Legality questionable in Virginia State Water Control Board’s pipeline decision

The crowd stood in support of the state Water Control Board’s decision to add provisions to approval needed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross thousands of rivers, creeks and streams, as well as the Commonwealth’s steepest terrain. (© Claudine McElwain/SELC)

Today the Virginia State Water Control Board issued a 4-3 vote to conditionally approve the Clean Water Act permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This decision was made hastily and without providing any clarity to new language presented by the board moments ahead of the vote. This decision will by no means allow this unneeded and contested project to begin construction. SELC, on behalf of its clients, is exploring all legal avenues regarding this decision.

“The board confused matters today with an approval of the water permit for the ACP with new conditional language that is unclear. SELC is exploring the legal implications of today’s decision and what it means for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “Governor-elect Northam should pay close attention to how DEQ is mismanaging this process. This unneeded pipeline is too big of a threat to Virginia’s environment, to our energy future, and to utility customers’ wallets.”

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality not only failed to provide the water board with critical information it needed to make a decision that would ensure water quality will be protected in Virginia, it also removed from the board’s consideration erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans, which DEQ has said are critically important to protecting water quality. Despite Virginians growing opposition to this contested project, DEQ has manipulated the regulatory process to accommodate Dominion’s timeline instead of taking careful consideration. This stands in stark contrast to the North Carolina environmental officals who have continued to insist that pipeline developers submit more information before moving ahead with the Clean Water Act permit.

This pipeline, backed by subsidiaries of Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, will cross 600 miles and thousands of sensitive waterways through Virginia and on to North Carolina. Rushing this review process puts our water at risk and gambles the future of this vital resource. Virginia DEQ has said it will make a decision on erosion and sediment and stormwater control plans sometime in 2018. Governor-elect Ralph Northam has made no indication as to what his position is on allowing this pipeline to move forward and whether his administration will put the DEQ process back on the right track.

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