Category Archives: Certificates of Approval

Water Control Board Votes to Reconsider MVP Certification

At their regular meeting on December 12, 2018, The State Water Control Board voted 4-3 to reconsider the 401 certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Please recall that when Northam removed the two members of the Air Control Board who had questioned the air permit for the Union Hill compressor station, he also removed two Water Control Board members who had questioned water permit certification for the pipelines. One of Northam’s new appointments to the Water Board, James Lofton, made the motion to reconsider the MVP certification, and members Dean, Jasinki (also new), and Wayland joined him in voting to reconsider. Voting against reconsideration were Heather Wood, Lou Ann Wallace and Tim Hayes.

Although the MVP’s nationwide permit was revoked months ago, the Department of Environmental Quality took no action to shut down pipeline construction. Just a week ago, Attorney General Mark Herring filed suit against MVP for their repeated environmental violations – hundreds of violations.

Writing in an op-ed in a Virginia Mercury article published earlier in the day, Roberta Kellum, one of the Water Board members Northam removed, wrote of Herring’s suit that “After reading the complaint, there should be no doubt about the validity of the concerns raised by the public about water quality impacts from fracked gas pipeline construction projects and the associated water quality certifications issued by the State Water Control Board. What the complaint doesn’t tell us, however, is how the DEQ allowed so many violations to occur unabated, for months and months, or how major erosion and sediment control structures failed in spite of pre-approved plans.” She adds, “And why, in the face of so many systemic failures in complying with the water quality certification, didn’t DEQ issue a stop work order to ensure that violations were addressed to prevent any degradation of water quality? Having faced a justifiably irate and frustrated public repeatedly as a State Water Control Board member over the past two years, I hope Gov. Northam will finally appreciate the validity of public concerns for the waters of the commonwealth.”

Yes, indeed, it is certainly time for the State Water Control Board to reconsider their certification of the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline. Our thanks to the Board members who voted to do so.

Fourth Circuit Court Throws out ACP’s Forest Service Permit


On December 13, 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Appalachian Trail.

The case was argued before the Court on September 28, 2018, with the Southern Environmental Law Canter and Appalachian Mountain Advocates representing the plaintiffs.

The Court found that the Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” and noted the agency’s “serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.” The opinion says the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and did not have authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trail.

Read the Court’s opinion here.

See news coverage from Virginia Mercury here.

See news coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.

Be aware: The Richmond Times-Dispatch points out that, “Dominion’s allies in Congress reportedly are considering an amendment to a pending appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that would permit the crossing of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway near Reed’s Gap.”  Additional information hereContact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose any legislative amendment that would give the National Park Service unchecked authority to allow pipeline construction.

December 7: Multiple Pipeline Barriers


December 7, 2018, saw multiple barriers placed in the way of both the ACP and the MVP.

Early in the morning NBC posted nationally a lengthy and very sympathetic article telling the story of the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s push to build a massive compressor station for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline in the heart of Union Hill,an historic, predominantly African American community. In it, John and Ruby Laury, longtime residents of Union Hill told NBC News, “Dominion thought they can just come in and we’d all roll over….We have to stand up. We have no fear of Dominion.”

Then the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Fish and Wildlife Service permit regarding incidental take of endangered species. This action was in response to a petition filed on November 30 by the Southern Environmental Law Center, and said simply, “Upon consideration of the submissions relative to petitioners’ motion to stay, the court grants the motion and stays implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement pending review by the court.” The Fish and Wildlife Service approvals for the ACP must be in place before Dominion can harm threatened and endangered species. The Court threw out the original permit in May 2018. “The Fish and Wildlife Service scrambled to reissue this permit and its haste is evident in its analysis,” said Attorney Patrick Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is yet another instance of government agencies rushing out ill-considered permits for this project.” Because of the stayed permit, construction must stop on the entire 600-mile route. Dominion’s Aaron Ruby said, “We respectfully but strongly disagree with the court’s decision. We believe the stay is not only unwarranted, but overly broad. We are filing a motion for emergency clarification on the scope of the court’s decision. We do not believe there is any basis for the court to stay the entire Biological Opinion, which authorizes all 600 miles of the project.”

