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Pipeline Firms Are Abandoning Oil & Gas Lines, Leaving Landowners To Deal With The Mess

By Kate Wheeling, Clean Technica
March 13, 2021

Some years ago, David Howell got a call from a landowner in Central Texas who had 300 feet of an old oil pipeline buried under his property. It was clearly no longer in use. The area around the pipeline was overgrown and the signage had faded or fallen away. The landowner wanted to build there now, and was wondering if Howell could come remove it.

Pipeline companies have no obligation to remove old pipelines. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can order a pipeline company to remove a line, says @carolynelefant but “just because they have the authority doesn’t mean they have to exercise it.”

— Nexus Media News (@NexusMediaNews) March 12, 2021

Howell, who owns a pipeline salvage business, thought he could do the work for as little as $1,000. There was no clause in the landowner’s agreement with the pipeline company regarding abandonment, so the company had no responsibility to remove the pipeline. But the landowner nevertheless needed the pipeline company’s permission, as the company still owned the line. The company acquiesced, but it insisted that the landowner use a contractor of its choosing, who was quoting the work at $50,000. The landowner ultimately sold the property rather than deal with the pipeline.

“I get a call a week from some landowner who says, ‘I got an abandoned pipeline, can you come take it out?’” Howell said. “Basically [pipeline workers] are putting a pipeline on some schmuck’s property and leaving it there, and that’s happening all over the United States. Hundreds of thousands of miles of pipeline have been just abandoned on peoples’ property.”

Read the article on Clean Technica

Environmental advocates cheer Delaware River Basin Commission’s ban on fracking

By: Lisa Scheid, The Reading Eagle
March 1, 2021

A decision last week by the Delaware River Basin Commission would ban fracking through the Delaware River watershed, including Berks County.

There had been a temporary moratorium instituted in 2010, but that was recently challenged in court. The ban is also likely to face legal challenges.

A Day Away: 'One of the pleasantest situations on the river'
The Delaware River at Philadelphia. The commission that oversees the river’s watershed, which includes Berks County, has banned fracking in the watershed and is committed to developing other new rules related to fracking.

Also last week, the commission voted unanimously to develop regulations for the management of drilling wastewater coming into the watershed and for water being taken out of the watershed for use in drilling operations. The proposed wastewater regulations are to be available by Sept. 30.

Hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, is an oil and gas well development process that typically involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure deep into a bedrock formation to free natural gas trapped in rock formations like shale.

The process fueled a fossil fuel boom that made Pennsylvania second in the nation for natural gas production.

There weren’t many efforts to institute fracking in the basin until a recent study determined there was natural gas to be had.

Environmentalists have criticized the process, which they say causes health and environmental problems.

Those advocates said the commission’s vote Feb. 25 marked a huge victory in a decadelong fight to protect the watershed from unconventional drilling and the practices surrounding it.

Read the full article on The Reading Eagle

‘Environmental justice is racial justice’: Bush calls for environmental racism study to direct federal aid

By: Nassim Benchaabane, St. Louis Dispatch Post
Jan 29, 2021

A bill by U.S. Rep. Cori Bush aims to tackle environmental racism by creating a sweeping study of factors — from lead pollution to food deserts and police killings — that disproportionately affect public health in Black neighborhoods across the country.

The study would create a national database of a growing body of research on the parallels between racial and environmental inequities in segregated neighborhoods, including a 2019 Washington University report that found the city’s Black residents are exposed to far greater environmental risks than whites.

Ghost town: Vacant neighbors, vacant homes

In addition to the neighborhood-level, nationwide study, the legislation — introduced Thursday by Bush, D-St. Louis, and written with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. — would help direct federal funding for environmental and public health initiatives to the areas that need it most.

“Environmental justice is racial justice,” Bush said in a news conference with Markey and local activists. “Our environment is just as much about the climate as it is the world that has been built around us that affects the air we breathe, the safety of our streets, the quality of our homes and the prices of our energy bills.”

