Free Nelson has been reporting on errors, accidents and violations by Dominion and/or its partnerships over the last several months. We became interested in Dominion's safety record last May, when Nelsonians began receiving letters regarding a 554-mile long, 42" natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project. The pipeline has since been renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and is now a partnership between Dominion, Duke, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.
The proposed ACP would cut a 125' swath, wide enough for a 6-lane highway, through Nelson's steep, forested terrain, as well through our rolling farmland. The originally-proposed route for Nelson is approximately 30 miles, entering at the county's northeast corner near Humpback Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would travel in a southeasterly direction to the James River. This route, or any of the other four recently announced alternate routes through the county, would traverse the land of hundreds of private property owners.
We have heard all the platitudes. The most often heard is that "pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas." Actually, it is the only way natural gas is transported. But that doesn't mean it is safe. As pipelines increase in size, it becomes more imperative that we know the risks to those in the path of these behemoths. In 2012, a 20" natural gas pipeline exploded in Sissonville, WV along Interstate 77, melting 800' of the interstate highway, destroying three homes and damaging countless others. Another pipeline, in Appomattox County, Virginia, exploded in 2008, destroying two homes, melting the siding on over 100 others as far as a mile away. Clearly, the radiational heat from these explosions is tremendous. Yet here in Nelson, Dominion (which has chosen the proposed path) puts existing lawndowners' homes within 330' of a much larger, 42" pipeline which operates at a much higher 1,440 psi than the two pipeline explosions we gave as examples.
We won't address Dominion's many lies, nor the crass, bullying behavior of Dominion toward landowners and our community in this article. But we will share with you the many errors, unreported violations, fines and accidents Dominion and its partnerships have been party to over the last few years.
Yet again, the difference between having right-wing extremist Mark Obenshain (shudddderrrr) as Virginia Attorney General, and having Mark Herring as our AG, is immense. In this case, Herring is fighting against a despicable practice - predatory lending. "...on matters large and on matters small, we are going to fight for the rights of Virginia consumers. But there's one place where we need to do more and we're going to do more. I read a few weeks ago that Virginia is now considered the predatory lending capital of the East Coast, and I cannot accept that. It hurts our reputation as a state, and more than that, it means that here are Virginians who are being hurt, and I cannot accept that." Full remarks on the "flip."
P.S. "Democrats" like Dick Saslaw who support predatory lending should be ashamed of themselves.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, March 27. Also, check out comedian Aasif Mandvi at the 2015 RTCA Dinner ripping the corporate media's incompetence and idiocy.
I used to think I was working to “stop climate change”. I can’t tell you how many times I used those words while working as a volunteer and student activist back in my home state of Mississippi. The renewable energy campaigns, organizing skills workshops, and multitudes of events that we hosted all focused on building people power to stop the climate crisis. It was good work, it was fun work, it was difficult work, and in retrospect it was a bit naïve. That last statement needs to qualified; the concept of “stopping climate change” was naïve in the sense that it portrays the issue as one with a simple solution. It probably also contributed to the difficulty of the work because it didn’t convey the true urgency of climate change.
Fast forward five years and a lot has changed. We are no longer talking about climate change as just something we will experience in the future. A myriad of reports, studies, and articles have been written and released over the past several years that discuss the impacts of climate change that we are seeing now. Hampton Roads has consistently been getting national media attention because we’re one of the places that climate change impacts (specifically sea level rise) are most visible.
This brings me to the title of the article, Adaptation and Mitigation Goes Hand In Hand. First it is helpful to define these two terms. Adaptation is to “become adjusted to new conditions” and in terms of climate change and sea level rise in Hampton Roads includes things like raising roads and houses and changing building standards to account for rising seas and resulting flooding. Mitigation is “the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something” and in terms of climate change basically boils down to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions which includes things like transitioning from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas to clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, geothermal, reducing wasted energy through energy efficiency, as well as addressing emissions generated by our system of food production.
As I mentioned earlier, portraying an issue as something far off in the future downplays the urgency and doesn’t help when trying to get people involved in a social movement. But on the other end of the spectrum, specifically with regards to climate change, the urgency of the issue can also push the conversation to focus more heavily on the adaptation side of the solutions, things that people will see and feel in the immediate future (for example someone’s house being elevated to adapt to flooding). It is critical for the future of Hampton Roads for us to keep the focus on both mitigation and adaptation. No matter how much we adapt to climate change if we ignore the need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions the problem will only persist and get worse, and all the effort and money put towards adaptation efforts will eventually be all for nothing.
