A coalition of 14 conservation organizations, 12 of them members of ABRA, have requested that the Virginia State Water Control Board stay the effective date of the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), approved on December 12 by the Board. The Certification will not be effective until the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved erosion and sediment control plans, as well as other required plans. The DEQ’s review is still ongoing. Furthermore, according to the Certification document that was published on December 20, the Board may consider further action once DEQ’s plan review is completed.
The May 8 letter from the conservation groups sets forth three principal justifications for its request for a stay:
- The State Water Control Board’s recent opening of a new 30-day comment period on the adequacy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) “raises significant uncertainty for the prior certification determination that there was ‘reasonable assurance’ that the pipeline will comply with Virginia water quality standards.”
- The Board’s concern over whether the NWP 12 will protect water quality is well-founded for the ACP given the many smaller-scale watersheds that would be crossed by the pipeline and the failure of the NWP 12 to provide an assessment of the combined effect of those crossings.
- New information also justifies a stay of the Certification, such as the recent listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the yellow lance mussel as a threatened species. The yellow lance is found in several rivers that would be crossed by the ACP.
The letter concludes by asking that the Board delay the effective date of the Certification until it completes its evaluation of the adequacy of the NWP 12 for the ACP and litigation challenging the Certification is resolved.