Monday 22 April 2019

Can you imagine what our recent torrential thunderstorms are doing to the exposed terrain and rivers and streams along the paths of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)? (See photo on the right of huge mudslide at a Mountain Valley Pipeline construction site in Franklin County.)This is yet another example of why these fracked gas pipeline projects should not be rushed and why we can't rely on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) to ensure our waterways are protected. It's up to Virginia to step up in this process, and the way to do this is by requiring a stream-by-stream review of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

The Virginia State Water Control Board opened a new 30-day public comment period -- deadline has been extended to June 15 due to DEQ computer problems -- to hear citizens’ input on where the nationwide permit falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Tell the State Water Control Board to protect Virginia waters. We should not use a federal “blanket” permit to allow pipeline construction!  The Nationwide Permit 12 is inappropriate for projects of this size, and our state Department of Environmental Quality should be analyzing the likely impacts at each water crossing instead.

Remember, YOU are the expert on the water resources that you use in your area. If you are downstream from either pipeline’s path, your use of waters is likely to be impacted. Simply tell the Board where and how you use these waters.

See below for instructions on how to submit your comments and what to include in them. 

  • All written comments submitted must include the name(s), mailing address(es), and telephone number(s) of the person(s) commenting.
  • All written comments submitted must reference exact wetlands and streams crossings using information — such as latitude/longitude or road mile markers — that is detailed enough to allow DEQ to identify the crossing or wetland of interest.
  • Comments may be submitted in the following ways:

By email (MVP) — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By email (ACP) — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By mail — DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218

By hand delivery — DEQ, 1111 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219

CLICK HERE to send a comment right now!

Written comments deadline has been extended to June 15th due to DEQ computer problems.

Our partners at Wild Virginia crafted a guide to help write comments to ensure they meet the State Water Control Board’s criteria. Our friends at Augusta County Alliance have also listed some examples below where the NWP 12 falls short and ways you can equip the State Water Control Board to advocate for better protections for our streams or wetlands:

NWP 12 does not consider cumulative impacts to water quality where there are multiple crossings along the same stream and its tributaries.

Without doing individual stream crossing reviews, the total threat to our water supply is not understood. For example, all of Staunton’s water comes either Gardner Spring or the reservoir in the National Forest, both located in the county and both downstream of intense pipeline construction. Since the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project began, city officials have been asking for individual wetland and stream crossing reviews in order to protect the city’s water supplies.

The proposed permit does not carefully examine on a case-by-case basis the unique characteristics of our special places. That is why our comments are so important. They need to hear what you and your neighbors know about the streams and wetlands that surround you — their special aquatic life, wildlife, recreational uses, and other features. Just don’t forget to mention your stream by name.

Without detailed review and research of our headwaters, there is no way for the pipeline developers and regulators to know what our frequent hurricane deluges do to the river bottoms and stream banks where the pipe is proposed to be buried. If you have information or pictures of what happens to a specific crossing during flood conditions, let the State Water Control Board know. An exposed and fractured pipe is an environmental and safety concern.

Use the form below to send a comment now!

The Conowingo Dam, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River near Havre de Grace, is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Exelon uses the dam to generate electricity from the river at a profit. The dam was completed in 1928 and has been trapping sediment and nutrient pollution from the Susquehanna and its 27,000-square-mile drainage area ever since. 

The reservoir behind the dam is now basically at capacity — it cannot trap any more sediment. This is a problem because when it rains, runoff pollution from the largely agricultural area upstream from the dam makes its way into the river and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Even more problematic is the potential for “scour,” where powerful floodwaters can actually scoop out the stored sediment behind the dam and send that downstream to the bay. If not for the Conowingo Dam, this load would have been delivered to the Lower Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay at normal rates.

If a major, catastrophic-level storm happens, this sediment can and will be mobilized and delivered downstream – smothering aquatic grasses that provide food, habitats and oxygen for marine life in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not a matter of if a major, catastrophic-level storm will happen, but when.

When planning for an emergency, you generally plan for the worst-case scenario. Ships need to carry enough life boats for every passenger, not just a few. Fire regulations call for smoke detectors in every bedroom, not just one per floor. Vehicle safety ratings are tested for full-speed collisions, not just fender-benders. We should expect the same for environmental regulations. Unfortunately, a recent decision by the Maryland Department of the Environment concerning the Conowingo Dam does not follow the same rationale.