RICHMOND-Dominion Resources, already the top emitter of planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution in Virginia, announced a proposal this morning to build a new 1,600-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Southside Virginia. If approved, the plant would be the largest gas-fired power plant in the state.
Kirsten Collings, deputy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:
"You can't solve the climate crisis by investing in more fossil fuels. A growing body of evidence shows that fracked gas could be worse for the climate than coal over the next 20 years because of leaks of heat-trapping methane. Governor McAuliffe has his facts wrong in endorsing this project as 'clean,' just as he did when endorsing Dominion's massive Atlantic Coast pipeline for fracked gas.
"The reality is that Virginia simply doesn't need and can't afford new investments in fossil fuels. Dominion could more than offset the need to build a new gas-burning power plant by investing in modest energy-saving technologies that would reduce demand along with Virginians' utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginians pay the 7th highest average electric bills in the nation, and our state ranks near the bottom on energy efficiency. Dominion should invest in the commonwealth's vast clean energy resources, which would create jobs, lower bills and reduce emissions of climate-disrupting pollution."
In the race to succeed retiring State Senator John Watkins (R-SD10), the candidates currently listed on VPAP are: Dems Emily Francis (a strong progressive and environmentalist, Dan Gecker (who has run as an "I" in the past and who says his political hero is Ronald Reagan); Republican Glen Sturtevant; and Libertarian Carl Loser. In the Dem primary, since the strongest progressive and environmentalist by far is Emily Francis, you just know who the Dem "powers that be" (e.g., Dick Saslaw, who despises progressives and environmentalists with a burning passion) would be supporting the conservadem, and you'd be right.
But now, a major wild card is rumored to be entering the race, and it could mess up all of the "powers that be"'s well-laid plans. That would Alex McMurtrie, a former Republican (correction: the Washington Post article I linked to was wrong, McMurtrie was a Democrat, although it's easy to confuse, as his campaign slogan reportedly was "Conservative Alex McMurtrie" - lol) House of Delegates member (back in the 1980s), now, who last ran (as an "I") and got crushed by John Watkins (R), who's now retiring, back in 1999.
Who knows what the guy really is now, but he donates to both Rs and Ds. Anyway, I hear from sources that he turned in his petitions yesterday to run as a Democrat in the primary for the SD-10 Dem primary. This could be fascinating, as it means two white, male, conservadems will be running, along with a woman who happens to be a progressive and environmentalist. Also, McMurtrie is by all accounts "loaded" in terms of money. So...could McMurtrie split the votes with Gecker and gives Francis a clear path to winning this primary? We can only hope. Stay tuned.
P.S. I also hear our old friend Paul Goldman may be involved in the McMurtrie race. Goldman's really got to be giving Dick Saslaw heartburn these days, and I can't say that doesn't put a smile on my face. :)
Last night, the Stafford County School Board, prior to voting, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background, see Think Progress, which explains:
Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system, started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law.
...The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."
Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.
Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The video I've included is of a courageous parent (of two students in the Stafford County school system) delivering an impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, March 26. Also, courtesy of Stafford Dem Marc Broklawski, check out the "'greatest hits' compilation of extreme Tea Party testimony bullying the Stafford School Board into abandoning Title IX." It's kinda like watching Faux "News" or Glenn Beck or something. And no, that is NOT a good thing! Ugh.
Today's Supreme Court decision on racial gerrymandering invalidates an Alabama redistricting plan that packed minority voters into majority-minority districts. What "packing" African Americans does is to basically guarantee an African-American will be elected in the "packed" district(s), but that African Americans' voting power will be diluted everywhere else.
Here in Virginia, this issue came to a head last fall, when three federal judges ruled "that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution" and "ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016."
The 3rd District is the only one of Virginia's 11 congressional districts with an African American majority. It has been represented since 1992 by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat who is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges agreed with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed a year ago that the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly in 2012 amounted to racial gerrymandering, packing African American voters into Scott's district and leaving adjoining districts safer for their Republican incumbents.
In order to comply with the panel's ruling, the legislature might have to pull some Democratic-leaning voters out of Scott's district and redistribute them to surrounding districts, possibly creating less-hospitable electoral terrain for Republican Reps. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake and Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach.
Note that in 2012, Barack Obama lost the 4th CD (Forbes' district) by just 1 point, while Tim Kaine narrowly won it. Thus, a shift of even a few points could make Randy Forbes' political life a lot less cozy. Same thing with Scott Rigell, whose second district Barack Obama narrowly won in 2012.
