The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has released this week an agenda and background materials for the meetings next month of the State Water Control Board to consider approving water quality certificates, under Sec. 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The Board is scheduled to meet on December 6 and 7 to consider the Mountain Valley Pipeline application, and on December 11 and 12 to consider the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The first-day agendas for both pipeline meetings call for a summary presentation by staff of comments made during the public comment period and hearings, followed by an opportunity for those who commented at the public hearings or filed comments during the public comment period to respond to the staff summary. Board consideration of the pending applications are slated to occur on the second day (December 7 for MVP; December 12 for ACP). Three-minute time limits will be imposed on those making comments.
The meetings will be held at the Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Rd., Richmond, VA. The sessions for each of the 4 days will begin at 9:30 am.
The DEQ summary of comments indicated that there were 8,000 individual comments presented on the MVP and 15,000 on the ACP. In general, the summaries and judgments made on the comments by the DEQ defend the agency’s approach. Two examples from the ACP summary:
- DEQ is inappropriately excluding comments on Erosion and Sediment Control Plans and Stormwater Management Plans, the Corps’ NWP 12 and environmental impact statements from the record of the proposed 401 Certification.
DEQ is not excluding comments on the record. DEQ is simply stating that such comments are not relevant to this proposed 401 Certification. DEQ acknowledges that its review and approval of project-specific stormwater management and erosion and sediment control plans is a critical component of assuring protection of water quality. But this is separate and apart from the scope of this proposed 401 Certification. Before any land disturbing activity can occur, DEQ must have reviewed and approved ACP’s project-specific plans. As explained in the Basis for Certification (Attachment A to the Memorandum), the Virginia Stormwater Management Program law and regulations establish that land disturbance associated with pipeline construction activities must meet Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control (VESC) and Stormwater Management (SWM) requirements to protect surface water quality during and after construction completion. State law further mandates that natural gas pipeline utilities (and certain other utilities) meet the requirements for VESC and SWM under a DEQ approved Annual Standards and Specifications Program. These plans will not be approved unless they meet Virginia’s statutory and regulatory requirements for post construction stormwater management and erosion and sediment control during construction.
- Impacts from Blasting – Blasting will cause irreparable harm to streams and karst features and increase landslide potential.
The proposed 401 Certification includes incorporation of a Blasting Plan approved by FERC in the FEIS which outlines procedures and safety measures to minimize impacts to structures and water resources. The potential for blasting along the proposed pipeline to affect any structures or water resources will be minimized by utilizing controlled blasting techniques and using mechanical methods for rock excavation as much as possible. Controlled blasting techniques are designed to loosen rock, utilize minimal blasting charges and allow for physical removal of the rock once it has been fractured by the charge. Within the construction industry, controlled blasting techniques are regularly employed within 15 feet of active gas lines. The Plan includes specific practices for blasting conducted in karst terrain and waterbody and wetland crossings. Monitoring and pre and post blasting inspections are also required by the Plan. The use of controlled blasting techniques, where small, localized detonations are utilized, will avoid or minimize potential impacts to water resources.