State Water Control Board Hearings on the ACP – Day 1

Photo by Marion Kanour

Scenes from Day 1 of the Virginia State Water Control Board hearing on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, December 11, 2017.

Click here for Marion Kanour’s photo album of Day 1 of the Water Control Board’s ACP hearing, December 11, 2017. There is commentary with each photo. One photo shows the “No standing or sitting” signs posted since last week’s MVP hearing, and Marion’s observation that DEQ had “also taped closed the electrical outlets used by attendees to charge phones and laptops. Emphasizing the ‘control’ in the State Water Control Board.”

A video posted on the Water Is Life Facebook page discusses the new signs, the taped outlets, and other new rules.

Richard Averitt, a Nelson County landowner on the ACP route, testifying in what seems to be one more rigged event designed to placate the people and do Dominion’s bidding. Richard began by noting that when he arrived at 7:30 a.m. to sign up to speak, there were 78 people there already and not one was pro-pipeline, yet many pro-pipeline people had been allowed to speak ahead of him.

All stand for The people’s proclamation led by Mara Eve Robbins

Groups File Suit to Challenge Virginia State Water Board MVP Permit Approval

On Friday December 8, 2017, Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed a petition for review with the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to overturn Virginia’s unlawful approval of the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The litigation was filed on behalf of the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Wild Virginia. The filing came the day after contentious hearings that ended with the Virginia State Water Control Board issuing a certificate under the Clean Water Act needed by MVP to begin construction.

Download the filing here.

Wild Virginia’s press release says the filing “asserts that the Board has failed to base its decision on adequate and complete information and, therefore, lacks a rational basis for its action. All parties admit that vital information and analyses were missing at this time yet the Board endorsed DEQ’s recommendation to approve the rushed permit decision.”

The press release also highlights the fact that the the Board issued the permit regardless of seriously incomplete information from MVP. “‘The DEQ’s erosion and sediment control plans and stormwater control plans are incomplete and have not been presented to the Board,’ said David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director. ‘Karst analyses are incomplete. Data related to specific waterbody crossings is non-existent. The Nationwide 12 permit has not yet been authorized and determined to be applicable. The procedure is not based on sound science and is legally flawed. We cannot accept this betrayal of our trust and our rights without challenge,’ Sligh stated.”

Washington Post coverage of the filing is here.

VA State Water Control Board Grants 401 Certification to MVP

Late in the afternoon on December 7, 2017, after two days of hearings, the Virginia State Water Control Board approved water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The vote was 5-2, with members Roberta Kellam and G. Nissa Dean dissenting. The action came late Tuesday afternoon (December 7). On Monday, nearly 100 persons spoke before the Board. Over 90% of the speakers were in opposition to certification. Modifications to the draft certification document were made, including an amendment that attempts to preserve its right to examine stream crossings at a later date. More on this will follow.

Members of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge alliance (of which Friends of Nelson is a part) reacted swiftly:

  • Southern Environmental Law Center, Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney: “After hearing from numerous citizens and officials that the Water Board did not have the information it needed to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Board failed to insist on a thorough, science-based review of this project. Their decision to move this pipeline project forward reflects the political pressure that Governor McAuliffe has put on his agencies to approve gas pipelines before he leaves office. But the Board still has the chance to acknowledge and remedy this broken process by sending plans back to Dominion next week at the Atlantic Coast Pipeline hearings and reversing today’s decision on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. As Virginia’s watchdog for water quality, the Board must ensure that Dominion doesn’t abuse its political power to push through a risky and unnecessary project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Statement from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director: “Terry McAuliffe has harmed farmers, consumers, drinking water, and the climate by pushing the Virginia Water Control Board to give final approval today of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The 301-mile pipeline for fracked gas constitutes a colossal misallocation of resources and will permanently harm the Governor’s economic and environmental legacies. “Even as the on-the-ground evidence shows guaranteed harm to Virginia’s watersheds, and even as scientists sound the loudest possible warning bells on climate change, the Water Control Board gave the Governor what he asked for: a final build recommendation. This decision paves the way for the literal obliteration of mountain ridgetops, the clear-cutting of forests, and for massive trenching and tunneling across valleys for a pipeline that is not even needed and that serves only to enrich energy companies while hurting ratepayers. “Governor McAuliffe made construction of the MVP pipeline a top priority of his term and his administration testified vigorously in support of the pipeline during the Water Board’s final two-day hearing this week. “Our hope is that the Water Board, next week, will ignore the Governor’s similarly misguided support of a second gas pipeline – the Atlantic Coast Pipeline favored by controversial political donor Dominion Energy – when the Board votes on that pipeline next Tuesday.”
  • Appalachian Voices, Tom Cormons, Executive Director: “We are thoroughly disappointed by the board’s decision. Thousands voiced their opposition to this pipeline based on evidence that it cannot be built without violating the federal Clean Water Act and the board’s obligation under Virginia law. DEQ created a rushed, haphazard process, limited the scope of the board’s review, and abdicated the state’s authority to the Corps of Engineers for oversight of pipeline construction at almost 400 water crossings. “We applaud the efforts of several members who expressed concern that the draft permit would not provide reasonable assurance, as required by law, that water quality would be protected, and particularly we applaud members Nissa Dean and Roberta Kellam who cast the two dissenting votes. “The board should have rejected the permit today because they lacked enough information to make a reasoned decision. Instead, it approved an utterly deficient permit. “The record demonstrates this project would ultimately violate the law. We are considering all options and expect the outcome will be determined in the courts. If the company breaks ground on the project, citizens along the entire route are prepared to watchdog every action, along every mile, every day of construction and afterwards, and compel agencies to act when violations inevitably occur. “Next week, the board will be presented with an equally deficient permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and should exercise its full authority to reject the permit.”

