Thursday August 9, 2018
Cynthia Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Gov. Northam and his Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have allowed the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to be built, and in the process have jerked around Virginia citizens with devastating consequences for our regions’ water, landowners, safety, economy, wilderness, and scenic beauty. Approved without a viable sedimentation plan, using “over-stored” pipes, warp-speed schedules, odorless gas over landslide-prone steep slopes, MVP now poses a perfect storm across our Blue Ridge. The abusive Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) both promotes and decides on the “necessity” for pipelines, and allows construction to precede legal challenges — a reckless management of public interests.
Landowners swamped by erosion denied injunction against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday August 9, 2018
Six Franklin County landowners have lost the first round of their legal fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which they blame for erosion on their property. The lawsuit claims the company’s failure to control storm water runoff allowed mud to be washed from where the natural gas pipeline is under construction to private property downhill. Wendell and Mary Flora, Glenn and Linda Frith and Michael and Frances Hurt claim their land was swamped in mid-May, when heavy rains left nearby Cahas Mountain Road covered with about 8 inches of mud. But in denying the landowners’ request for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon said they had failed to show that such severe flooding is likely to happen again.
Roanoke activist removed from state board for actions at April pipeline protest
Tuesday August 7, 2018
Gov. Ralph Northam removed a Roanoke woman from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy for misconduct in April after state officials were told she used her board identification to gain access to a closed site near the Mountain Valley Pipeline route. Freeda Cathcart, a well-known Democratic Party and civic activist, was arrested April 9 in the Jefferson National Forest in Giles County for violating a closure order. Cathcart, 57, pleaded guilty July 23 to the petty offense in federal court in Roanoke and was fined $150. As part of an agreement, a charge of resisting arrest against Cathcart was dismissed. Prosecutors also promised not bring any other charges related to the case.
Editorial: Three observations on the MVP’s work stoppage
Tuesday August 7, 2018
What should we make of federal regulators ordering a halt to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline until it can get new permits from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to cross federal land? Here are some thoughts:
- Pipeline opponents need to keep in mind that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management work for a pro-natural gas administration.
- This now becomes a war of attrition with MVP’s investors.
- The court ruling that set in motion this chain of events shows why presidential elections are so important.
Letter: Northam has been warned
Tuesday August 7, 2018
The terms “prior knowledge” or “prior notice” of a pending public or private sector potentially libelous circumstance or disaster, COULD have very special meaning and implications, when it comes down to legal proceedings. With several recent pipeline-related “prior knowledge”situations in mind, let’s turn our attention closer to Richmond, Va. and the Northam Administration, regarding fracked-gas pipelines.
Mountain Valley Pipeline and opponents react to stop work order
Monday August 6, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Officials with the Mountain Valley Pipeline says they’re confident work will resume soon, following a stop work order issued Friday. Opponents of the project welcome the delay as they continue to press their objections with the courts and state and federal agencies. At issue is MVP’s right-of-way in the Jefferson National Forest. Just 3.5 miles of the 303-mile route, it includes the area on Peters Mountain where tree sitters protested for months. After a federal appeals court vacated permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management late last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the stop work order for the entire length of the project.
Limited work continues on Mountain Valley Pipeline following stop-work order
Monday August 6, 2018
Work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline might be suspended by the order of a federal agency, but there is still some activity along its 303-mile construction zone. A stop-work order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowed for stabilization of the work areas. Since the order was announced late Friday, some people have expressed concerns on social media and elsewhere about seeing bulldozers and other heavy equipment still in operation. But under rules imposed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the company has seven days to make sure that appropriate erosion and sediment control measures are in place at the soon-to-be dormant construction areas. “The only work currently underway in Virginia is site stabilization,” DEQ Director David Paylor said in a written statement Monday. “Virginia’s laws give DEQ the authority to ensure the infrastructure is stabilized — and remains stabilized — for as long as the stop-work order is in place,” he said, adding that state inspections will continue.
Judges vacate two permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Monday August 6, 2018
Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has hit a new roadblock in the Blue Ridge Mountains at a critical crossing beneath a scenic national parkway. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday tossed out two federal permits issued for the $5.5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline, including one the National Park Service granted for the pipeline to cross beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties. The panel, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, also said construction of the project cannot proceed without a valid and enforceable permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the “incidental taking” of five threatened or endangered species in its path. Without valid permits from the two federal agencies, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, “should it continue to proceed with construction,” would violate its permit for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the appeals court panel, said in a footnote in the 62-page decision.
Giles County couple blames Mountain Valley Pipeline for runoff mess
Saturday August 4, 2018
RIPPLEMEAD — It was bad enough to see the driveway that leads to their blue and white-trimmed farmhouse converted to a construction access road for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “When you think you’re going to run out to the store and back, but you have to wait for three dump trucks to get out of the way,” Danny Gallagher said, his voice trailing off as his wife completed the sentence: “It’s frustrating,” Sherri Gallagher said.
Photos: Pipeline construction leads to flooding in Giles County
Saturday August 4, 2018
Recent rain has caused flooding in Giles County homes thanks to recent Mountain Valley Pipeline construction.
FERC orders work to stop on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday August 3, 2018
A federal agency ordered a stop Friday to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has run into repeated problems with erosion since it began its path through the Roanoke and New River valleys. In a letter to pipeline officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited an appeals court decision last week that reversed earlier-granted approvals for pipeline work in the Jefferson National Forest. With construction of that 3.6-mile segment of the natural gas pipeline now on hold, FERC determined that work on the rest of the 303-mile project should not proceed.
Letter: Open Pocahontas Road
Friday August 3, 2018
On July 27 the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond declared the permits to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline in the Jefferson National Forest repealed. I was being convicted of a crime due to the closure of Pocahontas Road in the Jefferson National Forest Pocahontas Road is still closed to the public due to the road closure order from Joby Timm, supervisor of the Jefferson National Forest. This road closure is illegal. A lawsuit was brought by state senator Chap Peterson to reopen this public road rather than have MVP have exclusive rights to the road. The court here refused to hear the case after “Nutty” came down from the monopod.
Regarding: Appeals court upholds Virginia’s review of water quality impact of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Thursday August 2, 2018
“The Fourth Circuit appellate judges have ignored scientific evidence, instead believing that DEQ and MVP can control erosion and sedimentation. These photos show that the scientists were right. This court ruling will allow the destruction to continue.”
Appeals court upholds Virginia’s review of water quality impact of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday August 1, 2018
A federal appeals court has upheld Virginia’s water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, preserving a major milestone for the controversial project. In a decision Wednesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the Sierra Club and other conservation groups that the State Water Control Board erred in December when it found a “reasonable assurance” that streams and wetlands would not be harmed by the 303-mile natural gas pipeline.
Letter: All pipeline permits should be rejected
Wednesday August 1, 2018
On Friday, the appeals court judges rejected Mountain Valley Pipeline building permits that would have allowed construction on federal land. This is exciting news — the judges’ ruling acknowledges that this pipeline would cause major damage to the surrounding ecosystem. Pipeline infrastructure has historically caused prolific waterway contamination, widespread deforestation and deepening regressive ties to the fossil fuel energy. However, while this court ruling is surely a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Only a small portion of the expansive pipeline has been stopped.
West Virginia protest blocks path of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday July 31, 2018
MONROE CO., W. Va. The path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is well-defined in Monroe County, West Virginia. And sections of pipe are now being welded together, where the project crosses Becky Crabtree’s property. Crabtree protested there Tuesday morning, in the front seat of her first car, a 1971 Ford Pinto that was elevated on a base of wooden timbers. “I believe we were there about 4 am, and I believe work was stopped when i left a little after 10,” Crabtree told WDBJ7. ‘I’ll take six hours of Mountain Valley not being able to work on my property.”
High up on a hill
Sunday July 29, 2018
Near Pence Springs, winding up a one-lane country back road, you come to a freshly graveled driveway. Turning right, you wind yourself up the southern facing slope, until you come to what many people — those looking for a perfect mountain escape — would view as a dream. Standing out from the hill, a brand-new timber frame is being born with its front porch facing the Greenbrier River as it flows to Hinton. Inside the home, thick beams of many West Virginia hardwoods make up the structure and hold up the home’s vaulted ceilings. Outside, a worker is building a beautiful natural stone retaining wall. On the porch, other workers joke and laugh along with the sounds of the radio playing Americana music. In the pasture in front of the home, the shadows of clouds race over the green summer grasses. The birds chirp, a pneumatic nail gun fires the metal that will hold this dream together — and across the way, across the pasture, down the hillside and over the river, the unmistakable sound of heavy, tracked machines ring out.
Federal appeals court delivers blow to Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday July 28, 2018
In what environmentalists called a major victory, a federal appeals court on Friday struck down two key decisions allowing a natural gas pipeline to slice through the Jefferson National Forest. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Sierra Club and other conservation groups that challenged approvals by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for a 3.6-mile segment of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Affected woodlands are in Giles and Montgomery counties and Monroe County, West Virginia. The pipeline’s route through the national forest will also take it under the Appalachian Trail atop Peters Mountain.
Local pipeline fighters cautiously pleased with Mountain Valley Pipeline permit revocation
Friday July 27, 2018
McLEAN, Va. – An appeals court on Friday sided with environmentalists who challenged the decision by federal agencies to allow construction of a 300-mile natural gas pipeline on a swath of national forest. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond cancels permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut through the Jefferson National Forest. “This is very positive news, but it’s not like big time celebration because that doesn’t mean that they can’t construct everywhere else that’s not forest,” Preserve Montgomery County Chair Lynda Majors said.
Appeals Court Sides With Environmentalists In Pipeline Case
Friday July 27, 2018
An appeals court on Friday sided with environmentalists who challenged the decision by federal agencies to allow construction of a 300-mile natural gas pipeline on a swath of national forest. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond cancels permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut through the Jefferson National Forest. The judges’ ruling accuses the agencies of ignoring environmental regulations in approving the project. “MVP’s proposed project would be the largest pipeline of its kind to cross the Jefferson National Forest. American citizens understandably place their trust in the Forest Service to protect and preserve this country’s forests, and they deserve more than silent acquiescence to a pipeline company’s justification for upending large swaths of national forestlands,” wrote Judge Stephanie Thacker, an Obama appointee.
U.S. court vacates two permits for EQT Mountain Valley natgas pipe
Friday July 27, 2018
July 27 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday vacated decisions by two federal agencies that allowed EQT Corp to build its $3.5 billion to $3.7 billion Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia across federal land. The case is the latest victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit by the Sierra Club and other opponents of the pipeline. Analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington said the decision could delay the project’s in-service date until the fourth quarter of 2019.
Federal judges in Va. revoke permit for pipeline, saying impact on national forest not fully reviewed
Friday July 27, 2018
RICHMOND — A panel of federal judges on Friday rescinded permits for a massive natural gas pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest, saying two U.S. agencies had not fully vetted the project and had simply accepted assurances from the builders. Environmentalists called the decision a major blow against the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is being built from West Virginia though the rugged terrain of far Southwest Virginia. It will pass through 3.6 miles of the Jefferson National Forest along the West Virginia line in Giles County, tunneling under the Appalachian Trail.
