All posts by Wild Virginia

Suggested Comments – Virginia Water Quality Certifications for the ACP and MVP

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting comments through Aug. 22, 2017.


Comments for ACP should be submitted to:

comment-acp@deq.virginia.gov 
See ACP Public Notice

Comments for MVP should be submitted to:
comment-mvp@deq.virginia.gov
See
  MVP Public Notice

Describe ways you use waterbodies that would be directly affected by pipeline work or are downstream of those areas. If you use a stream for fishing, boating, swimming, or just for aesthetic enjoyment those are valid recreational use that DEQ must protect. Describe waters you know to have valuable and sensitive species (brook trout, mussels, endangered species, etc.).

Other Sample Comment Topics:

The DEQ….

    • Failed to provide adequate public participation: The public participation process is deficient and must be re-started or expanded. The current schedule deprives the public of the chance to play its rightful role.
    • Failed to consider cumulative impacts. DEQ must consider cumulative impacts to state waters from all pollution sources to waters that would be affected by these projects. Such cumulative impacts analyses are conducted by DEQ for all other individual reviews of regulated polluting activities.
    • Refused to consider evidence: DEQ has illegally refused to even consider that the evidence may require it to deny certification for either proposed project. The burden of proof to assure that all water quality standards will be met is on the applicants and DEQ.
    • Must not accept late submissions: DEQ may not allow vital detailed information to be submitted by the pipeline companies after the certification process has been completed.
    • Must limit variances: DEQ must forbid or limit variances to water quality protection requirements in the certifications, not allow open-ended authority for agencies or companies to grant variances after certifications are issued.
    • Must consider impacts: DEQ has not analyzed impacts to recreational and aesthetic uses that would result from construction or maintenance of the pipelines.
    • Must protect existing uses: The activities proposed will impair or deny existing or designated uses that must be fully protected in affected state waters.
    • Must analyze requirements to protect streams: DEQ has failed to analyze whether antidegradation requirements to maintain high water quality in streams can be met in any of its analyses.

Read More:
Legal Bases for Section 401 Reviews

Mountain Valley Pipeline Record of Decision

-The MVP will result in permanent forest fragmentation,
impacts to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Scenic Corridor, and harm to Endangered Species

-The Record of Decision (ROD) includes 11 exceptions to the existing Jefferson National Forest Plan that would allow:

—-destruction of 51 acres of national forest for creation of the pipeline corridor and access roads and construction areas,  

—-upgrading 31 acres of access roads and creating .8 acres of additional workspaces,  

—-cutting of 4.6 acres of old growth forest,  

—-a 75 foot construction corridor through sensitive wetlands,  

—-violation of existing protection for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail viewshed,  

—-and destruction of habitat of 22 threatened, endangered, or candidate species including the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, 4 species of bats, 6 freshwater mussels, and 6 endangered plants.  

-Mitigation for these serious impacts is to be determined after the project is approved.

-The Forest Service has not considered alternatives or included an analysis of a route that does not cross Forest Service Lands (FSM 2703.2(2)b)

-The ROD fails to include an analysis of a route that utilizes existing energy corridors.

-It fails to demonstrate overall need for the pipeline projects.

-In order for the Forest Service to permit this pipeline, the Forest Service must change the Forest Plan for the Jefferson National Forest.  This plan was developed through public consultation and  is in place to protect our forests.  We should not amend this Forest Plan  to allow this destructive project.

Specific points of concern about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Image Credit: Deirdre Skogen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will destroy 214 acres of National Forests and construction will eliminate a total of 4,892 acres of critical interior forest habitat.

-The Pipeline will cross 2.4 miles of porous and unstable karst areas on Forest Service lands and two cave systems of high significance: the Cocheran’s Cave Conservation Site and Burnsville Cove Cave Conservation Site.

-The Record of Decision (ROD) will eliminate a total of 14 National Forest standards as it applies to the pipeline, including impacts to soils, wetlands, old growth, the Appalachian Trail, and the endangered Indiana Bat.

