The State Water Control Board (SWCB) met yesterday to review thousands of public comments requesting withdrawal of a key permit that allows Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross hundreds of Virginia streams and rivers without adequate review. The data now shows that the damage is severe. Next week we’ll report the results of that meeting.
In the meantime, we discovered that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has a very strange interpretation of its authority. As a result, we signed on to a scathing letter to the SWCB about this absurd situation and asked that it be remedied.
Dear Members of the State Water Control Board:
We, the undersigned, write to report shocking information we recently learned from Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials about how they enforce regulations for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). These disclosures, which were not explained to the State Water Control Board (Board) before it approved “upland” water quality certifications for the pipelines, refute contentions that there is “reasonable assurance” that the pipeline projects will uphold our state water quality standards (WQS).
We believe these findings are an additional basis, in combination with the extensive record of violations and water pollution impacts already documented for MVP on which the Board should revoke certifications issued for both pipelines in December 2017. We strongly urge you to take this action, to protect Virginians and our water resources.
On July 20, 2018, we were part of a group of citizens who joined a conference call with DEQ officials to discuss the Department’s enforcement actions on MVP. DEQ was represented by Director David Paylor, James Golden, Director of Regional Operations, and others. DEQ had finally issued a Notice of Violation to MVP after many weeks of mud flowing off the company’s construction sites, degrading streams, damaging residents’ properties, and impairing designated and existing uses. The call was organized to explain DEQ’s actions.
During that call, Mr. Paylor told us that DEQ does not deem discharges of sediment from pipeline worksites to be violations when relatively large storms occur, even when waterbody impacts were clearly demonstrated. Mr. Paylor explained that after DEQ inspectors find sediment flowing from pipeline construction areas they then determine the size of the storm that contributed to the runoff events before deciding whether to take enforcement action. If the storm exceeds the “design storm,” a statistically-derived rainfall amount engineers use as a guideline in sizing pollution control measures, then DEQ apparently decides the polluter is not liable for its discharges or the water impacts they cause.
When citizens on the call asserted that WQS must apply, no matter the size of the storm that caused the discharge, we heard another very disturbing explanation from Mr. Golden. While acknowledging that WQS include narrative or general criteria, which apply even when numeric criteria have not been adopted, Golden stated that DEQ has generally not enforced these narrative criteria.
We find both of these disclosures by DEQ to be outrageous. Certainly, the certifications were supposed to prevent WQS violations, not exempt those caused by major storms. And DEQ cannot have the authority to decide that some parts of the WQS regulation need not be enforced. Further, as stated above, neither of these interpretations was disclosed to the Board when it considered whether to issue the certifications. We refuse to believe Board members would have approved the projects if they’d had this information. We think you must now act to correct this situation.
Interestingly, in adopting his stated position regarding “design storms,” Mr. Paylor joins MVP in attempting to absolve the company from liability for some of the damages it has caused and may continue to cause. In court filings, MVP’s attorney asserted the company is not legally liable for mud discharged from its work sites if the storm exceeds a certain size.2
DEQ and the Board must stand with and defend the Virginians whose lands and waters are damaged and threatened by the ineffective pollution controls pipeline companies have devised—not endorse the companies’ attempts to evade responsibility for their actions. It is now even clearer than before that, in some areas the companies propose to cross, no management practices can fully control pollution such that state standards are met.
Please act now. Please reject the flawed approaches DEQ is advancing. Please exert the authority wisely granted to you, as our fellow citizens, to protect us and our precious resources.
Thank you for your attention and for your service. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Board at its August 21 meeting, if you find it appropriate.
David Sligh, Wild Virginia, Delegate Sam Rasoul, District 11, House of Delegates, Preserve Craig, and a dozen other organizations
Preserve Craig is working to nullify all permits that MVP obtained from State and Federal Agencies using faulty claims of public benefit. You can write to Governor Northam and object to his support of MVP while serious damage is occurring and “his” State Water Control Board (SWCB) is considering the public comments about water crossing by MVP, at its meeting on August 21, 2018 in Richmond.
Preserve Craig is a participant in the Mountain Valley Watch (MVW), a collaboration of volunteers, nonprofits, and private interests. MVW is documenting construction activity of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to assure compliance with environmental regulations during construction. Call or text to 833-MVWATCH (833-689-2824) with any info on harm MVP is causing.
The MVW is monitoring the Mountain Valley Pipeline for problems during construction: water source contamination, slope failure, soil erosion into waterbodies, stream channel damage, and damage to adjacent properties. Violations of erosion control regulations observed during construction are being documented and reported to responsible agencies for corrective action.
Mountain Valley Watch just submitted an extensive report to the SWCB documenting the scientific analyses of stormwater runoff impacts, watershed impacts, local geohazards that show the ineffectiveness of MVP’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the conditions found along the route even when BMPs are implemented properly. This report is available on Preserve Craig and POWHR’s website.