Virginia Regulatory Board Blames Residents for Agency Failings

June 27, 2019

RICHMOND, VA — In the State Water Control Board General Meeting today, Water Permitting Director Melanie Davenport presented an update on enforcement and construction on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. In her report, Davenport repeatedly highlighted citizen reports and the time and manner in which they were reported to the agency.

The Board heard complaints from commenters regarding inadequate erosion and sediment control plans, citing specific incidents and requesting that the Board suspend the approved ESC plans for Mountain Valley Pipeline pending reconsideration.

Board members repeatedly asked commenters if they had reported the observed issues to DEQ inspectors.

As part of their meeting, the Board members also entered a two hour closed session to discuss the Attorney General’s lawsuit alleging over 300 violations of Virginia Water Control Law, as well as a formal FERC complaint filed by Wild Virginia, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Preserve Craig, Inc., Neal Laferriere, and Betty Werner regarding issues with the certification and enforcement processes.

Roberta Bondurant, POWHR Coalition Co-Chair

“We reject the Board’s apparent assumption that the failures of DEQ inspectors fall on the shoulders of everyday people in the path of MVP. Through ongoing reports to the Board and DEQ, sites that have shown problems for months — up to a year in some cases — have been repeatedly documented to regulators and written off as adequate by the agency.

“Inspections required by law of DEQ are not the task of impacted communities — often including the working poor and the elderly. If the DEQ and contracted inspectors are in the field 4-5 days per week, then they should be seeing and reporting the same problems volunteers are observing — whether or not the volunteers report at all.”

Russell Chisholm, POWHR Coalition Co-Chair and MVW Monitor

“Citizen reports — even six weeks after the fact — are an indictment of one of two things: either DEQ is not inspecting, or problems are being overlooked.

“We join the requests of commenters for the Board to intervene in the formal FERC complaint initiated by Wild Virginia and others. We additionally ask the Board to suspend the erosion and sediment control plans approved for Mountain Valley Pipeline in light of repeated problems and unaddressed variance requests.”

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West Virginia DEP Proposes $265,972 Fine Against MVP, Releases Consent Order for Public Comment

To Comment on the Consent Order:

Mail written comments to WVDEP’s Public Information Office at 601 57th
St., S.E., Charleston, WV., 25304. OR e-mail your comments to
DEP.Comments@wv.gov. (Reference Mountain Valley Pipeline, Consent Order
#8951)


May 14, 2019

CHARLESTON, WV — Today, the West Virginia DEP publicly released their draft Consent Order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, in which they propose a fine of $265,972 for 26 Notices of Violation issued between April 3 and November 30, 2018. The release of a draft initiates a public comment period that will be open until June 20, 2019. Attached to the draft order were 160 pages of photos showing inspections of violations by DEP staff. Cited violations include failure to implement perimeter controls, failure to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving the site without going through an appropriate device, and causing conditions not allowable in waters of the State.

The draft Consent Order was submitted to MVP for review April 19, 2019 and was signed by Robert Cooper, Senior Vice President, Engineering and Construction for MVP, LLC, and returned to DEP May 6, 2019.

Maury Johnson, POWHR Executive Committee Member and WV Impacted Landowner

“Today’s Consent Order, assessing fines in excess of over $265,000 for damages to WV streams, springs and wetlands though November of 2018 from the Mountain Valley Pipeline is welcome, but it is a pittance to the true cost of the damages citizens have documented in Summers and Monroe Counties alone.  $265 million dollars might be a little closer to the real damages that have occurred across the state on this one unnecessary fracked gas pipeline.

“We commend the environmental inspectors who are trying to do their jobs, given the impossible task before them with not enough resources or staff to do the job. I hope that WV DEP uses this money to hire more environmental inspectors to monitor these pipelines and other projects that imperil the water we all depend upon to sustain life.

