Category Archives: DEQ

Keep Up with the News


Having a hard time keeping up with all the news related to the pipeline? Remember to check out our In the News page for stories not featured in our main page posts. Click on the In the News tab for the current two months, or use the dropdown menu under In the News to look at back stories. A few good stories from the last week or two:

Send Your Comments to DEQ


Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting public comments on the draft water quality certifications designed to protect water quality along the routes of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. There will be five public hearings in August (see DEQ schedule and our Events calendar), and they are also accepting written comments on both pipelines through Aug. 22. The mailing address is Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Va. 23218. The email address is comment-acp@deq.virginia.gov.

“These hearings and the comment period are very important to helping DEQ meet its goal of protecting water quality,” DEQ director David Paylor said in their June 30, 2017 press release. “The pipeline construction is a complicated process, and we look forward to receiving valuable public input as these projects proceed.”

However, as noted in our story, Where Are the Plans?, the DEQ has not released any of the site-specific erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, karst terrain, water quality, etc. plans upon which the public needs to comment. DEQ has, however, released the seven-page Draft Certification No. 17-002 – 401 Water Quality Certification for the ACP, listing 15 general conditions, limitations, and/or requirements. None of these are site-specific, but in the absence of any site-specific plans, the general conditions can certainly be used as a basis for public comments.

So please write your letters and send your emails to DEQ – it is up to us to give them the input they request! (Especially if they will not release site-specific plans!)

Conflicts of Interest

This letter to the editor by Jane Twitmyer, published in the Washington Post on July 3, 2017, is a fine summary of the multiple conflicts of interest in reviewing the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.” Indeed!

Evidently, ensuring that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 1,989 water-body crossings comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards is just too big a job for our Department of Environmental Quality, even if it is its job, so the Department of Environmental Quality handed its responsibility off to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A Permit 12, issued nationwide by the corps, could approve all 1,989 water-body crossings of the pipeline without any site-specific review.

To make the handoff to the corps, the Department of Environmental Quality is required to determine that the corps’s requirements comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards for these projects. The Department of Environmental Quality outsourced that job, too, and Dominion agreed to pay a contractor hired by the state to evaluate its pipeline proposal for the Department of Environmental Quality. Incredibly, the contractor is doing several other jobs for Dominion. So Dominion is paying a familiar contractor to approve its work on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. This clearly is a conflict of interest, but it’s not the only one. A contractor hired by the Forest Service to represent its interests in the pipeline’s Blue Ridge Parkway crossing is working for Dominion on the pipeline project, and the third-party contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review the pipeline is tied to Dominion’s main environmental consultant in the project.

The administration and our regulators need to release all of their documents. We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.

Where Are the Plans?

A June 30, 2017, article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch announces that, “Virginia has informed federal energy regulators that it will expand its review of two proposed interstate natural gas pipelines to protect water quality beyond the stream and river crossings covered by a general federal permit.” DEQ’s Director, David Paylor, tries in the article to explain the agency’s plans (the new plans? the original plans?), acknowledging that the agency’s position had sown public confusion about whether the state would review all potential effects on water quality from construction of the proposed pipelines. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, DEQ “is preparing additional conditions for certifying the protection of water quality under the Clean Water Act and submitting them for public comment in a series of hearings next month,” three on the ACP and two on the MVP.

The announced hearings will be on August 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14, 2017. Where are the plans? What are the “additional conditions”? When will they be available to the public for review?

DEQ has hired a company with business ties to Dominion to review the plans. [Remember the story of the fox guarding the hen house?] Has that company seen the plans? Has Dominion even submitted any site-specific plans to DEQ for review? Such site-specific plans provide the information needed for a meaningful analysis of water resource risks and mitigation measures.

Why is DEQ initiating a public comment period, scheduling hearings, and preparing to recommend project certification to the State Water Control Board without making the promised plans available to the public?

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) points out that “If the detailed erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans are on the DEQ pipeline review website, they are certainly not easy to find. We have not found them. We are looking for site-specific plan view and cross-section diagrams of corridor and access road construction, showing the extent of excavation, the disposition of spoil, and the locations and specifications for erosion and runoff control and slope stabilization structures? We also want to see the post construction runoff calculations that should be part of stormwater management plans.”

And DPMC asks, “Is the DEQ colluding with Dominion to hide site-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans from the public? Is the DEQ attempting to ensure that there is no independent technical evaluation of the project during the all-important 401 review process? This would be ‘above and beyond’ an abdication of responsibility.”

Where are the plans?

80+ Conservation Organizations Call on Governor, DEQ, and Water Board to to Protect VA Waters

Dima Holmes photo

On June 29, 2017, the Virginia Conservation Network, along with its partners Southern Environmental Law Center and Shenandoah Valley Network, sent a letter to Governor McAuliffe, DEQ Director David Paylor and the State Water Control Board asking them to use their full authority under the Clean Water Act to conduct a thorough and transparent review of stream and wetland crossings along the proposed ACP and MVP fracked gas pipeline routes and ensure that Virginia water quality standards are met.

The letter, with over 80 organizations signed on, has support from leading clean water organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and James River Association, state-wide conservation organization including Virginia League of Conservation Voters and Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club, national groups including 350.org and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and local concerned citizen groups, including Friends of Nelson, the Augusta County Alliance, and the Cowpasture River Preservation Association.

This letter comes on the heels of DEQ backtracking on their initial public commitment to review all stream crossings and shows broad support for protecting our waterways from development.

Conflict of Interest

Is it a transparent, honest, open process when the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hires a Dominion contractor to review Dominion’s soil and erosion plans for the ACP? Not at all! Nevertheless, as DeSmog reports in their June 28, 2017, investigative article, that this is exactly what has happened.

DEQ has entered into a 2-million-dollar contract with an environmental consulting company to review Dominion’s plans when they are finally submitted. The contract, though not the contractor, was announced on the DEQ’s Water Protection for Pipelines website. That contractor, EEE Consulting, Inc., is also working directly for Dominion on other projects. Moreover, Dominion was given the “opportunity” to review and comment on the consulting company’s proposal before it was issued!

Although Dominion and its supporters have claimed that the project will be built “above and beyond” environmental requirements, the public has yet to see the site-specific plans that are needed for actual analysis, and it is still not clear if the plans will be site specific or generalized or if the public will have a meaningful opportunity to review and provide input prior to project approval.

Meanwhile, a company working for Dominion will be doing a review for DEQ. Conflict of interest? You bet!