In his excellent October 18, 2018, Virginia Mercury article, Virginia’s pipeline projects and the aura of inevitability, Reporter Robert Zullo nails the Dominion methodology: “Indeed, plunging ahead with as much work as it can get away with before all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed seems a deliberate strategy to deflate opposition and stay ahead of a slew of court decisions that have found major flaws in the federal approval process. If trees are coming down here and pipe is going in the ground elsewhere, the thing must be getting built, right?”
FERC has given Dominion permission to begin non-mechanized tree cutting on the proposed Union Hill compressor station site (see FERC Authorizes Tree Felling at Union Hill) despite the fact that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline still lacks an air permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for the compressor station, and despite the fact that construction in Virginia is under a stay order from the 4th Circuit Court pending outcome of hearings on both Forest Service permits and Fish and Wildlife permits.
Zullo points out that Virginia’s DEQ has enhanced the “aura of inevitability surrounding the ACP and a separate project planned to cross through southwest Virginia: the Mountain Valley Pipeline” by its ongoing abdication of responsibilities. Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler continues to dodge the issues by sticking to his policy of maintaining Virginia can’t do anything. He refuses to acknowledge that Virginia DOES have a great deal of authority (e.g., under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act) over these pipeline projects. Instead, Virginia’s regulatory authorities have gone in the other direction, with DEQ for instance “conduct[ing] an all-out push to convince the State Water Control Board to issue water quality certifications for the projects.”
It is psychological warfare. Dominion wants to promote the “aura of inevitability” and make it seem as if the pipelines are a done deal in order to demoralize opponents and make them give up their fight. Well, the pipelines are not done deals, and the fight isn’t over, and we are still here fighting!