Protester gets 2 days in jail for blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday July 27, 2018
A woman who spent 11 days in an aerial blockade of the Mountain Valley Pipeline must now spend two days in jail. Catherine “Fern” MacDougal was led from a Roanoke courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after pleading guilty to trespassing and blocking a U.S. Forest Service road. The case of MacDougal — a 31-year-old University of Michigan graduate student with a history of environmental activism — marked the first adjudication of nearly a half-dozen people who sat in trees or on suspended platforms to block construction of the controversial natural gas pipeline.
4th Circuit sides with pipeline in eminent domain case
Thursday July 26, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has sided with the Mountain Valley Pipeline in an eminent domain lawsuit brought by landowners in the project’s path. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the ruling of a lower-court judge who didn’t rule on the case’s constitutional issues but dismissed them, saying she lacked subject matter jurisdiction.
Justin Lugar, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said his clients are evaluating the opinion and possible next steps.
Completion of Mountain Valley Pipeline delayed to early 2019, even with long work days
Thursday July 26, 2018
Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline will continue into 2019, longer than expected and sometimes with 15-hour workdays that are irking its neighbors. Shareholders of NextEra Energy, one of the pipeline’s developers, were told Wednesday that an anticipated completion date of late this year is no longer viable for the massive natural gas pipeline. Work on the pipeline “has faced some recent challenges,” John Ketchum, executive vice president and chief financial officer of NextEra Energy, said during a quarterly earnings conference call. He cited a stay issued by a federal appeals court that put a hold on stream crossings the buried pipeline must make in West Virginia.
Muddy runoff concerning Monroe County residents
Thursday July 26, 2018
MONROE COUNTY, WV (WVVA). Some Monroe County residents say that they were assured the environmental impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction would be limited. However, muddy runoff after heavy rain this week is concerning some residents. “The sediment came through and it was just gushing into my pond,” said local Greenville resident Donald Earley. Earley’s residence was about a quarter mile downstream of the construction. Earley keeps the pond stocked with fish, and was concerned what the sediment may do to this fishes’ health.
Citizen group provides extra eyes on the ground for pipeline regulators
Wednesday July 25, 2018
On the frontlines of a fight to protect water and forests from pipeline risks, a volunteer-driven group documents potential environmental violations.
A dirt and gravel corridor as wide as a highway splits the green-hued forest, winding over steep slopes before disappearing into a sea of ridges on the horizon. Down the center, a pale green tube propped up on waist-high stacks of wooden pallets looks like a water slide as it caroms along mountainous contours here in Appalachian Virginia west of Roanoke. It’s Friday evening and the crews building the Mountain Valley Pipeline here have gone home for the evening. Work is just starting, though, for a team of citizen scientists determined to hold the pipeline’s developers accountable for any environmental damage they inflict in the area.
Pipeline raises drinking water concerns on Bent Mountain
Tuesday July 24, 2018
People who live on Bent Mountain and oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline continue to press their case for a stop work order.
Environmental regulators cite Mountain Valley Pipeline again
Tuesday July 24, 2018
For the sixth time, environmental regulators have cited Mountain Valley Pipeline for failing to contain muddy water flowing from construction sites. A notice of violation was recently issued against the Pittsburgh company by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, according to a filing Thursday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Four similar actions have been taken in West Virginia since early April; a single notice of violation that addresses problems in six Southwest Virginia counties was filed July 9 by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Letter: High pressure pipeline energy poses danger
Tuesday July 24, 2018
The opinion article “West Virginia explosion shows danger of pipelines” by Irene Leech (June 20), sparked my interest in the mechanical (pressure) energy carried in a 42-inch natural gas pipeline pressurized at 1,440 psi. An approximation can be calculated using the gas energy equation from my undergraduate thermodynamics course. Using data for methane (the primary component of natural gas) I found a 42-inch methane pipeline pressurized at 1,440 psi is holding 4,224,608 ft-lbs of mechanical energy per foot of pipe. This energy is in addition to the chemical energy released by gas combustion that frequently accompanies a pipeline failure.
Photos: A pipeline’s progress
Monday July 23, 2018
These aerial photos track the development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline route across Southwest Virginia, including areas of Roanoke, Franklin and Montgomery counties.
Letter: The Assault – An Allegory
Monday July 23, 2018
The People of the Mountains were being assaulted by the Giant MVP. They called upon their ruler, King Ima Doctor, to save them. Now to his credit, the King had not said the assault was OK…. but then neither had he said it was NOT OK. What the people had not realized though was that The King had had his spine surgically removed by the Biznis Guild long ago, and was incapable of helping his subjects. So, King Ima Doctor said gently to The People of the Mountains, “Just lie down, close your eyes, it will be over soon, then you can forget this ever happened and we can all move on.”
CASEY: ‘Under-the-radar’ law, and vacancy on SCC, fuel concerns about pipeline safety inspections
Sunday July 22, 2018
A little-noticed law from 2016 means inspectors for the State Corporation Commission, rather than the federal Department of Transportation, will conduct safety inspections for the controversial Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines. Meanwhile, a longtime oil and gas lobbyist could soon be appointed to the SCC.
Here’s an interesting story that involves some matters of grave importance to many folks in Western Virginia. It concerns interstate gas pipeline safety. That’s a subject of extra prominence since the massive, fireball-like explosion of a new gas pipeline in West Virginia on June 7. The story also involves the U.S. Department of Transportation, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission and an under-the-radar law the state General Assembly quietly enacted more than two years ago. Essentially, that legislation transferred authority for safety inspections of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines from the federal government to the SCC.
Letter: Duped by MVP
Sunday July 22, 2018
Ever since Trump’s inauguration (biggest crowds EVER) we’ve discovered that if you tell a lie enough times it will eventually be mistaken for truth. Mountain Valley Pipeline is a master of this technique. It makes me wonder: Have Roanoke Chamber of Commerce and pipeline supporters been duped, or are they simply dopes because they fell for MVP’s blatant lies? Let’s look at just a few untruths.
Pipeline explosion in W.Va. cited by opponents of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday July 18, 2018
An explosion of a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia was triggered by the same conditions — steep slopes prone to landslides — that exist along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a conservation group is warning. Work on the Mountain Valley project, which is cutting a swath through the mountains of Southwest Virginia, should be suspended pending a review of the potential danger of a similar explosion, the Indian Creek Watershed Association wrote in a request filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On June 7, the newly constructed Leach Xpress pipeline in Marshall County, West Virginia, ruptured and exploded into a ball of flames that could be seen for miles.
Bent Mountain residents continue calls for pipeline work to halt
Friday July 13, 2018
ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) – Work has resumed on the Mountain Valley Pipeline on Bent Mountain.
So have calls from pipeline opponents to halt work out of concern for their drinking water. “We believe that if they were attending to the true letter of the law, this pipeline would not be built,” said Roberta Bondurant. Bondurant is among group of Bent Mountain land owners monitoring pipeline construction daily. They’re growing concerned that the pipe is laying in water that feeds directly into their wells. They worry a spill or materials from the pipe itself could contaminate the water.
MVP wants ability to work longer hours on pipeline, landowners react. Company requests to work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
Wednesday July 11, 2018
MVP filed a request Tuesday asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if its workers can begin before 7 a.m., the typical start time for construction work in close proximity to residential areas, and work later than 7 p.m. Bent Mountain resident Mary Beth Coffey has been speaking against pipeline construction for years. The path runs through her front yard, crossing her driveway. She’s not sure how she’ll enter and leave her property when construction starts here, and she hopes the work hours aren’t extended.
Letter: Don’t celebrate yet
Wednesday July 11, 2018
We should all be rejoicing in the temporary construction halt of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — but let’s not celebrate the demise of this dangerous pipeline just yet. The pipeline has been a hot-button issue for everyone in southwest Virginia since plans for its construction were first announced, and rightly so.
Virginia regulators accuse Mountain Valley Pipeline of erosion violations
Tuesday July 10, 2018
Virginia regulators have accused the builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates, saying the company’s failure to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality gave Robert Cooper, project manager for EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, a nine-page notice of violations on Monday. The energy company, which hopes to fill the line with natural gas by the end of the year and is permitted to continue working, has 10 days to respond.
DEQ issues violation against Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday July 10, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) — The company that’s building the Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing new citations from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. According to the DEQ, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC is accused of violating Virginia’s Stormwater Management Act and laws related to erosion and sediment control. In a news release the DEQ said the MVP violations revolve around “failure to take corrective actions within required time frames, failure to install (and improperly installed) best management practices in accordance with approved erosion and sediment control plans, release of sediment off the right-of-way, and sediment deposited in surface waters.”
Franklin County wants pipeline company to reimburse it for public safety costs
Sunday July 8, 2018
Franklin County plans to ask the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cover public safety costs it has incurred as a result of the project. The idea to bill the pipeline’s builders stemmed from a meeting between pipeline and county officials to discuss public safety. After concerns were raised that an influx of calls to law enforcement during construction would pose a financial burden to the county, a pipeline representative suggested such costs be passed on to them, according to multiple county officials in attendance.
One week after suspension, some work resumes on the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Saturday July 7, 2018
After coming to a brief halt, construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is resuming piecemeal along its approximately 100-mile route through the New River and Roanoke valleys. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which said the temporary suspension began June 29 after Mountain Valley failed to control runoff from work sites, identified two segments this week where improvements by the company were sufficient for work to restart. One area is in the Jefferson National Forest, and the other is between Mount Tabor and Catawba roads in Montgomery County.
Kastning: Climate alarms are based on facts, not politics
Saturday July 7, 2018
Ernst H. Kastning is a retired professor of geology from Radford University.
As an Earth scientist, it was with great interest that I read Steve Weismantel’s letter on the insignificant rise in sea-level attributed to melting of ice in Antarctica (June 20). I carefully checked his math and wholeheartedly agree that it is right on. Yes indeed, based on the current rate of the melting ice, global sea level may only rise less than two inches during the remainder of this century. But, this is a great ‘gotcha moment’ aimed at all of those alarmists out there. A definitive statement like this is one of the most effective ploys of persuasion used by ideologues to gain the attention of a casual reader. Weismantel demonstrated that he is well versed in his three ‘Rs.’ It’s the fourth R, reasoning (the most important one), that he chooses to eschew.
Water in pipeline trench raises concern on Bent Mountain
Friday July 6, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) One week after the Mountain Valley Pipeline suspended construction to correct problems with erosion and sediment control, pipeline opponents say water in a pipeline trench on Bent Mountain is raising concerns. Ground water has seeped into a trench at the point where the pipeline crosses under Route 221. Opponents say it raises questions about the integrity of pipeline construction, and the potential for contamination of drinking water.
Virginia Supreme Court upholds pipeline survey law, but with dissent
Friday July 6, 2018
The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld, for the third time, a hotly debated state law allowing natural gas companies to enter private property without landowner permission to survey possible routes for new pipelines. But the court delivered the 6-1 decision on Thursday after a linguistic battle with Justice Arthur Kelsey in a biting dissent that challenges the 2004 law’s central premise of allowing gas companies to enter private property without permission and a federal permit that allows them to exercise eminent domain.
