Virginia lawmakers, conservation groups call on DEQ to deny pipeline’s water certification

Construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will impact numerous Virginia streams. (© Robert Llewellyn)

SELC, on behalf of more than a dozen conservation groups, is calling on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to protect the water quality of communities across the state. In comments submitted Tuesday, SELC outlined the potential dangers the Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction and operation would cause to sensitive waterways in Virginia, and made the case that DEQ has failed to fully exercise its authority to protect water quality.

“DEQ does not have reasonable assurance from pipeline developers that our waters will be protected as required by the Clean Water Act,” said Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The state owes it to Virginians to take its authority seriously rather than cutting corners to approve this project on the pipeline developer’s schedule.”

In letters addressed to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and DEQ Director David Paylor, several state lawmakers, including Senators Creigh Deeds and Emmett Hanger Jr., urged DEQ to do its own analysis of the pipeline’s stream, river, and wetland crossings, rather than the agency’s proposed plan to rely on a review and blanket permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. DEQ has the authority to conduct a thorough review that would reveal the risks of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s construction to every water crossing in Virginia. If built, this pipeline will cross some of Virginia’s steepest mountain slopes, where erosion controls are likely to be ineffective to prevent harm to trout streams and drinking water sources. The Clean Water Act gives DEQ the authority to stop the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and it should take that responsibility to all Virginians seriously.

DEQ is also pushing off critical decisions until after the state water permitting process, including consideration of erosion and sediment control, and stormwater management plans. This approach will be too little too late. Postponing consideration of these plans undermines the entire process meant to ensure that dangerous projects with the potential to degrade water quality in Virginia are properly vetted.

These comments followed similar ones SELC filed Friday with North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality regarding the section of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would cross 326 waterbodies and harm over 460 acres of wetlands in the state. In the comments, SELC pointed out the many pieces of critical site-specific information that the pipeline developers have failed to provide, and urged N.C. DEQ to deny the state water permit due to the failure to provide the missing information.

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