Category Archives: Citizen Surveillance

New ABRA Program: The Conservation Hub

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #289, August 20, 2020

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) is pleased to announce an exciting new program: The Conservation Hub. ABRA’s Conservation Hub program promotes responsible resource management by providing data-focused tools that enhance a project’s transparency, strengthen its accountability to regulatory agencies and facilitate public participation in its evaluation process. The Hub is a regional information and mapping portal, tailored to specific projects in the central Appalachian region of Virginia and West Virginia encompassing 52 counties (26 in VA and 26 in WV, see map below), but also an information resource on the natural resources and character of the region.

Projects beyond the region will be considered on a case by case basis.

The Conservation Hub is an outgrowth of the mapping system developed for ABRA’s Construction Surveillance Initiative (CSI), a program that was created to monitor construction activity of the now-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (Note: The CSI program will continue until restoration of the ACP route has been completed.)

For more information, see the ABRA Web page.

ABRA Unveils New Pipeline Mapping Systems

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #270, April 2, 2020

Two new online mapping systems have been created by ABRA to assist allies who are fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other pipeline projects in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and in North Carolina. Both systems are based on geographic information system (GIS) technology, like ABRA’s CIS mapping system for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

The Hampton Roads Anti-Pipeline Education Map includes the rest of the ACP route from Buckingham County to the North Carolina border and to Portsmouth, VA, plus two pipeline projects of the Virginia Gas Company, the Header Improvement Project and the Southside Connector Pipeline.

The North Carolina Pipeline Watch Mapping System (NCPWP) depicts the ACP route from the Virginia boarder south to the terminus of the project. It includes updated stream crossings and new land ownership data and is designed to assist our allies in North Carolina to better monitor any construction activity of the ACP.

For more information the ACP monitoring effort in North Carolina, visit www.NCPipelineWatch.org.

To access the new mapping systems, click here.

ABRA Alerts Feds to ACP Safety Problems

From Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance ABRA Update #249, October 18, 2019

ABRA’s CSI program has provided more evidence to federal regulators of unsafe and non-compliant construction practices of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

On July 25, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) wrote Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI), which is managing the construction of the ACP, concerning trench widths that did not appear to meet specifications and the presence of bedrock and loose boulders in pipeline trenches. The locations were within the first miles of the project in West Virginia. DETI responded on August 21 denying that the conditions cited by PHMSA inspectors existed. This prompted ABRA to examine the reported incidents base upon photographic evidence acquired by ABRA/CSI Pipeline Air Force photo surveillance flights.

In a October 16,2019, letter to PHMSA, Dan Shaffer, ABRA’s Geospatial Consultant, brought to the agency’s attention photographs that contradict DETI’s contention. Shaffer explained that “CSI has identified 25 locations along the route that seem to show large rocks loose in the trench, directly underneath the pipe, incorporated with backfill, or protruding into the trench in close proximity to the pipe. . . . We are concerned that these conditions place the Atlantic Coast Pipeline at a significant risk of damage during hydrostatic testing, increased rates of corrosion due to damaged epoxy coating, or rupture due to landslides or even small slips.” One of the photo examples provided to PHMSA with the letter is reproduced below.

9/19/2018 1122 MP 33.8 -80.203613, 38.908424 5,5 Shattered bedrock lines the trench.

Concluding, Shaffer said: “Our photographic evidence suggests that such conditions are common practice on this project. We feel that these locations warrant additional investigation to ensure that the project is being constructed in a safe manner.”

Legal Observer Training – 2 Opportunities

Attorney Kai Memmer, a volunteer for the Southwest Virginia Chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, will train attendees to become Legal Observers. LO’s are needed immediately in the Elliston, VA area, other areas along the MVP route, and where law enforcement and protestors are in proximity to monitor and document interactions. LO’s presence serves to de-escalate tensions on both sides, and is a vital, neutral information gathering tool.

Volunteers are needed for any amount of time. Information on the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Legal Observer program: https://www.nlg.org/our-work/

Training session #1: Wednesday, October 30 at 6pm at the Lucy F Simms Continuing Education Center, Classroom 101, 620 Simms Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802

Training session #2: Wednesday, November 6 at 6pm at the Nelson Memorial Library, 8521 Thomas Nelson Highway, Lovingston VA 22949

Questions? drkinva@yahoo.com

Citizen Surveillance: MVP and ACP

Mountain Valley Watch (MVW) is a collaboration of volunteers and experts who observe, document, and report environmental issues related to the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline between Wetzel County, West Virginia, and Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

They have a new map on the front page of their website (https://www.newrivergeographics.com/mvw/) with a visual representation of the volunteer reporting happening along the MVP route. You can zoom in and expand individual submissions and view images.

For the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance’s Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) program Web page (http://abra-csi.org/) includes instructions on how volunteers can become involved in the program, examples of non-compliance issues, and numerous technical resources, including the unique CSI mapping system. There are links to surveillance photographs taken by the ABRA/CSI Pipeline Air Force.

Active Landslide Threatens Homes

Photo courtesy of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance: Pipeline Air Force

An active landslide originating on the Mountain Valley Pipeline right of way on a steep slope has made a house NOT in the construction area uninhabitable.

On July 29, 2019, MVP filed a variance request for slip remediation with FERC, and just 10 days later admitted to FERC that over three months it had been unable to stop the earth movement, requesting “emergency authorization” to stabilize the landslide, because lives were in danger. The letter said, “The progression of the slide caused additional area outside the limits of disturbance to destabilize, uprooted numerous large trees, has the potential to impact an aquatic resource, and has progressed to the point where a residence directly downslope is unsafe to be occupied.”

On August 13, FERC granted MVP’s emergency request, saying, “A recent field inspection by one of our compliance monitors confirms that portions of the slip are still moving and could compromise the residence. The slide must be stabilized before it causes damage or injury to the residence and aquatic resources located down slope of the slide.”

Jonathan Sokolow, in two articles in Medium (Definition of Insanity: Mountain Valley Pipeline Asks for “Emergency Authorization” to Prevent a Life Threatening Landslide on August 9 and Photos of Insanity: Active Landslide Threatens Lives Along Route of Mountain Valley Pipeline on August 15), points out that while this particular landslide is on a steep slope in West Virginia, there are hundreds of similarly steep slopes along the route of the MVP and of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, all with potential for similar landslides threatening lives and residences.

In his August 15 article, Sokolow writes, “Common sense would seem to dictate that emergency inspections be conducted on each steep slope in Virginia and West Virginia to make sure no similar emergencies are developing. Prudence would indicate that all work on the pipeline be stopped until those inspections are complete. Yet in the days since this active ’emergency’ (MVP’s word) became public, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, whose job is to inspect and regulate this project, has said or done nothing. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have been silent. In fact, most elected officials in Virginia seems to be ignoring this brewing disaster. In other words, regulators refuse to regulate, and leaders refuse to lead. We now have photos of this crime scene, but no thanks to government officials. We have photos thanks to ordinary citizens and an incredible effort known as the ‘Pipeline Air Force,’ a project of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance. …. Virginia has the power to stop work now on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, to stop this misnamed “engineering marvel” before gravity does its work, before someone gets hurt. As we said before, this is an emergency. Just ask MVP.”