The Virginia State Water Control Board chose this week not to reconsider its previous decision to approve water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). At its August 21 meeting in Richmond the Board rejected a motion, on a 3-4 vote, to modify or revoke the Board’s December action to approve a water quality certification that was based in part on the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers’ permit on stream crossings for the two pipelines. Instead, the Board approved a motion, 7-0, calling for the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) “to continue aggressive compliance, enforcement, inspection and enforcement activities” for the two pipelines.
Earlier in the meeting, DEQ staff briefed the Board about the more than 13,000 comments that had been filed about the adequacy of the Army Corps’ permits for the ACP and MVP. That was followed by a brief comment period during which several ABRA member representatives spoke. Representative of the strong words offered by many were those of David Sligh, Conservation Director for Wild Virginia:
The fact is that the Corps of Engineers’ permitting decision is not based on water quality standards. They explicitly say over and over that that is not their job, that’s the job of the states. . . For DEQ to tell you that they don’t intend to enforce certain parts of your water quality standards is atrocious and you should not accept that.”
In a statement released after the Board vote, Greg Buppert, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said:
The board’s action today squandered a powerful opportunity to protect the waters in communities across Virginia. We have seen firsthand that pipeline construction in Virginia cannot be done without causing serious and permanent sedimentation problems to rivers and streams. The ACP and MVP will cross Virginia waters more than a thousand times. The people of the Commonwealth deserve better than blanket assurances that everything will be ok when the facts on the ground show that they are not.”
The full text of the motion adopted by the Water Board follows:
The Board has reviewed the public comment received during the comment period, has heard the staff’s evaluation of the public comments and the sufficiency of the Nationwide Permit 12 to protect stream crossings impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Board has also heard the staff’s report on the status of both projects regarding public complaints, compliance and enforcement and have considered advice of counsel as to the Board’s jurisdiction and authority.
Based on the foregoing considerations, the Board directs DEQ staff:
- to share relevant information from the public comment period with the Corps of Engineers for their consideration in administering and enforcing Nationwide Permit 12 to ensure protection of state waters;
- to continue aggressive compliance, inspection and enforcement activities to the maximum extent of its authority, and to include incorporation of erosion and sediment measures required by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy where they are relevant and to the extent that they are more stringent; and
- to respond promptly and effectively to verified public complaints of violations.
Staff reports presented to the State Water Board at the meeting are available here.