Category Archives: Virginia government

Pipeline Water Regulation Bill Advances in Virginia Senate

Photo by Dima Holmes

A bill that would tighten water quality reviews for natural gas pipelines was unanimously approved on January 24, 2018, by the Virginia Senate committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. SB 950 (Sen. Emmett Hanger, Augusta County, is lead sponsor) requires the Department of Environmental Quality to determine whether any activity associated with a federally regulated natural gas pipeline project will occur in an upland area or other sensitive area, will be likely to result in a discharge to state waters and will not be covered by a federal Clean Water Act certification.

Among the measure’s provisions is a requirement that the State Water Control Board “conduct a review that includes, at a minimum, (i) an individual review of each proposed water body crossing consistent with the requirements of a Virginia Water Protection Permit, (ii) a review of any construction through karst terrain, and (iii) a review and approval of erosion and sediment control plans and stormwater management plans.” S.B. 950 goes next to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

Tree Cutting – Action Alert!

Call Gov. Northam and tell him to stop Dominion’s tree cutting for the unwanted and unnecessary ACP.

FERC just approved Dominion’s request for early tree removal (using chainsaws). Area impacted around Wintergreen is the blue line in the red box. DEQ has not issued permits! Call the Governor of Virginia.

FERC says it’s ok for Dominion to take down trees before receiving all approvals. Write to Governor Ralph Northam and other elected officials — stop Dominion’s end run around state agencies, leaving a swath of destruction in their wake.

Action Alert: Stop Tree Clearing for Pipelines

Call the Governor Today! We can stop tree clearing for pipelines. Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Our new Governor has the authority and duty to protect our waters and our communities from the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

Governor Northam must uphold the principles he has supported for many months and we ask that you let him know that you will support him in doing the right thing. It is not too late for Virginia to meet its Clean Water Act duties. Learn More Here.

Contact the Governor today and urge him to:

  • See that his administration prohibits any construction, including clearing of trees, for either pipeline unless and until all conditions of water quality certifications are met,
  • Order the DEQ to conduct individual Clean Water Act section 401 reviews for stream and wetland crossings covered by the Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide 12 Permit,
  • Ensure that DEQ provides for public notice and comment on additional plans ACP is required to submit and that there is a clear procedure for the State Water Control Board to review and decide whether the certification will become effective.

Call the Governor:  
804-786- 2211

Email him through his Chief of Staff:

ABRA Members Sue Virginia Over ACP Approvals

From the ABRA Update, January 18, 2018:

A coalition of environmental and conservation organizations, including 12 members of ABRA, filed a legal challenge to the Virginia State Water Control Board’s December 12 approval of a water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The suit, filed with the Fourth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals late on January 18 by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Appalachian Mountain Advocates on behalf of the client group, charges that the Board’s decision failed to consider the impacts of the project on water quality in Virginia sufficiently to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs include the following ABRA members: Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Jackson River Preservation Association, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Shenandoah Valley Network, the Sierra Club, Virginia Wilderness Committee, and Wild Virginia. In separate legal actions, also taken on January 18, SELC on behalf of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Virginia Wilderness Committee filed a legal challenge to a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a legal challenge on behalf of the Sierra Club and The Virginia Wilderness Committee to a decision by the National Park Service. The agencies both issued permits for the pipeline. These decisions further highlight agency failures to adequately review crucial information in a process that is being driven by developers rather than regulators.

Click here for a copy of the lawsuit challenging the SWCB decision.

Click here for ABRA’s press release about the challenge.

Virginia DEQ Shuts Down Public Input, Curbs Water Board in 401 Process

From the ABRA Update, January 18, 2018:

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has proclaimed that there is to be no further input from the public in the final stages of water quality certification (under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and has also purported to limit the further role of the State Water Control Board in the process.

This astounding action came to light in a posting on the agency’s website, apparently made on Friday, January 12 (the final day of the McAuliffe Administration). The pronouncement contradicts the expressed understanding of members of the SWCB regarding the Board’s continuing role in the process, as well as of the need for further public input, based on a transcript of comments made by Board members at the December 12 SWCB meeting.

The DEQ posting states, in the following excerpts (portions bolded for emphasis):

The certification approved by the Board and reviewed by our attorneys is in place and becomes effective upon the issuance of the Department’s report to the Board and the public. By law the Erosion, Sediment and Stormwater approvals upon which the effective date is conditioned are approved by certified staff and those approvals are not under the State Water Control Board’s purview.

No additional information is being accepted from the public. DEQ has not imposed any specific deadlines on ACP for the submittal of information other than those included in the certification. The deadline for submitting information necessary for the certification to become effective is at the discretion of ACP. Therefore, an estimate for the delivery and publication of the written report to the board has not been made.

Upon submittal of the report documenting approval of the Supplemental Karst Evaluation Plan annual standards and specifications, erosion and sediment control plans, and stormwater management plans, Virginia’s Section 401 water quality certification for activities in upland areas becomes effective. No further action by the board is required for the certification to become effective. As provided in the certification, the board may, after review of the report, consider further actions on the certification. The matter is before the board at its discretion without additional public comment on whether further action is warranted. When or if the certification will be an agenda item at a future board meeting is unknown at this time.

DPMC Seeks Urgent Action From Governor Northam on Pipelines

On January 17, 2018, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition sent a letter to Gov. Northam asking that he take swift and decisive action to restore integrity and transparency to Virginia’s regulatory reviews of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

DPMC is calling on the Governor to require his administration to take three specific actions, to meet the law and satisfy his stated intentions:

  1. His environmental officials must use their authority to review and approve or disapprove waterbody crossings covered by the Corps of Engineers’ general permit.
  2. His environmental officials must prohibit any and all activities related to construction of the pipelines that might affect water quality unless and until all requirements of the WQCs are met.
  3. His environmental officials must ensure that before the ACP certification is deemed effective:
  • a) remaining plans submitted by the company are made available to the public for review and comment and that DEQ considers and addresses those comments,b
  • b) DEQ makes a final recommendation to the SWCB, based on its review of the final plans and of public submissions, and
  • c) DEQ requests formal Board action on its recommendation.

The Northam administration now has the authority and duty to uphold the principles Mr. Northam previously outlined as the guide for determining whether the pipeline proposals were properly and fairly handled by the State of Virginia:

  • that the outcome of those deliberations must be based on scientific evidence
  • that proceedings must be conducted in a transparent manner, and
  • that approvals must be denied unless actions can be fully protective of Virginia’s environment and its citizens.

Unfortunately, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has betrayed the principles the Governor has espoused. DEQ has also disregarded intentions and expectations the State Water Control Board (SWCB) expressed when it considered these proposals in December of 2017. (see DEQ Statement on Process)

We call on all Virginians to let the Governor know you support the principles he’s outlined for these processes and want his to make sure they are followed by DEQ. You can do so by emailing him c/o his Chief of Staff at or calling 804-786-2211.