The DPMC has written to Governor McAuliffe asking him to act immediately to avoid forfeiting Virginia’s responsibilities under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and state laws for oversight of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Despite promising that the ACP would be environmentally responsible, the Governor has repeatedly and wrongly claimed that the pipeline is a federal issue and the State has no authority when, in fact, Virginia has the power to veto the project if water quality protection is not ensured. It now seems that the Governor’s declared lack of authority may become true if the Department of Environmental Quality ignores a pending deadline for State certification of the project, an inexcusable breach of the trust we have placed in our public servants.
Our September 9th letter to the Governor warns that the State must ensure that it has taken the legally-required steps in response to Dominion’s request for a CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) or the State will have waived its authority by default.
The deadline is September 16th.
The CWA assigns two important obligations to the states in regulating pipelines and other projects that require federal approval. First, the state must certify that federal and state water quality requirements will be met. Second, the state must provide for public involvement in the process. We have seen no evidence that either of these obligations have been met.
Dominion submitted an application to the State for a WQC in September of 2015 when it applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The CWA provides that a state has one year from receipt of a complete application to rule on a WQC, or the requirement shall be waived with respect to the associated federal application. Although the Army Corps has notified Dominion that its federal application is incomplete, it is unclear where the State stands on the matter.
The DPMC has repeatedly asked McAuliffe administration officials to tell us whether Dominion’s WQC request has been deemed complete but we have not received adequate response to our questions. After months of waiting for an answer we received a vague and incomplete response from the Secretary of Natural Resources in late August.