Category Archives: Environmental Impact

MVP Construction Halted in Franklin County

Photo by Emily Beckner Guilliams

On May 20, 2019, the Roanoke Times reported Construction halted at Mountain Valley Pipeline work site following severe erosion in Franklin County, saying, “State regulators have put a stop to construction of part of the Mountain Valley Pipeline swamped by a rainstorm, saying work cannot continue until proper erosion control measures are established. Crews were using heavy equipment to cut trees and clear land along the natural gas pipeline’s right of way in Franklin County when heavy rains Thursday night and Friday morning swept away much of the soil they had unearthed.”

Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Ann Regn said DEQ will investigate why check dams and other erosion control measures failed to prevent the flow of mud, sediment, and muddy water. Even before the spring rain and thunderstorms began, regulators had received calls from the public concerned that heavy equipment being used to remove trees and clear a 125-foot swath for pipeline construction was exposing the land to potential runoff problems. Regulators have already documented other problems with MVP sediment and runoff control on the pipeline route, including on Forest Service roads.

Rain, Then Mud, Mud, and More Mud

Photo by Emily Beckner Guilliams

We’ve had a rainy week, as we sometimes do. Not a 100-year rain, not a 50-year rain, not even a 25-year rain. Just a normal rainy week, with normal thunderstorms. And, not surprisingly, when pipeline companies try do work on steep terrain, the slopes slide.

On May 18, 2018, Cahas Mountain Rd in Franklin County was covered in sediment after tree clearing by Mountain Valley Pipeline crews. Locals on the scene say the mud was 12” to 18” thick. The road was closed. The nearby creek was running red. The mud blocked traffic, rerouted school-buses and put the lives, land and water of Franklin County citizens at risk. Sediment-laden runoff filled local creeks to the point where cattle would not drink from them.

Environmental experts and concerned citizens have – since 2014 – been telling FERC, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Governor of Virginia that this kind of destruction will be the result of both Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction on our steep mountain slopes.

It is particularly distressing that MVP said, “Initial reviews indicate the controls were installed properly; however, the circumstances appear unusual and an ultimate cause is under investigation.” MVP seems to imply that an ordinary rainy week with ordinary thunderstorms constitutes “unusual circumstances.”

If you live near the MVP or ACP path please document, date, gps coordinate, and time stamp photos to send to DEQ. Please report flood damage (time-stamp and date your photos if possible!) to the Mountain Valley Watch (833-689-2824) or to Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (csi@abralliance.org, 877-GO2ABRA (877-462-2272)). You may also notify:

    •  Ralph Northam, Governor (804-786-2211)
    • John McCutcheon, DEQ Stormwater Compliance Manager (804-527-5117)
    • Ann Regn, DEQ spokeswoman (804-698-4442)
    • Jerome A. Brooks, Manager of the DEQ Office of Water Compliance (804-698-4403)
    • Matt Strickler, Secretary of Natural Resources (804-786-0044)
    • We also suggest you contact your local government officials and insist that they report this to the officials responsible (such as the DEQ, VDOT, etc) for monitoring and compliance.

And here in Nelson County, Richard Averitt made this quick video to show the effects of the rain in Nelson County. We are facing an unprecedented risk to our communities. Please help. Look at the sediment problems from this one normal spring rain along the mountain valley pipeline route and imagine that same thing here in our communities and hundreds of communities throughout our state.

“Typical Millennial” Writes Open Letter to Northam

In An Open Letter to Gov. Northam on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, published in RVA Magazine in May 7, 2018, Margeau Graybill, who lives near Bent Mountain, writes, “I guess you could say that I am a fairly typical 27-year-old millennial.”

Graybill writes of getting her degree from VCU, working hard, and trying to save to buy a place of her own in the area she loves, “to marry and have children, a house, and a dog on a quiet, pristine piece of land in my own corner of Virginia.” But what she wants is threatened by the MVP, and she asks, “Why would I want to even stay in Virginia and settle down if this is the reality of how the Commonwealth protects its natural environment?” She says, “I can’t imagine that you would want young families moving out of the Commonwealth, but a lot of my friends have already done so because of these kinds of policies.”

