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Groups Blast FERC Findings On Mountain Valley Pipeline For Fracked Gas

The Free Press WV

A coalition of landowners and advocacy organizations today condemned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for disregarding the profound and long-lasting human and environmental trauma the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) would cause. In its final environmental review, released Friday morning, FERC ignores the most harmful impacts this 300-mile-long pipeline for fracked gas would have on lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, local economies, and publicly owned natural resources. The groups called these risks unacceptable, especially for a pipeline that is not even needed. The coalition also calls the pipeline an assault on the climate and the future of children in West Virginia and Virginia, and notes that the pipeline can still be blocked on multiple federal, state, and legal levels.

The final environmental review1 issued today by FERC for the proposed $3.2 billion MVP—to be developed by EQT Midstream Partners; NextEra; Con Edison Transmission; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream—commits the same central failure of its draft review: failing to prove that the pipeline is needed. An independent study shows there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet consumer demand through 2030, while experts have warned that the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure in West Virginia and Virginia. Key federal government agencies and officials have criticized FERC’s failure to properly determine a project’s need.

Former FERC Chairman and Director Norman Bay in his parting recommendations to the agency, urged the commission to rethink how it determines need when certifying natural gas pipelines. The Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency have also criticized FERC specifically for failing to address whether the MVP is needed, and a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to reform FERC’s approach to public engagement.

FERC has a history of greenlighting natural gas pipelines with insufficient reviews, resulting in dangerous leaks and spills.  The Rover Pipeline recently spilled millions of gallons of drilling chemicals into Ohio’s wetlands, the Sabal Trail pipeline leaked drilling chemicals underground into the Withlacoochee River in Florida, and the highly contentious Dakota Access pipeline has already suffered three leaks.

West Virginia and Virginia citizens opposed to the MVP say FERC has proven unable to properly assess the environmental risks of these pipelines, and its incomplete reviews have dealt a huge blow to public confidence, not to mention safety and the environment. MVP developers submitted more than 16,000 pages of information after the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued. The public did not have the opportunity to submit comments to FERC on the additional submittals. The NEPA review process for the MVP was bypassed by FERC.

While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review today’s document, they have initially identified major gaps in FERC’s Final EIS, including:

  • An accurate assessment of whether the project is needed and in the public interest;

  • Alternative analysis including development of energy efficiency, solar, and wind as alternatives to construction of pipelines;

  • A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline;

  • A thorough and accurate analysis of visual impacts from the pipeline, including impacts to the iconic Appalachian Trail and potential damage to its tourism economy;

  • Cumulative impacts analysis of all environmental and human health damage from increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline;

  • An analysis of the compound effects of multiple regional geo-hazards, including a meaningful analysis of the karst topography; and

  • A thorough review of damage to water quality and natural resources along and downstream from the pipeline route.

The coalition is committed to blocking the pipeline through every available avenue on the federal, state, and legal levels to assure that the very best options for energy, jobs, and landowner rights are considered.

Statements from affected landowners, community members, and environmental and legal experts:

  • Ty Bouldin, landowner in Summers County, West Virginia, stated: “The DEIS for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project was disheartening testimony to the inadequacies of FERC’s environmental assessment procedures. It failed to provide rational scientific standards for evaluating such impacts as were acknowledged. The DEIS simply argued that any impacts—however severe they might prove to be—would be judged acceptable. Such a conclusion was not valid given the inadequacies of the materials submitted by MVP, and it remains unacceptable as the basis for undertaking a responsible Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

  • Maury Johnson, affected landowner in Monroe County WV and The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Indian Creek Watershed Assoc. WV Rivers Coalition, and more, stated: “The Mountain Valley Pipeline will devalue our land, limit its uses and reduce taxes which support our schools and public services. It will jeopardize the safety and security of residents and anyone who visits the area where it is located. It will impact the water that we so much depend upon for our families, our farms and our communities. It will impact the world class water that comes from Peters Mountain in WV and VA. The impacts to the Jefferson National Forest and the Appalachian Trail will be severe and irreversible. It should be criminal to attempt such a pipeline when the profound environmental damage has not been adequately assessed by FERC, by West Virginia’s DEP or by Virginia’s DEQ.“

  • Andrew Downs, Regional Director, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, stated: “The public has never been allowed adequate access to this process which increasingly seems like it’s been driven by distant a bureaucracy. The devastation anticipated to the Jefferson National Forest and the iconic Appalachian Trail is a violation of the public trust that spans from nearly a century and into our uncertain future.”