Reaction and press release from the Sierra Club is here.

Initial press coverage of the decision is in the Washington Post and Richmond Times-Dispatch, and on WHSV3.

What to Say to the State Water Control Board About the ACP

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has prepared a two-page document to aid those who will be presenting comments next Monday before the Virginia State Water Control Board as it considers whether to grant certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The guidance document is based on the October 25, 2017, letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to the Virginia State Water Control Board.

The Board will meet Monday and Tuesday, December 11 and 12, 2017, regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline certification. Both meetings begin at 9:30 am at the Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road, Richmond, VA. The first-day agenda calls for a summary presentation by staff of comments made during the public comment period and hearings, followed by an opportunity for those who commented at the public hearings or filed comments during the public comment period to respond to the staff summary. Board consideration of the pending applications are slated to occur on the second day (December 12). Three-minute time limits will be imposed on those making comments, though it is possible for eligible commenters to sign-up and allot their time to another speaker. It is very important that a strong turnout of opposition comments to certification for the ACP be made next Monday. Make your voice count by showing up in Richmond next Monday!

[Note: Based on the December 6-7 hearings for the MVP, attendees next week should be prepared to see an extremely heavy Virginia State Police presence both inside and around the meeting venue.]

Pipe Dreams

A new study, Atlantic Coast Pipeline:  Economics and Manufacturing Jobs, by the Applied Economics Clinic at Tufts University, looks at repeated claims by project proponents that new interstate natural gas pipelines like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) or Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will: (1) save consumers money relative to alternative energy sources; and (2) lead to new manufacturing jobs.

Bottom line: The claims are all hype.

The study was commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and, following its December 5, 2017, release, was analyzed on both the NRDC Web page and by Blue Virginia.

The key findings of the independent study demolish all Dominions claims about economic development and new jobs:

  • The ACP will cost rather than save money for customers: “Dominion claims that the ACP will save consumers money by supplying the region’s power producers with shale gas, even accounting for the additional cost to transport the gas from farther away…In fact, testimony using Dominion’s own, more recent cost projections concludes that Dominion’s customers may actually pay $1.61 to $2.36 billion more with the ACP than without the ACP over the next 20 years.”
  • There is no need or demand: “Dominion and its pipeline partner Duke Energy (Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress) have lowered forecasted demand by 15,468 GWh in 2025 since the ICF report was released. This reduction in future energy load reflects a reduced need for new natural gas combined cycle generating capacity, and a corresponding reduction in demand for natural gas…. These lower utility demand forecasts would eliminate the need for a large amount of new natural gas generating capacity and avoid 375 million cubic feet per day of natural gas delivery.”
  • Pipeline-induced job growth is a myth: “Recent evidence from states with new natural gas pipeline capacity shows no support for the conclusion that the addition of new pipelines leads to additional opportunities for new manufacturing jobs in those states. There is no clear support for the claim that the ACP would lead to additional opportunities for new manufacturing in the region, and this is likely the case for other new natural gas pipelines such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.”
  • It’s even possible we’ll LOSE manufacturing jobs with the ACP. “Seven states with additional pipeline capacity saw both falling electricity prices and losses to manufacturing jobs, including Virginia, one of the states in which the ACP and MVP would deliver natural gas. West Virginia—a major natural gas producer and the origin for a number of new natural gas pipelines including the ACP and MVP—has experienced increased electricity prices coupled with losses in manufacturing jobs in the state.”  [See the recent opinion column by Tom Perriello and Alex Laskey discussing the ways Virginia lags behind our neighbors when it comes to advanced energy, a sector that supports 3.3 million American jobs, while the job growth in energy efficiency and clean energy is projected to outgrow the rest of the economy several times over.

Dominion’s Ties to Decision-makers

On Eve of Key Atlantic Coast Pipeline Decision, Here’s a Review of Dominion’s Ties to Decision-makers – an article published by DeSmog on December 5, 2017.

Ahead of the key meetings of the Virginia Water Control Board, “DeSmog is taking a look back at the many instances where the federal and state regulatory review processes for this pipeline were either potentially conflicted by Dominion’s involvement or somehow linked to the company.” Their article considers these facts:

  • Regulator Represented Dominion in Past: “The newest member of Virginia’s Water Control Board has past links to Dominion. Board member Timothy Hayes, appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe this past August, is a retired lobbyist and attorney who previously represented the energy company.”
  • Government Contractors Also Working for Dominion: “In April, DeSmog revealed that a third-party contractor reviewing the Atlantic Coast pipeline on behalf of FERC is tied to Dominion’s main environmental contractor on the project.” Also, “Soon after, DeSmog reported that another third-party contractor, this time hired by the U.S. Forest Service to review a portion of the pipeline running through national forests, was working at the same time for Dominion on the very same project.” And again, “In June DeSmog revealed that a contractor, hired by the Virginia DEQ to independently review the adequacy of Dominion’s stormwater and erosion and sediment control plans, was working at the same time for Dominion on an unrelated project.”
  • Dominion and Politicians: “Multiple reports from the last year have uncovered the ongoing political connections between Dominion, a traditionally powerful corporate player in Virginian politics, and top political players in both major parties.”