Category Archives: DEQ

Northam Announces Additional Powers to Protect Virginia Waters

In a press release from his office on March 16, 2018, Governor Northam announced emergency clauses added to SB698 and SB699 allowing DEQ to issue stop work orders on all or part of land-disturbing activities associated with natural gas pipeline construction that may have adverse effects on water quality.

For Immediate Release: March 16, 2018
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Ofirah Yheskel,

Governor Northam Announces Additional Powers To Protect Virginia’s Clean Water

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today announced additional powers to expand the Commonwealth’s ability to protect clean water. SB698 and SB699 establish processes in state law to allow the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a stop work order on all or part of land-disturbing activities associated with natural gas pipeline construction if DEQ determines those activities have caused, or will imminently cause, a substantial adverse impact to water quality. On Saturday, the General Assembly accepted Governor Northam’s amendment adding an emergency clause to each bill and the measures are currently in effect.

“I want to thank Senator Creigh Deeds and the Department of Environmental Quality for working together to empower the Commonwealth to halt construction on the pipelines if there is a serious threat to water quality,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, and all the rivers and streams in between, our water quality is of paramount importance to our health and our economy and I will protect it as long as I am Governor.”

“If the pipelines go forward, it’s imperative that DEQ have the tools it needs to assure the people of the Commonwealth that water quality will not be compromised,” said Senator Creigh Deeds. “Thanks to DEQ staff for their tireless work to help get these bills through the legislative process, to Governor Northam for his timely amendments and for signing the bills, and to the conservation groups who added their voices to this important conversation.”

“We are pleased the General Assembly agreed to give DEQ the additional authority to protect water quality, and we will use these tools to exercise rigorous enforcement to ensure our water is protected and our natural areas are preserved,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. 

VADEQ Issues “Notice of Violation” Against ACP

DEQ Takes Enforcement Action Against Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC


Contact: Ann Regn, (804) 698-4442,

RICHMOND, VA. – The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP) on March 16, 2018, for failing to maintain adequate limits of disturbance during tree felling operations in violation of Virginia’s State Water Control Law. These limits forbid work within buffer zones to protect stream and wetland crossings during pipeline development, and are instrumental to the protection of Virginia’s environment and natural resources.

The NOV identifies violations on 15 separate sites resulting in an estimated 0.84 acres in impact to wetlands and streams.

“DEQ is watching pipeline activities closely and expects full compliance with all conditions,” said David K. Paylor, Director. “We will not hesitate to initiate enforcement actions like this to make sure the project complies with good environmental standards.”

The NOV requires ACP representatives to contact DEQ within 10 days to discuss how to remedy the situation and explain how they will prevent future violations.

While limited tree felling is allowed, the activity cannot impact riparian areas. Furthermore, land disturbance cannot begin until all of the erosion and sediment and stormwater control plans required for all sections of the project are approved by DEQ. “The agency’s review of the project has been the most thorough in the history of the Commonwealth, and the enforcement will be as rigorous,” said Director Paylor.

The issuance of an NOV is the first step in triggering enforcement action by DEQ. Enforcement actions are frequently resolved with payment of a civil charge and required action to correct the violation. A copy of the NOV can be obtained on DEQ’s webpage

The 600-mile underground Atlantic Coast Pipeline originates in West Virginia and travels through Virginia and North Carolina. The pipeline is being developed jointly by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas. Though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has independent authority over many of the procedures related to federal pipeline development, DEQ is able to exercise enforcement authority over many aspects of the project.

Early press coverage of the Notice of Violation in the Roanoke Star and The Recorder.

Tell Northam, “NO Pipelines”

A message and petition from Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

Sign the petition to stop the pipelines!

As you read this, Dominion and EQT are clearing trees across Virginia to make way for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines — WITHOUT EVEN HAVING ALL OF THEIR PERMITS!

It is imperative that Governor Northam know that this is unacceptable.

This past December, the State Water Control Board put the brakes on the ACP, requesting that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provide karst mitigation plans, erosion and settlement control plans, and stormwater management plans before the Board would issue the 401 water permit. This crucial permit is necessary for the pipelines’ construction, and Virginia has the authority to reject it if the applicants (like Dominion and EQT) can’t prove that their projects won’t harm the state’s water quality. In the following weeks the DEQ announced that the same requirements would also bind the MVP.

Even though these plans are months away from completion, the pipeline companies are beginning to forward with construction — suing landowners, clearing trees, preparing to move in. Even worse, the DEQ announced on the final day of the McAuliffe administration that there would be no more opportunities for the public to review and comment on the requested information and that once the information is provided, the permits would be final (with no further action required from the Board).

In his final weeks in office, the McAuliffe administration signed two Memorandums of Agreement (MOA): one with Dominion and another with EQT. One agreement essentially sold off access to Virginia’s forests and waterways to the ACP to the tune of $58 million that would “fully satisfy any and all mitigation responsibilities related to and otherwise fully offsets” the direct or indirect forest-related and water-related damages of the pipeline. It has been referred to as a “pay-to-play” scheme because to some, it implies guaranteed approval for the contentious pipeline.1 It was announced shortly after that the McAuliffe administration made an almost identical deal with the developers of the MVP, selling off all responsibilities for the mitigation of damages to forests and waters for a mere $27.5 million.2

This insidious scheme is a raw deal for Virginians. That’s why we need to make sure these pipelines never get built.

Governor Northam has the rare opportunity to show true leadership to Virginians, but the time to act is quickly coming to a close. We Virginians need to let him know that we stand unified in opposition to these monstrous projects and demand that we are given transparency and justice.

