It takes a strong commitment to protect & preserve what we have!

Response to: “Natural Gas Companies Team With Environmental Group”

An article of this title recently ran in the Wheeling Intelligencer. It represents a cave in by a significant environmental group that give the business oriented Intelligencer some thing to brag about. It is unlikely the report, “Improving Steep-Slope Pipeline Construction to Reduce Impacts to Natural Resources,” will meet the needs of our steep and rocky terrain.

It will be applied to the entire range of conditions from the soft soil and rock on the Appalachian Plateau through the folded Appalachian Mountains to the south and east. Through limestone karst, famous for caves and sinkholes and slopes up to and beyond 173% (60 degrees).

In places the fill will be the broken rock cut out to make the trench. This will make it impossible to divert the water off the right of way. It will divert water to flow down the broken rock in the ditches. In other places the long pipeline straight down the hill for hundreds of feet will have diversion ditches that deliver the diverted water off the right of way in additive fashion so large volumes will be aggregated in heavy rains. Pipelines in karst is asking for failure due to cave-ins and stream diversion.

If the pipe must go in, what is required is meticulous attention to local topography and geology and equally meticulous attention to small scale engineering. This is unlikely to occur due to the great cost involved.

The Nature Conservancy is doubtless well intentioned, but really not directed by people close to conditions involved.

>>> S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

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Brief Comment on TNC Pipeline Project —

This is why I consider TNC foremost among the Shady Lady environmental groups, to put it politely.

They also collaborated with the gas industry on a study of how much methane leaks, with findings coming out much lower than independent studies. Looks to me like they aid industry much more than the environment, with this attitude that the pipelines must and will be built so we should do what we can to minimize the harm.

As far as I’m concerned, their main mission to collect funds to buy land which they then protect from development, is no better — I’ve seen allegations that they don’t always protect their lands and anyway this reinforces the idea that the rich legitimately own the Earth, and if we want any of it protected we have to buy it back from them.

>>> Mary Wildfire, Roane County, WV

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We might also consider this —

I believe TNC has a conservation easement that will be crossed by MVP and one of their motivators for this was to hold the company to a higher standard where they could, for their property.

Amy Mall, Land & Wildlife Program, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

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Letter to The TNC Magazine (August 13, 2018)

I am a retired mining engineer (B.S.; M.S.; P.E.) living in Rockingham County Virginia. I am writing in response to a “study” I just became aware of entitled “IMPROVING STEEP-SLOPE PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION TO REDUCE IMPACTS TO NATURAL RESOURCES” (link here).

This study was apparently a collaboration between the Nature Conservancy and 8 oil and gas companies. It’s unfortunate the input was so heavily weighted in favor of the companies that will profit from doing this type of work by externalizing the environmental costs to the public.

Your “study” seems to over simplify the issues involved in constructing a major natural gas pipeline through steep mountainous terrain, much of it containing karst. It fails to mention more active measures for monitoring pipeline stress and the installation of strain and displacement gages on and around the pipeline. Even with such measures, however, the construction of pipelines like the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast will cause significant and irreversible environmental damage. It will also cause significant economic losses to the people whose land is crossed by or near to the pipelines.

The installation of such fracked gas pipelines will also act as a driving force for further fracking of deep shale formations, which will cause even more environmental damage.

Your participation in the preparation of this document will be seen as a sellout and betrayal of the thousands of people who are opposed to such pipelines and whose lives will be so negatively impacted by them. I am disappointed in the position your organization has taken.

George M. Neall III, Rockingham County, Virginia

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Dear Friends,

I think any time you have a very large organization—and TNC is the largest environmental non-profit in the country if not the world—that does thousands of transactions and works globally, there are going to be problems that surface, whether they’re falsehoods, misunderstandings or actual wrongdoings. I know there have been misunderstandings when people have left land to TNC in their wills or by a donation while they’re living, with the incorrect assumption that TNC would manage the land as a nature preserve of sorts.

Like any company, TNC has to decide where to best devote its resources. Unless they’ve made a specific agreement with a donor to hold and manage their land a certain way, they are more likely to divest themselves of that asset and put the money toward higher-value conservation areas such as the rainforests or coral reefs.

They also have to make decisions regarding if and how they’ll work with industry. My experience has been that, right or wrong, they feel they can make more headway working with industry than against them. Their CEO is a former Goldman Sachs director, and not a conservation biologist, so that may sway how the organization makes decisions.