Meanwhile, yet another Virginia lawsuit accuses "the General Assembly of 'racial gerrymandering' by packing black voters into 12 of the state's House of Delegates districts." For that reason, "[t]he plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the challenged districts invalid and to block the state from holding elections because of the disputed districts." If plaintiffs win this case, it could lead to the redrawing not just of the affected districts, but also potentially surrounding ones as well. And that, in turn, could have significant consequences for the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates. Not surprisingly, House of Delegates Republicans are in no hurry to deal with this situation, and would clearly prefer that it just go away. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for those who dislike racial gerrymandering and "packing," that's not likely.
Bottom line: Today's SCOTUS ruling has potentially big implications for Virginia, because Rep. Bobby Scott's case is factually similar, as is the House of Delegates case.
Mr. Chairman, this year's Republican Budget Resolution is incredulously titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America." But by every measure, the draconian cuts proposed in this budget would severely WEAKEN America's innovative advantage and competitiveness. It might as well be called "Let's Disinvest in America".
Consider the cuts to basic research, once a bedrock federal priority that has spurred new discoveries that are now vital in our daily lives and the economy. R&D is critical for my Northern Virginian district, where the technology community is driving innovation. But this Republican budget would slash R&D funding by 15% to its lowest levels since 2002. That is a retreat from America's role as the global innovation leader, and essentially cedes the playing field to our international competition.
Similarly, the Republican budget would disinvest in our classrooms. To achieve their ruse of balancing the budget over 10 years, Republicans would cut non-defense spending 24% below the already-reduced sequester levels. For K-12 education, that translates into an $89 billion cut over the next decade and would surely leave every child behind their international peers. It also would put higher education further out of reach for low- and middle-class families.
America did not ascend to its role as the world's leading economy by quashing the potential of future innovators and leaders.
Mr. Speaker, our Republican colleagues are once again showing they know the cost of everything and the value of very little. I often hear my colleagues lament that we should run government more like a business. Well, if that's the case, perhaps we should start by listening to the business community, which is advocating for us to invest more, not less, in R&D, in education, and in infrastructure for the future workforce and the building blocks of a competitive economy.
These are investments that yield tremendous returns for our families, for our children, for our future, and the Republican budget would eviscerate these pillars of America's exceptionalism.
In May, 2014 Dominion Transmission sent letters to property owners from West Virginia to North Carolina requesting to survey private property for the proposed natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project. Many landowners refused, including approximately 70% of landowners in Nelson County.
In December, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation, began suing landowners who had refused to allow Dominion Transmission to survey. The first of these cases was heard today in Suffolk Circuit Court. Below is a press release from Chuck Lollar, the attorney who argued the case for a landowner in Suffolk who had refused the survey. Suffice it to say, neither Dominion nor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) LLC are happy this evening. On the other hand, many landowners across the Commonwealth are celebrating, including Heidi Cochran, a landowner in Nelson County who called us this afternoon to alert us of this victory in court.
A Virginia court today dismissed the petition of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC against a Suffolk property owner represented by Chuck Lollar of the law firm of Waldo & Lyle, which exclusively represents property owners only in eminent domain and property rights matters.
The Court heard arguments from Mr. Lollar and ACP attorney John Wilburn on the constitutionality of Virginia Code § 56-49.01. Mr. Lollar argued that because property is now specifically referred to in the recent amendment to Virginia's Declaration of Rights (Article 1 Section 11 of the Constitution) as a "fundamental" right, ACP is required to show a compelling governmental interest and no lesser restrictive alternative to the requested entry; and that applying the required strict scrutiny ACP had not alleged nor could establish either. Mr. Lollar also noted that ACP was not a Virginia public service corporation and did not have the extraordinary power of eminent domain.
ACP was proceeding under § 56-49.01 in seeking a court order allowing entry to survey and take soil and other samples from private property, prior to filing its application with FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The Court did not have to rule on that constitutionality of § 56-49.01 due to the Court's conclusion that Atlantic Coast Pipeline had neither requested permission from the owner to enter nor sent the owner notice of intent to enter, both of which are prerequisites to actual entry under § 56-49.01. The Court further held that Dominion Transmission, Inc. could not assign to ACP its sending of letters requesting permission and giving notice to owners, in order for ACP to have met those requirements.
A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic showing Virginia's House of Delegates districts, ranked in descending order by the percent that AG candidate Mark Herring received in 2013. Now, I'm well aware that turnout in 2015 will be even lower than 2013 (a statewide/governor's election year), but it's still a more accurate baseline, IMHO, than any "even year" election.
