Dominion Energy Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court to Defend Atlantic Coast Pipeline

In December, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a permit allowing the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

According to the court, the Forest Service does not have authority to give permission for pipeline construction on federal land, however Dominion Energy and the U.S. Department of Justice recently made an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn this decision.

56 pipelines are already in place crossing through the Appalachian Trail, and if the Atlantic Coast pipeline is not allowed through, Dominion observes that it could make the Trail into a barrier between consumers in the east and resource-rich areas in the west.

Josh Price, senior analyst at Heigh Capital Markets, says, “We believe the [Supreme] Court may view this as an issue of national importance…if the court declines to take up the case or upholds the ruling, we anticipate [Atlantic Coast] owners may cancel the projects.”

Seeking Alpha

Michigan AG and Enbridge at Odds Over Oil Pipeline in Great Lakes

On Thursday, the attorney general of Michigan filed suit to shut down Enbridge’s 66-year-old twin pipelines in the Great Lakes. He said there is an “unacceptable risk” making it dangerous for the state to wait 5 to 10 years for replacements to get built.

Additionally, this past week, Democrat Dana Nessel dismissed the legality of a deal former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Enbridge had made allowing the company to continue adding a tunnel below their Line 5. Since the deal was made, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Enbridge have been in talks with Whitmer pushing for the project to be finished in 2 years, while Enbridge arguing they could not finish before 2024.

Nessel says she has “consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes…because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits."

In opposition to their pipelines being shut down, Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy has stated their decommission would be a “serious disruption” to Michigan’s energy market and supply. Line 5 provides 55% of Michigan’s propane needs, as well as 65% for northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, and a large portion of aviation fuel at the Detroit Metro Airport.

Duffy adds that Enbridge “remains open to discussions with the governor,” and “is deeply committed to being part of Michigan’s future. We believe the Straits tunnel is the best way to protect the community and the Great Lakes while safely meeting Michigan’s energy needs.”

The pipes were put into operation in 1953 and, as Enbridge has said, are able to operate “indefinitely,” however opponents worry the construction on the tunnel encasing the Line 5 could prolong a possible unprotected accident or spill in the Straits area. Nessel’s suit addresses the anchor strike possibility and calls on an Ingham County judge to overrule the operation of the pipelines as they violate the public trust doctrine and the Michigan Environmental Protection Act as they have the plausibility of causing pollution and destroying natural resources.

Enbridge has brought to attention the safety actions they have put in place to prevent anchor strikes and has requested continued talks with Governor Whitmer with an independent moderator to assist in facilitating discussion as well as pausing their lawsuit filed against her.


Enbridge Supported by Wisconsin Supreme Court in Dane County Case

A ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court has allowed Enbridge Energy to continue on with their pipeline project in Dane County without any additional insurance, despite the local government putting a requirement on Enbridge’s permit for a $25 million environmental liability policy.

Wisconsin lawmakers stepped in and passed a provision blocking local municipalities from putting liability requirements on an operator if they already had sufficient insurance. After a couple back and forths of courts contesting Enbridge’s quality of insurance, the high court ruled that Enbridge does have comprehensive insurance. According to Enbridge, they have $860 million worth of general liability insurance, including coverage for ’sudden and accidental’ pollution.

Despite the ruling, several people within local government have been adamant that Enbridge has yet to provide proof of adequate insurance for ’sudden and accidental’ cases. Concerned about the decision, Patricia Hammel, a landowner’s attorney, stated that it “allows Enbridge to operate the largest tar sands pipeline in the U.S. across Wisconsin without adequate insurance and exposes our people, land and water to the consequences of a catastrophic spill.”

Enbridge’s oil spill in 2010, in southwest Michigan, polluted almost 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and cost them $1.2. billion. In addition, the United States fined them for missing deadlines on pipeline inspections prior to the spill, costing them an extra $1.8 million. The cleanup lasted until 2014.

Meanwhile, Enbridge has finished their $1.5 billion pipeline make-over and built the Waterloo pump station, which, according to a spokeswoman of Enbridge, Jennifer Smith, is necessary in order to “ensure a reliable source of energy for decades to come.”


Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Is Back In Business After Court Ruling

The New Democratic Party of British Colombia was met with a loss last week as their campaign against the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion and attempt to gain power over the national enterprise was ruled against by the BC Court of Appeal. The court’s verdict instead gave control to the province when it comes to oil deliveries throughout the plan of the expansion. 

British Colombia Premier John Horgan is determined to continue with the fight against the TMX which could take legal matters to the Supreme Court of Canada. However, federal cabinet approval for the plan’s continuation is scheduled for June 18.

Last year, following environmental, native and British Colombia government protests, the pipeline expansion was halted and Kinder Morgan Canada sold Trans Mountain for $4.5 billion to the liberal government in Ottawa. The expansion, running from Alberta to Vancouver (987 k), would be a benefit to Alberta’s thermal oilsands production, Canada’s top natural gas user and Trans Mountain’s capacity would almost triple to 890,000 b/d. The court’s recent verdict claimed the North Democratic Party’s opposition as “an immediate and existential threat to a federal undertaking that is being expanded specifically to increase the amount of oil being transported through BC.” 

Justice Mary Newbury stated, “it is simply not practical — or appropriate in terms of constitutional law — for different laws and regulation to apply to an interprovincial pipeline, or railway or communications infrastructure, every time it crosses a border.”  

Furthermore, she says, “there is in place a complex web of federal statuses and regulations that apply to all aspects of interprovincial pipelines, including environmental assessment, operational oversight, spill and accident responses, and financial liability and compensation for harm done by spills. The ‘polluter pays’ principle is clearly an important part of these laws.” 

And lastly, Newbury confirms that “the approval process is still continuing. The minimization of environmental harm associated with interprovincial undertakings is a key component of the federal matter."

NGI Shale Daily

Dominion Energy to Request Supreme Court Hearing For Pipeline Appeal

Lead pipeline developer Dominion Energy will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a ruling tossing out a permit that would have allowed the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, the company said on Tuesday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request for a full-court rehearing from Dominion Energy and the U.S. Forest Service on Monday. The company expects the filing of an appeal in the next 90 days.

According to a three judge panel that ruled in December, the Forest Service lacks the authority to authorize the trail crossing and had "abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources" when it approved the pipeline, crossing the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, as well as a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trial.

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and other environmental groups. They believe it is impossible to build the pipeline "without causing massive landslides and threatening the Appalachian Trail and our clean water."

The natural gas pipeline would originate in West Virginia and run through North Carolina and Virginia.


Sunoco Pipeline to Pay Over $5 Million After Three Oil Spills

Sunoco Pipeline will pay more than $5.4 million to settle with the state of Louisiana and the federal government after three oil spills occurred in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

In a Thursday agreement to pay civil penalties and state enforcement costs, the company hopes to resolve the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act from the three oil spills that occurred between 2012 and 2015. Pipeline corrosion was the cause of the spills.

550 barrels of oil in Tyler County, Texas spilled in 2013. 4,500 barrels in Caddo Parish, La. In 2015, and then 40 barrels in Grant County, Okla in 2015.

The settlement includes agreements for Sunoco to perform inspections related to corrosion.


Dominion Hopeful that Court Decision will not Result in Construction Delay

Dominion Energy Inc said on Tuesday that it does not expect a court decision to stay a federal permit on part of its Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.

A stay would delay the construction of the $6-6.5 billion project from West Virginia to North Carolina past the aimed completion date which is currently the end of 2019.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order on Monday, staying implementation of a permit from the U.S. Forest Service for the pipeline that authorized construction and operation of Atlantic Coast on national forest lands in Virginia and West Virginia.

Only 20 miles of the 600-mile pipeline is affected by the permit, Dominion said. It is designed to carry 1.5-billion cubic feet per day.

“While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s ruling, it will not have a significant impact on our construction schedule,” Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in an email.

 “We will continue working in all other areas of West Virginia and North Carolina, where we are making significant progress,” Ruby said.

The Southern Environmental Law Center asked FERC on Tuesday to stop the entire project based on the last ruling.

It was the third time in four months that the court has vacated or stayed federal authorizations for Atlantic Coast, the Southern Environmental Law center pointed out in its FERC filing.

