Category Archives: Citizen Surveillance

ABRA Alerts Feds to ACP Safety Problems

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ABRA Update #249, October 18, 2019

ABRA’s CSI program has provided more evidence to federal regulators of unsafe and non-compliant construction practices of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

On July 25, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) wrote Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI), which is managing the construction of the ACP, concerning trench widths that did not appear to meet specifications and the presence of bedrock and loose boulders in pipeline trenches. The locations were within the first miles of the project in West Virginia. DETI responded on August 21 denying that the conditions cited by PHMSA inspectors existed. This prompted ABRA to examine the reported incidents base upon photographic evidence acquired by ABRA/CSI Pipeline Air Force photo surveillance flights.

In a October 16,2019, letter to PHMSA, Dan Shaffer, ABRA’s Geospatial Consultant, brought to the agency’s attention photographs that contradict DETI’s contention. Shaffer explained that “CSI has identified 25 locations along the route that seem to show large rocks loose in the trench, directly underneath the pipe, incorporated with backfill, or protruding into the trench in close proximity to the pipe. . . . We are concerned that these conditions place the Atlantic Coast Pipeline at a significant risk of damage during hydrostatic testing, increased rates of corrosion due to damaged epoxy coating, or rupture due to landslides or even small slips.” One of the photo examples provided to PHMSA with the letter is reproduced below.

9/19/2018 1122 MP 33.8 -80.203613, 38.908424 5,5 Shattered bedrock lines the trench.

Concluding, Shaffer said: “Our photographic evidence suggests that such conditions are common practice on this project. We feel that these locations warrant additional investigation to ensure that the project is being constructed in a safe manner.”

Legal Observer Training – 2 Opportunities

Attorney Kai Memmer, a volunteer for the Southwest Virginia Chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, will train attendees to become Legal Observers. LO’s are needed immediately in the Elliston, VA area, other areas along the MVP route, and where law enforcement and protestors are in proximity to monitor and document interactions. LO’s presence serves to de-escalate tensions on both sides, and is a vital, neutral information gathering tool.

Volunteers are needed for any amount of time. Information on the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Legal Observer program: https://www.nlg.org/our-work/

Training session #1: Wednesday, October 30 at 6pm at the Lucy F Simms Continuing Education Center, Classroom 101, 620 Simms Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802

Training session #2: Wednesday, November 6 at 6pm at the Nelson Memorial Library, 8521 Thomas Nelson Highway, Lovingston VA 22949

Questions? drkinva@yahoo.com

Citizen Surveillance: MVP and ACP

Mountain Valley Watch (MVW) is a collaboration of volunteers and experts who observe, document, and report environmental issues related to the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline between Wetzel County, West Virginia, and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

They have a new map on the front page of their website (https://www.newrivergeographics.com/mvw/) with a visual representation of the volunteer reporting happening along the MVP route. You can zoom in and expand individual submissions and view images.

For the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) program Web page (http://abra-csi.org/) includes instructions on how volunteers can become involved in the program, examples of non-compliance issues, and numerous technical resources, including the unique CSI mapping system. There are links to surveillance photographs taken by the ABRA/CSI Pipeline Air Force.

Active Landslide Threatens Homes

Photo courtesy of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance: Pipeline Air Force

An active landslide originating on the Mountain Valley Pipeline right of way on a steep slope has made a house NOT in the construction area uninhabitable.

On July 29, 2019, MVP filed a variance request for slip remediation with FERC, and just 10 days later admitted to FERC that over three months it had been unable to stop the earth movement, requesting “emergency authorization” to stabilize the landslide, because lives were in danger. The letter said, “The progression of the slide caused additional area outside the limits of disturbance to destabilize, uprooted numerous large trees, has the potential to impact an aquatic resource, and has progressed to the point where a residence directly downslope is unsafe to be occupied.”

On August 13, FERC granted MVP’s emergency request, saying, “A recent field inspection by one of our compliance monitors confirms that portions of the slip are still moving and could compromise the residence. The slide must be stabilized before it causes damage or injury to the residence and aquatic resources located down slope of the slide.”

Jonathan Sokolow, in two articles in Medium (Definition of Insanity: Mountain Valley Pipeline Asks for “Emergency Authorization” to Prevent a Life Threatening Landslide on August 9 and Photos of Insanity: Active Landslide Threatens Lives Along Route of Mountain Valley Pipeline on August 15), points out that while this particular landslide is on a steep slope in West Virginia, there are hundreds of similarly steep slopes along the route of the MVP and of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, all with potential for similar landslides threatening lives and residences.

In his August 15 article, Sokolow writes, “Common sense would seem to dictate that emergency inspections be conducted on each steep slope in Virginia and West Virginia to make sure no similar emergencies are developing. Prudence would indicate that all work on the pipeline be stopped until those inspections are complete. Yet in the days since this active ’emergency’ (MVP’s word) became public, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, whose job is to inspect and regulate this project, has said or done nothing. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have been silent. In fact, most elected officials in Virginia seems to be ignoring this brewing disaster. In other words, regulators refuse to regulate, and leaders refuse to lead. We now have photos of this crime scene, but no thanks to government officials. We have photos thanks to ordinary citizens and an incredible effort known as the ‘Pipeline Air Force,’ a project of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance. …. Virginia has the power to stop work now on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, to stop this misnamed “engineering marvel” before gravity does its work, before someone gets hurt. As we said before, this is an emergency. Just ask MVP.”

