On July 10, 2018, both the Roanoke Times and WSLS10 reported that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has given EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a nine-page notice of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates. The notice says MVP failed to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations.
Read the full Notice of Violation.
According to the Roanoke Times, “The Virginia notice is not a finding of guilt or liability but a set of allegations over which the company and regulators are to negotiate and reach agreement. In Virginia, fines for environmental violations of the type alleged can reach $32,000 per day. ‘We are holding MVP accountable and we expect full resolution of the issues,’ DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said Tuesday. …. The unexpectedly large rainfall won’t qualify as an excuse for not keeping sediment under control, said Regn, who added that the company is responsible for cleanup.”
The company has 10 days to respond – BUT they are allowed to keep working during the 10 days.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has posted links to the Virginia Conservation Network’s collection of comments to the State Water Control Board, along with an initial summary of comments to which the SWCB must respond.
From the DPMC Web page (many thanks to DPMC for their fine summary!):
The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) has collected comments submitted in response to the State Water Control Board’s request for public input concerning the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 and where it falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. VCN has established a webpage to provide access to these comments: http://www.vcnva.org/pipeline-comments/.
An extensive review and summary of comments will be prepared and made available to the public and the Water Control Board. A initial summary of assembled comments follows. Additional comments can be shared with David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory System Investigator, at email@example.com.
Initial Summary of Comments: NWP12 is Not Sufficient to Protect Virginia Streams
The Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP12) is insufficient to meet Virginia’s water quality standards. This permit is for “activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) clearly do not meet this description. Consider the following synopsis from a selection of comments to the State Water Control Board.
- Damage to streams is already being caused by construction activities: mudslides and sediment discharges from MVP have inundated Virginia streams and covered roads and neighboring properties; NWP12 is currently allowing damage to streams in South Carolina from a Dominion Energy project; West Virginia regulators have already issued four Notices of Violation for serious erosion problems and stream impacts from MVP. SELC and Appalachian Mountain Advocates comments discuss the current on-the-ground situation in detail.
- Mitigation measures as planned are inadequate to protect water quality: plans from developers are generalized and site-specific analyses are inadequate; many designs currently exceed engineering specifications; plans fail to consider combined impacts from upland activities and stream crossings. Sierra Club’s comments describe specific inadequate engineering evaluations and designs in detail.
- NWP12 ignores cumulative effects of multiple crossings: the permit looks at individual crossings in isolation and ignores the cumulative effects of multiple crossings on the same stream or small watershed. Wild Va/DPMC comments identify and describe potential individual and combined impacts from numerous sites within four “clusters” of crossings.
- DEQ presented incomplete and inaccurate information to the public: at least 81 crossings proposed by ACP and many for MVP are omitted from tables provide by DEQ (which were to provide the bases for comments to the SWCB); the tables also mischaracterize waterbody features. Crossings not identified or accurately described cannot have been adequately reviewed by the Corps or DEQ.
- When violations occur at specific crossings, as highlighted by the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative, the impacts disproportionately impact low-income and/or minority communities.
- The SWCB cannot defer to other agencies to protect our waters: the Corps admits it does not assess whether projects can meet state standards and that recreational uses may be impaired or eliminated. Anti-degradation analyses required by state regulations were not conducted by the Corps or DEQ. Wild Va/DPMC comments describe numerous high quality waters where state standards cannot be met and Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has already granted variances to time of year restrictions that are crucial to protect endangered species and sensitive trout streams.
The Water Board must use its authority to protect VA’s streams, specifically:
- Require individual stream crossing reviews for the most sensitive streams and watersheds
- Insist on complete and accurate information from the developers on the proposed designs, mitigation measures, and disallow variances that threaten water quality
- Conduct a 30-day comment period on the DEQ draft individual permits
- Suspend all activity until these reviews are complete
Based on soil erosion and sediment controls issues identified during inspections and on complaint inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (with most complaints having been filed by private citizens in the absence of active DEQ inspections), Mountain Valley Pipeline agreed to temporarily suspend work on June 29, 2018. Work was to resume only after MVP received approval by DEQ.