“Opponents’ delay tactics will not stop this project. They will only drive up consumer energy costs, delay the transition to cleaner energy, and make it harder for public utilities to reliably serve their customers,” Ruby said, noting “We will complete this project.”


Atlantic Coast Pipeline Has Permits Reissued, Construction Resumes

Federal regulators reissued two Atlantic Coast Pipeline permits on Monday allowing construction to resume. The permits had been vacated in August by a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

The FERC Commission lifted the stop-work order it had imposed last month in response to a ruling that denied permits allowing the project to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and possibly harm endangered or threatened animal species.

The National Park Service reissued a right-of-way permit allowing the pipeline to cross beneath Augusta and Nelson counties. The Fish & Wildlife Service issued new biological opinions on September 11 confirming that the project would not jeopardize the habitats of any endangered or threatened species in its path.

Dominion went to extraordinary lengths to ease concerns and meet federal criteria.

Applicable agencies were obligated to reissue necessary permits. “Construction activities along project areas had previously received a notice to proceed may now continue,” said Terry L. Turpin, director of the commission’s office of energy projects.

Construction resumed on the Mountain Valley Pipeline last month, weeks after it was halted in response to another 4th Circuit decision that vacated its permit from the U.S. Forest Service to cross national forest lands.

Richmond Times Dispatch

Plains All American Face Criminal Charges After California Spill

A California jury on Friday found Plains All American Pipeline company guilty on criminal charges from a major oil spill three years ago along the Pacific shoreline near Santa Barbara.

The spill ranks as the largest in more than four decades to hit the northwest coast of Los Angeles.

Crude oil gushed onto Refugio State Beach shores and into the Pacific after an underground pipeline badly worn by corrosion ruptured along a coastal highway west of Santa Barbara on May 19, 2015. Hundreds of sea bird and marine mammals died because of the spill.

The company estimated as much as 3,400 barrels of crude oil escaped into the environment at the edge of a national marine sanctuary and state-designated underwater preserve rich in marine life.

The company faces at least $1.5 million in penalties if Friday’s conviction is sustained  according to a chief deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County.

The penalty is a small fraction of the $150 million that Plains said it had spent on spill response and cleanup costs by the time the criminal case was brought in 2016.

Plains was convicted of discharging crude oil into state waters, a felony, and for eight misdemeanor offenses, including the failure to immediately report the spill, the chief deputy district attorney added.

One of Plains’ employees, an environmental and regulatory compliance specialist, was originally charged in the case as well, but those charges, and dozens of others against the company, were dismissed before the trial.

The court specifically found the company at fault for failing to protect the pipeline from corrosion as well as failing to detect and report spills immediately.


Federal Court Shuts Down Trans Mountain, Project Potentially Delayed for Years

A Canadian court on Thursday overturned approval of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion, ruling that Ottawa failed to adequately consider aboriginal concerns.

The surprising decision is a huge blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts to balance environmental and economic issues.

The Canadian government agreed to buy the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada for $3.46 billion, under the presumption that it would win the court battle and expand Trans Mountain despite fierce opposition.

The decision also hurts Canada’s oil producers who have seen prices sharply reduced for their crude because of bottlenecks due to the lack of pipeline expansion. Shares fell after the decision.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) regulator wrongly narrowed its review of the project to exclude related tanker traffic. The federal government also did not adequately consult First Nations, as required by law.

 “It’s quite a slap to the government by the court on the grounds of reconciliation with First Nations,” said Kathryn Harrison, a professor of political science at University of British Columbia. “They’ve committed billions of dollars in taxpayers’ funds doubling down on a project that the courts have just quashed.”

Canada’s Finance Minister said he would speak about the decision on Thursday afternoon. Canada has the option to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

It is unclear how long a delay the project now faces. An appeal the higher court would drag it out at least another couple of years, Harrison said.

Kinder Morgan voted on Thursday to approve the pipeline’s sale to Ottawa who cannot back out of the deal according to RBC analyst Robert Kwan.


Builder of Bayou Bridge Pipeline Appeals Court Decision to Revoke Needed Permit

The company building the Bayou Bridge crude oil pipeline in southern Louisiana appealed a ruling on Monday by a federal judge that stopped construction on a section of the project.

