When Agencies Fail, Citizens Will Continue to Step Up
Special Thanks to Katherine Wilkin, POWHR Coalition Coordinator, for providing this his report on last week’s the State Water Control Board (SWCB) meeting.
Last week, the State Water Control Board neglected to take action to protect Virginia’s waterways from the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects.
Hundreds of landowners, community and environmental advocates, and other supporters gathered August 21 to reinforce comments made during a comment period opened by the Board in their April meeting. The Board was seeking information on whether the Army Corps’ Nationwide Permit 12 was enough to protect Virginia’s water quality in the face of two massively destructive pipeline projects.
Verbal citizen comment was limited to under an hour. During that time, Board members were given testimony regarding ongoing steep slope failures, impacts to residential drinking water sources, environmental injustice, lack of adequate regulatory enforcement, and legal inconsistencies that have already been seen along the two pipeline routes. The Board was told that all of these issues would escalate as the projects continue, unless the Board stepped in to protect the residents and waters of Virginia.
DEQ staff, on the other hand, failed to discuss details of technical comments made to the Board during the written comment period and spoke to the details of water quality issues on the ground despite admission that Melanie Davenport, the Director of Water Permitting with DEQ and the presenter before the Board, had no engineering knowledge or firsthand evidence problems being reported by citizens.
Staff used 90 year old pipelines as examples of “successful reclamation” and indicated that the MVP will end up looking like those after installation, but neglected to discuss more recent and similar pipelines, which have continued to cause public health and safety problems with ongoing erosion, leaks, and explosions.
The Board reserves the authority to initiate a formal hearing process to amend or revoke the Section 401 permit — and Board Member Robert Wayland made a motion to do so. The motion was supported by two other board members, Roberta Kellam and Nissa Dean, but did not receive the majority vote.
Southwest Virginia’s own representative on the Board, Lou-Ann Jessee Wallace, remained silent during the meeting and voted against Wayland’s motion to initiate a formal hearing process, despite testimony given by landowners and advocates with a myriad of reasons to step up and stand up for Southwest Virginia.
Instead, the Board opted to do no more than tell DEQ to do their job, passing a motion that calls for strict enforcement of Erosion and Sedimentation law, response to citizen complaints, and communication with other agencies.
Despite the majority of the Board’s apparent complacency and deference to a failing agency when it comes to protecting water quality in Virginia, there are still avenues up ahead for challenging the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Preserve Craig, POWHR, Indian Creek Watershed Association, and others recently filed legal challenges in the DC Circuit to the FERC Certificate. Additionally, landowners are continuing to challenge the use of eminent domain with an appeal in the Fourth Circuit being heard September 25, and environmental advocates will have oral arguments September 28 on a challenge to the Army Corps’ permitting of the project.
On the ground, citizen volunteers also continue to challenge the MVP project and hold a spotlight on DEQ’s inadequate enforcement — which as of yet has not seemed to change as a result of the Board’s motion — by monitoring the construction and stabilization process under FERC’s stop work order issued August 3. Despite lack of agency action, members of and advocates for the affected communities will continue to hold both the company and regulators accountable for impacts to local and regional waterways.
Prepared by Katherine Wilkin, POWHR Coalition coordinator.
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.
Protect Our Community
Please donate to protect this special place. Preserve Craig, Inc. is a 501C3 nonprofit volunteer public charity formed in 1991 to protect our natural, historical, and cultural resources. Tax-deductible donations can be made online at www.preservecraig.org or by mail to: Preserve Craig, Inc., PO Box 730, New Castle, VA. 24127. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org