February 25, 2021

Success in the Senate and House – Protecting Virginia Waters from Pipelines

This week we made major advancements toward improving state law in protecting Virginia waters against huge gas pipelines. Two important bills have been approved by both the State Senate and the House of Delegates and will now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

These bills are in line with our efforts to limit damages from Mountain Valley Pipeline but also to anticipate possible future pipelines and make sure the state rejects damaging proposals. Virginia has to learn from our the mistakes of the past, to make sure they are not repeated. Wild Virginia has been a leader in the pipeline fights from the beginning, especially in insisting that Virginia official do their jobs to protect us all. Check out this blog from three years ago – “Governor Northam Must Act to Protect Virginians and Our Waters.

Senate Bill 1265 (SB 1265)

Senator Creigh Deeds sponsored this bill to strengthen the Virginia DEQ’s authority to stop work on pipelines when they are causing water quality damage or conditions that present imminent threats. The amendments specify the kinds of impacts that can justify stop work orders, including any violation of water quality standards and accumulation of sediments outside of the control structures that are supposed to prevent discharges. This means the DEQ should act before water pollution reaches our streams and wetlands, not wait until the damage is done.

Another important addition is new authority for the DEQ to stop all work on a pipeline project in Virginia, if there are repeated and widespread violations. The law has allowed work to be stopped only in limited areas, which has allowed Mountain Valley Pipeline to fix problems at individual sites but continue project-wide violations.

We encourage you to thanks Senator Deeds for his hard work to make these important changes to the law.

Senate Bill 1311 (SB 1311)

Senate Bill 1311, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, requires for the first time that applicants for pipeline projects make detailed erosion and sediment control and stormwater management plans available to DEQ, the State Water Control Board and the public at the very beginning of a review process. Until now, this important information could be held back until after Virginia approved a project, allowing decisions that were not adequately informed.

The bill also makes it clear that Virginia will not give up its right to conduct independent reviews of projects and to veto them if they would harm Virginians and our resources. Our state officials must never defer to federal agencies whose decisions are not always in our best interests.

Please let Senator McClellan know you appreciate her determination and skill in getting this measure through the legislature.

Now, both of these bills go to Governor Northam and should soon become law! Thanks to all of you who called and wrote to your representatives and help in protecting Virginia waters!