Compliance Surveillance Initiative can document ACP infractions

Several high profile legal opinions in the past couple of months indicate somewhat closer scrutiny by certain judges plans for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. On January 14th ABRA, or Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance reviewed its Compliance Surveillance Initiative, one of the tools they developed to assist in this, what sometimes has been characterized as a “David versus Goliath” struggle.  Lew Freeman, executive director began by listing the outstanding legal cases, and a rough time frame of when some of them may be resolved. He also commented.

“I would say that there is a commonality in all of these challenges.  Basically what they,  the law firms representing many of our ABRA members, is that corners were cut by the agencies, and corners have been cut by the company in order to move forward and try to get this project done.  The agencies almost to an agency have not shown the thoroughness that you would expect from regulatory agencies, and in some cases as I said they haven’t even followed their own rules, the most glaring one being the Forest Service.  So if it has appeared to you, as an affected citizen, or a somebody who is just concerned whether you’re affected or not, that this project has been receiving knee-jerk reaction and superficial attention from the regulatory agencies, you’re right.” 

     Most often the infractions have to do with erosion and sediment control practices.  Photographs from observers on the ground, and high resolution images taken from airplanes document incidents of non-compliance.  Lew continued.

“And the courts so far, not in every instance, but in enough instances to give us encouragement, are saying “Yeah, you guys aren’t doing it right.  Where will all this end?  I’m not going to predict.  I don’t roll the dice.  I don’t make bets, but we believe we have strong cases in all of these cases, and in some of them, very strong. SO, we are encouraged, But! Until this project is legally shut down, we have to presume that it may get built. In fact they started construction as you know in West Virginia.”

Rick Webb of ABRA, and  Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition provided some of the specifics about how far along the project already is.

“Thirty nine-miles of trees have been cut in Virginia; seventy-one in West Virginia; forty six miles of activity in West Virginia, which means work with excavators and bulldozers. About eleven miles of pipe have been laid out in West Virginia, with half already buried.”

He went on to say, frequently both oil and natural gas pipelines have been started, and then gone on to be halted.  Rick also introduced a sophisticated mapping program available on the CSI website that shows all of the sections and intended plans of the company along the construction corridor.  The goal of the CSI is not to “document the destruction”, but to hold all the licensing agencies accountable.  If violations of codes occur, especially those protecting water supplies in the areas of erosion prevention and sediment control, the CSI will have evidence based data to submit to those agencies overseeing construction.     

“The data we collect will be used by the attorneys we are working with. Ultimately we want to document the limitations of the control technologies that the companies are using to protect the water resources.  We do not believe that the technologies that are available to them will be effective in this kind of landscape, steep mountains and karst valleys.  The long term objective is to reform the regulatory system.  This is our government.  These agencies work for us.”

Some of those erosion control technologies are silt fences, compost socks, sometimes rip rap and above all to seed the bare dirt as quickly as possible after disturbing it.

Kirk Bowers of the Sierra Club, and Malcom Cameron, a transportation engineer also spoke and gave many photographic examples of failed erosion and sediment control efforts both on the the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and on other major excavation projects.  The top ten observable examples of non-non-compliance are listed in this story on the AMR website.

The Top-Ten List 1. Failure to install, or delayed installation of, erosion and sediment control (ESC) measures. 2. Deviation from approved ESC and construction plans. 3. Missing, failed, damaged, or improperly installed or maintained silt fences, filter socks, or other perimeter control devices. 4. Missing, failed, damaged, or improperly constructed right-of-way diversions (water bars or slope breakers) and outlet structures. 5. Formation of earthen slips or downslope gullies within or at the perimeter of the construction right-of-way. 6. Sediment deposition off-site or outside of the permitted limits of disturbance. 7. Sediment discharge into streams and wetlands. 8. Failure to stabilize construction areas, bare ground, and stockpiles of spoil or topsoil after active disturbance. 9. Failure to construct and properly maintain construction entrances at public roads. 10. Failure to contain petrochemicals. The following pages provide additional information and example photos obtained of Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), and other pipeline construction in the region.

     Ben Cunningham, field coordinator for CSI, explained in further detail how to use the mapping system, but also assured the public that who ABRA hopes will turn out are citizens observers on every road and ridge top, and in every hollow from Harrison County, West Virginia to Buckingham, County Virginia.  If you have a cell phone, and will email photographs those can he helpful too.

“We’re asking folks to call us and say, ‘who, what when, where’ on what they’re observing.  Try to be as specific as possible.  That is our first line of getting our coalition to have actionable intelligence, which is what we’re trying to build right here.”

Ben also provided information for contacting CSI in addition to their website: “This is our CSI tip line, our hotline 877-462-2272, or  877-GO2- ABRA.”

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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