Read the full article on St. Louis Post Dispatch

‘No more broken treaties’: Indigenous leaders urge Biden to shut down Dakota Access pipeline

By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
January 23, 2021

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Indigenous leaders and environmentalists are urging Joe Biden to shut down some of America’s most controversial fossil fuel pipelines, after welcoming his executive order canceling the Keystone XL (KXL) project.

Activists praised the president’s decision to stop construction of the transnational KXL oil pipeline on his first day in the White House, but they stressed that he must cancel similar polluting fossil fuel projects, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), to stand any chance of meeting his bold climate action goals.

The KXL order was issued on Wednesday as part of the first wave of Biden’s promised environmental justice and climate action policies, which include rejoining the Paris Agreement and halting construction of the southern border wall.

Rescinding the Canadian-owned KXL pipeline permit, issued by Donald Trump, fulfills a campaign promise Biden made in May 2020 and comes after more than a decade of organizing and resistance by Indigenous activists, landowners, and environmental groups.

“The victory ending the KXL pipeline is an act of courage and restorative justice by the Biden administration. It gives tribes and Mother Earth a serious message of hope for future generations as we face the threat of climate change. It aligns Indigenous environmental knowledge with presidential priorities that benefit everyone,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, founder of Brave Heart Society and a member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota nation.

Read the full article on Grist

What the environmental justice movement owes Martin Luther King Jr

By: Paola Rosa-Aquino, Grist
January 21, 2019

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is mostly remembered for his role in the civil rights movement and nonviolent protests, but environmental justice groups also see their cause reflected in his work.

The day before he died, for example, King helped rally striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to suffering from low and inequitable pay, black workers did the most dangerous and dirty work compared to their white peers, and suffered from dismal working conditions while bearing the burden of the associated health and safety risks.

“You don’t get more environmental justice than that,” Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, told Grist. “All the environment really is is where you live, work, play, or pray.”

Dr. King’s actions not only led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; his work paved the way for environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. He recognized that many of the struggles of his time — including racial inequity, poverty, politics, health, and human rights — were inexorably linked. According to Bautista, in the early days of the environmental justice movement, some advocates described their work as a synthesis of the environmental movement and the civil rights movement.

King’s work continues to influence young environmental activists today. Just before she took office, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called fighting climate change “the civil rights movement of our generation.” And modern-day environmental groups such as the Sunrise Movement are using the kind of nonviolent direct action techniques espoused by Dr. King as tools to push lawmakers on policies such as the Green New Deal.

And then there’s the fact that the environment is simply one more lens through which racial inequity manifests. Bautista emphasizes it’s crucial for communities of color to be part of climate solutions. After all, “if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu,” he said.

And if King and other civil rights movement leaders who have passed on were alive today, what might their reactions to climate change be?

“Climate change is an existential threat that a lot of these folks [in the civil rights movement back then] weren’t as aware of.” Bautista said. “But, if they were around today, these would be some of the same fights they would be fighting.”

Read the article on Grist

‘I’ll be fierce for all of us’: Deb Haaland on climate, Native rights and Biden

By: Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
December 27, 2020

Debra Haaland is making American history.

The 60-year-old congresswoman from New Mexico will next month become the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history, when she takes responsibility for the country’s land and natural resources as head of the Department of the Interior under Joe Biden.

Haaland made history as one of the first two Native Americans elected to Congress, in 2018.

Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, one of 574 sovereign tribal nations located across 35 states. According to the 2010 census, 5.2 million people or about 2% of the US population identifies as American Indian or Alaskan Native – descendants of those who survived US government policies to kill, remove or assimilate indigenous peoples.

Come January it will also be Haaland’s job to uphold the government’s legally binding obligations to the tribes – treaty obligations which have been systematically violated with devastating consequences for life expectancy, political participation and economic opportunities in Indian Country.

Read full article on The Guardian

Another Pipeline Victory for North Carolina – MVP Southgate Permit Denied!

