Leslie Hartz, Dominion’s pipeline construction vice president, wrote on May 31 that she felt compelled to respond to Harry Crosby’s May 24 column regarding the potential ACP effects on his farm. I feel compelled to respond to her. I must say I applaud her sudden desire for communication as I have emailed her several times with no response.
Answering Mr. Crosby’s very real concerns with more Dominion hyperbole is disheartening. Dominion’s job and economic growth numbers continue to soar. First it was 8,800 construction jobs and 1,400 permanent jobs (Dominion mailer) and now it is 17,200 and 2,200. The facts are that those construction jobs – however many – will be filled by out-of-towners. And the final count on the full-time jobs, according to Dominion’s report. 39. That’s right, 39.
The job numbers aren’t the only ones growing. Last year Dominion sent charts to all counties along the ACP giving undocumented ACP tax revenue figures. Good news, Augusta – last year our annual payment was predicted to “peak” at $1.5 million, but now it is $1.75 million. Even that exaggerated number won’t offset tax losses from devalued property.
Finally, let me share a conversation that I had at the Stuarts Draft scoping meeting with a Dominion engineer. I asked specifically about the allowable weight of a vehicle crossing the pipeline. She hemmed and hawed so I gave an example: “A farmer’s barn is on fire. A fully loaded fire truck with water weighs 60,000 pounds. Can the truck cross to put out the fire?” More throat-clearing before asking a colleague who immediately said “No!” The first engineer quickly pointed out that if Dominion were called they could come out and create a reinforced crossing. “The barn is on fire,” I repeated. Then I asked about a fully-loaded log truck, a cement truck, and a combine. No answers.
Read more here.
Call it the Keystone next door.
A core group of Virginia Republicans and other landowners is leading the charge against a proposed natural gas pipeline near their backyards and using tactics similar to the environmental crusade against the Keystone XL oil pipeline — the very project Republicans in Congress have elevated into a matter of national economic survival.
Financial services super-lobbyist Phil Anderson is joining other politically active Republicans in carrying out a well-funded campaign against Dominion’s $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would cross Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley while running 550 miles from West Virginia’s fracking fields to North Carolina. They’re calling the effort “All Pain, No Gain,” which echoes the “All Risk, No Reward” coalition that Keystone opponents formed two years ago.
“Job One is to stop this route — it would be a tragedy for the state of Virginia,” said Anderson, whose family has owned land for more than a century along Atlantic Coast’s proposed path 20 miles west of Charlottesville. His allies include other landowners in the area, as well as Tom Harvey, a national security staffer in the George H.W. Bush administration; and Taylor Keeney, a former spokeswoman for Republican ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The pipeline opponents say their fight is neither Republican nor Democratic, and Anderson said his campaign against Atlantic Coast is “not mutually exclusive” with the overwhelming GOP support for Keystone. He notes that Dominion could use condemnation to acquire access to private property for the project if it can’t work out agreements with the owners.
“A lot of conservatives oppose this pipeline — eminent domain for a pipeline that’s not providing any true public utility,” Anderson said. He added: “The XL debate obviously has raised talking points about pipelines to a higher level, but in many ways they are not germane to this issue in Virginia. It’s a different type of pipeline, a different sort of need.”
Still, Atlantic Coast’s opponents acknowledge the parallels with the anti-Keystone push that has pitted President Barack Obama against a chorus of GOP lawmakers in Washington. The dispute is also a reminder of how Keystone has changed the politics of pipelines nationwide, offering a template that activists from New England to Minnesota and Wisconsin are using to grind projects to a halt.
“In some ways, I think we’re not too far from the crowd of folks who say, ‘No pipelines, nowhere,’” said campaign co-Chairwoman Charlotte Rea, an Air Force veteran and self-described independent. “We have a lot of common ground with those folks, more common ground probably than we do differences.”
The activists leading the fight against the Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL project say: Welcome aboard, Virginians.
“Any effort to slow the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure is a blow for climate sanity at this point,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the group 350.org.
