Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Criticized for Failing to Properly Study Pipeline Impacts
Experts submit reports; more than 10,000 signatures from citizens delivered
MONTEREY, Va. – A group of thirteen expert scientists and engineers submitted reports to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on August 22, finding that the DEQ has failed in its duty to properly analyze and protect against the water quality damages the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would cause to Virginia’s waters.
If approved, the two 42-inch pipelines will traverse through hundreds of miles of Virginia. The ACP would originate in northern West Virginia before ending roughly 600 miles later in southeastern North Carolina. The MVP would also originate in northern West Virginia, traverse hundreds of miles through that state before crossing into Virginia, will it will terminate. The adverse impact upon public health and the environment by the construction and operation of the pipelines has led the tens of thousands of groups and individuals across the Commonwealth and beyond to oppose their construction.
In the reports, one issued for each of the pipelines, the authors wrote that they had reviewed the information DEQ claimed to rely upon in its draft Water Quality Certifications (WQCs) and made their own independent assessments. The experts’ conclusion in each case:
DEQ’s draft WQC, which asserts that there is a “reasonable assurance” that Water Quality Standards (WQS) will be met with the conditions contained in that draft, cannot be supported by the evidence in the record and pertinent scientific authorities and knowledge. Such a finding in the Department’s recommendation to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) would be professionally incompetent and would fail to meet minimum standards of scientific proof.
The authors of the expert report have a vast depth of experience and training (nearly 400 years in professional and academic posts overall) in the entire range of scientific and technical fields pertinent to DEQ’s decisions on the pipelines. They include the incoming president of the American Fisheries Society, a member of the Virginia Cave Board, and former senior engineers and scientists at the Virginia DEQ, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The group includes licensed professional engineers and geologists, professors from Virginia Tech and Washington and Lee University, authors of hundreds of peer-reviewed academic papers, and those who’ve served as expert witnesses in court for DEQ and other state and federal agencies. A complete list of the authors is included below.
“The authors of this report used strong language in our criticism of the proposed findings DEQ has made in its draft Certifications for the pipelines, because we are frankly dismayed to see an agency that’s supposed to base regulatory decisions on science and law ignore the facts and betray the public,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia and a Regulatory Systems Investigator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC). The two groups included the expert reports as part of extensive submittals to DEQ during the comment periods that ended yesterday.
Rick Webb, DPMC’s Coordinator said, “We are not criticizing the dedicated technical employees at DEQ and the other state agencies who’ve studied the potential impacts from the hugely-disruptive projects. In fact, we cited the recommendations agency staff made in previous comments in which they explained why much more data and analyses were needed before protection of state waters could be assured, as the law requires; that permanent damages to our waterbodies could result and residents’ wells and springs ruined without additional information and protective measures.”
“What we are criticizing is the McAuliffe administration’s regulatory proposals, which ignore the concerns and devalue the expertise of their own technical staff,” stated Sligh. “DEQ must not proceed with flawed and scientifically-unsupported recommendations to the State Water Control Board to approve Certifications for either project. If Director Paylor, Secretary of Natural Resources Ward, and the Governor mandate such an approach, then the members of the Water Control Board must play their roles as protectors of the public and reject those recommendations.”
The reports’ authors include: Dr. Paul L. Angermeier, Ralph Bolgiano, Malcolm CameronHE, David Collins, P.E., Ari Daniels, Dr. Pam Dodds, P.G., Dr. David Harbor, Robert K. Johnson, Rick Lambert, William Limpert, Dr. Brian Murphy, David Sligh and Rick Webb. For more information, including access to the complete expert report on the ACP and additional DPMC reports on the draft 401 Water Quality Certification, visit the DPMC website.
10,000 Comments Delivered to DEQ by Environmental Groups
Also on Tuesday, experts, landowners, and environmental groups from across the Commonwealth gathered at DEQ headquarters in Richmond to deliver thousands of public comments related to DEQ’s 401 water certification process.
