Category Archives: Water Quality

Virginia NAACP Calls for Halt to All MVP and ACP Construction

Rev. Kevin Chandler, VA NAACP President, at Union Hill

In a letter dated May 30, 2018, the Virginia State NAACP has called on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to halt all construction activity for both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

An article in Blue Virginia on July 30, 2018, says, “The state NAACP statement was submitted to the Virginia State Water Control Board on May 30 as part of a public comment period on the proposed pipelines. It was among thousands of comments submitted by concerned citizens and environmental and community organizations. The NAACP statement has remained hidden from public view because DEQ has failed to publish the ‘public’ comments, pointing to an unspecified security ‘issue’ with its website and the time needed to ‘process’ so many comments. DEQ’s lack of transparency left the NAACP statement and similar submissions largely unavailable – until now. It is yet another example of what has been called DEQ’s broken regulatory process under its longtime director, David Paylor.” (Note that although DEQ has been unable to make comments public, Wild Virginia and Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition obtained most of the 10,000 comments through a FOIA request, and have made them public, something DEQ has been unable or unwilling to do.)

The NAACP letter denounces DEQ for deferring to Nationwide Permit 12 water quality standards rather than applying the stricter Virginia standards, and calls on DEQ to conduct a “comprehensive site-specific stream-by-stream analysis that reviews the cumulative effects of the multiple crossings within individual watersheds.” The letter notes that “socio-economic data and wetland and stream information crucial to conducting accurate and unbiased assessments are missing, inaccurate and incomplete.”

The letter also points out the environmental racism inherent in Dominion’s plan to build the only Virginia compressor station in the African-American Union Hill community. “Established by freed enslaved people, Union Hill relies on a single-source aquifer for their drinking water,” and Dominion and DEQ gave “no consideration for pipeline ruptures which could pollute the single source aquifer which feeds the wells of Union Hill and most of Buckingham County.”

The Blue Virginia article details the many strong public statements by the NAACP against pipeline projects and the ways communities of color are particularly impacted by their construction and operation.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Noncompliance

DPMC photo – Randolph County WV, ACP milepost 60

Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition’s Pipeline Air Force, a component of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), has conducted multiple surveillance flights over Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) construction areas in West Virginia in recent months.

The CSI photos of ACP construction reveal that installation of runoff and erosion and sediment controls is occurring after rather than before or concurrent with construction-related earth disturbance. Their studies of previous pipeline projects, along with continuing reports of problems with other pipelines under construction in the region, indicate that delayed installation of runoff and erosion and sediment controls is standard industry practice and a major cause of water resource degradation.

Dominion Energy has taken this delayed approach to installation of environmental controls in the first phases of ACP construction. Apparently it intends to build the entire project on this incautious and non compliant basis.

More information, including aerial photos, is provided on the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition website:  see Industry-Standard Noncompliance.

The report includes a small subset of the thousands of aerial photos of ACP construction obtained by the CSI. Consistent with observations of other pipeline projects in the region, these photos provide compelling evidence that citizen oversight of pipeline construction is needed.

Legislators Again Ask Northam to Act on Pipelines

A July 26, 2018, letter from two Virginia State Senators and 12 Delegates asks Governor Northam yet again to halt both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines and insist on a stream-by-stream review of the hundreds of spots where they will cross Virginia waterways.

Signing the letter were Senators Deeds and Peterson, and Delegates Keam, Plum, Hope, Kory, Lopez, Rasoul, Levine, Hurst, Guzman, Carter, Foy, and Roehm.

“We believe that your clear and bold leadership on pipelines at this critical time can restore the faith that many of our constituents have lost in their governments’ ability to fight for the public’s interest, at a time when that faith is so desperately needed.”

The letter discusses the inadequacy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit the state is relying on for the hundreds of spots the pipelines will cross Virginia waters and urges DEQ to conduct its own individual review of all crossings.

“We also ask you to direct the DEQ to stop work on all construction activities for these two projects until those analyses are complete. Stream-by-stream analysis is a commonsense solution that environmental experts agree is the appropriate process for these circumstances. You agreed with this standard and forcefully advocated for such analysis in early 2017. We hope you will agree that it is time for DEQ to do this robust study now.”

News coverage of the letter in the Virginia Mercury is here.

Read the full letter here.

Wild Virginia Provides Access to Comments Submitted to Water Control Board


Through a Freedom of Information Act request, David Sligh of Wild Virginia and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has acquired almost all of the comments citizens (around 10,000 of them) submitted to State Water Control Board through the Virginia DEQ. Individuals and conservation groups explain why the Corps of Engineers’ blanket permit is not sufficiently protective of our state waters. DEQ has promised to supply the rest by today (July 20, 2018).