“I am happy to see Republicans got their backbone back after selling out landowners along the Keystone XL route for the very same risks and concerns about property rights and water,” said Nebraska anti-Keystone activist Jane Kleeb. She added, “If the K Street lobbyists want to learn how to run a grass-roots campaign to protect property rights and water, they can come visit us in Nebraska.”
Read more here.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to making sure that any pipeline built in Virginia protects the state’s environmental resources.
“It’s got to protect our environment,” said McAuliffe, speaking on the “Ask the Governor” monthly radio call-in show on WRVA (1140 AM) in Richmond.
“Let’s pick the best route that doesn’t affect the homeowners. I want a route that doesn’t affect our pristine environmental areas.”
McAuliffe’s statements came in response to a caller who pointed out that at least two other pipeline routes are proposed to go through Virginia in addition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that is being promoted by Dominion Virginia Power.
NELSON COUNTY – All Pain, No Gain today released the following statement on Governor Terry McAuliffe’s comments this morning that the route of Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) should protect the environment and property owners:
“Governor McAuliffe’s comments this morning make it clear that is he finally starting to listen to our concerns,” said Charlotte Rea, a retired United States Air Force colonel who owns property that lies on the original ACP route. “Running the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through Augusta and Nelson Counties threatens our region’s economy, natural resources and beauty that our residents, visitors and small businesses rely on. The only acceptable route is one that uses existing right of ways or natural gas infrastructure to the maximum extent possible.”
McAuliffe’s comments came this morning during his monthly “Ask the Governor” show on WRVA. During the show he said, “It’s got to protect our environment…. Let's pick the best route that doesn't affect the homeowners. I want a route that doesn't affect our pristine environmental areas.”
All Pain, No Gain is an advocacy campaign dedicated to convincing Dominion to move the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline to an alternate, responsible route. The campaign is co-chaired by Nancy Sorrells, a former member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, and Charlotte Rea, a retired United States Air Force colonel who owns property that lies on the original route. The purpose of the campaign is to unite all Virginians to work together with state and federal officials to ensure that public interests are protected in Dominion’s plan for a natural gas pipeline in the Commonwealth. The campaign is calling on Dominion to move the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to a more responsible alternative location that maximizes the use of existing right of ways. For more information about the All Pain, No Gain Campaign please visit www.allpainnogain.com.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe once again showed how out of touch he is with Nelson County and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by saying, “There are hundreds of pipelines in Virginia. Everyone acts like this is the first one being done … . You talk about opening up communities ... Nelson County needs help. They need economic development.”
While it is true that there are 3,000 miles of natural gas pipelines in Virginia, there are zero pipelines like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It is by far the largest diameter pipeline ever attempted in Virginia and would go through some of Virginia’s most challenging terrain. In fact, it is larger than the controversial Keystone Pipeline, a 36-inch pipeline.
This pipeline is dangerous — not just because of its size but because of the unstable mountain terrain, shallow soils and karst topography through which Dominion is planning to run this pipeline. Even more troubling, this pipeline will be mainly constructed by out-of-state union contractors. Dominion also has no experience doing projects of this complexity and scale, and in such challenging terrain.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project—The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which will be constructed by DTI, is expected to have a total cost of approximately $4.5 to $5 billion, excluding financing costs, and will involve significant permitting and construction risks. The project requires the approval of FERC and other federal and state agencies, which could be delayed or withheld. Dominion expects opposition from certain landowners and stakeholder groups, which could impede the acquisition of rights of-way and other land rights on a timely basis or on acceptable terms. The large diameter of the pipeline and difficult terrain of certain portions of the proposed pipeline route aggravate the typical construction risks with which DTI is familiar. In-service delays could lead to cost overruns and potential customer termination rights. Dominion owns a 45% membership interest in Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion’s lack of a controlling interest means that it has limited influence over this business. If another member were unable or otherwise failed to perform its obligations to provide capital and credit support for this business, it could have an adverse effect on Dominion’s financial results.
Virginia’s two U.S. senators and a member of the state’s congressional delegation want federal regulators to allow more time and public hearings for opponents of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline to have their say.
But a Hampton Roads natural gas company says further delay in the federal regulatory process would harm its customers, and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce called for speedy approval of the pipeline proposed from West Virginia to the southeastern Virginia and North Carolina coasts.