  • Diana Christopulos, President, Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, stated: “The FEIS ignores the potential negative impacts of the project on public drinking water supplies on the Roanoke River, even though the pipeline’s own consultants reported a major increase in sedimentation in the North Fork of the Roanoke River that would travel all the way from Jefferson National Forest through the cities of Salem and Roanoke to either Niagara Dam or Smith Mountain Lake. The FERC never required to applicant to report fully on the sediment that would occur on the South Fork of the Roanoke River, which could have significant impacts on the same downstream communities.“

  • April Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance/West Virginia Sierra Club/Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, stated: “Not only are these new pipelines not needed, but they lock us into flammable, radioactive, climate warming methane use at a time when renewable energy is needed most. Renewable energy is more affordable than ever and has created more jobs than the fossil fuel market in recent years. FERC has refused to look at cumulative impacts of this and other projects in the same region, which is doing a real disservice to our public health and putting a chokehold on our economic opportunities.”

  • Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated: “Time and again, we’ve seen how FERC’s utter failure to honestly assess the impacts of massive, dangerous gas pipelines. We know this pipeline would result in massive climate pollution equivalent to 26 new coal-fired power plants. FERC’s own former chairman has urged the commission to reconsider how it evaluates environmental impacts, including climate change. If FERC was honest in its environmental accounting, it would have no choice but to reject the project.”

  • Dr. Richard Shingles, Coordinator, Preserve Giles County, “An obscure, independent regulatory agency, controlled by the very gas and oil industry it is supposed to regulate, has taken one more step in a fraudulent ‘public review’ process towards finalizing a predetermined decision. The FEIS ignores the scientific consensus as to the cumulative threats to communities, local economies and natural resources and the pipeline itself. The multiple geological hazards abound in this region should make it a ‘no build zone’ for large, interstate, high pressure gas pipelines. To date FERC has failed to require the applicant to show that these threats can be avoided or safely mitigated - an assurance that the scientific consensus demonstrates cannot be provided.”

  • Hugh Irwin, Landscape Conservation Planner, The Wilderness Society, stated: “Damage to national forest lands and values including wilderness, roadless lands, the Appalachian Trail, clean water, and wildlife habitat have been inadequately addressed, putting these public resources in jeopardy.”

  • Jerolyn Deplazes, Secretary, Preserve Newport Historic Properties, stated: “FERC has shown blatant disregard for the laws concerning the protection of historical properties in the process of reviewing the MVP. Four landowners in the Greater Newport Rural Historic District have been denied the right to consult with FERC, MVP and other cooperating agencies to develop alternatives to the proposed route of MVP. And many filings by the Greater Newport Rural Historic District Committee have been made pointing out the continually incorrect, misleading, and apparently deliberately incomplete information provided to FERC by MVP and the failure of FERC to require full corrective action by MVP. Without complete and correct data input to FERC, there is no way that FERC can make an informed decision on the MVP project.”

  • Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, stated: “FERC’s failure to look at whether this pipeline is actually needed to serve the public, and not just the bank accounts of MVP’s shareholders, is absolutely galling. All too often, like with the recently completed Sabal Trail project, these new pipelines just shift gas away from existing infrastructure instead of offering any new beneficial service. Without a real market analysis, FERC can’t tell whether the pipeline’s extreme impacts to landowners, communities, and the environment will bring about any public benefit. Our independent studies indicate that they will not.”

Former Oil Industry Exec Weighs In on Methane-Waste Rule

Just hours are left for the U.S. Senate to invoke the Congressional Review Act and overturn a Bureau of Land Management rule preventing oil and gas developers on public land from venting and flaring methane gas into the atmosphere.

The Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers 60 days to overturn newly adopted agency rules, and for the BLM methane-waste rules, that deadline is Thursday. The Senate vote could come as early as today.

Wayne Warmack, a former director at ConocoPhillips, worked in the oil and gas industry for nearly three decades and contended that the rule will ensure a cleaner environment and bring in money for local communities.

The Free Press WV
The Bureau of Land Management estimates that energy companies wasted enough natural gas to power more than 5 million homes between 2009 and 2014.


The result, he said, could be “millions and millions of dollars every year that would come in the form of taxes and royalties to the states and federal government, and the public. There are job benefits, in the fact that there will be more jobs created to help capture this methane.“

The BLM has estimated that companies wasted enough gas to power more than 5 million homes between 2009 and 2014. Supporters have said royalty dollars could go to support public schools or updated infrastructure. Those who are opposed have said capturing the gas is too costly for energy companies and impractical for older well sites.

Warmack said regulations must move forward in line with the public’s continually rising expectations. However, he noted, industry always rises to the challenge. One example, he said, was the mandate that vapor-control systems be installed at gas pumps.

“There was a huge cry about how much it was going to increase the price of gas and how it would put gas stations out of business and cost a lot of jobs,“ he said, “but the truth is that industry responds to those challenges by finding better technology and better ways to accomplish those tasks.“

A poll conducted earlier this year found an overwhelming majority of voters on both sides of the political aisle support keeping the BLM methane rule in place, and 60 percent said they oppose eliminating federal requirements on energy companies.

