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Blue Ridge Land Conservancy votes to oppose natural gas pipelines in key areas

November 21, 2014

McAfee 8.3.14FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Blue Ridge Land Conservancy

Contact: Dave Perry

Telephone: 540-985-0000

Email: dperry@blueridgelandconservancy.org

Blue Ridge Land Conservancy Opposes Pipeline Projects

Roanoke, VA, Nov. 20, 2014 – The Board of Trustees of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy (BRLC) voted on Wednesday to oppose the construction of natural gas pipelines through national parks and parkways (including the Blue Ridge Parkway), federal wilderness areas, across the Appalachian Trail, and across lands protected by conservation agreements held by the Conservancy.

Board of Trustees President Dr. M. Rupert Cutler said, “This action is consistent with the mission of the BRLC to promote the conservation of western Virginia’s natural resources. Our goals include assisting local, state and federal partners in the preservation of critical conservation lands, and our priority places for conservation include the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail.”

Cutler added, “We have a legal and moral obligation to defend the properties we’ve conserved in partnership with local landowners. And in Virginia, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent over more than a decade to protect lands across the commonwealth from inappropriate development. We take that investment by the taxpayers very seriously.”

BRLC is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Roanoke that protects more than 16,000 acres of land and 34 miles of streams in Virginia’s Blue Ridge through voluntary legal agreements with local landowners. It was founded in 1996 and is nationally accredited by the Land Trust Alliance. BRLC serves Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Montgomery, and Roanoke counties, and the cities of Roanoke and Salem.

For more information about the organization, visit www.blueridgelandconservancy.org.

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Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition Takes Position on Regional Pipeline Proposals

November 11, 2014

Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition opposes the construction of new large-scale natural gas transmission pipeline projects. We believe such projects facilitate increased production and use of natural gas and thus increase carbon pollution, which is known to be a major cause of global warming. Emissions from burning natural gas also cause other significant environmental and health issues.

We believe this strategy is a major step in the wrong direction regarding energy policy and infrastructure. Rather than increasing and perpetuating the use of fossil fuels, we should aggressively:

  •     Promote conservation and efficiency to reduce energy needs.
  •     Develop renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to reduce and supplant our dependence on fossil fuels.

Click here to view all posts on natural gas issues from the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition.

Finally, high resolution maps of Mountain Valley Pipeline available

November 6, 2014

At last, the developers of Mountain Valley Pipeline are offering links to detailed maps of the proposed pipeline.

All maps are here: http://mountainvalleypipeline.info/maps/

The Virginia county links are:

Mountain Valley Pipeline developers make formal pre-filing with FERC

October 29, 2014

Mountain Valley and Atlantic pipelinesAccording to the Roanoke Times, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to begin its informal review of the proposed 300-mile natural gas pipeline. The filing specified a 42-inch pipeline, the largest size under discussion.

In Virginia, the pipeline would transport fracked natural gas through Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties.

See the newspaper story here.

Many people are wondering, as Supervisor Jason Peters did, whether local residents and businesses might benefit from access to cheaper natural gas via this pipeline. The short answer is: highly unlikely.

While the developers, EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy, say that  their goal is to deliver gas to “communities along the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline route,” there are no planned connections  to any location in Virginia except the final terminus, and the developer stated in the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors briefing that, “Gas molecules flow all over the place.”

Local columnist Dan Casey recently pointed out that the Pittsylvania County terminus is already connected via pipelines to a Chesapeake Bay exporting facility called Cove Point in Lusby, Maryland.  Cove Point is owned by Dominion Resources, the most powerful lobbying organization in Virginia and the developer of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in northern Virginia.

Natural gas is more expensive in Europe than in the United States, so seems likely that developers who say there is a “surplus” of fracked natural gas in the United States would rush to reach this lucrative export market.

See Casey’s article here.

Want to dig deeper?

You can see lots of the information on the FERC website.

The project is docket number PF15-3

Easiest is to use FERC’s eLibrary.

1) Point your browser to http://www.ferc.gov.

2) Use the drop-down menu from the Documents & Filing tab and select eLibrary.

3) Enter the docket number PF15-3 and select “general search.” (these may happen in slightly different order than shown here – but just enter the docket number when it comes up and let it give you all of the documents.)

4) The default dates will search the past 30 days, so you may need to change the date range to capture the documents you need.

5) Click on “submit” at the bottom to find documents.

6) If files are available they will appear in a table format in columns, including a description of the document. To open the file, instead of clicking on the description, go to the right and double click on “FERC generated PDF” or another format. You can then save any documents you want.

