Making Comments at the Virginia State Water Control Board Meetings
The Virginia State Water Control Board, a citizen board that has authority over certain permits affecting Virginia’s waterways, will hold meetings this month on permit applications for the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast fracked-gas pipelines. Citizens who previously submitted comments to the State Water Control Board—by signing an organization’s petition, or by writing their own comments, or by speaking at the August public hearings—will be given the opportunity to testify and comment one final time at these meetings. Comments must focus on the VA Department of Environmental Quality’s summary of comments citizens made during the public comment period in July and August.
Public comments will only be received on the FIRST DAY of these two-day meetings. DEQ will present on the second day, after which the Board will consider the permits.
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Can I comment at the upcoming water board meetings?
Only those persons who commented during DEQ’s official water quality certification public comment period (July 3, 2017 – August 22, 2017) may speak. These persons may speak for up to 3 minutes to respond to the summary of the prior proceedings, including DEQ’s summary of comments received during the public comment period.
If you did any of the following, you CAN give a comment at the upcoming water board meetings:
• provided spoken comment at the recent DEQ public hearings back in August,
• sent in a written comment during the public comment period,
• and/or signed an organization’s petition to the DEQ during the comment period.
2. How long do I have to comment?
3 minutes to comment! If you would like to volunteer to pool your comment time with another speaker. See Question 3 below.
3. Can I give my time someone else (like a directly impacted landowner or water expert)?
Yes you can! You MUST attend the state water control board meetings in person and note that you are giving your time to someone else when you sign in.
4. Can I share materials when I am giving my comment?
Yes you may! If you have material that you want to share with the Board, the DEQ staff will distribute to them, but you will need to bring at least 12 copies. Also, remember that comments at the Board meeting are limited to responding to the summary of the July 3, 2017 – August 22, 2017 public comment period that has been provided by the Department to the Board.
Developing Your Comments:
As we mentioned before, it is very important that you review the VA DEQ’s summary of the prior proceedings including DEQ’s summary of comments received during the public comment period and respond to them in your comments. You can also check out the documents attached for important tips and talking points to prepare for the meetings.
Section 401 Certification
Under the Clean Water Act, Virginia has the power to grant or deny water quality certification for the pipelines. The pipelines would cross streams and wetlands all along their routes, potentially impacting all of the above ground and below ground waters in Virginia that are located along the pipeline routes.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) makes recommendations to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) and then the State Water Control Board decides whether or not to grant certification. The SWCB is expected to vote at the December 2017 meetings (details below) to approve, deny, or delay the 401 water quality certification for both proposed pipelines.