Category Archives: Citizen Surveillance

ABRA-CSI Seeks Help with Aerial Photo Review

Pipeline construction at Grassy Run in Upshur County, West Virginia. An example of the kind of photos that photo reviewers would be examining.

A request from Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA):

ABRA’s Pipeline Compliance Surveillance (CSI) program is seeking assistance from knowledgeable individuals who can participate as CSI Aerial Photo Reviewers. Although we especially seek the help of professionals with erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, and other water-resource backgrounds, the involvement of others is welcomed and encouraged. Aerial Photo Reviewers will perform the important task of reviewing aerial imagery and other information related to Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction in order to evaluate both compliance with regulatory requirements and the effectiveness of runoff control measures.

The Pipeline Air Force is currently obtaining hundreds of aerial photos of the 200-mile western mountainous section of the ACP construction route every one-to-two weeks. The photos, along with approved project construction plans and information concerning environmental requirements, can be accessed using the online CSI Mapping System and through the CSI website. Aerial Photo Reviewers will be able to work from any location with access to the internet. See the CSI Aerial Photo Reviewer Guidebook for an overview.

If you are interested in becoming a reviewer, please click here.

Pipeline CSI Local Coordination/Compliance Review Workshop

You are invited to attend a Pipeline CSI Local Coordination/Compliance Review Workshop on Tuesday, October 23 from 10am-1pm at the Rockfish Valley Community Center.

The ACP and MVP construction work that has occurred so far is alarming, and the agencies seem unwilling or unable to ensure compliance with basic environmental requirements meant to protect us all. The importance of the CSI could not be more clear.

Many of you have expressed an interest in the CSI effort by completing our online form or by other means, and we hope you can attend. If not, we hope you can attend one of the next upcoming workshops that are in the works. We are making plans to hold similar meetings this season in Augusta and Buckingham Counties in Virginia and in Pocahontas and Buckhannon Counties in West Virginia.

If you can join us, please RSVP at the link below so that we can get a head count for the lunch we’d like to provide.

Seating will be limited to ~40, so please RSVP sooner rather than later. An outline of our day’s agenda is below (may be subject to adjustments).

RSVP Link:

Please contact Ben Cunningham ( with any questions or concerns regarding this upcoming workshop.

AGENDA:  October 23, 10-1, Rockfish Valley Community Center, Rockfish, Va.

CSI Local Coordination/Compliance Review Workshop

1.    Introduction
     A.    Description of meeting content and objectives
     B.    Components of incident review
     C.    Data management
2.    Local coordinator playbook
     A.    Organization of local coordinators
          a.     ACP geographic segments
     B.    Volunteers
          a.     Volunteer roles (observers and water data collectors)
          b.    Recruiting/training/deploying
     C.    Landowners
          a.     Engagement plus access to observation and water sampling locations
          b.    Recruiting/signing
     D.    Pipeline construction process
     E.    Top ten compliance issues
     F.    Incident identification flow process
3.    CSI Mapping System
     A.    Content and Navigation
     B.    Use for compliance review
4.    Compliance issues
     A.    List of top ten issues and related regulatory requirements
     B.    Photos related to each issue
     C.    Discussion of photo documentation
5.    Submitting complaints to agencies
     A.    Virginia DEQ
     B.    West Virginia DEP
     C.    FERC
     D.    Forest Service
6.    Meeting wrap-up
     A.    Designation of local coordinators
     B.    Identified loose ends
     C.    Need for additional work sessions/meetings
          a.     Local Coordination/Compliance Review Workshops
          b.    General CSI Overview Meetings
          c.     CSI Mapping System training
          d.    Drone workshops
          e.     Water quality monitoring training



Crowdsourcing Oversight of ACP Construction

The Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), is working to crowdsource oversight of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction. 

In support of this effort, ABRA has published the CSI Mapping System 4.0, a unique online geographic information system that includes user-selectable environmental layers and provides access to construction plans and aerial photography of construction in progress. Citizens, technical and legal experts, and even regulatory agency personnel, can access the CSI Mapping System to check actual construction for compliance with agency-approved construction plans.

