Category Archives: Natural Resources

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.

Appalachian Trail Hikers Protest McAuliffe’s Support of Fracked Gas Pipelines


Press release from Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):

RICHMOND, VA – Dozens of Appalachian Trail hikers in full backpacking gear rallied outside Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office on June 2 — the eve of National Trails Day — to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. The hikers highlighted the fact that both pipelines for fracked-gas, each of which would cross the Appalachian Trail, would severely impact the viewsheds and water sources along the iconic trail. Following the protest, the hikers delivered dozens of compasses to the Governor’s office, demanding that he chart a new direction for the state.

Companies building the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines would lay nearly 1,000 miles of fracked-gas pipeline infrastructure across West Virginia and the Commonwealth, threatening hundreds of waterways and endangered species. Recent data show that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, supported by McAuliffe and proposed by controversial power company Dominion Energy, would blast away the tops of 38 miles of mountain ridges in West Virginia and Virginia, much of it near the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would likewise deforest and harm valleys and mountains along the trail, causing permanent damage to iconic views.

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline are both unnecessary and dangerous projects,” said Jessica Sims, lifelong hiker from Midlothian, Virginia. “They would be irreversibly traumatic to Virginia’s landscape — physical manifestations of disregard for the environment. They are attacks on that which I love: Virginia, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains, our park systems, our tourism industry, our water, our ecosystems and our history.”

“I know these mountains, these waters, these forests, and how fragile they are,” said Kathleen “Kit” Johnston, a member of Wild Virginia and Appalachian Voices from Reva, Virginia. “That’s why McAuliffe must say NO to cutting hundreds of miles of pipeline access under and through our ancient mountains, invaluable forests, and irreplaceable waters.”

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which McAuliffe oversees, recently abandoned its promise to conduct thorough, site-specific reviews of the impacts that the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would have on water quality. Now, the agency wants to abdicate that responsibility to President Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a blanket one-size-fits-all permit that does not look at each individual stream crossing, and therefore does not fully protect these water bodies.

“I’ve been a proud hiker of the Appalachian Trail since I was a kid,” said Mike Tidwell, member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. “But with the Governor’s support, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline for fracked gas would decapitate mountains within view of the trail and plow through geologically fragile areas. The pipelines would threaten not only water along the trail, but also water for farmers and communities across 13 counties. This is horrifying, and must be stopped.”

The hikers also referred to the climate change impacts of the pipelines. The two pipelines would together create annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to doubling all of Virginia’s current power plants combined. If built, these pipelines would lock us into another generation of unacceptable and unnecessary fossil fuel extractions.

“Climate change threatens our mountains, our forests, our rivers, and the entire ecosystem that we depend on,” said Lorne Stockman, lifelong hiker from Staunton, Virginia and senior researcher at Oil Change International. “These pipelines will not only disrupt the Appalachian Trail, but also fuel the destruction of our climate. With Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, it is up to us to defend our future and stopping these pipelines is at the top of our pack list.”

This rally was one of the largest political acts ever in Richmond held by defenders of the Appalachian Trail.

Blasting Through Streams


More from Dykon Blasting Corp., a contractor doing pipeline construction work for Dominion. On their Web page they boast that “On the Dominion Gas – Appalachian Gateway project [in Pennsylvania], Dykon Blasting Corp. shot over 20,431 lineal feet of trench along with over 16,952 cubic yards of rock! With our efficiency we were able to keep the contractor on schedule and take care of all of the rock removal on the project!” Photos and videos of blasting – difficult to imagine how Dominion can say flora, fauna, and water quality will not be affected.

See also our earlier post on Dykon.

Dominion on Stream Crossings in Nelson


John Minear of Horizons Village says: “This is a photo from our neighbor, Dima Holmes, of the stream that runs between our lots at Horizons Village, taken after the recent rains. These kinds of streams are all over the Blue Ridge area of Nelson County. This is the area that Dominion Energy wants to ‘take’ for its Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Here is the document that they posted on FERC [on May 12, 2017] detailing stream crossings in Nelson County. They begin with Pond Hollow and move to the Spruce Creek crossing at 151. They ignore the prior Spruce Creek crossing back up stream that goes from Horizons Village to Richard Averitt’s property. They talk about ‘damming’ as their technique.”

FERC/Dominion never make it easy to find anything! (Perhaps they don’t actually want people to find filings and documentation?) To read the document about stream crossings, go to “Public Appendix A Geohazard Report Pt. 11 pdf” in the list of documents on the Ferc ELibrary page. But the report is obviously not complete, since they omit a major crossing of Spruce Creek upstream from Horizons Village.

FERC to Dominion: More Information Needed


In their weekly update, Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) reports, “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wasted little time in following-up with Dominion Transmission, Inc. (DTI) to seek additional information and clarifications on numerous items, many of which were flagged in comments filed about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). On April 11, five days after the DEIS comment deadline, FERC wrote DTI making 111 specific requests for supplemental information, requesting that the company submit its responses by May 1 (20 days from the date of the agency’s letter).”

In the letter to Dominion, FERC asked Dominion to:

  • Conduct a thorough review in order to limit the number of access roads necessary to construct and operate the ACP, noting the very large number of temporary and permanent access roads in the current proposal
  • Incorporate small route changes and/or workspace design revisions to avoid or minimize impacts on the numerous point and area features and known and suspect closed depressions within the current project workspace that were identified in the updated Karst Survey Report filed on February 24, 2017
  • Incorporate a route variation to avoid the Valley Center area in Highland County where there is an abundance of karst features, caves, and sinking streams
  • Identify the location and temporary and permanent impact acreage of high quality wetlands
  • Provide an updated table of forest fragmentation analysis using the proper data sets, since the forest fragmentation data that DTI had submitted February 24, 2017, in response to a FERC request of October 26, 2016, was not in compliance with the agency’s requested data parameters.
  • Provide a status report on the survey, evaluation, and effect assessment of properties along the project route through Nelson County, Virginia. Include access roads and off-right-of way facilities. Report also on agency and local informant communication regarding the properties and historic districts.
  • Describe in more detail how Dominion would work with local law enforcement and emergency response to promote the safe evacuation of landowners in remote areas should a pipeline incident occur. Consult with each landowner where the proposed pipeline crosses a private egress that is the sole access to/from the property to determine if a site-specific evacuation procedure is requested.

Read the letter from FERC to Dominion here.