The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) has collected comments submitted in response to the State Water Control Board’s request for public input concerning the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 and where it falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. VCN has established a webpage to provide access to these comments: http://www.vcnva.org/pipeline-comments/.
An extensive review and summary of comments will be prepared and made available to the public and the Water Control Board. A initial summary of assembled comments follows. Additional comments can be shared with David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory System Investigator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Initial Summary of Comments: NWP12 is Not Sufficient to Protect Virginia Streams
The Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP12) is insufficient to meet Virginia’s water quality standards. This permit is for “activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) clearly do not meet this description. Consider the following synopsis from a selection of comments to the State Water Control Board.
- Damage to streams is already being caused by construction activities: mudslides and sediment discharges from MVP have inundated Virginia streams and covered roads and neighboring properties; NWP12 is currently allowing damage to streams in South Carolina from a Dominion Energy project; West Virginia regulators have already issued four Notices of Violation for serious erosion problems and stream impacts from MVP. SELC and Appalachian Mountain Advocates comments discuss the current on-the-ground situation in detail.
- Mitigation measures as planned are inadequate to protect water quality: plans from developers are generalized and site-specific analyses are inadequate; many designs currently exceed engineering specifications; plans fail to consider combined impacts from upland activities and stream crossings. Sierra Club’s comments describe specific inadequate engineering evaluations and designs in detail.
- NWP12 ignores cumulative effects of multiple crossings: the permit looks at individual crossings in isolation and ignores the cumulative effects of multiple crossings on the same stream or small watershed. Wild Va/DPMC comments identify and describe potential individual and combined impacts from numerous sites within four “clusters” of crossings.
- DEQ presented incomplete and inaccurate information to the public: at least 81 crossings proposed by ACP and many for MVP are omitted from tables provide by DEQ (which were to provide the bases for comments to the SWCB); the tables also mischaracterize waterbody features. Crossings not identified or accurately described cannot have been adequately reviewed by the Corps or DEQ.
- When violations occur at specific crossings, as highlighted by the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative, the impacts disproportionately impact low-income and/or minority communities.
- The SWCB cannot defer to other agencies to protect our waters: the Corps admits it does not assess whether projects can meet state standards and that recreational uses may be impaired or eliminated. Anti-degradation analyses required by state regulations were not conducted by the Corps or DEQ. Wild Va/DPMC comments describe numerous high quality waters where state standards cannot be met and Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has already granted variances to time of year restrictions that are crucial to protect endangered species and sensitive trout streams.
The Water Board must use its authority to protect VA’s streams, specifically:
- Require individual stream crossing reviews for the most sensitive streams and watersheds
- Insist on complete and accurate information from the developers on the proposed designs, mitigation measures, and disallow variances that threaten water quality
- Conduct a 30-day comment period on the DEQ draft individual permits
- Suspend all activity until these reviews are complete