Hundreds of very substantive comments were filed by August 22 with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding whether the agency should issue water quality certificates for the Atlantic Coast (ACP) and Mountain Valley (MVP) pipelines. In a review of many of the submissions, a common theme is prominent: the agency’s draft decisions approving certification for the ACP and MVP represent a rush to judgment in the absence of sufficient evidence to justify that conclusion.
Below are excerpts of some of the comments. The complete versions of these and several other representative submissions are available on the ABRA website.
- Appalachian Mountain Advocates (on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, Friends of Nelson, Natural Resources Defense Council, Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, the Sierra Club, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Wild Virginia)
“For numerous reasons, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (“DEQ”) draft Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline falls far short of meeting Section 401’s requirements. Fundamentally, DEQ’s 401 analysis is insufficient because it fails to comprehensively consider the Pipeline’s impacts on Virginia’s waters, but instead draws an arbitrary line between impacts associated with construction activities in upland areas and those associated with stream and wetland crossings. Because the Project’s effect on Virginia’s water quality can only be determined by assessing the combined, cumulative effect of those impacts, DEQ’s analysis does not satisfy the Clean Water Act. Even if DEQ’s analysis did not draw this artificial division, however, it would still fail because ACP has not provided adequate information to determine the combined effect of its pipeline construction activities on water quality.”
- Southern Environmental Law Center (on behalf of Shenandoah Valley Network, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Virginia Wilderness Committee, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Cowpasture River Preservation Association, Friends of Buckingham, Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, Piedmont Environmental Council, James River Association, Virginia Conservation Network, and Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition)
“DEQ has arbitrarily postponed consideration of critical information until after this 401 Certification process. The public is therefore denied the opportunity to meaningfully comment on all information relevant to the project’s impacts and the agency lacks sufficient information on which to base a decision. In the most glaring example, DEQ has deferred evaluation of erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans even while it acknowledges that these plans are “critically important” to protecting water quality in Virginia’s streams, rivers, and wetlands.”
- Thomas Hadwin (Friends of Central Shenandoah)
“There is time for a thorough water quality permit review. The next power plant that might require additional gas supply in Virginia is proposed for operation in 2025. Nearly 80% of the capacity of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is intended for use in power plants. Growth in electricity demand in Virginia is essentially flat. In their latest 15-year plans, Dominion and Duke have reduced the number of large gas-fired power plants they think they need by 45-50% compared to their estimates the year before.
“If the DEQ took the next two years to issue a permit, it would not affect the timely operation of any of the power plants that have been used to justify this project.”
- Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
A group of thirteen expert scientists and engineers submitted reports to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on August 22, 2017, finding that DEQ has failed in its duty to properly analyze and protect against the water quality damages the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cause to Virginia’s waters. 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.”