Anyway, what this ranking showed was that there are currently 12 House of Delegates districts where Mark Herring received 50% or greater in 2013, yet are held by Republican delegates. There are also two 49% Herring districts, two 48% Herring districts, two 47% Herring districts, and four 46% Herring districts currently held by Republican delegates. So how are we doing (e.g., how are House Minority Leader David Toscano and Del. Alfonso Lopez, Campaign and Political Chair of the House Democratic Caucus) in terms of recruitment in these districts so far?
According to VPAP, we now have a (super-strong) candidate, Jennifer Boysko, in the 86th district, where Del. Tom Rust has announced his retirement. Nothing's an automatic, but that one looks like a superb pickup opportunity for Democrats this November. We also have candidates in the following districts:
*HD-87 (56% Herring district): Democrat Jack Tiwari vs. Del. David Ramadan
*HD-32 (54% Herring district): Democrat Elizabeth Miller vs. Del. Tag Greason
*HD-42 (53% Herring district): Democrat Joana Garcia vs. Del. Dave Albo
*HD-13 (51% Herring district): Democrat Don Shaw vs. Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall
*HD-12 (50% Herring district): Democrat Laurie Buchwald vs. Del. Joseph Yost
*HD-21 (50% Herring district): Democrat Susan Hippen vs. Del. Ron Villanueva
*HD-50 (50% Herring district): Democrat Kyle McCullough vs. Del. Jackson Miller
*HD-94 (49% Herring district): Democrat Shelly Simonds vs. Del. David Yancey
*HD-100 (49% Herring distirct): Democrat Willie Randall vs. Del. Rob Bloxom
*HD-28 (48% Herring district): Democrat Kandy Hilliard vs. House Speaker Bill Howell (let's hope Tea Partier Susan Stimpson wins that primary!)
*HD-40 (47% Herring district): Democrat Jerry Foltz vs. Del. Tim Hugo
All in all, not too shabby, and we still have time to recruit candidates in remaining potentially competitive, House of Delegates districts. In the end, this could turn out to be an excellent year in terms of recruitment. The question is whether we'll be able to adequately fund these candidates, as Republicans started off 2015 with a big money advantage for House of Delegates.
The remaining top House of Delegates recruiting priorities, as far as I can tell, are: 1) someone to challenge Del. Jim LeMunyon in his 54% Mark Herring district (in 2013, Democrat Hung Nguyen got 45.3%); 2) ditto for right-wingnut extraordinaire Del. Scott Lingamfelter, in his 52% Mark Herring district (last time around, Jeremy McPike lost by just 228 votes; not sure why he's not trying again this year!); 3) ditto against Del. Rich Anderson in his 50% Mark Herring district (Democrat Reed Heddleston got 46% in 2013).
One other seat worth noting is the 2nd, a 56% Mark Herring district being vacacted by Del. Michael Futrell. Our candidate there is Roderick Hall, who will take on former Del. Mark Dudenhefer.
P.S. I just read this morning that "Political newcomer Chuck Hedges, a Democrat, will challenge incumbent state Del. David LaRock (R) in this year's House of Delegates 33rd District election." That's a tough district (44% for Mark Herring in 2013), but what the heck, you can't win if you don't play!
Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that 367 members of the U.S. House of Representatives had signed and "released a bipartisan letter to President Obama underscoring the 'grave and urgent issues that have arisen' relating to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran." The actionable part is at the end (see blockquote below), following a list of Iran's transgressions (e.g., " Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work, despite its international obligations to do so;" "Iran's decades of deception," and "Iran's destabilizing role in the regio"). The letter also states a clear demand that any agreement with Iran "must constrain Iran's nuclear infrastructure so that Iran has no pathway to a bomb, and that agreement must be long-lasting."
The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation, imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.
Resolving the nuclear crisis with Iran remains of grave importance to our nation's security. As the Administration continues to negotiate with Iran, we are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies. We remain hopeful that a diplomatic solution preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon may yet be reached, and we want to work with you to assure such a result.
The Iran letter was signed by 10 out of 11 members of Virginia's House delegation, the only non-signatory being Rep. Don Beyer. I'm curious why Beyer didn't sign (I emailed his office late yesterday but haven't heard back), while the other two Virginia Democrats - Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott - did. Personally, I can see reasons for signing and for not signing. Although I don't really disagree with anything in the letter, the question is whether it is helpful, harmful, or where exactly in between those two?
P.S. For a list of the 59 House Dems and 6 House Republicans who didn't sign the letter, click here -- a mixed bag ideologically, geographically, etc.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, March 24. Also, check out Joe Morrissey saying he'd be willing to caucus with far-right-wing State Senator Tommy Norment and the Republicans if he is elected to the State Senate. Yet ANOTHER reason not to vote for this slimeball.
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