Category Archives: Environmental Impact

DEQ Gives Notice to MVP on Violations


On July 10, 2018, both the Roanoke Times and WSLS10 reported that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has given EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a nine-page notice of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates. The notice says MVP failed to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations.

Read the full Notice of Violation.

According to the Roanoke Times, “The Virginia notice is not a finding of guilt or liability but a set of allegations over which the company and regulators are to negotiate and reach agreement. In Virginia, fines for environmental violations of the type alleged can reach $32,000 per day. ‘We are holding MVP accountable and we expect full resolution of the issues,’ DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said Tuesday. …. The unexpectedly large rainfall won’t qualify as an excuse for not keeping sediment under control, said Regn, who added that the company is responsible for cleanup.”

The company has 10 days to respond – BUT they are allowed to keep working during the 10 days.

DPMC Posts Summary of Comments on Stream Crossings

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has posted links to the Virginia Conservation Network’s collection of comments to the State Water Control Board, along with an initial summary of comments to which the SWCB must respond.

From the DPMC Web page (many thanks to DPMC for their fine summary!):

The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) has collected  comments submitted in response to the State Water Control Board’s request for public input concerning the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 and where it falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. VCN has established a webpage to provide access to these comments:  http://www.vcnva.org/pipeline-comments/.

An extensive review and summary of comments will be prepared and made available to the public and the Water Control Board. A initial summary of assembled comments follows. Additional comments can be shared with David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory System Investigator, at david@wildvirginia.org.

Initial Summary of Comments: NWP12 is Not Sufficient to Protect Virginia Streams

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP12) is insufficient to meet Virginia’s water quality standards. This permit is for “activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) clearly do not meet this description. Consider the following synopsis from a selection of comments to the State Water Control Board.

    • Damage to streams is already being caused by construction activities: mudslides and sediment discharges from MVP have inundated Virginia streams and covered roads and neighboring properties; NWP12 is currently allowing damage to streams in South Carolina from a Dominion Energy project; West Virginia regulators have already issued four Notices of Violation for serious erosion problems and stream impacts from MVP. SELC and Appalachian Mountain Advocates comments discuss the current on-the-ground situation in detail.
    • Mitigation measures as planned are inadequate to protect water quality: plans from developers are generalized and site-specific analyses are inadequate; many designs currently exceed engineering specifications; plans fail to consider combined impacts from upland activities and stream crossings. Sierra Club’s comments describe specific inadequate engineering evaluations and designs in detail.
    • NWP12 ignores cumulative effects of multiple crossings: the permit looks at individual crossings in isolation and ignores the cumulative effects of multiple crossings on the same stream or small watershed. Wild Va/DPMC comments identify and describe potential individual and combined impacts from numerous sites within four “clusters” of crossings.
    • DEQ presented incomplete and inaccurate information to the public: at least 81 crossings proposed by ACP and many for MVP are omitted from tables provide by DEQ (which were to provide the bases for comments to the SWCB); the tables also mischaracterize waterbody features. Crossings not identified or accurately described cannot have been adequately reviewed by the Corps or DEQ.
    • When violations occur at specific crossings, as highlighted by the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative, the impacts disproportionately impact low-income and/or minority communities.
    • The SWCB cannot defer to other agencies to protect our waters: the Corps admits it does not assess whether projects can meet state standards and that recreational uses may be impaired or eliminated. Anti-degradation analyses required by state regulations were not conducted by the Corps or DEQ. Wild Va/DPMC comments describe numerous high quality waters where state standards cannot be met and Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has already granted variances to time of year restrictions that are crucial to protect endangered species and sensitive trout streams.
    • The Water Board must use its authority to protect VA’s streams, specifically:
      • Require individual stream crossing reviews for the most sensitive streams and watersheds
      • Insist on complete and accurate information from the developers on the proposed designs, mitigation measures, and disallow variances that threaten water quality
      • Conduct a 30-day comment period on the DEQ draft individual permits
      • Suspend all activity until these reviews are complete

End of the Line: Episode 19, Mud


Listen to the new End of the Line podcast, Episode 19, Mud (Original air date: July 6, 2018). Pipeline fighters are keeping their promise to watch Mountain Valley Pipeline’s every move, catching almost daily construction failures that are damaging their creeks and streams, and doing the job that Virginia DEQ is either unable – or unwilling – to do.

