Category Archives: DEQ

Failure to Meet Minimum Standards of Scientific Proof

From Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC):

A group of thirteen expert scientists and engineers submitted reports to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on August 22, 2017, finding that DEQ has failed in its duty to properly analyze and protect against the water quality damages the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cause to Virginia’s waters. In the reports, one issued for each of the pipelines, the authors wrote that they had reviewed the information DEQ claimed to rely upon in its draft Water Quality Certifications (WQCs) and made their own independent assessments. The experts’ conclusion in each case:

DEQ’s draft WQC, which asserts that there is a “reasonable assurance” that Water Quality Standards (WQS) will be met with the conditions contained in that draft, cannot be supported by the evidence in the record and pertinent scientific authorities and knowledge. Such a finding in the Department’s recommendation to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) would be professionally incompetent and would fail to meet minimum standards of scientific proof.

The full story, the list of report authors, plus a link to the full DPMC report submitted to DEQ are on the DPMC Web page.

A Pile of Comments

Chesapeake Climate Action Network hand-delivered 10,000 public comments opposing the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on August 22, 2017, the final day for submission of comments. It’s time for Governor McAuliffe and the DEQ to reject these dirty and dangerous pipelines and protect our water and our climate!

Pressure Mounts on DEQ

A long article in the August 20, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch does an excellent job of summarizing the pressures on DEQ from all sides (except, of course, from Dominion and EQT) to slow or reconsider water quality certifications for the ACP and MVP. The pressure comes from state lawmakers in both parties, from the many people who spoke at DEQ’s public hearings earlier this month, and from numerous environmental groups.

Environmental agencies in other states have blocked similar projects by refusing to grant water quality certifications. (See for example our story, Constitution Pipeline Rejected by 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals).

“DEQ Director David Paylor has said the agency is using all of its legal authority in handling the pipeline permitting, including requiring Dominion and EQT to submit thousands of pages of plan sheets for how the developers will manage erosion, sediment and stormwater ‘for every foot of land disturbance’ related to pipeline construction.” But DEQ plans to let the Corps handle permitting for hundreds of ACP water crossings because, Paylor says, DEQ would be duplicating the Corps’ work. However, standards the Corps will use under Nationwide Permit 12 are incompatible with Virginia’s regulations, acknowledging impairments to water quality that Virginia regulations do not allow.

Wild Virginia’s David Sligh, a former DEQ senior engineer, says DEQ has “explicitly decided they’re not going to exercise that authority. To say they’re doing everything they can is just dishonest. If they apply Virginia water quality standards, they won’t be able to issue the certification.” He further suggests that Governor McAuliffe’s support for the pipelines has “put a thumb on the scale,” thus unduly influencing the DEQ permitting process.

The article also discusses the Southern Environmental Law Center testimony, recently filed with the State Corporation Commission, saying that the ACP, far from lowering electric bills as the company has contended, will cost Dominion’s ratepayers between $1.6 billion and $2.3 billion more if the pipeline is built. (See our story on the SELC filing.)

Read the full Richmond Times Dispatch article here.

Constitution Pipeline Rejected by 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

On August 18, 2017, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied a petition from Constitution Pipeline Company and, in the process, upheld the authority of states to reject projects that impact state water quality standards. This victory is an important reminder to all states that they have the power to stop harmful pipeline projects.

The pipeline company sought to overturn the New York State DEC’s denial of a “Section 401 Water Quality Certification” for the Constitution Pipeline. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act reserves authority to the states to determine whether a federally-approved project will adversely impact water quality. If the project will not cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards, the state issues a “401 Certification” allowing the project to go forward. The proposed Constitution Pipeline was a 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would have impacted 251 streams, nearly 500 acres of forests, and over 85 acres of wetlands in New York State.

For more information, see the story from Waterkeeper Alliance. For a copy of the Circuit Court decision, click here.

Last Chance: Submit Your Comments to DEQ

Tell the Virginia Dept of Environmental Quality that we will not stand for our water being compromised, tainted, or polluted by a fracked-gas pipeline that is NOT for public need or usage. Clean water is our right and not a trade-off so that Dominion can line their pockets with profit at our expense. The DEQ can say NO to Dominion.

Send an email to:

Mail your comments to: DEQ, Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection; P.O. Box 1105; Richmond, VA 23218

The comment period ends at the end of the day on Tuesday August 22, 2017.

Friends of Nelson Submits Comments to DEQ

Davis Creek area, August 1969

Friends of Nelson has submitted extensive comments on the proposed 401 Water Quality Certifications for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The comments include:

  • A letter written by Board member Jim Bolton related to activity on steep slopes and in slide-prone areas such as found in Nelson County, including patterns of recurrent destructive landslides and resulting debris flows and fans, and similar rapid erosional processes; includes links to supporting documents and U.S.G.S. maps and documents
  • A letter by Board member Joyce Burton on water quality issues, specifically those related to activity on the steep, landslide-prone slopes found in Nelson County
  • Comments on FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP prepared by Dr. W. Lee Daniels on behalf of Friends of Nelson in April of 2017 addressing (among other things) disposal of excess spoil, risks posed by acid forming materials (AFM) in the soils along the pipeline route and inadequate procedures to mitigate them, and adverse impacts of the proposed soil disturbances on farmland productivity, with the overall conclusion that the project as proposed could potentially negatively affect soils and water quality in Nelson County and surrounding landscapes.
  • August 2017 memo by Dr. Daniels confirming that his April 3, 2017, report is also clearly applicable to the current DEQ review process
  • A bound copy of Blackburn Consulting Services, Nelson County Report, Report Analysis and Field Verification of Soil and Geologic Concerns with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Nelson County, VA, dated March 2017, discussing pipeline construction and the potential for increased landslide risk and increased soil erosion, especially on steep slopes

It is DEQ’s responsibility to safeguard our Virginia’s water resources. Building the ACP in terrain that is as steep, difficult to stabilize, and nearly impossible to successfully revegetate such as that found in much of Nelson County poses an unacceptable risk to our precious water resources. ACP has not committed to adhering to the same standards and safeguards on private lands as on Forest Service lands, leaving Nelson’s steep, landslide-prone slopes particularly vulnerable.

Contrary to what has been implied in their aggressive marketing campaign, ACP’s “Best in Class” (BIC) program for managing the challenges of steep slope and narrow ridgetop construction is still “under development,” and other slope instability/landslide risk reduction measures have not yet been adopted. Because of this, and because of the inadequacy of ACP’s landslide risk analysis on non-USFS lands along the route, neither stakeholders nor the DEQ can thoroughly assess the likelihood and magnitude of the slope stability-related environmental effects of the project nor the sufficiency of their plans for the multiple sites that we anticipate to be at high risk.

The cited inadequacies in the ACP’s plans are not isolated aberrations, but rather constitute an underlying pattern of inadequate analysis and planning which has the potential to severely impact Virginia’s waterways.