My gut tells me that TNC does far and away more good work than they get credit for.

Disclaimer: We have no relationship with TNC—and certainly no monetary relationship—besides jointly holding one conservation easement with them in Bedford County, VA, and running in some of the same professional circles as their Virginia staff.

David C. Perry, Executive Director
Blue Ridge Land Conservancy—An Accredited Land Trust
722 First St. SW Suite L, Roanoke, VA 24016
(540) 985-0000,
blueridgelandconservancy.org

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MVP in the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA

FERC halted work on the massive Mountain Valley Pipeline this month after an appeals court ruled that federal agencies neglected to follow environmental protections

Excerpt from Article by Kate Mishkin and Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette-Mail, and Beena Raghavendran, ProPublica, August 10, 2018

Update, August 10, 9 p.m.: On Friday evening, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order halting all work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. FERC cited an appeals court ruling that found the National Park Service and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service skirted environment rules when approving the $5.5 billion, 600-mile project.

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A week ago, the federal government halted work on the massive MVP pipeline project that runs from Northern West Virginia through Southern Virginia.

The government said it had no choice but to order work on the multibillion-dollar Mountain Valley Pipeline stopped after a federal appeals court ruled that two federal agencies had neglected to follow important environmental protections when they approved the project.

The court had found that the U.S. Forest Service had suddenly dropped — without any explanation — its longstanding concerns that soil erosion from the pipeline would harm rivers, streams and aquatic life. It also found that the Bureau of Land Management approved a new construction path through the Jefferson National Forest, ignoring rules that favor sticking to existing utility rights-of-way.

“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,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for a unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Citizens also trust the Bureau of Land Management to prevent undue degradation to public lands by following the dictates” of federal law.

It turns out, those weren’t the only times state and federal regulators bent environmental standards for the project, which began construction in February.

A review by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, in collaboration with ProPublica, shows that, over the past two years, federal and state agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s environmental laws have moved repeatedly to clear roadblocks and expedite the pipeline, even changing the rules at times to ease the project’s approvals.

Projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, known as MVP, require a variety of approvals before being built. Developers and regulators must study various alternatives, describe a clear need for the project, and show that steps will be taken to minimize damage to the environment and reduce negative effects on valuable resources like public lands and the water supply.

But in numerous instances, officials greenlit the pipeline despite serious unanswered questions, records show.

For example:

— After citizen groups brought a lawsuit challenging how West Virginia regulators concluded that the pipeline would not violate state water quality standards, the state Department of Environmental Protection dropped its review and instead waived its authority to decide if the project complied with its rules. This effectively ended the legal challenge and paved the way for construction to begin.

— Confronted with a similar lawsuit filed by the same citizen groups, the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved to rewrite their rules for how long pipeline construction could block the flow of rivers. Environmentalists fear that, under the plan approved by the Corps, four West Virginia rivers could be left dry for long periods of time, potentially harming aquatic life during construction.

— Developers persuaded judges to speed court proceedings and grant them access to private property along the route to cut down trees, saying they needed to do so before protected bats came out of hibernation. But then, despite guidelines saying no logging could take place after March 31, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission twice extended the company’s deadline.

Regulatory agencies waiving standards and rewriting rules to pave the way for economic projects isn’t new. West Virginians have watched it happen for decades with the coal industry, as mine operators used variances to avoid strict land reclamation standards or fill streams with waste rock and dirt. That pattern is continuing with the natural gas boom.

“I’ve seen this kind of behavior from agencies before,” said Pat Parenteau, who teaches environmental law at the Vermont Law School. “They start out being strong, but they roll over, especially for these big energy projects that have this national interest, energy security push behind them.”

In its “stop work” order last week, FERC said, “there is no reason to believe” that the federal agencies involved would not “ultimately issue” new permits that would withstand the court’s scrutiny. But until then, FERC ordered that “construction activity along all portions of the project and in all work areas must cease immediately.”

A news release from Mountain Valley Pipeline echoed FERC’s statement that the pipeline permits would be easily reissued. Developers said they would work closely with the agencies involved to resolve the challenges to their work and “we look forward to continuing the safe construction of this important infrastructure project.”