Exelon has requested a new 50-year federal license to operate the dam. In order to receive it, the State of Maryland must certify that the dam’s operations will not adversely impact water quality under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Last month, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) announced that it had issued its CWA water quality certification for the Conowingo Dam. The certification acknowledges the impact of the dam on water quality, including the threat posed by the accumulated sediment. And while there are admirable goals, the certification only requires Exelon to adopt a “nutrient corrective action plan” rather than put specific measures in place.

The Clean Water Act requires the dam’s operator to do more than promise to reduce pollution. It requires concrete conditions that will ensure there is no adverse impact to water quality. Governor Hogan and MDE needs to hear from you TODAY.

We cannot afford to give Exelon a new, 50-year license without specific, measurable conditions that ensure its operations do no more harm to the Chesapeake Bay. MDE, under Governor Hogan's leadership, should include a requirement to dredge some portion of the accumulated sediment and nutrient pollution stored behind the dam as a condition of its water quality certification for the new license. We also call upon MDE to properly account for the damaging effects of large storm events during the new license period.

To achieve the best results, we must plan for the worst. The Chesapeake Bay deserves a good emergency plan.

Governor Hogan and MDE needs to hear from you TODAY on this important issue! We can’t wait another 46 years before taking action!

The Waterkeepers and Riverkeepers in our coalition are vigilantly working to make the waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays swimmable and fishable. Together, the Waterkeepers Chesapeake network patrols thousands of miles of tributaries and shorelines throughout the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays, and are at the forefront of water quality related enforcement and advocacy efforts in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Earlier this month we shared our legislative victories in Maryland. Here’s what you need to know about the 2018 Virginia and Pennsylvania (so far) legislative sessions.

In Virginia, from January to March this year the James Riverkeeper and others worked hard to protect oyster sanctuaries across the state. Fortunately, they were successful in defeating a bill which would have placed these invaluable sanctuaries at risk (for the second year in a row!). Next week, Virginia will be considering its state budget - with a proposal from Governor McAuliffe that supports the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, Virginia Outdoors Foundation and Environmental Education. There are also multiple proposals from the Senate, like $20 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund and funding for oyster restoration and replenishment, that we are supportive of. Find out more about the Virginia’s budget proposals here.

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Potomac Riverkeeper joined James Riverkeeper to address the threats associated with coal ash in the Virginia legislature. They successfully advocated for the passage of Senate Bill 807, which prevents the Virginia Department from Environmental Quality (DEQ) from issuing any new coal ash solid waste permits at Dominion until July 1, 2019. This will not prevent DEQ from issuing permits from the closure of ponds that coal ash has been moved out of. The bill also requires a report by December 2018 that reviews the amount of recyclable coal ash at each coal ash pond, the costs associated with recycling, and the market demand for recycled ash.

Another bill Waterkeepers Chesapeake was closely watching - Senate Bill 950 - was signed by the Governor at the end of March. This bill requires DEQ to conduct a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, or additional reviews and analysis of potential water quality impacts, of any new pipeline (larger than 36 inches in diameter) within one year of receiving an application for construction. This bill will bring Virginia in line with federal court rulings that a state must ‘use or lose’ its Clean Water Act authority to conduct additional reviews on major infrastructure projects within a year of receiving a permit application.

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In Pennsylvania, the legislative session will run through the end of June - so there’s still a fighting chance on a few environmental policies! We’ve seen a few victories in the Senate, with the passage of the sunset of the Recycling Fund and a fix to the Sewage Facilities Act. We’ve also seen a few losses, like House Bill 1959, which passed in the House and would create a new third party permit review bureaucracy at Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. This bill represents yet another attempt to give potentially biased third parties the power to direct DEP to issue permits for projects that cause environmental harm. If you live in Pennsylvania, make sure to contact your state representative and voice your opposition for this bill!

Another bill moving through the Pennsylvania legislature - Senate Bill 792 - has our full support as it would provide comprehensive licensing, registration and labeling for toxic fertilizers in the state. Overwhelmingly passing in the Senate, this bill addresses concerns of growing stormwater pollution from urban and suburban sectors and aims to reduce the environmental impacts from fertilizers that impair the Chesapeake Bay. This is another important bill to contact your house representative on!

As more environmental and water quality bills move through the Pennsylvania legislature, we’ll keep you updated on their status. To stay up to date on all of Waterkeepers Chesapeake work, sign up for emails and action alerts here.