Joshua Vana Sings “To the River” at Yellow Finch Blockade

Message from Joshua Vana:

Y’all, there’s this thing I do sometimes where I go sing and play to folks who are living in trees and meanwhile directly preventing the advance of billion dollar corporations plundering Appalachia.

Yesterday I was at the Yellow Finch Blockade on day 331 of uninterrupted tree sits, saying ‘thank you’ and enjoying the company of the good folks there. I found some time in between the roar of backhoes, all perfectly perched to flip over at any moment on the side of the ridge directly across the road, to play this song I wrote this past spring called “To The River”.

It’s difficult for me to explain witnessing the song play out in real life as it’s sung – but I can say that I rarely feel more grounded and alive than when I’m with so many others who are risking something – anything – time, energy, money, safety, hope, to maintain a future we can thrive in (or simply survive in).

One of the things I can offer to the world, to a decent society, in times of struggle (though there seem to be quite a few these days, and multiplying) is music. It’s important for communities to tell their own story of resistance and I think this tune is in that greater songbook somewhere.

There are some fires burning in Appalachia that we’d like to keep lit. Some of ’em are being cared for by Appalachians Against Pipelines. I’d like to encourage you to look into this little corner of a greater movement for water protection and community defense and maybe consider supporting them at bit.ly/supportmvpresistance. They’d appreciate any help you might be able to offer, and so would the folks who’ve been fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline for five long years.

Thanks for reading, listening – and for those ‘in between’, you know who you are.

Catalog of Disasters

In an article published July 17, 2019, DC Media Group reports on the catalog of disasters inflicted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline on the LaFerriere family and their Blackberry Springs Farm in West Virginia. In September 2018, despite cease and desist orders, the organic farm was showered repeatedly with pellets of Earth Guard Edge dropped from helicopters. The pellets are an erosion control product containing acrylamide, a carcinogen. LaFerriere, his wife and children, and an intern were all struck by the pellets while harvesting ginseng a quarter mile from the MVP right of way, with resulting contusions and lacerations. Specialists said nothing could be done to mitigate the damage, since once the pellet gets wet, it gets into the soil.  The organic status of the farm has been jeopardized.

“MVP is required to adhere to an Organic Management Plan it filed with FERC, but LaFerriere said they still hadn’t provided him with any information with regard to its implementation. He claims he hasn’t been allowed to speak with the expert from the International Organic Inspectors Association hired by MVP–who has been out to the property twice–and he still hasn’t received a complete list of materials that MVP would be using on the farm. MVP also wouldn’t tell him much about the pale green coating on the 42″ diameter pipeline. His concern about the coating degrading and contaminating the soil and water is shared by FERC, which last week sent a letter to MVP asking about its safety after two years of sitting in the sun.”

Last year, LaFerriere asked for 72 hours notice before MVP cut trees in the right-of-way so he could move some materials. They failed to give notice, and felled trees on the materials, ruining them. MVP had to pay to replace them.

MVP maintains they have “retained an organic consultant to train workers and environmental inspectors and monitor construction activities and remediation. LaFerriere said that no monitors or inspectors have been introduced to them, and he has not seen anyone on site that he can identify as a organically trained monitor.”

Because Laferriere believed MVP wasn’t honoring its organic management plan requirements, he sent yet another cease and desist order; MVP representatives agreed to meet with him, but cancelled at the last minute.

On July 16, only an hour after the scheduled (ten cancelled) meeting meant to discuss the Laferriere’s concerns over MVP’s failure to adhere to the organic management plan requirements, “an excavator operating on the right-of-way tipped over onto its side. The excavator was on relatively flat terrain, not on a steep hill or slope, LaFerriere said. Fluids spilled out, and nearly 20 workers were required to bag soil that was contaminated. He didn’t observe any barrier or protective silt socks put in place to contain the spill. The driver was able to exit the excavator and walk away with the assistance of co-workers.”

The article notes that, “Problems with MVP construction have not been limited to Blackberry Springs Farm. MVP was cited with more than 300 violations by the end of 2018 alone. As a consequence, many of the pipeline’s permits have been revoked. FERC has approved 125 requests by MVP to deviate from its original work plan, and most appear to be related to efforts correct erosion events.”

Also in recent days, MVP construction materials in Virginia were swept down the Blackwater River by heavy rains, ending up in Smith Mountain Lake, where they are a safety hazard, particularly for boaters. Because of its many violations in Virginia, attorney general Mark Herring filed a civil lawsuit against MVP in October 2018. But because he refuses to issue a stop work order, construction and the resulting devastation continues.

Read the full DC Media Group article here.

Related article in the July 15, 2019 Virginia Mercury, MVP’s violations show ‘complete absence of any and all meaningful regulation’