Category Archives: Construction

What We May Look Forward To


Several recent news articles give us a taste of things to come if the Proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines are approved.

On October 6, 2017, FrackCheckWV published an essay by S. Tom Bond listing the many reasons why Most Farmers and Land Owners Abhor Drilling & Fracking & Pipelines. “Placement of wells, access roads and pipelines destroys the surface value of the land. Well pads and roads are rocked to a depth that will support heavy trucks in any weather, often 18 inches. Drainage is changed, with new gullies formed, and silt produced and discharged into streams. ‘Reclamation’ never restores a fully productive surface. Pipelines from wells to connectors go up and down steep grades, many of them over 45 degrees. They are kept cleared for the length of the project with consequent loss of timber. They are a source of erosion, timber is lost…. These rights-of-way are attractive to trespassers, and interrupt habitat and animal migration patterns. … Building sites are foreclosed” because heavy equipment can’t cross the pipeline right of way. “Big diameter pipelines for transmission are a particular horror. They often go straight up and down hills, cutting very deep. Here in West Virginia, in many places that means cutting through solid stone. One can see both bulldozers and backhoes with special cutting blades that rotate using tungsten carbide cutting edges. And what is the back filling material? The same broken stones, since it the grade is too steep to move in material that will pack. The result is a subsurface stream along the pipeline, rock scratched protective coating on the outside of the big pipes, and plenty of oxygen and water to the steel underneath the coating to cause rusting.” And the list goes on.  And on.

On October 5, 2017, State Impact Pennsylvania reported Pipeline blasting sprayed Lebanon County home with debris, and may have spread legacy pollution. The story reports, “Blasting to remove rock for construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Lebanon County showered a home and its swimming pool with debris, and may have prompted the spread of existing underground contamination from a former gasoline depot…. “It appears that the legacy plume migrated under 322 from the north side to the south side, and the blasting brought that to the surface,’ Lloyd told [a supervisor for the township] reporters after the [public] meeting. He said Sunoco has now promised to remove contaminated soil to a depth of 10 feet from the Spangler Road site. He said he did not know the nature of the contamination. Tests on water at nearby properties found two – a private home and a chicken farm – that showed the presence of benzene and MTBE, the township said in a timeline of recent events. The report also described three spills of fluid used in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for the pipeline in the township during September. Two of the spills prompted DEP to order a halt to drilling at those sites…. Drilling has resumed but with tougher oversite from DEP. At the time of the renewed drilling operations, Sunoco had caused 90 drilling fluid spills at 40 sites. Since then, there have been at least 15 additional spills, according to the DEP.”

Looking further ahead, conversion of pipelines to carry substances, including hazardous ones, other than the originally permitted natural gas could happen here if the proposed ACP and MVP are approved. The Lexington KY Herald reported on October 3, 2017, that Pipeline wins federal OK to carry hazardous liquids across Kentucky. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said converting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline from carrying natural gas to natural gas liquids does not ‘constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.’ … [O]pponents say they will now go to local planning authorities to ensure that there is some control should the project go forward. ‘It’s going to be up to local governments, because there really isn’t any state regulation of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids like natural gas liquids,’ Danville [KY] attorney Mark Morgan said.”

Watch Out for Chain Saws

A story in the Roanoke Times on September 28, 2017, tells us that both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines want to start clearing trees from their proposed construction rights-of-way in mid-November 2017. They need to suspend tree clearing after March 31 to comply with federal conservation guidelines tied to potential impacts on the Indiana bat, a federally endangered species, and the northern long-eared bat, a threatened species. Also, restricting tree clearing to the period from mid-November to the end of March protects some species of migratory birds that nest during other months of the year.

If there is a delay, the chainsaws and other clearing equipment might have to wait until November 2018 to start work. Both proposed pipelines plan to clear all vegetation from a temporary construction right-of-way that would be 125 feet wide in most terrain. The permanently treeless rights-of-way would be 50 feet in most places.

Contractor Announced for NC Regional ACP Office

The Roanoke Rapids NC Daily Herald announced the construction contractor for the ACP’s North Carolina regional office in Northampton County. In the September 26, 2017, article, Bruce McKay, senior energy policy director of Dominion Energy, announced that local construction company Heaton Construction, will build the office, starting in the second quarter of 2018. “As for the actual compressor station, McKay said they will announce who will be working on it in about a week. McKay said he expects the site to be operational by the end of 2019.”

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is still considering whether to grant 401 water certification to the ACP.

ETP Keeps Building, Ignoring Citations and Fines

Ohio’s environmental regulators have more than doubled the proposed fines against Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company building a natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Michigan. The fines now stand at $2.3 million and stem from what the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says are numerous water and air pollution violations during construction of the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline, including a series of leaks of drilling mud and diesel-contaminated drilling slurry. Construction work was halted, but last week FERC gave ETP the go-ahead to start construction again.

Now, just three days after winning FERC’s approval to restart certain construction operations after a series of environmental violations, the Rover pipeline was cited on September 22, 2017, with a new environmental notice by Ohio regulators for spilling contaminants into a waterway in Carroll County, Ohio, saying Rover spilled soap wastewater discharge and soil and sediment into a tributary of Irish Creek.

How many violations will the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines incur? Will Dominion just pay the fines and move forward with construction? The truth is there is no way these pipelines can be built safely and without major destruction to our waterways, our property and the natural environment.

Four Senators Tell FERC to Hurry Up

U.S. Senators Capito (WV), Burr (NC), Tills (NC) and Strange (AL) wrote the FERC Commissioners on September 20, 2017, urging FERC to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in time for tree clearing to occur in November. Their letter ignores the fact that the NC Department of Environmental Quality has delayed any decision on 401 water permits and the WV Department of Environmental Protection has rescinded their previous decision on permits, with both departments saying they need further study. The state environmental agencies recognize the potential problems even if their senators are pushing a “hurry up” agenda.

The Senators’ letter echoes a similar request made to FERC on September 7 by the CEOs of the three partner companies of the ACP. One of the September 20 signatories, Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama, was appointed to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions; he represents a state that is not along the path of the ACP. He is, however, a candidate in a September 26 Alabama Republican primary to elect someone to the seat to which he was appointed. It is not clear if or how his endorsement of an expedited ACP approval will impact his chances in the primary. However, Sen. Strange is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over FERC. Senators Capito, Burr and Tillis are not committee members.

Read the Senators’ letter here.