Challenge To AIM Pipeline Approval Goes To DC Circuit Court

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By Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion. Washington, D.C.- Two and half years after asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reverse its decision to permit construction of the “Algonquin” Pipeline Expansion, residents are finally getting their day in court. Ellen Weininger from Westchester County, New York made the trip to DC Circuit Court for oral arguments Thursday. “From its inception Spectra’s massive Algonquin pipeline expansion violated federal law to avoid a full review of its cumulative impacts. While the courts finally hear oral arguments on the case today in D.C., tens of millions of people in New York and across New England, living and working in the pipeline’s path, continue to remain in harm’s way.”

Historic Union Hill Community Threatened By Atlantic Coast Pipeline

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By Sammy DiDonato for Unicorn Riot – Dominion plans to build a large compressor station for the pipeline in Union Hill, a historic Black community founded by descendants of freed slaves in unincorporated Buckingham County near the Cumberland State Forest, west of Richmond. Local residents see the pipeline company’s disregard for their community as part of an established history of environmental racism in Virginia. “As African-Americans living in a county where racial inequality and retaliation have been facts of life for over 300 years, where many of their ancestors were enslaved, the community of Union Hill’s lack of access to political decision-making makes them vulnerable to Dominion Power’s corporate profit-making plans.” – Lakshmi Fjord, anthropologist and activist with Friends of Buckingham County. The kayak actions were carried out to call on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to not defer to the Army Corps of Engineers decision when issuing permits to projects that threaten water quality. Organizing groups included Friends of Buckingham County, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Nelson County, and Yogaville Environmental Solutions. Friends of Buckingham County has been organizing around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for three years.

Disruption Of U.S. Senate Hearing Includes A 25-year Veteran Of FERC

Ryan McKnight/ Flickr

By Staff of Fossil Free Rhode Island – Ted Glick, a New Jersey-based activist who was arrested at a similar hearing for Trump’s first two nominees to FERC, stood and repeatedly asked Congress to investigate FERC. The agency’s abuses of law and power have been exhaustively documented by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which hosted a speak-out at the National Press Club last year. Ted Glick met earlier this year with Richard Glick (no relation), whose expertise is in renewable energy. Ted Glick said: “Based on my meeting with him and what I know about him, he will have no impact at FERC. He will be run over by Trump’s three appointees, and probably [Obama appointee] Cheryl LaFleur, too. FERC is a corrupt agency and it’s a waste of a good man. Indeed, in a recent 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that FERC had not properly analyzed the climate impact of burning the methane that the Southeast Market Pipelines Project would deliver to power plants. Clarke Herbert, a retired school teacher from Alexandria, Virginia, disrupted the meeting and focused on the disruption to the lives of thousands of people due to construction of fracked gas infrastructure.

Resisting The South’s Pipeline Building Boom

Opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have been holding a vigil outside of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality's headquarters as the agency considers whether to grant water pollution permits for the project. They include, from left, Greg Yost, Tom Clark and Maple Osterbrink. (Photo by Sue Sturgis/Facing South.)

By Sue Sturgis for Facing South – The U.S. South is at the epicenter of the nationwide push to build new onshore natural gas pipelines, which carry serious environmental and economic risks. Of the 56 projects that have applied for permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) since 2013, 31 run through Southern states. But the building campaign is meeting resistance in the region, with anti-pipeline organizers holding a series of protests and other events this month targeting both state and federal regulators. In North Carolina, activists with the Alliance to Protect Our People and the Places We Live launched a vigil outside the state Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) headquarters in Raleigh this week as the agency considers whether to grant water quality permits needed for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a project being built by Dominion, Duke Energy and Southern Company Gas that’s proposed to run from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. Some of the activists are taking part in a water-only fast as part of the action, which is being billed as a “fast to support DEQ.”

Dozens Of Land Owners Sue Over Eminent Domain For FERC Pipelines

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Duncan Adams for The Roanoke Times – Dozens of landowners potentially affected by the Mountain Valley Pipeline or the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other foes of the controversial projects have filed a federal lawsuit that challenges eminent domain provisions of the Natural Gas Act. The suit contends that these provisions, as implemented by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, violate Fifth Amendment constitutional protections by allowing private, for-profit pipeline companies to wield eminent domain to acquire easements across private properties without evidence that the projects are needed or will serve the public good. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, contends that FERC’s approval of the pipelines “is virtually certain and imminent” and it asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to intervene. The plaintiffs and their attorney, Carolyn Elefant, a former FERC lawyer, implore the court to stop FERC from issuing the certificates of public convenience and necessity — which the pipeline companies need to begin construction or to exercise eminent domain — until the lawsuit can be litigated. Defendants include the two pipeline companies, each a limited liability company incorporated in Delaware, as well as FERC and its three commissioners.