A fact sheet on the BLM methane-waste rule is online at doi.gov.

The Soil Trailer Arrives at Gilmer County Elementary Grade School

The soil Trailer is a 16-ft trailer that serves as a soil, water, and agricultural mobile-learning unit.

As you enter the soil trailer you immediately see circular domes holding microorganisms that are lit up with glowing purple lights and roots coming down from the ceiling.

Looking around the trailer you see blue crayfish on the wall, or check out the three-eyed salamander in the polluted side of the pond.

There’s a turtle poking its head down from the center of the trailer, like it’s looking down on the kids (the turtle has become very popular with the students).

The sculptured interior walls and ceiling depict agricultural specialty crops, a water quality wall, the effects of litter and contamination on aquatic life, and much, much more.

The Free Press WV


A carrot, onion, ginseng and other root vegetables are carved and painted to look real on the right-hand wall.

The left-hand wall holds many insects normally found in the ground, like a centipede, a cicada, and ants digging tunnels.

The Gilmer County Farm Bureau was able to rent this mobile unit for two days for all of the students attending Glenville Elementary School through a grant program from Wes-Mon-Ty RC&D.

The soil trailer is created and operated by Aimee Figgatt, District Manager of the Capitol Conservation District.

The day started off rainy but that did not stop each grade from doing an exercise inside the class room before making their way to the trailer, designed to feel as if you are underground.

Farm Bureau members Dr. Patrick Nestor, Ann Nestor, Chester Sholes, and Keith Cole volunteered for two days taking groups of students through the trailer, along with school volunteers Lula Godfrey and Tammy Foster.

Kelly Sponaugle, a soil scientist from Shady Springs, and originally from Cedarville, volunteered his time teaching some of the classes. Gilmer County Conservation Supervisors Larry Sponaugle and Jane Collins assisted with this event. It was a terrific day for the students to be able to have an educational, hands-on experience.

Thank You, Gilmer County Farm Bureau, for sponsoring this event!

CONSERVATION DAY FOR 6th. Graders

Conservation Day for the 6th Graders of Gilmer County was held once again at Cedar Creek State Park on April 25, 2017.

This field day was made possible by the West Fork Conservation District, with Supervisors Jane Collins and Larry Sponaugle representing Gilmer County.

It was a full day of activities, starting with Instructor Callie Sams (Department of Environmental Protection) who talked about the importanceof recycling and what our earth would look like if we did not recycle. 

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The students each received recycled shoe strings, crayons, and coloring books.

The students then advanced to Forestry with Instructor Joe Jelich, where they were exposed to different native trees and how to identify them.

Next, the Wildlife and Snakes class always gets the students excited. 

Instructor Jim Fregonara (WV Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity) brought his snakes and the students were given the opportunity to touch one, if they dared! 

Almost every student walked away with a sticker proclaiming “I touched a snake today.” 

Our popular Beekeeping class was instructed by Bobbi Cottrill.  She always makes sure the kids leave with a few honey sticks and other goodies.

Kelley Sponaugle, a retired Soil Scientist from Shady Springs, originally from Cedarville had the students getting their hands dirty looking for bugs in the soil with magnifying glasses that each student got to take home with them. 

Aeriel Wauhob (WV Streams, Fish and Wildlife) was also very popular with students, getting in the streams and searching for all kinds of specimens. 

Instructor Rick Sypolt (Retired Professor in Forestry and Land Surveying from Glenville State College) instructed students how to use a compass and read a map. 

Each student went home with a compass.

This year each student and teacher received a t-shirt with the conservation logo on it provided by the West Fork Conservation District. 

There were two volunteers who helped guide students from one session to the next, Arletta Davis and Janice Bowling.

Students are exposed to lots of information in one day, however, the information will help them when they take the Samara Exam later in the month. 

The Samara Exam is a test that measures the knowledge students have gained about the environment through 6th grade, another program sponsored by the Conservation District.

“Be Air Aware” During National Air Quality Awareness Week

The Free Press WV

As the weather warms, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Division of Air Quality (DAQ) reminds West Virginians to “Be Air Aware.” In recognition of National Air Quality Awareness Week – May 01 to May 05 – the DAQ is teaming up with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in a national effort to make citizens aware of simple daily choices that can affect air quality.

Transportation choices can play a significant role in air quality improvement. Choose alternatives to driving such as taking the bus, carpooling, biking, or walking to your destination.

If those alternatives are not options, try these tips: turn off your engine instead of idling; keep your tires properly inflated for better fuel mileage; combine trips; and, refuel in the evening hours when fumes from refueling won’t combine with the sun’s heat to increase ozone levels.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) for nine areas in West Virginia can be obtained by visiting DAQ’s webpage. The AQI is reported for Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Moundsville, Parkersburg, Weirton and Wheeling year-round.

The reported index is the calculated value for the past 24 hours and is updated Monday through Friday.