Limpert: Pipeline protestors aren’t a security threat
Thursday July 5, 2018
William Limpert, a retired environmental regulator with an emphasis in water pollution and particularly pollution from construction projects. He lives in Bath County.
All Virginians should be alarmed that our Homeland Security tax dollars are being spent on surveillance of citizens who are opposed to the two natural gas pipelines. Recent revelations indicate that The Virginia Fusion Center, with an annual budget of $5.7 million of our tax dollars, has been trolling social media for information on persons who are interested in meetings of groups like the Sierra Club, and sharing that information with other law enforcement agencies. The rationale for this government snooping is that these persons may become involved in tree sitting, or other actions to try to delay or stop pipeline construction. This invasion of our privacy raises the specter of our country becoming a fascist state working not for We the People, but for the fossil fuel industry.
Letter: Lament for the lost trees
Thursday July 5, 2018
O, how I miss my felled lost trees, They stood strong amidst the breeze. Cut down in the very prime of arboreal life, They presage a project inciting constant strife.
Letter: Gov. Northam has forgotten the physicians’ maxim
Saturday June 30, 2018
Governor Tim Kaine gave Appalachia the “Crooked Road,” a gentle, leave-no-footprint boost to spur tourism and sustainable economic activity built on its mountain culture. In comparison, Governor/Doctor Ralph Northam stands mute allowing for a double sucker-punch to the gut to Appalachia: a land destructing “Mud Ridge Road” over Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains by building two unnecessary pipelines, the 600 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the 303 mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both of these projects are on a rampage of ruining personal property so natural gas can be exported to other countries for corporate profit.
Blacksburg woman released on bond after pipeline protest
Saturday June 30, 2018
A Blacksburg woman was released on bond late Thursday after being arrested at the end of a 14-hour protest that impeded construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County. Emily Satterwhite, 46, was charged with two misdemeanors: trespassing and entering Mountain Valley’s property with the intent to damage, according to a news release from Virginia State Police. The standoff began when Satterwhite locked herself to a piece of excavating equipment that was parked on a strip of cleared land where the controversial natural gas pipeline will cross over Brush Mountain.
MVP suspends pipeline installation in Virginia
Friday June 29, 2018
VIRGINIA (WDBJ7) — The Mountain Valley Pipeline has temporarily suspended construction activities as it corrects problems with erosion and sediment control. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says the work won’t resume until the agency gives its okay. On Friday, MVP crews were rebuilding a creek crossing near Mount Tabor Road in Montgomery County, but the company said it had agreed to suspend pipeline installation, including welding, trenching and stringing of pipe, while it repairs and enhances erosion controls. Montgomery County resident Lynda Majors said she doesn’t believe the work will address the problem. “This will not fix this project,” Majors told WDBJ7. “This project does not have adequate sedimentation control measures for the slope and for the rains that we normally have.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline suspends construction in Virginia
Friday June 29, 2018
Mountain Valley Pipeline announced Friday that it is suspending work on the natural gas pipeline in Southwest Virginia. The decision comes after consultation with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which has been asked to investigate dozens of complaints that construction caused problems with erosion and sediment released from work sites.
Pipeline protester removed from perch on excavator
Friday June 29, 2018
After spending all day locked to a piece of excavating equipment about 20 feet off the ground, a pipeline protester came down Thursday evening to cheers from supporters and charges from Virginia State Police. Virginia Tech professor Emily Satterwhite was taken into custody following her 14-hour blockade of construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as it crosses Brush Mountain. Early Thursday morning, Satterwhite climbed up the boom of a John Deere excavator, that had been left parked overnight on the pipeline construction’s right-of-way through Montgomery County.
Tech professor locks self to construction equipment to block Mountain Valley Pipeline on Brush Mountain
Thursday June 28, 2018
Emily Satterwhite, who teaches Appalachian studies and has been active in pipeline protests, took up her position early Thursday on a construction easement for the pipeline on Brush Mountain in Montgomery County. Details on how Satterwhite secured herself to the equipment were not immediately available. A representative of the group Appalachians Against Pipelines said Satterwhite’s affiliation with Virginia Tech has nothing to do with the blockade, and she is acting as a private citizen.
Blacksburg woman locks herself to pipeline equipment to halt Mountain Valley Pipeline construction
Thursday June 28, 2018
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) — A Mountain Valley Pipeline opponent has locked herself to equipment in an attempt to stop work in Montgomery County Thursday morning. Emily Satterwhite, 46 of Blacksburg, is the local resident that is carrying out the protest. Satterwhite is an Associate Professor at Virginia Tech. “Virginians have tried every way we know how to tell our elected representatives that these fracked gas pipelines are a mistake,” said Emily Satterwhite, a 46-year-old mother from Blacksburg, VA. “We may not have lobbyists outside your doors like Dominion does, but we can stop construction to tell you that southwest Virginia does not want the Mountain Valley Pipeline. MVP is bad for Virginia and bad for the planet. The State Water Control Board and DEQ can stop this pipeline. Governor Northam can stop this pipeline. Revoke water quality certification now and inspire a new generation of voters. Because if you don’t act to protect our water and our mountains, we will.”
Majors: Who is terrorizing whom?
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Lynda Major serves on the executive committee of Protect Our Water, Heritage Rights, a coalition of nonprofits from Virginia opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Both West Virginia and Virginia lie in the construction corridor of the 42-inch Mountain Valley Pipeline. Virginia faces an important upcoming decision by its Department of Environmental Quality and Water Control Board, but residents in both states have a shared interest in protecting our Constitutional rights as well as our vital natural resources and public safety. It’s doubtful that any citizen sitting in trees in the path of MVP ever behaved as though their efforts were a “game.” (“Judge to Tree Sitters, ‘This is not a game.’” Roanoke Times, May 29, 2018.) Residents and their supporters have put all they have on the line – accepting risk to life, limb, reputation, privacy, and livelihoods – in order to protect their property and our natural resources. At stake are the sanctity of eastern waters already compromised by mountain top removal and fracking; the future of the Appalachians, including historic parks like the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway; and inherent in all of that, the civil and human rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
Mountain Valley Pipeline foes file new legal challenge following last week’s win
Wednesday June 27, 2018
One week after an appeals court slowed down construction of a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia, it is being asked to do the same for the project’s path through Virginia. The request was made Tuesday in a petition filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the Sierra Club and three other conservation groups. Last week, the appeals court issued a stay that prohibits developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline from moving forward with plans to run the massive pipeline across rivers and streams in West Virginia.
Letter: Thank you for Mountain Valley Pipeline coverage
Wednesday June 27, 2018
…Once I came across your coverage of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, I knew I had to “put my money where my mouth is” and support your paper. Others can speak against the pipeline more eloquently than I, but it is important to thank your writers and editors for bringing this vitally important issue into the public spotlight over and over again. I’m glad the people in this area are being made aware of the devastation that is being wreaked on our region.
Mountain Valley Pipeline construction should be stopped in Virginia, too, lawyers say
Tuesday June 26, 2018
The Mountain Valley Pipeline can’t continue building in streams and wetlands in Virginia, lawyers for citizen groups and environmental organizations told a federal appeals court Tuesday. Lawyers for the Sierra Club, New River Conservancy, Appalachian Voices and Climate Action Network asked that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals review the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of a water-crossing permit, called the Nationwide 12 permit, specifically in the Corps’ Norfolk district. The filing comes on the heels of what some environmental groups considered a victory last week, when the federal appeals court granted a motion for preliminary relief, putting the Nationwide 12 permit on hold until the court can hear broader oral arguments about the Corps’ approval in September. But that filing specifically questioned the Corps’ approval in the Huntington district, which applied to about 600 water crossings in West Virginia. Now, the environmental groups are asking that the court to also review the Corps’ approval in its Norfolk district, which would apply to stream and wetlands in Virginia.
Construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline enters a new stage with highway crossings
Saturday June 23, 2018
Construction crews are boring beneath U.S. 221 in Roanoke County to make a tunnel through which the Mountain Valley Pipeline will pass. The project atop Bent Mountain is one of 59 highway crossings the natural gas pipeline will make on its way through the counties of Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke and Franklin. Most of the crossings will involve boring under the highways with little disruption to traffic, according to Jason Bond, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
State Police investigate bone found in pipeline path
Friday June 22, 2018
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ7) – Virginia State Police are working to determine if a bone found in the the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline belonged to a human. “This is where I found it,” said Daniel Angles. Angles went out after last night’s rain to survey a part of his Rocky Mount property, part of which is in the direct path of the pipeline. What was his wheat field is now a Mountain Valley Pipeline easement site. “I come out every couple days or something just to see what I can see after they quit work,” he said. What he saw was this a small, round object that didn’t look like anything he’d found there before. Angles said his family has lived here for several generations and they’ve been finding Native American artifacts on the property for decades.
Mark Joyner with the Association for the Study of Archaeological Properties says he’s been surveying this site for two and a half years. “And there are thousands of pieces of pottery, stone tools, arrowheads, dating back to 15,000 years ago,” Joyner said. He said several acres of the Angles’ property is registered as an archaeological site with the state Department for Historic Resources. He came immediately to document the piece, worrying it could’ve come from a burial site.
Letter: Brian Coy is the one who is not acting in good faith
Friday June 22, 2018
Governor Northam and his communications director, Brian Coy, recently took questions from the public on WTOP radio. During a break Mr. Coy was inadvertently recorded on an open mike. Although most of the questions were about the gas pipelines, Mr. Coy told WTOP that he wanted only one question about the pipelines, and that citizens opposed to the pipelines were not acting in good faith. These comments show a disregard for public opinion and contempt for those who are opposed to the many negative impacts these pipelines would bring to hard working Virginians.
Appeals court issues stay of permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline in W.Va.
Thursday June 21, 2018
A federal appeals court issued a stay Thursday delaying construction of parts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia. The case, brought by the Sierra Club and four other conservation groups, challenges a stream-crossings permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the underlying attack of the permit remains pending, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a late-afternoon stay that puts construction in southern West Virginia on hold until further court proceedings can be held. “The effect of today’s court order is to prohibit MVP from construction activities in 591 streams and wetlands in West Virginia and it may affect construction along the entire route of the pipeline,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.
Pipeline worker hurt in Montgomery County ATV accident
Wednesday June 20, 2018
A Mountain Valley Pipeline worker suffered what were described as non-life-threatening injuries Wednesday after an all-terrain vehicle crashed near a work area in Montgomery County. County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Hollandsworth reported that dispatchers got a call at 10:55 a.m. that there had been an ATV rollover crash in the Bacchus Lane/Flatwoods Road area. Natalia Cox, corporate director of communications for EQT, one of the companies that is overseeing the natural gas pipeline project, wrote in an email that the accident involved a utility vehicle on the pipeline construction right-of-way near Catawba Road.
Leech: West Virginia explosion shows danger of pipelines
Wednesday June 20, 2018
Irene Leech lives in Elliston and teaches consumer studies at Virginia Tech.
