Friends of Nelson Press Release: McAuliffe Administration Drops Water Quality Analysis for Virginia Pipelines

Friends of Nelson Press Release, May 25, 2017
Contact: Ernie Reed, Friends of Nelson, 434-249-8330

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has reversed itself, saying that the state agency will not require specific water quality impact analysis for water crossings for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

Contrary to what was reported April 7, DEQ will not require Mountain Valley Pipeline or Atlantic Coast Pipeline to provide details to the department about individual crossings of streams and wetlands to ensure that they will all comply with state water quality standards.[1]

“DEQ is now deciding, unjustifiably, to evade its responsibility to make detailed and public reviews of all threats to water quality posed by these pipeline proposals,” said Ernie Reed, President of Friends of Nelson. “It is the only governmental defense the people have for the protection of our precious and irreplaceable water supplies.”

On April 6, 2017 the DEQ issued a press release affirming that it would conduct individual reviews of waterbody crossings by both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines in Virginia. In that press release, DEQ spokesperson Bill Hayden stated that “these certifications will ensure that Virginia water quality standards are maintained in all areas affected by the projects” and that “the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on these certifications and the conditions required to protect water quality.” In an email from Mr. Hayden that was quoted in the Roanoke Times, Mr. Hayden elaborated on the press release, saying that “[t]he certification looks at each wetland, stream crossing, etc. separately to determine specific requirements that would be necessary”.[2]

Now, James Golden, DEQ’s director of operations, says that “inadequate communication between the department’s technical and public affairs staff led to the publication of an inaccurate description of DEQ’s plans to assess the potential water quality impacts of the two natural gas pipeline projects.”

“For the past seven weeks, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Governor McAuliffe have lived a lie,” Reed said. “Without detailed water analysis, state and federal agencies, impacted localities and property owners, and the public, are left with nothing but the governor’s active suppression of critical information.”

Dozens of citizen groups have worked tirelessly to advocate for a state-level environmental analysis that is more detailed and site-specific than the blanket Federal ”nation-wide” analysis done by the Army Corps of Engineers. A letter to Governor McAuliffe from the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, which documents ongoing communication with the DEQ on this issue, states that “the (DEQ) did not analyze the suitability of (a nation-wide permit) to meet Virginia Water Quality Standards,” and asks “why has the public been misled about your administration’s intentions?”[3]

It was the conclusion and implementation of a state-level water impact analysis in New York State that blocked the construction of the Constitution Pipeline in New York. (On May 16, that decision was appealed by Constitution Pipeline Company, LLC, which proposed the project.) [4]

“The governor’s boast that the ACP would be “the most environmentally responsible pipeline . . . ever built in the history of the United States of America”[5] is “utterly baseless,” Reed said. “The governor would like to bury what a detailed analysis would reveal.”

[1] http://www.roanoke.com/business/news/deq-acknowledges-error-clarifies-approach-to-review-of-pipelines/article_2ea11f0c-1fac-5531-aaae-ba6d7f0b2e0c.html

[2] Duncan Adams, Roanoke Times, DEQ to require pipeline projects to secure state water quality certfication, April 6, 2017, http://www.roanoke.com/business/business/news/frankin_county/deq-to-require-pipeline-projects-to-secure-state-water-quality/article_b146ff9c-af82-500e-af72-eec4077062e2.html

[3] http://pipelineupdate.org/2017/05/25/governor-mcauliffe-must-act-now/

[4] http://constitutionpipeline.com/constitution-pipeline-challenges-decision-by-new-york-state-to-block-federally-approved-pipeline/

[5] Governor McAuliffe, Press Conference endorsing Atlantic Coast Pipeline, September 2, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMn16nJx7OU.