ACP permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers are all now on hold.

By the end of the day, Dominion had notified FERC that work will stop along the entire ACP route, saying, “In response to a stay of implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement granted today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Dominion Energy, on behalf of Atlantic and itself, has stopped construction on the entire Projects, except for stand-down activities needed for safety and that are necessary to prevent detriment to the environment.”

Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times broke the news that Attorney General Mark Herring had filed suit against Mountain Valley Pipeline, citing more than 300 violations of Virginia environmental regulations, and seeking “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations.” The suit was filed in Henrico County Circuit Court, and does not state an exact monetary amount being sought by the state.

Stand with Union Hill


All night vigil: Sunday, December 9, 7:30pm – Monday, December 10, 8:30am. Richmond Hill, 2209 E Grace St, Richmond 23223

Join the Union Hill community, people of faith, water and air protectors, and artists on Sunday December 9, 2018, at 7:30 pm, for an all night interfaith vigil prior to the Air Pollution Control Board meeting which will decide the fate of the Union Hill community with a vote on the air permit for the compressor station. At the vigil, leaders from many faith traditions will share prayers, music, meditate, and more around the theme of environmental justice. Come to lift up the community of Union Hill!

After the vigil concludes, the group will head over to the Air Pollution Control Board meeting to show up and support the residents of Union Hill and Buckingham County and to witness the decision. The Board meeting will begin at 10:00 am on Monday, December 10 in the First Floor House Committee Room, Pocahontas Building, 900 E Main St, Richmond 23219.

Air Board Urged to Reject ACP’s Late Efforts on Compressor Station Vote

From ABRA Update 206, December 6, 2018:

The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board has been asked to reject eleventh-hour attempt by Dominion Energy to insert new conditions and provisions into the pending air quality permit for the project’s compressor station in Buckingham County without input from the public. A December 3 letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center to Board Chair Richard Langford and David Paylor, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, states:

Dominion proposed on November 9 that the Board condition the permit on a memorandum of understanding between Dominion and the Dominion-backed Union Hill Community Development Corporation regarding a $5.1 million investment. But whether such a condition would satisfy the requirements of §10.1-1307(E) is a question the public must be permitted to weigh in on. Indeed, we believe it would not. The governing statute does not permit site-suitability concerns—like the risk here of disproportionate harm to the historic, African-American community of Union Hill—to be swept away with the promise of money to unrelated community development projects. Further, to allow Dominion to unilaterally amend a proposed permit after the close of the comment period would invite abuse of the process and frustrate meaningful public participation.

The Air Pollution Control Board will meet at 10 am Monday December 10, 2018, in the Pocahontas Building, 900 East Main St., Richmond.

Fourth Circuit Asked to Stay ACP’s Fish and Wildlife Permit

From ABRA Update 206, December 6, 2018:

A motion to stay the US Fish and Wildlife’s (FWS) latest Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was filed November 30, 2018, with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on behalf of its clients: Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and The Virginia Wilderness Committee. The FWS’s original Opinion and Take Statement on the project was struck down by the Fourth Circuit in an opinion issued August 6, 2018. FWS issued a revised Opinion and Take Statement was issued September 11 and a stop work order that had been in effect since the Fourth Circuit’s decision was lifted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on September 17.

In its petition to the Court, SELC pointed out that four endangered species would be adversely affected by ACP construction: 1) Indiana bats habitats in several designated Appalachian Recovery Units along the route; 2) clubshell mussels adversely impacted by sedimentation-inducing activities in their watershed; 3) the Rusty-patched bumble bee as the result of tree felling in Bath County, VA; and the Madison cave isopd due to access road construction in Bath County. The petition further argues that the FWS, as it did in approving the first Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement for the ACP rushed to judgment as the result of political pressure from the Department of Interior to accommodate the project, without conducting a thorough analysis as required by law regarding the impacts upon the cited endangered species.

Concluding, the petition proclaims: “The public interest is not harmed by a delay in construction. Even if Atlantic can make a showing of economic harm, that economic harm does not equate to harm to the public interest.”