Here is a link to the documents: Comments to SWCB on NWP 12

Wild Virginia and DPMC are currently scouring the comments and will publish our summary of the whole body of information early next week. The vast majority we’ve seen so far are form emails and letters that contain no useful information the Board can use in making a decision whether to take new action. By contrast, the comments by landowners and technical experts contain much detailed, site-specific, and scientifically-based evidence of the dire threats to the thousands of waterbodies MVP and ACP propose to dig and blast through, under a lax Corps approval.

See our earlier story, DPMC Acts While DEQ Delays, for more information on how and why the documents were obtained from DEQ, which has not yet acted to make them available to the public.

DPMC Acts While DEQ Delays

We received the news below from Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition on Friday morning July 20, 2018. Many thanks to DPMC for their determination and persistence!  DPMC, with the help of Wild Virginia, expects to make all comments made to DEQ, as well as a summary, available online in the next week. They are doing for the citizens of Virginia what DEQ has failed to do.  Link to the DPMC post on their Web site:  http://pipelineupdate.org/2018/07/20/citizens-will-act-where-the-state-delays/

CITIZENS WILL ACT WHERE THE STATE DELAYS

The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has learned that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is just now compiling the thousands of emails and other comments citizens submitted during the comment period that ended more than a month ago.

This outrageous foot-dragging fits a pattern DEQ has set for months and heightens the likelihood of further damage to state waters by the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) before the State Water Control Board has the chance to rule on the sufficiency of waterbody crossing reviews. The Board saw a need for this information way back on April 12, based on concerns that a blanket permit from the Corps of Engineers may not be adequate to ensure Virginia’s water quality standards will be met.

On July 3, with no commitment from DEQ as to when the comments would be available to all, DPMC decided to acquire them and provide them online. We filed a records request on July 3, 2018, seeking copies of all comments sent to DEQ. The law requires the agency to provide records within five work-days or explain why it is not “practically possible” to do so in that time period.

That deadline fell on July 11 and that day DEQ told us it would not get us the emails within the required time or tell us when it would be able to do so. They said the emails had not yet been compiled so they could be provided electronically, due to technical difficulties. We then insisted we be allowed to review the emails in person on DEQ’s computers and were told this too was not possible. We reiterated that the law required better and that we would not accept DEQ’s failure to comply.

Suddenly, just two days later on July 13, DEQ gave us more than 7,000 emails. Apparently, the technical difficulties that DEQ claimed may require more than two additional weeks to solve were now solved – but only under pressure from DPMC. Why had those difficulties not been tackled and solved in the three months since the Board ordered the public notice?

We and Wild Virginia will make all of the comments available online and publish a summary within the next week. Where the Department has failed, we will pick up the slack.

We call on the Board to use this information and hold a meeting well before the currently-advertised date of August 21st and on Governor Northam to order DEQ to now move quickly to do its job. The repeated promises of transparency and sound science by administration officials have not been kept. It is now time for our officials to restore integrity to this process.

NCSA Votes Unanimously to Deny Sale of Water to ACP

At their meeting on July 19, 2018, the 5-member Nelson County Service Authority Board voted unanimously against a proposal to set a rate of more than 10 cents per gallon and a connection fee of $500,000 for the ACP, which wanted to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day for up to two years. The water would have come from Lake Monacan, and the ACP wanted to use it for horizontal directional drilling to bore a path for the pipeline beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway, from near the Wintergreen entrance through to Augusta County.

The proposed connection fee of $500,000 and the per gallon connection rate were more than 10 times the regular rate and would have resulted in about $3.5 million in revenue over two years for the service authority. Several NCSA Board members said they did not see the need for a rate scale that would accommodate huge construction or industrial projects that did not fit the vision of the county, and that approving the rate could bring risks and liabilities to the county.

The Board’s legal counsel noted that, although the special rate and permit had been denied, the ACP could come back to the service authority asking to become a regular customer and pay the regular rate and connection fee. The Board then unanimously approved a new requirement that starting July 19, 2018, any applicant wishing to purchase more than 100,000 gallons of water per month would have to petition the Board for approval.

According to ACP spokesperson Aaron Ruby, the company now has another source to meet their water needs, with about 10 tankers making 10 round trips daily to the construction site.

ACP construction has not yet started in Virginia because the required permits have not yet been received from the Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board.