The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s announcement yessterday, that the agency is issuing a stop work “instruction” for a section of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, is welcome news. However, DEQ inspector’s own reports, supplemented by hundreds of citizen complaints, show that in 2019 MVP has continued the pattern of repeated and frequent violations and infliction of damages documented in Virginia’s lawsuit against MVP last year. These problems are found along the entire pipeline route, have polluted numerous waterbodies, and have violated the property rights of dozens of private landowners.
Action by DEQ to address individual or small sets of violations are necessary and appropriate but they will not force MVP to solve the systemic problems that have existed since the day tree cutting began. We call on DEQ to go further.
The hundreds of new violations committed since Virginia filed suit against MVP in 2018 must be added to that complaint and all appropriate remedies must be pursued in that state court action to stop the violations. Further, the State of Virginia must tell FERC to issue a project-wide stop work order and to either suspend or revoke the Commission’s approval for MVP. Mountain Valley has clearly shown that it is not able or willing to meet all of the requirements established by FERC and other regulatory agencies and it must be stopped.
David Sligh, Wild Virginia’s Conservation Director stated: “Responding to damage after it has occurred is simply not good enough. DEQ and the State Water Control Board have a duty to protect Virginia’s waters and its people – not just to document the damages and seek penalties that can never adequately compensate for the losses imposed.”
Wild Virginia agrees with DEQ Director Paylor that it is appalling that “construction priorities and deadline pressures would ever rise above the proper and appropriate use of erosion control measures.” But that appalling condition has not just been present in the limited area targeted by DEQ’s order today. MVP has simply refused to meet its legal requirements and clearly believes it can continue to push this project through with only minor interference by regulators.
Wild Virginia has reviewed 115 DEQ inspection reports for the period between January 1 and June 20, 2019. On each of these inspection reports, inspectors judge whether “all control measures [have been] properly maintained in effective operating condition in accordance with good engineering practices and, where applicable, manufacturer specifications.” On an astounding 60% of those inspection reports, DEQ inspectors had to answer “no” on this item, meaning that pollution controls were not properly maintained to protect our resources. For 17% of the reports, DEQ inspectors indicated that pollution controls had not been even been “installed or implemented” in accordance with approved plans.
In addition to these overall ratings from each inspection, DEQ personnel looked at many individual sites and, in many cases, document multiple problems on each report. Overall, we counted 302 separate problems cited on the DEQ reports for 2019. According to DEQ sediment was deposited off the MVP right of way 32 times and in nearly a dozen cases waterbodies were directly affected. This does not account for the many additional instances when sediment-laden water muddied our streams and wetlands.
Sligh stated: “We support DEQ’s action today and we acknowledge that DEQ inspectors are documenting many problems on the pipeline. Members of the public are also documenting the horrible damages occurring out there. Now what we need is action that is forceful enough and comprehensive enough to stop the destruction of our resources before more damage is done.”