“In the meantime, we believe the most prudent course of action for DEP would be to issue a Stop Work Order while the violations mentioned in the Consent Order are cleaned up and the public comment period conducted.”

Ashby Berkley, WV Impacted Landowner

“Again the will and protection of the people of West Virginia is sold out to the out-of-state Gas, Coal, and Mineral Companies. The violation settlement of $265,000 assessed to MVP would not pay for chemotherapy for one child with cancer caused by water polluted by fracking, or for one home destroyed by explosion of a massive gas line.  Why do we pay for environmental protection if it is not enforced for the protection of the people? This is no different from the massive sell out of natural resources and minerals that started in the 1800s. Why are we the poorest state and they are the richest companies?”

Contact:

Maury Johnson, POWHR Executive Committee Member, maurywjohnson@yahoo.com, (304) 832-6085

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Army Corps Suspends NWP 12 for Mountain Valley Pipeline in Pittsburg District

Late on Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers suspended the authorization of Nationwide Permit 12 for MVP in the Pittsburgh District, which impacts the northern portion of the pipeline’s route. This comes almost three weeks after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the authorization for the Huntington District in Southern West Virginia, and almost two weeks after the Corps took a similar action suspending the authorization in the Norfolk District of Virginia.

This is the fifth federal permit to be vacated or suspended this year. In addition to the three Army Corps permits, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management authorizations were vacated and remanded by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals July 27, 2018.

Maury Johnson, Executive Committee Member for the POWHR Coalition

“MVP is now missing five key permits to construct their pipeline. Though FERC’s certificate is conditioned on the company holding valid state and federal permits, the Commission has not issued a stop work order, nor has it suspended or revoked its own certificate in light of these missing permits.

“As a result, destruction continues leading up to and impacting streams and wetlands. Sediment continues to flow from construction sites into streams, and Waters of the US continue to be impacted as construction continues. The only way to adhere to the intent of the Fourth Circuit ruling from October 2 is to stop ALL work on the route.”

Howdy Henritz, Indian Creek Watershed Association President:

“This is welcome news, but the FERC must now issue a Stop Work Order for all MVP construction activities along its entire route. Despite crossing restrictions already in place in southern West Virginia and Virginia, streams and wetlands are already being damaged by upland construction. MVP and its contractors are pursuing an aggressive construction pace that has exposed and trenched miles of denuded corridors on steep slopes with woefully inadequate erosion and sediment controls.

“Citizen monitors in West Virginia and Virginia have sent more than 500 reports of violations to state environmental regulatory agencies—the WVDEP and VADEQ—but environmental enforcement has been a hollow promise. Even while the Army Corps has not allowed MVP to construct in the waterways in our region, relentless and reckless construction is spewing sediment-laden water into our streams and wetlands. FERC needs to call a halt now.”

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About the POWHR Coalition:

Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) is an interstate coalition representing individuals and groups from counties in Virginia and West Virginia dedicated to protecting the water, local ecology, heritage, land rights, human rights of individuals, communities and regions from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. For more information, visit: powhr.org

About Indian Creek Watershed Association:

Indian Creek Watershed Association is a non-profit community-based organization in West Virginia whose mission is to preserve and protect Monroe County’s abundant, pure water. For more information, contact: IndianCreekWater@gmail.com

 

Related Documents

Army Corps Letter Suspending Authorization of NWP12 for MVP in Pittsburgh District

POWHR Coalition Demand for FERC to Stop Work, Filed 10/21/2018

Press Statement from Sierra Club

Mountain Valley Watch: Monitoring Before and After Hurricane Florence

As has been covered extensively by the news and weather reports in the Mid Atlantic, Hurricane Florence is moving toward the east coast and is expected to make landfall by Friday. Though the storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, forecasts are still predicting 6-10 inches of rain in Southwest Virginia and 2-4 inches in West Virginia through Monday. Though there are updated forecasts, weather outcomes could change as the storm makes landfall.

