Dereliction of Duty: SWCB Chair Did Not Understand Authority

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has revealed that the Chair of the State Water Control Board did not understand the authority of the Board, and therefore the votes on the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines were not properly informed by law.

DPMC reports they have learned that Robert Dunn, Chairman of the Virginia State Water Control Board, did not understand the ramifications of the Board’s actions on water quality certifications for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). This shocking information calls the Board’s process and decisions into serious question. Chairman Dunn’s failure to inform himself of the facts about the Board’s authority before taking votes on these enormously damaging and far-reaching projects is an outrageous dereliction of duty.

Dunn sent an email to the Richmond Times Dispatch saying:

Read your article in today‘s Richmond TD.  You stated someone cast a [sic] anti-pipeline vote and someone cast a pro-pipeline vote.  I do not believe the State Water Control Board has the authority to approve or disapprove the pipeline.  The vote was not for or against the pipeline. Do you understand what the SWCB voted on?  I believe the vote had to deal with permits to address water quality and standards.  Question for you:  Does or can the pipeline be built if the SWCB does not grant a permit??  If so, who has control?  In other words does SWCB action have ability to stop the pipeline??? (emphasis added by DPMC)

Of course, the legal reality is that the Clean Water Act gives the state an absolute veto authority over any federally-licensed project that might violate its water quality requirements. The information submitted for the Board’s consideration before any votes were taken contains detailed legal analyses of the state’s authorities and role in regard to the pipeline processes.  Thousands of people throughout Virginia understand that states have the power to deny approvals and thereby stop bad projects—clearly, Chairman Dunn does not.

Dunn’s question: “Does or can the pipeline be built if the SWCB does not grant a permit??” shows a failure to carry out his duty to understand the laws and regulations he’s charged with applying. If Mr. Dunn had questions about the scope of the Board’s authority, he should have sought the answer from those involved in the process and the official record upon which he was obligated to base his votes. And he should have made those inquiries before participating in the Board’s decisions, not months after taking his first vote on the pipeline certifications and after three Board meetings where these issues were discussed.

Dunn’s failure to do what was necessary to understand his proper role as a Board member and, therefore, his willingness to cast votes without learning the facts and law that should have governed him should disqualify him from continued service on the Board. We call on Mr. Dunn to resign immediately. If Dunn fails to do so, Governor Northam must act now to remove him from the Board and replace him with a person who will do his or her duty.

For more information, see DPMC’s article, Dereliction of Duty
 

SELC Challenges New Rushed Permits for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

September 19, 2018, press release from Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on behalf of Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Virginia Wilderness Committee, filed legal challenges today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to new permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline issued by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week.

After the Fourth Circuit struck down its permit for the pipeline, the National Park Service quickly reissued a nearly identical permit with no changes to the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reauthorized the pipeline despite new data confirming that it would put critically endangered species in jeopardy of extinction.

“These agencies again ignored the law in their rush to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline the approvals it wanted,” said SELC attorney DJ Gerken. “These agencies work for the public, not the developers of an unnecessary pipeline even two FERC Commissioners concluded is not in the public interest.”

“The agencies responsible for protections should be prioritizing a real review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, not abandoning a critical process to help developers,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “There is no justification for this unnecessary and dangerous project.”

“By turning a blind eye to the research that shows the Atlantic Coast Pipeline jeopardizes Virginia’s rivers, forests, plants, and animals, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Services are endangering our communities,” said Mark Miller, Executive Director of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. “We will fight to ensure our state’s natural resources are afforded the protections they deserve.”

“Letting polluting corporations build the ACP without considering the latest endangered species data is like letting a doctor operate without the diagnosis,” said Joan Walker, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “The National Park Service has already said in official comments that the ACP’s route is inconsistent with its objectives to preserve the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If they don’t know what the effects of this fracked gas pipeline will be, they shouldn’t be allowed to build it.” 

Court Filing NPS

Court Filing FWS

FERC Lifts Stop Work Order on ACP

Early afternoon on September 17, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lifted the stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline it issued on August 10. The FERC Notice was based on the issuance of new permits by, respectively, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • On September 11, 2018, the FWS issued a revised Biological Opinion (BO), which included a modified Incidental Take Statement for the ACP
  • Additionally, on September 14, 2018, the NPS issued a new right-of-way permit for crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Earlier versions of these permits had been vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had prompted FERC to issue its stop work order.
 

