Project-Specific Versus Site-Specific Erosion and Sediment Control Plans: A Distinction That Matters When It Comes to Water Quality and the ACP

Although the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced this week that it will require the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to adhere to project-specific environmental standards for the pipeline projects, such requirements may still be far from enough to ensure the safety of water quality across Virginia during construction of the pipelines.  According to the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC), “Rather than project-specific plans, the DEQ must require submittal of site-specific plans at each site where discharges may damage waterbodies and, most importantly, DEQ must review those plans before approving the projects.”

There is a profound difference between project-specific and site-specific erosion and sediment control plans:  project-specific plans simply delineate general standards that must be followed across the length of the entire pipeline route and do not account for the difficulties that may be encountered in steep terrain or in karst areas.  Furthermore, water bodies are not interchangeable, but are unique sites that demand individual consideration.  Requiring only general project-specific plans is not only inadequate, but may also be an illegal case of the DEQ allowing the pipeline companies to self-regulate when it comes to construction and water quality.  The DEQ should require site-specific plans that delineate individual erosion and sediment control practices for every piece of disturbed ground, hillside, stream crossing, access road, and staging area, etc., just as is required for other construction projects in the state of Virginia.

The general, project-specific approach to the regulation of erosion and sediment control standards also deprives the public the ability to participate in the protection of its natural resources.  It does not provide opportunities for public review and oversight and does not provide any assurance that the details of erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans will be available in time for public review prior to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and state-level permitting decisions.

The DEQ also has not stated when erosion and sediment control plans for the ACP and MVP must be submitted.  It is not clear whether they will be posted in time to inform the myriad regulatory agencies who should be reviewing this information–the FERC, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and state 401 decision making–which means that FERC and other regulatory agencies may grant approval for the project and issue permits contingent on later submission of such plans and without fully considering these issues.  Such uninformed approval would essentially be a rubber-stamping of the project.

Site-specific environmental standards, provided and reviewed before any permits are issued, are imperative to ensure the protection of water quality along the routes of the ACP and MVP.  The distinction between general project-specific standards and site-specific standards is one that matters.

For more information on these important issues of water quality, read the DPMC’s response to the DEQ’s call for project-specific standards and The Recorder’s excellent and thorough article, “DEQ, Corps Under Pressure from Pipeline Opponents.”

Sediment Pollution from ACP Construction Could Pose Problems from the Mountains to the Bay

If the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is constructed, it could pose sediment runoff pollution problems ranging from local water bodies in the mountains all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.  A recent article in the Bay Journal, “Officials Vow VA Will Protect Watershed If Pipeline Goes Ahead,” highlights the myriad concerns regarding water quality should the ACP be constructed.

Although the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently indicated that it would require project-specific environmental standards for the ACP, many environmentalists doubt the DEQ’s ability and willingness to enforce the state’s erosion and sediment control regulations.  Furthermore, current erosion and sediment control best management practices may be ineffective, particularly on steep mountain slopes.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has indicated that it is closely watching the application process for the ACP, because of the effect that construction of the ACP would have on water quality in the bay.  According to Peggy Sanner, senior attorney and assistant director of the CBF’s Virginia office, “The project would cut a wide swath through the region’s forests … removing nature’s best sponges for soaking up nutrient and sediment pollution. Runoff from the cleared land would harm water bodies of all types.”

Sanner noted that the CBF will be reviewing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement for the ACP and that the group will have more to say about the ACP and its potential impacts after they have reviewed the document.  She also noted that “natural gas-fired power plants emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, albeit less than coal-fired power plants” and that “increasing the state’s renewable energy portfolio and reducing its dependence on nonrenewables is imperative.”

State DEQ Indicates That It Will Require Project-Specific Environmental Standards for the ACP

Last week, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a letter to Dominion Transmission that indicated that the department will require project-specific environmental standards for the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).  The DEQ also sent a letter to EQT, the company that has proposed the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Frederick K. Cunningham, director of the DEQ Office of Water Permits, told both companies that they must:

  • submit a ‘project-specific plan’ to the agency, with supporting documents posted on their websites for the public;
  • maintain inspection reports, complaint logs and responses; and
  • cover the agency’s additional costs for reviewing the plans to ensure compliance.”

This is the first indication that the DEQ will enforce current erosion and sediment control standards, rather than rely on a general permit without standards that are specific to the pipeline projects.

Reminder: FERC Is Holding Scoping Meetings Today and Tomorrow

scoping-meetings-20may2016

Have an opinion about the new ACP alternate route, known as GWNF-6? Now is the time to speak up! FERC is holding scoping meetings today, May 20, 2016, in Marlinton, WV (Marlinton Community Wellness Center, 320 9th Street, 10 am to 7 pm) and tomorrow, Saturday May 21, 2016, in Hot Springs, VA (Bath County High School, 464 Charger Lane, 10 am to 7 pm). The purpose of the hearings is to receive comments on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts from the new alternative route and proposed modifications of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, known as GWNF-6. FERC will be available to answer questions about the FERC environmental review process. Reps of the ACP will also be present to answer questions about the project.