The CSI Mapping System is a cutting-edge tool for public involvement in the regulation of pipeline construction, especially with respect to use of aerial surveillance. The CSI’s Pipeline Air Force, which now deploys on a weekly basis, has obtained thousands of photos documenting ACP activity in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The CSI Mapping System provides access to these photos.

As shown in the screen shot below, locations for surveillance photos can be displayed in relation to the pipeline construction corridor, access roads, and other information. When a photo point is selected, a popup window displays a thumbnail of the photo and provides access to both low and full-resolution versions of the photo. In addition, the CSI Mapping System provides access to georeferenced photo mosaics for a subset of surveillance flights. A swipe tool allows direct comparison of construction activity on different days, as well as comparison of construction photos with construction plans. A simplified demo of this capability is provided here


Access to aerial photos is provided on the Pipeline Air Force Flights map page. Photo points provide access to both low and full-resolution photos.

The CSI Mapping system also provides a platform for documenting noncompliance with regulatory requirements and legal restrictions. Information concerning site-specific, as well as systemic, noncompliance can be accessed by clicking on points or construction corridor segments.

Training in use of the CSI Mapping System can be arranged on request.

Additional CSI support for crowdsourcing of ACP construction oversight has been developed through a collaborative undertaking involving local group coordination, on the ground surveillance, water data collection, and legal and technical support.

For more information, contact:

Dan Shaffer, CSI Spatial Analyst, 202-854-9558

Ben Cunningham, CSI Virginia Field Coordinator, 434-882-1893

Autumn Crowe, CSI West Virginia Field Coordinator, 304-992-6070

250 Areas Where Sediment Has Left MVP Construction Area

On September 9, 2018, concerned citizens, environmentalists, and veterans volunteered to document over 12 miles of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Hiking for 8 hours and taking over 1000 photos of damages caused directly by MVP, volunteers identified and documented 250 areas where sediment has left the construction area impacting water sources and surrounding farms.

Area residents report that waterbars are already full, with hurricane rains yet to come.

Citizen Observers Continue to Document Violations

As construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline ramps up again (although in some places it never actually ceased, despite the stop work order), citizen observers have and will continue to document the many and ongoing MVP violations of Erosion and Sediment Control Standards specified by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and its State Water Control Board.

For example, on-site in the same location that DEQ had recently inspected, the Virginia Pipeline Violations team encountered multiple, extensive mudslides, in some places thick, wet mud nearly a foot deep, washing from the construction area – in the same location where DEQ/MVP inspectors claimed on August 21 that there was no evidence of silt leaving the construction area. Concerned citizens relentlessly demanded that DEQ return, and on August 28 DEQ found violations on this location.

Shout-Out for Pipeline CSI and Mountain Valley Watch

An August 24, 2018, article in ThinkProgress, All-volunteer groups patrol construction of gas pipeline projects in Virginia, North Carolina, explains the background of the all-volunteer groups patrolling pipeline construction projects in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The article includes extensive quotes from Rick Webb, David Sligh, and Kirk Bowers. Both Pipeline CSI and Mountain Valley Watch were created to monitor construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, with trained volunteers essentially serving as citizen regulatory agencies, since the state regulatory agencies have neither the staff nor the will to monitor the massive projects as needed.

“In some cases, these volunteer monitoring groups have gathered more information on the pipelines’ impact on the environment and private lands than the regulators that are paid to monitor the projects. The mission of these all-volunteer oversight groups is to make sure laws are obeyed and no corners are cut during construction. And if the volunteers do their jobs well enough, they hope to provide enough evidence of violations to force regulators to issue permanent stop-work orders on the projects.”

A trained group of experts are monitoring and documenting problems in water quality, erosion and sedimentation control, and runoff with sound scientific results and “evidence grade” information – information strong enough to use in court. Often the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been unable to get in on-site and observe problems, and only knows of violations because citizen observers are in the field doing the work with on-the-ground monitoring and aerial surveys.

“With previous construction projects, inspectors with the Virginia DEQ would, as Webb described, apologetically tell pipeline construction crews that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was forcing them to keep close tabs on their work. ‘Everybody blamed the EPA’ for making everyone do extra work, Webb said. With the creation of the Pipeline CSI, ‘they can blame us,’ he noted.”

Information on the Pipeline CSI here.

Information on Mountain Valley Watch here or on Facebook.