The cancelling of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in July was a major win for thousands of eastern North Carolinians, and we celebrated another victory this month when the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension’s 401 Water Quality Permit!

Clean Water for NC signs on to the Unity Banner – a project designed to connect communities and organizations in both VA and NC fighting the mainline Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Southgate extension. Rachel and Hope of Clean Water were hosting the banner signing when the news came in that NC DEQ denied Southgate’s water quality permit!

The proposed pipeline would have cut through Rockingham and Alamance Counties and caused irreparable damage to our waterways and environment, used eminent domain against our community members, and tied us to a dying fossil fuel economy for decades. Many of the same organizations throughout North Carolina who fought effortlessly against the ACP are now joining with impacted landowners, our ally groups, including The Haw River Assembly, Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club, and many others to celebrate DEQ’s decision on denying the pipeline’s construction through our fragile waterways and drinking water sources.

The recent ACP and MVP Southgate victories are true David and Goliath stories – landowners, communities, and grassroots organizations worked for years to stand up to Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Equitrans to protect our environment, property rights, drinking water, and climate. 

Congratulations to all who fought effortless on fighting both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and MVP Southgate Extension. We did it – Together!

Duke, Dominion Cancel Plans for Unjust Atlantic Coast Pipeline

FrackFree NC joins with ally organizations in front of NC DEQ to urge officials to cancel ACP! June 30, 2020

The cancelling the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a  victory for justice of many kinds! Environmental Justice, because the African American and Indigenous communities along the pipeline route can breathe easier that this massive project that will not victimize them yet again by disproportionately harming their health, safety, economics and access to their lands.  Climate justice, as the routine emissions of methane from the ACP and the fracked gas it supplied were estimated in our 2019 study to increase climate impacts by as much as 13% over EPA’s estimate of current national methane releases. Economic Justice, as ratepayers of the mega-utilities Duke and Dominion building the pipeline will not face the substantial rate hikes that the unneeded pipeline would have brought.

Landowners along the pipeline, many of very modest means, had faced losing control of their lands or long court battles, and can now settle with the rapacious pipeline builders and move on with their lives. Our only disappointment is that our NC Department of Environmental Quality accepted the grossly inadequate Environmental Impact Statement that Dominion and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission foisted on them in 2017, and then granted air and water permits for the ACP that could not protect Environmental Justice for communities,  or the state’s waters and air quality.  We hope that DEQ’s leadership will realize how much of the state agency’s time and resources have been wasted on considering this misguided project,  and that they will become closer partners with Environmental Justice communities and well-informed, scientific and public-spirited non-profits to protect NC communities and the public’s resources for all of us,  even challenging federal “regulators” when they act as industry cheerleaders.

We celebrate with the many thousands of impacted residents, and deeply committed activists, organizations, public interest law groups and coalitions that worked relentlessly to defeat this dangerous, costly and unnecessary pipeline.

– Hope Taylor, Executive Director, Clean Water for North Carolina

News Stories:
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Canceled in Major Win for Land Defenders, Environmentalists

Energy companies cancel construction of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

NC Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board to Call “Special Meeting” on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Just moments into its May 18th NC EJ & Equity Advisory Board meeting, the Board’s Chairman Johnson announced that special meeting on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be held as soon as possible.

The meeting was called in response to a letter sent by the FrackFreeNC Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Redtailed Hawk Collective, and Belinda Joyner, an Atlantic Coast Pipeline-impacted resident in Northampton County, urging the Board to follow up on an oral statement of concern about the ACP by Board member Rev. Rodney Sadler in its November, 2019 Advisory Board meeting. Rev. Sadler:

“I just want to do this as a member of this Board and see if it holds with the will of the larger Board to say that we are concerned about the current progress of the ACP. We’re concerned about the sustainability of Executive Order 80 if the ACP is put in place. We’re concerned about the fact that this continues to progress through lands that are primarily owned and occupied by environmental justice communities and we’re concerned that the permitting process has taken place without due consideration of the concerns of the people of this state and I’d like to make that an official statement from the environmental justice and equity board. I put that in the form of a motion.”