-The ROD fails to consider the cumulative impacts of both the ACP and the Mountain Valley Pipelines, which is in clear violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Image Credit: Deirdre Skogen

-The Forest Service is amending the Forest Plan to allow this pipeline on the condition that mitigation plans are met.  However, those mitigation plans could be revised after this decision.

-The ROD fails to include an analysis of a route that utilizes existing energy corridors

-The ROD fails to demonstrate overall need for the pipeline projects.

-There is insufficient analysis of alternative routes in the ROD.

-In order to permit this pipeline, the Forest Service must change the Forest Plan for the George Washington  National Forest.  This plan was developed through public consultation and is in place to protect our forests.  We should not amend this plan to allow this destructive project.

MVP & ACP Draft Record of Decision

The Forest Service has decided to allow pipelines to harm watersheds, old growth, and endangered species in our National Forests.

Raise your Objection Today!   

The USFS recently issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the ROD for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. These terrible decisions authorize the pipeline companies to amend the Forest Plan, to cross National Forest Lands, and to harm species.

The Forest Service has a duty to ensure the environmental review is complete and to protect our public lands.  Sadly, the Forest Service settled for the flawed and incomplete information presented in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)  for both pipelines.  Find the ACP FEIS here and the MVP FEIS here.

Image Credit: Deirdre Skogen

These decisions present a clear and present danger to our public lands.

  • The need for these projects must be, and has not been, established.
  • The Forest Service is required to consider options for these pipelines that would not impact Forest Service lands.  They have not yet done this.

Click below to learn more about the specific impacts outlined in the recent Record of Decision for each pipeline:

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Image Credit: Deirdre Skogen

Please take the time to object to the Forest Service about one (or both) of these pipelines.

You are eligible to do this if you:

  1. Submitted any comments during previous comment periods. (signing a petition or letter is o.k.)
    • Your objection should reference your previous comments or issues that came up after the public comment period if you can.
  2. OR you wish to object to information that has come out since the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

If you’re not sure if you are eligible to file an objection, just give Wild Virginia a call.  We’re here to help. 

Need ideas about what to say in your objection? 

While there are a lot of legal and technical reasons to dispute these decisions – it is just as important to  focus on why you love your public lands in your objection.

Do you love to hike, fish, hunt, swim or play in the National Forests?

Describe uses you make of our public lands and things that you value that would be affected by the pipelines. Discuss how you use the lands: recreation, aesthetic appreciation, appreciation of large tracts of intact forests, etc. Your experiences using these lands matter.  Tell them you strongly oppose any decisions that would destroy or devalue these features of our forests.

Image Credit: Deirdre Skogen

You have a right to ask the Forest Service to protect the integrity and beauty of your public lands.  They should not be handing them off to a company for private profit.

Here’s a handy document that will walk you through the Objection process.

If you need more help with what to say or want help drafting your objections, please contact us.  We’re ready to help.  info@wildvirginia.org 434-971-1553

Important Deadlines:

Mountain Valley Pipeline: August 7 by 5pm

Atlantic Coast Pipeline: September 4 by 5pm

Comment to the BLM Today

Tell the BLM “No Pipeline through our National Forests”.

The BLM is accepting comments on the Mountain Valley Pipeline about the impacts to National Forest Lands.  We know that our national forests will be impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Please take time to contact the BLM by mail or email by the comment deadline of July 31st .

Mail your comments to:
Vicki Craft, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Southeastern State District Office, 273 Market Street, Flowood, MS 39232.
(Comments must be postmarked by July 31st)

Email your comments tovcraft@blm.gov

What to say?
Describe uses you make of our public lands and things that you value that would be affected by the pipelines. Discuss how you use the lands: recreation, aesthetic appreciation, appreciation of large tracts of intact forests, etc. Your experiences using these lands matter.  Tell them you strongly oppose any decisions that would destroy or devalue these features of our forests.

