On September 15, 2015, Dominion Resources asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cover its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project under a “Nationwide Permit” that is insufficient to protect water quality in Virginia and West Virginia and cannot ensure that Clean Water Act (CWA) mandates will be met.
In its application Dominion attempts to get a “rubber stamp” approval from the Corps and, thereafter, to largely “self-regulate” itself in regard to federally-administered Clean Water Act protections. Such a proposal is entirely inappropriate and the undersigned organizations call on the Corps to reject this approach. Twenty-nine concerned groups, representing thousands of individuals and businesses, insist that these public servants, who are obligated to protect our communities and resources, meet their obligations fully.
The application Dominion filed on September 15 is intended to provide information to the Corps of Engineers about proposals that may discharge “dredge and fill” materials to water bodies.
The Corps may require an individual permit for stream impacts caused by construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, through a process in which the regulators perform detailed and extensive analyses of the specific stream crossings and other pollution sources and, if they grant approval, to mandate site-specific controls that are suited to the unique landscapes to be affected. Importantly, this individual permitting process allows the public to have a role in decisions affecting their resources, with public notices, hearings, and the chance to comment to the Corps. All of the groups listed below insist that this process must be followed for the ACP.
Dominion has asked to short-circuit this process by asking for a “Nationwide Permit.” This process for approving some projects provides for little or no review by the Corps and “one size fits all” pollution requirements that don’t adequately account for the variety of terrains in which construction will occur, doesn’t address the sensitivity of local resources to disturbances of this kind, or analyze ways in which the proposals will worsen already existing problems.
The Nationwide Permit also excludes the public from playing its rightful role of reviewing and commenting upon the proposal. Ernie Reed of Friends of Nelson stated, ”we have to question why Dominion wants to quietly gain Corps approval through a process that hides details from the public and denies us a chance to comment on actions that can seriously damage our streams and wetlands.”
In this case, Dominion maintains that the ACP is eligible for coverage under the Corps’ Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12. This NWP was developed to regulate projects throughout the United States and was approved more than four years ago.
Projects approved recently under NWP 12 by the Corps’ Norfolk District, which will review the ACP proposal, contrast sharply with Dominion’s proposal. Many include minor utility construction activities and most cross a single stream or a small number of water bodies. The ACP application lists over 500 sites where 42 or 36 inch pipes will cross waters. “It is astounding that Dominion would assert that their huge pipeline could be regulated in the same manner as such relatively insignificant projects,” said David Sligh, Conservation Director of Wild Virginia.
The NWP clearly cannot account for the huge variety of local circumstances found across the pipeline’s route through West Virginia and Virginia. It is inconceivable that building a pipeline through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and multiple counties in both West Virginia and Virginia would “have minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment,” as the law requires before coverage under NWP 12 can be granted.
“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline may have devastating effects on natural features in its path. It will cross many streams and wetlands, sometimes through trenches cut and blasted through stream bottoms,” according to Rick Webb, of the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. “It will create runoff and erosion on steep mountainsides and affect sensitive cold water streams that contain native brook trout and other sensitive species. It will destroy large swathes of native plants and forests, cross sensitive limestone geological structures, and threaten water supply springs and wells.”
If construction of the pipeline is allowed, miles of huge open trenches may be open at any one time and the kinds of heavy rains and flooding recently experienced in western Virginia will cause extensive erosion and pollution of downstream waters, with catastrophic results. Further, recent news coverage of sinkholes that unexpectedly appeared along Interstate 81 remind us of the hazards of building a pipeline through such sensitive terrain and geology.
The Corps of Engineers must reject Dominion’s attempt to avoid full regulatory review and public disclosure. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers should insist that Dominion follow the state and national rules that have been put in place to protect the unique and valuable natural resources and communities that this proposed project could impact deeply and permanently.
Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance
Wild Virginia Friends of Nelson
Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition Free Nelson
Highland Cave Survey Friends of Buckingham
Shenandoah Group of Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club Friends of Augusta
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Shenandoah Riverkeeper Climate Action Alliance of the Valley
Friends of Blackwater Potomac Riverkeeper Network
The Augusta County Alliance Highlanders for Responsible Development
Pipeline Education Group (Nelson County) Friends of the Middle River
Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club Greenbrier River Watershed Association
Potomac Riverkeeper Native Plant Society
Whitescarver Natural Resources Friends of Wintergreen
Management LLC Upper Potomac Riverkeeper
All Pain No Gain West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Allegheny Highlands Alliance West Virginia Rivers Coalition Shenandoah Valley Network
The piece on the front page of the Exponent on Sept. 19 was more of the same: happy words for the coming of the pipeline. This time, the headline seems to suggest that the company has held strong and is now all set to go: “Pipeline Partners Make it Official!” Hear ye, hear ye! Hooray for the pipeline! It is going to provide jobs, and they are doing an environmental impact statement, and don't you feel much better now?
We in WV should not let headlines feed our opinions. Make no mistake, this is a for-profit industry. Any protection of our communities is mandated by law, and companies' donations to schools and local government are as transparent as a kid asking nicely because he knows it's the way to get what he wants.
Landowners along the line can tell you that this industry is predatory. Land agents for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines have been telling people they might as well sign the contract, lease the road, sell the land, because it's going to be taken eventually by eminent domain. A very important point to be understood about this is that statement is NOT TRUE until the FERC decides to approve these pipelines, which they have not done.
There are people whose farms are in jeopardy, whose life savings, retirement, and businesses are on the line. West Virginia's water, and by extension the water in 13 states where our water goes, is on the line. These companies send their smiling agents to pressure people to sign away their inheritance, and for what? This is a large-diameter pipeline carrying highly flammable material, the largest that has ever been tried here. An explosion will vaporize everything within 1200 feet and burn everything in a 2-mile radius. If it is going through your property, you lose 25-75% of your property value. How is that a good deal?
And they say it will bring jobs. Anyone can go to the Dominion website and read the reports and see that these reports present conflicting information. There is no way to tell what these projections mean and how they were procured. And they are just projections, after all. The CHMURA report tells us that the number of permanent jobs in WV for the pipeline after the construction period (2 years) is 74. Did you get that? Seventy-four. Not thousands. See the article at: https://www.dom.com/library/domcom/pdfs/gas-transmission/atlantic-coast-pipeline/acp-chmura-report-091014.pdf
The environmental destruction for a 42”, high-pressure line in this type of terrain is disturbing to consider when you know what kind of damage such a line can do. Pipelines may be the “safeEST” way to deliver gas, but that doesn't make them sufficiently safe to run through our communities and backyards. In Upshur County, Dominion wants to run a class II pipe less than ½ a mile from our high school. (For reference, class I is thinnest, class IV is thickest, but there is no federally or state-mandated setback distance.)
This infrastructure is set up for export. As far as we know, setting up distribution stations to reduce the pressure sufficient to allow it safely into homes would be prohibitive. This means it would not be for a public purpose, but for private gain, and that is not sufficient to allow the use of eminent domain. Any land agent who tells you that you will lose it eventually is misrepresenting the case. Landowners can, and should, fight this in court. The taking of private property for corporate gain is contrary to the principles on which our country was founded, it is contrary to WV values, and also happens to be illegal at present.
People take statements like, “The ACP will enhance overall energy reliability in the region, bringing natural gas that will heat homes and power businesses,” (Governor Tomblin) to mean that this gas is going to be available to consumers in WV, the area where it is going through. But it is not. There are compressor stations along the route, but no distribution stations. To build one would cost a community or county approximately $1M. Most counties in WV can barely fund their volunteer fire departments – which, by the way, will be crucial when these pipelines come to town.
If Dominion wants us to cooperate and support this project, then they are going to have to come forward with some believable figures on jobs, taxes, and how they intend to repair the community after an explosion or a negative-impact-on-water event. As it is, with their limited liability and self-insuring, it is difficult to see how they would have the money to cover such a disaster, or even feel the responsibility they claim to feel for all the communities along the 500-mile stretch. And I don't see West Virginia requiring anything more than promises.
