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FERC’s Analysis of Pipeline Impacts Insufficient and Unacceptable

Today,  the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)  was released.

What’s in it – or more importantly – what is not?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has again failed to adequately address many of the most important impacts and issues related to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.   The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had fatal flaws that could not be fixed in this final version,  but even many of the gaps that could have (and should have) been filled in this document were not.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Some impacts can never be healed once they are inflicted, including forest fragmentation, loss of valuable core forest areas, and loss of watershed integrity.

Most importantly, FERC continues to avoid clearly addressing their statement that there is a basic need for the pipeline or for the gas it would transport. This makes obvious what we have known since the beginning, that this project and its potential impacts are unnecessary and lethal.

The Forest Service requires, and  has repeatedly stressed, that an alternative route, one that does not pass through  USFS system lands, be thoroughly examined.  The public expects them to hold fast to that demand. If it fails to do so, the Forest Service will betray our interests. 

Click image to enlarge

What’s Next?
Wild Virginia is particularly concerned about how the Forest Service and BLM will act in light of the deficiencies. The Forest Service and BLM must refuse to adopt this EIS.   We are also calling on the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to do their job and protect our water.

What can you do?

Ask the Governor to tell the DEQ to do their job:  Click Here

Stay connected with Wild Virginia’s email list for updates and ways to make your voice heard: Click Here

Background
This proposed pipeline crosses the Jefferson National Forest in Giles and Montgomery Counties in Virginia and Monroe County, West Virginia. The Mountain Valley Pipeline sources the same fracked gas and has the same delivery destinations as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

  • The MVP would affect over 1,000 waterbodies and slice through the headwaters of the Roanoke River watershed, crossing through 20 surface water protection areas.
  • The MVP would cause irreparable damage to 41 core forest areas in Virginia and West Virginia
  • The MVP would impact the habitat for 23 federally recognized sensitive and rare species.
  • Permanent visual impacts to the Appalachian Trail would be significant and irreparable
  • 2/3 of the MVP would cross mountains, ridges and slopes that are susceptible to landslides and major erosion.

The route passes through the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor and would cross the Appalachian Trail.

mountain-valley-pipeline-simulation
Photo: Appalachian Trail Conservancy

 

 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Status, Prospects, and Actions

What’s the status of the FERC Review?

FERC is scheduled to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21, 2017. The FEIS will apply to the entire project, including permits to cross the Monongahela and George Washington National Forest.

All comments on the Draft EIS are part of the official record and can be used in future legal challenges if they are unresolved in the Final EIS. Issues to be challenged may include abuse of eminent domain for private profit, damage to waterbodies, impacts on endangered species, climate change, economic damage, environmental justice, and cultural resources.  Since FERC issued the draft EIS, Dominion has submitted thousands of pages of additional information that was not available for public review and comment in the DEIS process.

Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition

The U.S. Forest Service will have a 45-day “objection” period followed by a 45-day “resolution” period. Objections can be filed on points relevant to the National Forests raised during the DEIS comment period or on new information not available when the DEIS was published. Litigation may then follow.

FERC currently has 2 (of 5) commissioners, so they don’t have the quorum necessary to approve any pipeline projects. The administration has nominated 2 replacements who will undergo Senate review.

How can the ACP be significantly delayed and/or stopped?

  • FERC can deny a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the ACP.
  • Dominion can withdraw its application with FERC.
  • The U.S. Forest Service can deny the issuance of a special use permit to construct the ACP on National Forest Lands.
Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
  • A pending lawsuit on the legality of the issuance by the Buckingham Board of Supervisors of a permit to construct the Buckingham County compressor station could derail the entire project.
  • The State of Virginia can deny a water quality permit for the ACP. The Virginia Governor can direct the VA Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to strengthen its review, rather than deferring to the U.S. Corps of Engineers for a broad-scale, less rigorous review.
  • The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) can deny the issuance of easements across properties with VOF conservation easements.
  • Litigation, combined with an injunction for procedural violations by many groups including FERC, USFS, Dominion or Duke Energy, and VA or WVA or NC Departments of Environmental Quality could temporarily or permanently stop the ACP.

What can I do today to help fight the ACP?

Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
Image Credit: Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition
  • CALL Ralph Northam’s office and urge him to tell the governor to direct the DEQ to undertake a full review of the impacts the ACP might have on all streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands, and to require that the ACP would meet all state water quality standards.
  • CALL Senators Kaine and Warner and your representative and request that they push FERC to create a Revised EIS with a new public review and comment period.
  • If you have money in banks funding the ACP (ex. Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Bank of America), consider divesting and state that you are pulling your money because you oppose the ACP.
  • If you hold Dominion stocks, follow the lead of Exxon stockholders and push for company executives to explain how their investment plan responds constructively to global climate change. Ask why Dominion has so little invested or planned for renewables.
  • Landowners can refuse to sign any easement agreements and continue to deny access for survey of their properties.

Little Valley Case Study: High-Hazard Pipeline Construction

 DPMC has published a new report on construction of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline across Little Valley in Virginia’s Bath County.

Little Valley: High-Hazard Pipeline Construction

The Little Valley area, like much of the proposed ACP route through the mountains, presents extreme challenges for pipeline construction due to steep slopes, high-excavation requirements, erodible and slip-prone soil cover, and interconnected karst ground water systems.

Examination of regulatory documents and available project plans for construction of the pipeline corridor and access roads in the Little Valley area reveals a general failure of the review process conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and raises concerns about permitting by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

little-valley-high-hazard-report-20170603

Location of the proposed pipeline corridor along the narrow crest of Little Mountain – DPMC

Little Valley exemplifies the significant risk posed by Dominion’s persistent failure to conduct critical studies to assess environmental hazards and to provide the detailed project plans needed for informed agency and public review of the project.

VADEQ announced in April 2017 that it would conduct a stream-by-stream review prior to issuing a Water Quality Certification for the ACP. We now know that the VADEQ instead plans to narrowly limit its review, and that it will rely on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting for stream and wetlands crossings. The USACE generally authorizes pipeline projects under a previously issued blanket (nationwide) permit without  analysis of individual stream crossings or the cumulative effects of multiple stream crossings.

To date, it seems that neither the VADEQ nor the USACE have received complete applications from Dominion, and it has not been confirmed that Dominion will be required to submit site-specific construction and environmental mitigation plans with the level of detail needed for meaningful review by the regulatory agencies and the public.

by DPMC (Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition) 
www.pipelineupdate.org

WILD VIRGINIA’S CONSERVATION DIRECTOR DAVID SLIGH WINS RIVER HERO AWARD

David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s very own Conservation Director, was recently named a winner of the River Hero Award through the River Network!

One of only five awardees across the United States, David was nominated for his environmental enthusiasm and commitment to preserving water bodies and water quality. Over the last thirty-five years he has made a significant impact educating and advocating for clean water. He is dedicated to pushing for legislation that protects water quality to and creating a connection between government regulators and the common people.

Over the years, David has made an impact through a variety of different organizations and in many different roles, including his work as a lawyer for environmental non-profits, Riverkeeper,  state and national level advocate, environmental consultant, and last but not least, as the Conservation Director of Wild Virginia.

David’s influence and significance as an advocate for clean water have set him apart throughout the many states he worked in.  David Sligh has always displayed strong commitment to preserving water quality and our beloved forest ecosystems.

To find out more about David’s work with Wild Virginia: http://wildvirginia.org/about-us/staff/

To find out more about the River Hero Award and David’s nomination: https://www.rivernetwork.org/events-learning/awards/river-heroes/ 

FAQ: How the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Connected to Mountaintop Removal

Dominion has stated that the proposed 600 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline will require ‘extensive’ mountaintop removal along the Appalachian ridge lines in Virginia and West Virginia. What exactly does this mean?

How much mountaintop will need to be removed?

michael-sheeler-1
Michael Sheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominion has said that 10-60 feet of mountaintops will be “reduced” in West Virginia and Virginia. In some places, that’s the height of a five-story building. This reduction will take place along 38 miles of ancient Appalachian mountain ridges, with roughly 19 miles in Virginia and 19 miles in West Virginia.  Of course, Dominion does not like the term “mountaintop removal,” because the company doesn’t want the public to understand the kind of destruction their proposal would cause.

How will Dominion reduce mountaintops?