U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick revoked a needed permit for the 162-mile pipeline, which is already under construction, in response to a lawsuit filed against the Army Corps by environmentalists and local Louisiana fishermen who sought to challenge the permit approving construction through the basin.

In the lawsuit, opponents of the Bayou Bridge crude oil pipeline cited environmental, health, and economic risks as a portion of the pipeline would run through the nearly 1-million-acre Atchafalaya Basin that serves as a critical component of Louisiana's flood protection system.

The $750 million Bayou Bridge pipeline is an extension of an existing pipeline that runs from Nederland, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Bayou Bridge would extend the system to St. James, Louisiana and have the capacity to transport up to 480,000 barrels per day.

The project is owned by Energy Transfer Partners.


Court Rules Federal Government Must Reveal Documents Related to Keystone XL Approval

The U.S. government must provide to the public all documents related to the approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, according to a Wednesday court ruling after opponents of the pipeline argued that the Trump administration was withholding details on the project's approval.

The ruling concluded that federal officials must provide all relevant documents by March 21 or explain why they should be withheld.

The ruling came after environmentalists in Montana filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the 1,179-mile project and uncover the basis of President Donald Trump's decision to approve Keystone XL after it had been rejected by former President Barack Obama in 2015.

The U.S. Justice Department argued against the request to hand over documents to the public saying it would cost more than $6 million to review an estimated 5 million pages of documents.

Attorney Jackie Prange with the Natural Resources Defense Council said the government's estimates were "vastly overblown" and that the public has the right to know what went into consideration when approving the Keystone XL project.

The Keystone XL is proposed by TransCanada and is designed to carry oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, to Nebraska to connect to an existing pipeline that runs to the Gulf Coast.

Houston Chronicle

Nuns File Lawsuit Against Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Project on Religious Grounds

An order of nuns is fighting to stop the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline from being built through their cornfield in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on the grounds that it violates their religious freedom.

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ say the pipeline construction on their lands would also infringe on their duty to preserve the earth.

A lower court last year dismissed the nun's lawsuit because of insufficient evidence that the pipeline would infringe on the nuns' religious beliefs.

Both FERC and the pipeline developer said the lawsuit has no weight because the nuns did not bring their religious freedom argument to the federal agency in the first place.

Lawyer Elizabeth Witmer for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company told the panel of appeals judges that the nuns "had the opportunity to present a defense, but they chose not to."

The Atlantic Sunrise project, which is more than 20 percent complete, is an expansion of Williams’ Transco transmission system and is designed to move 1.7 million cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania to southern states.

Houston Chronicle

Energy Transfer Partners, Army Corps Object to Tribal Request for DAPL

Dakota Access Pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are objecting in federal court to an effort by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to strengthen protections for their water supply.

Both groups have written in separate documents filed Wednesday that the proposals by the tribes are unnecessary or unwarranted, saying measures have already been put in place to achieve water protection.

Both tribes get their water from the Missouri River's Lake Oahe reservoir in southern North Dakota, an area of water under which the Dakota Access Pipeline crosses, and fear that an oil spill would ruin that water supply.

The tribes lost their fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from operating, so they are now asking the federal court to require increased public reporting of pipeline issues and implementation of an emergency spill response plan at the lake crossing, including staged equipment.

Energy Transfer Partners says it already has emergency equipment staged near the crossing and has taken steps to include the tribes in the response plan.


Trump Administration Says Court Cannot Revoke Keystone XL Decision

A federal judge legally cannot revoke a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, said attorneys for the Trump administration as they seek to defend the controversial project.

The Justice Department attorneys will be in U.S. District Court in Montana Wednesday to defend President Trump's approval of the Keystone XL project that would transport Canadian crude for 1,179 miles through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, then connecting with an existing system that extends to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

President Trump revived TransCanada's formerly rejected Keystone XL when he stepped into office in January, saying it would create more jobs.

Opponents of the project have asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to revoke the presidential permit for the pipeline, arguing that the environmental review completed for the project in 2014 is inadequate.

However, Trump's attorneys said Morris cannot revoke the permit or interfere with the decision because the Constitution gives Trump the authority over matters of foreign affairs and national security. Interfering would infringe on the President's authority.

