Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Video: Appalachian Trail and the MVP


Watch this video from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would cross the Appalachian Trail and damage views for up to 100 miles. Despite offering to work with MVP officials to minimize damage to the Trail, our attempts seem to have been ignored, and little has been done to minimize threats to the A.T. hiking experience, local jobs and drinking water quality.

While other pipelines currently cross the A.T., and the ATC has worked with companies in the past to make sure these pipelines and other infrastructure are constructed in a way that minimizes the impact on the Trail and the hiking experience. Unfortunately, Mountain Valley Pipeline is different — EQT Corporation and its partners have not listened to the guidance provided by the ATC, instead choosing a route for the MVP that would damage up to 100 miles of A.T. views, endanger water quality, and threaten local jobs dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation. The ATC supports the construction of sensibly-built, necessary energy infrastructure, and we want to work collaboratively with companies to ensure that both America’s energy needs are met and our iconic public lands are protected. We encourage you to visit AppalachianTrail.org/MVP for more details about the downsides to the proposed MVP route.

And remember, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will also cross the Appalachian Trail.

Natural Gas Development Spurs Invasive Species

A team of researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has found that invasive, non-native plants are making significant inroads in areas around hundreds of well pads, access roads and pipelines built to extract gas from the Marcellus shale. These invasive species have long-term negative consequences for forest ecosystems, timbering, wildlife habitat and ecotourism.

In findings published on July 20, 2017, in the Journal of Environmental Management, researchers show a direct correlation between the extent of non-native plant invasion and distinct aspects of shale gas development. The invasive species, including Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium), were introduced in gravel and in the mud on tires and under carriages of trucks.

Non-native plant invasion into forests can lead to the demise of native plants in surprising ways. “So if we have Microstegium filling the forest understory and deer are looking for something to eat — since they don’t feed much on Microstegium at all — the deer clip off any native plant growth that manages to get through the invasives,” Penn State’s David Mortensen said. “That allows the invasives to further dominate the plant community.

“As a result, the recruitment of economically important tree species will be curtailed. This process can be really damaging to the health of the forest in the long run, and even in the short term.”

Read the full Penn State News article here.

DEQ Posts Info on Erosion & Stormwater Plans for ACP and MVP


Plans for erosion and sediment control, as well as for stormwater management, for the ACP and MVP were made available this week on the website of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The posting on the DEQ website states:

“Virginia state law and regulations establish that land disturbance associated with pipeline construction activities must meet Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) requirements to protect surface water quality during and after construction completion. State law further mandates that natural gas pipeline utilities (and certain other utilities) meet the requirements for ESC and SWM under a DEQ approved Annual Standards and Specifications Program.

Under the required Annual Standards and Specifications Program utilities are not required to submit site specific ESC and SWM plans to DEQ for approval. However, as an additional measure to ensure protection of state waters DEQ has required the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) projects to submit their site specific ESC and SWM plans to DEQ for review and approval.

ACP and MVP site specific ESC and SWM plans will address every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction, including access roads and construction lay-down areas.”

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition points out that, “The DEQ has previously stated it will review those plans (stormwater management and erosion and sediment control plans) separately from its review under the Clean Water Act Section 401. As a result, the State Water Control Board’s decision whether to certify that construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not harm state waters will not be informed by the essential details that the erosion and runoff control plans should provide. This is a concern that ABRA and many of its members have voiced to DEQ and the Water Control Board.”

Letter to DEQ Urges Careful Review of Pipeline Company Practices

Friends of Nelson Board member Marilyn Shifflett has written a thoroughly researched letter to David Paylor, Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), urging DEQ to carefully consider the long-term consequences of pipeline construction and citing abundant evidence of the extensive damage done by companies during construction and their unwillingness to address permanent damage after construction completion.