In a Fact Sheet released today, pipeline opponents outline how Dominion plans to use explosives to remove the mountaintops, which is extremely destructive to the surrounding environment. Explosives have historically been used in West Virginia and Virginia for coal mining, however, today we are seeing the first time those techniques are being used for Pipeline projects. Past research has proved again and again the environmental devastation caused by explosives, however Dominion is disregarding these warnings. Mountaintop explosives release sulfur compounds in the form of dust, which often settle on water sources and private land. This is a major health hazard to wildlife and humans. The explosives also cause reductions in wildlife biodiversity by polluting water sources, destroying habitat and altering the flow of streams and creeks.

How do mountain explosives work?

Prior to setting explosives, Dominion will have to shave off 38 miles of forest along the proposed pipeline route, which is usually sold as lumber. Then, roughly 2-5 feet of topsoil is removed and supposedly set aside for later restoration. Explosives are placed within the rocky subsoil and blasted off until the mountaintop is leveled.

credit-deirdre-skogen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will Dominion do with excess soil?

Although Dominion claims they will try to “restore” the mountain sites after laying the pipeline, experts estimate they will still be left with an excess of soil, vegetation and rock of about 2.4 million cubic yards from the 38 miles of pipeline.  The 75′ permanent easement must remain flat, serviceable and void of trees. The transport of this waste alone will require dump trucks to make over 247,000 trips to and from the construction site.

What can you do to help?

Learn more about the pipeline and the ways in which it will harm mountain environments by taking a look at the fact sheet from ABRA, APPALMAD, CCAN, DPMC, and FON: http://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Fact-sheet-Mountaintop-Removal-to-Build-ACP_20170427.pdf 

Get involved with Wild Virginia! We are a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving Virginia’s national forests through a combination of education, citizen mobilization, and political advocacy. In order to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and ensure that the great outdoors can be enjoyed by all for generations to come, we work on behalf of the region’s wild spaces.

Learn about how to get involved in our current campaign against the pipeline here: http://wildvirginia.org/our-programs/fracking/dominion-pipeline/can/

By Susannah Gilmore

Wild Virginia Youth Program

 

img_4841Last week was packed with fun adventures in the youth program! On Monday, Wild Virginia met a group of students from Monroe High School at Ivy Creek Natural Preserve, where all the trees and flowers were in bloom and beautiful. We found a patch of grass surrounded by walking paths, colorful flowers, and some buzzing bees and did a camouflage scavenger hunt. The students had a keen eye for finding what didn’t belong, and managed to find the rubber snake hiding in the bushes and the plastic fly sitting on a tree branch. Then it was time to identify animal tracks and draw their own—we had some pretty amazing artists in our group! We all had a blast and felt lucky to enjoy such a beautiful warm day in such a beautiful green space.

crawfishOn Tuesday Wild Virginia teamed up with Boys and Girls Club to take a group of fifth graders at Jouette Middle School out to the wooded trails for more scavenger hunts. But the real fun began when we went down to the creek and searched for water bugs, crawfish, and frogs. At first students were hesitant to get their feet wet, but on an 85 degree day they quickly changed their minds and jumped in.

fish

 

And on Wednesday Wild Virginia visited students at Walker Upper Elementary, where we spent another sunny day outside doing scavenger hunts, drawing animal tracks, and making bird feeders. Students couldn’t wait to get their bird feeders hung up, so we hung them on a tree right outside the school! I just wish I could have stayed to see the birds visiting the students for a little snack.

As always, we worked with some amazing students who loved a chance to go outside, run around, and test their camouflage-detection skills. What a fun week!

Jessie Thuma, Wild Virginia Intern

National Forests & the Great Appalachian Carbon Commons

Just over a century ago, the mountains from West Virginia to Georgia were being clearcut, burned, and eroded in one of the worst logging rampages in history.  Flooding from the denuded mountains was so destructive to the lowlands that in 1911, Congress was pressured to pass the Weeks Act.  This law authorized the Forest Service to purchase and repair the highest ridges and slopes.

Today, according to the newest research, the six million acres in the eight Appalachian national forests offer an amazingly timely ecosystem benefit that remains virtually unrecognized:  carbon sequestration by mature trees that could mitigate the regional impacts of climate change.

