Category Archives: Construction

Army Corps of Engineers Suspends ACP Permit

Appalachian Mountain Advocates announcement, November 20, 2018:

Following requests from Appalachian Mountain Advocates (Appalmad) attorneys, the Norfolk, Huntington, and Pittsburgh districts of the Army Corps of Engineers have each suspended its authorization of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. As a result, ACP lacks authorization to do any instream or wetland construction anywhere along its route.

Appalmad has argued this action was necessary in light of a recent federal court ruling that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s reliance on Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 was improper. The NWP was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. It allowed contractors to trench through the bottom of streams and rivers. The Corps’ decision has had the effect of forcing the ACP to temporarily suspend water crossings along the entire project until it can obtain a satisfactory permit.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates represents the Sierra Cub, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network in this action.

See the Richmond Times-Dispatch news story on the suspension.

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.

4th Circuit Court Stays ACP Permit in WV

On Wednesday November 7, 2018, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to the water-crossing permit allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build through streams and rivers in West Virginia. Although the Army Corps of Engineers had issued a “Nationwide Permit 12,” the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inserted two stipulations, requiring that stream crossings must be completed in 72 hours, and that structures authorized by the permit could not impede fish from swimming upstream or downstream. ACP then changed its construction method for crossing the Greenbrier River to a method environmental lawyers say violates the WV DEP conditions.

The Corps reinstated their permit in October, and last week Appalachian Mountain Advocates, on behalf of the Sierra Cub, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, asked the 4th Circuit Court for a stay to pause the construction. The Court issued the two-page order from Chief Judge Roger Gregory, with the concurrence of Judge James Wynn and Judge Stephanie Thacker.

Read the Court’s order here.

Charleston Gazette-Mail press coverage is here.

Dominion Announces Yet Another ACP Price Rise

In a November 1, 2018, article in Yahoo Finance, Dominion’s Tom Farrell announced yet another cost increase for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from a range of $6.0 to $6.5 billion to a range of $6.5 to $7.0 billion, excluding financing costs. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline is pursuing a phased in-service approach with its customers, whereby we maintain a late 2019 in-service for key segments of the project to meet peak winter demand in critically constrained regions served by the project. ACP will be pursuing a mid-2020 in-service date for the remaining segments of the project. Abnormal weather and/or work delays (including delays due to judicial or regulatory action) may result in cost or schedule modifications in the future.”

The original cost projection for the ACP was $4.5 billion and the original expected in-service date was the end of 2018. Numerous independent studies (here, here, and here, for example) have shown that, despite what Dominion says, there are no “critically constrained regions” needing the gas.

MVP Loses Key Water Crossing Permit

On October 19, 2018, the Pittsburgh District of the Army Corps of Engineers suspended a third permit that the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) must have to build through waterways in Wetzel and Harrison Counties in West Virginia.

This is the third invalidation or suspension of MVP’s water crossing permits. On October 2, a federal appeals court vacated a similar permit for the rest of the West Virginia route, and the approval covering the more than 500 crossings on the Virginia portion of the route has also been suspended. Although MVP now has no authority to build through any waterbodies, streams, or wetlands on its entire 303 mile route, intensive construction continues in places between streams.

Opponents are calling on FERC to issue a stop work order, since FERC’s order approving the project requires that all permits be in place for construction to take place anywhere along its 303-mile route, and the necessary permits are clearly no longer in place.

Read the Roanoke Times report here.

Read the Appalachian Mountain Advocates release here.

DEQ Approves “Protection” Plans for ACP

Shortly after 5 pm on Friday October 19, 2018, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality issued its approval of erosion and sediment, stormwater, and karst protection plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

DEQ’s statement says:

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved the Erosion and Sediment Control, Stormwater, Management, and Karst Protection plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). These detailed protection plans specify engineering designs that will protect water quality during and after pipeline construction along the 300-mile project that stretches from Highland County to Greensville County.

With the approval of these plans, Virginia’s upland Section 401 Clean Water Act Certification becomes effective. The ACP project now has authorization from the Commonwealth of Virginia to begin construction. Final approval to begin construction is subject to approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil.

The ACP project is being developed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas. Dominion Energy will be responsible for constructing and operating the pipeline.

“Protecting Virginia’s environmental resources is one of our greatest priorities,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s comprehensive review allows us to remain confident that these final construction plans will protect natural resources. After more than a year of detailed analysis, all aspects of these plans have been carefully reviewed, modified, and intensified before being approved by DEQ. We understand the pipeline projects have raised concerns. We remain dedicated to holding them to the highest environmental standards possible pursuant to state authorities.”

The basis for the design specification of the protection plans is contained in Virginia’s erosion and sediment control and stormwater management regulations. DEQ has sent its report to the State Water Control Board (Board) detailing the plans, which are required by regulation to protect waters in the Commonwealth of Water. DEQ also enlisted an independent review by EEE, an environmental and engineering services consulting firm based in Blacksburg and Richmond. Last December, Board conditionally approved the certification based on the completion of the plans.

“DEQ’s erosion and sediment and stormwater regulations, and our extensive 401 certification gives the agency several enforcement tools to protect water quality and ensure compliance with Virginia’s rigorous requirements,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “Our engineers and staff spent 15 months reviewing ACP’s plans to further ensure water quality protections were accurately incorporated.”

Draft plans were posted for public input last September. The final plans will soon be available to view on the ACP project website at www.atlanticcoastpipeline.com.
Regulatory information and the full report to the Board is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov/acp

Response from pipeline opponents was swift and emphatic. As reported in the Virginia Mercury, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters stated, “there’s little reason to think the failure to contain mud and stormwater that have plagued the separate Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is being built in Virginia now, won’t befall the ACP, though on a much wider scale because of its bigger footprint here. ‘The certification comes even as evidence mounts in Southwest Virginia that state regulations did little to keep communities safe from the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has clogged some of our state’s cleanest waters with mud and sediment as crews trenched across steep, rugged, flashflood-prone terrain,’ the group said. LCV Deputy Director Lee Francis said Laylor’s DEQ has seen fit ‘to allow an even larger, more complicated and environmentally destructive pipeline project to move forward, despite clear evidence that these pipelines can’t be built safely.'”

The Virginia Mercury article also points out that two sitting FERC commissioners have said the massive ACP project is not in the public interest.

Noting that the longstanding and ongoing warnings of environmental groups about the difficulties of building pipelines in steep terrain without sending massive quantities of sediment into waterways have been proved accurate by the “debacle that’s played out with MVP construction,” the Mercury concludes that there will be lots of people watching the ACP construction. “And with the pipeline footprint so much larger, it will be harder to shunt their concerns off into a corner as has unfortunately happened with southwest Virginia landowners and pipeline monitors.”

Read the Virginia Mercury article here.

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage here.