For the second time in less than a year, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has started a legal proceeding to compel the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to obey the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
DPMC seeks information justifying a DEQ decision that affects regulation of utility lines constructed through streams and wetlands in Virginia. The DEQ responded that it was not ready to supply that information in the time required.
The DEQ announced its intention on April 7 to issue a blanket Clean Water Act section 401 certification for pipelines that are covered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit number 12. This followed the DEQ announcement on April 6 that it would conduct individual Clean Water Act section 401 reviews for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The next day’s announcement that the state would, none-the-less, issue a blanket 401 Water Quality Certification for the NWP 12 will still enable utility projects that are very damaging to our waters – without thorough reviews and public involvement.
DPMC submitted its FOIA request on April 7, the day the DEQ announced its blanket Water Quality Certification. The DPMC request asked for evidence that the DEQ had conducted the required analysis to ensure covered activities would uphold state water quality standards. The DEQ then claimed that the “complexity” of the request justified an extension that would more than double the time required for DPMC to get the information. DPMC asserts that DEQ lacks a proper basis for the time extension and is prepared to make that case in court.
Accordingly, on April 12, DPMC delivered a Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Injunctive Relief to DEQ Director David Paylor and the Department’s FOIA coordinator, demanding that DEQ meet the legal requirement that it provide records within five work-days after a request. The Petition was served on the DEQ officials in advance of filing in the state Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. For more, click here.
In an additional action this week, DPMC filed a separate FOIA request with DEQ requesting site-specific information in five Virginia counties (Highland, Bath, Augusta, Nelson and Buckingham) on: 1) erosion and sediment control plans; 2) stormwater management plans; 3) descriptive material on ACP’s “Best in Class” program and other slope-stabilization plans; and 4) any correspondence related to the foregoing information.