Dominion officials acknowledge that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline faces significant environmental challenges due to construction across steep, highly-erodible, and landslide prone mountain landscape. They assure us, however, that project construction will adhere to the highest standards, and that the company will go “above and beyond” legal requirements. Yet they will not discuss details. Although Dominion representatives are available to discuss environmental issues with the public or the press, they are not actually prepared to provide answers to substantive questions.
The following email includes a set of nine important questions provided to Dominion following a meeting near where the proposed ACP would trench through the Jackson River in Highland County. The company representatives requested the questions in writing, promising to get back with answers. Once again, they have not.
TO: Rick Weeks, Bob Burnley, Brittany Moody, Greg Parks, Dominion
CC: Bill Wilson, President, Jackson River Preservation Association
FR: Rick Webb, DPMC Program Coordinator
RE: Follow-up on 10/24/16 Jackson River meeting
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the proposed Jackson River crossing and other pipeline planning and construction issues. As agreed, I am following-up with a list of information requests related to the issues we discussed.
(1) Concerning the Jackson River crossing and risks associated with extreme high-flow conditions, including (a) the potential for downstream sedimentation and channel alteration associated with washout of fill material covering the pipeline and (b) the potential for structural damage to the pipeline due to stream-bed movement and scour:
What protocol will Dominion follow to obtain and evaluate information related to stream crossings and mitigation of risks associated with high-flow conditions? Specifically, does Dominion plan to determine the depth, configuration, and stability of unconsolidated alluvial and stream-bed material in the area of the pipeline crossing? How will Dominion determine the 100-year flood discharge and scour potential? And when will Dominion make these determinations in relation to the environmental review and regulatory permitting schedule?
(2) Concerning the 2014 Consent Order issued by the WV Department of Environmental Protection related to Dominion’s G-150 pipeline and 14 instances of slope failure or slippage resulting in stream sedimentation:
Among the multiple requirements of the Consent Order, Dominion was directed to develop and implement a written policy and procedure for slips, including a method of identifying potential slip sources, preventive measures, and a method of protecting water bodies from slip material and runoff. We request a copy of this policy and procedure.
(3) Concerning Dominion’s experience with pipeline construction in the type of landscape present in the central Appalachian Mountain region:
Dominion spokespeople have stated that Dominion has experience with pipeline construction projects that cross steep mountains and karst valleys. Can Dominion identify any such projects?
(4) Concerning the 2016 Annual Standards and Specifications for Erosion and Sediment Control and Stormwater Management for Construction and Maintenance of Pipeline Projects in Virginia submitted by Dominion Transportation, Inc. to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality:
Dominion states the expectation that it will be exempt from the stormwater management regulations and associated Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements. Dominion appears to contend that runoff characteristics of the construction corridor will not differ from what is required by the regulations. That is, Dominion contends that the post-construction runoff characteristics will not differ from the runoff characteristics of forested areas in good condition. Is it Dominion’s position that it is not required to develop Stormwater Management Plans for construction of the pipeline, access roads, staging areas, and related infrastructure? If so, can Dominion provide documentation that supports the contention that post-construction runoff properties of the construction project will be equivalent to the runoff properties of forested areas in good condition?
(5) Concerning public access to site-specific Erosion and Sediment Control and Stormwater Management plans:
The DPMC argues that the effectiveness of available BMPs and mitigation measures for erosion and runoff control and slope failure prevention should be evaluated in the context of NEPA review. These are significant issues, given the conditions associated with much of the proposed ACP corridor, including steep-sided, highly erodible, and landslide-prone mountains, sensitive and complex karst systems, and high-quality streams and wetlands. Yet Dominion proposes to identify and develop engineering solutions for potential problem areas after the NEPA process is concluded, after permits are issued, and after public opportunity for input to the review and permitting process is concluded. The DPMC argues that deferred consideration of significant issues and mitigation measures is noncompliant with NEPA requirements. Does Dominion acknowledge that the public has a right to review mitigation measures in the context of NEPA review? Will Dominion commit to providing detailed, site-specific mitigation plans to the public in time for meaningful input to the NEPA review process and prior to permitting decisions?
(6) Concerning Dominion’s identification and analysis of geo-hazards and problem areas:
Dominion proposes to convene a team of experts to apply a “Best In Class” process (a) to identify areas of the pipeline corridor that are most susceptible to slope failure and erosion and sediment control problems and (b) to identify mitigation measures. As described in Dominion’s submissions to FERC, it appears that this BIC process will be applied after NEPA review and permitting. As addressed above, this deferred consideration of problems and mitigation does not comply with NEPA requirements. Our review of Dominion’s submissions to FERC indicates that Dominion has not provided site-specific information on geo-hazards and mitigation measures. It may be that we have missed something, given that Dominion has submitted more than 75,000 pages of material to FERC and other agencies. Thus, we request that Dominion provide an index or listing of submitted information related to the identification and mitigation of geo-hazards.
(7) Concerning the identification of karst recharge zones and hydrologic connections:
Dominion has submitted reports to FERC concerning surficial karst features in the pipeline route and plans for addressing related construction issues. These reports, however, do not address the issues and problems associated with karst hydrology. This is a major concern given the extent and complexity of karst in and downstream of the proposed pipeline corridor and access roads. Dominion’s reports do not address the potential harm to public and private water supplies and components of the ecosystem associated with karst. Dominion has thus far not acknowledged the risk to karst systems associated with disruption by construction and introduction of sediment and other pollutants through karst recharge zones both in and downstream of construction areas. Dominion has submitted little or no information related to the delineation of karst recharge zones and exchange between karst ground water and surface water. Does Dominion recognize that delineation of recharge zones in or downstream of pipeline-related construction is a necessary step in minimizing risk to karst systems?
(8) Concerning access to project information:
Dominion has previously argued against public access to Geographic Information System files for the pipeline corridor. Although Dominion does maintain an online interactive GIS map, it does not provide the location of access roads and other infrastructure, and it does not support analysis of environmental conditions associated with the proposed construction. We again request that Dominion provide public access to GIS map files. We are specifically interested in files that include the corridor route, access road locations, staging area and other infrastructure locations, karst features, soil survey and geo-hazard information.
(9) Concerning adherence to environmental standards and requirements:
Dominion spokespersons state that Dominion will be going “above and beyond” environmental requirements for pipeline construction. We are asked to accept this, despite that fact that we are unable to obtain access to detailed and site-specific erosion and runoff control plans and despite the fact that critical analysis and planning will not occur until after environmental review and permitting. Moreover, Dominion has indicated an intent to seek variances or exemptions for particular critical standards. For example, Dominion indicates that it will seek a variance to Virginia’s minimum erosion and sediment control standard that limits the length of open trench to 500 feet. This variance will effectively exempt Dominion from compliance with standard requirements for runoff diversions intended to prevent accumulation and downslope runoff of stormwater and sediment. Dominion has also indicated that it intends to proceed with wintertime construction, and that it will seek an exemption from time-of-year restrictions designed to prevent harm to early life stages of brook trout and other sensitive species. Does Dominion still intend to seek an open-trench variance and an exemption from time-of-year restrictions on construction affecting brook trout streams?