If you want automatic notifications, want to make comments and want to dig deeper, you can register to do so here:

http://ferc.gov/docs-filing/ferconline.asp

You can register for free to follow this proceeding, make comments and review documents. A pamphlet with instructions is here.

State and local asthma coalitions endorse new EPA standards for carbon emissions

October 22, 2014

smoke-stack Medical providers have made the link between carbon emissions and human health. Both the Virginia Asthma Coalition (VAC) and the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supporting proposed new limits on carbon emissions. Coal-fired power plants would be impacted by the new rules. In addition to carbon dioxide linked to climate change, the plants emit precursors to both ozone and soot (particle pollution), and both have major impacts on human health.

Here is the text of comments from the two coalitons:

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602
Comments by the Virginia Asthma Coalition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Virginia Asthma Coalition supports health-based limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Reducing carbon emissions will reduce the impact of climate change on people with asthma. Also, the actions each state will take to reduce carbon emissions will have the additional benefit of reducing emissions of other life-threatening air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Climate change is a serious threat to human health, and particularly to the health of people with asthma. The changing climate will alter the distribution of pollutants, enhance conditions for the formation of ozone, and increase emissions from fires, dust and vegetation, such as pollen. All of these changes can trigger asthma attacks.

Ozone can irritate and inflame the respiratory system and lead to asthma attacks and hospitalizations for people with asthma, as well as shortness of breath, chest pain, inflammation of the lung lining, wheezing, coughing, and even premature death for the public at large. Because ozone forms when other pollutants react in the presence of sunlight, it most often reaches dangerous levels on hot days. Current estimates predict warmer temperatures caused by climate change will lead to significantly higher ozone levels than would otherwise be the case by 2050.

Particle pollution, often called soot, comes from smokestacks, tailpipes, and fires. It can exacerbate asthma, particularly in children, and is linked to heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer in the public at large. Climate change is predicted to lead to increased drought conditions and increased wildfires.

Many people with asthma also suffer from allergies, and those allergies often trigger asthma attacks. Excess carbon in the atmosphere can contribute to plant growth that results in more allergens, and warmer weather caused by climate change can shift plants’ growing seasons. Both of these factors are predicted to lead to longer, stronger pollen seasons, causing particular problems for people with both allergies and asthma.

These are just a few of the many and far-reaching impacts that climate change will continue to have on the health of people with asthma, including 700,000 Virginians. The Virginia Asthma Coalition strongly supports reductions of carbon pollution from existing power plants. We also applaud the reductions in other pollutants that are projected to occur alongside reductions in carbon.

We also support the flexible approach EPA has outlined for states to reduce carbon pollution from power plants within their borders. However, we request that EPA revise its plan to exclude biomass combustion as an acceptable alternative energy source. Increasing our nation’s generation of electricity from biomass would be a step backward for public health because of the increase we would see in emissions of particulates and smog-forming pollutants.

Finally, we ask that EPA finalize these lifesaving protections into law without delay.

Pipeline developers brief Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and committee of Regional Chamber of Commerce

October 21, 2014

 Below are notes from briefings last Tuesday and Wednesday regarding a proposed natural gas pipeline through Roanoke County. EQT and NextEra are partnering to build a 300-mile natural gas pipeline from Marcellus Shale fields in West Virginia across the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge to the North Carolina line. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the decisive body in this process. The company has a website devoted to the project mountainvalleypipeline.info.

Here are the notes:

Roanoke County Board of Supervisors

October 14, 2014

Briefing on proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/roanoke_county/mountain-valley-pipeline-plan-raises-ire-in-roanoke-county/article_528a6a86-4e51-53db-bf9c-ad74660bf5b3.html

 Roanoke County map EQTProject is joint venture of EQT and NextEra Energy

Corporate website for pipeline project: http://mountainvalleypipeline.info/

  • Joseph Dawley – Corporate Director, Government Affairs (EQT)
  • Chris Sherman – Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs (NextEra)
  • Maurice Royster – a Tennessee-based lobbyist for EQT (and Vice President, Virginia Oil and Gas Association)

Dawley’s presentation:

Landowners in Roanoke County currently “are being contacted”

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the only approval needed

The pipeline provides cheap gas to new markets in the Southeast

Can replace coal for electricity generation

Resource for manufacturing

Gas comes from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – currently a “proliferation” in supply

Local benefits for Roanoke County:

