The Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) Surveillance Report for January 24, 2019, includes analysis of the November and December 2018 flight photos by CSI Aerial ImageReviewers. After the analysis, 22 separate complaints concerning regulatory non-compliance were submitted by the West Virginia Rivers Coalition to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
- Failure to install, or delayed installation of, erosion and sediment control measures. (5 incidents)
- Deviation from approved erosion and sediment control and construction plans. (1 incident)
- Missing, failed, damaged, or improperly installed or maintained silt fences, filter socks, or other perimeter control devices. (13 incidents)
- Missing, failed, damaged, or improperly constructed right-of-way diversions (water bars or slope breakers) and outlet structures. (2 incidents)
- Sediment discharge into streams and wetlands. (1 incident)
Following a December 10, 2018 inspection conducted in response to some of these
complaints, WVDEP issued a Notice of Violation to Dominion Energy Transportation, Inc. for noncompliance with permit terms and conditions and failure to comply with the project’s approved Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan.
Read further details of the January report here.
The CSI is a program of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) and its member groups. The central strength of ABRA’s CSI program is its citizen volunteers. Many people have already signed on to be part of the program, but many more are needed. Persons interested in becoming CSI volunteers can sign up by clicking here.
There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page):
Writing in the Washington Post on January 24, 2019, Sam Bleicher, a member and vice-chair of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board until removed by Northam in November 2018, discusses the January 8 approval by a diminished Air Board of the air pollution permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station.
He says, “the decision sets important, undesirable precedents for environmental justice decisions and for the global ‘business in liquidation’ approach of continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure. To undermine the environmental justice opposition, Dominion committed $5 million for improved health and safety facilities in Union Hill that the community certainly needs — but only if the permit is approved. This deal divided the public opposition. The Dominion commitment presented the Air Board with a Hobson’s choice: The board could protect this disadvantaged minority community from the risks emanating from the compressor station, but only by depriving it of funds that will improve the lives of the residents. The existing statutes and regulations on environmental justice in siting energy facilities do not address the existence or relevance of such compensatory ‘incentives’ (some would say ‘bribes’).”
Bleicher believes that, “the outcome tells major corporations that they can buy their way out of environmental justice embarrassments by spending a tiny fraction of the total project cost to benefit the poor minority residents who are inconveniently located in their way.”
He describes the outdated policy of “bridge technology” (natural gas as the “bridge” from coal to sustainable, emission-free technologies), still egregiously embodied in government policy, including in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rules that guarantee a 14 percent return on capital invested in fossil fuel pipelines, no matter if they are never used. That outdated policy explains why Dominion wants to build a pipeline that makes no sense except to guarantee return to shareholders and management.
Bleicher concludes, “Unless we change the obsolete policies that incentivize construction of unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure, communities like Union Hill remain at risk and electricity monopolies will continue to profit, despite the suffering of affected communities, and the costs of climate change inaction multiply.”
Read the full article here.
On January 23, 2019, the Virginia Mercury reported that Governor Northam is reconstituting an advisory council that he simply ignored in 2018. After multiple meetings to hear testimony and study the issues, the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, originally appointed by former Governor McAuliffe, submitted their report to Northam in May 2018. The Council called for a stay on all further permits for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, and found evidence of of “disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations due to gas infrastructure expansion.”
Northam maintained the report was merely a draft. The Council, in late August, reiterated that their report and recommendations were final, and formally urged Northam to direct state agencies to suspend water and air quality permits for the ACP and MVP. He continued to ignore them.
Now, according to the Mercury article, “The former members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice were invited to apply to serve on the new body, called the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, in an email from Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler. ‘I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to you and all members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for your service over the past year. I am pleased to report that the governor has acted on a key recommendation from your report to continue his commitment to environmental justice through the issuance of Executive Order 29 – establishing a new Virginia Council on Environmental Justice,’ Strickler wrote. The new council will ‘build on your work by recommending a long-term framework to guide environmental justice decision-making and ensure environmental justice concerns are integrated across state programs, policies, permits and procedures,’ Strickler said.
All well and good. But will the Governor pay any more attention to the Council this time around, especially if they recommend things he does not want to hear?
Read the full Virginia Mercury article here.
There are serious ethical and conduct issues surrounding Mr. Paylor’s work, especially in the permitting processes connected with the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines. Act now to oppose David Paylor’s confirmation as Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality! The vote on his confirmation reached the Senate floor and the press on January 21, 2019 (Six senators vote against Northam’s pick to lead environmental agency).
While the House of Delegates may not act on this until after cross over/Feb. 5, they could act at any time. They could act today. Call and email your own Delegate to the Virginia Assembly (Who’s my Legislator? ) and as well as members of the Privileges and Elections Committee. Ask them to oppose the confirmation vote on the appointment of David Paylor as Director of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as designated in Senate Joint Resolution No. 292 (offered Jan 9, 2019) confirming appointments by the Governor of certain persons communicated May 17, 2018.
Talking points/Sample letter/email here.
On January 16, 2019, the US Park Service filed a motion (made public on January 18) with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a voluntarily remand of the construction and right-of-way permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Park Service explains that upon the Court granting the request, the agency will vacate the previously issued permit for the ACP to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and “consider whether issuance of a right-of-way permit for the pipeline to cross an adjacent segment of the Parkway is appropriate.”
The Fourth Circuit granted the Park Service’s request to remand the permit back to the agency for reconsideration on January 24, 2019.
Read a copy of the motion.
Read Platt S&P Global January 18 coverage of the motion and the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage.