Pipelines threaten hundreds of waterways in Virginia

The Cowpasture River is one of more than 700 hundred waterways at stake in Virginia. (© Bill Sublette)

In a stunning admission yesterday, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said that it is not planning to require individual water-quality certifications for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines. Environmental and legal groups had applauded DEQ’s announcement back in April to perform site-specific analysis of all waterways across the state. Now, DEQ’s Director of Operations James Golden says there was a misunderstanding and the agency’s plan is to rely on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers national permit for the more than 700 water crossings in Virginia.

“DEQ has authority it should use to protect Virginia waterways from the dangers of these pipelines,” said Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “Hundreds of waterways are at stake and we have no confidence that the Corps’ permit is adequate for projects of this scope.”

Dominion will have to blast in and near more than 500 streams in Virginia including the Cowpasture River, arguably one of the most pristine rivers in Virginia. Many waterways in the path of the pipeline are bordered by steep slopes where excessive sediment runoff is inevitable. In other locations, streams flow over fractured karst terrain that will be disrupted by blasting.

DEQ is expected to announce the public comment period for the ACP and MVP pipeline projects later this summer.

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