Image Credit: Deidre Skogen

Sample Comments

  • Both the draft and final Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) fail to fully describe and analyze many environmental threats, and the BLM has a duty to reject these documents and deny a right-of-way permit until NEPA requirements are fully satisfied.
  • The Purpose and Need for the project and the crossings of federal lands are not adequately analyzed and do not justify the project.
  • The alternatives analysis fails to apply the correct standard at which crossings of National Forest lands must be held, and the proposal cannot meet that standard.
  • Environmental damages that cannot be avoided or mitigated make the crossing of public lands unacceptable. These include forest fragmentation, cumulative impacts to surface waters and groundwater, and impacts to endangered and threatened species.
  • Neither project impacts on global warming nor impacts on the ability of the Forest to respond and adapt to ongoing climate change are adequately assessed in the EIS.
  • Large bodies of additional information were submitted to federal agencies after the public comment period for the Draft EIS had ended, depriving the public of the chance to respond to those documents.

If you need more help with what to say or want help drafting your comments, please contact us.  We’re ready to help.  info@wildvirginia.org 434-971-1553

Forest Service Decision Gives Priority to Private Profit

Today, the Forest Service released a Draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

This terrible decision would authorize the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to construct  21 miles of pipeline on lands managed by the George Washington (GWNF) and Monongahela National Forests (MNF). The proposed pipeline route would also cross both the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Forest Service had to issue this decision because current forest plan standards for both forests do not allow this destructive development.   The Forest Service chose to change the rules for ACP and approved 14 total amendments to standards in these forest plans.  Without amending these standards the ACP project would violate the forest plans for both of these forests.

These  standards were created to protect our forests and water.  The Forest Service has put the integrity of our public lands at risk and goals of private profit ahead of the safety of our watersheds.

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This decision is based on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)

This FEIS is drastically incomplete and in no way addresses the impacts to our lands, air, and water.  Read more from our  coalition press statement released today:   FERC’s final Atlantic Coast Pipeline report a sham.   The FEIS glosses over the “profound and permanent harm to water resources and drinking water supplies, forest ecosystems, wildlife and endangered species habitat, historic sites, agricultural resources, public lands including the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, and local economies”.

This is an important time to make your voice heard:

You have the right to object to this decision if you:

1. Previously submitted timely, specific written comments to the Forest Service or to FERC during comment periods. (If you’re not sure if you did, we can help you look it up).

2. Can raise an issue that arose after the formal public comment period closed.   More information on how to object  Click Here 

Join us for a Objection/Comment Night next week

July 24
Comment Writing Night on Record of Decision in Staunton

July 25
Comment Writing Night on Record of Decision in Charlottesville 

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Quick Facts from the Draft Record of Decision:

-214 acres of Forest Service lands will be will be maintained and operated for long-term use by ACP.

-The Pipeline  would be installed under 17 perennial, 28 intermittent, and 11 ephemeral waterbodies on Forest Service lands.

-ACP will cross about 2.4 miles of karst topography on Forest Service lands.

-The Pipeline could also impact cave invertebrates and other subterranean obligate species (amphipods, isopods, copepods, flatworms, millipedes, beetles, etc.) that are endemic to only a few known locations.

An Assault on Public Lands and Democracy: H.R. 2936

H.R. 2936, The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (more commonly called the Westerman Bill) is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives. This bill is intended to “expedite environmental analysis and availability of categorical exclusions to expedite forest management activities.”
categorical-exclusion

Apart from being destructive to forest ecosystems, the Westerman Bill is designed to benefit industry and ignore public interests. It is similar to other bills that we have seen in the past in that it seeks to bypass environmental and judicial protections. However, this bill is a more urgent issue than similar preceding bills. Not only does the Westerman Bill take much more drastic and harmful action against the forests, it has the potential to be passed into law in the current administration. This step to forgo analyses and categorically exclude certain areas from examination is a blow to public lands and undermines democracy.

The ways that this bill would disregard environmental regulations and judicial review are innumerable. Specifically, the Westerman Bill: undermines the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by creating sweeping and arbitrary waivers at unprecedented levels, limiting consideration of alternatives, and establishing radically short deadlines; eliminates citizen access to judicial review, even when the government fails to follow the law; opens up millions of acres of treasured roadless areas to harmful roadbuilding and logging; reallocates funds away from environmental restoration toward timber production, thus prioritizing industry over public interest and safety; dismantles inter-agency consultation that provides checks and balances integral to protecting critical wildlife under the Endangered Species Act; and finally, threatens national monument designation under the Antiquities Act.

