Category Archives: DEQ

Live Stream from Thursday Air Pollution Control Board Meeting


Live from Richmond at the Air Pollution Control Board meeting on Thursday November 8, 2018, as the Board hears testimony on the air pollution permit for the proposed fracked-gas Buckingham Compressor Station.

Air Pollution Control Board Hearing: Stand with Union Hill


The Air Pollution Control Board meeting on the draft air permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Union Hill will be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Building, Level 2, Room E21-AB, 301 N. 3rd Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219, November 8-9. 2018.

We are All Union Hill: Stand with Union Hill to challenge the draft air permit. Opportunities to give witness:  Join the We Are All Union Hill Press conference at 8 am on November 8 at the Third Street Bethel A.M.E. Church, Richmond, co-sponsored by 46 arts, environmental and justice groups. The press conference will feature the voices of Union Hill supported by those from the VA Poor People’s Campaign, VA NAACP, Southern Environmental Law Center, VA House of Delegates and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.

Your presence is needed at the Air Pollution Control Board Meeting, to be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Building, Level 2, Room E21-AB, 301 N. 3rd Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219. Although only those who commented on the draft permit before September 21, 2018, will be allowed to speak at the hearing, the Union Hill community welcomes all to give witness with their presence, and has requested that this presence be silent, respectful and optimistic, believing that the Air Board has the potential to support them, science, and environmental justice.

SELC Reminds Air Pollution Control Board of Its Authority

On October 23, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Canter (SELC) wrote to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board members, reminding them that they have the independent authority to determine whether the draft permit for the proposed ACP compressor station in Buckingham County VA meets the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act and of Virginia law. The Air Pollution Control Board will discuss the proposal at its next regular meeting, on November 8 and 9 in Richmond. The SELC letter states:

This Board also has the statutory obligation to consider whether issuance of the permit is reasonable and whether the proposed location is suitable. If this Board determines that the permit should not be issued, that decision cannot be disturbed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). The Natural Gas Act explicitly preserves states’ authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollution and deny permits. 15 U.S.C. § 717b(d)(2). Dominion is eager to convince state officials that control of the project is out of their hands. But Dominion is wrong. Moreover, we strongly disagree with the Administration’s recent suggestion that the Commonwealth does not have independent authority to enforce the Clean Air Act and to consider site suitability when considering this permit.

The Board’s authority to consider environmental justice and to deny the permit is well within the scope of the Board’s authority and is by no means precluded. Virginia law mandates that the Board, when deciding whether to issue any permit, “shall consider facts and circumstances relevant to the reasonableness of the activity involved.”

Agenda: Air Pollution Control Board Meeting

The agenda (currently tentative) for the State Air Pollution Control Board Meeting in Richmond on November 8-9, 2018, is now posted on the meeting section of the Department of Environmental Quality Web page – on that page, click on the Meeting Agenda link. Note that the first page (of 70!) of the tentative agenda is blank except for the short sentence at the top saying it is tentative; that will probably change when the final agenda is posted.  Details on location and time of the meeting are on our Events page.  This is a critical meeting, where the Board will consider the air permit for the proposed ACP compressor station in Union Hill.

A related and timely article, Air pollution is the new tobacco. Time to tackle this epidemic, published in The Guardian on October 27, 2018, discusses air pollution and the upcoming World Health Organization First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, October 30 – November 1, 2018.

VA NAACP Troubled by Lack of Regulatory Protection

Press advisory, Saturday, October 20, 2018

Kevin Chandler, President, PastorChandler@gmail.com; Karen Campblin, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, ECJVA2018NAACP@gmail.com

Virginia State Conference NAACP Troubled by State Regulator’s Refusal to Protect Our Land, Water and Communities

The Virginia State Conference NAACP (VSC NAACP) opposes the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and the proposed ACP Compressor Station in Union Hill, Buckingham County, VA. We are also gravely concerned over the lack of fair and appropriate response to environmental injustices perpetuated by the approval and construction of these projects and ask that a more thorough and comprehensive analysis of potential negative and cumulative impacts to the natural and social environments be conducted. Careful consideration must be made to properly identify residents located within the study area to ensure Title VI compliance and that there are no disproportionate impacts on burdened communities.

