Category Archives: Certificates of Approval

State Water Control Board Approves 30-Day Comment Period

ACP and MVP opponents have continually and vigorously objected to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality decision a year ago to cede its authority to review the hundreds of spots where two controversial natural gas pipelines will cross state waterways to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As reported by Robert Zullo, writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “the State Water Control Board cracked open the door for more review of those water crossings. The board on Thursday [April 12, 2018] approved a 30-day period to solicit comment on whether the approvals the corps granted for the projects under Nationwide Permit 12 are adequate to protect Virginia waterways from the blasting, drilling and trenching that crossing them could entail.”

Opponents of the blanket approval believe it allows degradation of waterways that are not permitted under Virginia water regulations. Board member Robert Wayland, said, “I watched the nationwide permit scope get significantly ratcheted down over a period of time. Quite frankly, we felt, and the Army agreed, it had been ‘Honk if you want a permit.'”

The Board agreed on a 30-day comment period, with the possibility for a further meeting at a later date.

In December the Board had issued a conditional certification for the ACP and a certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline that was aimed specifically at attempting to preserve the board’s authority over water crossings – but those certifications were issued before DEQ finished reviewing the pipeline builders’ plans to manage erosion, sediment control and stormwater along the proposed pipeline route through miles of extremely steep terrain.

At the meeting, Board member Roberta Kellam cited Dominion’s self-reported violations of tree-cutting restrictions. “We’re talking about a violation before even the plans that they’re required to submit to perfect the certificate have even been approved,” she said. “That would seem to me potentially grounds for revoking the certificate or at least reopening discussions.”

Mr. Zullo, the Times-Dispatch reporter, noted, “About 15 seconds of silence followed that remark.”

Read the full article here.

The ACP’s Fake Plans

Section of design sheet for ACP Milepost 85 area, one of only six areas in Virginia for which detailed site-specific pipeline construction plans have been obtained. Colors are added for clarity. Heavy wire mesh will be used to hold a 120% slope area in place above the stream. The indicated unnamed tributary drains to a native trout stream.  Higher resolution version here.

On April 9, 2018, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition summarized the current status of Dominion’s construction plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Dominion Energy asserts that the ACP has received an unprecedented level of regulatory review, and it’s time to get on with it. Meanwhile it withholds its real construction plans while expecting broad waivers from environmental conditions and standards.

Dominion has persistently failed to make site-specific construction plans available to the regulatory agencies and the public. It has instead provided low-resolution plan sheets and generalized descriptions of environmental control practices. We now know that Dominion has plans that it has not shared with government decision makers, and we know it seeks exemption from critical regulatory requirements.

The curtain was pulled back in February 2018 when, after protracted delay, Dominion submitted site-specific plans to the Forest Service for six high-hazard locations in Virginia. Based on these plans we know that:

  • the steepest mountainsides will be held in place using heavy-wire mesh fastened to underlying bedrock with 8 to 15-foot or longer “nails”
  • excess spoil resulting from trench and workspace excavation may be spread on ridgelines or deposited adjacent the pipeline corridor
  • trenches will be dynamited through high-quality streams and backfilled with concrete

It also seems that Dominion is ignoring or perhaps intends to seek a wholesale variance from the State Water Control Board’s requirement that it reduce the width of the construction corridor from 125 feet to 75 feet within 50 feet of streams and wetlands to minimize the extent of riparian buffer disturbance. The most-recent available plans indicate that the width of construction disturbance at stream crossings remains 125-feet wide.

And it remains unclear if Dominion expects to receive a general variance allowing it to exceed the 500-foot open trench limit imposed by Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control regulations. Dominion has indicated that it will seek open-trench variances that will cover 99% of the pipeline corridor in western Virginia, including even the steepest mountainsides.

For more information see the April 9, 2018, post on the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition Web site:  Fake Plans for the ACP

VA DEQ Approves Plans for MVP

Press Release from DEQ
Contact: Ann Regn
March 26, 2018
804) 698-4442
ann.regn@deq.virginia.gov

DEQ Approves Erosion and Sediment, Stormwater, and Karst Plans for MVP to Protect Water Quality

RICHMOND, VA. – The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has approved the Erosion and Sediment Control, Stormwater Management, and Karst Protection Plans for the Mountain Valley Pipeline effective today, March 26, 2018. These detailed site plans specify engineering designs that will protect water quality in all areas of Virginia, including karst, during and after construction of the pipeline project.

DEQ began its plan review in March 2016, which continued with a more thorough review beginning in June 2017 by EEE, an independent consulting firm. Today’s approval authorizes MVP to begin land disturbing activities in Virginia consistent with these plans. No changes to the plans may be made without obtaining prior approval from DEQ. The basis for the design specifications for the plans are contained in Virginia’s erosion and sediment control and stormwater management regulations.

“Protecting water quality and water supplies is our greatest concern,” said David K. Paylor, DEQ Director. “We required MVP to submit detailed plans for every foot of land disturbance, and we carefully reviewed all aspects of these plans.”

Draft plans were posted for the public for input in September 2017, and the final plans are now available to view at https://www.mountainvalleypipeline.info/current-news.

In response to public interest, DEQ has sent a report to the State Water Control Board (Board) detailing the approval of the Erosion and Sediment Control, Stormwater Management, and Karst Protection Plans, which are required by regulation to protect the Commonwealth’s waters.

