Comments Filed in Objection to Revised Treatment Plans for Historic Districts

Roanoke County filed comments February 22 in objection to the revised treatment plans for Bent Mountain Rural Historic District, Bent Mountain Apple Orchard Rural Historic District, and Coles-Terry Rural Historic District. Roanoke County objected to the treatment plans on the following grounds:

  1. Mountain Valley did not complete the consultation process provided under Stipulation III.B.5 of the Programmatic Agreement, as the County had to initiate contact with MVP in order to continue the required consultation, and MVP failed to notify the County that they were filing a revised treatment plan on February 15, while consultation was still ongoing.
  2. The proposed compensatory mitigation is not proportional to the MVP Project’s adverse effects and does not adequately consider the input of consulting parties and local stakeholders, particularly in regard to the preservation and restoration of the Bent Mountain Center. MVP’s proposal limits funding for this purpose to $500,000, which the County objects to because “it is not proportional to the adverse effect and does not reflect the County’s input.” MVP indicated to the County that they should rely on the funds allocated in the Memorandum of Agreement for Historic Resource Mitigation of Virginia Resource Impacts of Mountain Valley Pipeline for additional mitigation, a fund that has not yet been established and which FERC has no say in allocating.

>> Roanoke County Objections to Revised Treatment Plan for Historic Properties 2/23

The Greater Newport Rural Historic District Committee (GNRHDC) filed comments February 22 regarding the revised treatment plan for the Greater Newport Rural Historic District, with an amended copy of said comments filed February 23. The filing raises the following issues:

  1. MVP has failed to comply with Section II of the Programmatic Agreement, and there are still studies outstanding in the District that MVP’s own contractor and GNRHDC’s contractor indicated needed to be completed. “In response and despite the language in the Programmatic Agreement, MVP indicated that it would not perform those studies because FERC had not yet specifically directed it to perform those studies,” the filing states.
  2. The mitigation funds indicated are not adequate to address damages to the District, and GNRHDC proposes the fund be increased from MVP’s proposed $500,000 to $2 million.
  3. The filing includes a list of Section 106 issues that remain unaddressed in the District, as well as a list of misidentified and mislocated properties that MVP still has failed to address, despite concerns raised in consultation.
  4. The determination that there will be no adverse effects on several properties in question was based on false and missing information provided by MVP, including misrepresentation of requests made by Giles County and the GNRHDC.

>> Greater Newport Rural Historic District Committee Objections to Revised Treatment Plan 2/23 (Amended)

Giles County filed comments February 23 concurring with the comments made by the Greater Newport Rural Historic District Committee. The County highlighted concerns about future pipeline co-location, a process that would be significantly more streamlined than the current one with MVP and which MVP has refused to take into account. Additionally, Giles County expressed objections to MVP’s suggestion that the County can rely on the Historic Resources Mitigation Fund outlined in the Memorandum of Agreement for Historic Resource Mitigation of Virginia Resource Impacts of Mountain Valley Pipeline for further mitigation costs.

>> Giles County Objections to Revised Treatment Plan 2/23

 

FERC Issues NTP No. 10 Despite Indian Creek Watershed Association Objections

FERC granted Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Request for Notice to Proceed No. 10 on February 21. The Notice allows construction to commence on the following:

  1. Discontiguous portions of the pipeline between mileposts 65.5 and 196.3;
  2. The Sherwood Interconnection in Doddridge County, WV
  3. 507 additional temporary workspaces, 2 access roads, 2 yards, and 19 anode beds, in Braxton, Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Summers, and Webster Counties, in West Virginia

The Notice prohibits construction and use of the Losch/Cunningham Farmstead and the access road located approximately milepost 69.9 until after documentation of completed fieldwork required by the associated Treatment Plan is filed.

The Notice also suggests that MVP “voluntarily withold construction” of ten small segments totaling approximately 23 miles of the pipeline between mileposts 66.9 and 195.9.

>> Notice to Proceed No. 10

The Notice to Proceed comes the day after objections were filed by the Indian Creek Watershed Association, a non-profit organization based in Union, WV.

Indian Creek Watershed Association objected to MVP’s Request for Notice to Proceed No. 10, particularly in a section of Monroe County with a large amount of karst near the steep slopes of Peters Mountain and the Appalachian Trail.

With the objection, Indian Creek Watershed Association included new information that showing that MVP’s filings “disregard the significant environmental risks to critical private and public water resources caused by constructing a 42-inch diameter pipeline from MP 191.4 to MP 196.2” — information that the organization states calls MVP’s compliance with Conditions 12, 19, and 20 of the FERC Certificate into question.