From a safety perspective, coverage in the Roanoke Times recommends preparing for possible power outages, flooding, and transportation disruptions.

For monitoring, make sure your personal safety is your number one priority. We advise against monitoring in heavy rain, wind, and flood conditions, but be prepared to monitor sites soon after the storms pass. If you are able to safely do so, take some “before” images in the next day or so to get a sense of the condition of Erosion and Sediment controls in place prior to the storm.

During and following the storm, if you see any conditions that are an immediate or imminent threat to public health or safety, contact local emergency services directly.

For non-emergency erosion and sediment control monitoring reports, please use our online form, call our hotline at 833-MVWATCH (833-689-2824), or email us at mountainvalleywatch@gmail.com. Please include images via the online form or email as you’re able.

Mountain Valley Watch Banner

For ongoing updates, keep an eye on your local forecast, reports from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.

 

With Impending Hurricane, MVP Continues Rushed Construction

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality stated the morning of September 11 — two days before reported landfall of a Category 4 hurricane — that the agency had “directed work to stop” on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and that construction had in fact stopped.

Yet communities report active construction several counties in Virginia and West Virginia. Instead of devoting a downsized workforce to true erosion and sedimentation control, MVP continues to weld and trench this evening, September 13, with floodlights and fleets of earthmovers active after 9pm on Bent Mountain and Franklin County. Downsized crews are welding new pipe and digging new trench is occurring to the exclusion of effective erosion and sediment controls along drastic slopes adjacent to fragile streams and resident communities.

Image from September 12 just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Franklin County. Photo courtesy Roberta Bondurant
Image from September 13 just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Franklin County. Photo courtesy Roberta Bondurant

Representatives of DEQ have responded to public outcry of new, rushed and aggressive construction activity by stating that they have no enforcement power of this “directive” and MVP “voluntarily” opted to stop work.

Roberta Bondurant, POWHR Coalition Co-Chair and Representative of Preserve Bent Mountain

“There comes a point when the public asks if the apparent ineptitude, dodging, and doublespeak of the Governor’s representatives are in fact complicity with MVP. DEQ’s failure to enforce its  “stop work directive” on the Mountain Valley Pipeline shows the Commonwealth’s willingness to roll over while MVP decimates communities in its path. If DEQ were earnest in its issuance of a “directive,” the Virginia State Police would have been on the right of way all week, seizing the keys to the excavators. Governor Northam’s DEQ holds little credibility with residents in the path of MVP.

“The Mid Atlantic region, including MVP executives, have been aware of the the approach of Hurricane Florence for over ten days. MVP’s intentional and reckless drive to dig new trench and bury pipe in the face of predicted life-threatening conditions shows a contemptible disregard for the people who live here.”

Mara Robbins, Representative of Preserve Floyd

“THIS IS A CRIME. Our waters are being destroyed by the MVP. Our regulators, government and decision makers are NOT listening and holding them accountable. The photos you see here are in DIRECT violation of erosion, sedimentation and stormwater management standards for which our DEQ is supposed to be responsible. Does this look like responsible management to you? Demand accountability.

“As we approach imminent extreme weather from a massive hurricane that exemplifies our concerns about the climate crisis and underlines the necessity of breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, we MUST continue to protect our water. DEQ does not seem to know how. There is NO REASONABLE ASSURANCE that our water quality standards are being considered, much less enforced.”

Mary Linkous, Resident of Bent Mountain, VA

“My family lives across the road from the destruction. We can’t always see what they’re doing — honestly I don’t think they WANT us to see — but we sure can hear it. They’re tearing things up from early in the morning to well after dark. Drives us crazy, beep-beep-beeping as they back up. And after that rain last weekend, the flooding next to 221 was just awful.”