During ozone season, April 01 through October 31, Greenbrier County and Martinsburg information is also reported.

Possible Public-Lands Rollback Sparks Suspicion in WV

West Virginians are likely to react with suspicion to Trump administration moves toward rolling back the national monuments named by his predecessors, according to a local conservation group.

In an unprecedented step, the White House and U.S. Interior Department have announced they’ll review - and possibly revoke or shrink - monument status given to public lands over the last 20 years.

West Virginia voted strongly for Trump.

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Trump administration moves that could undermine the naming of national monuments might affect West Virginia’s push for a Birthplace of Rivers monument.


But, Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, says folks here really identify with the woods and forests, and want them protected.

“The first time a president has ever made that kind of move, and it just feels like it flies in the face of the very people who voted for him,“ she says. “People take pride in those areas here in West Virginia and are willing to fight to defend them.“

Written statements from the Interior Department say they want to give rural citizens more of a voice in what federal land gets extra protection. The agency also argues that recent monuments have been huge - many times larger than the first ones, named early in the last century.

Critics charge the real reason for the review is to make more public land available for energy development.

Rosser says folks will learn a lot watching how the review process goes - if it’s dictated from the top, it might be driven by powerful vested interests. But if it’s open to the public, she predicts many people will come out to defend public lands.

She notes that’s how the monuments are created in the first place.

“Some of these national monuments, most of them, have been decades in the making,“ she adds. “Local economies have seen great benefits. If they truly listen to the local voices, the business voices will be pressured to keep things as they are.“

Rosser and others are backing a push for a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument in the eastern part of the state. One estimate is that a designation could be worth $50 million a year to the local economy.

The century-old Antiquities Act, which empowers presidents to name national monuments, doesn’t specifically allow later revisions. Any changes made to current national monuments by the Trump administration are almost certain to be challenged in court.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Some Retired Military Oppose Rolling Back Climate-Change Regs

Retired military such as West Point graduate Jon Gensler say national security planners are strongly opposed to Trump plans to roll back climate-change limits.
The Free Press WV

Many in the military community are opposing the Trump administration’s plans to roll back regulations to slow climate change.

Trump has said he wants to roll back the Clean Power Plan carbon limits to help industries such as coal mining. But uniformed officers with an eye on national security often will acknowledge that climate change is a real, immediate and growing threat.

West Point graduate and former tank captain Jon Gensler, a native of West Virginia, said people from his home state have to face reality the way their ancestors did.

“They had to make hard decisions. They had to put in long hours. We honor and revere them for their hard work,” Gensler said. “Why then now are we so gun shy of making the same hard decisions for our own future?“

Now a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, Gensler said Trump’s position is more than a little frustrating. He called it politically motivated and “extremely shortsighted.“

“Now we have a commander-in-chief who’s in direct disagreement with the generals who he claims to support and trust,” he said. “I think you would be hard pressed to find senior leadership at the Pentagon that doesn’t take the threat of climate change seriously, all the way up to and including his own Secretary of Defense.“

Gensler said Defense and State departments planners believe climate change is an extremely serious threat - one that puts the lives of American troops directly at risk. He called it a “conflict multiplier” that contributes to instability in areas such as Iraq and Syria.

“The roots of the Syrian civil war itself are tied to a decade-long drought that caused massive crop failures and pushed rural farmers into the cities, crowding the cities and breaking down the ability of the cities to provide services,” he said.

He said the U.S. military now finds itself responding to climate change-driven disasters such as a recent typhoon in the Philippines that killed 8,000 people. He said the U.S. lost more than 1,000 Marines and soldiers escorting fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan - deaths that could be avoided in the future by using more renewable fuels.

More information is available at AmericanSecurityProject.org.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

The ‘Farmer’ Barbie Doll

The Free Press WV

Recently, a friend posted on a face book that there is a Farmer Barbie Doll. It was easy to see they didn’t use me as the model. No matter how hard I try, my hair will never bounce like that. My coveralls and sweatshirts are leftovers from our growing farm children. I am pretty good at not wearing competing implement or seed dealer apparel at the same time.

With a bit more research, I discovered ‘Barbie’ has a lot of agriculture related items. Interesting… But when you think about it, all Barbies ever designed encompasses the many different roles of a farm wife/farmer.

Almost every farmer’s wife is a farmer in some way. It may not be verbalized aloud in the wedding vows, but when you marry a farmer, the livestock and the dirt comes right along with him, so to speak.

All rural church pastors know very few farmers, male or female, will be able to attend meetings planned during certain weeks of the year. They’ll be busy in the tractor, planting or harvesting or out in the barn feeding hungry mouths that will later feed other hungry stomachs.

The pastor could ‘skype’ his meeting, but there would be a lot of interruptions from the buzzing of monitors to the loud bawling of a newborn calf.