Sign the petition today

DEQ Press Release on ACP Stormwater Methodology

From VA DEQ: DEQ Approves Final Atlantic Coast Pipeline Stormwater Methodology, Rolls out Landmark Monitoring, Compliance and Enforcement Strategy


Contact: Ann Regn, (804) 698-4442,

RICHMOND, VA. – Today, the Virginia Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) announced that it has received a final document detailing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC’s (ACP) proposed compliance methodology for meeting Virginia’s post construction water quality and quantity requirements. The methodology was subjected to a thorough review and DEQ rejected several earlier versions of this technical document before approving the final released today.

DEQ also received similar technical documents from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) describing MVP’s proposed engineering methods that will be used before drafting detailed site plans for stormwater management. Both documents are available at:

DEQ is continuing to review detailed, project-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans that the agency has required ACP and MVP to submit for every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction. Once approved, these requirements, contained in Virginia’s Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) regulations will manage runoff during and after construction to protect water quality. In response to DEQ’s comments, ACP continues to submit revisions to ESC and SWM plans to address deficiencies and concerns identified during the agency’s review.

“Protecting water quality and water supplies requires controlling runoff and these plans are critical to that goal. They need to be complete. DEQ staff and its contractors are taking care to scrutinize all aspects of the plans to ensure they meet rigorous design standards,” said Director David K. Paylor.

DEQ also announced that it will implement a comprehensive program to monitor construction of both the ACP and the MVP to ensure compliance with water quality standards, and take strong enforcement action if violations occur.

See the full press release for details of the monitoring, compliance, and enforcement strategies.

In the press release Paylor also said, “DEQ will hold the developers to the highest construction standards and will take swift and strong enforcement action for any problems that occur.” However, DEQ does not have the on-the-ground resources to do the necessary monitoring, which means that when the (inevitable) violations happen, the damage will be done, and in many cases, it cannot be repaired – even with the mitigation funds in the undercover deal signed by McAuliffe. And landowners will get nothing for the damage done on their properties.

Additional information, including links for contacting the agency can be found here.

Virginia DEQ Shuts Down Public Input, Curbs Water Board in 401 Process

From the ABRA Update, January 18, 2018:

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has proclaimed that there is to be no further input from the public in the final stages of water quality certification (under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and has also purported to limit the further role of the State Water Control Board in the process.

This astounding action came to light in a posting on the agency’s website, apparently made on Friday, January 12 (the final day of the McAuliffe Administration). The pronouncement contradicts the expressed understanding of members of the SWCB regarding the Board’s continuing role in the process, as well as of the need for further public input, based on a transcript of comments made by Board members at the December 12 SWCB meeting.

The DEQ posting states, in the following excerpts (portions bolded for emphasis):

The certification approved by the Board and reviewed by our attorneys is in place and becomes effective upon the issuance of the Department’s report to the Board and the public. By law the Erosion, Sediment and Stormwater approvals upon which the effective date is conditioned are approved by certified staff and those approvals are not under the State Water Control Board’s purview.

No additional information is being accepted from the public. DEQ has not imposed any specific deadlines on ACP for the submittal of information other than those included in the certification. The deadline for submitting information necessary for the certification to become effective is at the discretion of ACP. Therefore, an estimate for the delivery and publication of the written report to the board has not been made.

Upon submittal of the report documenting approval of the Supplemental Karst Evaluation Plan annual standards and specifications, erosion and sediment control plans, and stormwater management plans, Virginia’s Section 401 water quality certification for activities in upland areas becomes effective. No further action by the board is required for the certification to become effective. As provided in the certification, the board may, after review of the report, consider further actions on the certification. The matter is before the board at its discretion without additional public comment on whether further action is warranted. When or if the certification will be an agenda item at a future board meeting is unknown at this time.

DPMC Seeks Urgent Action From Governor Northam on Pipelines

On January 17, 2018, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition sent a letter to Gov. Northam asking that he take swift and decisive action to restore integrity and transparency to Virginia’s regulatory reviews of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

DPMC is calling on the Governor to require his administration to take three specific actions, to meet the law and satisfy his stated intentions:

  1. His environmental officials must use their authority to review and approve or disapprove waterbody crossings covered by the Corps of Engineers’ general permit.
  2. His environmental officials must prohibit any and all activities related to construction of the pipelines that might affect water quality unless and until all requirements of the WQCs are met.
  3. His environmental officials must ensure that before the ACP certification is deemed effective:
  • a) remaining plans submitted by the company are made available to the public for review and comment and that DEQ considers and addresses those comments,b
  • b) DEQ makes a final recommendation to the SWCB, based on its review of the final plans and of public submissions, and
  • c) DEQ requests formal Board action on its recommendation.

The Northam administration now has the authority and duty to uphold the principles Mr. Northam previously outlined as the guide for determining whether the pipeline proposals were properly and fairly handled by the State of Virginia:

  • that the outcome of those deliberations must be based on scientific evidence
  • that proceedings must be conducted in a transparent manner, and
  • that approvals must be denied unless actions can be fully protective of Virginia’s environment and its citizens.

Unfortunately, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has betrayed the principles the Governor has espoused. DEQ has also disregarded intentions and expectations the State Water Control Board (SWCB) expressed when it considered these proposals in December of 2017. (see DEQ Statement on Process)

We call on all Virginians to let the Governor know you support the principles he’s outlined for these processes and want his to make sure they are followed by DEQ. You can do so by emailing him c/o his Chief of Staff at or calling 804-786-2211.