The Supreme Court of Virginia heard two different cases on the legality of the state surveying statute, and the legality of the surveying itself, on properties that lie on the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). For details about the cases, see the Friends of Nelson Media Advisory released April 18, 2017. No decisions have yet been issued. News coverage of the hearings appeared in many places, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and NBC TV.
More than 50 Democratic candidates running for Virginia House seats have pledged not to take contributions from Dominion. In the mean time, Dominion is betting big on two candidates for Governor, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.
News just in: In a letter dated April 17, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners (ETK) reported to FERC the spill of over 2 million gallons of drilling fluid onto wetlands in northern Ohio as part of a high density drilling (HDD) operation during constructing the Rover Pipeline. HDD is the process Dominion proposes to use for drilling under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Reeds Gap. (See our story below on HDD at Reeds Gap.) Construction on the Rover project began only a month ago, as it received its FERC certificate as one of the final actions before Commissioner Norman Bay resigned, denying FERC a quorum. Not an auspicious start! See here for Ohio news coverage of the spill.
On April 6, 2017 Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality announced that both proposed Virginia pipelines, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, would be subject to Department of Environment Quality water-quality review, which meant that DEQ would require water quality certifications under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act for each segment of both projects that crosses or potentially affects water bodies.
But the next day, on April 7, 2017, DEQ provided water quality certification for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2017 Nationwide Permits, thus issuing a blanket Clean Water Act section 401 certification for pipelines that are covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit number 12.
Will DEQ still require individual certifications for the ACP and MVP? Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition’s Rick Webb says, “We think DEQ still intends to conduct individual review of the ACP and MVP.” But DEQ has certainly muddied the waters with their seemingly contradictory news releases.
See the two press releases from DEQ here.
See the DPMC post about DEQ’s actions and DPMC’s FOIA request to DEQ here.
On April 6, 2017, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality announced that both proposed Virginia pipelines, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, will be subject to Department of Environment Quality water-quality review. This means that DEQ will require water quality certifications under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act for each segment of both projects that crosses or potentially affects water bodies.
As Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said, “Rest assured that, without the growing public movement to stop these pipelines over the past 2.5 years, this basic concession from the Governor and DEQ would not have happened. Many thanks to everyone who’s worked to bring environmental justice to these massive and misguided pipeline proposals.”
The full press release from DEQ states:
In keeping with Governor McAuliffe’s commitment that the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines will be constructed in the most environmentally protective manner, the Department of Environmental Quality has notified ACP and MVP that in addition to utilizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nationwide permit 12 for wetland and stream crossings, DEQ will be requiring individual 401 water quality certifications for each project.
These certifications will ensure that Virginia water quality standards are maintained in all areas affected by the projects. The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on these certifications and the conditions required to protect water quality. DEQ also will hold public hearings on the draft certifications. Once the comment period has concluded the proposed final certifications will be brought before the State Water Control Board.
Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch news coverage of this significant announcement here.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has filed an eight-page objection to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) Water Quality Certification proposal that would allow all utility projects in Virginia to be regulated under a generalized Nationwide 12 permit. The DPMC argues that the issuance of the proposed Water Quality Certification would be illegal, because the DEQ has not conducted the required analysis of the impacts on water quality standards; furthermore, the generalized conditions under the Nationwide permit cannot possibly protect the great variety of waters that would be affected across the state by utility projects, nor can they account for the large variation in project conditions encountered by the many different utility line projects (ranging from small to very large) that would be covered under the general permit.
Bold Alliance has created an online petition by which you can add your name to the DPMC’s objection to the DEQ’s Water Quality Certification proposal. The petition is an easy way for you to voice your concern for the protection of Virginia’s streams and wetlands during construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other utility projects across the state.
The Virginia DEQ is currently accepting comments on the proposed Water Quality Certification, but the deadline is this Friday, March 17th! Be sure to sign Bold Alliance’s online petition by this Friday. You can also submit comments to the DEQ regarding the Water Quality Certification by email: Comments should be submitted to Steven.Hardwick@deq.virginia.gov. Again, the deadline for comments is this Friday, March 17, 2017 by 11:59 pm.
To learn more about the proposed Water Quality Certification, read our earlier post here at Friends of Nelson or read the DPMC’s detailed post about this issue, “Permission to Pollute.”
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) reports this week that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is considering a proposal to issue a Water Quality Certification (WQC) that would allow parties to build utility lines, including large gas pipelines, through streams and wetlands across Virginia with only the limited, generalized requirements for waterbody crossings that are stipulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide permit (NWP 12). According to the DPMC, such generalized conditions under the Nationwide permit cannot possibly protect the great variety of waters that would be affected across the state by utility projects, nor can they account for the large variation in project conditions encountered by the many different utility line projects (ranging from small to very large) that would be covered under the general permit.
Despite the fact that the DEQ is charged with ensuring that all Virginia water quality standards are met for such utility projects, the DPMC reports that the DEQ has performed no analysis to look at the impacts of NWP 12 activities on water quality standards. The DPMC requested all supporting documentation for the DEQ’s proposed regulatory action and received only five documents that show that no analysis of impacts was even attempted, let alone completed.
The DEQ has suggested that it may attempt to cover the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline under this generalized WQC if the Corps of Engineers deems them eligible for coverage under NWP 12. The DPMC asserts that such an action would be illegal and argues that this proposal cannot be justified on legal or scientific grounds even for the many smaller utility projects that the WQC would cover.
The Virginia DEQ is currently accepting comments on the proposed Water Quality Certification, so you have an opportunity to make your voice heard on this issue. Contact the DEQ and tell them to reject the Water Quality Certification of the Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide 12 Permit. Comments should be submitted to Steven.Hardwick@deq.virginia.gov. The deadline for comments is this Friday, March 17, 2017 by 11:59 pm.
To read the DPMC’s full statement on its position regarding the DEQ’s consideration of the proposal to issue a Water Quality Certification that would allow parties to build utility lines through Virginia’s waterbodies under a generalized Nationwide 12 permit, click here.
In the Virginia General Assembly this month, legislation that would have shielded specific concentrations of chemicals used in fracking from public disclosure was rejected in committee in the Senate. This means that information on fracking fluids will be available by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Such transparency is essential to protecting water quality in areas of Virginia that are subject to fracking now or in the future.
Concerns about water quality and the potential that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could increase pressure for fracking in the western part of Virginia also led the Augusta County Board of Supervisors to ban fracking in Augusta County. The board voted six to one last week to pass the prohibition, making Augusta County the first county in Virginia to ban fracking. The mountains of Augusta County contain shale deposits, which contain the gas that is extracted by fracking, and the county serves as the headwaters for the James and Potomac rivers.
You can read more about the General Assembly’s move to preserve transparency with regards to fracking and the Augusta County fracking ban in the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s article, “Virginia Agency Says It Will Not Exempt Information on Fracking Fluid from Disclosure.” You can also read more about the Augusta County fracking ban in the News Leader’s article, “Augusta First County in Va. to Ban Fracking.”