The Leach Express, a 36-inch pipeline operating with a maximum pressure of 1,440 pounds per square inch in rural Moundsville, West Virginia burst at 4:20 a.m on June 7. As it was put into service in January 2018, TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling said: “This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.” Neighbors said that after the initial boom it sounded like the roar of a big wind until it burned out about 6:00 a.m. Luckily, it happened in a wooded area with no occupied homes within a mile, so no one was hurt. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be 42-inches in diameter, will operate at 1,440 psi, and will be best-in-class It will bisect my family’s 116-year-old business in Buckingham County for 1.1 mile. The route selected crosses the very center of our business, placing our homes and all of our major farm buildings within the zone where everything is incinerated by such an explosion. We own enough land that this pipeline could be rerouted through our land, affecting no other property, so that it was no longer in the center of our business and so our buildings were on at least the edge of that blast zone instead of in the middle.
2 pipeline projects draw more than 13,000 public comments
Tuesday June 19, 2018
More than 13,000 written comments have been submitted to a state board that invited public input on how two huge natural gas pipelines will impact Virginia’s water bodies. It could take weeks to process the information and present it in a meaningful form to the State Water Control Board, a spokeswoman said Monday. Pipeline opponents are calling on the board to take swift action in reviewing a federal permit that governs how streams, rivers and wetlands will be crossed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Southwest Virginia and a similar natural gas transmission line to the east, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Del. Sam Rasoul calls for a stop work order on the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday June 18, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) — Citing concerns about water quality, more than two dozen activists gathers Monday afternoon to ask the state to stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The group, led by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D- Roanoke) says the Department of Environmental Quality and the state water board should stop work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline while they read over more than 11-thousand comments that have been submitted regarding water quality concerns.
Pipeline opponents share concern about pipeline impact on waterways
Monday June 18, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) — A federal agency is upholding a decision to approve the construction of the Mountain Valley pipeline. Dan Crawford takes daily walks along the Greenway and visits Wasena Park to practice the drum. He uses his time in the park to share his thoughts about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. “Some people don’t think we can stop them, “said Dan Crawford of the Sierra Club. “My opinion is first we have to try, and secondly as an individual we do have power. We just have to exercise it.” Last week The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided to uphold approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. The agency denied a request for a rehearing by pipeline opponents. : “On one hand I wasn’t surprised but it’s another serious slap in the face for the citizens of the country and especially Virginia,” sad Crawford. Other activists are speaking out about the pipeline impact on the environment.Cynthia Munley is coordinating a press conference with Delegate Sam Rasoul about the alleged erosion control violations from pipeline construction that haven’t been issued to MVP. “Our water resources for the region are in dire threat right now,” said Cynthia Munley of Preserve Salem. According to Munley the cost to remove sediment from the water ways would fall on tax payers. “My children and grandchildren are living here and I don’t want them living near incineration zones,” said Munley. “It affects future generations.” Organizers are hosting a press conference on Monday, June 18 at Wasena Park. They also said there will be a March in Richmond proposing the Water Control Board to take action.
FERC upholds approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline project
Saturday June 16, 2018
A federal agency that green-lighted construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline with a key approval last year has voted 3-2 to uphold its decision. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied a request for a rehearing filed by pipeline opponents in a 172-page order Friday. Although the ruling has no immediate impact on a construction project that is already well underway, it gives opponents the final decision they needed to pose a direct legal challenge.
Hileman: Why Northam should delay pipeline construction
Wednesday June 13, 2018
To Governor Ralph Northam:
On May 16, I had the privilege of being one of six individuals from Southwest Virginia to meet with you and present evidence related to Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). I truly appreciate how attentive you were to our concerns, including postponing your next meeting in order to spend more time with us. Our group was comprised of hydrologists, soils scientists, city planners and local representatives, and we collectively addressed the fact there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of erosion and sediment control practices on the steep slopes MVP crosses. We also addressed how the costs of mitigating severe impacts to water quality — and adapting to permanent changes in baseline quality — will be borne by the public.
Regulators cite Mountain Valley Pipeline a second time for erosion problems
Thursday June 7, 2018
For the second time since work began on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, regulators have put the company on notice that it is breaking rules meant to protect the environment. Crews building the natural gas pipeline failed to prevent sediment-laden water from running off a work site in Wetzel County, West Virginia, according to a notice of violation issued last week by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Charge dismissed against pipeline protester after arresting officer accused of lying
Thursday June 7, 2018
A charge that a pipeline protester blocked a U.S. Forest Service road was dismissed this week after the protester’s lawyer argued that it was based on a lie by the arresting officer. Prosecutors agreed that the charge should be dismissed. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou did so in an order entered Tuesday. The judge’s order does not spell out the reasons for the dropped prosecution of Rafael Snell-Feikema, who spent a night in jail after being arrested in March by a Forest Service special agent.
CASEY: Pipeline opponents try a different tactic
Thursday June 7, 2018
Is grassroots opposition to the development of the Mountain Valley Pipeline growing, as crews begin clearing a right-of-way for the 42-inch, pressurized natural gas pipeline? Some recent events make it seem that way.
Until last month, many of the folks opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline spent years focusing their energy on lobbying federal and state agencies, writing letters to the editor, battling in court, and more recently, tree-sitting in woods slated for right-of-way clearing. Time and again, they’ve been rebuffed. Now it appears they’ve turned to a new tactic — planned and impromptu events aimed at grabbing the public’s imagination. At least four of these have occurred in the past month. More are likely on the way.
Mountain Valley Pipeline resistance sees parallels with civil rights tactics
Thursday June 7, 2018
Since work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline began, opponents from all walks of life — including a Virginia Tech professor, a former candidate for the Roanoke City Council, a substance abuse counselor, a speech pathologist, a local artist and a Harvard University graduate — have been charged with a variety of non-violent misdemeanor offenses. More than 20 activists have been arrested or given citations for occupying tree stands that blocked the pipeline’s route, attempting to provide food and water to a protester on an elevated platform in the Jefferson National Forest and sometimes for simply standing too close to the pipeline right of way while they shadow construction crews.
Christopulos: A few questions for Mountain Valley pipeline supporters
Wednesday June 6, 2018
Dianna Christopulos is a local environmental activist. She lives in Salem.
This newspaper has asked many questions about Mountain Valley Pipeline, but not these:
For the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality: Why are the City of Roanoke and all other downstream communities being denied standing to comment when MVP’s own reports show that pollution from the project will cost Roanoke taxpayers more than $36 million per year to clean up after construction? Who pays that bill? MVP’s mitigation agreement with Virginia provides only $7.5 million for all damage done to Virginia waters during the life of the project.
Three Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters arrested in Monroe County
Tuesday June 5, 2018
LINDSIDE — Three Massachusetts residents were arrested Monday morning after attaching themselves to equipment to stage a work stoppage on the construction site of a natural gas pipeline road crossing in Monroe County. Sgt. C.K. McKenzie, with the Union Detachment of the West Virginia State Police, said the protesters were charged with trespassing, obstructing an officer and resisting arrest, all misdemeanors. Five were initially on the work easement, granted for the Mountain Valley Pipeline that will go under Rt. 219 just east of Lindside. But two protesters were not attached to anything and left when asked.
Letter: 7 arguments against pipeline
Monday June 4, 2018
With regard to the flooding and mudslides near the Mountain Valley Pipeline destruction sites in various areas including Franklin County, should anyone be surprised? This whole thing is so utterly nonsensical and abhorrent in so many ways.
Environmental watchdogs: A citizens’ group monitors the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Sunday June 3, 2018
SINKING CREEK — With a mountain meadow as his launching pad, Jason Shelton sent a drone up into the air and steered it toward a spot where construction of a natural gas pipeline is underway. “I want to go see what they’re doing,” said Shelton, who is part of a citizen group monitoring work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As the drone hovered about 300 feet above the work site, Shelton watched the screen of a hand-held remote control that displayed what was being captured by a camera aboard the tiny helicopter.
Letter: Mountain Valley Pipeline and the curse of Cassandra
Saturday June 2, 2018
The recent erosion at Mountain Valley Pipeline sites reminds me of the curse of Cassandra. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy by the gods. However, because she rejected Apollo, she was cursed so that no one would believe her predictions. She was destined to foretell the future but helpless to affect its outcome. Are those opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline modern day Cassandras?Events like the mudslide on Cahas Mountain Road in Franklin County were predicted to happen by many scientists and concerned citizens. For almost four years, our legislators and agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality have been warned that the Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens our environment and water. Like Cassandra’s prophecies, those warnings went unheeded and scientific evidence was ignored. Erosion and sedimentation from recent torrential rains and flooding have exposed the truth, however – that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is wrong for Virginia, its water, environment and citizens. Contamination and degradation of our water sources is a very real threat.
Anti-terrorism agencies involved in monitoring protesters of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday June 1, 2018
The distinct sound of a human stepping on a branch woke Minor Terry at 5 a.m. several days after she began a protest of the natural gas pipeline planned to run through her family’s property. Even the birds on Bent Mountain weren’t awake yet. She called down from her tree sit to ask who was there. A man responded, “Oh, hi, ma’am. We’re just checking on you.” Who is we, she asked. She fumbled for her glasses, found a flashlight and notified her family that stuff was going down. Four Roanoke County police officers were under the tree. It was the morning when contractors for the Mountain Valley Pipeline were to begin cutting trees. Terry, her mother, Red Terry, and other protesters who took to the trees to try to delay tree cutting for the pipeline earlier this year didn’t know it, but the law enforcement response they were about to encounter was coordinated by the Virginia Fusion Center, an entity tasked with fighting terrorism. And local sheriffs were recruited to informational meetings of the Fusion Center by the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Virginia’s Western District.
Pipeline protester removed from aerial blockade in Giles County
Friday June 1, 2018
Protester on an elevated platform that was blocking an access road to a pipeline construction site was brought down early Friday. Law enforcement officers with the U.S. Forest Service and Virginia State Police “safely removed” the woman on Pocahontas Road in the Jefferson National Forest about 8:30 a.m., a Forest Service spokeswoman said. According to a post to the Facebook page of Appalachians Against Pipelines, which has been documenting protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, authorities used a cherry picker to reach Fern MacDougal, who has been camped out on a platform suspended from trees since May 21. MacDougal was taken into custody. Details on what she was charged with were not immediately available.
Two pipeline opponents arrested in Franklin County
Friday June 1, 2018
FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Two people were arrested Thursday along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, after a Roanoke federal judge issued a new order and authorized U.S. marshals to enforce it. Crews have been cutting in the area where tree sitters were protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline just a week ago. Thursday morning, federal marshals and state troopers were stationed nearby, as heavy equipment cleared the pipeline right of way. Judge Elizabeth Dillon directed the U.S. Marshals Service to enforce an earlier court order prohibiting interference, and she authorized the marshals to keep people “a reasonable and safe distance” away from any tree-cutting. The marshals service alleges the two who were arrested Thursday failed to comply with an officer’s order.
Bent Mountain landowner, pipeline company spar over disputed burial ground
Thursday May 31, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) The Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing time-of-year restrictions, a May 31st deadline to finish tree felling in the project’s right-of-way. So the cutting continues on Bent Mountain in areas where the work hasn’t been completed. Wednesday morning, crews were working on the property of the Chandler family, taking down trees near a spring and sensitive wetlands.On another part of the same property, the pipeline right of way passes an area identified by tribal representatives as a native American burial ground.
