Category Archives: Construction

SELC Asks FERC to Formally Halt ACP

Following the 4th District Court’s January 7, 2020 ruling vacating the Clean Air Act permit for the Buckingham compressor station issued by the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board, the Southern Environmental Law Center wrote on January 14, 2020, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking that they formally “issue an order halting all construction of the ACP.”

The letter says, “Allowing continued construction would violate the condition of the Commission’s certificate of public convenience and necessity requiring that Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (“Atlantic”) obtain all applicable authorizations required under federal law before commencing construction. The Commission cannot merely rely on Atlantic’s temporary work stoppage to address this issue. It should issue a stop-work order. ”

Noting that the certificate order mandates that the ACP must have all required authorizations before it can “receive written authorization” to start construction, the SELC letter states, ” At this time, the ACP is a largely unpermitted pipeline—it is missing eight required authorizations.”  The letter lists the missing eight authorizations.

Read the full letter here.

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.”

Both Fine and Stay for MVP

On Friday October 11, 2019, in a consent issued by Henrico Circuit Court, Mountain Valley Pipeline agreed to pay $2.15 million to resolve the lawsuit by Virginia regulators that accused it of repeatedly violating environmental standards during MVP construction. The suit was filed in December 2018 for “violations of the commonwealth’s environmental laws and regulations at sites in Craig, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, and Roanoke Counties.”

The agreement requires the company to submit to court-ordered and supervised compliance with regulations meant to curb sediment and erosion and stipulates automatic fines for further violations. It further stipulates that “MVP, at its expense, shall retain a third-party Environmental Auditor to provide on-site monitoring of instream invertebrate and fisheries resources during all construction activity related to waterbody and wetland crossings and document instream conditions and any impacts to the resources.” Depending on the event, fines of anywhere from $500/day to $26,000 may be levied immediately for future violations.

Later the same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit put a hold on two permits, the Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement, permits the MVP needs to proceed with construction activities. According to the Sierra Club press release, the Court’s announcement effectively means construction must stop on the 300-mile project.  On October 15, FERC wrote to MVP, saying in part, “While next steps are determined, Mountain Valley is hereby notified that construction activity along all portions of the Project and in all work areas much cease immediately, with the exception of restoration and stabilization of the right-of-way and work areas, which Commission staff believes will be more protective of the environment, including listed species, than leaving these areas in an unstable condition.”

Speaking of the FERC order, David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia said:  “The command that Mountain Valley cease all construction immediately is appropriate and necessary to meet the law. However, FERC has previously allowed work that is clearly construction to be done under the guise that it is ‘stabilization.’ The Commission must now act responsibly and clearly prohibit all activities that are not absolutely necessary to protect the environment. FERC must no longer play deceptive games that allow further destruction from a project that cannot protect our resources and may never be completed.”

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.

FERC Should Stop ACP Now

In an open letter to Kimberly Bose, secretary of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and reprinted in the Nelson County Times on August 15, 2019, Helen Kimble and Doug Wellman (President and Vice-President of Friends of Nelson) discuss the potential for hazardous landslides in the steeply mountainous areas on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in Nelson County. Some of their letter is reproduced below, but go to the Nelson County Times for the full version.

“A recent public presentation on the potential for hazardous landslides in the mountainous areas of Nelson County VA highlighted longstanding concerns about the dangers of routing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) through the county’s steep terrain. In this letter, we call your attention to the potential for catastrophic slope failures if ACP overcomes its numerous legal challenges and begins construction. We ask you to consider the following information and its implications for your handling of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“At a public meeting on June 30, geologist Dr. Anne Witt, geohazards specialist with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), presented her analysis of the landslides triggered in Nelson County by Hurricane Camille in 1969. In that horrific storm event, 125 people are known to have lost their lives as landslides triggered by severe rainfall swept down valleys in the middle of the night carrying whole families to their deaths.

“The information Dr. Witt presented stems from her ongoing research assessing the landslide potential of steep slopes in Nelson and western Albemarle counties. Her work will contribute to a new Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan being prepared with support from FEMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Using LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) technology to map the bare earth beneath vegetative cover, she unveiled a multitude of historical slides on Nelson’s steep slopes. Noting that previous slides are strong indicators of potential future slides, she concluded that Nelson County’s steep slopes have greater landslide potential than had previously been recognized.

“Dr. Witt’s presentation sharpened the concerns raised by a 2017 study of soil and geologic concerns commissioned by Friends of Nelson and Friends of Wintergreen. The final report by Blackburn Consulting Services, LLC — “Report Analysis and Field Verification of Soil and Geologic concerns with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in Nelson County, VA” — was submitted as part of FERC’s EIS review for issuance of the ACP permit. We strongly believe the Blackburn report was not given sufficient consideration in the Commission’s decision.

“Blackburn scientists reviewed the material Dominion submitted to FERC and conducted field analyses of actual conditions in a sample of sites where the pipeline would traverse steep slopes in Nelson County. In their report, Blackburn concluded that: ‘…many of the statements made in the materials submitted to FERC represented gross generalities … [and] … underestimate the true risks that this project imposes on Nelson County and its residents.'”

Key findings of the Blackburn study include [sections on]:

  •  Landform and soil characteristics
  • Mapping soil conditions
  • Vegetation
  • Soil stabilization and erosion control
  • Expansion of the corridor

“The permit the commission issued ACP constitutes a recipe for disaster. Dominion’s ‘best in class’ erosion and sedimentation control measures have failed repeatedly in the work they have already done in West Virginia. Similar stabilization measures employed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline builders have led to over 300 violations, legal action by the Virginia Attorney General, and events like sections of pipe carried great distances by floodwaters. MVP is demonstrating what will likely happen if and when ACP begins construction on Virginia’s steep slopes.” [see article below on MVP landslides]

The letter continues, saying

  • “Dominion assures concerned citizens that the ACP will be safe. However, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, 11,993 pipeline failures have been reported in the U.S. over the past two decades.”
  • “At present, two federal permits for the ACP have been vacated. Another three federal permits, as well as two state permits, are in the courts or being challenged.”
  • “Renewable energy generation and storage are emerging as fully competitive with coal and natural gas on a levelized cost basis”
  • “The International Panel on Climate Change’s recent report on climate change — which was soon supported by a report from an interagency panel of U.S. government scientists — made it alarmingly clear that we must quickly shift away from fossil fuels.”
  • “Former FERC commissioner Norman Bay warned overbuilding pipelines would likely result in these unnecessary projects becoming ‘stranded assets’ that profit their builders and stockholders at the cost of captive customers and future generations.”

Overwhelming evidence supports the letter’s concluding sentence: “We call on FERC commissioners to bring a halt to this unnecessary and dangerous project.