2017-08-09 / Letters

Pipeline projects threaten river, county

Virginians should please take note and voice concern about the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s obfuscation of their permitting process for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) projects. The ACP would pass through neighboring Dinwiddie County and, at multiple points on its path, cross over the James River, one of the three major water supply sources for Chesterfield residents.

The unnecessary and dangerous ACP and MVP projects would cross over 1,000 waterways in Virginia, endangering water supplies, animal habitats, delicate ecosystems and aquatic species, while seizing private property through improper use of eminent domain. As part of the Department of Environmental Quality’s review process, it was publicly announced in April through DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden that they would require individual permits for each waterway crossing location. This decision would allow careful consideration of the diverse ecosystems and variety of waterways in Virginia. However, as of late May, they now endorse a blanket permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for all waterway crossings, which in no way can fully meet our state water certifications. It removes any valuable examination of waterways in the paths of the proposed pipelines. It ignores the uniqueness of waterways: connection to water supplies, susceptibility to erosion, proximity to fragile cave systems, and risks from sediment dumping.

Virginia’s water requirements state our waters are to be “free of any substance that would interfere directly or indirectly with designated uses of such water or which are inimical or harmful to human, animal, plant, or aquatic life.” The Federal Clean Water Act, Section 401, states a permit may only be given if it can “insure compliance with applicable (state) water quality requirements.” How can we know if a project would meet that requirement if it is not reviewed at each unique location where it crosses a waterway?

In Chesterfield, visual evidence of insufficient oversight from the DEQ seeps from the ground at Dutch Gap Conservation Area. It was examined in Jim McConnell’s April 19 article, “Environmentalists push county to take a stand in coal ash debate.” It is highlighted in the 2017 efforts of our state senator, Amanda Chase, together with Fairfax Sen. Scott Surovell, to make the closure and removal process of coal ash as safe and transparent as possible, requiring the DEQ to halt permitting coal ash pond closures for one year.

It is not partisan or unreasonable to ask that the agency tasked with ensuring projects can meet the state’s established environmental standards do so.

The DEQ is taking public comments regarding the pipeline permits from now until Aug. 22. DEQ is also holding public hearings, with the closest to our area on Monday, Aug. 14, from to 6-10 p.m. at Southside Virginia Community College in Alberta.

Jessica Sims

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