Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Pipe Coatings

In a letter to FERC,submitted as a Motion to Intervene on September 16, 2019, Bill Limpert discusses Dominion’s July 22 and August 23 reports to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Dominion reports were in response to FERC’s July 3 request for data regarding possible environmental and health impacts from the 3M Scotchkote Fusion Bonded Epoxy 6233 external pipe coating, and other pipe coating products used for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Limpert says, “I believe Dominion’s reports significantly understate the risk to public health and the environment from this coating, and other products used on the exterior of the pipe. I believe the reports use questionable data, and questionable methodologies to arrive at unreliable conclusions, and therefore, do not adequately answer the FERC’s request for information, or the concerns raised by the Virginia Department of Health.”

Limpert then critiques Dominion’s July 22 report in detail, covering the lack of leaching studies, the impacts of degradation and the long-term health impacts.

He states, “The Dominion reports use questionable data and questionable methodologies to arrive at unreliable conclusions. They do not prove the pipeline coating is safe, or that there will be no negative health or environmental impacts from the coating and associated products used on the exterior of the pipes for the ACP. They do not reliably answer the questions presented in FERC’s request, nor the concerns of the Virginia Department of Health.”

Limpert’s critique of the July 22 report concludes with a list of recommendations for actions FERC should take, including additional study using valid data and methodology, consultation with federal agencies with expertise, advising the US Fish and Wildlife Service that a 3M Material Declaration states that UV degradation byproducts will be toxic to aquatic life, requiring ACP to conduct pre and post construction sampling for chemicals associated with this coating and other products used on the exterior of the pipes in drinking water wells and springs in the vicinity of the proposed pipeline, requiring ACP to provide a potable water source and fair compensation for drinking water sources that are contaminated by these products, and requiring that all pipes be immediately covered to prevent UV degradation material from becoming airborne.

Limpert also writes a detailed critique of Dominion’s August 23 report.

Read the full letter and the attachments to it here.

New Rule Will Reduce Future Endangered Species Protections

A new rule that will significantly limit protections for endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was announced by the Trump Administration on August 12, 2009, and will take effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register. Note that ESA issues related to the Atlantic Coat Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are not impacted by the new rule, as it is only applicable to future listing and delisting of threatened and endangered species.

The Trump Administration says the new rule will ease “the regulatory burden on the American public.” Environmental and conservation groups have a different take:

  •  Undermining this popular and successful law is a major step in the wrong direction as we face the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife. – Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club
  • “We are in the midst of an unprecedented extinction crisis, yet the Trump Administration is steamrolling our most effective wildlife protection law. This Administration seems set on damaging fragile ecosystems by prioritizing industry interests over science. – Rebecca Riley, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • “Threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants in our national parks already face habitat changes and impacts of a climate crisis that is accelerating each year. Instead of working with Congress and states to better protect and restore wildlife as the climate changes, the Trump administration is reinterpreting the Endangered Species Act to weaken protections. – Bart Melton, National Parks Conservation Association.

In an August 22, 2019 letter to the editor of The Recorder, Robert “Bobby” Whitescarver says, “Representative Leonor Sullivan (D) stated the reason for the law succinctly on July 27, 1973, on the House floor when she introduced the bill: ‘From the most narrow possible point of view, it is in the best interest of mankind to minimize the losses of genetic variations. The reason is simple: they are potential resources. They are the keys to puzzles which we cannot solve, and may provide answers to questions which we have not yet learned to ask.’ In other words, it is not wise to wipe off the face of the Earth a species that could hold the cure for cancer or any number of human ailments. Today, one-fourth of all pharmaceuticals come from, or are derived from, plant and animal material.”

The courts have twice tossed out the permit for allowing the elimination or “taking” of an endangered species or its habitat by Dominion. Whitescarver concludes, “If a bee, a bat, a mussel, or a crustacean can stop Dominion’s pipeline, I’m all for it. I wish the people in its path had as much standing in court as the critters.” With the new ruling, it seems that neither the people in the path nor endangered/threatened species would have any power against the will of for-profit corporations.

