Potomac Riverkeeper Network Urges State Water Control Board to Deny Clean Water Certification of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Protect Virginia’s Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife Habitats, Drinking Water, and Recreation

Washington, DC – December 8 – Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN) calls for Virginia’s State Water Control Board (SWCB) to deny Water Quality Certification for the construction and operation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) because of the clear danger posed by the project to Virginia’s water quality and habitats and because of a broad array of inadequacies in the submissions by the proponent of the permit. In August 2017, PRKN originally urged the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to recommend denial of Certification to the State Water Control Board because the Commonwealth lacked “reasonable assurance” that Virginia’s water quality standards will be protected as required by the Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations.

“If built, this 600-mile pipeline will cross some of Virginia’s steepest mountain slopes, where erosion controls are likely to be ineffective to protect drinking water sources and fish and wildlife habitat including native brook trout streams,” said Mark Frondorf, Shenandoah Riverkeeper. “And because the fracked natural gas to be transported through the pipeline is intended for export, not domestic use, it’s clear that there is no long-term benefit to Virginians, who will suffer from the impact on our water quality for generations to come.”

Phillip Musegaas, PRKN’s Vice President of Programs and Litigation, noted, “The purpose of a 401 Water Quality Certification is to determine whether any state water quality standards will be violated; all information relevant to that determination should be presented. However, in this case, DEQ arbitrarily excluded any comments regarding erosion and sediment control in addition to stormwater management plans. In fact, DEQ has deferred evaluation of those critical issues even while it acknowledges that these plans are ‘critically important’ to protecting water quality in Virginia’s streams, rivers, and wetlands.”

State water quality standards include the designated uses of waterways, such as drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation; water quality criteria established to achieve designated uses; and an antidegradation policy to protect the existing uses of waterways. Therefore, when certifying a project, Virginia must have “reasonable assurance” that the project complies with the designated uses of waterways, meets relevant water quality criteria, and is consistent with the state’s antidegradation policy.

“By refusing to consider important data about the 900 river crossings the ACP contemplates and the impact on erosion and sediment, DEQ has cut dangerous and unlawful corners which will jeopardize water quality,” Frondorf said. He added, “The ACP will put the headwaters of the Shenandoah watershed at risk and affect drinking water quality for Virginians along the Shenandoah, Potomac, and James rivers.”

“It’s critical that the Board members resist the inappropriate political pressure being put on them by DEQ Director David Paylor, and meet their responsibilities as independent decisionmakers representing the interests of all Virginians, not Dominion,” said Musegaas. “The law requires the Board to review the facts and law alongside public opinion and DEQ’s recommendation; if they follow this course, it will lead to denial of the certification.”

“The SWCB must deny the application, and force DEQ and Dominion to provide the necessary site-specific information to evaluate the impact of the project on water so that there is a ‘reasonable assurance’ that the project will not violate Virginia’s water quality standards,” concluded Frondorf.

Contact: Fritz Schneider, 301.728.4811 fritz(at)prknetwork.org

PRKN ACP Release Final 12082017