Category Archives: Construction

Flood Carries MVP Pipe Section Off Site

The Roanoke Times reported on October 12, 2018, that flooding from rains the day before carried two 80-foot sections of pipe off the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s right of way onto Dale Angle’s land.   The sections had been left in the right of way before being set in the nearby trench.  “Both had clearly crossed a boundary line drawn earlier this year when Mountain Valley used its legal power of eminent domain to obtain an easement through Angle’s land, despite his fervent opposition.”

Although construction crews can do what then want on the easement, they must have permission to enter a landowner’s adjoining property.

“‘They called this morning wanting me to sign a permission slip’ that would allow company workers onto his property to retrieve two 80-foot sections of steel pipe that floated away, Angle said Friday. ‘I said I couldn’t do it right now. They’ve done destroyed enough of my property. I’m not going to let them do it again.'”

An MVP Spokesperson had few details about how the company might reclaim the lost pipe.

Read the full article here.

Army Corps of Engineers Suspends MVP Permit in Virginia

On October 5, 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross all streams and wetlands on its route in southwest Virginia. A similar permit for West Virginia water crossings was vacated on October 2 by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals. In his letter to MVP, William Walker, chief of the regulatory branch of the corps’ Norfolk division, said, “Effective immediately, you must stop all activities being done in reliance upon the authorization under the NWP,” referring to the Nationwide Permit 12 authorization that was issued to MVP in January 2018.

Because there have been and continue to be massive amounts of muddy runoff and other environmental risks from MVP construction, lawyers for Appalachian Mountain Advocates, which represented the Sierra Club and other conservation groups in the successful legal challenge of the West Virginia permit, sought an immediate suspension of the federal authorization they describe as inadequate to protect Virginia’s clean water.

After winning the case in West Virginia, Appalachian Mountain Advocates sent a letter to FERC asking it to issue a stop work order for the entire MVP project, since the MVP’s October 2017 FERC approval was conditional on it having all required permits from both state and federal agencies. With the Army Corps permits invalidated, Appalachian Mountain Advocates argued that FERC’s stop work order must apply to all construction along the MVP route, not just the pipeline’s water body crossings.

Read the press coverage in the Roanoke Times here.

Fourth Circuit Court Halts MVP Construction in WV


On October 2, 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order that will significantly impede construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, halting MVP construction through rivers and streams in southern West Virginia for the foreseeable future. Last week, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, representing the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Appalachian Voices, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, challenged the Army Corps of Engineers’ certification for the pipeline under a general permit, Clean Water Act Nationwide Permit 12. The Court agreed with their argument that the Corps improperly certified the MVP under the general permit.

The petitioners asserted that the Corps improperly imposed one condition requiring use of a “dry cut” method for constructing four river crossings “in lieu of” a special condition imposed by West Virginia which said “[i]ndividual stream crossings must be completed in a continuous, progressive manner within 72 hours.” Construction using the “dry cut” method was expected to take four-six weeks rather than 72 hours.

The Court vacated “in its entirety the Corps’ verification of the Pipeline’s compliance with NWP 12.” The order explained that if any part of the project requires an individual permit, then “the NWP does not apply and all portions of the project must be evaluated as part of the individual permit process.”

Appalachian Mountain Advocates expects the Corps will now be required to issue an individual permit for the project, requiring a significant environmental assessment, before it may proceed to construction.

Read the Court’s order here.

Press coverage in the Charleston Gazette-Mail is here.

4th Circuit Issues Stay of Forest Service Permit for the ACP

Late on September 24, 2018, the Fourth Circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay in the case challenging the Special Use Permit (SPU) that had been issued by the U.S. Forest Service for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The case is scheduled to be argued before the Fourth Circuit this coming Friday, September 28. This means that the SPU allowing the project to cross national forest land is stayed pending the appeal. Imminently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be asked to issue a stop work order in light of today’s decision.

The plaintiff’s in the case, represented jointly by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, are Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee and Wild Virginia.

FERC Lifts Stop Work Order on ACP

Early afternoon on September 17, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission lifted the stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline it issued on August 10. The FERC Notice was based on the issuance of new permits by, respectively, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • On September 11, 2018, the FWS issued a revised Biological Opinion (BO), which included a modified Incidental Take Statement for the ACP
  • Additionally, on September 14, 2018, the NPS issued a new right-of-way permit for crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

Earlier versions of these permits had been vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which had prompted FERC to issue its stop work order.
 

In its press coverage, the Virginia Mercury quotes D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, N.C., who said, “The Park Service right of way is almost the same document,” Gerken said. “It’s very disappointing. … It sure looks like more of the same, which is these agencies making political decisions rather than fact-based ones. All of these federal agencies with responsibility to protect public resources moved too fast on a political timetable. This is entirely consistent with that approach. And that’s what got them in trouble last time.” Gerken added, “There is no question that these pipeline developers deliberately race the courts. So no matter how bad the legal violations are, the project is well under way before the courts have an opportunity to review it. This is baked into their business model. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong as long as it’s fast.”

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
dshaffer@abralliance.org

Ben Cunningham, CSI Virginia Field Coordinator, 434-882-1893
silvercunning@gmail.com

Autumn Crowe, CSI West Virginia Field Coordinator, 304-992-6070
acrowe@wvrivers.org