CSI Seeks FERC Investigation of Potential ACP Violations

Apparent equipment staging area and new or reconstructed road and bridges observed during Pipeline Air Force surveillance flights. (3/11/18)

On March 14, 2018, we reported on the first incident report from the Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), apparent unauthorized access road and staging area construction in the MP158 area, the Augusta County Horizontal Direction Drilling area. A request was filed March 22 on behalf of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate potential violations by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) of the Commission’s Certificate and Virginia’s water quality certification. Aerial photographs taken earlier in March by ABRA’s CSI showed what appears to be substantial construction work in an area of Augusta County, near the site from which ACP proposes to bore through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The photographs show new and improved roads, new bridges, and what appear to be equipment parking and staging areas.

The observed activities do not appear to have been authorized under any of the limited Notices to Proceed FERC has issued, which allow tree cutting by non-mechanized means. The request explains that these actions will impact water quality in a number of ways and that, since the State of Virginia has not approved erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans and its water quality certification is not effective, possible land disturbance, changes to stormwater flows, and other effects must not be allowed. The submittal to FERC also notes that ACP’s weekly status reports have not provided notice of any of these activities and that environmental compliance reports indicate these sites have not been inspected.

The submitters also asked that the Commission report on its investigative proceedings and findings to ABRA, the CSI, and the public and that it not invoke regulatory provisions to keep this information from citizens.

Webinar: Volunteer Pipeline Visual Assessment Program

Everyone can now watch a replay of the March 13, 2018, Trout Unlimited/Appalachian Voices/WV Rivers webinar on Pipeline Visual Assessment Program, see http://appvoices.org/fracking/pva-program/.

Learn how to detect and report water quality impacts from natural gas pipelines

The WV/VA Pipeline Visual Assessment Program was developed by Trout Unlimited and West Virginia Rivers Coalition to support and train volunteer citizen observers to identify, document and report pollution incidents associated with large-scale pipeline development. Through a series of webinar trainings, volunteers will learn about erosion control best management practices used in pipeline development, specific examples of pollution to look for, and how to best document those problems.

On the same Web page with there are links to download the handouts associated with the Webinar.

If anyone would like to host a screening party, or have another group screening at the Nelson Library, contact Doug at wellman.doug@gmail.com.

Federal Court Dismisses Challenges to FERC Decision on ACP

From the ABRA Update for March 22, 2018:

Legal challenges to the October 13, 2017 the approval and permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were dismissed on March 21 by the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

On January 29, Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sued FERC on behalf of 11 groups (most of them ABRA members) challenging the agency’s decision to approve the ACP. On March 8, a second lawsuit was filed by SELC and Appalmad against FERC under the All Writs Act to stop pipeline construction. The All Writs petition was filed as an alternative basis on which the Court could stop the project, if it determined that the direct challenge to the FERC approval was premature.

The panel rejected the All Writs argument and apparently accepted FERC’s position that it could indefinitely postpone a decision on the merits of our rehearing request to the agency even though the pipeline goes forward (known as a “tolling order”). Thus, in the Court’s view, it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case now, and the plaintiffs must wait until FERC issues an order on the rehearing request. It is unclear when the agency will act. The FERC certificate can still be challenged once the agency makes its final decision. Until then, other pipeline permits will be subjected to litigation.

Court Ruling Stops ACP Timbering of “The Wilderness”

On March 1, 2018, Judge Norman Moon, of the US Western District of Virginia Federal Court in Lynchburg, granted ‘immediate access’ for tree-felling on 16 of 27 Virginia properties for which Dominion requested access. Acting on an appeal by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for one of the properties, “The Wilderness,” a 1,000-acre farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an order on March 13, 2018, preventing imminent tree cutting by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The “stay pending appeal” overruled Judge Moon’s March 1 decision, thus providing temporary relief from tree cutting until the court could fully consider the issue.

On March 20, Appalachian Mountain Advocates attorneys and the ACP’s attorneys presented oral arguments on the issue before the judicial panel.

On March 21, 2018, a unanimous judicial panel of the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court’s injunction. The Fourth Circuit’s order will prevent tree cutting on the property until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fully completes the required state and federal historical review process. This review is necessary because “The Wilderness” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, and been deemed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to be a “Virginia Treasure.”

Read more on Appalachian Mountain Advocates Web page.

Tell Northam: Keep Virginia’s Water Clean

Pipelines are a threat to the clean water Virginians depend on. A recent study,  Threats to Water Quality from Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline Water Crossings in Virginia, confirms that the proposed pipelines will cause massive disruption to streams and wetlands, pollute the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and threaten crucial drinking water supplies. Why should Virginians pay billions of dollars for pipelines that could pollute our water? Virginia governor Ralph Northam has promised to hold these projects to the “highest environmental standards” and that individual reviews of their pollution impacts are needed. Call the Governor at 804-786-2211 and tell him to stay true to his word and keep Virginia’s water clean.