Speakers can deliver their remarks in the order in which they sign up, appearing any time during the day. There is no pre-registration. Verbal comments will be delivered directly to a court reporter. And be sure to submit your written comments as well–experience has taught us this is extremely necessary due to ‘misunderstandings’ of the court reporter.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has issued an excellent set of Guidelines for Testifying at FERC Scoping Meetings. They are also good guidelines for written comments filed with FERC. The current scoping period comment deadline is June 2, 2016.

Updated Web Page: Surveying, Access, and Eminent Domain

Landowner-page-update-announcement-18may2016Our newly updated Web page on Surveys, Access, and Eminent Domain (under the For Landowners tab) has lots of information, including information updated to reflect the recent decision on survey letters by Judge Garrett, as well as the “request to survey” letters going to landowners on whose property Dominion wants to build access roads.  There are links to useful maps as well.

Please remember to contact Friends of Nelson (friendsofnelson@gmail.com) if you get a survey letter.  We can best help you and you can best help others if we stay connected in our efforts to STOP THE ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE!

Pipeline Safety: “High Consequence” and “Evacuation” Zones

blast-zone-stoneycreekThe graphic above illustrates the blast zone for the proposed ACP in Nelson County’s Stoney Creek area. The orange area is the “High Consequence Area,” 1,100 feet on either side of the pipeline, an area within which survival of an explosion would be unlikely. The yellow/green area is the “Evacuation Zone,” 3,583 feet on either side, defined as an area an unprotected human would need to move beyond in order to avoid burn injury in the event of an explosion or fire following a leak.

However, consider the consequences of the late April natural gas 30 inch pipeline explosion in Pennsylvania. There, the explosion of the Spectra line blew a 12 foot deep, 1500 square foot hole and scorched 40 acres. The home of the badly burned man (who as of this date will be in the ICU for several more weeks, and faces a lenghty rehabilitation) was 1500 feet from this much smaller and lower pressure pipeline; the home burned completely. There was significant residential property damage at 1/2 mile from the explosion. In an interview, the Salem Township PA fire chief said there were not many houses close to the explosion and that is what prevented major loss of life. But along the proposed ACP route there are numerous areas where there are many homes – not to mention schools and businesses. Extrapolating from the blast zone of the 30 inch pipeline in Pennsylvania, it is obvious that the projected ACP blast zone as shown in the above graphic is much too narrow.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s order calls for Spectra to uncover and inspect at least two sections of pipeline on either side of what ruptured. If damage is discovered on those sections, “additional pipe must be exposed until at least 10 feet of undamaged pipe is exposed and examined. The company will be required to excavate two sections of the other three lines in both directions from the blast area and examine them for damage.” Just 10 feet for an explosion felt 6 miles away?!

In a meeting with area residents on May 12, 2016, Spectra had little to offer in the way of answers about what happened and why. Residents are understandably frightened and frustrated. The busy highway near the blast is now closed “indefinitely.”

Dominion says the ACP will be safe. That’s what Spectra told people as well.

Are Dominion’s ACP Access Roads on Your Property?

Is Dominion planning to build access roads for construction and long-term maintenance of the proposed ACP on your property? Check the attached maps to see if you or your friends or your neighbors are affected by these new survey corridors. Access roads are in yellow, pipeline routes in red and blue.

 

Guidelines for Testifying at FERC Scoping Meetings

calling-the-ACP-resisistance-may2016FERC will hold two additional scoping hearings, one on Friday May 20, 2016, in Marlinton, WV (Marlinton Community Wellness Center, 320 9th Street, 10 am to 7 pm) and one on Saturday May 21, 2016, in Hot Springs, VA (Bath County High School, 464 Charger Lane, 10 am to 7 pm). The purpose of the hearings is to receive comments on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts from the new alternative route and proposed modifications of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, known as GWNF-6. Speakers can deliver their remarks in the order in which they sign up, appearing any time during the day. There is no pre-registration. Verbal comments will be delivered directly to a court reporter.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has issued an excellent set of Guidelines for Testifying at FERC Scoping Meetings. They are also good guidelines for written comments filed with FERC. The current scoping period comment deadline is June 2, 2016. Use this opportunity to either testify at one (or both!) of the scoping meetings, and/or send your comments to FERC!

Press Release: Ruling on Survey Suits

SurveySuitVictoryFriends of Nelson has issued a press release on the court ruling in favor of 37 Nelson County landowners who had denied Dominion the right to survey their properties for construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The ruling states Atlantic Cast Pipeline LLC had failed to specify a date of entry to perform surveys and, therefore, failed to comply with VC 56-49.01 which allows natural gas companies the right to survey properties only if certain terms are met.

Read the full press release here.

Court Rules in Favor of Nelson Landowners in Survey Notice Suit

Judge Garrett, Nelson County Circuit Court Judge, has just issued a ruling, dated May 9, 2016, in favor of a group of Nelson County landowners, saying Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC failed to comply with VC 56-49.01 and failed to specify a date of entry to perform surveys. The ruling states:

  • that by the express terms of the statute, the Legislature requires that the landowner be given notice of the intended date of entry
  • that the second notices are legally insufficient as 56-49.01(C) requires that the Notice shall “set forth the date of the intended entry”
  • that the language “on or after” does not set forth the date of intended entry
  • and that therefore the Notice of the Date of Intended Entry is not legally sufficient.

See the full ruling here, with the specifics on pages 15-19.