New Lawsuit Launched Against MVP

The following press release from the Sierra Club announces the lawsuit against the Mountain Valley Pipeline filed on August 12, 2019.

Monday, August 12, 2019
Contact: Doug Jackson, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054, jmargolis@biologicaldiversity.org

RICHMOND, Va. — Conservation groups today launched a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The petition for review of the project was filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Endangered Species Act, issued an opinion that allowed the pipeline to move forward — despite its serious threats to endangered species. The agency failed to accurately measure the pipeline’s impacts on endangered wildlife like the iconic Roanoke logperch and failed to set limits for how many threatened and endangered bats can be harmed or killed.

The lawsuit seeks to vacate the Service’s decision and force the agency to re-evaluate the project’s impact. The groups argue that construction on the already-foundering pipeline should stop until that process is complete.

Today, the groups also sent a letter to the agency requesting that it stay the biological opinion and incidental take statement pending court review. The species at issue include the Roanoke logperch, Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat. The suit was filed by the Sierra Club on behalf of Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices, Preserve Bent Mountain/BREDL, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Additionally, MVP does not have Clean Water Act authorization to cross streams and wetlands from the Army Corps, and does not have necessary U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management authorizations.

In response, Sierra Club Staff Attorney Elly Benson released the following statement:

“The fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline puts several endangered species in harm’s way, while serving only to line the pockets of polluting corporations. MVP has proven it can’t build this unnecessary pipeline without devastating streams and rivers, as well as the forest habitats of Appalachia. The public should be able to trust that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making protection of endangered species its highest priority, but it fell short of that obligation here.”

David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia stated:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, like numerous other government agencies tasked with protecting the public and our resources, failed to do its job. Citizens cannot and will not accept actions that endanger the future of some of our rarest and most precious wildlife species. This destructive pipeline has already caused great damage to the environment and the public and it must be stopped before that damage gets worse.”

Roberta Bondurant, Preserve Bent Mountain/BREDL, said:

“Our mountain communities continue to witness MVP ravage the forest, field, stream and wetland sanctuaries of species that have supposedly been protected by federal law. We ask USFWS and the courts to do no more—and no less—than uphold that law through a critical review of the Biological Opinion. At best, the writers of that document ignored evidence of MVP construction as a threat to species survival—survival which will ultimately implicate our own.”

Anne Havemann, General Counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proven its carelessness in forcing through a permit for the similarly destructive Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We have seen this same carelessness in the Service’s permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This pipeline has already wreaked havoc on the landscape; it must not be allowed to continue to jeopardize the existence of our invaluable endangered species.”

Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney, said:

“This pipeline is a major threat to the Roanoke River system and the people and imperiled species that rely on it. Regulators can’t keep shrugging off the environmental harms of pipeline projects. We need to stop destroying habitats and waterways for fossil fuels that are driving the climate catastrophe.”

Jason Rylander, Senior Endangered Species Counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, said:

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline poses an enormous threat to the fish, wildlife, forests, and people in its path. The Trump administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fast-tracked this project and failed to properly evaluate its impact on imperiled species. The Service needs to reconsider its biological opinion and further construction of this environmentally destructive project should cease before iconic species and landscapes are lost forever.”

Proposed Rule Changes Could Fast Track Pipelines

The EPA plans to rewrite the Clean Water Act, limiting the amount of time states and tribes may take to review new project proposals, and allowing the federal government to override states’ decisions to deny permits for projects in some situations. The change was announced by the EPA on August 9, 2019, and follows on an April executive order from President Donald Trump.

See detailed coverage of the story by Inside Climate News and Utility Dive.

Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, is quoted in the Inside Climate News article, saying, “This proposed rule change would hobble the most important tool that states have to protect significant waters, from prized trout streams to essential drinking water sources.”

Motion to Intervene Filed with FERC

1999 USGS image of debris flows associated with Roberts Mt. and vicinity; ACP route marked in blue.

At the Friends of Nelson public meeting on June 30, 2019, Anne Witt, a Geohazards Geologist from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, presented her preliminary work on a VDEM-FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Project. This project is to develop a risk assessment of landslides in western Albemarle and Nelson counties based on previous landslide events that occurred largely during Hurricane Camille, and utilizes remote sensing of landslides in the study area using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning technology.

