Category Archives: Natural Resources

Tell the Marine Resource Commission: No Pipeline!

The Public Notice above appeared on November 23, 2017, buried in the back pages of the print edition of the Thanksgiving Day Nelson County Times – and several layers down in the online edition. Yes, we’re sure the notice meets legal requirements, but given its timing it is clearly an effort to slip beneath everyone’s radar. (Thanks, Elinor Amidon, for your vigilance!)

Let’s make sure the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is awash with comments by December 7!

Send your letters opposing the ACP drilling under our streams and rivers to:
Marine Resources Commission
Habitat Management Division
2600 Washington Ave, 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23607

You may send comments by email to: Put ACP in the subject line.

Tell them who you are, where you live, and why you oppose the ACP’s request to put its proposed pipeline beneath these 48 non-tidal and 3 tidal streams.

Forest Service Approves Amendments to Forest Plans for ACP

On November 17, 2017, the US Forest Service released a final Record of Decision (ROD) approving amendments to the Forest Plans for the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest to accommodate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Although this action had been anticipated after the Forest Service’s recent rejection of objections to the draft ROD, the November 17 decision provides the basis of the USFS issuing a Special Use Permit for the ACP.

An overview of and link to the 63-page decision is here.

Both Wild Virginia and Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) released statements condemning the decision.

Lew Freeman, ABRA Executive Director, said, “We firmly disagree with the decision announced today by the U.S. Forest Service to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through publicly owned forest lands – valued by millions of visitors and the source of drinking water for thousands of people. We believe this decision is based on seriously deficient and incorrect information. The action imperils some of the nation’s most treasured natural resources and reflects a rush to judgment that is contrary to the standards of deliberation that we have a right to expect from the Forest Service. The decision should be strongly challenged.”

“One of the most egregious aspects of this action is that high-ranking officials in Atlanta and Milwaukee clearly yielded to pressure from industry and their bosses in Washington and disregarded the opinions of those who know these lands best, the Forest Service scientists who work every day to protect and preserve these precious areas,” said Misty Boos, Director of Wild Virginia. “Throughout the last three years, these locally-based experts have raised alarms about the wide range of threats and the certain damages that would result – many of them long-term, some permanent and irreparable.”

During its evaluation of the proposal, the Forest Service repeatedly either asked Dominion for additional information or said it did not have enough information to make a decision – but has now approved it despite the many unanswered questions, allowing Dominion to submit many of its environmental protection plans after the fact. “They’re letting the company basically make up a lot of it after the approval happened,” said David Sligh, an environmental attorney. “There’s way too much latitude for the agencies and the companies themselves that should be open to public involvement and public comment.”

“For the last two years, the Forest Service has been clear that ACP developers did not provide the agency with enough information to make a decision on this project. Serious questions remain about whether or not the pipeline can be built safely through the steep, unforgiving terrain of the Appalachians, but the agency abruptly changed course and approved the project,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The Forest Service now joins the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in approving a project that isn’t needed and that is designed to enrich developers at the expense of landowners, utility customers, and natural resources. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will strip people of their private property, raise their energy bills, and put thousands of waterways and forests in harm’s way – for the sole benefit of utility companies.”

Richmond Times Dispatch coverage of the story is here, and NBC29 coverage, including the releases from the Forest Service, from Dominion Energy, and from Southern Environmental Law Center, is here.

Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss

An article in the November 14, 2017 AgWeb (Farm Journal Media), Pipelines and Farmers Battle Over Lifetime Loss, says, “Pipelines and agriculture are a contentious pair, with a growing number of farmers raising concerns over soil health, drainage issues, and responses from oil and gas companies.”

Three farmers in Illinois, Georgia, and Iowa talk at length about their personal experiences with three different pipelines built across their land and the problems they caused.

