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VA Water Board Tells DEQ to Do Their Job, But Not Much Else

Despite compelling evidence of serious degradation of water quality resulting from the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects, the Virginia State Water Control Board took no action on the Nationwide Permit 12 or Section 401 Certifications for the pipelines.

During the meeting August 21, the Board heard DEQ’s summary of 12,761 comments filed during the public comment period in May and June of this year, as well as additional comments during the meeting itself from advocates and landowners along both pipeline routes. Included in these comments were descriptions and photos of egregious violations of Virginia water quality standards due to inadequate erosion and sediment controls and the steep terrain in the region.

Several members of the Board — Roberta Kellam, Nissa Dean, and Robert Wayland — supported a motion to initiate the formal hearing process to consider amending or revoking the permits for the two pipelines. The motion lost on a 3-4 vote, with Southwest Virginia’s own representative, Lou-Ann Jessee Wallace, voting against the motion.

A subsequent motion brought by Tim Hayes was approved and ostensibly resulted in the Board telling DEQ to do their job, pushing for more strict enforcement of Erosion and Sediment Control Law and instructing the agency to communicate more information on reported problems to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Roberta Bondurant, Co-Chair of the POWHR Coalition

“While we’re disappointed with the Board’s decision today, we’re neither surprised nor deterred. We are energized, in fact, by the Board’s understanding of their options, as guided by counsel, that a public hearing is available to consider action such as revocation of the permit. We appreciate the Board’s dedication to reviewing the public’s submissions of the last several months, and encourage members to continue in their consideration of a hearing on permit revocation.

Mountain Valley Watch has documented at least 83 violations by MVP, and this doesn’t count individual submissions by landowners and others. It’s frustrating to hear that notwithstanding his recognition of those problems, Mr. Hayes, among the four who appeared well-prepared to decline the public hearing to consider revocation, said such action would be if no use, because the pipeline was partially built. That response lacked understanding that the devastation already wrought upon our lands, forests and waters makes the need to stop construction now imperative.

“As to ‘enforcement’? Enforcement actions should have taken place long ago.  In reality, DEQ doesn’t have the money to put enough compliance personnel in the field — where would they come up with funding or personnel for enforcement? Note their veteran chief of enforcement, Jefferson Reynolds recently stepped down.

“The many submissions to DEQ regarding sedimentation,  erosion and the breach of aquifers all have shown that DEQ’s E&S plans do not work in the steep mountainous terrain and pristine waters of the Virginias. It is irresponsible and destructive to allow another several months’ worth of destruction and violations, followed by some manner of enforcement, which would likely be long and repeated fines, before any potential stop work order. In the end, fines paid to the state of Virginia will do nothing to repair entire watersheds like Mount Tabor’s Slussers Chapel Cave system, and Bent Mountain’s perched aquifer, wrecked by MVPs trenching, blasting and ultimate poisoning.

“We see the decision as wholly lacking ANY assurance of protection of Virginia’s water quality. We encourage the public to continue to write the State Water Control Board at PO Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218. The board receives email at Citizenboards@deq.virginia.gov.”

Related Documents and Statements

Related Media Coverage

State Water Control Board calls for aggressive enforcement, declines to revoke pipeline permits [WDBJ7]

State water board declines to reconsider stream-crossing permits for pipeline [Roanoke Times]