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DEQ’s negligence and mismanagement of the Mountain Valley Pipeline permitting and construction have grossly violated its own mission to protect Virginia’s environment

It's long past time to stop this boondoggle.

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From Mothers Out Front Roanoke: 

We mothers and concerned citizens of Virginia, defenders of our children’s health, welfare, safety and future, charge our Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) —the first line of environmental defense against aggressively political infrastructure projects — to have substituted a mission to protect construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for DEQ’s stated mission to protect Virginia water and forest resources, leaving SWVA with the only 42-inch, export-sized pipeline project on the East Coast (NY, NJ and NC). DEQ should have ended this project by the reasonable and legally-confirmed states’ right to refuse permitting them.  Public safety consequences have been absent from DEQ’s recommendations to the State Water Control Board (SWCB)—including MVP’s explosive potential undermining main North-South I-81 and U.S. 460 thoroughfares in a Swiss cheese karst no-build terrain, near the famous Dixie Caverns in Salem. 

VADEQ failed to protect Virginia citizens from the unneeded, environmentally devastating MVP boondoggle. which poses long-term, irremediable watershed poisoning following MVP abandonment from the cumulative harms of MVP’s 130 tributary water crossings in the steepest, most unstable portion of MVP’s 300-mile project through the Virginias. DEQ’s permissive oversight of MVP has carried with it the cultural crime of destroying our region’s sense of place and endowment to claim our pristine environment as a major geographic treasure and economic development strategy by the irresponsible granting of eminent domain to a profiteering over-exuberant project with no decommissioning plan whatsoever. MVP has disturbed historical resources and Native American artifacts and harmed our region’s former claim to a pristine outdoors with our 400 miles of outstanding hiking trails.

Mothers Out Front, Roanoke accuses VA DEQ of the following:

  1. DEQ has substituted a scheme to protect MVP construction over its stated mission to protect and enhance Virginia’s environment and promote the health and well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”
  2. 2.DEQ neglected scientific warnings of the impossibility of construction MVP across the steep, unstable Appalachians with the most water crossings of any pipeline ever through the most diverse terrain. Science is the way to prevent vast environmental damage to precious resources.  Governor Northam called for following the science. A delegation of six visited the governor and explained the impossibility of safely constructing MVP across the Appalachians. The VADEQ equally ignored the science.
  3. DEQ is failing to fulfill its job of protecting Virginia waters.
  4. DEQ is not enforcing environmental laws (Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts) or stopping MVP from polluting our water.
  5. DEQ is permitting MVP to continue polluting our streams and threaten our water security.
  6. DEQ is negligent in having an effective plan to protect water.
  7. DEQ has increased statutory authority to protect water but fails to use that authority to do so.
  8. DEQ discounts some detailed time-and-date-stamped photos and videos of MVP polluting streams.
  9. DEQ ignores resolutions and municipal concerns of local governments that must bear the impacts of MVP pollution and economic harms.
  10. DEQ allows construction across sensitive headwaters while MVP lacks all its permits. In contrast, the U.S. Forest Service has prohibited construction across the Jefferson National Forest while MVP lacks all its permits.
  11. DEQ has rushed a recommendation to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) to approve the stringent 401 (individual stream crossing permit) under the Clean Water Act, when it has until next spring to decide on this matter.
  12. DEQ has ignored public safety and welfare issues surrounding MVP and ignored scientific and expert warnings against the project.
  13. DEQ has allowed Virginia to be the conduit of a high compression fracked-gas project that contributes significantly to mass extinction and unsustainable warming of our Planet Earth.
  14. DEQ’s permitting of MVP has forced an unwanted and unneeded for- profit infrastructure project on Virginians that in no way justifies the projects’ vast harms.
  15. DEQ’s permitting of MVP has disturbed the tranquility of Virginia’s citizens by making citizens the victims of the predatory system that gives all advantage to the pipeline.
  16. DEQ’s negligence and mismanagement has caused the public to lose trust in DEQ’s ability and willingness to follow its own mission.
  17. DEQ has demonstrated that it has contempt for concerned citizens by running them through seemingly endless hoops and bureaucratic loops without heeding the warnings of concerned water drinkers.  This has resulted in most or all of those warnings playing out in environmental destruction in our South West Virginia Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains.
  18. After Virginia DEQ and AG Mark Herring enacted a Consent Decree for over 300 violations and a $2.5 million fine, they decided to allow MVP to continue construction with so-called” increased enforcement” but DEQ seems incapable of monitoring every MVP location and increased enforcement is not evident as destruction of water resources continues continues. Instead, it seems that DEQ wants to follow a narrative that MVP “cleaned up its act” after it’s consent decree.