The public comment period for an environmental review of the project at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has become an early battleground over the proposed $5 billion, 550-mile pipeline, with opponents seeking more time and hearings to make their case and supporters warning against any delay in the regulatory process.
Read more here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 22, 2015
NELSON COUNTY – All Pain, No Gain released the following statement regarding the joint letter U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent on Monday, April 20, 2015, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) asking for additional scoping meetings in Nelson and Augusta Counties. A copy of the letter is available here.
“We appreciate Senators Kaine and Warner’s leadership on this issue and care in listening to his constituents’ concerns,” said Phil Anderson, executive director of All Pain, No Gain. “This is a step in the right direction toward a fair and open public comment period.”
In the letter, Kaine and Warner wrote, “While we appreciate your intent to review procedures for future scoping meetings, we must request that new scoping meetings be held in Nelson and Augusta Counties…. Public meetings are only beneficial if they allow for maximum participation and airing of different viewpoints, and we believe Nelson and Augusta County residents deserve the full opportunity for comment that was not provided at the previous meeting.”
This letter adds to growing concern among Virginia’s Congressional delegation over the FERC process. Last week, U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt (R-VA) sent a letter to the FERC requesting additional scoping meetings and an extension to the scoping period. The letter is available here.
Norman C. Bay
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426
Dear Chairman Bay,
We write again to address recent FERC scoping meetings in the Virginia counties of Nelson and Augusta, on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Docket No. PF 15-6-000). As discussed, our offices received multiple accounts of discrepancies between these meetings' announced start times and the times at which people could sign up to speak. Some constituents commuted significant distances after full days of work arrived to discover that speaking slots had been claimed hours earlier.
While we appreciate your intent to review procedures for future scoping meetings, we must request that new scoping meetings be held in Nelson and Augusta counties. While we are aware that constituents may submit written comments as well, many in communities along proposed pipeline routes are learning about these complex issues in their spare time for the first time, in contrast to energy companies that have longstanding expertise in this process. In-person meetings provide invaluable access to FERC staff who can share their expertise and answer questions. Public meetings are only beneficial if they allow for maximum participation and airing of different viewpoitns, and we believe Nelson and Augusta County residents deserve the full opportunity for comment that was not provided at the previous meeting.
Thank you for your leadership in this area, as you begin your term as Chairman we look forward to working with you. If you have questions on this letter, please contact Ken Johnson or Ann Rust in Senator Warner's office or Nick Barbash in Seantor Kaine's office.
Virginia Cave Board Comments and Recommendations on the Proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Gas Pipeline
Distribution of karst regions in Virginia in relation to proposed gas pipeline routes
The two proposed pipelines are the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The proposed routes as of April 1, 2015, are shown in Figure 1. The map in Figure 1 also shows the areas of different geology that host karst features.
Figure 1.Map of karst regions in Virginia in relation to the proposed natural gas pipeline routes.
The areas of greatest potential impact to karst resources are located in the western portion of Virginia, within the Valley and Ridge physiographic province. The colored areas shown in the map of Figure 1 indicate regions underlain by soluble carbonate bedrock (primarily limestones and dolostones) that contain an abundance of karst features. The gray-to-black clusters of spots indicate the density of mapped closed depressions, or sinkholes, within a 1-square-kilometer region; the darker the cluster, the greater the density of sinkholes.
Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline
The proposed route of the Dominion Atlantic Coast pipeline is shown in orange in Figure 1. The two areas outlined in black (labeled A and B) are discussed in further detail below. These areas contain the greatest concentrations of karst features that could be impacted by this pipeline.