Friends of Nelson Board Member Jim Bolton has used some of Witt’s findings, including maps and LIDAR images, in his August 2, 2019, letter to FERC, filed as a Motion to Intervene. He says, “Clearly, these new data render the claim made in the FEIS, that ‘Atlantic incorporated a route alternative (the East of Lovingston Major Route Alternative) to avoid the debris flows and other features identified by the USGS,’ substantially less accurate (and potentially more misleading) than previously thought, and in fact, function to reinforce the already convincing evidence summarized above that the conclusions of the EIS are flawed, and that rather than avoiding them, the current route cuts directly through some of the areas of highest density of debris slides and flows.”

Bolton states in his conclusion that “the risk to public safety is significantly exacerbated when pipeline projects are constructed through areas of steep slopes, especially those that have historically experienced major soil slippage, and it is increasingly apparent that the analysis of the evidence in the EIS regarding the threat for increased debris flow activity along the ACP’s route through Nelson County, and other areas of similar terrain, is both incomplete and seriously flawed. Furthermore, the appearance of new data showing that the pre-existing disturbance of soils covering the steep terrain of Nelson County may actually be even more prevalent than thought previously, must amount to additional grounds for reconsideration of the ACP’s permit of public necessity and convenience. The Commission is therefore called upon not only to take any time that may be required to thoroughly revisit this situation, but also to review, on an ongoing basis, any emerging data that are relevant, and to take them, and their implications for public safety, into account in any subsequent decisions that may become appropriate and/or necessary in the future, and especially in any consideration of alternate routing that may be made necessary by subsequent court decisions.”

Read the full Motion to Intervene here.

DEQ Issues Stop Work on 2-Mile Section of MVP

Following is a statement issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on August 2, 2019.

Contact: Ann Regn, 804-698-4442, Ann.Regn@DEQ.Virginia.gov

DEQ ISSUES STOP WORK ON APPROXIMATELY TWO-MILE SECTION OF MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE

All ongoing clearing, grading and trenching must stop in this designated area

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a stop work instruction to Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP). The instruction is based on issues identified during DEQ inspections that cite insufficient erosion and sediment controls on approximately a two-mile section of the project in Spread H in Montgomery County.

Based on a DEQ inspection conducted on Thursday, Aug. 1, the agency has determined that an imminent and substantial adverse impact to water quality is likely to occur as a result of land-disturbing activities. Specifically, MVP has failed to construct and maintain erosion and sediment control or pollution prevention measures in accordance with approved site-specific plans and/or the erosion and sediment control measures that have been installed are not functioning effectively and MVP has not proposed any corrective action.

Work in this section will be suspended until these corrective actions are installed and approved by DEQ through field inspection and verification. MVP must stop all land disturbing activities in this area including clearing, grading and trenching activities in the designated area. The only activity currently authorized in this area is work necessary to install and maintain erosion control devices as required by the approved site-specific erosion and sediment control plans, and the annual standards and specifications.

“We are appalled that construction priorities and deadline pressures would ever rise above the proper and appropriate use of erosion control measures,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “DEQ will continue to monitor and inspect all ongoing work to ensure continued compliance and protection of Virginia’s natural resources.”

For more information and the full stop work instruction, visit www.DEQ.Virginia.gov/MVP

Press coverage in the Roanoke Times is here. The Roanoke Times article says, “Environmental advocate Russell Chisholm said in a release that he was ‘appalled’ that the company’s skimping on control measures to advance the project surprised the DEQ. Citizens have repeatedly reported similar lapses in permit compliance for at least a year.”    His statement noted that “In response to citizen reports, ‘those in positions of power chose to ignore our calls for real, meaningful enforcement through a stop work order and instead allowed MVP to work despite several missing federal permits, a pending lawsuit for violations, and at least 35 Notices of Violation in West Virginia.'”


An additional blow to MVP on August 2, 2019, came from federal district court Judge Elizabeth Dillon, who denied the pipeline company’s request for an order removing tree sitters on the route.  See Jonathan Sokolow’s report.