In its press coverage, the Virginia Mercury quotes D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, N.C., who said, “The Park Service right of way is almost the same document,” Gerken said. “It’s very disappointing. … It sure looks like more of the same, which is these agencies making political decisions rather than fact-based ones. All of these federal agencies with responsibility to protect public resources moved too fast on a political timetable. This is entirely consistent with that approach. And that’s what got them in trouble last time.” Gerken added, “There is no question that these pipeline developers deliberately race the courts. So no matter how bad the legal violations are, the project is well under way before the courts have an opportunity to review it. This is baked into their business model. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong as long as it’s fast.”

Say NO to Dominion’s Application to Release Air Pollution


The comment period for the Air Quality Permit has been extended to September 21, 2018. There is still time for you to tell the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to deny Dominion’s application for a permit to release air pollution that will threaten the health and well-being of residents in the Union Hill neighborhood and beyond. Don’t wait – let your voice be heard!

Submit your comments to:

DEQ, Piedmont Regional Office
Re: Buckingham Compressor Station

E-mail:
airdivision1@deq.virginia.gov

Mail:
Piedmont Regional Office
4949-A Cox Rd.
Glen Allen, VA 23060

Fax:
(804) 527-5106

What is the concern?

The draft permit prepared by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is woefully deficient, failing to provide the analyses and the levels of protection the law requires.

Dozens of people spoke at a public hearing on September 11th, most explaining technical and legal problems with the proposal and opposing issuance of the permit. Please add your voice to that strong message, to let the citizen members of the Air Board know you oppose this illegal and unethical proposal to victimize citizens for private profit.

What to say?

Even if you lack technical expertise, you can raise important issues the Board is legally-obligated to consider.

These include:

  • The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is not needed to supply energy to the areas Dominion claims would be served and
  • DEQ has failed to properly consider whether the placement of the facility is appropriate or to acknowledge the violation of environmental justice principles.

For further ideas, information, and background, go to Wild Virginia’s page on commenting.

Crowdsourcing Oversight of ACP Construction

The Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), is working to crowdsource oversight of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. 

In support of this effort, ABRA has published the CSI Mapping System 4.0, a unique online geographic information system that includes user-selectable environmental layers and provides access to construction plans and aerial photography of construction in progress. Citizens, technical and legal experts, and even regulatory agency personnel, can access the CSI Mapping System to check actual construction for compliance with agency-approved construction plans.

The CSI Mapping System is a cutting-edge tool for public involvement in the regulation of pipeline construction, especially with respect to use of aerial surveillance. The CSI’s Pipeline Air Force, which now deploys on a weekly basis, has obtained thousands of photos documenting ACP activity in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The CSI Mapping System provides access to these photos.

As shown in the screen shot below, locations for surveillance photos can be displayed in relation to the pipeline construction corridor, access roads, and other information. When a photo point is selected, a popup window displays a thumbnail of the photo and provides access to both low and full-resolution versions of the photo. In addition, the CSI Mapping System provides access to georeferenced photo mosaics for a subset of surveillance flights. A swipe tool allows direct comparison of construction activity on different days, as well as comparison of construction photos with construction plans. A simplified demo of this capability is provided here

 

Access to aerial photos is provided on the Pipeline Air Force Flights map page. Photo points provide access to both low and full-resolution photos.

The CSI Mapping system also provides a platform for documenting noncompliance with regulatory requirements and legal restrictions. Information concerning site-specific, as well as systemic, noncompliance can be accessed by clicking on points or construction corridor segments.

Training in use of the CSI Mapping System can be arranged on request.

Additional CSI support for crowdsourcing of ACP construction oversight has been developed through a collaborative undertaking involving local group coordination, on the ground surveillance, water data collection, and legal and technical support.

For more information, contact:

Dan Shaffer, CSI Spatial Analyst, 202-854-9558
dshaffer@abralliance.org

Ben Cunningham, CSI Virginia Field Coordinator, 434-882-1893
silvercunning@gmail.com

Autumn Crowe, CSI West Virginia Field Coordinator, 304-992-6070
acrowe@wvrivers.org