>> Indian Creek Watershed Association Objections to NTP No. 10

Volunteer to Monitor Pipeline Construction

Felled trees in Giles County, VA

Volunteer Pipeline Visual Assessment Program

The Volunteer Pipeline Visual Assessment Program was developed by Trout Unlimited and West Virginia Rivers Coalition to support and train volunteer citizen observers to identify, document and report pollution incidents associated with large-scale pipeline development.

Through a series of free webinars, volunteers will learn about erosion control best management practices used in pipeline development, specific examples of pollution to look for, and how to best document those problems. After the webinar, volunteer observers will be able to report pollution incidents to TU and WV Rivers. To learn more, visit the program webpage.

Sign up for April 28th training in Bent Mountain, Virginia here.

View Recorded Version Here.

Sign up for a pipeline “Neighborhood Watch.”

UPDATE: Virginia DEQ Approves Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for MVP

Volunteers are needed to document tree clearing, erosion and sedimentation problems, stream crossings, and other impacts of Mountain Valley Pipeline construction in our communities. Do not enter construction areas. If you see problematic practices — such as excessive runoff or damage to waterways due to construction activity, unsafe work practices, and ineffective erosion and sediment controls — please take photos and or video, document the date and time, and record the location data. Contact our monitoring coordinators with the form below.

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MVP Files Revised Treatment Plan for Greater Newport Rural Historic District

Mountain Valley Pipeline filed a revised historic property treatment plan for the Greater Newport Rural Historic District on February 13.

MVP asserts that the 342-page filing includes a treatment plan that “has been substantially revised” based on feedback from FERC, Giles County, the Greater Newport Rural Historic Committee, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Shannon Lucas, Clarence and Karolyn Givens, Jerry and Jerolyn Deplazes, and Michael Williams, who all made comments on the August 2017 and February 5, 2018 versions of the plan.

In the Proposed Mitigation Plan, MVP includes the following mitigation suggestions:

  1. Further reducing the visibility of the maintained permanent right-of-way from locations with potential visibility within the district including high visibility areas such as main arterial roadways
  2. Revegetation of the right-of-way to ensure that vegetative openings appear more natural and conform to the natural form, line, color, and texture of the existing landscape.
  3. Establishment of a $500,000 Newport Community Center and Park Preservation Fund dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the Newport Community Center and Park (formerly the Newport High School and Agriculture Building)

The filing includes records of communication with consulting parties and commenters to the previous plans, as well as the controversial Memorandum of Agreement dated December 22, 2017 and signed by then-Governor Terry McAuliffe regarding the “Comprehensive Mitigation of Virginia Resource Impacts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” Per the Agreement, the mitigation of impacts to Virginia’s historic resources will be offset by a contribution of $2.5 million; $1.5 million is “to be applied to costs incurred by MVP for implementation of the approved property-specific or site-specific Treatment Plans developed pursuant to FERC’s PA for the adversely affected historic properties,” while the remaining $1 million is payable to the Virginia Historical Society based in Richmond.

You can find the full text of the Memorandum of Agreement below:

Virginia MVP Historic Resources Memorandum of Agreement

Revised Historic Property Treatment Plan for the Greater Newport Rural Historic District

FERC Publishes Memo Summarizing Call with MVP, Appalachian Trail Stakeholders

On January 31, FERC filed notes from a conference call that took place on January 10 regarding visual impacts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST).

>> Call Summary & Related Documents

Participating in the call were representatives from the following groups and organizations:

  1. FERC
  2. Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  3. US Forest Service
  4. Galileo Project, LLC (contractor to the Forest Service)
  5. US National Parks Service
  6. US Department of the Interior Counsel
  7. Virginia Department of Historic Resources
  8. Giles County
  9. Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC
  10. GAI Consultants (contractor to MVP)
  11. Tetra Tech (contractor to MVP)
  12. Cardno (contractor to FERC)

For the call, Mountain Valley prepared a summary of their visual impact assessment, in which they indicated that, of the 40 miles of the ANST from which the pipeline route would be “theoretically visible,” vegetation will screen views along 98 percent of the area.

They indicated there are only seven points on the ANST from which the pipeline will be visible, primarily located at Kelly’s Knob, Angel’s Rest, and Dragon’s Tooth.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mentioned the following issues:

  1. MVP will parallel the trail for 15 miles at a distance of 4 miles from the trail itself, which they worry will heavily impact the viewshed of the ANST
  2. Problems associated with pipeline access using Pocahontas Road
  3. The proximity of the pipeline right-of-way to a campsite on the Peter’s Mountain segment of the trail — at which point the pipeline would be 0.2 miles from the campsite

The memo indicates that despite these concerns, “participants [in the call] agreed that the MVP would have ‘no adverse effects’ on the ANST, if certain measures are implemented by Mountain Valley.”

