Category Archives: Environmental Impact

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.

Sacred Places Map


The Sacred Places Map combines the work of 18 fine artists to depict only a few of the sacred places, things and beings that would be threatened along the proposed ACP route in Virginia. Curator, Lilly Bechtel talks about the creation of the map and her work as an ARTivist. The map will be on display this Sunday, July 2, 2017, in Union Hill , during the Walking the Line celebration at the completion of the Bath to Buckingham walk.

Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia will celebrate the finish of its 150 mile witness by joining the Union Hill Baptist Church congregation for 10 am worship and the singing and filming of the final “Sow Em On the Mountain” song video and then join Friends of Buckingham for a ritual at the proposed compressor site and proceed next on to a potluck at Union Grove Baptist Church. Add your voice. Your hope. Join us! Union Hill Baptist Church is at State Rte 663, Buckingham, VA, 23921 (off 64E south of Charlottesville, take VA-20 S (24.7 mi). Take State Rte 655 to State Rte 602, 8 min (5.7 mi) Turn left onto State Rte 602, 6 min (5.2 mi) Continue on State Rte 660. Drive to State Rte 663, 8 min (4.3 mi)

Red Flags on ACP DEIS from US Fish and Wildlife Service


A lengthy article in The Recorder for June 29, 2017, reports on a letter to FERC from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), blocked on the FERC Website, but obtained by The Recorder through a FOIA request.

“The federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to management of fish, wildlife and natural habitats has sent up red flags over the draft environmental impact statement for Dominion and Duke Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A letter stamped ‘privileged’ from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expresses deep concerns over incomplete surveys and data. The Recorder obtained the letter, dated March 30 and blocked on the FERC website on April 6, under the Freedom of Information Act on June 22. The newspaper made the FOIA request April 7. The roughly one-month processing of FERC and the month-and-a-half it took USFWS to fill the request took a total of 76 days. Martin Miller, chief of the USFWS Division of Endangered Species Ecological Services, responded by sending an email attachment to his letter granting the request. John Schmidt, USFWS field supervisor, wrote the ‘privileged’ letter containing a four-page table of concerns over draft EIS shortcomings in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to FERC deputy secretary Nathaniel Davis.”

Among the concerns listed in the USFWS letter:

  • “The draft EIS was so sketchy with respect to karst, and endangered and threatened species survey data that the USFWS could not begin discussions about the document”
  • Lack sufficient data to form a biological opinion for multiple species due to incomplete survey data
  • DEIS says karst protection personnel will be consulted – will this be for all karst crossings in all states?
  • How could FERC claim damaging karst conditions in Bath County’s Little Valley would be adequately minimized when Little Valley hasn’t been surveyed?
  • Several comments repudiated FERC’s claims, based on Dominion’s input, that threatened and endangered species would be minimally impacted
  • Deforestation and fragmentation by temporary and permanent right-of-ways: “Even the ‘temporary’ disturbance in forested areas will be long-term because these forest stands will take decades to return to their former state on the area of the ROW allowed to return to its former state.”

Over and over, the USFWS letter asks if surveys have been completed, e.g. “Mussel surveys need to be completed,” or “have sediment analyses been completed?” or “need to provide the status of the habitat assessment or survey.”

Bottom line of this letter, blocked on the FERC Website: “The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service cannot initiate formal consultation with this DEIS” because it is so incomplete or lacking in necessary data.

Conflict of Interest

Is it a transparent, honest, open process when the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hires a Dominion contractor to review Dominion’s soil and erosion plans for the ACP? Not at all! Nevertheless, as DeSmog reports in their June 28, 2017, investigative article, that this is exactly what has happened.

DEQ has entered into a 2-million-dollar contract with an environmental consulting company to review Dominion’s plans when they are finally submitted. The contract, though not the contractor, was announced on the DEQ’s Water Protection for Pipelines website. That contractor, EEE Consulting, Inc., is also working directly for Dominion on other projects. Moreover, Dominion was given the “opportunity” to review and comment on the consulting company’s proposal before it was issued!

Although Dominion and its supporters have claimed that the project will be built “above and beyond” environmental requirements, the public has yet to see the site-specific plans that are needed for actual analysis, and it is still not clear if the plans will be site specific or generalized or if the public will have a meaningful opportunity to review and provide input prior to project approval.

Meanwhile, a company working for Dominion will be doing a review for DEQ. Conflict of interest? You bet!