In her letter, dated July 14, 2017, she writes, “Patterns concerning construction of these projects have emerged that are alarming, to say the least. Included in this letter, are “situations” and violations during pipeline construction that are seen all too often. While the FERC has intervened in a small number of cases; in the majority of these situations, both the FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of issuing the nationwide permits for wetland and stream crossings have not reacted at all. The VA DEQ is inarguably now reviewing the greatest environmental challenge ever faced in our State from these two proposed mammoth pipelines. Thousands of acres of protective forested land will be stripped, and nearly two thousand streams will be crossed with countless wetland areas impacted. While the task is monumental, it’s vital that the VA DEQ consider the overall behavior of the natural gas industry and ongoing pipeline construction. The following information and related links serve as testament to this industry’s activities after lengthy reviews and permits are issued, and validates the concerns expressed by residents all along the routes of the ACP & MVP. The highly sensitive environmental areas coupled with the steeps slopes of these particular routes exacerbate the issues Virginians will likely be left to deal with if either or both of these pipelines are ever constructed.”

Shifflett goes on to summarize the extensive environmental, regulatory, and compressor station violations by a number of pipeline companies, including Dominion. She points out that “These pipeline companies routinely allow the violations to stack up, simply pay the fines, and consider them part of the cost of doing business. There is no clear intent on their part to honor agreements made to institute ‘best practices.’ The regulatory process often doesn’t react quickly enough to forestall damages, and the violation notice process is complicated and lengthy, allowing these companies to complete projects before damages can be further avoided. Is the VA DEQ prepared to monitor construction of both the ACP and the MVP simultaneously? Is the VA DEQ willing to shut down construction on the entire route through VA when the first violation occurs?”

She cites some specific examples of Dominion violations:

  • Dominon G-150 8″ pipeline in WV: These violations are a stark example of Dominion’s lack of commitment to best practices for a pipeline less than one fifth the diameter of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline; a small pipeline constructed on the steep slopes of West Virginia without many of the complications expected from the much larger ACP.
  • Dominion Transmission, Multiple Sites, PA & WV: Records from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration cite Dominion for multiple safety and regulatory regulations.
  • Dominion Transmission, Fink Kennedy Storage, West Virginia: Again, Dominion is cited for multiple violations at this site from Sept., 2009 through June, 2010. Dominion has a pattern of lengthy response times to violations at their facilities and seems rarely to take corrective actions until violations and orders are issued. These are not the actions of a company committed to safe operation and concern for residents living nearby.

Shifflett concludes, “The preceding lengthy information is offered as a record of the behavior of the natural gas industry and stands as a testament to concerns expressed by Virginia residents along the routes of these pipelines…. The routes of the ACP and the MVP were chosen for cost savings related to easement purchases and relaxed regulation in sparsely populated areas. The VA DEQ is obligated to look beyond costs to these companies; judging these routes based solely on environmental realities. The majority of the ACP/MVP routes are through terrain unsuitable for a 42” high pressure pipeline and the damage will be irreparable. The deforestation of thousands of acres for right-of-ways, access roads, and temporary work spaces will leave a lasting impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the decades of efforts to clean up this precious Virginia resource. And certainly, the VA DEQ will realize after examining applications from these companies, that they have little to offer in the way of detailed slope analyses, and stream crossing plans that will avoid permanent damage to environmentally sensitive areas. Given the predictable actions of the natural gas industry, approval of the ACP or the MVP will surely lead to additional companies following suit and Virginia will be facing additional damage. With a 14% guaranteed return from FERC approval, Dominion and EQT will not be the only companies looking to profit off the backs of Virginia citizens. Virginia residents have taken the time to thoroughly review these projects and ask that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality do the same. Please reconsider allotted comment periods, and schedule public meeting only after all reports are available for review by residents.”

Read the full text of Shifflett’s letter here. The letter also appeared in full in The Recorder for July 20. 2017.

NPR Pipeline Analysis



Natural Gas Building Boom Fuels Climate Worries, Enrages Landowners is a lengthy and well-researched NPR Morning Edition piece, the result of a six-month investigation into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and its handling of the gas pipeline building boom. The report discusses the multiple pipelines proposed in the last several years (including the MVP and ACP), the dysfunctionality of FERC, the push by energy companies, and the push-back by pipeline opponents. The story was researched, written, and produced by the Center for Public Integrity, joining with StateImpact Pennsylvania and NPR.

Versions of the story also appear on the Center for Public Integrity and the StateImpact Web pages.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration between WITF and WHYY, and covers the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy, with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling – and Marcellus Shale drilling is what brings us the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The Center for Public Integrity was founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis and is one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations.