I'm experimenting with something here, redistributing a weekly email I receive from the Institute for Southern Studies. I appreciate getting it, and you may want to sign up for it too.
If I'm not supposed to be doing, somebody say so.
*COULD SEPARATION OF POWERS LAWSUIT SINK NC FRACKING? [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/could-separation-of-powers-lawsuit-sink-nc-frackin.html ]* With help from an environmental law firm, a conservation group and a landowner are challenging the constitutionality of the North Carolina commission formed to regulate the controversial gas drilling technique. But fracking's challenges in the state are not only legal -- they're also economic. (1/8/2015)
*DUKE ENERGY'S DONATIONS PAY OFF IN FLORIDA GOVERNOR'S RACE: [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/duke-energys-donations-pay-off-in-florida-governor.html ]* With money from corporations like Duke Energy, the Republican Governors Association funded tens of thousands of ads that helped GOP gubernatorial candidates in 2014. But in Florida, where Duke does business, the RGA instead bankrolled the independent political committee of GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a friend of big energy, to the tune of $9 million. (1/7/2015)
*NC LAWMAKER LEAVES DEMOCRATIC PARTY AFTER RE-ELECTION WITH HELP FROM GOP-LEANING GROUPS: [ http://www.followncmoney.org/news/nc-lawmaker-leaves-democratic-party-after-winning-re-election-help... ]* A North Carolina lawmaker recently elected as a Democrat has switched to unaffiliated and will caucus with the GOP. Given the outside money that's supported his campaign, the move is not entirely surprising. (1/8/2015)
*NEW IRS RULES ON DARK MONEY LIKELY WON'T BE READY BEFORE 2016 ELECTION: [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/new-irs-rules-on-dark-money-likely-wont-be-ready-b.html ]* The IRS faces a number of hurdles before its new regulations for social welfare nonprofits can be finalized -- including potential opposition from Congress. (1/6/2015)
*PROSECUTING CORPORATE CULPRITS: [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/prosecuting-corporate-culprits.html ]* Why are prosecutors so reluctant to go after corporate criminals? That's the question considered in a new book by law professor and Center for Progressive Reform President Rena Steinzor. (1/9/2015)
*SPECIAL REPORT - Atlantic Coast Pipeline meetings get underway amid growing landowner resistance*
"By Sue Sturgis"
The energy companies planning to build a 550 mile-long natural gas pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia and eastern North Carolina launched a series of public meetings this week to discuss the project while hundreds of landowners along the route are refusing to grant surveyors access to their land.
In September, Dominion Resources of Virginia, Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas of North Carolina, and natural gas distributor AGL Resources of Atlanta announced they were forming a joint venture to build and own the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline to transport gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The companies say the $5 billion project would boost the states' economies by increasing natural gas supplies, thus lowering prices to heat and power homes and businesses. Dominion, which holds a 45 percent stake in the project, would build and operate the pipeline on behalf of the venture. Duke holds a 40 percent stake, Piedmont 10 percent, and AGL Resources 5 percent.
But Dominion is now embroiled in a legal battle with almost 180 landowners in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley who are refusing to allow the company to survey their land. Local community organizers told the Public News Service [ http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-01-05/energy-policy/serious-pipeline-battle-brewing-in-the-she... ] that the majority of landowners along the planned route through Virginia's Augusta and Nelson counties oppose the project and are barring surveyors from their property. Last week the Norfolk, Virginia-based law firm of Waldo & Lyle announced that it would represent landowners free of charge, The News Virginian reported [ http://www.newsadvance.com/nelson_county_times/news/law-firm-agrees-to-represent-landowners-in-pipel... ]:
"If this were for a hospital or some truly public purpose, we could turn the other cheek, but this is a Fortune 500 company trying to make a profit," said Joseph Waldo, the firm's managing partner. "We believe there's the authority to contest these surveys. We feel like some people are concerned about all the legal expenses of challenging the surveys and so they may not have opposed it just because they couldn't afford it. We made the decision to handle all of these cases pro bono."
A 2004 Virginia law gives natural gas companies the right to conduct pipeline surveys without landowners' permission and without a certificate of necessity from the federal government. But that law is being challenged as unconstitutional by five residents of Nelson County. Dominion wants the lawsuit dismissed, and a hearing on the company's request is set for Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.
Dominion claims it has the legal right to force access because the project will be meeting a public need for natural gas. Building the pipeline would require clearing a 125-foot-wide swath of land, digging a 10-foot-deep trench, and leaving a permanent right of way.
Among the factors driving opposition to the project are concerns about spills and other accidents. An report [ http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/11/17/senate-poised-vote-keystone-xl-new-analysis-reveals-... ] released in November by the Center for Biological Diversity found that there were 372 oil and gas pipeline leaks, spills, and other incidents in the U.S. over a 16-month period leading to 20 human deaths, 117 injuries, and more than $256 million in damages.
"There's no way to get around the fact that oil and gas pipelines are dangerous and have exacted a devastating toll on people and wildlife," Bill Snape, senior counsel for the group, said at the time.
The companies anticipate filing their formal application for the project this summer with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines. This week they're launching a series of open houses to discuss the pipeline. They'll be held in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 6; Smithfield, North Carolina on Wednesday, Jan. 7; and Jackson, North Carolina and McKenney, Virginia on Thursday, Jan. 8. There are another four open houses set for next week in Virginia, and three more the week after that in Virginia and West Virginia.
For more details about the open-house meetings and the pipeline project, click here [ https://www.dom.com/corporate/what-we-do/natural-gas/atlantic-coast-pipeline ].
"(To comment on or to share this story, click here [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2015/01/atlantic-coast-pipeline-meetings-get-underway-amid.html ].)"
*INSTITUTE INDEX - Fighting Duke Energy's coal ash dumping plans*
Date on which the commissioners of Lee County, North Carolina passed a resolution opposing Duke Energy's plans to dump toxic coal ash from distant power plants at a former clay mine there: 1/5/2015 [ http://www.wral.com/lee-county-officials-to-oppose-duke-energy-coal-ash-disposal/14331181/ ]
Tons of coal ash Duke Energy wants the state to allow it to dump at that site over the next eight years, a plan local opponents say imposes economic hardship and carries environmental risks: 8 million [ http://www.wral.com/asset/business/2015/01/05/14331208/Lee_County_Coal_Ash_Resolution.pdf ]
Total tons of coal ash the company plans to dump in Lee and neighboring Chatham counties: up to 20 million [ http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/x761896347/DENR-reviewing-coal-ash-permits ]
Of the seven member [ http://www.leecountync.gov/Commissioners/CommissionerRoster.aspx ]s of the Lee County commission, number who voted against the anti-dumping resolution: 1 [ http://www.wral.com/lee-county-officials-to-oppose-duke-energy-coal-ash-disposal/14331181/ ]
At a November meeting of the Lee County commission to discuss the dumping plan, number of residents who spoke in favor of it: 0 [ http://www.wral.com/lee-county-residents-say-no-to-coal-ash/14193924/ ]
Date on which the Chatham County commissioners also passed a resolution opposing Duke's dumping plans: 12/16/2014 [ http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/x761899071/Chatham-County-Board-of-Commissioners-Board-approves-re... ]
Of the five members [ http://www.chathamnc.org/Index.aspx?page=34 ]of the Chatham County commission, number who voted against the resolution: 0 [ http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/x761899071/Chatham-County-Board-of-Commissioners-Board-approves-re... ]
Tons of coal ash that Duke Energy, which has been under scrutiny since a spill last year from one of its storage ponds contaminated the Dan River, has said it plans to move from existing high-risk dumps to other sites over the next 15 years: 100 million [ http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-legal-maneuver-could-absolve-duke-energy-of-its-responsibility-fo... ]
Responsibility Duke Energy will bear for the waste once it's dumped in the abandoned mines, thanks to a scheme in which ownership of the ash will be transferred to a subsidiary of Charah, the Kentucky-based company Duke is contracting with to handle the disposal: none [ http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-legal-maneuver-could-absolve-duke-energy-of-its-responsibility-fo... ]
Years that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who previously worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, was employed by Moore & Van Allen, the law firm that represents Charah: 2 [ http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/12/04/2524907/gov-elect-pat-mccrory-still-employed.html ]
Amount in direct campaign contributions McCrory received for his 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns from Duke Energy-related donors: over $300,000 [ http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/McCroryDukeEnergyDeal.pdf ]
Amount the company has contributed to the campaigns of North Carolina lawmakers: over $1 million [ http://www.southernstudies.org/2014/04/new-details-emerge-on-gov-mccrorys-duke-energy-mon.html ]
Percent of Lee County's population that lives in poverty: 17.8 [ http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045214/00,37105 ]
Percentage points by which that exceeds the state's poverty rate: 3.3 [ http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045214/00,37105 ]
Fees the counties stand to collect from Duke Energy for the dumping: none [ http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/duke-energy-dumping-12-million-tons-of-coal-ash-near-sanford-traile... ]