Mountain Valley Pipeline sued by Franklin County landowners for erosion damage
Wednesday May 30, 2018
Six Franklin County landowners are suing Mountain Valley Pipeline, claiming their property was damaged by the company’s failure to control storm water runoff from a construction site. Mountain Valley has shown a “startling disregard” for the impacts of building a natural gas pipeline on its neighbors, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke. After heavy rains that started May 15, a swath of bare land that crews had cleared for the pipeline’s right of way became a channel for erosion, covering nearby Cahas Mountain Road with about 8 inches of mud.
Franklin County won’t lease property to Mountain Valley Pipeline for storage yard
Tuesday May 29, 2018
ROCKY MOUNT — Franklin County will not lease a 10-acre portion of property to Mountain Valley Pipeline for a temporary storage yard. The board of supervisors voted on the matter following a Tuesday night public hearing where more than a dozen people asked them not to give the company access to county-owned land.The seven-member board found itself in an unusual situation: they had a tie vote. Union Hall District Supervisor Tommy Cundiff abstained because he signed an easement agreement with Mountain Valley Pipeline on a piece of property he jointly owns with his mother.
U.S. Army pulls Mountain Valley natgas pipeline permit in West Virginia
Tuesday May 29, 2018
(Reuters) – The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers pulled a permit last week for EQT Midstream Partners LP’s Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia that could delay the $3.5 billion project’s expected late 2018 in-service date. “This is a big one,” Katie Bays, energy analyst at Height Capital Markets in Washington, DC, said in a report on Monday, noting “The loss of the (Nationwide Permit) is not easy to reconcile and could delay the project.” The permit, known as Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12, authorizes Mountain Valley to discharge dredged and fill materials into several rivers, including the Gauley, Greenbrier and Elk, at 591 locations.
Letter: Can the earth win?
Tuesday May 29, 2018
The long struggle to stop the pipelines from becoming a reality in our region appears to be over. Though protests continue, the power of FERC, supported by state, environmental regulators and the legal system has apparently prevailed, leaving thousands of Appalachians, especially those living in or near the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline deeply disappointed, some in despair.
Judge to tree-sitters: This is ‘not a game’
Monday May 28, 2018
The last of three tree-sitters on a Rocky Mount farm abandoned his elevated platform late Monday morning, clearing the way for Mountain Valley Pipeline crews to continue toppling trees there. The unidentified protester, known as Ink, climbed down just hours before he was due to appear in court on contempt charges for ignoring U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s previous orders to clear the way. He was replaced briefly by a female protester, known only as Sprout. But she didn’t stay long after U.S. Marshals also ordered her to appear in court Monday afternoon.
Tree sitter continues pipeline protest in Franklin County
Friday May 25, 2018
FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Four Corners Farm was quiet for most of the day. A tree sitter remained high above Teel Creek. And there was little activity in the Mountain Valley Pipeline right-of-way. Then, late Friday afternoon, crews working for MVP returned with federal marshals. On Thursday, the tree sitter known as “Ink” recorded crews working close to the tree stand. And on the ground, other pipeline opponents were watching the work, to make sure pipeline crews follow state and federal regulations.
Montgomery County landowners fear water woes from pipeline construction
Thursday May 24, 2018
MONTGOMERY CO., Va. (WDBJ7) David Hancock was concerned last Friday when he saw muddy water in a spring-fed pond on his neighbor’s property. “You know I’m 62 years old and we’ve never have seen mud in this area before,” Hancock told us. “There’s no development or disturbed areas around here so it had to come underground.”Hancock alerted Linda Sink, whose family has owned land in the area for almost 75 years…Sink’s property doesn’t lie in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but it’s close. And the work is moving quickly nearby, where the chainsaws have been replaced by heavy equipment.
Army Corps of Engineers temporarily suspends part of crucial permit for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday May 23, 2018
Decision Could Delay Construction of Fracked Gas Pipeline, but Does Not Go Far Enough
CHARLESTON, WV — The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has indefinitely suspended portions of a permit required for construction of the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). MVP’s own documents show that they can not complete crossings for the Gauley, Greenbrier, Elk, and Meadow rivers in the time allotted under the permit. The Corps’s decision is the direct result of a request sent on May 15 by lawyers for Sierra Club and other environmental groups asking the Corps to stay the entire permit until a federal court determines whether it was lawfully issued. The suspension means MVP may have to seek individual permits for those four crossings. However, advocates for clean air and water say that the Corps’s action falls short of what they have asked a federal appeals court for because it lacks a commitment to wait for the federal court to rule and does not apply to all of the pipeline’s stream crossings.
Construction halted at Mountain Valley Pipeline work site following severe erosion in Franklin County
Sunday May 20, 2018
State regulators have put a stop to construction of part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline swamped by a rainstorm, saying work cannot continue until proper erosion control measures are established. Crews were using heavy equipment to cut trees and clear land along the natural gas pipeline’s right of way in Franklin County when heavy rains Thursday night and Friday morning swept away much of the soil they had unearthed. Both lanes of nearby Cahas Mountain Road were covered by up to eight inches of mud.
Letter: Regulators bowed to pipeline company pressure
Sunday May 20, 2018
At a hearing on May 8, Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit described a relationship between the Forest Service and MVP that is valid for every government agency with a duty to protect the public from the destruction caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Mountain Valley Pipeline cited for environmental violations in West Virginia
Thursday May 17, 2018
Just two months after construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline began, regulators cited the project for failing to control erosion at two work sites. A notice of violation, issued April 25 by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, marks the first such action related to work on a natural gas pipeline that opponents have predicted will cause widespread environmental damage. The notice was included in a status report filed this week by Mountain Valley with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the lead agency overseeing construction of the 303-mile pipeline through the two Virginias.
Lawsuit questions treatment of Mountain Valley Pipeline protester
Wednesday May 16, 2018
A lawsuit is raising questions about the treatment of a woman who has spent the last 50 days protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline from her perch on a pole that is blocking a construction road. Identified only as “Nutty,” the woman is staging her barricade in the Jefferson National Forest, where authorities have denied her food and water, according to the legal action filed Wednesday in Roanoke’s federal court. In addition to cutting off supplies to a suspended platform where the woman is camped, U.S. Forest Service officials are “attempting to drive Nutty out of the monopod by burning fires near the pole, sending smoke up into the monopod, and by fixing bright spotlights on Nutty’s monopod in the darkness,” the lawsuit states.
Judge fines Franklin County couple for allowing tree-sit protests of pipeline
Wednesday May 16, 2018
A couple who said they were surprised, but not that upset, to see pipeline protesters in the trees of their Franklin County farm have been found in contempt of court. Carolyn and Ian Reilly took both passive and active steps to support the tree-sitters’ goal of blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through their land, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon determined Tuesday. The Reillys were fined $1,000 each.
Federal appeals court invalidates Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s ‘incidental take’ review
Tuesday May 15, 2018
A federal appeals court Tuesday invalidated a key U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review of the 600-mile Dominion Energy-led Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a decision environmental lawyers who argued the case say should halt construction of the contentious natural gas project. But Dominion vowed to continue to press forward on the project, asserting Tuesday night that the ruling only covers portions of the pipeline’s proposed route. A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sided with pipeline opponents, who argued that the federal review known as an incidental take statement — meant to set limits on killing threatened or endangered species during construction and operation — was so vague as to be unenforceable.
Pipeline Protesters Take to The Trees
Tuesday May 15, 2018
As the sun sets on a remote peak along the West Virginia-Virginia border, a tense standoff unfolds between an armed squadron of U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and a band of campers. Generators are flicked on and prison-style floodlights blast the campers, as well as the protester they are guarding, a young woman in a tree who goes by “Nutty.”
Editorial: What would it take to change Northam’s mind on pipelines? Some advice for pipeline opponents
Friday May 11, 2018
So . . . the two women on Bent Mountain who were protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline by camping out in trees in its route have come down rather than face $1,000-a-day fines. That’s understandable — $1,000 a day is a lot of money. Now that the Terrys are down, five other tree-sitting protesters remain — two on national forest land, three on private land in Franklin County. These tree-sitters are colorful; they’ve generated news coverage as far away as Great Britain and perhaps beyond. But here’s a reality check for them and their supporters: As civil disobedience goes, though, this was actually a pretty weak effort.
Letter: DEQ isn’t doing its job on pipeline
Thursday May 10, 2018
We warned the Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly concerning the dangers of allowing construction of the two recently approved pipelines to begin without further study. We told DEQ of the omissions, distortions and downright fabrications contained in the paperwork submitted by the pipeline companies to the various governmental oversight agencies and ultimately to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We pointed out several examples of how FERC regulations have been subverted or ignored. DEQ, like the Forestry Department, the Department of the Interior, and ultimately FERC itself dismissed our data based concerns and allowed pipeline construction to begin for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Tree cutting along both routes began in February.
Letter: Disappointed in judge’s ruling
Thursday May 10, 2018
I have been captivated as well as strengthened by Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter Minor, who have protested the efforts of Mountain Valley Pipeline and its deep pocketed attorneys. The Terry women have shown beautiful Roanoke County how much their land is loved and cherished. I have been stunned by their bravery and their gutsy souls. Specifically, “Red” at 61 years. To say I was disappointed in Judge Elizabeth Dillon’s ruling against the tree sitters would be kind.
Opponents of two pipeline projects rally in Richmond
Wednesday May 9, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) On a street corner near the Richmond Convention Center, pipeline opponents vied for the attention of drivers, and Dominion Energy shareholders who were meeting nearby. Red and Minor Terry were there, with others from southwestern Virginia who are fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
A summary of legal actions involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday May 8, 2018
Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline has sparked numerous legal actions and challenges. Here is a summary of the major civil cases that are pending:
Federal appeals court hears 2 pipeline cases
Tuesday May 8, 2018
RICHMOND — The legal fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline ramped up Tuesday, with lawyers in two cases asking a federal appeals court to slow down the project’s run through Southwest Virginia. In back-to-back oral arguments, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was first asked to reverse a decision by the State Water Control Board, which issued a water quality certification after finding a “reasonable assurance” that the natural gas pipeline would not pollute the 500-some streams and wetlands it will cross. The same three-judge panel then heard a challenge of the U.S. Forest Service’s approval for the buried pipeline to cut through the Jefferson National Forest.
Protesters leaving tree-stands on Bent Mountain after being found in contempt of court
Saturday May 5, 2018
One day after being found in contempt of court, mother and daughter Red Terry and Minor Terry came down from tree stands that they had occupied for the last five weeks on Bent Mountain, blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Their decision to come down comes one day after a federal judge found them in contempt of court. Judge Elizabeth Dillon threatened to fine both women $1,000 a day if they did not come down before midnight tonight. The judge found both Terrys in violation of an earlier order that game Mountain Valley Pipeline the power to take their land for the pipeline through eminent domain. At 3:45 pm, after tossing her belongings from the tree stand, Minor Terry rappelled 30 feet down to where Roanoke County police officers were waiting. They handed her a summons on misdemeanor charges and allowed her to go free.