Photo courtesy Mary Linkous

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FERC Lifts MVP Stop Work Order

FERC’s Director of the Office of Energy Projects Terry Turpin posted a letter to the Mountain Valley Pipeline docket August 29 granting what the Commission calls a “partial authorization to resume construction.” The authorization allows for all construction along the 303-mile pipeline to resume, with the following exceptions:

  • The crossing of the Weston and Gauley Bridge Turnpike on lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in Braxton County, West Virginia; and
  • Between milepost 196.0 and milepost 221.0, an area encompassing the two watersheds containing the 3.5 miles of pipeline route across the Jefferson National Forest, in Monroe County, West Virginia and Giles County, Virginia.

Turpin stated that the continuation of construction was permitted “because construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts.” This statement  comes despite the ongoing egregious erosion and sedimentation incidents that have been reported by citizen volunteers over the course of construction thus far.

Attached to Turpin’s letter was a document from the Bureau of Land Management outlining the agency’s analysis of the MVP route on federal lands through the lens of Mineral Leasing Act Section 28(p), the section of law that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals deemed was not adequately considered and thus led the court to vacate and remand the previously granted permit.

Just a few hours after Turpin’s letter was issued, Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick filed a joint statement expressing “significant concerns” with FERC staff’s decision to allow construction to continue along the bulk of the MVP route. In the letter, the Commissioners stated they supported staff’s previous decision to stop all work on the pipeline project in light of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to vacate and remand permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service.

“In response to recent court decisions, Commission staff has acted within its delegated authority to address the impact of those court decisions on post-certificate pipeline activities, as it did today,” the statement read. “However, given the increasing complexity of such issues, we believe the Commission should revisit this practice. In the future, when a court remands or vacates a required federal authorization following the issuance of a notice to proceed, we believe the decision regarding whether and how to proceed with the pipeline should be made by the Commission rather than its staff.”

Roberta Bondurant, POWHR Coalition Co-Chair:

“FERC’s authorization does nothing to protect the environment as directed by the Fourth Circuit in its decision to vacate and remand the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permits. Rather, it inflicts yet more environmental and economic harms on our communities. It’s a glaring example of the doublespeak that has been substituted for real environmental protection through a factually and legally unsupportable response to the Fourth Circuit ruling. 

“Elected officials should be walking their talk of democracy now — landowners and communities are rightfully outraged by the industry abuse of small, mostly rural communities in West Virginia and Virginia, and we will not lay down for environmental devastation and economic disaster.

“The citizen monitors of Mountain Valley Watch who have taken on the work of failing state and federal agencies in monitoring MVP’s march of destruction across southern Virginia and West Virginia will carry on. Our volunteer coalition will continue to challenge MVP by all available legal actions.”

Maury Johnson, Executive Committee Member for POWHR Coalition, Affected Landowner in Monroe County, WV

“Although today’s action by FERC and the BLM was not unexpected, the swiftness of their action goes to show that no real effort was made to analyze the concerns outlined by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. We will continue to fight for our water, air, environment and property rights and demand that the courts do what our state and federal agencies have not done and protect the citizens of WV and VA from this predatory corporation, whose only concern is it’s profits over the lives and livelihood of those citizens whom will be severely and irreparably harmed if this project is allowed to continue.”

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Visit the Mountain Valley Watch Portal to see evidence of incident reports along the MVP route and to learn more about the volunteers working to hold MVP and regulators accountable. To support the Mountain Valley Watch, make a donation through Virginia Organizing designated to POWHR!

Related Documents & Statements

FERC Letter Granting Partial Authorization to Resume Construction, Issued 8/29/18

Joint Statement from Commissioners LaFleur and Glick, Filed 8/29/18

Related Media Coverage

Federal regulators allow Mountain Valley Pipeline construction to resume [WDBJ 7]

Work on Mountain Valley Pipeline allowed to resume [Roanoke Times]

Mountain Valley Pipeline construction ban partially lifted [WSLS 10]

“We Had to Destroy the Village In Order to Save It?” FERC Says Mountain Valley Pipeline “construction will best mitigate further environmental impacts” [Blue Virginia]