Now, just two working days later, in the late afternoon on July 3, 2018 (clearly aiming for minimal public attention the day before a holiday), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality released two of three areas for continued construction.
The statement posted on the DEQ Web page says, “Three areas of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project have been evaluated. After completion of DEQ inspections to ensure proper soil erosion and sediment controls are implemented, on July 3, 2018, two have been released to work. DEQ inspectors will continue to be on site to monitor and review pipeline construction throughout the project. The public is welcome to email complaints, submit pollution reports on the DEQ website, or call (804) 698-4003. Complaints and concerns will be investigated as DEQ receives them. A summary of complaint investigations and site inspections is available.”
On Thursday morning June 21, 2018, a 10’ x 35’ banner was hung on the front of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality central offices in the Bank of America Building, downtown Richmond, VA. The banner read “DEQ, 20 Violations. 0 Fines? Do your job! Stop work now! Fracking Poisons water. We are not a sacrificial zone!”
The DEQ’s central offices are in the Bank of America Building on 1111 E Main Street, Richmond, VA and are guarded by Bank of America private security and Richmond City Police. According to River Healers, in January 2018, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality moved all 322 of its central office employees into the 14th, 15th, 17th and 22nd floors of the 24-story Bank of America Building and signed a 124-month lease for 81,553 square feet (street view). Bank of America is the lead financier of two fracked gas pipeline projects currently being constructed in Virginia. Bank of America is the top bank investor of both the Mountain Valley Pipeline ($141 million invested) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline ($255 million invested). Bank of America also finances exploitative fracking companies and extractive oil and gas industries internationally.
River Healers says that 25 sediment and erosion violations have been reported by citizen monitors as part of the Mountain Valley Watch, yet DEQ has failed to issue a single a warning, violation, or fine to MVP contractors or Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC. Additionally, River Healers notes that Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, Matt Strickler has said that the state does not have the budget or the needed number of trained employees to currently monitor the MVP for violations, yet Governor Ralph Northam has spent over $100,000 dollars for state and county police to act on rural pipeline resistance in Bent Mountain, VA alone, and that citations continue to be issued to citizen monitors working with water protection groups, yet the state has failed to put employees on the ground to monitor pipeline construction and violations.
BREDL files Title VI Environmental Justice Complaint with EPA against the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
June 20, 2018: The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and its Virginia chapters, Protect Our Water, Concern for the New Generation and No ACP, filed a Title VI civil rights complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office of External Civil Rights Compliance Office (ECRCO). BREDL’s Stop the Pipelines Campaign Coordinator, Sharon Ponton, stated, “The 26-page complaint tells the story of VADEQ’s segmented process for 401 water quality certification and asks the EPA to void the certification until a thorough environmental justice analysis is completed. We believe we have presented a strong case indicating the environmental justice communities along the path of the proposed ACP will be disproportionately impacted by health impacts from pollution caused by toxic, polluting pipeline infrastructure and its contributions to global warming from leaks and its compressor station, as well as the health affects from noise and toxic emissions from its compressor stations. The complaint also outlines disproportionate impacts from possible threats to water supplies, safety related issues from discriminatory construction rules, and property loss through eminent domain.”
View the Press Release
View the Title VI Complaint
On June 18, 2018, the Roanoke Times reported that 2 Pipeline Projects Draw More than 13,000 Public Comments. The comments were submitted to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) to give input on how the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipelines would impact Virginia’s water bodies. The SWCB received approximately 7,100 emails on the ACP and 2,600 emails on the MVP. Another 3,500 letters, reports, and other paper records were submitted, but as of the article’s press time it was unclear how many were related to each pipeline.
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has posted on their Web page an overview of copies of comments they received, click here to access.
Ann Regn, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said that comments must be reviewed by DEQ staff members in order to present the information to the SWCB. The SWCB is currently scheduled to meet on August 21, 2018, but there are requests for it to meet sooner, particularly as the MVP has already caused environmental damage and even more is expected as construction continues. Many individuals and organizations are calling for a halt to all construction on both the ACP and the MVP while the over 13,000 comments are carefully considered by the SWCB. Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, held a news conference on June 18 to push for a state-ordered stop to construction while damage is occurring.