An editorial in the Charlottesvile Daily Progress on January 9, 2019, states clearly what anyone who has seen the havoc Dominion created with its tree felling in early 2018 knows: “Given current slowdowns to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, it’s a shame that pipeline developers got permission to start felling trees last year even before all permits were approved. Some environmental damage might have been mitigated — or at least delayed.”
Dominion rushed to get the permits and rushed to cut the trees, and despite the various restrictions on what, where, and how cutting could occur, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued 15 separate violation notices of tree felling within wetland buffer zones and stream crossings that were supposed to be protected.
The editorial notes a common thread of the court rulings that have delayed the ACP is that “permits failed to adequately address existing law or follow reasonable procedures.”
As the editorial points out, “It might not matter to Dominion that trees were felled so far in advance of the actual pipeline construction; after all, the forest isn’t going to grow back in a year. But it matters to the well-being of the environment. Although developers were required to leave felled trees on the ground, the loss of tree canopy significantly alters the local habitat and its health. That the trees were cut before they needed to be exacerbates the harm. And then there’s the matter of the stream crossing and wetlands violations. They shouldn’t have happened at all, no matter when the trees were cut. But if developers hadn’t been rushing the process, as it appears, they might have taken more care to understand and correctly implement the terms of the permit.”