“DEQ’s enhanced review, along with our new stop-work authority, gives the agency a variety of tools to protect water quality across the range of pipeline activities and ensure developers comply with Virginia’s rigorous regulatory requirements,” added Paylor.

Citizens can direct questions and pollution complaints to MountainValleyPipeline@deq.virginia.gov. For more information, including the report to the Board, visit www.deq.virginia.gov/MVP.

VMRC Approves ACP

In its meeting on March 16, 2018, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved with 12 special conditions the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, voting 7 yes, 0 no, 1 abstention.

See the VMRC Commission Summary Web page for the details of the meeting, the vote, and the imposed conditions. The conditions are general and benign, like ACP agreeing to adhere to plans in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, revegetating, complying with erosion and sedimentation measures, notifying the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 48 hours before blasting, etc.

VMRC Hearing – Further Info


We have posted recently about the Virginia Marine Resources Commission hearing on Friday March 16, 2018, in Norfolk.  If you wish to attend the hearing, contact info@augustacountyalliance.org about car pooling.

Here is additional information from the Augusta County Alliance:

During the American Revolution, even as it appeared the fledgling U.S. Navy was going to be destroyed by the superior British Navy, American Commander John Paul Jones answered the request for surrender with these immortal words: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

That is our stance on this unnecessary and destructive pipeline. We must continue to push back at every opportunity and Never Give Up. Next Friday, March 16, at 9:30 a.m. in Newport News will be one more opportunity to speak up—at the hearing by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to consider the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s permit application to run its 42-inch high pressure pipeline under state regulated waters, i.e. beneath streams and wetlands with drainage areas of 5 square miles or more. 

On the list [click here for the entire application] are 26 streams in Augusta County, 5 in Bath, 1 in Highland, 11 in Nelson, and 10 in Buckingham.

If you want to read some powerful letters of objection to this permit application, here’s a link (click on ‘Additional Docs’ on the right of the page).

If any of you are interested in taking a road trip to Newport News, let us know and we can arrange a car pool. In the meantime, this citizen board needs to hear from you by email about why they should NOT issue this permit on March 16. Please contact Board members  and express your concerns about this application.  Send your comments via email to Commission Secretary Matt Hull at Matt.Hull@mrc.virginia.gov and request that he distribute your letter to all the commissioners prior to the Friday hearing.

Here are some reasons that the permit should be delayed or simply denied:

  1. They don’t have enough information to guarantee that our waters and river bottoms will not be harmed. They have not done adequate on-the-ground surveys and they haven’t taken any soil samples. They have also failed to identify the public uses of the streams that could be affected, including uses such as drinking water, fishing, wildlife habitat enhancement, and outdoor recreation. The information provided to landowners is cursory and riddled with errors. [click here to read some letters from Augusta County landowners]
  2. Dominion’s rationale for proposing the less safe, less environmentally friendly open-cut trenching for many stream crossings rather than horizontal directional drilling is that the former is less costly to the company’s budget. The costs incurred by a private corporation CANNOT be a consideration in a public resource.
  3. Dominion has not provided any evidence to ensure that trout streams will not be harmed.
  4. The company has not shown how it will keep increased sediment from construction out of the Chesapeake Bay. 

In your communication to the VMRC board, remind them that their duty lies with protecting the public trust under which these streams and rivers exist. Feel free to personalize your email with your story of how you, as a citizen of Virginia, use these waters and what the potential for permanent damage to this amazing natural resource is. You can certainly mention those specific waterways that will be crossed, but you do not have to; you also do not need to know construction details. Include photos if you want. We all know that cutting through or drilling under river beds causes mud spills and erosion. The type of hurricane-related flooding that we experience regularly can scour riverbeds and expose pipes that could lead to disaster. 

Comment to Virginia Marine Resources Commission

You still have time to comment before the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) public hearing at 9:30 a.m. on March 16, 2018, in the Newport News City Council Chambers at 2400 Washington Avenue, Newport News.

Don’t know what to say? Take a look at this joint letter to VMRC from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The vast majority of it applies word for word to the ACP, and it should give you plenty of ideas. Substitute:

  • ACP for MVP
  • Mention ACP’s 18 streams
  • Mention ACP’s 5 counties
  • Change the specific endangered or under review species discussed: page 4-6 discusses specific MVP species (James Spiny Mussel, Roanoke Log Perch, candy darter, orangefin madtom, green floater, orange pigtoe, and eastern hellbender); for ACP, we have endangered species James Spinymussel, Roanoke Logperch, dwarf wedge mussel, and the under review species Atlantic pigtoe mussel, green floater, chowanoke crayfish

You don’t have to know details of proposed procedures, to comment on problems of drilling beneath river beds – especially given the examples in other pipeline construction projects of drilling mud spills and erosion-caused scouring of river beds. Erosion caused by river bed scouring is particularly relevant in Nelson with our history of flooding. But it is relevant everywhere given the increase in extreme weather events, see for example Floods Put Pipelines at Risk and Mapping Sunoco’s drilling mud spills.

Send your letters opposing the ACP drilling under our streams and rivers to:
Marine Resources Commission
Habitat Management Division
2600 Washington Ave, 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23607

You may send comments by email to: Randy.Owen@mrc.virginia.gov. Put ACP in the subject line.

Tell them who you are, where you live, and why you oppose the ACP’s request to put its proposed pipeline beneath these 48 non-tidal and 3 tidal streams.