Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Forest Service Approves Amendments to Forest Plans for ACP


On November 17, 2017, the US Forest Service released a final Record of Decision (ROD) approving amendments to the Forest Plans for the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest to accommodate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Although this action had been anticipated after the Forest Service’s recent rejection of objections to the draft ROD, the November 17 decision provides the basis of the USFS issuing a Special Use Permit for the ACP.

An overview of and link to the 63-page decision is here.

Both Wild Virginia and Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) released statements condemning the decision.

Lew Freeman, ABRA Executive Director, said, “We firmly disagree with the decision announced today by the U.S. Forest Service to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through publicly owned forest lands – valued by millions of visitors and the source of drinking water for thousands of people. We believe this decision is based on seriously deficient and incorrect information. The action imperils some of the nation’s most treasured natural resources and reflects a rush to judgment that is contrary to the standards of deliberation that we have a right to expect from the Forest Service. The decision should be strongly challenged.”

“One of the most egregious aspects of this action is that high-ranking officials in Atlanta and Milwaukee clearly yielded to pressure from industry and their bosses in Washington and disregarded the opinions of those who know these lands best, the Forest Service scientists who work every day to protect and preserve these precious areas,” said Misty Boos, Director of Wild Virginia. “Throughout the last three years, these locally-based experts have raised alarms about the wide range of threats and the certain damages that would result – many of them long-term, some permanent and irreparable.”

During its evaluation of the proposal, the Forest Service repeatedly either asked Dominion for additional information or said it did not have enough information to make a decision – but has now approved it despite the many unanswered questions, allowing Dominion to submit many of its environmental protection plans after the fact. “They’re letting the company basically make up a lot of it after the approval happened,” said David Sligh, an environmental attorney. “There’s way too much latitude for the agencies and the companies themselves that should be open to public involvement and public comment.”

“For the last two years, the Forest Service has been clear that ACP developers did not provide the agency with enough information to make a decision on this project. Serious questions remain about whether or not the pipeline can be built safely through the steep, unforgiving terrain of the Appalachians, but the agency abruptly changed course and approved the project,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The Forest Service now joins the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in approving a project that isn’t needed and that is designed to enrich developers at the expense of landowners, utility customers, and natural resources. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will strip people of their private property, raise their energy bills, and put thousands of waterways and forests in harm’s way – for the sole benefit of utility companies.”

Richmond Times Dispatch coverage of the story is here, and NBC29 coverage, including the releases from the Forest Service, from Dominion Energy, and from Southern Environmental Law Center, is here.

Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss

An article in the November 14, 2017 AgWeb (Farm Journal Media), Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss, says, “Pipelines and agriculture are a contentious pair, with a growing number of farmers raising concerns over soil health, drainage issues, and responses from oil and gas companies.”

Three farmers in Illinois, Georgia, and Iowa talk at length about their personal experiences with three different pipelines built across their land and the problems they caused.

“‘Pipelines promise the world and money. Sure, I love energy efficiency, but I’m a farmer and I don’t want this pipeline headache on my property. If you can keep a pipeline from coming through your property, then do it,’ Richter says. ‘If they need to get through your land, they’ll tickle your ear. But once the line is installed, they don’t come back to the table to fix problems. Even if you’ve got it in writing, you’ll still have to go to the legal system for enforcement and spend thousands of dollars,’ Dowdy adds. ‘The only leverage you’ve got is prior to the pipeline.’ ‘You’ve got to get advice from somebody with soil experience, not dirt experience. Don’t let the company put time limits on corrective action and don’t sign off on anything,’ Kelley concludes. ‘Remember, farmers look down and see soil, but the pipeline company just sees dirt.'”

Fumes Across the Fence Line


A report released on November 14, 2017, by the NAACP says, “African American and other environmental justice communities face heavy burdens because of the millions of pounds of hazardous emissions released by the oil and gas industry each year.”

The report is Fumes Across the Fence Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Facilities on African American Communities. “The life-threatening burdens placed on communities of color near oil and gas facilities are the result of systemic oppression perpetuated by the traditional energy industry, which exposes communities to health, economic, and social hazards. Communities impacted by oil and gas facility operations remain affected due to energy companies’ heavy polluting, low wages for dangerous work, and government lobbying against local interests.”

McAuliffe’s Folly: The Atlantic “Trump” Pipeline


The November 12, 2017, Huffington Post asks, “Is outgoing Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe a climate change denier?” It notes that just asking the question “is bound to offend the governor and some of his supporters,” who list his efforts to reduce emissions and his very recent return from the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing Virginia to reduce carbon emissions (after he leaves office) as part of the Under2Coalition.

But, the article continues, “Never mind that close observers have called McAuliffe’s record on climate change ‘abysmal’ and ‘marred by contradictions and empty rhetoric,'” that by joining in November 2017 Virginia came very late to the Under2Coalition, formed in May 2015 and already including 180 jurisdictions. And “never mind that McAuliffe has spent the past three years as the state’s biggest cheerleader for two massive and controversial fracked gas pipelines, that, according to recent estimates, will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to that produced by 45 coal fired plants or 158 million metric tons per year, more than doubling Virginia’s carbon footprint.”