When it is built, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will transport natural gas from Wetzel County, near West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, crossing about 200 miles in West Virginia and 100 miles in Virginia. It is one of several large transmission pipelines in the works across the Appalachians, part of the ongoing rush to market natural gas from the boom in drilling and production in the sprawling Marcellus Shale formation.

In another ruling that exposed flaws in the government’s pipeline review process, the 4th Circuit earlier this week threw out two permits for a pipeline even bigger than the MVP: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5.5 billion effort to transport gas more than 600 miles, from central West Virginia to the eastern portions of Virginia and North Carolina.

Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrotethat the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the project without setting any real limits on damage to endangered species, and the National Park Service granted permission for pipeline developers to drill under the Blue Ridge Parkway without determining if doing so was consistent with the road’s protection as a unit of the Park Service.

Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the Park Service, said the agency is reviewing the ruling.

Because different permits for pipelines cover different parts and types of construction work, it’s not entirely clear how one court ruling that overturns one permit ultimately affects other parts of the construction. Eventually, such decisions are made by FERC, which is the lead agency for gas infrastructure projects.

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This article was produced in partnership with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. See the full article here.

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‘Climate Change … In Real Time’: California’s Frightening Fires Are the Nightmare Scientists Long Predicted

August 12, 2018

Wildfires ravaging the western states have “spawned bizarre pyrotechnics, from firenados to towering pyrocumulus clouds that evoke a nuclear detonation From an Article by Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, July 31, 2018 As deadly wildfires continue to rage in California—destroying hundreds of homes, threatening thousands more, and forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate—experts believe [...]

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Considered Opinion on Gas Pipelines and Eminent Domain in WV & VA

August 11, 2018

Eminent Domain, Property Worth & Gas Pipelines Have Become Hot Topics Essay by George Neall, Rockingham County, VA, August 6, 2018 Studies have documented that the construction of gas pipelines can cause the value of properties impacted by the pipelines to decrease an average of more than 30%. Other studies have documented similar decreases in [...]

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Suicide More Likely With Increased Air Pollution Including Particulate Matter

August 10, 2018

Air Pollution and Suicide: Exploring a Potential Risk Factor (Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/EHP3901) From Nate Seltenrich, Environmental Health Perspectives, July 27, 2018 Could air pollution be a trigger for suicide? Researchers first began asking this question less than a decade ago. Accumulated evidence from around the world now suggests there may well be a connection, [...]

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Public Health Impacts of Fracking are Disastrous

August 9, 2018

Study: Pennsylvanians who live near fracking are more likely to be depressed From an Article by Kristina Marusic, Environmental Health News, July 27, 2018 Stress and depression are higher among those living closest to more and bigger wells. People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, [...]

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Central West Virginia Lags Wider Area in Natural Gas Activities

August 8, 2018

WV Close to Building First Natgas-Fired Power Plant From an Article of Marcellus Drilling News, WWW Internet, August 2, 2018 For years Energy Solutions Consortium (ESC) has been trying to build several natural gas-fired electric plants in West Virginia, but have been prevented from doing so by Big Coal lawsuits. It’s understandable that coal doesn’t [...]

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4th Circuit Court Suspends Atlantic Coast Pipeline at Blue Ridge Parkway

August 7, 2018

US 4th Circuit Court tosses construction permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline From an Article by Gavin Bade, Utility Dive, August 6, 2018 >>> A federal appeals court on Monday threw out construction certificates for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, likely halting work on the $6 billion project planned by major Southeastern utilities. >>> The Federal Energy [...]

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MARCELLUS Gas Processing Extensive in Tri-State Area

August 6, 2018

MarkWest adding 8 processing plants, 6 fractionators in Appalachia (4/5/18) This Article is from the Kallanish Energy News, April 5, 2018 NORTH CANTON, Ohio — After record-setting natural gas and natural gas liquids processing in 2017, MarkWest Energy Partners continues to invest heavily in the Appalachian Basin. The midstreamer added two natural-gas processing plants in [...]

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Large Refrigerated Tankers Now Transporting Ethane to Scotland & Norway

August 5, 2018

First Evergas very large ethane carrier takes to the water From an Article by Mike Corkhill, LNG World Shipping, July 26, 2018 The first of a pair of very large ethane carriers (VLECs) under construction at the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co (DSIC) shipyard for Evergas has been floated out from its building dock. The occasion [...]

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