Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Feds Issue Bulletin Warning of Pipeline Dangers in Mountains

From ABRA Update #228 for May 2, 2019

On May 2, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an advisory bulletin “to remind owners and operators of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines of the potential for damage to pipeline facilities caused by earth movement from both landslides and subsidence in variable, steep, and rugged terrain and for varied geological conditions.” The bulletin noted that “these conditions can pose a threat to the integrity of pipeline facilities if those threats are not identified and mitigated. PHMSA is aware of recent earth movement and other geological-related incidents/accidents and safety-related conditions throughout the county, particularly in the eastern portion of the United States.” The bulletin is available here.

The PHMSA bulletin is being issued at a time when significant slope failures have been reported for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in the area of West Virginia where construction was taking place until late last year when it ceased. The photo above, taken recently by the Pipeline Air Force of ABRA’s Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), shows the degree to which slopes in a hilly area have failed in an area that has been cleared along the ACP right-a-way. The fallen trees are the result of the slope failure.

ABRA is currently conducting a study on landslides and pipelines, which will be issued soon. Over a dozen such incidents have already been detected by the ABRA/CSI program along the route in lower elevations of West Virginia.

Pipeline industry representatives say they already have detailed, established methods to avoid damage to their lines from landslides and other movement. Of course they do. Explain again MVP last summer, landslides occurring now on ACP, recent explosions, etc.?

Radio Feature: Court Challenges to ACP

In a 5-minute feature story airing on April 30, 2019, WMRA’s Andrew Jenner brings us up to speed on the complicated landscape of environmental challenges to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The story includes interviews with Patrick Hunter (Southern Environmental Law Center), Lewis Freeman (Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance) and Karl Neddenien (Dominion spokesperson).

What Dominion Calls ‘Best in Class’

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #227:

For the past five years, since announcing plans to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), Dominion Energy has touted that its construction of the project would employ “best in class” techniques to prevent sediment runoff from endangering streams and rivers. The photo above was taken on April 20 by ABRA’s Compliance Surveillance Initiative team along Elk Lick Road in Lewis County, WV, near Milepost 4 of the ACP. It shows the so-called “best in class” techniques that Dominion’s contractors are using. The barricade that is pictured is comprised of metal piping holding up stacked lumber. It appears that the contractor ran short of lumber.

The photo was taken in dry weather. There are two nearby streams that would be adversely impacted by sediment runoff caused by an even modest rainfall. A further observation: the terrain in this area of the ACP route is hilly, but not mountainous. One can only imagine how ineffective such “best in class” sediment control techniques would be in the steeper mountains further along the route in Pocahontas and Randolph Counties (WV) and Highland, Bath, Augusta and Nelson Counties (VA).

You Can’t Just “smooth it back over”

So often we hear pipeline proponents say that after it is built you won’t know it is there. As Robert Pollok says, “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

In the April 7, 2019, article in, Pittsylvania County farmer sheds light on how pipeline project will affect land for years to come, Pollok explains how pipeline construction would affect his small-grain seed production operation. Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposed Southgate extension project would run through his land and through two different properties he leases. During construction he would be unable to get farm equipment across MVP’s work zone to reach both a part of his own property and one of his leased properties which is only accessible through the part of his land that would be inaccessible. He estimates that at least 55 acres of crop land could be inaccessible during construction spanning two growing seasons.

“Pollok said he’s concerned about whether he’ll be able to grow enough to satisfy the customer base the farm has built up over 30-plus years. He’s also concerned that he will not have the option of expanding during that time. …. As a farmer in the highly-regulated certified seed production industry, Pollok’s products undergo several stages of scrutiny, from field inspections prior to harvest by state agents to sending his yield to the state to undergo a series of quality tests. ‘If it does not meet the criteria for certified seed at that point, even before I harvest it, it’s rejected for being able to be kept for seed, and it cannot be sold for seed,’ said Pollok. The seed must be free of any contamination from weeds and disease as well as be genetically pure, otherwise it’s prohibited from sale of any kind. …. Therefore, he keeps his fields carefully controlled. His equipment is only used on his own fields so as not to potentially transfer weeds from another farmer’s field to his.”

Beyond inhibiting his ability to farm parts of his land during the proposed construction, Pollok says it will take years to reverse the harm to the land caused by construction in the temporary workspaces. In 1990 his family acquired the section of land where Southgate wants to build, and “it took them more than a decade to fix the very sections damaged by the construction of the Transco pipeline in 1954. ‘It still had remnants of uneven ground and unproductive soil,’ said Pollok. ‘It was close to the early 2000s before we had it where you couldn’t say, “Oh, this was where the pipeline was,”‘ he said. ‘The crops wouldn’t be lagging in yield quality because of where that construction took place decades before.'”

And every time crews come to do work or make repairs to the pipeline, they damage the land again. “Driving up his driveway to his house, Pollok pointed out the vehicle’s window to the spot where the crews had worked a few years ago. Compared to the ground around it, grass grew more sparsely with patches of dirt clearly visible. Thick grass lined the perimeter of the former work zone. ‘Stuff still doesn’t grow right, and that was four years ago,’ he said.”

Pollok thinks it would take at least five years after construction to heal the land. During construction and during the healing time thereafter, his yield – and therefore his livelihood – would be severely reduced, and he wonders if he would ever regain the lost business. “So many people think that once they’re done, [and] smooth it back over, that you can just pop it up and plant something. And that just doesn’t happen that way.”

Read the full article here.

Fossil Fueled Foolery

Press release from the NAACP, April Fool’s Day 2019:

BALTIMORE (April 1, 2019) On April Fools’ Day, the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Department is releasing, “Fossil Fueled Foolery: An Illustrated Primer on the Top 10 Manipulation Tactics of the Fossil Fuel Industry.” Read the report here.

The report takes aim at the well-documented strategies and tactics employed by fossil fuel companies, lobbyists and advocates to manipulate communities, policy makers, and academia in ways perpetuating polluting practices that harm communities and the environment.

“One of the most duplicitous strategies of the fossil fuel industry is manipulating messaging which feigns concern for the welfare of low income and communities of color. This is a self-serving effort to maintain their wealth,” says Kathy Egland, Chair of the NAACP National Board Committee on Environmental and Climate Justice. “The unmitigated gall, to use as pawns the very demographics that they have caused such disproportionate harm through their polluting practices, reflects the low levels to which they will sink. Greed has no moral or ethical bounds, and we will continue to expose their foolery in seeking to deceive our communities,” she added.

For Jacqueline Patterson, Senior Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, the key goal of this report is to empower NAACP branches, members and elected officials to understand the disingenuous ways in which this industry promotes policies dangerous to our communities and the planet.

“In releasing this paper, our central aim is to ensure that our branches, chapters, and state conferences are fully aware of the practices employed by too many in the fossil fuel industry, to attempt to entice them to act against the interests of the communities we serve,” said Patterson. “We also lift up the many examples where our local leaders see these machinations for what they are, resist, and lead in the transition to a new, sustainable and just energy economy,” she added.

Please download the report here.

People in the Path of the Pipelines

The Appalachian Voice for February/March 2019 includes a second installment in their “People in the Path of the Pipeline” series. There are stories from people in the path of the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, Mountain Valley Southgate, and Mountaineer Xpress Pipelines. Read the February 2019 set of stories here, and the earlier April/May 2018 stories here.