Hileman: Northam should revoke MVP permits
Saturday May 5, 2018
By Jacob Hileman, an environmental hydrologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He was raised in the Catawba Valley of Virginia, and is presently a researcher at Stockholm University working on global water sustainability issues.
To Matt Stricker, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources: On April 22, you published a commentary in the Roanoke Times seeking to justify the mitigation payments negotiated by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe to facilitate the development of two titanic natural gas pipelines in Virginia. The following information illustrates the depths of the pay-to-play mitigation scheme negotiated by Gov. McAuliffe, which you have put your reputation on the line to defend.
MVP Company asks judge to hold Franklin Co farm owners in contempt of court
Friday May 4, 2018
For the second time in a week, a protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline has landed in federal court.
Judge finds ‘Red’ Terry and her daughter in contempt for tree-sit protests of pipeline
Friday May 4, 2018
A judge has given a mother and daughter until midnight Saturday to come down from two trees where they have been blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In an opinion released late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon found 61-year-old Theresa “Red” Terry and her 30-year-old daughter, Theresa Minor Terry, in contempt of a court order that granted the pipeline company access to their family’s land on Bent Mountain.
Bent Mountain landowner says Native American site deserves protection
Thursday May 3, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) As tree-cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues on Bent Mountain, a landowner is trying to protect what experts believe is a native American burial site. The chainsaws haven’t reached Kathy Chandler’s property yet. And she still hopes MVP will adjust the route of the pipeline to avoid the site that was recently identified by tribal representatives. “A cemetery, a place of rest deserves the respect more than to have in this case a pipeline within 10 or 12 feet of what they’ve determined the margins to be,” Chandler told WDBJ7 on Thursday. “And I might add it hasn’t been fully explored.”
Pipeline opponents: ‘Northam is going to have to answer for what this looks like’
Thursday May 3, 2018
HIGHLAND COUNTY — In this corner of the George Washington National Forest, the slope rises sharply from the bank of a briskly bubbling stream about a mile from the West Virginia line. Nearby, trees have been felled along a 125-foot wide swath up to the edge of a U.S. Forest Service access road to make way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the hotly-contested, 600-mile natural gas project between West Virginia and North Carolina. Spearheaded by Dominion Energy, the pipeline will cut through some of Virginia’s most mountainous terrain and hundreds of its waterways…
…Last year, a DEQ spokesman initially announced the state would conduct its own stream-by-stream review, though the agency later called that a communications error. Instead, the DEQ is relying on an Army Corps of Engineers nationwide permit for the crossings, a much-criticized decision that is still an unsettled argument a year later. The water quality debate has become the game within the game for opponents, because denial of a state water quality certification could stop the projects. With a standoff dragging on between Theresa “Red” Terry, a Roanoke County property owner who took to a tree to block Mountain Valley Pipeline tree clearing, and chainsaw-toting contractors, among other protests, 20 Democratic state lawmakers urged Northam two weeks ago to conduct “a full, on the ground, stream-by-stream analysis of all water crossings” for the projects…
Judge hears arguments for and against two pipeline protesters sitting in trees
Wednesday May 2, 2018
Two pipeline protesters stuck to their positions in trees atop Bent Mountain on Tuesday while, in the valley below them, lawyers went to a federal courthouse to argue their fate. Attorneys for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said that 61-year-old Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter, Theresa Minor Terry, are blocking tree cutting for the natural gas pipeline and should be found in contempt of court. They cited an order from U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon that gave Mountain Valley the power, through the laws of eminent domain, to run its pipeline through private land owned by the Terry family.
Va. state senator files suit against Forest Service in support of pipeline protests
Wednesday May 2, 2018
A Virginia state senator filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday, claiming that federal officials are illegally blocking access to a road in the Jefferson National Forest where several people are protesting construction of a natural gas pipeline. State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), who is a lawyer, filed the suit at the federal courthouse in Roanoke after being prohibited from using the road to reach the protesters last week.
Mountain Valley Pipeline asks judge to hold tree-sitters in contempt of court
Tuesday May 1, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Matt Fleenor hit the sidewalk outside the Poff Federal Building Tuesday afternoon, to show his support for the Terry family and his opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. “I don’t think the people of the valley understand how close the pipeline is,” he said, “and the danger it might present to our natural resources.” Inside the building, the first-floor courtroom was packed, but Red and Minor Terry weren’t there. The mother and daughter have been in their tree stands since early April, and continue their pipeline protest on their family’s property.
Forest Service apologizes for damage to Appalachian Trail during patrols of pipeline protests
Tuesday May 1, 2018
The U.S. Forest Service apologized Tuesday for damaging the Appalachian Trail with all-terrain vehicles driven during patrols of a pipeline protest. In a news release, the agency admitted that its law enforcement officers used the ATVs from April 11 to April 30 on a short stretch of the scenic footpath that follows the ridge of Peters Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest. “We are still evaluating the damage, but this is clearly our mistake and I apologize that it happened,” Michael Donaldson, a special agent in charge of law enforcement for the agency’s Southern region, said in the news release.
DEQ invites more public comments on Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday May 1, 2018
State environmental regulators have opened another round of public comments on the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline. The Department of Environmental Quality will take written comments on a limited scope — whether a review process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is adequate to protect streams and rivers crossed by the 303-mile natural gas pipeline. The public comment period, which will also allow comments on the same question for the similar Atlantic Coast Pipeline, began Monday and will run through May 30.
Letter: What legacy will pipeline supporters leave
Tuesday May 1, 2018
You who have supported, promoted and will participate in the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have you ever thought about what kind of legacy you will be leaving? What will your children and grandchildren say about you? How will you be remembered? Will it be that you were a destroyer of the fragile beauty of our land? Will it be as a polluter of the environment? Will it be as one who contributed to the loss of the clean water by the demolition of the delicate aquifers which feed our wells and streams? That would be a shameful legacy. Do you really want that to be part of your history? Is that how you want to be remembered? Think well on this.
Pick Your Poison: MVP Threatens Health. A Doctor Calls Out Doctors and Decision-Makers
Monday April 30, 2018
In this revealing presentation, Dr. Tina Smusz describes the dangers to public health inflicted on communities by construction and operation of fracked gas pipelines and compressor stations.
ATV traffic on the Appalachian Trail is the latest Mountain Valley Pipeline controversy
Monday April 30, 2018
Tire tracks and muddy ruts along the Appalachian Trail mark the spot where the Mountain Valley Pipeline will meet the scenic footpath.Although motorized traffic is generally prohibited, Mountain Valley security crews and U.S. Forest Service officials have been driving all-terrain vehicles on the trail to reach an area where pipeline protesters are stationed at the top of Peters Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest. “Motorized use is antithetical to the wilderness experience of the Appalachian Trial,” said Andrew Downs, regional director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
A fight for power in rural Virginia
Monday April 30, 2018
By Tom Perriello and Tom Cormons. A company that builds fracked-gas pipelines is demanding the arrest of 61-year-old Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter for trespassing — on their own property in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Terry family is trying to block one of two pipelines proposed to transport fracked gas through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina from cutting through their homestead. More than a half-dozen others have taken to trees along the pipeline routes. Their cause has widespread support that transcends ideological divides. Legal challenges to the pipelines are pending, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Reps. H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) have issued a bipartisan request for a rehearing from the federal oversight body, and a chorus of state legislators and local officials is sounding the alarm.
Bishop: Pipeline will probably kill people
Monday April 30, 2018
By Mary Bishop who retired as a reporter at the Roanoke Times. The Mountain Valley Pipeline will probably kill people. I don’t mean from the explosions and leaks that occur along natural gas pipelines. And I don’t mean from the construction accidents that may well occur along the MVP’s insanely steep route through our mountains I mean from the forcible use of privately-owned land to build the pipeline.
The Forest Service Is Arresting Protesters Along the AT
Wednesday April 25, 2018
The fight to keep a 300-mile pipeline out of Jefferson National Forest is heating up. The Forest Service has cut off all food and water supplies to the protesters, and supporters are becoming desperate to help.
For two months, protesters have sat in platforms perched among the trees near Peters Mountain, located in Jefferson National Forest. Their goal is to block logging in the area that will prepare the way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile operation that will feed natural gas through the forest and cross the Appalachian Trail. And for two months the protests were peaceful, until last Sunday.
Tree-sit protest against Mountain Valley Pipeline loses one of its stands
Wednesday April 25, 2018
A tree-sitter who blocked the path of a natural gas pipeline for nearly two months is no longer in a tree stand, which was quickly disassembled after the protester came down on Sunday. Mountain Valley Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox said that one of two protesters in the Jefferson National Forest “voluntarily vacated their tree sit.” “The sit and all evidence found inside the sit was being removed from the tree and taken by the [U.S. Forest Service] police,” Cox wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Roanoke County police deliver pizza, sandwiches to pipeline protesters in tree stands
Tuesday April 24, 2018
After provisions ran low in two tree stands occupied by pipeline protesters, Roanoke County police used plastic buckets on a rope to send up pizza and bologna sandwiches to the two women.
Strickler: Virginia steps in where Trump fails
Monday April 23, 2018
As Secretary of Natural Resources, I am responsible for overseeing agencies and taking actions that protect the Commonwealth’s environment. I take this job seriously because Gov. Northam and I know how important it is to Virginians’ quality of life and our economy. For that reason, I feel compelled to make sure that readers fully understand the Commonwealth’s approach to securing mitigation for damages caused by the proposed Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines.
Tree-sit protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline pose a new challenge for police
Saturday April 21, 2018
Since tree-cutting began for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, local police have been faced with a new question: What to do when a protester climbs up a tree destined for a chainsaw and refuses to come down? There seems to be no established protocol for such a situation in Southwest Virginia, where the closest thing has been the occasional call for a cat up a tree. But according to law enforcement officials involved in similar standoffs elsewhere, the best response is the one being used here: avoid the use of force and wait the tree-sitters out.
Roanoke County police charge 2 women in trees blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday April 20, 2018
Roanoke County police have filed criminal charges against a mother and daughter holed up in trees to block a natural gas pipeline from crossing their family land. But the women remained beyond the reach of the law Thursday from their perches.
Resistance against the Mountain Valley Pipeline grows for tree sitters
Thursday April 19, 2018
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) — A new stand against the Mountain Valley Pipeline has started in Franklin County. Three tree sitters hover in the path of the pipeline’s destruction, towering over 75 feet off the ground of a small family farm’s livestock pasture, overlooking Little and Teel creeks, and home to the endangered Roanoke Logperch. These tree sitters join others on Peters Mountain, and on Bent Mountain. The first stage of construction for the MVP began with tree clearing in Franklin County in late March. On Thursday, MVP security personnel taped to the trees a notice of violation of Judge Dillon’s Federal Court Order stating tree sitters “should vacate the property immediately.” The occupants in the trees at Little Teel Crossing say they are prepared to remain as long as “this pipeline threatens family farms, land, and water.”