Details:

  1. DEQ is failing to protect our water. Evidence of this is documented by the over 200 violations cited in A.G. Herring’s consent decree in the Fall, 2018, citizen monitors and Mountain Valley Watch.  Instead of stopping the harmful project, MVP was charged civil fines that amount to a pay-to-play arrangement.
  2. DEQ permitted MVP to plan a route through Virginia that harms the federally-protected endangered Roanoke logperch and other protected species, then fails to implement clean water standards that endangered logperch require at all stages of their life cycle.  No numeric standard for the endangered logperch exists so clean water must be vigilantly enforced. MVP’s ill-chosen route should have been nixed but once it was permitted, no risk should be allowed that will imperil the survival of the endangered logperch. The Director of Water Permitting Division claimed there was no problem with the Roanoke logperch because “DEQ has never received a report of dead or distressed fish, nor has DEQ staff … ever observed dead or distressed fish.  However, DEQ has has never sent an aquatic biologist out to a creek.  DEQ seems uninformed about the conditions needed to protect the logperch and is using inappropriate criteria for monitoring.
  3. DEQ, (the enforcement authority for the MVP project in Virginia) is allowing MVP construction and blasting through complicated fragile watery Bent Mountain plateau (headwaters to the Roanoke River which supplies municipal water to the Roanoke Valley) endangering essential healthy upland wetlands which perform the free service of providing continuous flow to streams that feed the Roanoke Valley’s essential Roanoke River despite loss of its Army Corps Nationwide 12 permit to cross waters and wetlands.
  4. MVP originally claimed there would be no blasting on Bent Mountain, but will most likely blast all the way across due to shallow soils. Fifteen-foot-deep blasting drill holes have repeatedly filled with water indicating MVP is constructing in wetlands without a federal permit. Complaints to the EPA about water destruction referred concerned citizens to VADEQ, where DEQ fails to even send a certified hydrologist to evaluate the complex plateau hydrology.
  5. Instead of an effective plan, DEQ claims to protect water quality by implementing Erosion and Sediment (E&S) and stormwater management (SWM) laws which “are not water quality based” but by maintaining technology-based “best management practices” (BMP’s) and inspections that prevent sediment discharge.  This method is ineffective in MVP’s route through uniquely rugged Appalachian terrain resulting in regular discharges of sediment into streams. When sediment is clearly discharged, DEQ makes excuses that discharges are due to “long and short duration rainfalls.”  DEQ is failing to stop-work when water is being polluted–claiming they will only do so when “it is determined by inspector observation and recommendation… that an imminent threat to water quality exists due to E&S concerns.”  (letter by Director of Water Permitting Division, Melanie Davenport.)
  6. New laws have given DEQ authority to stop work all along the pipeline, but DEQ fails to use that authority when evidence demonstrates pollution of streams.
  7. Allowing blasting in wetlands that supply Bent Mountain’s perched aquifer’s ability to continue its valuable free water security service to hundreds of thousands of downstream water drinkers and amounts to reckless endangerment of downstream Roanoke Valley’s water security by the state agency charged with protecting water from overzealous projects initiated by irrational exuberance claiming “Engineering Marvel” preconstruction after all scientific warnings were ignored has altered the original authority to implement a stop work on MVP from the SWCB to DEQ, then failed to use that authority when unacceptable sediment pollutes Appalachian streams.
  8. DEQ’s “investigations” of “incidents’ of muddied water have ignored citizen-monitor detailed time-and-date-stamped photos and videos of MVP Best Management Practices (BMPs) releasing muddied waters into streams that feed into the Roanoke River and other streams.
  9. Here’s the video evidence of sediment-filled water being diverted by MVP to go directly into a tributary stream to the Roanoke River. Here’s a link to Freeda Cathcart’s presentation at the press conference at the Roanoke Gainesboro Public Library  (8-5-21) that substantiates the warnings from the scientists and engineers.
  10. Concerns and priorities of local governments of Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem are ignored.  Roanoke City councilman, Bill Bestpitch, cited a Roanoke City Resolution passed in 2017, informing the DEQ that current stormwater management regulations were not sufficient to protect our water from a large land disturbing project on steep slopes. The cost of cleaning up MVP sediment was conservatively estimated to be $35 million to taxpayers but the project has proved to be far longer and more damaging than originally estimated. Bestpitch emphasized the importance of the Roanoke River to Roanoke City’s economy and recreation. MVP sediment harms the cleanliness of the Roanoke River floodplain and recreational Roanoke Blueway and Greenway systems that the Valley governments worked for decades to bring to fruition as the crown jewel of their public recreational plans.
  11. Pipes that have toxic coatings are being laid across the sensitive headwaters on Bent Mountain when it is not certain that MVP will regain a water crossing permit or survive legal challenges.  These are pipes that will be abandoned in place sooner or later even if this dubious project never completes.
  12. DEQ is ignoring the EPA’s recommendation to the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) that the 401 permit under the Clean Water Act (the highest standards) not be issued at this time.  Suggested stringent and comprehensive modifications have been suggested, yet the VADEQ has prematurely and recklessly rushed to recommend that a 401 permit for individual water crossings be approved by the SWCB.
  13. DEQ has permitted the routing of a supersized, 42-in diameter fracked gas pipeline at over 1400+ pounds of pressure per square inch under roads, near residences, through Newport Village, through 67 miles of no-build karst terrain, across high-landslide-prone slopes, through at least 2,829 acres of prime farmland, within 50 feet of 118 residences, forest fragmentation,  the pipeline’s 125-foot right-of-way traverses 17 high-to-outstanding ecological core areas, with permanent impacts on about 209 acres of forest within those tracts. Construction impacts about 547 acres of contiguous interior forest classified as high to outstanding quality.  DEQ has acted against scientific and expert advice and warnings.
  14. An operational MVP would produce emissions equivalent to nearly 1% of USA total net emissions for the foreseeable future during a climate emergency.  (In a country that is the world’s #1 oil and gas producer, this makes MVP a prime target to stop in order to prevent runaway greenhouse gas emissions and passing a “tipping point.”)