An alternate image from End of the Line to go along with their latest Episode “MUD”:

Federal Court Asked to Halt ACP Construction Activity


News from Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance:

A motion was filed late today with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, asking that construction activity on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) be halted until the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) complies with the particulars of the Court’s May 15 order vacating the FWS’s Incidental Take Statement for the ACP. The motion was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and Virginia Wildlife Committee.

The 4th Circuit’s Order had stated:

” . . . we conclude, for reasons to be more fully explained in a forthcoming opinion, that the limits set by the agency are so indeterminate that they undermine the Incidental Take Statement’s enforcement and monitoring function under the Endangered Species Act. Accordingly, we VACATE the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Incidental Take Statement.”

While it has been over 7 weeks since the Order was issued, the 4th Circuit has yet to issue an opinion explaining the reasons for its decision and the actions that FWS should take.

Today’s SELC motion argues that notwithstanding the May 15 4th Circuit Order, ACP “is racing ahead with construction, including within habitat of endangered species. An injunction is necessary to stop the potential take of species and to prevent foreclosure of reasonable and prudent alternatives that FWS may require to satisfy its ESA obligations, following the Court’s opinion. An injunction will ensure FWS can appropriately respond to this Court’s instructions and will prevent unnecessary, imminent, and irreparable harm.”

SELC, on behalf of the same three clients, on June 11 requested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission revoke its May 11 authorization for construction of the ACP in West Virginia given the 4th Circuit Order. To date, FERC has not responded to that request, and in fact has authorized on two separate occasions further work and construction waivers for the ACP.

A copy of the SELC motion filed today with the 4th Circuit is available here.

VADEQ Lifts Voluntary MVP Work Stoppage

Based on soil erosion and sediment controls issues identified during inspections and on complaint inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (with most complaints having been filed by private citizens in the absence of active DEQ inspections), Mountain Valley Pipeline agreed to temporarily suspend work on June 29, 2018. Work was to resume only after MVP received approval by DEQ.

Now, just two working days later, in the late afternoon on July 3, 2018 (clearly aiming for minimal public attention the day before a holiday), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality released two of three areas for continued construction.

The statement posted on the DEQ Web page says, “Three areas of the Mountain Valley Pipeline  project have been evaluated. After completion of DEQ inspections to ensure proper soil erosion and sediment controls are implemented, on July 3, 2018, two have been released to work. DEQ inspectors will continue to be on site to monitor and review pipeline construction throughout the project. The public is welcome to email complaints, submit pollution reports on the DEQ website, or call (804) 698-4003. Complaints and concerns will be investigated as DEQ receives them. A summary of complaint investigations and site inspections is available.”

SELC Says Agency Rolled Back Restrictions for Dominion

Photo by Holly Marcus

The ABRA Newsletter reports that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) rolled back construction restrictions to help Dominion with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), in the closing days of the McAuliffe administration, rolled back restrictions on construction in streams to help Dominion and Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers move the project along faster. The modifications granted, which were pursuant to a September 8, 2017 request from Dominion Energy, would effectively weaken protections for Virginia water and wildlife, were made without public input or notice from Virginia to the public, despite widespread opposition to the project. Dominion had previously agreed to all of the restrictions as set out in the project’s environmental impact statement, but it sought waivers to the Time of Year Restrictions (TOYRs) because the company could not meet its original construction schedule. The revelation was announced June 28 by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), which obtained the information through documents obtained through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. In a June 22 letter to Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, who oversees VDGIF, SELC said:

The waivers granted include rescission of the rainbow, brook, and brown trout TOYRs on the Jackson River, one of Virginia’s premier trout rivers, and permission to conduct in-stream construction on at least six Cowpasture River tributaries during the James Spinymussel TOYR. For other streams, such as Stuart Run, Morris Run, Dowell’s Draft, and Back Creek (Augusta County), VDGIF agreed to totally rescind the applicable trout TOYRs. For thirteen Mill Creek tributaries, the agency offered to allow in-stream construction during the James Spinymussel restricted period. In many cases, VDGIF made waivers more extensive than what Atlantic and Dominion had asked for.

Continuing, SELC pointed out to Secretary Strickler:

These rescissions and alterations of TOYRs put in place to protect important public resources are not consistent with the Governor’s promise to protect Virginia rivers and streams from harm caused by pipeline construction and should be reversed. We further request that Virginia publicly commit to strict enforcement of the various resource protection measures imposed by state agencies, and that Virginia will not grant requests for alteration or waiver of these restricted periods and other protective measures without formal public notice and at least a 30-day comment period.

This story was also reported on June 28, 2018, in the Augusta Free Press.