The article goes on to discuss

  • A Moment of Choice for Virginia and Terry McAuliffe – How the Water Control Board hearings in December are an opportunity for “an historic choice for climate change action – or climate change denial” as McAuliffe, after belatedly signing on to the Under2Coalition, is “trying to write the final chapter of his gubernatorial narrative – or the preface to his next campaign.” But, “If these pipelines are approved, Terry McAuliffe will forever be where any Democratic politician does not want to be, particularly in a Democratic primary – firmly on the side of climate change denier in chief Donald Trump.”
  • The Atlantic “Trump” Pipeline – Less than a week after taking office, Trump released a list of top 50 domestic priorities, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, saying the permitting process was done. Actual fact, of course, is that the process is not done, and since January “the public debate and the legal, regulatory and political terrains have shifted decidedly against these pipelines. The tide has started to turn – and smart politicians are catching on fast.”
  • The Anti-Pipeline Movement Grows Strong – “The opposition to these pipelines is growing and is not going away. Indeed, the scope of opposition activity over the past few months has been breathtaking.”
  • The Legal Terrain Shifts Beneath McAuliffe’s Feet – In August two different federal appeals courts issued rulings on two different pipelines (in New York and in Florida) making it “much more difficult for these pipelines to survive judicial scrutiny,” and in early November a court issued an order halting a third pipeline.
  • Regulatory Agencies Start to Balk – Both NC and WV state environmental agencies delayed approvals and demanded new and additional information from pipeline proposers. Two brand-new Trump appointees to FERC, who gave FERC a quorum of three, approved both the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, with an almost unheard of stinging dissent from veteran FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. On election day, “Virginia Democrats swept all three statewide offices and erased what many thought was an insurmountable 66-34 Republican majority in the House of Delegates.” Dominion also lost big: “Thirteen newly elected members of the House of Delegates – fully one quarter of the caucus – were elected on a platform that included signing the Activate Virginia pledge. Justin Fairfax, who also took the pledge and ran as a pipeline opponent, was elected Lieutenant Governor.”
  • It is Time to Choose Sides – “But more importantly, by acting now – before the December State Water Board hearings – McAuliffe could stop these two massive environmentally irresponsible, job killing, social justice destroying methane projects. He would be doing Virginia a world of good. That would transform his signature on the Bonn agreement into a new beginning for real action on climate change. McAuliffe can join Obama’s FERC appointee, Senator Tim Kaine, Lieutenant Governor-Elect Justin Fairfax, the newly elected anti-pipeline Democratic delegates, supported by landmark anti-pipeline federal court rulings, and stop these pipelines, or he can stand with climate change denier Donald Trump.”

Read the full Huffington Post article here.

West Virginia Waives 401 Review for MVP

In a November 1, 2017, statement released by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced permit adjustments for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying the State Stormwater Permit includes enhanced inspection and enforcement, stronger environmental guidelines for project.

The statement said, “West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton announced today that the agency has lifted the suspension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) state Stormwater Permit. The suspension of the state Stormwater Permit was put in place in September to allow the agency to properly respond to all public comments received.

“Additionally, the state has chosen to waive the individual 401 Certification of the federal permits for the MVP. The Army Corps of Engineers recently reissued, with provisions that are specific to West Virginia, the Nationwide 12 permit which is used for stream crossings. These new conditions, when combined with specific requirements that are included in the state’s storm water permit, will allow for better enforcement capabilities and enhanced protection for the state’s waters.”

Read the full statement from WVDEP here.

In a Sierra Club press release, Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines said, “Instead of protecting West Virginia’s water, DEP has sold us down the river. They had one job to do and they failed to do it, leaving our water in the hands of the federal government and out-of-state corporate polluters who are more interested in making money than protecting West Virginians. If we can’t trust our own state to protect our water, health and tourism, who can we trust to do it? Governor Justice and his DEP have let us all down by abandoning the responsibilities we trusted them with.”

DEP had previously certified the MVP, but Appalachian Mountain Advocates brought a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, and on October 17, 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside that certification and allowed DEP to start over. Just two weeks later, in response to the WVDEP’s November 1 announcement, Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said, “This is an outrageous and unprecedented dereliction of duty by DEP. After assuring a federal court that it was committed to reconsidering whether the MVP would degrade the hundreds of streams that it would impact, DEP has thrown up its hands and admitted that it is not up to the task of protecting West Virginia’s environment. This action suggests that DEP does not believe in the laws–including the antidegradation policy–that it is charged with enforcing. It also makes you wonder whether DEP intends to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline–the other ill-conceived pipeline project it is currently reviewing–the same free pass it has just given to MVP.”

Read the full Sierra Club press release here.

See WDTV5 coverage, Environmental organizations outraged at WVDEP decision.