It’s a good thing Barbie is so versatile, because that is how we farm women need to be.

The athletic Barbie comes in handy every day as we juggle time and energy to get the work done. The tennis racket might be replaced with a pitchfork, and instead of a cute little convertible, we find ourselves at home in a tractor cab. The only thing that doesn’t change is the happy smile, right?

Surely, those chore clothes are definitely needed. Rarely is the work around livestock the job of one person. It helps to have a set of extra hands, especially when trucks of baby chicks or turkey poults arrive. Or when sows are farrowing, calves need weaning and the goats are out and the windrower is stuck in the waterway. And sometimes, all of these events occur simultaneously.

Nurse Barbie comes in pretty handy when that occasional nasty bug hits the farmhouse. A tender touch and calm mind are important when there’s a broken bone or other major health issue.

Somewhere in time, there had to be an Office Barbie. Someone to make sure the bills get paid, bookwork done for taxes and regulation paperwork done. The level of her involvement varies from farm to farm, but those office management skills come in handy.

Chef Barbie is any easy one – our cooking skills are born of necessity and perfected thanks to all the experience that comes from feeding a hungry, hardworking family several meals every day.

It’s no wonder we (I) don’t exactly look like the Model Barbie.

Grandma Barbie is a special one. Our eyes really do sparkle when those little ones come to visit. Thankfully, the Barbie designers remembered that sometime we do need a little sleep and even made a Sleepy-time Barbie. It’s always a debate as to who really needs the nap.

Ah yes, the Dress-Up Barbie. Is there any woman who doesn’t like the splendor of a night out with her favorite farmer? The glamour of exchanging blue jeans for a special dress, heels and jewelry. Yes, we do clean up quite well.

I think the creators of the various Barbie dolls may have had farm wives in mind all along. We farmwomen are a diverse group, yet we have many similarities, especially when it comes to doing the best we can, no matter what fashion describes us at the time. Even when it is multiple roles in the same day.

If Barbie’s creators look to farmwomen, there will never be a shortage of inspiration for the next model.

Renae Vander Schaaf - This was written in honor of the many farmwomen, past and present, that I admire so much and inspire me in many ways.

 

Renewables Cheap, Growing Fast in Developing World

The Free Press WV

Renewable energy is growing fast in poor countries, and in a change from a few years ago, demand for coal is stalled or falling.

According to the international bodies that track the patterns, more solar and wind power is coming online than any other kind of energy.

Vrinda Manglik, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s International Climate and Energy program, says for a few projects in the developing world, new solar power can cost half of new coal.

She adds across much of the world, the price of renewable energy has come down so much it’s competing with current power sources – without subsidies.

“The World Economic Forum is reporting that solar and wind have reached grid parity in more than 30 countries,” she points out. “It’s expected that in the coming years that’ll be the case worldwide, but at the moment we’re just seeing more and more examples of it.“

Some in the coal industry, in the past, have described coal as a necessary low-cost option for places hungry for electricity.

But Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates 60 gigawatts of wind and 70 gigawatts of solar were installed last year.

Manglik says demand for coal in India has stopped growing, and it has started to fall in China. She cites a number of factors contributing to that, but says the price is key.

“The air pollution that is a big problem in China and India, as well as the climate agreement,” she states. “In addition to that, it’s basically the economics of it.“

About 1.2 billion people worldwide don’t have easy access to electricity. Most of them live in rural areas, disconnected from the power grid.

Manglik says it’s often cheaper, faster and easier to give them off-the-grid solar than it is to reach them with power lines.

“Solar home systems, solar lanterns, and the people don’t have to wait for the grid to be extended,“ she explains.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Will Trump Administration Ditch Climate-Change Regs?

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What will the Trump Administration do with Obama air-pollution limits designed to slow climate change? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government has to cut greenhouse gasses, including CO2 from existing power plants, but the feds’ Clean Power Plan has been stalled by court challenges about the specifics.

James Van Nostrand, a law professor and the director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University said the new administration will have a number of ways to withdraw, loosen or delay the plan.

“Even if it stays in place, the EPA would just choose not enforce it,“ he said. “And a lot of the U.S. commitments under the Paris agreement are really hinged on emissions reductions that we were going to achieve under the Clean Power Plan.“

The coal industry has attacked the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as part of what it calls a “war on coal.“

Donald Trump famously tweeted that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China, although he later said that was a joke.

Walton Shepherd, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council said while Trump makes up his mind about the issue, climate change is speeding up. But he also noted, so is clean energy, which he called the cure for carbon pollution.

“That’s not waiting, either,“ he said. “Wind and solar are the fastest-growing supply of electricity in the country, and there are now more people employed in solar energy than in the oil and gas or coal-mining industries.“

Shepherd pointed out that clean air rules to address climate change are deeply embedded in the law, and very popular across the country. He said that’s why George W. Bush could stall but not completely stop regulations to address climate change.

