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.