Coalition Submits FOIA Requests


It can’t be put to music, and state officials may liken it to a lump of coal rather than a bevy of gifts.The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) has launched an initiative they are calling “12 Days of Accountability.”On each of 12 days beginning in mid-December, the DPMC is submitting at least one Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to Virginia state officials and agencies responsible for oversight of pipeline construction.


The DPMC is one of 44 groups united as the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) in iopposition to Dominion’s  Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.  The group’s contention is that massive linear construction projects, such as pipelines, have done a poor job of protecting water, and without major changes in the regulatory system, the lack of oversight in Virginia for such projects would lay the groundwork for environmental issues, especially because  of the ACP’s proposed route through steep, forested terrain


DPMC program coordinator Rick Webb said “We have heard the Governor’s repeated pledge that the ACP will be built in an environmentally responsible manner. Unfortunately, with virtually no oversight by the state DEQ, this project is shaping up to be just the opposite – an environmental disaster.”

Among other problems, the state DEQ grants waivers allowing pipeline construction companies to open trenches far beyond Virginia’s 500-foot limit.


Webb continued, “Long, open trenches with exposed loose soil dramatically increases the potential for erosion and run-off during heavy rain events. Sticking with the state’s 500-foot legal limit on open trenches will prove critical to effective regulation of the proposed ACP and MVP, which both cross multiple steep mountains and will both require much wider and deeper trenches than previous pipelines in the region. Slope steepness, difficult topography, soil erodibility, and project design must all be considered in effective project oversight.”


Nancy Sorrells, chair of the ABRA Communications Committee added “The law is in place for a reason. Should a thunderstorm suddenly appear and dump large quantities of water on an open trench, the resulting run-off and contamination of streams and drinking water supplies could be catastrophic.”


The Pipeline Monitoring Coalition will submit FOIA requests asking the DEQ for all erosion and sediment control plans, agency inspection reports, and notices of violation for pipeline construction projects for which variances for open-trench limits have been granted.


Webb explained the reason for the FOIA requests is that the Coalition feels the DEQ, which has oversight authority for construction projects in Virginia, does not obtain or review erosion and sediment control plans for pipeline projects and only inspects pipeline projects in response to complaints.


He said “DEQ’s responses to our information requests should serve to definitively establish the degree to which the agency is fulfilling its responsibilities under state law and the Clean Water Act. The Twelve Days of Accountability is an information-gathering prelude to our pending challenge to federal reliance on Virginia’s implementation of Clean Water Act requirements. We intend to petition the EPA to withdraw delegation of authority to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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