Roanoke County defends handling of Bent Mountain pipeline protest
Thursday April 19, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Red Terry climbed into her tree stand over two weeks ago. Along with her daughter, who is located in a different tree stand nearby, she is preventing Mountain Valley Pipeline crews from completing tree-felling on the family’s Bent Mountain property. When a group of lawmakers raised concerns about the state’s oversight of the pipeline project on Wednesday in Richmond, speakers also criticized local authorities for cutting off supplies from the tree-sitters’ supporters.
Anger over pipelines spills into General Assembly
Thursday April 19, 2018
RICHMOND — Intensifying public anger over the pending construction of two massive natural gas pipelines through Virginia boiled over into the General Assembly Wednesday, when more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers asked Gov. Ralph Northam for more oversight of stream crossings and tree cutting and to protect the rights of landowners protesting the projects.
As tree-cutting continues for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, so do the protests
Sunday April 15, 2018
Early on the morning of April 11, Mary Beth Coffey came home to the sound of chainsaws and large pine trees crashing to the ground. Coffey knew, as soon as she read an urgent text from a neighbor and left work in a rush, that it was the day she had been dreading — the day that tree-cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline would invade her family farm on Bent Mountain.
Regulators want to hear from public on pipeline reviews
Friday April 13, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A panel of Virginia regulators wants to hear from the public about whether they believe the water quality approvals granted for two natural gas pipelines are adequate to protect the state’s waterways. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the State Water Control Board on Thursday approved a 30-day period to solicit comment on the approvals granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.
Denham et al: Faith demands action on Pipeline
Friday April 13, 2018
Dear Governor and First Lady Northam: We trust you have both seen accounts of two prayer vigils held recently in southwestern Virginia — in Newport and Bent Mountain — to allow landowners already experiencing the devastating effects of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on their land, their communities, and our shared environment to come together to express their heartfelt grief and yet renew their commitment…
Denham is pastor of the United Church of Christ and co-paster of Tree of Life Church in Roanoke. Dickerson is pastor of Northside Presybterian Church in Blacksburg. Fleischer is pastor of Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church. Greene is deacon intern with the Episcopal Church. Hallerman is lay leader with the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center. Rathjen is a retired pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Philips is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Blacksburg. Webster is pastor of the First Christian Church in Newport.
Police warn tree sitter to come down from tree
Thursday April 12, 2018
Tree cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline continued today on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County. And the work moved closer to the tree sitter who has been protesting the project for almost two weeks.
Police make arrests as protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline intensify
Thursday April 12, 2018
As protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline intensified this week, local and federal authorities charged three people in what have so far been peaceful demonstrations. Roanoke County police were called Wednesday to a farm off Russwood Road in the Bent Mountain community, where a crowd of about 15 people had gathered in a face-off with crews that were cutting trees along the pipeline’s path.
MVP plans to extend its natural gas pipeline into N.C.
Thursday April 12, 2018
What has been a long and contentious process of building a natural gas pipeline through the two Virginias is about to get even longer. Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC announced Wednesday that it plans an extension of the 303-mile pipeline currently under construction, connecting with the project’s end point in Pittsylvania County and heading another 70 miles south into North Carolina.
Pipeline opponents arrested as tree-cutting continues on Bent Mountain
Wednesday April 11, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Roanoke County Police arrested two people Wednesday, following a standoff between opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and a work crew felling trees. One protestor was taken into custody after refusing to move away from the edge of the pipeline corridor. Another was charged with giving false identification to police during an earlier incident.
Tree cutting for Mountain Valley Pipeline continues despite March deadline
Monday April 9, 2018
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) The crews taking down trees along Mount Tabor Road in Montgomery County were back on Saturday, felling large trees along the edges of the pipeline corridor. Pipeline opponents say they were surprised that the work continued after a March 31st deadline designed to protect endangered species, in part because caves in the area are home to hibernating bats.
Letter: EQT leaves a bad taste
Monday April 9, 2018
It just smacks me the wrong way and leaves a bad taste in my mouth to know that the public face of EQT in their home region is one that supports family fun on the water. Yes, apparently for the past 40 years, EQT has been a major sponsor of a Pittsburgh event known as Three Rivers Regatta, billed as a three-day land, air and water festival. Isn’t that a hoot? At its source, the fracking process injects toxic chemicals into and spoils water resources in West Virginia. In addition to the destruction of natural resources along the MVP route, once those “little blasts” start, I, like so many others in our area, can’t help but worry if we will even have water from our wells.
Anti- Pipeline Activists Hope to Delay Construction by Living in its Path
Friday April 6, 2018
Activists who oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline are living in the Jefferson National Forest, hoping to delay the project. Two tree sitters have been on Peters Mountain in West Virginia for more than a month. And one woman has been living on a monopod, in a section of forest where pipeline construction is slated to take place. On March 31st, Forest Service officials closed an access road making it impossible for supporters to deliver food and water to her.
DEQ is open to citizen pipeline monitors, director says
Friday April 6, 2018
State environmental regulators will accept help from citizen monitors now being trained to watch construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for violations of erosion, sedimentation and stormwater laws, a state official said.
Northam orders upgrade of DEQ amid criticism from pipeline opponents
Thursday April 5, 2018
LEXINGTON — Gov. Ralph Northam moved Wednesday to strengthen a state agency dealing with the construction of two natural gas pipelines, a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and other environmental challenges. In his sixth executive order since taking office in January, Northam called for a “revitalization” of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Sokolow: North Carolina document dump proves McAuliffe’s pipeline immunity deals are McAwful
Wednesday April 4, 2018
By Jonathan Sokolow, a writer and health care attorney living in Fairfax County. He spent more than 20 years working to defend pension and health rights for retired coal miners in Southwest Virginia and throughout Appalachia and is the author of several articles on the law and politics of the pipeline debate in Virginia.
When your attorney writes you a lousy contract, there’s only one thing worse: another attorney telling you that your attorney screwed up. If you are former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the lousy contract concerned Dominion Energy and its now $7 billion and growing fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, you might feel embarrassed when Virginians learn — after the secret deal becomes public — that you agreed to cap Dominion’s liability for damages before the pipeline was even built.
A tree-sit protest of the Mountain Valley Pipeline has spread to Roanoke County
Monday April 2, 2018
Another pipeline protester has taken to the trees.
The latest person to climb up a tree in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — hoping to prevent tree cutting as construction of the project begins — got off the ground Monday on private land in Roanoke County.
Protesters maintain stands as timbering deadline nears
Sunday April 1, 2018
Tree- and pole-sitters are trying to delay tree cutting along gas pipeline’s right of way.
PETERS MOUNTAIN —As the clock ticked closer to a midnight deadline for tree cutting for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, opponents blocking the way Saturdayvowed to hold their stand in the Jefferson National Forest.
Mountain Valley Pipeline protester charged with blocking Forest Service road
Thursday March 29, 2018
After spending the night in jail, a protester was released Thursday to await trial on charges of blocking a U.S. Forest Service road that leads to a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site…
…The company sought a preliminary injunction that would have forced the protesters out, but a West Virginia judge denied the request last week. Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons said there was not sufficient proof that the tree-sitters were in an area where logging by Mountain Valley was permitted. In a written opinion Wednesday, Irons expanded on comments he made from the bench last week. Irons was skeptical of the company’s argument that there was a public interest in building a pipeline that would supply needed natural gas. “There is no showing that there is a national shortage of gas, an emergency requiring immediate need of delivery of gas … or some other factor causing irreparable harm,” he wrote. In fact, the judge continued, the public’s interest was more closely aligned with the tree-sitters. The protesters “generally represent the interest of the public and the environment, such as the interest in protecting the waters underlying Peters Mountain, its flora and fauna, its view shed, the Appalachian Trail and similar interests that will or may be destroyed, if this request for a preliminary injunction is granted,” Irons wrote.
MVP: We call for an Easter ceasefire
Thursday March 29, 2018
By Bonnie Law, Chairperson of Preserve Franklin and with Protect Our Water, Heritage Rights. She lives in Franklin County. During this Holy Week, citizens and faith leaders across Southwest Virginia and West Virginia call for Mountain Valley Pipeline activities to cease work.
Tree-sit protest of Mountain Valley Pipeline escalates, drawing police response
Wednesday March 28, 2018
PETERS MOUNTAIN — She didn’t want to state her name, the woman who was sitting near the top of a 50-foot pole planted in the middle of a gravel road. She did state her purpose: “I hope to make it a lot harder for MVP to do any work on this road,” she said, speaking from inside a tarp that covered a wooden platform attached to the pole.
Tree sitters protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline add location in Giles County
Wednesday March 28, 2018
GILES CO. (WDBJ7) A location for a group to sit in trees to protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline has been added in Giles County. Overnight Tuesday, opponents of the project anchored a 50-foot pole near a U.S. Forest Service gate on Pocahontas Road and stationed a tree sitter on top.
Gas pipeline forges ahead as environmentalists call on Northam to slow process
Tuesday March 27, 2018
RICHMOND — Environmental groups had planned an event here Tuesday to call on Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to slow the permitting process for two major natural gas pipelines, only to learn that one of the projects got its permits the night before.
DEQ pipeline approvals bring strong reaction in Montgomery County
Tuesday March 27, 2018
MONTGOMERY CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Even when we couldn’t see the crews and their chainsaws, we could hear their handiwork in the Mt. Tabor section of Montgomery County. And landowners like Donna Jones aren’t happy to see their trees coming down.
As a tree-sit protest of the Mountain Valley Pipeline continues, a crowd is gathering
Saturday, March 24, 2018
A tree-top protest of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is drawing so much public attention that the U.S. Forest Service has designated a spot for supporters to gather. The Caldwell Fields Campground in the Jefferson National Forest has been established as a “safe location … for people to exercise their First Amendment rights” about protesters who are sitting in two trees along the pipeline’s route in an attempt to block its construction, the Forest Service said Friday.
UPDATE: Despite Hearing & Snow, Tree-Sitters Still Tree-Sitting
Friday, March 23, 2018
It was unexpected to have people sitting in trees in the first place, but several people have been camping in the treetops on Peters Mountain since February 26. It’s all in an effort to stop progress on construction of the 303-mile-long Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).
More pipeline conflicts play out in Giles County Thursday
Thursday March 22, 2018
GILES CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Law enforcement officers from the U.S. Forest Service traveled to the top of Peters Mountain, where tree sitters are camping in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The officers posted additional notices closing the area, but they did not attempt to remove the activists Thursday afternoon.The officers used a forest service road in Giles County to access the Appalachian Trail. While they were on the mountain, pipeline opponents gathered nearby to support the tree sitters.
W.Va. judge denies injunction to remove pipeline protesters from trees
Tuesday March 20, 2018
UNION, W.Va. — An attempt to flush pipeline protesters from their stands in trees atop Peters Mountain fell short Tuesday. Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons denied a preliminary injunction requested by Mountain Valley Pipeline, which sought the court’s intervention to remove what has become a troublesome obstacle to its plans to build a natural gas pipeline through West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.
Bent Mountain dig raises new concerns from pipeline opponents
Monday March 19, 2019
ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A crew working for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is now conducting an archaeological dig on Bent Mountain. The work has raised fresh concerns from landowners in the area who object to the operation and want to know more about what’s happening there.
