Home Energy and Environment Grassroots Coalition Finds Mountain Valley Pipeline Consent Agreement Insufficient

Grassroots Coalition Finds Mountain Valley Pipeline Consent Agreement Insufficient

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See below from Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition, which writes: “Please see the attached report prepared by the Mountain Valley Watch for the Virginia State Water Control Board in advance of their Friday, December 13 meeting. Related, please also see the following statement and attached comments from the POWHR Coalition regarding the Proposed Consent Agreement between the VA Attorney General and Mountain Valley Pipeline.”

Grassroots Coalition Finds MVP Consent Agreement Insufficient

RICHMOND, VA — On Tuesday November 26, 2019, Protect Our Water Heritage Rights (POWHR), a grassroots coalition of volunteers in the path of Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), filed its public comment on Attorney General Mark Herring’s Proposed Consent Agreement (PCA) with MVP. The PCA, if approved, would settle the Attorney General’s lawsuit on behalf of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board alleging over 300 violations of Virginia law by MVP. The current Proposed Consent Agreement would settle all the Commonwealth’s claims through November 2018 and add certain components to the erosion and sedimentation control process.

In comments, POWHR has requested that the Henrico Court reject the proposal, and that it review documentary and witness evidence in considering the following insufficiencies in the PCA:

    1. The PCA would waive nearly a full year, from November 2018 through September 2019, of erosion and sedimentation offenses—including eleven months of construction-related offenses beyond the first seven months accounted for in the lawsuit;
    2. The Commonwealth’s Erosion and Sedimentation Control (ESC) plans for MVP have proven repeatedly ineffective, as many experienced scientists have long and repeatedly warned, in protecting Virginia’s waterways and drinking water sources from the sediment pollution caused by MVP construction. MVP should be prohibited from piecemeal and haphazard corrections. All MVP work should stop until the Court is assured the ESC plans have been independently and adequately re-evaluated as effective in Appalachian terrain. Site-specific water body, wetland, karst and soils analyses are of paramount importance in any credible accounting—for even the too few violations as charged;
    3. The PCA fails to require bona fide mitigation, which should incorporate biological assessments including site-specific stream bottom and stream bank restoration. The Court should allow no construction until MVP has adequately restored—or sufficiently attempted to mitigate—the destruction to land, forest, and water that it has already caused;
    4. The PCA lacks meaningful and effective oversight in that it has never vested independent, adequate and effective supervisory, corrective and enforcement authority in experienced, properly motivated and sufficient-in-number staff—staff whose recognized obligation is to protect the waters of the Commonwealth;
    5. The $2.15 million fine is wholly insufficient to effect any real economic deterrent, in the context of a $5.5 billion project, to an LLC in association with known corporate polluters with prior convictions—and it fails to assign and deliver true compensation to individuals and communities directly impacted by MVP’s destruction;
    6. The agreement lacks transparency—the Commonwealth has failed to publish the calculations used to determine fines—as such, the public has no information on how the parties arrived at such a relatively insubstantial fine.
    7. POWHR requested the Court’s attention to the parties’ reference to boring in the Proposed Consent Agreement. MVP has used FERC variances as an end-run around the Virginia 401 Certificate and the now-vacated and -suspended authorizations under the Army Corps Nationwide 12 Permit. The PCA should not in any way implicitly approve of this practice.

Maury Johnson, POWHR Executive Committee Member

“The Attorney General’s capitulation would allow MVP to walk away with no record of wrongdoing— notwithstanding that the out-of-state LLC has had its hand slapped by state and federal authorities in a variety of Stop Work incidents at least six times since May 2018. The ridiculously low fine and meaningless conditions are not in the public interest.”

Roberta Bondurant, POWHR Co-Chair

“MVP has demonstrated its inability to adhere to federal, state, and local law in pursuit of a high-risk high-return to its shareholders. In its leniency, lack of transparency, and lack of accountability, the Attorney General’s proposed agreement with MVP is little more than a ‘pay to pollute’ scheme which broadcasts to out-of-state extraction interests that the Commonwealth is open for business to anyone who can pre-pay their crimes.”

Russell Chisholm, POWHR Co-Chair

“The process set forth by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is a façade of public comment. MVP spans 100 miles of Southern and Southwest Virginia, impacting many rural elderly, working poor, and those without Internet access. The Commonwealth offers no website with simple filing and immediate access to other publicly-filed comments; it failed to designate a point person to physically receive comments, and will likely, again, dilute individual comments to summaries by DEQ staff—or may make no summary at all. This amounts to suppression and denial of the public voice. POWHR’s filed comment recognizes that true stakeholders—landowners, scientists, and advocates in the path of MVP—should be consulted by the Court and included in any discussion of why a project with this track record should be allowed to resume its destructive activities.”