Chesapeake PSR

Proposed Virginia fracked-gas pipelines will fuel climate change

Climate Change and EnergyLydia SullivanComment

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, proposed for construction in Virginia, are moving through the permitting process and toward what appears to be eventual approval. The two mammoth pipelines would carry gas from fracking well sites in West Virginia into Virginia. By transporting the fracked gas to new markets, the pipelines would increase the use of fracked gas, a highly potent climate change pollutant, undercutting the growing demand for clean, healthy, safe alternatives like solar and wind energy and extending our fossil fuel dependence for years to come. 

More than 80 Chesapeake PSR advocates from Virginia have sent letters (from our petition, now closed) asking the state to deny Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification for the pipelines. The state needs to grant 401 certification for the projects to move forward.

The pipelines will require clear-cutting wide swaths through forests, including on the region’s steep mountainsides. Of particular concern are impacts on streams, aquifers and sources of drinking water. 

“There’s no way they can build the pipelines through these mountainous karst terrains without terrible problems of landslides, sedimentation and erosion,” explained Chad Oba, a member of Chesapeake PSR's Virginia advisory group and a local activist in Buckingham County. She added, “Pipeline construction and crossings could easily damage hundreds of people’s water supplies. The headwaters that are the water supplies for those dependent on it further downstream in more populated areas in Virginia and the District of Columbia would be affected. Many far from the pipelines would be affected by the construction of these pipelines.” 

In addition to water quality concerns, the industry has not established a clear necessity for public use for the gas and, according to former industry experts, existing pipelines are capable of supplying any projected and future needs for gas in the region. 

A final opportunity to raise concerns about the potential effects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline on the water supply will be offered to people who previously testified or submitted comments to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) during the public comment period. The DEQ will summarize all comments and submit them to the State Water Control Board (SWCB). The SWCB may grant as proposed, grant with amendments, or deny the proposed 401 water quality certification for the pipelines. The SWCB will likely meet sometime in mid-November, although a date has not been set. The time is now to send additional comments.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to decide whether to approve Dominion Energy’s application to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in mid-October, but Dominion must have the 401 certification in hand before the project can proceed.

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