In the Jefferson National Forest, MVP will implement measures indicated in the Plan of Development with the Forest Service, including

  1. feathering/undulating of the edge of the right-of-way during tree clearing
  2. plantings along the right-of-way during revegetation/restoration
  3. Reduced mowing to a 10-foot-wide strip centered over the pipeline during maintenance/operation.
  4. Extended monitoring season of revegetation process to five years (rather than the two seasons requited by FERC)

Outside of the Jefferson National Forest, MVP “conduct a program of plantings along the edge of the right-of-way during restoration/revegetation” on portions of the corridor that may be visible to ANST hikers. The ATC indicated they would provide Mitigation Plans to FERC “in the near future” for portions of the pipeline route they worry will be visible from the trail

One mitigation method being considered is the permanent relocation of the ANST at the crossing of Pocahontas Road for safety reasons. If this relocation is not accomplished, MVP intends to use a system of flagging and monitoring to help escort hikers across the construction zone.

Discussion of cumulative impacts on the ANST was “tabled for now.”

Citizen Voices: Letter to Governor Northam

Published here, with permission of the author, is one of hundreds of letters and statements sent to public officials from citizens who are deeply concerned that public input on Mountain Valley Pipeline is being ignored. We urge citizens of Virginia and West Virginia to keep up the pressure by calling and writing to elected officials to demand that state agencies use their authority to protect communities from disaster before it happens.

January 23, 2018
Honorable Ralph Northam
Governor of Virginia

c/o Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff

Re: Citizens are desperate for unbiased state actions regarding the pipeline proposals

Dear Governor Northam,

I write today to implore you to immediately take action to restore citizens’ faith that our state government is committed to protecting the rights and well-being of Virginia citizens in all actions taken regarding the current natural gas pipeline proposals (MVP and ACP). I write as both a scientist who is dismayed by the incomplete agency assessments of the potential major damage that these projects will undoubtedly do to our precious water resources, and as a citizen who has seen the well-being, health, and even survival of my neighbors severely impacted by the stress of dealing with these issues.

My Credentials

First, I will tell you my scientific background that qualifies me to comment on the potential environmental effects of these projects. I am a natural resources scientist, with more than 40 years of research and teaching experience in natural resource conservation and management at three major research universities (Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, and now Virginia Tech). I hold university degrees in biological sciences, environmental toxicology and contamination, and aquatic/fisheries science.  I have conducted research on aquatic/fisheries science in five U.S. states and on 3 continents. I was recognized with a Senior International Professorship for Visiting Scientists by the Chinese Academy of Sciences for my work to help them assess and manage freshwater systems in China.  Similarly, I have been active in research and outreach for aquatic conservation in Brazil, which is Virginia’s partner in the Partners of the Americas program inspired by President Kennedy. I am the current Second Vice President of the American Fisheries Society, the world’s oldest professional society for natural resources conservation (begun in 1870). I am a Certified Fisheries Professional (American Fisheries Society), and a Fellow of both the American Fisheries Society and the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists. My comments here represent my professional opinions based on this long career in natural resources conservation and management, and do not represent any official position of the agencies and organizations mentioned here.

State Agencies Have Lost Public Trust

Actions by various state agencies in reviewing the pipeline proposals have led to a loss of public trust. Numerous filings with state agencies and the FERC by highly qualified scientists who described the great potential for irreparable harm to Virginia’s aquatic resources primarily have been ignored, degrading both the scientific credibility of these agencies and the trust of the public in them. The MVP and ACP projects present major threats to the quality of water resources in Virginia that are critical to public and private water supplies; the tourism and water-based recreation economies; and the quality of life, well-being, and health of Virginia citizens.

Former Governor McAuliffe was an ardent supporter of these pipeline projects, but he promised that the proposals would be fully vetted in science-based reviews and only permitted if shown to offer no threat to the environmental quality of the Commonwealth. You made similar comments during your campaign. The clear truth evident to unbiased scientists is that such science-based assessment has never been fully performed by what are now your state agencies. Your DEQ, the very agency charged with protecting Virginia’s environment for our citizens, started by claiming they were too underfunded to conduct thorough reviews, then they deferred to federal agencies who had conducted inadequate and sometimes secret evaluations (i.e., the FERC, the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Forest Service, and the BLM). Finally, DEQ declared that the projects presented no threat of long-term damage to Virginia’s environment, and they pressured the State Water Control Board to approve the projects even though these corporations had neither completed nor filed final plans for erosion and sediment control. These agency actions strain scientific credulity, and make citizens suspect that corporate pressure has played an undue role in these decisions.