Watch this 12 minute YouTube presentation to find out how:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK76Yh7cTac

By:
Chris Bolgiano, Mildly Amusing Nature Writer  www.chrisbolgiano.com

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Trees and Climate Change

Besides providing beautiful sites for hikers, habitats for wildlife, and lush natural scenery, forests play an invaluable part in protecting our planet from climate change. Read on to learn some fascinating, often-overlooked functions of forests and to understand why it’s especially important to look out for their welfare.

1. Forests regulate rainfall

When it comes to rain, forests play a vital role as regulators of precipitation patterns and water availability. Throughout the year, trees release a variety of biological particles such as pollen, fungal spores, bacterial cells and biological debris into the air. When these particles enter the atmosphere, they cause existing moisture to condense, forming rainfall. Forests are integral to the natural flow of water resources; the destruction of forests disrupts the region’s water cycle, and can lead to periods of droughts.

2. Forests create storms

The Biotic Pump theory suggests that when trees and vegetation transpire, (that is, when they release water into the air as vapor,) they aid in forming a low-pressure system over the area. Low-pressure systems generate strong winds, which have the ability to draw water from oceans and spread it across the continent in the form of rainstorms. This means that forests near coastal areas are especially crucial to climate regulation because they help bring rainfall to drier, landlocked areas of the continent.

Figure 1: Surface temperature distribution in a mixed landscape with forest
Figure 1: Surface temperature distribution in a mixed landscape with forest (Hesslerová et al. 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Forests cool the earth

In tropical and temperate regions, trees have a high albedo (ability to reflect sunlight) and thus keep the surface cool from the sun’s rays. They also release small particles into the atmosphere, which is believed to aid in cloud formation. This helps keep the region cool. Additionally, trees constantly transpire water vapor through their leaves, which aids in reducing surface temperature. Scientists estimate that a single tree transpires hundreds of liters of water per day—the equivalent power of two average household central AC units. With global temperature on the rise, preserving forests and planting trees in urban areas will help reduce the severity of heat waves and humidity. The image above shows the surface temperature in an area that has had half of its forest cleared for agriculture. Notice how the surface temperature is much higher in the cleared areas. Protecting our natural forests means keeping the earth from scorching!

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Photo Credit: Steven David Johnson

 

 

 

4. Forests Produce Groundwater

Trees have the ability to absorb fog and cloud droplets through moss and lichen plants that grow on or around their trunks and roots. Some of this moisture is used for tree growth, but additional water seeps into the ground to refill and recharge groundwater reservoirs. Studies have shown that large, uninterrupted forests have a higher rate of groundwater filtration and water flow than lands used for agriculture. Additionally, pesticide runoff from agriculture is more likely to seep into groundwater reserves when there is little or no forest nearby. Protecting this natural resource requires the preservation of forest areas and maintaining a safe distance between forest preserves and agricultural sites.

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Photo Credit: Steven David Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

5. Forests Reduce the Risk of Flooding

Trees absorb a substantial amount of water vapor and transport it to groundwater reservoirs, which help keep topsoil from becoming too saturated. This is important when it comes to heavy rainfall and flooding. Forests play an important role in soil compaction and erosion prevention. Climate change scientists predict that future high temperatures will create heavier tropical storms and frequent storm surges, so it is especially important to preserve forests in coastal states (like Virginia!) that will experience these severe weather patterns.

In Conclusion, What Can We Do?

Policymakers need to be aware of forests’ influences on climate regulation. Trees and forest vegetation provide countless climate services to the world, including precipitation recycling, cooling, carbon storage, water purification, infiltration and groundwater recharge, as well as the traditional benefits they provide as physical resources of food and fuel. In order to combat ongoing climate change, we need to recognize the importance and opportunity that forests provide us with and do everything possible to protect and restore threatened forests throughout the world.

That’s where Wild Virginia comes in! We are a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving Virginia’s national forests through a combination of education, citizen mobilization, and political advocacy. In order to combat climate change and to ensure that the great outdoors can be enjoyed by all for generations to come, we work on behalf of the region’s wild spaces. Get involved today!