“That administration also tried very hard to dismantle clean-air protections,“ he added. “And quite simply, they abandoned their efforts in the face of public opposition.“

The first clues about how the new administration will approach climate change may come when Trump announces who will head the EPA. Some have suggested he may even attempt to dismantle the agency, although that would be a radical step.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

25 Pipelines Proposed for the East

Coal may be declining, but fracking is booming.

Over two dozen natural gas pipelines are planned for the region, many of which cross our favorite outdoor playgrounds. Other pipelines will use eminent domain to traverse private property. All of them will affect the future of energy, health, and recreation in the East.

Dominion Power stands behind their Atlantic Coast Pipeline as a necessary means to meet energy needs throughout the region. “Demand is expected to increase by 165% over the next two decades,” Dominion spokesperson Aaron Ruby says. “Our existing infrastructure is simply not capable of meeting these needs.” As communities grow and businesses expand, energy demands also increase within those developments, Ruby says.

Touting natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” Dominion and other energy companies are hoping to build a massive pipeline infrastructure that could extend fossil fuel dependence for another century or more. Currently 34 percent of our energy comes from natural gas.

19 pipelines are proposed for Appalachia. If built, we would blow past our climate change commitments made in Paris, according to Oil Change International.  And a recent report by Synapse Economics shows that gas pipelines aren’t needed to feed electrical demand. They conclude: “Given existing pipeline capacity [and] existing natural gas storage…the supply capacity of the Virginia‐Carolinas region’s existing natural gas infrastructure is more than sufficient to meet expected future peak demand.”

Each individual pipeline costs upwards of $50 million, with several reaching into the billion-dollar price range. The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline comes with an estimated price tag of $3 billion, while the Atlantic Coast and Northeast Energy Direct lines ring up at over $5 billion. Such high costs will force the region and the nation to commit to fossil fuels for many more decades. More pipeline infrastructure also means more drilling and fracking in order to supply the lines with enough gas.

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But the multibillion dollar investment in a natural gas infrastructure—including massive subsidies from the federal government—is taking away from investment in renewable energy. If the U.S. had given the same subsidies to solar and wind as it has to oil and gas, we could meet most of our energy needs today with renewables.

Solar and wind power now make up over 75 percent of new electric capacity additions in the United States—representing over $70 billion in new capital investment in 2016 alone.

So why aren’t we building a renewable energy infrastructure instead of a fossil-fueled pipeline network?

No one is claiming that renewables can provide all of our electricity overnight. Massive hurdles in energy storage still need to be cleared, and the better battery grail remains elusive. But a smart grid of renewable technologies seems like a better long-term investment than thousands of miles of fracked-gas pipelines.


Is Natural Gas Better Than Coal?

Ruby argues that natural gas provides a vast improvement over the coal. “Natural gas produces half the carbon emissions as coal,” Ruby claims. “Our project will help the region reduce carbon emissions and meet the regulations of the new Federal Clean Power Plan.”

Natural gas companies also claim that access to local shale gas supplies in Pennsylvania and West Virginia will prove more cost-effective than transporting the gas from the Gulf Coast. Pending their completion, pipelines like the Atlantic Coast project could save the consumer base hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs. “Cheap energy options lead an improved economic competitiveness of the region,” says Ruby.

But is the environmental and public health cost worth it? “The pipelines in and of themselves are devastating for the communities that they pass through,” says Maya van Rossum, spokesperson for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “They cut through wetlands, creeks, rivers, and inflict an immense amount of ecological harm that cannot be undone.”

And according to Ramon Alvarez of the Environmental Defense Fund, natural gas is only better than coal if leakage in the gas pipelines and extraction is less than 3.2 percent. Leakages regularly soar above this limit. Methane—the leaked gas—is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Fracking, a drilling method that involves injecting high-pressure toxic fluids into the ground, has been linked to increased earthquakes and groundwater contamination. It uses mercury, lead, methanol, uranium, and formaldehyde to blast through the ground, and many of these chemicals end up in communities’ drinking water.

Pipeline construction itself causes air pollution and acid rain that harms the surrounding soil and vegetation, invades natural wildlife habitats, and contaminates water supplies. Once completed, pipelines continue to cause disruption by maintaining rights-of-way that permanently splinter natural landscapes and block regular animal movement, while also emitting air pollution from compressor stations that jeopardize public and environmental health.

Many local landowners and environmentalists believe that this money would be better spent investing in a renewable energy infrastructure that would set us on a path toward cleaner energy and healthier, more sustainable communities.

Joanna Hanes-Lahr, a resident in Annapolis, Md., worries about pipeline safety amid increased rates of leakage and rupture. She is concerned about drinking water, gas explosions, and increased air and water pollution. She and others believe that a renewable energy infrastructure makes more sense ecologically and economically.