This bill would have catastrophic effects in Virginia.  Expediting environmental analysis and offering categorical exclusions to projects, as the Westerman Bill proposes, would have serious impacts on the environment, cultural history, public interest, and public health.

Wild Virginia and other forest defense groups are monitoring the progress of HR 2936 and encouraging our members to stay informed and to express these concerns to your congressperson.

For more information on the potential impacts and implications of the Westerman Bill: westerman-hr-2936-factsheet

The Westerman Bill in full: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2936/text

Help us Find the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee!!

Image Credit: Chicago Wilderness
Image Credit: Chicago Wilderness

Thank you for your interest in helping to search for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee along the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route. One of the bees was found by an ACP surveyor in Bath County. We would like to find more anywhere along the route, if possible.

We are welcome to search on public Forest Service lands right away. The Forest Service is glad to have our assistance. Time is of the essence; we don’t know how long the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee will remain active in our region.

Our RPBB Handout contains all the information you need about where to find the bee, how to identify it, and what to do with the pictures you take. It also includes ways for all of us to coordinate our efforts.

Thank you so much for your help!

Safety Tips for the Great Outdoors

by Donna Fitzgerald

This summer, hike around in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests or do some wildlife watching and camping. Summertime in Virginia is one of the best times of year to get outdoors and enjoy some of the state’s most beautiful forests.

Whether you spend as much time as you can outdoors, or you have little experience hiking around in nature, safety should always be your number one priority.

Don’t forget these reminders and tips to help keep you and your family safe as you enjoy all the sights and sounds of nature in Virginia’s beautiful forests and parks.

Whether you’re camping or going for a three-hour hike, it’s important to dress for the weather. Any Virginian knows that the summer heat can feel oppressive, but temperatures may change once you’re in the heart of the forest. Wear light layers and always wear shoes with good tread.

In addition to dressing appropriately, take a look at the forecast before you head out. Today, it’s easier than ever to find out the weather forecast. Be sure to look at a weather app before you start hiking, just in case you don’t get a good signal on your smartphone.

Sunscreen and Water

Water and sunscreen may seem like common sense to most, but they are often overlooked when people head outdoors. Staying hydrated is a must when spending time outdoors, regardless of what you’re doing. Sunscreen should always be worn, even on sunny days or under the canopy of tree tops.

Be a Responsible Camper

If you’re planning on camping, you have the rare and exciting opportunity to experience dispersed camping in Virginia’s national forests, which means that you can set up camp on your own, away from designated campgrounds. While dispersed camping offers a lot of freedom, make sure that you’re being a responsible camper.

If you’re planning on building a campfire (who doesn’t want to roast a marshmallow or watch sparks drift into the night sky?), always teach young children about fire safety and keep a safe distance from your campfire.

Respect Plants and Animals

The great outdoors in Virginia are without a doubt breathtaking and picture perfect. Many people take trips to the forest to get in touch with nature, and it’s encouraged as long as you are adhering to rules of the forest.

Some people don’t have a lot of experience in nature can feel a little hesitant about what they encounter when they’re hiking. A trip through the forest should not only be an adventure but also a learning experience. The more you learn, the more likely you’ll learn to appreciate and become a friend of the forests.

Never share your food with wildlife and if you’re going off trail, be sure to watch where you’re walking. Take the time to connect and listen to all the sounds that you hear when walking through the forests. One of the most wonderful things about nature is the quiet and calm; embrace it and be part of it rather than being part of noise pollution (although feel free to sing or exclaim your happiness).

Additional Tips

Here are a few more tips to consider to keep you safe while being a steward of nature:

  • Bring a small first aid kit.
  • Have a plan, just in case of an emergency.
  • Know your limits; pushing yourself can lead to injury.
  • Take plenty of breaks. Stretch and warm up.
  • Let people know where you are in case of an emergency.
  • Watch your children closely.
  • If you hike at night, wear a headlamp.
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN!