Category Archives: Steep Slopes

Study Released About Best Practices for Steep Slope Pipeline Construction

From ABRA Update #190, July 27, 2018:

A new collaborative study intended to provide guidance “in setting the highest practicable standards” for constructing natural gas pipelines through steep slopes was released earlier this month. The study, Improving Steep-Slope Pipeline Construction to Reduce Impacts to Natural Resources, was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy and involved the participation of eight natural gas industry companies, including Dominion Energy and EQT Midstream Partners.

The stated intention of the project is “to provide guidance for the industry in setting the highest practicable standards” and “to serve as an industry-wide catalyst for reducing the risk of landslides, slips, and erosion that may occur during steep-slope pipeline construction, operation, and maintenance, as well as impacts from these events on habitat health and water quality.” The stated goals of the project are to:

  • Identify the most prevalent challenges involved with pipeline construction in areas with a high risk of landslide, slip, and erosion potential.
  • Identify and communicate best practices for addressing these challenges.
  • Identify and communicate the additional needs or opportunities for further research, technological advancement, and new or modified engineering specifications to advance the understanding and use of potential new best practices for pipeline construction in steep slope areas.

ABRA is currently conducting an evaluation of the study.

Landslide Caused June Pipeline Explosion in WV

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on July 11, 2018, that “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”

According to the US Geological Survey Web page, “Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials.”

TransCanada, owner of Columbia Gas Transmission, touted the pipeline, which just started operation in January 2018, as “best-in-class,” exactly what Dominion says the ACP will be.

Writing in Blue Virginia on July 11, 2018, Jon Sokolow reminds us of the stories in late May and early June about Precision Pipeline (builder for the MVP), which had more than 50 post-completion landslides along a 55-mile non-mountainous pipeline route in Wisconsin. That’s approximately one landslide per mile.

The Sokolow article continues, “The landslide risks at issue in the Dominion/Precision Pipeline lawsuit are terrifying because the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are proposed to be built through some of the steepest terrain in Virginia, with slopes as steep as 78% in places. This mountainous terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides when fill material generated by construction is deposited on slopes after the pipelines are buried.”

How many miles of steep slopes are there on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route? How many on the Mountain Valley Pipeline route? How many potential landslides?  How many potential explosions?

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.