  • Construction
  • Access to natural gas

Mountain Valley Pipeline

  • About 300 miles long
  • Will use 36” to 42” pipe
  • Will have 3-4 compressor stations
  • Have secured 20-year commitments from customers
  • Total construction cost $3.0 to $3.5 billion

Roanoke County portion – refers to vague map on their website http://group2designpgh.com/eqt-mountain/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/MVP-Rev3-2-10032014-VA-Roanoke.pdf

Have sent out letters to landowners [a little vague about this]

Will make preliminary filing with FERC by the end of this month (October 2014)

Will conduct Environmental Impact studies 2014-2016

Construction to be completed 2018

Community engagement

  • FERC scoping public meetings Spring 2015
  • Comment periods 2014-2016
  • DEQ will be involved in permitting

Questions from Roanoke County Board of Supervisors

Questions from Supervisor Charlotte Moore [all are paraphrased from my notes]

  1. Where can we find detailed maps of the project? He refers her to the vague map on their website.
  2. How long does corrosion protection on pipes last? What about danger of explosions?

He does not know answers. Would have to bring in experts.

  1. How deep would the pipeline be? What equipment would be used? Would there be blasting? Pipeline would be 3 to 4 feet deep. He can provide no details on blasting.
  2. Will there be a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement? Yes

Questions from Supervisor Butch Church

  1. I was getting calls from constituents who got letters from your company before the Board of Supervisors received notification of this project. Project is “moving very fast.” Apologizes for not notifying Board of Supervisors.
  2. We look for transparency in this process, but your resources are very vague. Why? The map on the website has the details.
  3. Where does the pipeline cross the Blue Ridge Parkway? Crossings of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway are the “two main spots of concern” for the project. Says he has maps but won’t tell exactly where it will cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. Want to co-locate on an existing right-of-way.
  4. The map shows the project running right next to our key water supply lake at Spring Hollow Reservoir. Have you notified the Western Virginia Water Authority? No, have not notified Western Virginia Water Authority.

Questions from Supervisor Al Bedrosian

  1. I appreciate that you are a for-profit company, but what about the rights of the private property owner? What happens if they say no? They look at adjacent property instead.
  2. What if it comes to use of eminent domain to take land from an unwilling owner? [The speaker gave an evasive answer, and the Supervisor stopped asking questions.]
  3. How many family tracts are affected in Roanoke County? 55 tracts.

 

Questions from Supervisor Joe McNamara

  1. This project was originally routed through Floyd County, where it met great opposition. Why did you change the route and why would Roanoke County not repeat with similar opposition? The project was moved from Floyd County for “substantive reasons,” not because of community opposition. Crossing [of the Blue Ridge Parkway] “was not ideal.”
  2. Have all affected landowners been contacted? He does not know. The route keeps changing.

 

Questions from Supervisor Jason Peters

  1. Will this natural gas be consumed by domestic users or by foreign users? It goes to the Pittsylvania County line. Can’t say where it will end up. “Gas molecules flow all over the place.”
  2. Is the permitting all from the federal government? Does Roanoke County grant any permits? The permitting is all federal.

Citizen comments [apologies if I spelled your name wrong – all items are paraphrased from my notes]

  1. POLLY BRANCH. Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachians are vital. Worried. Is this a done deal with feds? Calamities along pipelines. Fracking is dangerous. Should seek alternatives instead.
  2. ANN LUZBY DENHAM. Could be one of the largest pipelines in the country, meaning more blasting and bigger explosion if it fails. Threatens water supply due to pipeline leaks and herbicides used to keep down vegetation along route. Concerns about Spring Hollow Reservoir, property values, insurance, etc. Notes lawsuit against EQT in Southwest Virginia. [see http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4220285 on lawsuits against EQT in Virginia and elsewhere.]
  3. ANN ROGERS. Concerns about impact on water supply. Geologic formation – Blue Ridge Plateau – has water in fissures – our ground water. Blasting will disturb fissures, affecting private wells and springs. Will devalue local real estate. Ask planning department to talk with Floyd County and Virginia Tech source about Blue Ridge Plateau.
  4. ELDON KARR. Took EQT’s pdf map and overlaid with Google Earth. It showed the line going right through his property. But he did not receive a letter – his neighbors did. Project lacks transparency with vague, inaccurate map on website. Concerned about runoff into Roanoke River and Spring Hollow Reservoir. Also Bottom Creek – a Tier 3 stream per DEQ. Pipeline would have “dramatic impact.” Ask EQT to quickly present detailed maps of route, knowing it may be modified.
  5. BRIAN WISHKOFF. Afraid pipelines are oversold, especially regarding positive economic impact. Wants to use railroads instead. Pipeline is a monopoly, and we are stuck with it even when the technology changes.
  6. KIRK BOWERS. Pipeline Chair, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club. Shows power point on pipelines. 42” pipeline is huge, largest in Virginia and going over mountains. Encourages more fracking. Has numerous water crossings. Property values will go down. It crosses the Appalachian Trail, and he has an email from the National Park supervisor of the AT saying that crossing of the AT by a pipeline requires an act of Congress.
  7. JIM WOLZ. County should take a positive role. Hopes it does not come through. Has 40+ springs on his own Bent Mountain property, headwaters for Bottom Creek Gorge. His land is protected by conservation easement.
  8. KEVIN ORCA. Lists EQT criminal charges in Pennsylvania. [see story here http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/blog/energy/2014/10/attorney-generals-office-files-environmental.html]
  9. MARA ROBBINS. Floyd County leader. They did their research and worked with their Board of Supervisors. She offers to share research with Roanoke County and provide briefing.
  10. VIRGINIA WISE. Bent Mountain resident. We must defend our properties. There is no local benefit – no local distribution lines. Many hazards, including threats to water. Floyd County Board of Supervisors worked with citizens – hope Roanoke County will also.
  11. BRIAN _____. EQT is a shell corporation that will go out of business if there is a problem and leave us holding the bag. [EQT is related to a number of other companies  https://www.google.com/finance/related?q=NYSE%3AEQT&ei=GoZGVOjcN4G9sQfNwoDICw]

EQT did not choose to respond to the comments, simply stating that “This is the beginning of a very long process.”

Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce

October 15, 2014

Briefing for Public Policy Forum

Sherman says

  • Pipeline will bring “huge economic benefits to the region” due to Marcellus shale.
  • All sectors are moving towards natural gas, and project demand is over-subscribed.
  • “Some sources” estimate there is a 100-year supply of natural gas
  • Will use 36″ to 42” pipe
  • $3 to $3.5 billion will be expended on the pipeline
  • Permitting will be “overseen” by feds as “public necessity and convenience”
  • Subject to NEPA review
  • They will prefile with FERC “in a few days”
  • Actual application takes about a year
  • Expect permit in fall 2016, construction 2017, flow 2018 [website says fourth quarter 2018]
  • Denying access [by landowners] is “not constructive”

Biggest issues are, he says

  • Environmental protection, including surface restoration
  • Pipeline safety

Most of the spending will be for construction

Questions from real estate lawyer whose client got a letter. Will Virginia actually use the line? Will it lower local natural gas prices? It could happen.

Would we have preference for access to the pipeline? Not now. Would be up to Roanoke Gas to make a connection to the line.

Other points discussed:

Cool Cities’-sponsored “Growing a Greener World” to air in October and November

September 16, 2014

Joe Lamp'l(ROANOKE, Va.)— Blue Ridge PBS will broadcast national television series, Growing a Greener World’s episode showcasing Roanoke, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 1:30 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon. The show features the Roanoke City Market area, local restaurants and the green roof at Center in the Square. In addition, interviews with Jon Bryant, Natural Foods Co-op, and Mark Powell, Association of Community Gardens, will highlight Roanoke’s community gardens and the programs’ success. Local sponsors of this episode are Blue Ridge PBS, Center in the Square, City of Roanoke, Cool Cities Coalition, Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sheraton Roanoke.

 

Growing a Greener World is an award-winning TV show appearing on national Public Television featuring organic gardening, green living and farm-to-table cooking. Each episode focuses on making a positive impact on the planet through gardening and shares DIY information that we can all use at home. Currently in its fifth season, Growing a Greener World covers everything from edible gardening, urban homesteading and hobby farming to seasonal cooking, canning and preserving the harvest.

James Baum, president and CEO of Blue Ridge PBS says, “We’re happy that our good friend, Joe Lamp’l, brought Growing a Greener World to Roanoke and Virginia’s Blue Ridge to highlight the wonderful horticultural happenings in this area.”

NOTE: Growing a Green World is broadcast in 96% of the top 50 market areas in the US. Blue Ridge PBS is pleased to have sponsored the show’s original television season.

Blue Ridge PBS is the winner of multiple regional Emmy Awards for documentaries and community service. Founded in 1967, Blue Ridge PBS is the sole public multimedia enterprise serving portions of five states. As the region’s storyteller, Blue Ridge PBS offers outstanding informational, educational and cultural programming, along with an award-winning local production team devoted to regional issues and interests.