While the motion was unanimously passed by the Board to make Rev. Sadler’s comments an official statement of concern, it was our expectation that it would be incorporated into an Official Advisory Statement to the Dept. of Environmental Quality, outlining the grave environmental, social, and economic injustices of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

While it’s promising to know a special, urgent meeting will be called on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it is unclear how strong a position the Board will take. FrackFreeNC Alliance and our allies living in the path of the ACP believe that this meeting must result in a strong official Advisory Statement to DEQ regarding the environmental injustices of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, comparable to a 2019 advisory statement on Coal Ash.

The urgent meeting on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline announced by Chairman Johnson should be open to the public, and invite impacted residents who have been calling on the state to acknowledge the community, health, and environmental impacts this 600-mile fracked gas pipeline would force onto the poor, African American and indigenous communities the pipeline would cut through in 8 counties.

Federal Pipeline Safety Agency’s Dangerous Response to COVID-19

Over the past few weeks, we have all felt the impacts of the coronavirus impact, sacrificing public gatherings, visiting with family and friends, income, and much more to stop the spread of COVID-19. But the pandemic and the reponse by one federal agency may force some communities to pay an even larger price.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is responsible for regulating pipeline and hazardous material safety (including liquefied natural gas – LNG) and protecting communities from potentially fatal leaks and explosions.

PHMSA’s own data shows there has been an increase in the number of significant pipeline incidents (those resulting in fatality, bodily injury, volatile liquid releases, or at least $50,000 in total costs) over the past decade. Recently, Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust recently testified to Congress stating: “Also of concern is that for gas transmission and hazardous liquid pipelines, over 65 percent of the significant failures in the past decade are from causes the operators ought to have control over such as corrosion, incorrect operations, equipment failures, and problems with the materials they use and the welds they make.”

But in response to agency predictions of resource and personnel constraints due to COVID-19, PHMSA announced sweeping rollbacks of its safety and training requirements, putting public health and safety in the hands of potentially unskilled, unqualified, and impaired workers.

The agency claims these actions are necessary so that pipeline operators can continue with “normal operations and [protect] the health and safety of their personnel and the public (PHMSA notice, March 20).” PHMSA’s announcement further encourages state pipeline safety officers to turn a blind eye to worker noncompliance “in the interest of prompt and efficient pipeline safety activities.” These actions only serve industry interests and timelines and put communities living and working near explosive pipelines and LNG plants at direct risk.

Relaxing drug testing requirements for safety inspectors has caused a number of pipeline experts to speak out: “In this short term, I personally find it hard to understand relaxing drug testing and control room regulations that could prevent a potential incident in an already stretched state of emergency,” Lynda Farrell, founder of the Pipeline Safety Coalition recently told Bloomberg Environment. The rollbacks would allow pipeline operators to use discretion in deciding whether workers are able to perform monitoring and testing tasks, allowing employers to conduct drug tests at a later date and rely on pre-employment negative drug tests. Both scheduled and random drug testing are no longer required of pipeline safety operators during this stay.

There is no doubt that resources across the country are under strain, and those still employed during the State of Emergency are having to adapt to changing business practices and workplace environments. This does not excuse PHMSA of its responsibility to safeguard our public safety. While the rollbacks of safety and training requirements are expected to be lifted after the current pandemic, potential public safety impacts will be long-lasting.

Contact your Attorney General Josh Stein and the Pipeline Safety Division of the NC Utilities Commission and demand pipeline operators don’t turn a blind eye to noncompliance, only employ highly trained and skilled workers, and require scheduled and randomized drug testing.

Pipeline safety section of the Utilities Commission contacts: https://www.ncuc.net/Industries/naturalgas/pipelinesafety.html

How to contact AG Stein: https://ncdoj.gov/contact-doj/