According to “Fumes Across the Fence-Line“, a report jointly written by NAACP and CleanAIR Task Force, “the racial disparities among communities impacted by environmental pollution in the United States is stark. African-Americans are exposed to 38% more polluted air than Caucasian Americans, and they are 75% more likely to live in fence-line communities than the average American.” The report defines fence line communities as “communities that are next to a company, industrial, or service facility and are directly affected in the facility’s operation (e.g. noise, odor, traffic, and chemical emissions”.

The VSC NAACP has submitted comments against the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 (May 2018) and the Buckingham Compressor Station- Air Permit (September 2018). We have not received a response. Furthermore, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (ACEJ), which is tasked with providing advice and recommendations to the Executive Branch on Environmental Justice issues throughout the Commonwealth, submitted its first set of environmental concerns, “Environmental Justice Review of Virginia’s Gas Infrastructure”, on August 16, 2018. The ACEJ’s August 16 report included detailed, thorough and heavily footnoted review of the pipeline projects, associated infrastructure and Compressor Station, and identified cases of environmental justice issues. The report includes 7 areas of concern and recommendations to mitigate or eliminate the negative impacts. In particular, the ACEJ recommended “that the 401 Clean Water Act certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) be rescinded immediately” and that “the Governor direct [the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] to suspend the permitting decision for the air permit for the Buckingham compressor station pending further review of the station’s impact on the health and the lives of those living in close proximity.”

The ACEJ recommendations were in line with recommendations presented to the Department of Environmental Quality by the VSC NAACP, and other environmental and legal organizations requesting an immediate halt in all construction activities until a thorough review of the permitting policies and procedures and analysis of associated impacts are conducted and all pending legal cases are completed. It is well documented that the permitting processes are flawed, and yet the projects are being allowed to move forward with reckless abandon to our natural environment and communities.

On October 16, 2018, Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler, on behalf of himself and the Governor, provided what is, in our view, an inadequate one-page response to the ACEJ report and recommendations. Secretary Strickler refused to take any action to stop either the MVP or the ACP or to suspend the permitting process for the proposed compressor station in Buckingham County, claiming that decisions from federal agencies preclude Virginia from doing so. Secretary Strickler did not respond in any detail to the environmental justice concerns documented by the ACEJ.

VSC NAACP is troubled by Secretary Strickler’s summary dismissal of the serious, pressing and legitimate issues raised by the Governor’s own Advisory Council. Thousands of people who live along the route of the MVP and ACP are being negatively impacted daily by construction issues that already have done damage to Virginia’s precious water and natural resources. Federal court decisions have resulted in multiple permits having been vacated, exposing a rushed and slipshod regulatory process. More is required of our state leadership and we believe that state and federal law allow Virginia to both revoke the previous certifications granted for these pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and to deny an air permit for the Buckingham compressor station.

On Thursday and Friday, November 8th and 9th, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board will be conducting a Public Hearing on the Draft Air Permit for the Compressor Station at Union Hill, Buckingham County, VA. Union Hill is a predominately African-American community established by Freeman after the Civil War. The Compressor Station would be located within close proximity to existing homes. We ask that the Governor direct DEQ to not recommend approval of the permit and that the Air Pollution Control Board deny the permit and request the applicant to conduct a more comprehensive socio-economic analysis of the surrounding community, as well as completing a qualitative risk assessment and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment. Furthermore, we ask that a more meaningful public engagement plan be implemented with residents directly impacted by the projects. An effective public engagement program, particularly for a project of this magnitude, scale and potential impact, should consist of more than just a listening tour. The public engagement process should be based on mutual respect, understanding, collaboration, two-way conversations, and most importantly, opportunities to be an active participant of the decision-making process.

Air Pollution Control Board Public Hearing on the Draft Air Permit for the proposed ACP Compressor Station in Union Hill, Buckingham, November 8th and 9th (Thursday and Friday) beginning at 9:30 am at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Building Level 2, Room E21-AB, 301 North 3rd Street, Richmond VA, 23219

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.