“‘Pipelines promise the world and money. Sure, I love energy efficiency, but I’m a farmer and I don’t want this pipeline headache on my property. If you can keep a pipeline from coming through your property, then do it,’ Richter says. ‘If they need to get through your land, they’ll tickle your ear. But once the line is installed, they don’t come back to the table to fix problems. Even if you’ve got it in writing, you’ll still have to go to the legal system for enforcement and spend thousands of dollars,’ Dowdy adds. ‘The only leverage you’ve got is prior to the pipeline.’ ‘You’ve got to get advice from somebody with soil experience, not dirt experience. Don’t let the company put time limits on corrective action and don’t sign off on anything,’ Kelley concludes. ‘Remember, farmers look down and see soil, but the pipeline company just sees dirt.'”

Forest Service Clears the Way for ACP

From this week’s ABRA Update, #155 for November 9, 2017: A response to objections raised to the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS)) Draft Record of Decision (ROD) about whether the proposed amendments to the Forest Plans of the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests to accommodate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) has been issued by the agency. In an October 27 letter to 69 objectors who took issue with the proposed amending of the Forest Plan, Glenn Casamassa, Associate Deputy Chief of the USFS, concluded that the ROD met statutory requirements and rejected all filed objections.

The USFS must still issue a Special Use Permit for the ACP to be built through Forest lands, but the Casamassa letter clears the way for that action. A similar letter of rejection to objections to the proposed crossing of the Jefferson National Forest by the Mountain Valley Pipeline was issued by the USFS last month.

Endangered Species Impacts from ACP Deemed Not a Problem

Also from this week’s ABRA Update, #155 for November 9, 2017: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has completed its review of the potential impact on certain endangered species by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and concluded that the project “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence” of any of the species. The October 16 report, posted this week on the docket of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was done in accordance with requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The species studied in the FWS report were the Indiana bat (Ibat), rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB), small whorled pogonia, Running Buffalo clover, Roanoke logperch, Madson Cave isopod and the Northern long-eared bat.

West Virginia Waives 401 Review for MVP

In a November 1, 2017, statement released by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced permit adjustments for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, saying the State Stormwater Permit includes enhanced inspection and enforcement, stronger environmental guidelines for project.

The statement said, “West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Austin Caperton announced today that the agency has lifted the suspension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) state Stormwater Permit. The suspension of the state Stormwater Permit was put in place in September to allow the agency to properly respond to all public comments received.

“Additionally, the state has chosen to waive the individual 401 Certification of the federal permits for the MVP. The Army Corps of Engineers recently reissued, with provisions that are specific to West Virginia, the Nationwide 12 permit which is used for stream crossings. These new conditions, when combined with specific requirements that are included in the state’s storm water permit, will allow for better enforcement capabilities and enhanced protection for the state’s waters.”

Read the full statement from WVDEP here.

In a Sierra Club press release, Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter Gas Committee Chair Justin Raines said, “Instead of protecting West Virginia’s water, DEP has sold us down the river. They had one job to do and they failed to do it, leaving our water in the hands of the federal government and out-of-state corporate polluters who are more interested in making money than protecting West Virginians. If we can’t trust our own state to protect our water, health and tourism, who can we trust to do it? Governor Justice and his DEP have let us all down by abandoning the responsibilities we trusted them with.”

DEP had previously certified the MVP, but Appalachian Mountain Advocates brought a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, and on October 17, 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside that certification and allowed DEP to start over. Just two weeks later, in response to the WVDEP’s November 1 announcement, Derek Teaney, Senior Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said, “This is an outrageous and unprecedented dereliction of duty by DEP. After assuring a federal court that it was committed to reconsidering whether the MVP would degrade the hundreds of streams that it would impact, DEP has thrown up its hands and admitted that it is not up to the task of protecting West Virginia’s environment. This action suggests that DEP does not believe in the laws–including the antidegradation policy–that it is charged with enforcing. It also makes you wonder whether DEP intends to give the Atlantic Coast Pipeline–the other ill-conceived pipeline project it is currently reviewing–the same free pass it has just given to MVP.”

Read the full Sierra Club press release here.

See WDTV5 coverage, Environmental organizations outraged at WVDEP decision.