The Keystone XL project awaits one more permit in Nebraska for route approval. The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by November 23 whether to give approval for the route. South Dakota and Montana regulators have already approved the project.

ABC News

Federal Judge Orders Army Corps to Reconsider Environmental Review of Dakota Access Pipeline

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Wednesday ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying the Army Corps did not "adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice" of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

He added in his 91-page decision that the Army Corps complied with the National Environmental Policy Act but that the federal permits for the pipeline violated the law in some respects related to the fishing and hunting rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The Corps will have to reconsider those sections of its environmental analysis, which may mean having to shut down the pipeline while the issues are addressed. However, it is currently unclear as to whether it would be required to halt pipeline operations while the Corps reconsiders its review.

Both representatives of the Army Corps and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are expected to meet with Boasberg next week to discuss next steps.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement that the tribe was happy with the courts for protecting its "laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately."

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline began interstate crude oil delivery at the end of May after months of delay due to arduous protests and permit stalls.


Iowan Groups Still Vow to Stop Fully-Operational Dakota Access Pipeline

Groups in Iowa are still vowing to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline even though the $3.8 billion project is in full operation as of last Thursday.

Appeals are still pending with the Iowa Supreme Court, which is keeping opponents of Dakota Access hopeful that they can still shut the pipeline and have it removed. The appeals involve concern about the environment, property rights, and other issues.

The Sierra Club of Iowa is also appealing to the state's high court over the Iowa Utilities Board's permit approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Iowan groups against the pipeline said they will not concede defeat even if winning is a long shot.

"If any of these court rulings go our way, things could change," said former state legislator Ed Fallon who heads activist group Bold Iowa.

The controversial pipeline began commercially shipping oil last Thursday and has the capacity to ship about 520,000 barrels of oil per day. No spills have been reported in Iowa, and pipeline operator Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, continues to file weekly construction reports with the Iowa Utilities Board that indicate restoration of farmland and other cleanup work.

USA Today

High Court to Rule Whether to Dig Up NatGas Pipeline Under Public Park

After hearing arguments on Tuesday the Vermont Supreme Court is mulling over whether to allow a controversial natural gas pipeline to run underneath a public park in Hinesburg.

Vermont Gas' 41-mile pipeline is nearing completion, and the section under the park has already been put in place by way of horizontal drilling. The company agreed to dig up the section under Geprags Park should the court decide to rule in favor of the opponents.

Those against the pipeline argue that state regulators should not have allowed the pipeline to run under a park meant for public recreational and educational purposes.

Vermont Gas argues that the line, which was installed without having to dig up the park, does not interfere with the public's use of the park.

The $165 million pipeline project is nearing completion and should be servicing customers within the next several weeks, according to the company.

As of now it is unclear how the state Supreme Court will rule on the case.



Energy Transfer Partners: Dakota Access Pipeline on Track Despite Physical Attacks

Dakota Access Pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners said the project is on track to be in service this week despite attacks along the route.

The company said in a brief court filing on Monday that the attacks posed "threats to life, physical safety, and the environment," but that the attacks will not stop the schedule of oil flow in the line, which should occur sometime this week. The company did not elaborate on the physical attacks.

Both the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes have sought to stop oil from flowing through the pipeline, saying it would contaminate water supply and threaten their rights to practice their religion.

An appeals court on Saturday rejected the tribes' request to halt oil flow, saying that the tribes did not meet the "stringent requirements" for such an order from the court.


Dakota Access Pipeline Could Be in Service by Monday after Court Rejection of Sioux Tribe Appeal

An appeals court on Saturday rejected two Native American tribes' request for an emergency order that would halt oil from flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, affirming the possibility for oil flow between Monday and Wednesday.

The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes took their request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after Federal Judge James Boasberg denied their request to halt construction on the line. Boasberg predicted their request would not have a strong case on appeal.

The appeals court said in its decision to reject the request that the tribes did not meet the "stringent requirements" for such an order from the court.

The tribes claim the pipeline would threaten water supply, sacred sites, and threaten their rights to practice their religion even if it does not spill.

Energy Transfer Partners is working on the last stretch of pipeline, which lies under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir just north of a Native American reservation. The company said oil could flow through the line as early as between Monday and Wednesday.

CBC News