BXE Disruption At Senate Hearing For FERC Nominees Includes A 25-year Veteran Of The Agency

Ryan McKnight/ Flickr

By Melinda Tuhus for Beyond Extreme Energy – When Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski asked the nominees – Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre – to stand, Andrew Hinz also stood and shouted, “Have a conscience! FERC is destroying the atmosphere!” In a prepared statement, he wrote, “Because I spent 25 years working at FERC, I am compelled to speak out. It is abundantly clear now that natural gas is not a safe bridge fuel. We must divert any proposed investment in fossil fuel infrastructure not required for safety to a rapid transition to sustainable energy. FERC is broken and in dire need of a reset. It must take into account solid, overwhelming evidence of climate impacts and, instead of permitting fossil fuel expansion projects, it must support and aggressively promote incorporation of sustainable energy into our grid. Until FERC is reset, we are witnessing an undemocratic, non-representative process that is merely an extension of the fossil fuel industry and is destroying our atmosphere and poisoning our water. My message to our legislators: find your conscience before it is too late – while there is still time to keep our planet habitable.” Ted Glick, who was arrested at a similar hearing for Trump’s first two nominees to FERC, stood and repeatedly asked Congress to investigate FERC.

Court: State Can Stop Gas Pipeline Under Clean Water Act

FERC Stop the Constitution Pipeline

By Mary C. Serreze for Mass Live. Fossil fuel foes are claiming victory after a federal appeals court on Friday upheld New York’s move to block a federally permitted interstate natural gas pipeline that failed to meet state water quality standards. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation acted properly in 2016 when it denied Constitution Pipeline a Section 401 certificate under the U.S. Clean Water Act, effectively vetoing the project, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The judicial review “carries nationwide implications, as it will invariably influence states’ decisions to block pipelines under the Clean Water Act across the country,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council in a statement. “This victory is an important reminder to all states that they have the power to stop harmful pipeline projects,” asserted the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance. In its 27-page decision, the Second Circuit said Congress intended the states to “retain the power to block, for environmental reasons, local water projects that might otherwise win federal approval.”

Trump’s New FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Accepted Gifts From Energy Industry

Screen shot of Robert Powelson during his FERC nomination hearing. Credit: U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, public domain

By Itai Vardi for Desmog Blog – Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level. Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In addition, earlier this year, Powelson said pipeline opponents are engaged in “jihad,” a statement which drew criticism from activists and further solidified his pro-industry image. NFL Game and Industry Conferences. DeSmog has found that according to Powelson’s financial interest disclosures at the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, in September 2013 he accepted two tickets from NRG Energy to attend a football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers. Each ticket cost $105. Powelson attended the game with James Steffes, a senior vice president at NRG Energy, a large energy company operating numerous power generating stations throughout the U.S.

Newsletter: Policies For The People

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Political economist C. J. Polychroniou recently interviewed David M. Kotz, author of “The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism,” about the transition in the US from a regulated capitalism instituted under FDR that protected workers and the vulnerable to some extent to a financialized global neoliberal capitalism that started in the 1970s. Under neoliberalism, the rich got richer while protections for workers in the form of unions and and the vulnerable in the form of a social safety net were dismantled. In addition, the environmental impacts of industry and fossil fuels are barely considered despite the reality of climate change. Neoliberalism crashed in 2008 and has remained in a crisis state ever since with a stagnating economy, growing wealth divide and political turmoil. Crises are turning points.

Fossil Fuel Corruption Shown In ‘Vote’ To Restore FERC Quorum

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By Drew Hudson and the Beyond Extreme Energy crew. Standing alone in the Well of the Senate on Thursday night, just after 6pm and moments before the Senate adjourned for August recess, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski committed a deft coup d’etat on behalf of the oil and gas industry. The vote to confirm Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was anything but un-controversial, and was a serious breach of regular order. Just hours earlier, seven activists were arrested in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office. They had refused to leave until the Minority Leader spoke out about the dangers of FERC nominees and an energy bill that would dramatically expand FERC’s powers. The activists, including several of Schumer’s constituents, had delivered a letter backed by more than 30,000 comments of support asking him to vote no on FERC nominees and no on the energy bill. Hours later, Schumer and every member of the Democratic Caucus, including 3 senators who had previously voted against the nominees in committee, stood silent as Murkowski rammed through the nominations on a voice vote with no other members present, no accountability, and no opportunity for citizens to call or contact their senators to voice concerns.

FERC Quorum Restored In Night Vote After Protests

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By Staff for Popular Resistance. Washington, DC – On Thursday, August 3, climate protectors and New York residents occupied Senator Chuck Schumer’s office to shut it down in protest of the upcoming senate vote to confirm Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioners. The FERC has not had a quorum, and thus has not been able to issue permits, since the inauguration in January. Protesters stated that they would “not leave until he [Schumer] opposes Trump’s nominations to #FERC and vows to fight the #DirtyEnergyBill, which if passed, would give FERC more power. FERC has been working as an arm of the oil and gas industry to rubber stamp unneeded and harmful fossil fuel infrastructure for decades. The #Senate must take steps to replace FERC with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels.”

Landowners Along Pipeline Route Sue FERC And Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Roanoke Times

By Duncan Adams for The Roanoke Times – Participants in the lawsuit hope it will protect their private property from what they describe as “a government-sanctioned land grab” for the financial gain of a private pipeline company. A Roanoke-based lawyer representing 17 plaintiffs who own 10 properties along the current route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline contend that the federal agency tasked with reviewing interstate pipelines should not be able to grant the power of eminent domain to a private company for its pursuit of “private pecuniary gain.” A lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Roanoke challenges the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “sub-delegate” the power of eminent domain to a company like Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. And it seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent FERC from granting that power to Mountain Valley to acquire easements if the commission issues the certificate the company needs to begin constructing a pipeline. Justin Lugar, a lawyer with the firm of Gentry Locke, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Defendants include: FERC, Cheryl LaFleur, the commission’s acting chairwoman, and Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC.

“Ralph Northam – Your Support For The Pipeline Is Grotesque!”

A sign held at an anti-Enbridge protest in Vancouver. (Photo: travis blanston/flickr/cc)

By Josh Stanfield for Blue Virginia – To the sensitive ear of the Virginia Democrat, perhaps the protestor sounded a bit harsh. Grotesque? Seriously? Dr. Northam made his position on the proposed pipelines clear at the debate: if the DEQ and Corps of Engineers approve, he’s on board. So if we understand the grotesque as the incongruous, the absurdly or disgustingly distorted, this courageous protestor may be onto something. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently reversed its pre-primary statement and – instead of conducting site-specific environmental reviews – will defer to blanket permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. In essence, the projects are being fast-tracked with only cursory analyses of their likely effects. The DEQ, however, is itself deeply entangled in Dominion’s tentacles. The Director of the DEQ, David Paylor, was paid by Dominion to attend the 2013 PGA Masters Tournament in Georgia – a trip valued at $2,370. Not to mention a $1,200 dinner on Dominion’s dime. The DEQ’s Water Permitting Division Director Melanie Davenport reportedly represented Dominion as an attorney prior to joining the DEQ. And the DEQ has outsourced part of its environmental review of the ACP to a contractor already working for Dominion.

Outraged By FERC “Abuses,” Communities Demand Senators Block Trump Nominees

Activists serve potluck dinner at former FERC Chairman Norman Bay’s house, June 2016./Photo by John Zangas

By Anne Meador for DC Media Group – Opponents to the GOP healthcare plan weren’t the only ones paying visits to U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill today. Fracking and gas pipelines are also proving to be contentious issues leading up to a key vote on confirmations to a federal agency. Communities facing the construction of interstate gas pipelines, compressor stations and storage facilities have been raising a ruckus for several years now about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agency has been at a virtual standstill since February when Chairman Norman Bay resigned, leaving too few commissioners to approve major projects. Opponents would like to keep it that way. Environmentalists from organizations including Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Echo Action NH and representatives of communities impacted by gas infrastructure dropped off letters and held meetings with Senators, demanding that they block confirmations of Commissioners to FERC until the agency is reformed. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is abusing its authority and the law in alarming ways,” says the letter delivered to lawmakers today. “After three decades of FERC’s unaccountable and irresponsible approach to energy development, the trust of the American people has been strained beyond the breaking point.”

FERC’s Revolving Door: Former Commissioner Joins Pipeline Lobby Firm

From desmogblog.com

By Itai Vardi for Desmog – Only one week after leaving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), former commissioner Colette Honorable has joined a law firm lobbying for Dominion Energy, the company behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Honorable is joining Reed Smith LLP, a firm lobbying in the state of Virginia for Dominion, the energy giant leading the proposed natural gas project. The Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 550-mile three-state line, still requires FERC’s approval. Virginia lobbying disclosures show that Reed Smith has been lobbying for Dominion since at least 2015. The firm has so far assigned three lobbyists to work on Dominion’s behalf: William Thomas, Jeffrey Palmore, and Edward Mullen. Honorable, a Democrat, was appointed as FERC commissioner by former President Obama in August 2014. Previously she served as chairperson of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Reed Smith hired Honorable as a partner in its international energy & natural resources practice. As DeSmog previously reported, Honorable has ties to a senior executive at Southern Company, a minority stakeholder in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.