Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Stand with Union Hill


The following is an account posted on Facebook by Water Is Life. Protect It on July 26, 2018.

Stand with Union Hill: The story of stark environmental racism gains and needs new allies to be told, to be shouted from the mountain top. This week’s meeting [week of July 23, 2018] between Union Hill and Dominion/ACP brought new allies and a terrifying glimpse of a complete disregard for safety on the part of Dominion Energy.

One Buckingham County witness wrote of the photos here: “Reverend Kevin Chandler, President of the Virginia NAACP came to Union Hill to announce that the powerful civil rights organization has taken a position against the ACP pipeline and the proposed Union Hill compressor station.

The uneasy looking group of white men in the foreground of the next photo—those are Dominion executives. They and five others had come to a community meeting in Pastor Paul Wilson’s Union Hill Grove Baptist Church to try to reassure the African-American community that the compressor station and the pipeline would be safe and would not hurt them. However, they seemed increasingly anxious when they were asked to describe the size of the kill zone in the event of a pipeline leak or a compressor station disaster. They said they just couldn’t answer the question which they were asked in three different ways. They also were forced to admit that they hadn’t even drafted their emergency response plan in the event that something were to go wrong at the compressor station they want to build in within yards of the homes of Union Hill—an historic African-American Community.

Meanwhile, a US Justice Department official, Suzanne Buchanan of the federal community relations service (with Pastor Paul) showed up. She said she realized that the people of Union Hill were feeling frustrated and unheard. She watched with what appeared to be astonishment when the dominion executives were unable to describe the dimensions of the Kill zone.

If the people of Union Hill were skeptical and even frightened at the prospect of the compressor station and its pipeline coming to their community before tonight by the time the meeting was over they were much more wary.

Virginia NAACP Calls for Halt to All MVP and ACP Construction

Rev. Kevin Chandler, VA NAACP President, at Union Hill

In a letter dated May 30, 2018, the Virginia State NAACP has called on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to halt all construction activity for both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

An article in Blue Virginia on July 30, 2018, says, “The state NAACP statement was submitted to the Virginia State Water Control Board on May 30 as part of a public comment period on the proposed pipelines. It was among thousands of comments submitted by concerned citizens and environmental and community organizations. The NAACP statement has remained hidden from public view because DEQ has failed to publish the ‘public’ comments, pointing to an unspecified security ‘issue’ with its website and the time needed to ‘process’ so many comments. DEQ’s lack of transparency left the NAACP statement and similar submissions largely unavailable – until now. It is yet another example of what has been called DEQ’s broken regulatory process under its longtime director, David Paylor.” (Note that although DEQ has been unable to make comments public, Wild Virginia and Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition obtained most of the 10,000 comments through a FOIA request, and have made them public, something DEQ has been unable or unwilling to do.)

The NAACP letter denounces DEQ for deferring to Nationwide Permit 12 water quality standards rather than applying the stricter Virginia standards, and calls on DEQ to conduct a “comprehensive site-specific stream-by-stream analysis that reviews the cumulative effects of the multiple crossings within individual watersheds.” The letter notes that “socio-economic data and wetland and stream information crucial to conducting accurate and unbiased assessments are missing, inaccurate and incomplete.”

The letter also points out the environmental racism inherent in Dominion’s plan to build the only Virginia compressor station in the African-American Union Hill community. “Established by freed enslaved people, Union Hill relies on a single-source aquifer for their drinking water,” and Dominion and DEQ gave “no consideration for pipeline ruptures which could pollute the single source aquifer which feeds the wells of Union Hill and most of Buckingham County.”

The Blue Virginia article details the many strong public statements by the NAACP against pipeline projects and the ways communities of color are particularly impacted by their construction and operation.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Noncompliance

DPMC photo – Randolph County WV, ACP milepost 60

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition’s Pipeline Air Force, a component of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), has conducted multiple surveillance flights over Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) construction areas in West Virginia in recent months.

The CSI photos of ACP construction reveal that installation of runoff and erosion and sediment controls is occurring after rather than before or concurrent with construction-related earth disturbance. Their studies of previous pipeline projects, along with continuing reports of problems with other pipelines under construction in the region, indicate that delayed installation of runoff and erosion and sediment controls is standard industry practice and a major cause of water resource degradation.

Dominion Energy has taken this delayed approach to installation of environmental controls in the first phases of ACP construction. Apparently it intends to build the entire project on this incautious and non compliant basis.

More information, including aerial photos, is provided on the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition website:  see Industry-Standard Noncompliance.

The report includes a small subset of the thousands of aerial photos of ACP construction obtained by the CSI. Consistent with observations of other pipeline projects in the region, these photos provide compelling evidence that citizen oversight of pipeline construction is needed.

Court Cancels BLM and Forest Service Permits


On July 27, 2018, a federal court rescinded Mountain Valley Pipeline’s permit to cross the Jefferson National Forest. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit voted unanimously to vacate the permits MVP had received from the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to cross the Jefferson National Forest.

The lawsuit that led to this decision was brought by the Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, Appalachian Voices and other local groups. According to Wild Virginia, the court sided with their arguments that:

  1. the Forest Service was arbitrary in concluding that sedimentation and erosion impacts to be mitigated to insignificance,
  2. the Forest Service violated the 2012 Forest Planning Rule by arbitrarily concluding that amendments to the forest plan were not “directly related” to that rule, and
  3. that BLM violated the Mineral Leasing Act by failing to demonstrate that alternative routes that would increase co-location with existing rights-of-way were impractical.

As a result of the decision, MVP should halt work in the Jefferson National Forest immediately. David Sligh of Wild Virginia the court’s decision “…upholds the principle that agencies responsible for protecting the public lands and resources must conduct thorough and honest reviews and reject proposals that would harm our interests.”

Friends of Nelson president Helen Kimble commented: “Friends of Nelson and other citizen groups submitted numerous comments to the FERC regarding US Forest Service and National Park Service permits for the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline citing numerous deficiencies. We also expressed concern about the use of a third party contractor by the USFS/NPS who also worked for the ACP as a consultant, to review the pipeline operator’s plans for the route. We commend the 4th Circuit for noting similar deficiencies regarding the Mountain Valley Pipeline and taking action to force these agencies to perform a proper review.”

See press coverage by WVTF and the Washington Post.