“We don’t need the fracked gas,” she says. “Clean energy is here today.”

What about jobs?

The pipeline industry promises to create new jobs, but they neglect to mention the expenses that accompany them. Pipeline construction often threatens the status of community projects, tourism, and scenic viewsheds which attract many more jobs and visitors. Wintergreen and Nelson County may encounter a loss of $80 million and 250 jobs as a result of two large projects—a new resort hotel and marketplace—that would be postponed or canceled due to pipeline construction.

Already, solar and wind industries employ more workers than oil and gas. The solar industry has hired more veterans than any other industry, retrained coal workers, and has created one out of 80 jobs in the U.S. since the Great Depression. And wind is not far behind. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind technician is the fastest growing job category.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has also found that the clean energy sector provides more jobs and a better quality of employment than natural gas jobs. Natural gas employees “spend six months to build something and then [they’re] out,” says van Rossum. “For every million invested in clean, renewable energy versus fossil fuels, you get 3 to 5 times the number of direct jobs created. You also get a lot more long-term jobs.”


Where are the pipelines proposed?

Some of the outdoor community’s most treasured sites may be destroyed by pipeline implementation, including the beloved backbone of the Blue Ridge: the Appalachian Trail. The proposed PennEast, Atlantic Coast, and Mountain Valley pipelines cross the Appalachian Trail on several occasions, which will cause permanent disruptions to the trail and surrounding forest.

“The natural gas companies have not done a good job articulating a plan that will not have an impact on hikers [because] they are looking at boring under the trail, which is not compatible with the trail experience,” says Director of Conservation Laura Belleville.

Pipelines have also been proposed through Delaware State Forest in Pennsylvania and High Point State Park in New Jersey, the latter of which boasts the highest point in New Jersey. “Now, when you go to look from that high point, what you’ll see is just a swath of denuded forest with a pipeline cut through it,” says van Rossum.

In West Virginia and Virginia, Monongahela and George Washington National Forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway will be permanently marred by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will require regular clearcutting along its entire length.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline similarly endangers Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest, while the Leach Xpress Pipeline moves within 2 short miles of The Wilds Preservation Area and Wayne National Forest in Ohio. Farther south, the Dalton Expansion Project will cross the Etowah River and has already poisoned the waterway after an oil spill during the preparatory construction process. The Sabal Trail Pipeline that winds through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida crosses above the Falmouth Cathedral Cave System, parts of which lie only 30 feet below the earth’s surface and are liable to collapse as a result of the pipeline’s intended path.

The Sierra Club has already opened cases against pipelines where “environmental effects have not been adequately addressed in public areas,” says Thomas Au, the Oil and Gas Chair of the Pennsylvania chapter. Right now, the Constitution Pipeline and Atlantic Sunrise Pipelines worry Au the most. These proposed pipelines pass through Ricketts Glen State Park and across the Lehigh, Susquehanna, and Conestoga Rivers.

Private landowners are also in jeopardy. Pipeline companies are frequently given permission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use eminent domain to construct and maintain pipelines across private property. Even if property owners refuse to sell their land, the companies can seize the land anyway.

That’s what happened to the North Harford Maple Farm in New Milford, Pennsylvania, where the Holleran family runs their maple syrup business. But the Constitution Pipeline will run straight through the Holleran’s property and take down the maple trees that they and their loyal customers depend on.

Even worse: most people who will lose their land to pipelines will not receive any energy benefits in return. Eminent domain seizures mostly accommodate the interests of those on either end of the pipeline while taking resources from the communities in between.

Many of the proposed pipelines will take new paths rather than follow existing rights-of-way, like highways and electric lines. Choosing to use pre-established pipeline routes reduces waste by conserving the amount of land in use—a perk that appeals to environmentalists and landowners alike.

“When we saw what Dominion had crafted for its pipeline route, we were a little horrified,” says Jon Ansell, Chairman of the Friends of Wintergreen. “There are better choices using the principle of co-location.” The Nelson County, Va., organization hopes to protect Wintergreen Resort from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by examining alternative routes that use more existing rights-of-way.

Pipelines ultimately inflict lasting wounds but provide only a short-term energy fix. Together, these pipelines will cut across 3,500 miles of Appalachia and beyond.

~~  Duane Nichols ~~

“When & Where to Visit” for Fall Color This Weekend

The Free Press WV

Best spots to visit currently include Babcock and Watoga state parks; the Summersville area, including the overlook at Summersville Lake; Cranberry Glades; and Williams River. Areas of elevation ranging between 2,000 and 3,500 feet have the most color. Areas over that elevation are losing leaves quickly.


