Gov. McAuliffe was on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” yesterday morning, and mostly did a good job. However, on the issue of the proposed Atlantic Coast (fracked natural gas) Pipeline, he swung and missed badly. A few (huge) problems with McAuliffe’s answer to the caller include the following.
1. Yes, it’s true that solar power generating capacity has increased under Gov. McAuliffe, but going to 400 megawatts of solar power still means that Virginia is one of the most pathetic states in the country in terms of clean energy. It’s also kinda laughable to say that “there’s noone who’s done more…on clean energy,” when we have no wind power capacity to speak of (Dominion is sitting on its offshore wind lease), no serious effort on energy efficiency (by far the biggest “bang for the buck” in the energy world), and are still a pitiful laggard on solar power (with basically no incentives, and lots of disincentives, for distributed/rooftop solar). And no, 8% of all Virginia’s power to be from clean energy is not impressive; in fact, it’s utterly pathetic compared to other states (e.g., California’s at 50% by 2030; Ohio’s at 25% by 2024; Colorado’s at 30% by 2020; Maryland’s at 20% by 2022). Now, most of this is the fault of our bought-and-paid-for, right-wing state legislature, but still…don’t treat us like we’re idiots – we have certainly not “leaned in.”
2. As for the “misinformation” about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, most of that has come from Gov. McAuliffe and Dominion Power. Here, McAuliffe claims that he has “no authority on the pipeline, it is a federal issue.” Except that, as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network points out, “Governor McAuliffe has the authority to deny water permits for these fracked-gas pipelines under the Clean Water Act.” Hmmmm. Meanwhile, not only has McAuliffe failed to use his “bully pulpit” on this issue, he not formally met with ANY groups or individuals OPPOSED to the pipelines, he has literally snuck in the back door to avoid answering questions on this issue. And the main point, really, is that McAuliffe strongly SUPPORTS the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – as does his close ally, Dominion “Global Warming Starts Here!” Power, so of course he’s not spending his time trying to figure out whether or not he has authority over it.
3. McAuliffe claims that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will allow for a “renaissance of advanced manufacturing back” to rural communities – “this is how you bring manufacturing jobs back,” he claims. At best, that’s a major exaggeration; how is a natural gas pipeline going to bring back the types of manufacturing jobs we used to have in Virginia – furniture, textiles, etc. – and what (if anything) did the loss of those jobs have to do with energy prices and/or availability?
4. McAuliffe’s claim that we already have “hundreds of pipelines” in Virginia, so there’s no big deal about this one, is not even worth rebutting. It’s that laughable.
5. Possibly the most absurd statement McAuliffe makes here is that “this fracked gas is going to move…going to come to Virginia, it’s going to be on trucks and it’s going to be on rail, I think that’s very dangerous, I don’t think that’s great for our environment.” FALSE! FALSE! FALSE! My god.
In reality, natural gas is transported almost exclusively via pipeline in the United States (via “210 natural gas pipeline system” and “305,000 miles of interstate and intrastate transmission pipelines”), with the one major exception being that when it’s exported or imported across the ocean, it goes via liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker. So, no, natural gas is not – repeat, NOT! – normally transported via truck or rail, for a bunch of reasons: economic, technological, safety, you name it. See this Reuters article, for instance, which talks about how “Natural gas by rail is years away and likely to face strong public resistance after a series of explosive crude-by-rail accidents.” The article adds: “Transporting gas by rail, most likely as cryogenic liquefied natural gas (LNG), faces obstacles. The technology is in its infancy, and so far no tank car is permitted to carry the fuel on U.S. rails. Nor are there enough plants that convert natural gas to LNG to support a robust gas-by-rail market, experts said.” As for transporting natural gas by truck…uh, that’s just utterly ridiculous on every level (economic, technological, etc.).Ergo…no, fracked natural gas from West Virginia will NOT be coming to Virginia via other methods if these new pipelines aren’t built. If that’s seriously a major rationale for building these pipelines, just toss that in the trash heap right now, because it’s garbage. Ugh.
6. Finally, McAuliffe claims that “people just don’t like the pipeline because they don’t like fracked gas.” Again, FALSE! Over the past couple years, I’ve communicated with several of the leaders in the opposition to these pipelines, and I can definitively state that they have a number of reasons for opposing these pipelines, fracking being only one (and an important one) of many. Perhaps if Terry McAuliffe would actually meet with these folks (and not just his pals at Dominion Power), or even check out their website(s), he’d know that they don’t like a bunch of things about these pipelines, including: the negative impact of pipeline construction on their property and their communities; the adverse economic impact on their counties; enviro/cultural/historical impact; etc.