Category Archives: Construction

Action Alert: Appalachian Trail


Wild Virginia has issued the following action alert on Dominion’s efforts to build the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline across the Appalachian Trail. Friends of Nelson urges our readers to contact their Senators and Representatives.

Alert:

The proposed route for Dominion’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a mess from the beginning. It carves through family farms, steep mountain ridges, and public water supplies, and it is slated to cross the Appalachian Trail on U.S. Forest Service land, a move that federal judges say is not legal. Rather than reconsider their poorly-planned project, Dominion is asking the U.S. Congress to change laws to make way for its unneeded gas pipeline.

We are calling on you to contact your senators and representative in Congress today and ask them to oppose legislation that makes way for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  (Don’t know your senators or representative? Find out here.)

Background:
Dominion is in trouble. It’s been five years since the company announced that it would build a high-pressure gas pipeline from West Virginia, across the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, into North Carolina. Today, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is broadly unpopular, 50 percent over budget (now a shocking $7.5+ billion), and two years behind schedule.

In December 2018, a federal court in Richmond said that Dominion’s plan to cross the Appalachian Trail was not legal, and it overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of the crossing.  Dominion has already tried to sneak a bill through Congress to change the law and allow our precious federal resources to be harmed. The company won’t stop in its efforts to get senators and representatives to change the law and undo the court’s ruling.

We will oppose Dominion’s efforts and call on you to do the same – NOW!

The Appalachian Trail crossing is one of seven permits that federal courts have overturned or put on hold, all because of Dominion’s careless route selection and rushed permitting. And it’s increasingly clear that the pipeline is not needed to meet electricity and gas demand. Worse, electricity customers in Virginia and North Carolina would be on the hook to pay for the costly new pipeline.

Tell your senators and your representative in Congress that you oppose legislation that would change the rules to make way for Dominion’s unneeded and destructive pipeline.

Thank you for taking action to protect the mountain streams, family farms, private property, water supplies, and Appalachian Trail that we all cherish.

Sincerely,

David Sligh 
Wild Virginia
Conservation Director

You Can’t Just “smooth it back over”

So often we hear pipeline proponents say that after it is built you won’t know it is there. As Robert Pollok says, “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

In the April 7, 2019, article in GoDanRiver.com, Pittsylvania County farmer sheds light on how pipeline project will affect land for years to come, Pollok explains how pipeline construction would affect his small-grain seed production operation. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposed Southgate extension project would run through his land and through two different properties he leases. During construction he would be unable to get farm equipment across MVP’s work zone to reach both a part of his own property and one of his leased properties which is only accessible through the part of his land that would be inaccessible. He estimates that at least 55 acres of crop land could be inaccessible during construction spanning two growing seasons.

“Pollok said he’s concerned about whether he’ll be able to grow enough to satisfy the customer base the farm has built up over 30-plus years. He’s also concerned that he will not have the option of expanding during that time. …. As a farmer in the highly-regulated certified seed production industry, Pollok’s products undergo several stages of scrutiny, from field inspections prior to harvest by state agents to sending his yield to the state to undergo a series of quality tests. ‘If it does not meet the criteria for certified seed at that point, even before I harvest it, it’s rejected for being able to be kept for seed, and it cannot be sold for seed,’ said Pollok. The seed must be free of any contamination from weeds and disease as well as be genetically pure, otherwise it’s prohibited from sale of any kind. …. Therefore, he keeps his fields carefully controlled. His equipment is only used on his own fields so as not to potentially transfer weeds from another farmer’s field to his.”

Beyond inhibiting his ability to farm parts of his land during the proposed construction, Pollok says it will take years to reverse the harm to the land caused by construction in the temporary workspaces. In 1990 his family acquired the section of land where Southgate wants to build, and “it took them more than a decade to fix the very sections damaged by the construction of the Transco pipeline in 1954. ‘It still had remnants of uneven ground and unproductive soil,’ said Pollok. ‘It was close to the early 2000s before we had it where you couldn’t say, “Oh, this was where the pipeline was,”‘ he said. ‘The crops wouldn’t be lagging in yield quality because of where that construction took place decades before.'”

And every time crews come to do work or make repairs to the pipeline, they damage the land again. “Driving up his driveway to his house, Pollok pointed out the vehicle’s window to the spot where the crews had worked a few years ago. Compared to the ground around it, grass grew more sparsely with patches of dirt clearly visible. Thick grass lined the perimeter of the former work zone. ‘Stuff still doesn’t grow right, and that was four years ago,’ he said.”

Pollok thinks it would take at least five years after construction to heal the land. During construction and during the healing time thereafter, his yield – and therefore his livelihood – would be severely reduced, and he wonders if he would ever regain the lost business. “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

Read the full article here.

ACP: Risk Upon Risk


On March 25, 2019, Oil Change International released a new report, Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Risk Upon Risk, about the public health, ecological, and economic risks of the now $7.5 billion dollar ACP. As the transition to clean energy gathers pace, the risks and costs of this huge fracked gas pipeline project are growing rapidly in the face of major legal, regulatory, financial, and community challenges.

The ACP is now two years behind schedule and substantially over-budget. The latest update from Duke Energy estimates the project cost at between $7 to $7.8 billion – 37% to 53% higher than the original estimate of$5.1 billion – with the latest date for full operation now pushed back to 2021.

Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International says the ACP is facing a triple threat of challenges that combine to present serious obstacles for the project to reach completion:

  • Extensive legal and regulatory challenges that are delaying construction and raising costs, which may lead to cancellation.  ““The ACP is facing an onslaught of legal challenges and losses. Seven federal permits have been stayed, suspended or vacated; in fact, all construction on the pipeline is currently stopped. When — or if — construction will start up again is unknown. Environmental groups, Indigenous Peoples and others have brought at least nine court challenges to ACP permits and certifications, most of which are ongoing.” 
  • Fundamental challenges to its financial viability in the face of lack of growth in domestic demand for methane gas and increased affordability of renewable energy options.  “In Dominion’s 2018 long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), four out of five modeled scenarios showed no increase in methane gas consumption for power generation from 2019 through 2033. However, in December 2018, this IRP was rejected by Virginia state regulators, in part for overstating projections of future electricity demand.” “Over the next decade, it is likely that the demand for methane gas in Virginia and North Carolina will decrease further as renewable energy and storage technologies continue to rapidly decline in price and undercut the cost of running methane gas-fired power plants.”
  • The Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), an unprecedented citizen initiative, is positioned to ensure strict compliance with environmental laws and regulations, even in remote locations, if construction proceeds. [Three cheers for the CSI!]

These challenges and the accompanying risk are likely to further delay construction and raise the project’s price tag even higher. If completed, state utility regulators in North Carolina and Virginia are unlikely to justify passing the full cost of methane gas transportation contracts onto ratepayers.

Download the full Oil Change International briefing here.

New ABRA Slide Presentation on Environmental Folly of ACP


Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Pipeline CSI program has developed a new slide presentation describing the unavoidable impact of the ACP on water resources and the failure of regulatory oversight. The presentation, Pending Construction of the ACP in the Virginia Mountains: Empty Assurances, compares government and company promises with the realities of environmental review and enforcement and the record of ACP construction in West Virginia. The presentation is available for download here, as a PowerPoint or as a PDF with slide notes.

Pipe Storage Risks

Bill Limpert’s column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for February 28, 2019, Pipelines put health and environment at risk – and we don’t need them anyway, discusses the risks from the pipes themselves, pipes that have now been stored outdoors, exposed to weather, for far longer than expected and far longer than manufacturers recommend.

Limpert lists the issues with the pipes:

  • Pipes for both ACP and MVP are coated with a fusion bonded epoxy (FBE) to reduce pipe corrosion and explosion risk that degrades when exposed to sunlight and is now chalking off the pipes. “The National Association of Pipe Coating Manufacturers Bulletin 12-78-04 recommends that pipes coated with FBE without additional protection be stored no more than six months in the sun. The ACP admits that all of their pipes will be stored much longer than that, and even longer than the recommendation of pipe manufacturer Dura-Bond. The MVP testified in court that they were concerned about FBE loss.” At this point, ACP pipes have been stored outside for approximately three years, and will continue to be stored outside while the project is on hold.
  • The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) confirms that FBE is coming off the pipes, yet maintains the pipes are safe – but they won’t divulge how many of the estimated 80,000 ACP pipes have been inspected, won’t give any detailed inspection information, and say that no inspection results will be available until the ACP is completed. [In other words, we won’t tell you anything about safety of the pipes until the construction that uses them is finished!]
  • “The Material Safety Data Sheet for the 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 used on these pipes lists carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic properties. Health impacts include reproductive, developmental, and respiratory impairment.” The material coming off the pipes is now in the environment, and most likely in “the surface and ground waters, and is being ingested through drinking water, especially by persons in karst areas using wells and springs for their drinking water.”

And while the pipelines are delayed, the pipes continue to sit, exposed to sun and all kinds of adverse weather.

Further information on the hazards of long-term storage of pipe segments is in our previous articles on the topic, see PHMSA and the Safe Storage of Pipe, posted on June 21, 2018, and Pipe Storage: Write to PHMSA, posted on April 23. 2018.  See also Pipeline Chemical Coatings Are Serious Concerns, from NRDC in October 2018.  Even in April, June, and October, the pipes had been stored outside for longer than their recommended time – and now it has been even longer!

SELC Urges FERC to Reject ACP “Stabilization ” Plan

In a letter on February 15, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Interim Right-of-Way and Work Area Stabilization Plan.

SELC points out that the ACP’s “stabilization” actions were merely an excuse to do new construction. ACP had said that several areas had already been trenched, and that installation of strung pipe in those areas was necessary to stabilize the right-of-way. In reality, none of the areas, totaling almost half a mile in length, had been trenched.

The letter states, “Atlantic and DETI have now asked the Commission for authorization to trench and install pipe in those three areas and six others, covering a total of approximately 1.5 miles along the pipeline right-of-way. Trenching, however, is not necessary to stabilize a right-of-way; on the contrary, it is one of the most destabilizing activities involved in pipeline construction. The Commission’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement for the ACP is replete with examples of the environmental risks associated with trenching. Accordingly, Atlantic and DETI’s construction plans call for installing additional erosion control devices once trenching begins and ‘minimizing the length of open trench at any given time.’ Far from a stabilization method, trenching actually demands further mitigation measures due to its destabilizing effects on a landscape.”

The SELC letter concludes, “We urge the Commission to enforce the terms of its certificate and to reject Atlantic and DETI’s request to proceed with construction that cannot be justified by environmental or safety concerns.”

Read the full letter here.