The FERC has been accused of rubber stamping gas infrastructure projects. Considering the thousands of pages of letters of concern from the true stakeholders in this, the public, which includes experts such as lawyers and hydrogeologists, civic engineers and safety personnel, we should be concerned. If you aren't concerned, you need to do some more research.
Currently, we have a climate crisis on our hands, the gas industry is tanking, and renewables are coming in fast and hard. An article out Sept. 18 from the Washington Post has the headline, “Pentagon bets heavily on sun, wind with major energy projects.” In WV, our gas-heavy culture has been told that we can't go solar, but Burlington, VT, is now powered by 100% renewables, including solar and hydropower. WV has a bit more sun than Burlington, and we have water, too. In fact, we are a water producer. Instead of destroying it, we could harness it and keep it clean.
The U.N. Report on World Water Development (2015) says that by 2050, the manufacturing sector will increase its need for water by 400%, agriculture will need to produce 60% more food, and the intensity of water-related disasters is going to rise significantly due to climate change. The energy industry is generally water-intensive, and these needs will only grow. Without an immediate change in the way we get our energy, we are setting ourselves up for large-scale, global failure.
As a state that produces water for 13 states and forms the headwaters for 8 major rivers, West Virginia should be at the head of the movement toward renewables. We could save our water, preserve our heritage, and protect the public health, but this is not a battle that can be won from our easy chairs. We must turn off the TV and get out front if we are to have any kind of a habitable future. Consider yourself duly notified. If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Serious Questions Seeping Out on Antero Wastewater Facility
by S. Tom Bond on September 19, 2015
Public Meeting in Doddridge County on Proposed Antero Wastewater Treatment Facility
Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV
The Doddridge County Commission held a public meeting Tuesday evening, September 15, on the Proposed Antero Wastewater Treatment Facility along Route 50. The plan is to locate it at approximately 39o 16′ N and 80o 54′ W, near Greenwood in that county.
The principal speaker was the General Manager of the Area for Antero, which has large holdings in northwest West Virginia and southeast Ohio.
The purpose of the facility is to receive wastewater from wells which have been subject to slick water fracturing and return it to a state where it can be reused in the industry. Antero already has an extensive system of pipes for fresh water, he said, consisting of 103 miles of buried lines, 80 miles of temporary lines and 24 impoundments in West Virginia. This helps them when it is dry and fresh water streams are too low. It also helps reduce the miles water trucks must travel.
The new facility will cost $1.5 million, and have capacity to receive 100 tanker truck loads a day. It was claimed that the salt produced could be used for roads, and would be “merchantable,” but a landfill is being installed adjacent to the plant. The water would be used exclusively for further fracking. The audience was assured there would be no damage from the natural radioactivity which accompanies Marcellus waste. This caused a great deal of opposition in the comment period afterwards, including from a land fill expert.
The speaker, when pressed, said they would allow third party sampling of the products produced. In the comment period practically all comment was against allowing the plant. The one speaker for the plant announced he worked for Antero before he began. One lady reminded the Antero people that the local community had not only the present to consider, but the effect on their children and heirs. When asked how long the plastic sheet on the bottom of the holding ponds would last, the speaker replied “for a thousand years.”
This author is a trained chemist with some additional knowledge of toxicology. He was appalled by the complete absence of chemistry and chemical engineering in the presentation. When the speaker was touting the expertise that went into the plant all he talked about was the architect they hired to plan it. It seems strange that a new process of this scale would be attempted without chemical knowledge of how the process worked, since it is, apparently, a first.
The speaker talked as though he did not understand that “brine” and “salt” did not mean sodium chloride solution, but is a far more general term applied to other compounds and mixtures. What comes up as flowback and produced water is a complex, highly variable mixture, varying from place to place and time to time from the same well. How does this relate to the idea the salt would be merchantable?
The claim that polyethylene sheets used in holding ponds would last 1000 years is disquieting, also. Sounds like a project engineered by MBA’s. But, heck, if it can get past the regulatory agencies and local officials, none of which has the right kind of expertise to understand the process, why not use it? Right?
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