Dominion is gaming the system and the McAuliffe administration’s DEQ is playing along.

As we recently stated: the organizations and experts working with the DPMC have persistently expressed doubts that a project on the scale of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, constructed across the steep Appalachian mountains, can be built without significant long-term harm to the region’s high-quality streams, wetlands, and groundwater resources. Although Dominion and its supporters have repeatedly claimed that the project will be built “above and beyond” environmental requirements, the public has yet to see site-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans for the project. We have been concerned that the Virginia DEQ will go forward with 401 Water Quality Certification for the project without the critical information these plans provide.

Just as we feared, the DEQ has now initiated a public comment period without providing access to the project details required for objective review.

DEQ has assured the public that it will require “each pipeline developer to submit detailed, project-specific erosion and sedimentation control and stormwater plans for every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction, including access roads and construction lay-down areas. These plans must comply with Virginia’s stormwater and erosion and sediment control regulations that are designed to protect water quality during and after construction. These plans will be reviewed by qualified professionals (either DEQ staff or third-party engineers) and will be posted for public review. . . .”  (DEQ Pipeline Review website)

 Yet DEQ is initiating a public comment period, scheduling hearings, and preparing to recommend project certification to the State Water Control Board without making the promised plans available to the public. Moreover, the DEQ has hired a company with business ties to Dominion to review the plans. It’s frankly hard to believe.

We don’t know if the DEQ has obtained erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans or if it intends to review those plans prior to 401 Water Quality Certification. It may be that the DEQ plans to review those specific plans after the certification has been issued. That would indeed be gaming the system. First, because those plans provide the information needed for a meaningful analysis of water resource risks and mitigation measures. And second, because once the DEQ has issued a 401 Water Quality Certification, it has effectively exhausted its authority. Virginia’s best leverage on FERC-controlled projects is its power under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act; it may be the only significant authority states have that supersedes FERC dictates.

We have to ask: 

Is the DEQ colluding with Dominion to hide site-specific erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans from the public? Is the DEQ attempting to ensure that there is no independent technical evaluation of the project during the all-important 401 review process?  This would be “above and beyond” an abdication of responsibility.

As we have noted previously: 

When Terry McAuliffe was first elected he promised a new level of transparency in state government. He said that Virginians “should never have to question who their leaders are putting first.” (December 13, 2013, VCU Capital News Service)

 This was a promise not kept.

Note – If the detailed erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans are on the DEQ pipeline review website, they are certainly not easy to find. We have not found them.  We are looking for site-specific plan view and cross-section diagrams of corridor and access road construction, showing the extent of excavation, the disposition of spoil, and the locations and specifications for erosion and runoff control and slope stabilization structures? We also want to see the post construction runoff calculations that should be part of stormwater management plans.