And she says, “Many people my age voted against you in the primary because we know building these pipelines are not the way forward. Fracked gas pipelines are not the future of energy and will do nothing but make a few people rich, destroy waterways, leak into our precious ground, and make Virginia look like it doesn’t care about the future of the planet or our children. How can you have a platform that wants to preserve the Chesapeake Bay from off-shore drilling, but not our streams and waterways from fracked gas? I could provide you some studies of what a project like this does to land and water, but this letter is more from the soul. The soul of a heart-broken voter who believed when you said all environmental laws would be followed and all studies would be done before beginning these project. As I’m sure you know, nothing like this pipeline has ever even been attempted before in Virginia. Why risk this now? Who does it benefit, really?”

Read her full letter here.

Media Visits Proposed ACP Route in Bath and Highland

On April 27, 2018, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance conducted a tour for representatives of the media of sites along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Highland and Bath Counties, Virginia, including where the ACP would cross the Jackson River in northern Bath County, and property in southwestern Highland County where the ACP would cross land heavily laden with sinkholes and karst topography. See the Recorder article, “Media told karst damage from project is certain,” and the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Pipeline opponents: ‘Northam is going to have to answer for what this looks like’

Tree-Sit Pipeline Protests, MVP, and ACP

The Loudoun County Democratic Committee issued an April 27, 2018, press release on Tree-Sit Pipeline Protests, MVP, and ACP:

Natural gas is neither safe nor clean. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) present unacceptable risks to water quality, unacceptable contribution to climate change in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, unacceptable threats to social justice in communities affected, unacceptable impact to the forests and wildlife in the Commonwealth, unacceptable risks to human health, and unacceptable use of eminent domain.

To quote Delegate Danica Roem, one of fourteen Virginia legislators who recently held a press conference to condemn construction of the pipelines, “I’m a property rights Democrat and an environmental Democrat, and this is bad for both; We are one Commonwealth…it is our obligation to stand with people in Southwest Virginia. We all represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have to be united.”

Democrats in Loudoun are conscientious stewards of the environment, advocates of rural conservation and defenders of social justice. Many in our membership and leadership are alarmed at the treatment of Theresa “Red” Terry, her daughter Minor and others, who are actively engaged in tree-sit protests on their own property to obstruct tree clearing progress on the MVP and ultimately construction of the pipeline itself. Even more disconcerting, one of the enormous compressor stations on the ACP route is planned for Union Hill, a historic, predominantly African American community that was founded by freed slaves in Buckingham County.

“Water is life. The construction of these pipelines poses a threat to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who live near proposed constructions sites,” said LCDC Chair Alfonso Nevarez, “The Department of Environmental Quality needs to do a stream-by-stream analysis of all water crossing that would be impacted by these proposed pipelines before further work is authorized. I am confident that Virginia’s Democratic elected officials will make prudent decisions that will protect human and property rights for our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth.”

LCDC accompanied their press release with excellent supplemental information covering:

  • Denial of Access to Water and Food for the tree sitters
  • Social Justice in Union Hill, Buckingham County
  • Inappropriate use of Eminent Domain
  • Widespread opposition from environmental organizations
  • Unacceptable level of environmental damage
  • Fracking is harmful to human health
  • Unacceptable response to climate change, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Additional natural gas infrastructure not needed
  • Erosion of public trust in regulatory institutions
  • These pipelines could very well kill someone
  • A listing of Material / References

On April 29, 2018, the Arlington County Democratic Committee issued a statement saying in part:

While Arlington might not suffer direct impacts, we all will be required to pay a large portion of the estimated $10 billion in pipeline costs which the builders will pass on to consumers in the form of increased utility rates. In addition, this massive new investment in decades-long infrastructure will retard the needed growth of truly clean sources of energy from which everyone in Arlington would benefit.

We join our elected officials in urging Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam and the Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a full, on the ground stream-by-stream analysis of the water impacts of the two pipelines and to complete this review before any construction proceeds. And we insist that peaceful protesters be treated humanely and provided with nutritious food and water. ….

You can help deliver this message in two ways.

  • Call Governor Northam at (804) 786-2211. Tell him you #StandWithRed and ask him to order law enforcement to give food and necessities to the tree sitters. Urge him to order the Department of Environmental Quality to use its full authority under the Clean Water Act to conduct a detailed, stream-by-stream analysis of each water crossing.
  • Call the Department of Environmental Quality at (804) 698-4000. Tell them to halt pipeline construction and conduct a thorough stream-by-stream review to ensure our lands and waters are protected.