Category Archives: Environmental Impact

New Biological Assessment Filed With FERC, But Not Made Public

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #282, June 25, 2020

Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 22 a new Biological Assessment (BA) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), but designated the information as “privileged and confidential” and thus not available to the public. The new BA, which was developed in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is a necessary step toward the issuance of a new Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement (BiOp/ITC) for the ACP, as required under the Endangered Species Act. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously twice vacated the BiOp/ITC for the ACP, which led to construction activity on the ACP being suspended in December 2018.

Southern Environmental law Center wrote FERC on June 24 requesting that a public version of the new BA be posted on the FERC docket within five business days (by June 30), in accordance with statutory requirements.

New Report: Impact of Pipelines Crossing Streams and Rivers


From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update 281, June 18, 2020

West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Trout Unlimited have released a new report [June 2020] discussing the impact pipeline construction has on rivers and streams. Reducing Impacts of Pipelines Crossing Rivers and Streams notes that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline routes include over 2,600 waterbody crossings in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, including approximately 250 rivers and streams containing species of concern such as native and naturally reproducing trout, anadromous fish and sensitive mussels. The 7-page study discusses the various methods used for pipelines to cross streams and rivers and includes several case studies that document the environmental challenges posed by pipelines crossing water bodies.

Ten Reasons to Oppose the ACP


Back in January we posted ten reasons why Friends of Nelson opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and said you’d be hearing more about them. Now we’re happy to share our slide show on the 10 reasons – use it to help you to explain to family, friends, neighbors, and legislators why you oppose the ACP.

Forest Service Announces Supplemental EIS Process for ACP


From the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #280, June 11, 2020

Development of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was announced June 11 [2020] by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The Notice of Intent, published in the Federal Register, is in response to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals action of December 13, 2018 vacating the USFS’s Record of Decision and Special use Permit issued for the ACP. While one of the reasons for the Court’s action – whether the USFS had the authority to authorize the ACP to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) – is on appeal to and awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, there were several other issues in question that the SEIS process will focus upon:

  • Issues identified in the Court ruling including the potential for the proposal to cause adverse impacts to soil, water, and threatened and Endangered Species Act (ESA) Threatened and Endangered species and their habitat;
  • The purpose and impact of the Forest Plan amendments on affected resources (soil, water, ESA Threatened and Endangered species, scenic integrity, ANST, and eligible recreation rivers) and consistency with the Planning Rule;
  • The feasibility and practicality of having routes that are not on NFS lands; and,
  • A re-evaluation and assessment of erosion, sedimentation, and water quality effects in relation to anticipated mitigation effectiveness.

The USFS Federal Register Notice of Intent states that a draft SEIS will be available in July 2020 and that a final SEIS is anticipated later in 2020. The Notice indicated that when the Draft SEIS is made available there will be information provided about how public comments can be made.

Your Voice Is Needed

A request from Wild Virginia:

The Trump administration has acted to weaken Virginia’s ability to protect our water from projects like the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

We need your voice!

Please call Attorney General Mark Herring today at 804-786-2071.
Tell him to challenge an illegal regulation just finalized by the Trump administration to weaken state powers under the Clean Water Act

Background:
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has now finalized a change to the regulation governing states’ authorities under section 401 of the Clean Water Act; a portion of the law through which Congress intended to retain historic state authorities over their own environments and to veto or alter federally-licensed projects that would damage their waters and their people.

Last October, Wild Virginia sent this letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring urging him to strongly oppose this regulatory change and many of you contacted him as well. We are grateful that AG Herring acted in our interest to preserve Virginia’s authority by joining 23 other states in comments to the EPA opposing this move. Predictably, EPA ignored those comments and others from thousands of citizens across the country, in favor of industry interests who seek to avoid proper environmental regulation.

Now, it’s time for our Attorney General to go to court to defeat EPA’s unlawful action. 

Please join us in calling on the Attorney General today! (and thank him for his previous action) As stated in our letter from last year: The Commonwealth of Virginia, since its founding, has a strong history of independence and we must not now defer to the wishes of a President who would trample our rights in favor of fossil fuel companies and others who would despoil our state for profit. 

Please take a moment to add your voice and urge Mark Herring to stand up for our right to protect our water 804-786-2071.

President Signs Order Waiving Environmental Reviews for Key Projects

On June 4, 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities.”   According to the Washington Post report, the order instructs “agencies to waive long-standing environmental laws to speed up federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects given the current economic ’emergency.’ Declaring an economic emergency lets the president invoke a section of federal law allowing ‘action with significant environmental impact’ without observing normal requirements imposed by laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. These laws require agencies to solicit public input on proposed projects and analyze in detail how federal decisions could harm the environment.”

The order directs that “Agencies, including executive departments, should take all appropriate steps to use their lawful emergency authorities and other authorities to respond to the national emergency and to facilitate the Nation’s economic recovery.  As set forth in this order, agencies should take all reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments and to speed other actions in addition to such investments that will strengthen the economy and return Americans to work, while providing appropriate protection for public health and safety, natural resources, and the environment, as required by law.”

The President maintains that waiving requirements will help the country recover from virus-related economic losses.

There are instructions in the order specific to:

  • Expediting Delivery of Civil Works Projects Within the Purview of the Army Corps of Engineers
  • Expediting the Delivery of Infrastructure and other Projects on Federal Lands
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Emergency Regulations and Emergency Procedures
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) Emergency Consultation Regulations
  • Emergency Regulations and Nationwide Permits Under the Clean Water Act (CSW) and Other Statutes Administered by the Army Corps of Engineers

The Post report says, however, that “It is unclear how the directive will affect individual projects, especially since developers are often wary of legal challenges they could face from environmental or public interest groups. Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said in an email that ‘companies would be reluctant to rely on such an executive order,’ knowing they would later have to prove that they were operating in an emergency.”

Additionally, the Post notes, “Thomas Jensen, a partner at the firm Perkins Coie, said in an email that any decisions made in response to the executive order could be challenged in court. He noted that the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted 50 years ago partly to prevent arbitrary federal decisions such as building highways through parks and communities of color and that the current administration cannot simply set aside laws aimed at protecting vulnerable Americans or the environment. ‘I will not be surprised to see many observers comparing this move — declaring an emergency to shield agency decisions from the public — to the order to clear Lafayette Square on Monday evening,’ Jensen said, referring to actions in a Washington park this week. ‘It’s just one more face of authoritarian ideology, with a clear link to issues of race and equality and government accountability.'”