Seven weeks ago, we applauded the McAuliffe Administration’s announcement that it would conduct thorough, site-specific reviews of the impacts that the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would have on water quality. After years of public pressure, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was finally planning to give these massive pipelines the thorough environmental review they deserve.
On Wednesday, DEQ abandoned that promise.
The agency says it made a mistake. It was never planning to look at the pipelines’ impacts to Virginia streams, DEQ now says. Instead, the agency wants to abdicate that responsibility to President Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a blanket one-size-fits-all permit that does not look at each individual stream crossing, and therefore does not fully protect these water bodies.
Back in April, the DEQ was unequivocal. We will look “at each wetland, stream crossing … separately, to determine specific requirements that would be necessary” to protect Virginia waterways, a DEQ spokesperson told the Roanoke Times.
This was hopeful news. If the DEQ carries out thorough, site-specific reviews, we believe it will have had no choice but to reject these disastrous pipelines. There’s no doubt that building the pipelines across steep, well-watered, forested mountain landscapes will harm water resources, including heavy sedimentation of streams, alteration of runoff patterns and stream channels, disturbance of groundwater flow, and damage to springs and water supplies.
The Army Corps process does not involve site-specific analyses. We have no confidence that the Corps’ permit will be sufficient for such a complex project across the state’s steepest mountains. The DEQ is evading its responsibility to conduct thorough reviews of all threats to water quality posed by these pipeline projects.