Lack of Evidence that Pipelines Can be Built Safely

In contrast to DEQ’s assurances, any credible soil scientist will tell you that allowing these pipelines to cross severe mountain slopes presents a major threat to water quality, and related quality of life, in Virginia. No major pipeline has ever crossed the Appalachian Mountains in this area, and for good reason. The current projects propose to cross slopes that exceed 60%, and even 80% in some locations. Any soil scientist can tell you that no proven techniques exist to prevent erosion on such severe slopes.  Similar projects on less-severe slopes have failed despite erosion safeguards that far exceed what MVP and ACP propose, and those failures resulted in severe erosion, degradation of water quality, and the mortality of endangered freshwater species. FERC and DEQ were fully informed of these previous failures, but they have never even addressed them. The proposed projects will clear and excavate a wide path straight up and down steep mountain slopes, in areas where landowners and even the Forest Service do not harvest trees due to the slope. Federal guidelines for road building in wilderness areas prohibit construction of roads that exceed 24% slope due to erosion threats. Why will FERC and DEQ allow even more severe construction actions on slopes that exceed three times that severity? Every farmer knows to plow along hillside contours, not straight across them. That was one of the major soil conservation measures instituted during the Dust Bowl almost a century ago. Why are our state and federal governments going to allow Dominion and MVP to violate this basic conservation measure, and damage our local water supplies forever? The cost of such damage to just the public water supplies of Roanoke County and the Cities of Salem and Roanoke has already been projected to number in the tens of millions, and the costs to private water supplies (wells and springs) has never even been calculated.

Citizens Are Already Dying

Thousands of Virginians have been threatened by these pipeline projects with loss of their property, their dreams, their health, and even their livelihoods. I personally know numerous neighbors in Craig, Giles, and Montgomery Counties who have suffered severe medical traumas as a result of stress created by these threats related to the MVP, in which they feel your state government is complicit. I know numerous neighbors who have suffered strokes and heart attacks due to this stress, and at least one neighbor suffered a fatal heart attack. Even though the pipelines will not cross my own property, I myself suffered a stroke from the stress of researching the environmental threats and filing numerous comments with state and federal agencies to try to help my neighbors. Every resident of Newport (Giles County) feels personally threatened by the fact that the MVP will be routed through the very center of their community. They worry about the threat of explosion on a pipeline that will pass within tens of feet of their residences, and a few hundred feet of an historic and active church, a daycare center, a public library, a community center, and even their rescue squad. They worry about their household water sources, to which the DEQ Director flippantly responded that they would just need to find a new water source. The pipeline will forever impact the character of numerous historic sites in their county. As one example, a wedding venue at an historic apple farm on Salt Pond Mountain effectively will be put out of business for several years and will never return to its current condition. Virginia citizens are suffering real losses, both financially and health-wise. They legitimately wonder why their state government is allowing this to happen, seemingly for the sole financial benefit of an out-of-state corporation.

Other States have Taken Steps to Protect Their Citizens, Why Not Virginia?

I speak for thousands of Virginians when I ask you to take steps now to freeze actions on approvals for the pipelines until solid, science-based assessments can be completed. Such assessments are still lacking, and any agency that claims they have done such is not being honest with the public. We have seen the State of New York deny permits for several pipelines because of insufficient evidence that environmental protections will be adequate.  North Carolina has delayed action on permitting the same ACP that Virginia has approved, citing inadequate support for the proposal.

It is clear to citizens and scientists that Virginia has approved permits based on inadequate study. NOW IS THE TIME TO CORRECT THAT OVERSIGHT, AND RESTORE TRUST IN VIRGINIA’S GOVERNMENT.

PLEASE FREEZE PERMITTING ACTIONS ON THE MVP AND ACP PROJECTS, AND INSTRUCT DEQ AND OTHER AGENCIES TO PERFORM TRULY SCIENCE-BASED ASSESSMENTS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS THAT THESE PROJECTS POSE TO VIRGINIA. Only then should permitting actions be considered.

There are numerous qualified scientists in Virginia, outside of your agencies, that can advise you and the agencies on the critical assessments that have not been fully performed. Why not tap these scientists to create an advisory board that can help oversee effective project assessment, to protect our valuable natural resources and restore trust in state government? Virginia’s citizens deserve no less.

Respectfully,

Brian R. Murphy, Ph.D.

New Castle, VA