The comments, collected by the Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Appalachian Voices, Bold Alliance, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and Oil Change International urged the DEQ to do more in order to meet the agency’s obligations to protect Virginia’s water sources from natural gas pipeline construction and operations.
“DEQ’s draft Certification is legally and scientifically indefensible,” David Sligh, former Senior Engineer at Virginia’s DEQ, said. “The processes DEQ has conducted have been unfair and inadequate to satisfy the Governor’s promises of thorough and transparent regulatory reviews. The State Water Control Board cannot certify these projects unless it can assure that all state water quality standards will be met. A rigorous scientific analysis would prove such a conclusion is impossible.”
The public comments urge Governor McAuliffe and DEQ Director David Paylor to direct the DEQ to extend the public comment period for these projects and to conduct site-specific reviews and permits for each waterway crossed by both of these pipelines. The DEQ has originally announced to the public that it would undergo site-specific reviews for these pipelines in April, but announced in June that they that the agency would instead opt to rely on the Army Corps of Engineers’ blanket permitting process.
“The Corps’ process is woefully inadequate to protect our water,” Bill Limpert, a property owner in Bath County whose property would be traversed by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said. “We looked at the Corps’ map of our property and we have two streams that are not even present on that map. How are they supposed to protect our waterways if they don’t even know where they are?”
Appalachian Chronicle On Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle
Related Articles on the Fossil Fuel Extraction Industry
Hands Across Our Land is a grassroots gathering scheduled for August 18
By Michael M. Barrick
NELSON COUNTY, Va. – A grassroots uprising among people from across Appalachia opposed to the development of further natural gas infrastructure and the related extractive process of fracking will culminate on Tuesday, Aug. 18th at communities in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and beyond in an event being called “Hands Across Our Land.”
Sharon Ponton, co-chair of Free Nelson, a grassroots group in Virginia fighting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), says her organization is one of many planning events for that day. “The purpose of Hands Across Our Land is to show solidarity and unity among the hundreds of grassroots groups fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure, whether it’s a pipeline, a well pad, an export terminal or a compressor station,” said Ponton.
In addition to opposing the proposed ACP, Free Nelson and other groups – especially in Virginia and West Virginia – are also opposing the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Ponton explained, “By participating together on this one day, we believe we can gain national media attention to the plight of thousands upon thousands of landowners and communities across the country fighting these same battles. We want others to be part of the first nationwide grassroots action against new fossil fuel infrastructures.”
The action, which is being promoted by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Beyond Extreme Energy, is intended to be a collection of local actions. “We need to all stand together, in our own communities, literally holding hands with our neighbors but also symbolically holding hands with those in other communities and states. We are asking that local groups gather at a fracking site, pipeline site or some local monument that symbolizes a community’s value and hold signs saying that they stand with their neighbors in other communities and states. Perhaps they can stand at a county line and join hands with their neighbors in that way.”
In Nelson County, Va., where Ponton lives, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Virginia’s Skyline Drive join to form one of the most scenic drives in all of the United States. “We are standing up for our heritage and culture in rural America,” said Ponton. “We are uniting to stop the industrialization of our communities from companies that put profit before people. Our streams our being polluted, our homes and land are being taken through the misuse of eminent domain, and the health and lives of our families and communities are at risk.”
She continued, “The fossil fuel industry will destroy thousands of acres of forested land, pollute water and the air, harm our local economies, degrade our national treasures such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and historical Native American areas. All of this destruction would occur in the name of profit.”
Ponton calls upon local groups to plan an event, promote it through social media, send any plans or comments to her for distribution to national media and use the hashtag phrase #HandsAcrossOurLand.”
To learn more, contact Ponton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking
Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Pipeline Lawsuits Threaten Sacredness of Appalachia
FERC Challenged to be Truly Independent
Natural Gas Industry Moves from the Absurd to the Profane
© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.
We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle