In what seems to be a step in the right direction, the Virginia DEQ has advised ACP and MVP developers that “project-specific” erosion and sediment control plans will be required.
The move to require project-specific plans, while seeming to be an improvement, is really a smokescreen that obscures a continued failure by DEQ to regulate the pipelines properly and legally.
Rather than project-specific plans, the DEQ must require submittal of site-specific plans at each site where discharges may damage waterbodies and, most importantly, DEQ must review those plans before approving the projects.
IT’S A DISTINCTION THAT MATTERS
Without knowing details of construction methods, specific resources needing protection, and pollution control measures proposed for each circumstance (waterbody crossing, discharge from other construction activities, roads, etc.) the DEQ cannot possibly fulfill its responsibility to ensure that all water quality standards will be met on all waters. No single waterbody can be “written-off.”
A comparison of current conditions in the environment and those that can be achieved after the proposed actions is vital – just one example of the assurances that have to be provided if approval is to be given is that runoff and groundwater flows must be restored to pre-construction states after work is completed. The companies don’t want to address this issue honestly, because it’s a standard they cannot meet on steep slopes and where forests are mowed down and replaced with grass or other substitute ground covers.
ACP has already submitted general Standards and Specifications to the DEQ that may meet DEQ’s requirement for project-specific plans. However, the “standard” pollution control and hydrologic control measures simply will not work in many situations the companies will encounter. This is especially true when anti-degradation requirements must be met on some of our highest quality streams. This component of the water quality standards is routinely ignored when DEQ allows projects to be addressed through general versus individual regulatory approaches. High quality waters are sacrificed in the name of bureaucratic efficiency.
The general Standards and Specifications are merely a cookbook with the range of options that might be used. General, vague ideas on what might happen at each of the hundreds of waterbodies threatened across the State are not acceptable, because waterbodies aren’t interchangeable. The Standards and Specifications are, in our opinion, an illegal case of the State allowing the companies to self-regulate.
Finally, the general approach deprives the public of its rightful role in protecting our resources.
- There is no structured opportunity for public review and oversight.
- There is no assurance that the details of erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans will be available in time for public review prior to FERC and state-level permitting decisions.
We and other parties are prepared to challenge bad practices and regulatory decisions in every administrative and judicial forum available to us. We prefer to work with DEQ to get this right and hope officials will finally see the wisdom of doing so.
DPMC will continue to insist that every action by DEQ follow the law and apply sound technical principles.