Learn about how to get involved in our current campaigns here: http://wildvirginia.org/our-programs/

By Susannah Gilmore, Wild Virginia Volunteer

Sources:

  • Hesslerová, P., Pokorný, J., Brom, J., Rejšková–Procházková, A., 2013. Daily dynamics of radiation surface temperature of different land cover types in a temperate cultural landscape: consequences for the local climate. Ecol. Eng. 54, 145–154. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2013.01.036.
  • Bruijnzeel, L.A., 2004. Hydrological functions of tropical forests: not seeing the soil for the trees? Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 104, 185–228. doi: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.agee.2004.01.015.

Oakland School Education Outing!

We drove into the Oakland School on a crisp Wednesday morning. The campus was beautiful— rolling hills littered with white paneled, barn-house style buildings. I was there with Bette and Lilly, two other Wild Virginia volunteers, to teach a youth group about the importance of different habitat types for animals.

oakland-camouflageThere were about 20 students joining us that morning. We gathered them around in a circle and asked them if they knew what habitat was. The response was lightning-quick: “It’s where animals live!”

Then we broke into two groups and played games. I helped lead a hide-and-seek scavenger hunt and then built bird feoakland-camo-calendareders.  The other group played an animal charades game that led to a discussion of individual animal habitats.

We started the scavenger hunt by asking them if they knew what camouflage was. Another instant answer: “It’s how animals hide! They change their colors to blend in with the background.” It’s always refreshing to see that genuine enthusiasm for learning that kids have. We led them into the realization that animal habitats help shape animal camouflage and then we took them out to search for prey in the woods: little trinkets of various colors we had hidden here and there. Some they found easily—the bright green sock-puppet on a log; others, not so much—the wooden spoon tucked into a pile of sticks.

The kids adopted different seeking strategies. Some dashed off down the trail and shouted out all the brightly colored items while passing over some of the more subtle hiders. Others walked deliberately, preferring the glory of finding the secret cork nestled in with the leaves.

oakland-scavenger-huntAfterwards we went inside to make bird feeders. They coated paper-towel rolls in soy butter (non-allergenic!) and then rolled them in birdseed.oakland-hidden-object

The students were certainly glad to be out of the classroom and engaged with nature. They were proudly brandishing their bird feeders and chatting enthusiastically. We finished by telling them about Wild Virginia, and how we were working to help protect animal habitats in the national forests. We then waved them goodbye as they skipped down the path back to class.

By Tom Jackson, Wild Virginia Volunteer

Our First Youth Outdoor Education Outing!

On Monday,  February 13th, Wild Virginia’s youth outdoor education team held our first outing with the Charlottesville Parkside and Post-High School Parks and Recreation group! The unseasonably warm and sunny weather held out, and everyone was excited to get outside and play some games.

20170213_125509We kicked off the activities with a camouflage scavenger hunt. Volunteers hid pipe cleaners, colorful strings, and rubber snakes around a wooded path and it was up to students to find what didn’t belong in the woods. We were very impressed to see how quickly students found what was hidden! Clearly camouflage was no match to their keen observation. After the scavenger hunt, students told us all the reasons that animals might use camouflage, including to hide from humans who want to find them!

After the scavenger hunt, we headed inside the Crow Recreation Center to do some arts and crafts stations. At table #1, students had to match animal figurines to their animal tracks and then trace their own tracks.img_4758

At table #2, students worked together to draw their own forest murals, being sure to include some animal tracks and camouflage where they could.img_4759

And at table #3, students made their own bird feeders using empty toilet paper rolls, soybutter, and bird seed. We had some pretty amazing artists in our group!img_4760

We were all disappointed that the fun had to come to an end. The Parkside and Post-High School outdoor group were enthusiastic learners and really made the afternoon one to remember. Sarah Blech, with Charlottesville City Therapeutic Parks and Rec, shared the praise from the teachers who attended:

“Wild Virginia provided our students with an imaginative, hands on, engaging class as part of our Outdoor Education series. Scavenger hunt, bird feeders, art activities—each student left with something he or she found or created—thanks Wild Virginia!”

I speak for all of the Wild Virginia volunteers when I say that we had an absolute blast and can’t wait for our upcoming outing with the Oakland School.

-by Jessie Thuma, Youth Outdoor Education Organizer and Wild Virginia intern