Things to see and do
This weekend, take advantage of the mild October weather and go for a leisurely stroll on the Sunrise Carriage Trail for FestivALL Fall’s Leaf Walk, featuring artists and live music along the way. In downtown Berkeley Springs, nationally and regionally known artists open their studios to the public to show how they create their own unique artwork. And master fiddlers from across the Mountain State converge in Elkins for the Augusta Heritage Center’s Annual Fiddlers’ Reunion, part of Augusta’s October Old-Time Week. For a list of upcoming events this fall, visit https://gotowv.com/events/calendar/.

Natural Gas Industry Energizing Education in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s natural gas industry is providing significant financial and in-kind support to a variety of educational and youth-focused initiatives in the areas of STEM programming, workforce development, youth athletics, teacher training and general student needs.

“With school in full swing across the Mountain State, West Virginia’s natural gas industry is committed to improving and enhancing educational opportunities for state children,” said Steve Perdue, Interim Director of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA).

Perdue said programming focused on educating students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a priority for many WVONGA members. Recent initiatives include:

–    Chevron and Southwestern Energy’s support of the STEM Network Schools program through the Education Alliance.

–    Chevron’s support of the Oglebay Institute effort to align science curriculum in grades 1-8 in Marshall County and professional development training for teachers at Sherrard Middle School.

–    EQT’s support of the Clay Center’s Power Your Future mobile STEM exhibit.

–    XTO Energy’s Mickelson ExxonMobil Teacher’s Academy support for professional development for Union Elementary School teacher in Upshur County.

–    Antero, MarkWest Energy, XTO Energy and EQT’s support for the Challenge Program in Doddridge, Marion, and Harrison Counties.

–    Dominion’s K-12 and Higher Education Partnership grants will engage students in a variety of energy- and environmental-focused science, math and technology programs.

WVONGA members are involved in myriad ways with schools in their operating region.

Rick Coffman, superintendent of Ritchie County Schools and former Superintendent of Doddridge County Schools, said, “I’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact the natural gas industry continues to have on our education system. Property tax revenues generated by industry activities are providing needed funding for our schools, while ongoing and direct company involvement with local schools is helping to enhance the educational experience for all students.”

Other examples of natural gas industry support with West Virginia schools and students include:

–    Noble Energy’s support for the Energizing Our Youth after-school wellness program in Marshall County.

–    Antero’s Oil & Gas Dodgeball Tournament, which raised funds for Harrison County summer reading and nutrition programming, among other initiatives, and, separately, the company provides monetary contributions to high school athletic departments across northcentral West Virginia.

–    XTO Energy’s scholarship support for students attending the Department of Environmental Protection’s Junior Conservation Camp in Jackson County.

–    Dominion’s contribution of 5,000 pairs of tennis shoes to school students in flood impacted regions of the state.

–    EQT’s support of literacy programs for elementary students in McDowell County through Operation Outreach.

–    MarkWest Energy’s support for the construction of an outdoor classroom in Doddridge County.

–    Chevron and Noble Energy’s support for local back-to-school fairs, providing backpacks, school supplies and other materials for students.

Perdue said the industry’s educational involvement isn’t limited to K-12.

EQT will award 60 $1,000 scholarships to students across the state (one from each of WV’s 55 counties + 5 ad hoc), as well as six full-ride scholarships to students looking to study a field relative to the natural gas industry.

“We recognize the need to prepare our children for the jobs of tomorrow,” Perdue said. “Our members support workforce development and career-readiness programs at our institutions of higher education across the state.”

Perdue cited the industry’s support for the establishment of the Energy Land Management Program at WVU.  One of only 10 such programs accredited by the American Association of Professional Landmen in the country, this program now has more than 100 students enrolled and on their way to careers in the oil and natural gas industry.

Additionally, Noble Energy and XTO Energy’s significant commitment to the Petroleum Technology Program at Pierpont Community & Technical College and West Virginia Northern Community College is facilitating the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required for success in technician-level jobs within the upstream petroleum production industry.

“These are just small snapshots of the involvement our members have with the education community in the state,” Perdue said.  “The industry is very committed to doing all we can to help Mountain State youth grow and prosper.”

For additional information, contact Steve Perdue at 304.343.1609.

Century Farm - Gilmer County

Congratulations Gilmer County Century Farm Honorees.

It was a very exciting night at the Doddridge County Park in West Union, when Gilmer County, WV was honored to have a Century Farm, owned by Barry and Karen Lay.

The Free Press WV
(L-R) Teddy Fitzwater, Alex Lay Sears, Karen and Barry Lay, owners of the Century Farm,
Jane Collins and Larry Sponaugle, Conservation Supervisors for Gilmer County


The West Virginia Century Farm Program is designed to recognize those families who have been farming the same tract of land for at least 100 years.

A Century Farm is one that has been in continuous operation by the same family for 100 years or more.

A family member must live on the farm or be an integral part of the day-to-day operation of the farm enterprise.

The farm must consist of at least 10 acres of the original holdings and gross more than $1,000 annually from farm products.

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