A citizen initiative to monitor construction activities of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was publicly announced by ABRA on Monday, January 22. The objective of the Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (Pipeline CSI) is to ensure strict application of environmental laws and regulations for the ACP.
“We strongly believe that the ACP is unneeded and cannot be built safely without causing permanent damage to the environment, particularly critical water resources,” stated Rick Webb of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, who is chairing the development of the new ABRA program. “We will continue to challenge the government decisions involving the project. But, with certain pre-construction activities already underway, citizen oversight is essential given the limited resources of government agencies that are responsible for regulating pipeline construction.”
Continuing, Webb said “the need for citizen oversight of pipeline construction has been made clear by observations of recent pipeline projects and ineffective government agency response to repeated violations and water resource harm. We have no reason to expect more from the agencies during construction of the ACP, given their failure to require submission of complete environmental plans prior to project approval. This deferral of critical review and analysis sets the stage for significant and long-term degradation of high-quality streams and groundwater supplies.”
The Pipeline CSI will gather in-depth data and assess the landscape the ACP is proposed to cross to fill in information gaps in official records. The Pipeline CSI planning team is currently developing programs on stream quality monitoring, aerial surveillance, and regulatory review, as well as establishing appropriate guidelines and protocols. The program will initially concentrate on the most mountainous portions of the ACP route, where major watersheds are potentially impacted.
The overall effort will involve hundreds of volunteer observers in Virginia and West Virginia, plus several partnering organizations that have existing programs with which CSI will coordinate and supplement, including the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Trout Unlimited, Wild Virginia, FracTracker Alliance, SouthWings, and Appalachian Voices.
ABRA plans to establish working relationships between the Pipeline CSI program and regulatory agencies that have inspection and enforcement responsibilities for the ACP. ABRA representatives this week had an initial meeting with officials of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Similar meetings with other key agencies are being planned.
Information on how interested ABRA member organizations and individuals can participate in Pipeline CSI will be forthcoming over the next two weeks.