In region A, the proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline route passes through karst areas in Highland County, as shown in Figure 2. The proposed route passes through a zone of a high concentration of known sinkholes south of Monterey, shown in more detail in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
Figure 2. Route of proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast pipeline route through Highland County, regions with geologic potential for karst, and locations of known sinkholes. Area outlined in black is shown in greater detail in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
Highland County Cave Survey Karst Feature Map PR-4
The proposed pipeline route descends Monterey Mountain on an unnamed ridge west of Hannah Airfield. The karst is composed of Silurian-Devonian carbonates and the structure is the Monterey Syncline. The unnamed stream to the north of the route is a sinking/losing stream, as is the unnamed stream to the south of the route. All 14 streams originating on the east side of Monterey Mountain from Monterey in the north to Vanderpool to the south are sinking/losing streams. None of these sinking points have been dye traced to their spring resurgences. Most of these streams flow into an unnamed valley locally known as Sinking Creek Valley. Sinking Creek Valley is >2 miles long with the limestones continuing approximately another mile and a half to Vanderpool and then beyond (Figure 3).
There are five documented caves in this band of limestone between Monterey and Vanderpool. To the north of the proposed pipeline route is Sawmill Cave. To the south of the route is Sinking Creek Valley Cave, Meeks Cave, 9mm Pit, and Vanderpool Shaft. Sawmill Cave is less than a half-mile north of the proposed pipeline route. It is the sinking point for a small blind valley. It has been tentatively traced to Mackey Spring, approximately 3 miles to the south, when sawdust was pushed into the cave and it resurged at the spring. A formal dye trace should be conducted by competent professionals to confirm this connection.
Figure 3. Highland County Map PR-4, showing the route of the proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and locations of known karst features near where the pipeline crosses west of State Route 220 and south of Monterey.
Sinking Creek Valley Cave is located approximately .25 miles south of the proposed pipeline route. This cave is a sinking point for the unnamed stream above it and has not been dye traced to its spring resurgence. This cave is an atmospheric karst feature that inhales or exhales air depending on the outside temperature and the barometric pressure at the time. This indicates this cave is connected by an air-filled conduit to another open karst feature that may or may not be documented. At the time of this cave’s documentation indications were that this second entrance was higher than Sinking Creek Valley Cave.
Meeks Cave is approximately a mile south of the proposed pipeline corridor. This cave is in a sinkhole and not in a streambed. This cave also is an atmospheric karst feature and the karst feature it is connected to is unknown. At the time of its documentation indications were that the air was flowing to a lower entrance. 9mm Pit is located approximately 1.67 miles south of the proposed pipeline route. Its entrance is on the side of a hill and is not in a sinkhole or a sinking point.
Vanderpool Shaft is located approximately 1.81 miles south of the proposed pipeline corridor. This deep cave reaches the water table and has a water-filled passageway that appears to continue to the south. This cave has not been dye traced to its spring resurgence. This cave has not been inventoried for invertebrate fauna. It does contain Plecotus townsendii, Virginia Big-eared bat, which is on the Endangered Species List (Virginia, 2015) and the cave appears to have suitable Virginia Big-eared bat habitat characteristics.
A known Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis, roost tree is within 3-4 miles of the proposed pipeline corridor (see Attachment 1).
Mackey Spring is located south of Vanderpool Gap. Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has stated that Mackey Spring is extremely vital to a healthy upper Jackson River. It has been described as a 5 “transformational water source to the river” (pers. comm., DGIF, 2015). The DGIF Cold Water Stream data base shows Mackey Spring transforming the Jackson River from a Class VI stream to a Class II stream.
The band of karst exposed in Sinking Creek Valley is the western limb of the Monterey Syncline trough which is covered in the center of the valley by shale and sandstone, and which reemerges on the western slope of Jack Mountain as another band of karst in the eastern limb. While these bands of karst recharge spring resurgences along the Jackson River, they also recharge the deeper aquifer containing the Town of Monterey’s municipal wells. Well #1 and Well #3 are approximately 1.78 and 1.56 miles respectively from where the proposed pipeline corridor crosses this band of karst. The pumps are approximately 427 feet and 865 feet below the lowest point where the proposed pipeline corridor crosses this band of karst.
Highland County Cave Survey Karst Feature Map PR-5
The proposed pipeline route crosses Route 220, the Jackson River, and Jackson River Valley and ascends Jack Mountain on an unnamed ridge. The carbonates are Devonian-Silurian and the structure is the Monterey Syncline. The seven streams to the north of the proposed pipeline corridor are sinking/losing streams and the five streams to the south of the proposed pipeline corridor are sinking/losing streams. None of their sinking points have been documented and none have been traced to their spring resurgences (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Highland County Map PR-5, showing the route of the proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and locations of known karst features near where the pipeline crosses east of State Route 220 and south of Monterey.