Prayer and Preparation: Monitoring The MVP
Monday March 19, 2018
The small town of Newport, Virginia is bracing itself for what’s about to happen there; the recently approved, Mountain Valley Pipeline will cross through the heart of the village, carrying natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania through Virginia.
New citizen monitoring group to watch for violations during pipeline construction
Monday March 19, 2018
NEWPORT — Doug Martin told a crowd of more than 100 people about his daily walks through Newport, the village where his family has lived for eight generations. The local historian walks by businesses, homes, covered bridges and historic buildings. But soon, he’s worried, it’s all going to change.
The imminent pipeline danger to the Greater Newport Historic District
Sunday March 18, 2018
By Karolyn W. Givens; a member of Preserve Newport Historic Properties and a Radford University professor emeritus.
As a citizen of Southwest Virginia, as a member of Preserve Newport Historic Properties, and as the owner of the historic Leffel Farm located in the Greater Newport Rural Historic District, I strongly believe the voices of the citizens of our region have not been heard.
Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters continue tree-top vigil in W.Va.
Friday March 16, 2018
LINDSIDE, W.Va. — Foes of the planned Mountain Valley gas pipeline proclaimed their cause righteous and their resolve intact on the 17th day of a protest from a tree Thursday.
‘Somebody’s Up There Sittin’ in a Tree’ – A Look at the Ongoing Pipeline Protest on Peters Mountain
Friday March 16, 2018
Since late February, a small group of people have been quietly perched in two trees atop Peters Mountain in Monroe County. They are so remote, few have seen or heard directly from the protesters, but still there’s plenty of people noticing.
Tree sitters continue pipeline protest on Peters Mountain
Friday March 16, 2018
MONROE CO., W. Va. With a sharp eye, or better yet a long lens, you can see the tree sitters from the road below Peters Mountain, but to get up close and within earshot is a bit more complicated. Monroe County resident Maury Johnson drove us as far as a private logging road would take us.
Physician concerned about pipeline health hazards
Wednesday March 14, 2018
The 303 mile path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is beginning to be cleared whether residents like it or not. Tina Smusz is a physician, who fell in love with the beauty of the mountains, so when something began to threaten that she began to do her research. It became clear to her that this pipeline could be very hazardous, especially if it were to leak. Smusz believes it should be stopped because the landscape is riddled with sinkholes and caverns which makes for difficult terrain to build an underground pipeline.
Majors, Chisholm and Bondurant: A dispatch from the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday March 14, 2018
Lynda Majors, Russell Chisholm and Roberta Bondurant serve on the Executive Committee of Protect Our Water, Heritage Rights, a coalition of nonprofits from the Virginias opposing the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler: The abuses of federal eminent domain for private pipeline profit coupled with “environmental mitigation” schemes set frightening precedent for our commonwealth and nation. Since the Mountain Valley Pipeline appeared in 2014, Virginia state and federal courts have avoided decisions against the gas industry, including the question of “public need,” rationalizing it as administratively determined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
W.Va. judge to grant injunction to prevent protesters from sitting in trees
Tuesday March 13, 2018
UNION, W.Va. — A judge said Tuesday he will grant an injunction to prevent two protesters from sitting in trees, where for the past two weeks they have complicated plans to build a natural gas pipeline. But after half a day of testimony in Monroe County Circuit Court, there was no clear picture of how the tree-sitters will be removed.
Forest service imposes emergency closure along Mountain Valley Pipeline route
Sunday March 11, 2018
In what it described as an emergency, the U.S. Forest Service said Saturday it was closing parts of the Jefferson National Forest where a natural gas pipeline is planned.
Pipeline opponents gear up to monitor construction
Friday March 9, 2018
GILES CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A new effort to monitor construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is now taking shape in western Virginia.
Judge issues restraining order against pipeline protesters sitting in trees
Thursday March 8, 2018
A West Virginia judge has granted a temporary restraining order against pipeline protesters sitting in trees, leaving unanswered the question of how to remove them.
The South’s Pipe Dreams
Thursday March 8, 2018
Appalachia’s buried treasure in natural gas means pipelines, and the controversy that comes with them are headed South.
“Like a Graveyard.” MVP Rips Through Forests
Wednesday March 7, 2018
Montgomery County, VA resident and Preserve Montgomery County volunteer Lynda Majors submitted the following account of tree felling devastation in the Brush Mountain and Craig Creek area.
Monday the trees were cut from Craig Creek all the way almost to the top of Brush Mountain. This is in the Inventoried Roadless Area of the Jefferson National Forest.
MVP asks West Virginia judge to order protesters out of trees along pipeline route
Tuesday March 6, 2018
Lawyers for the Mountain Valley Pipeline are asking a West Virginia judge to order the removal of protesters sitting in trees along the pipeline’s route.
Judge allows Mountain Valley Pipeline work to proceed on private property
Tuesday March 6, 2018
Work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia could soon encroach upon private property owned by people who want nothing to do with the project. A federal judge on Friday granted Mountain Valley Pipeline immediate possession of the parcels, which it gained through the laws of eminent domain after nearly 300 landowners refused the company’s offers to purchase easements through which the pipeline will pass.
As Atlantic Coast Pipeline moves to construction, groups urge Northam to act
Monday March 5, 2018
RICHMOND — More than a year ago, as he was attempting to fend off a primary challenge from an opponent dead set against the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, then-Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam called for the contentious projects to “be held to the highest environmental standards” in a letter to the state’s environmental agency.
Pipeline protesters are sitting in trees along its route in an effort to stop construction
Thursday March 1, 2018
Chainsaw crews are cutting trees in Giles County, clearing a path for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. On a ridgetop high above them, protestors are waiting. Since Monday, two self-described pipeline resisters have been sitting on platforms in two trees on Peters Mountain — about 60 feet off the ground and directly in the proposed path of the natural gas pipeline — with hopes of preventing the project from moving forward.
Montgomery County Government responds to Mountain Valley Pipeline
Monday Feb. 26, 2018
Overview and Contacts | FAQs | News and Project Updates | Resources and Maps
MVP partner announces change to corporate structure
Wednesday Feb. 21, 2018
A Pittsburgh company that is one of the key partners in the Mountain Valley Pipeline project announced Wednesday that it will create a new corporate entity to focus on natural gas pipelines.
MVP’s contractor ran into environmental problems during construction of other pipelines
Sunday Feb. 18, 2018
A construction company hired to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline worked on three similar projects that were cited by environmental regulators, who found mountainsides turned to muddy slopes and streams clogged with sediment.
Federal agency OKs start of pipeline construction in Giles County
Tuesday Feb. 13, 2018
Landowners press for more protections, as judge grants access to pipeline survey teams
Tuesday Feb. 13, 2018
ROANOKE CO, Va. (WDBJ7) Opponents of the Mountain Valley pipeline weren’t planning to spend Tuesday morning by the side of the road. But there they were on Green Hollow Drive, waiting to see if survey crews would appear on the gravel path that MVP plans to use for an access road
General Assembly panel kills pipeline bills by Dels. Chris Hurst and Sam Rasoul
Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018
RICHMOND — A slate of bills that would increase oversight and accountability of natural gas pipelines failed Tuesday.
MVP to pay $27.5 million for tree-cutting, other environmental impacts of pipeline
Friday Feb. 2, 2018
Mountain Valley Pipeline has agreed to pay $27.5 million to compensate for tree-cutting and some other environmental impacts that are expected from running a natural gas pipeline through forests and across mountains.
Federal judge puts a pause on Mountain Valley Pipeline construction plans
Thursday Feb. 1, 2018
With just a few hours remaining until Thursday, the day that Mountain Valley Pipeline had hoped to start work on a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia, a judge put a pause to those plans.
Path to the Pipeline
Thursday Jan. 25, 2018
The Proposed MVP would travel 303 miles through VA and WV. Foes contend that the project would cause irreparable environmental damage, low property values and violate private property rights.
Northam: Protesters draw attention to pipelines
Sunday Jan. 14, 2018
RICHMOND — Pipeline protesters could be heard chanting, “life is water,” as inauguration festivities kicked off at noon.
Efforts to take land for the Mountain Valley Pipeline challenged by property owners
Saturday Jan. 13, 2018
ROANOKE — Even as it asks a federal judge to allow it to run a natural gas pipeline through land it does not own, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is considering changes to the pipeline’s route.
Mountain Valley begins legal efforts to take private land for its pipeline
Friday Jan. 12, 2018
ROANOKE — The path to building a natural gas pipeline led to a packed courtroom Friday in Roanoke’s federal court, where landowners are fighting efforts by Mountain Valley Pipeline to take their property for the project.
Roanoke, Blacksburg Democrats roll out pipeline-related bills
Thursday Jan. 11, 2018
RICHMOND — Spurred by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, Democrats from the Roanoke and New River valleys introduced a slew of pipeline-related bills this week… “We are tired of being bullied, we are tired of being pushed around,” Rasoul said Thursday at a news conference in Richmond.
Environmental groups seek to halt construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline
Tuesday Jan. 9, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. “As construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline draws closer, a coalition of environmental groups is asking a federal appeals court to issue a stay that would stop the project in its tracks.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline moves forward after federal approvals
Friday Jan. 5, 2018
ROANOKE, Va. “Two federal agencies have taken actions that will allow a natural gas pipeline to cross streams and wetlands more than 500 times in Southwest Virginia and burrow under the Blue Ridge Parkway.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents plan to appeal federal court ruling
Thursday Dec. 14, 2017
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) “Landowners who live in the path of the proposed natural gas pipeline are challenging the process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that allows the use of eminent domain for a project opponents argue is not a public use.”
State water board sued over decision to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline
Friday Dec. 8, 2017
Lawsuit filed against Va. State Water Control Board over 401 Certification
One day after Virginia’s SWCB approved MVP’s 401 certification, a lawsuit challenging the decision was filed in federal court by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
Roanoke Times, Dec. 8, 2017: State water board sued over decision to allow Mountain Valley Pipelin
Washington Post, Dec. 8, 2017: Environmental groups file suit in federal court against gas pipeline
Charleston Gazette-Mail, Dec. 8, 2017: MVP approval faces new federal court challenge
Beckley Register-Herald, Dec. 8, 2017: Pipeline taxation still a puzzle in Monroe County
Water Control Board awards certification, ends with conflict and confusion
Thursday Dec. 7, 2017
“RICHMOND — A state board responsible for protecting Virginia’s water awarded certification Thursday for the deeply controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, voting 5-2 during a meeting that ended with confusion and conflict.
With its vote, the State Water Control Board determined there was a “reasonable assurance” that construction of the natural gas pipeline will not contaminate streams and other bodies of water along its path.
Opponents counter that digging trenches for a buried steel pipe 42 inches in diameter along steep mountain slopes is a recipe for environmental disaster….”
Hundreds protest pipelines at Virginia state capitol
Sunday Dec. 3, 2017
“RICHMOND — A stream of protesters circled the state capitol Saturday to decry two natural gas pipeline projects they say will poison Virginia’s springs, creeks, rivers and lakes.
The crowd of about 500 gathered to send a message to the State Water Control Board, which meets Wednesday and Thursday to consider water quality certifications for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.