Category Archives: Steep Slopes

The Truth Is in the Proof



The Truth Is in the Proof
: excellent new video focusing on the Limpert property in Highland County.

What if anything can stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines? The level of frustration is growing as more people wake up to the reality that the pipelines pose significant danger to fragile ecosystems along their paths. Concerned citizens, landowners, lawmakers, environmentalists and many government officials continue to protest.  Join them!

Even Dominion Says MVP Contractor Is Incompetent

Writing in Blue Virginia on May 28, 2018, Jon Sokolow reports that yes, Even Dominion Energy Says Mountain Valley Pipeline Contractor Is Incompetent. Mounting evidence that that MVP and its contractor, Precision Pipeline, LLC were wreaking havoc on Virginia’s water and land resources led the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to order a temporary stop at a construction site in Franklin County.

Sokolow writes, “It turns out that Dominion’s wholly owned subsidiary, Dominion Transmission, Inc. (“DTI”) has been fighting Precision Pipeline in federal court for almost three years in a battle royale over a pipeline that Precision built for Dominion several years ago in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That fracked gas pipeline, which was part of Dominion’s larger Appalachian Gateway Project, was a relatively small 30 inches in diameter and ‘only’ 55-miles long. The case is pending in federal court in Richmond and is expected to go to trial in October.

“Precision completed and was paid for the project – and then sued Dominion for $86 million in additional charges that it claims it is owed. Dominion denies it owes anything more and points, in part, to a series of expert reports that it says document Precision’s incompetence in building the pipeline.”

One report, prepared for Dominion by Civil & Environmental Consultants, published for the first time in Blue Virginia, includes a long and meticulously documented list of Precision Pipeline’s incompetencies that caused landslides:

  • At least thirteen landslides occurred during construction of the pipeline built by Precision for the Appalachian Gateway Project.
  • Fill composed of unsuitable materials and improperly compacted contributes to landslides
  • “Landslides occurred due to failure to install subsurface drains in high-risk or seepage areas, failure to provide adequate surface water controls, failure to remove wood chips and other organic debris from fill slope areas, failure to properly construct ESC features, and failure to adequately compact fill.”

Sokolow points out that the words in the report are “not the words of activists, or tree sitters, or affected landowners. These are the words of an engineering firm hired by Dominion!”

And he notes that the report deals only with landslides, not with sedimentation problems, nor with damage to drinking water, property values, tourism, and the local economy.

He concludes, “So Governor Northam – and I cannot believe I am writing these words – maybe on this one you should listen to Dominion!  Stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline before Virginia’s future – and your legacy – are drowned in a muddy landslide.”

Rain, Then Mud, Mud, and More Mud

Photo by Emily Beckner Guilliams

We’ve had a rainy week, as we sometimes do. Not a 100-year rain, not a 50-year rain, not even a 25-year rain. Just a normal rainy week, with normal thunderstorms. And, not surprisingly, when pipeline companies try do work on steep terrain, the slopes slide.

On May 18, 2018, Cahas Mountain Rd in Franklin County was covered in sediment after tree clearing by Mountain Valley Pipeline crews. Locals on the scene say the mud was 12” to 18” thick. The road was closed. The nearby creek was running red. The mud blocked traffic, rerouted school-buses and put the lives, land and water of Franklin County citizens at risk. Sediment-laden runoff filled local creeks to the point where cattle would not drink from them.

Environmental experts and concerned citizens have – since 2014 – been telling FERC, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Governor of Virginia that this kind of destruction will be the result of both Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction on our steep mountain slopes.

It is particularly distressing that MVP said, “Initial reviews indicate the controls were installed properly; however, the circumstances appear unusual and an ultimate cause is under investigation.” MVP seems to imply that an ordinary rainy week with ordinary thunderstorms constitutes “unusual circumstances.”