Needle’s Eye Cave is .4 of a mile south of the route.
Eight known Indiana bat, Myotis sodalis, roost trees are within 3-4 miles of the proposed pipeline corridor (see Attachment 1).
The band of karst exposed on the western flank of Jack Mountain is the eastern limb of the Monterey Syncline trough which is covered in the center of the valley by shale and sandstone, and which reemerges on the eastern slope of Monterey Mountain as another band of karst in the western limb. While each of these bands of karst recharge spring resurgences along the Jackson River, they also recharge the deeper aquifer containing the Town of Monterey’s municipal wells. Well #1 and Well #3 are approximately 1.70 and 1.95 miles respectively from where the proposed pipeline corridor crosses this band of karst. The pumps are approximately 568 feet and 1006 feet below the lowest point where the proposed pipeline corridor crosses this band of karst.
Summary for Highland County
The proposed pipeline corridor has sinking/losing streams to its north and south. Indications are that an undetermined karst feature greater than 3 miles in length, stretching from Sawmill Cave (and possibly farther north and west) to Mackey Spring, lies under Sinking Creek Valley and the hills south of it. Nothing is yet known of the invertebrate fauna of this karst feature or its associated satellite karst features. Habitat alteration due to sedimentation is potentially a threat that can be caused by construction of the proposed pipeline in this area of relatively steep slopes. Any major release of sediments or slope failure can potentially change conduit habitat, block recharge sites, or alter flow volume and velocity. Siltation can drastically modify gravel riffle and pool habitats and contaminated sediments can have detrimental effects on cave life (USDA, 2001). Due to the Jackson River being a Class II trout stream down gradient of the proposed pipeline, the discharge of hydrostatic test water must be prohibited within the Jackson River Valley and must be confined to holding ponds in a non-carbonate area. All sinking points down gradient of the proposed pipeline corridor must be identified and protected from potential engineering failures that could cause catastrophic releases of sediment, or possible slope failures. Their companion springs must be located and sampled for invertebrate fauna. The proposed pipeline corridor may be the recharge area for more than one spring. All possible springs must be identified and their recharge area protected. Several caves are known to exist in the vicinity of the pipeline route. Two of these caves have active air currents that inhale surface air from one entrance and exhale it from another. Methane from a leak on the east side of Monterey Mountain or in Sinking Creek Valley could be sucked into either of the two known caves that suck air or their unknown connection points and produce explosive atmospheres which would be detrimental to cavers. Potential methane entrapment within caves would present a significant hazard.
Approved surveys must be conducted for the presence of the Indiana and Northern Long-eared bats. All slopes of greater than 25% must be limited to open trenches of 500 feet or less. The Cave Board recommends that Dominion Transmission Inc. maintain a 100-foot buffer around all karst features when blasting, drilling, digging, or trenching. Any engineering failures in Sinking Creek Valley may cause irreparable damage to the underground karst drainage conduits and the health of the Upper Jackson River and the Town of Monterey’s municipal wells. The sinking points in Sinking Creek Valley must be dye traced to their spring resurgences and the caves and resulting springs must be inventoried for invertebrate fauna. The spring recharge areas must be protected. All sinking points down gradient of the proposed pipeline corridor must be identified and protected from potential engineering failures. Extra time, money, and oversight must be put into any plan to cross this valley with a construction project of this magnitude. Even with the best “Best Management Practices,” this segment of this route may be too risky and it is recommended the proposed pipeline corridor be re-routed around Sinking Creek Valley and Mackey Spring.
The concentration of known sinkholes in this region suggests intensive karst development is present in this portion of Highland County. The Cave Board recommends application of heightened practices for environmental protection when constructing the pipeline through this area (see section “General recommendations on pipelines through karst regions” below), and local re-routing of the route to avoid passing directly over karst features. Particular attention needs to be paid to ensuring slope stability onsteep slopes above karst valleys and within karst areas.
Read more here.