An August 24, 2018, article in ThinkProgress, All-volunteer groups patrol construction of gas pipeline projects in Virginia, North Carolina, explains the background of the all-volunteer groups patrolling pipeline construction projects in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The article includes extensive quotes from Rick Webb, David Sligh, and Kirk Bowers. Both Pipeline CSI and Mountain Valley Watch were created to monitor construction of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, with trained volunteers essentially serving as citizen regulatory agencies, since the state regulatory agencies have neither the staff nor the will to monitor the massive projects as needed.
“In some cases, these volunteer monitoring groups have gathered more information on the pipelines’ impact on the environment and private lands than the regulators that are paid to monitor the projects. The mission of these all-volunteer oversight groups is to make sure laws are obeyed and no corners are cut during construction. And if the volunteers do their jobs well enough, they hope to provide enough evidence of violations to force regulators to issue permanent stop-work orders on the projects.”
A trained group of experts are monitoring and documenting problems in water quality, erosion and sedimentation control, and runoff with sound scientific results and “evidence grade” information – information strong enough to use in court. Often the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has been unable to get in on-site and observe problems, and only knows of violations because citizen observers are in the field doing the work with on-the-ground monitoring and aerial surveys.
“With previous construction projects, inspectors with the Virginia DEQ would, as Webb described, apologetically tell pipeline construction crews that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was forcing them to keep close tabs on their work. ‘Everybody blamed the EPA’ for making everyone do extra work, Webb said. With the creation of the Pipeline CSI, ‘they can blame us,’ he noted.”
Information on the Pipeline CSI here.