If you live near the MVP or ACP path please document, date, gps coordinate, and time stamp photos to send to DEQ. Please report flood damage (time-stamp and date your photos if possible!) to the Mountain Valley Watch (833-689-2824) or to Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (csi@abralliance.org, 877-GO2ABRA (877-462-2272)). You may also notify:

    •  Ralph Northam, Governor (804-786-2211)
    • John McCutcheon, DEQ Stormwater Compliance Manager (804-527-5117)
    • Ann Regn, DEQ spokeswoman (804-698-4442)
    • Jerome A. Brooks, Manager of the DEQ Office of Water Compliance (804-698-4403)
    • Matt Strickler, Secretary of Natural Resources (804-786-0044)
    • We also suggest you contact your local government officials and insist that they report this to the officials responsible (such as the DEQ, VDOT, etc) for monitoring and compliance.

And here in Nelson County, Richard Averitt made this quick video to show the effects of the rain in Nelson County. We are facing an unprecedented risk to our communities. Please help. Look at the sediment problems from this one normal spring rain along the mountain valley pipeline route and imagine that same thing here in our communities and hundreds of communities throughout our state.

The ACP’s Fake Plans

Section of design sheet for ACP Milepost 85 area, one of only six areas in Virginia for which detailed site-specific pipeline construction plans have been obtained. Colors are added for clarity. Heavy wire mesh will be used to hold a 120% slope area in place above the stream. The indicated unnamed tributary drains to a native trout stream.  Higher resolution version here.

On April 9, 2018, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition summarized the current status of Dominion’s construction plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Dominion Energy asserts that the ACP has received an unprecedented level of regulatory review, and it’s time to get on with it. Meanwhile it withholds its real construction plans while expecting broad waivers from environmental conditions and standards.

Dominion has persistently failed to make site-specific construction plans available to the regulatory agencies and the public. It has instead provided low-resolution plan sheets and generalized descriptions of environmental control practices. We now know that Dominion has plans that it has not shared with government decision makers, and we know it seeks exemption from critical regulatory requirements.

The curtain was pulled back in February 2018 when, after protracted delay, Dominion submitted site-specific plans to the Forest Service for six high-hazard locations in Virginia. Based on these plans we know that:

  • the steepest mountainsides will be held in place using heavy-wire mesh fastened to underlying bedrock with 8 to 15-foot or longer “nails”
  • excess spoil resulting from trench and workspace excavation may be spread on ridgelines or deposited adjacent the pipeline corridor
  • trenches will be dynamited through high-quality streams and backfilled with concrete

It also seems that Dominion is ignoring or perhaps intends to seek a wholesale variance from the State Water Control Board’s requirement that it reduce the width of the construction corridor from 125 feet to 75 feet within 50 feet of streams and wetlands to minimize the extent of riparian buffer disturbance. The most-recent available plans indicate that the width of construction disturbance at stream crossings remains 125-feet wide.

And it remains unclear if Dominion expects to receive a general variance allowing it to exceed the 500-foot open trench limit imposed by Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control regulations. Dominion has indicated that it will seek open-trench variances that will cover 99% of the pipeline corridor in western Virginia, including even the steepest mountainsides.

For more information see the April 9, 2018, post on the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition Web site:  Fake Plans for the ACP

From the ABRA Update: ACP in Highland County

ABRA Update #174 for March 29, 2018, highlights the excellent reporting of The Recorder on Dominion’s efforts to ram the ACP through the problematic terrain of Highland County:

    • Pipeline, comp plan at issue tonight – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  Highland County tonight will stage its first effort to give citizens a local face-to-face encounter with Dominion over the $6.5 billion interstate gas pipeline project, rife with delays and setbacks, and how it could affect the county’s future.
    • Valley Center is central proof ACP must move – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  In all the hundreds of thousands of confusing bits of information pushed from Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Valley Center gets consistently and, might we offer, intentionally, overlooked.
    • But wait, there’s more … – The Recorder – 3/28/18.  Need more evidence Dominion’s pipeline will cause irreparable damage?