(Source: FERC filing by Dr. Carl Zipper:

To FERC: *Document Accession#: 20210527-5116  Filed Date: 05/27/2021

Title: Mountain Valley Pipeline: Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Their Significance

If completed and operated at capacity, MVP would contribute 1% of U.S. greenhouse emissions in the number one country for fossil fuel production.)

14. DEQ’s permitting of MVP favors an unneeded pipeline over protecting valuable Virginia natural resources—contiguous mountain landscapes and irreplaceable water resources. MVP (the most expensive per-mile pipeline) damages local economies, devalues properties, creates vast public safety and environmental risks and will raise energy rates while burdening taxpayers with remediation and cleanup costs.

15. By permitting MVP, DEQ has subjected Virginians to destruction of their environment with a fast-tracked private, for-profit LLC highly-harmful infrastructure project that evaded DEQ’s scientific and expert scrutiny it deserved, beginning with the unacceptable “tolling orders” where MVP began destroying property before settling with landowners or allowing legal challenges to begin or conclude and before all permits were even issued.  It allowed destruction of Virginians’ properties, occupied years of the lives of Virginians forced to struggle for clean water and against the unending injustice of a project so unneeded that its completion even financially endangers its partner sponsors who have admitted pipeline “overcapacity” for Appalachian gas and have doomed themselves to pay for their subscribed investor capacity on MVP with few buyers for its most-expensive gas. Roanoke Gas, (1% owner in MVP) will force its ratepayers to use MVP gas at increased heating costs for homes, schools, businesses, churches, colleges, etc.  The injustice of MVP has reached international press.

16. VADEQ’s Mission is “to protect and enhance Virginia’s environment and promote the health and well-being of all citizens in the Commonwealth. DEQ’s Vision is that all Virginians enjoy cleaner water, better air quality and the productive reuse of land that was once contaminated.”

DEQ’s negligence and mismanagement of the Mountain Valley Pipeline permitting and construction have grossly violated its own mission to protect Virginia’s environment.  DEQ has lost the trust of those it serves.  The State Water Control Board—the citizens’ board which decides on permits and is responsible for the actions of DEQ must set these wrongs right.

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