The pipeline raises numerous environmental concerns. Its construction and operation would disturb thousands of acres in Virginia. Its expected destruction of thousands of acres of forests and disturbance of other sensitive lands will diminish the ability of these vital regions to filter water, clean the air, and provide other essential environmental services. Furthermore, much of the route traverses rugged terrain, steep slopes, and fragile karst geology. Construction would involve massive trenching and in-stream blasting at stream crossings, which threaten to increase sediment and nutrient pollution in local streams and the Bay
If approved, Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction and operation must be held to strict environmental standards to ensure that Virginia's waterways are protected. That is why CBF has urged Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to use its full legal authorities to protect each wetland and stream crossing, as well as all upland regions it will disturb.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an extensive interstate natural gas pipeline complex proposed by Dominion Energy, Duke Energy Corporation, Piedmont Natural Gas Co., Inc., and Southern Company Gas. As proposed by its owners, it would consist of two main pipeline facilities, three pipeline laterals, three new compressor stations and other infrastructure capable of delivering up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to customers in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia.
Construction of new interstate pipelines is regulated by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As part of its review process, FERC prepares an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, the Draft EIS was released on December 30, 2016. The final EIS was released on July 21, 2017.
Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act as well as Virginia law, DEQ must certify that the proposed project will comply with state water quality standards.
CBF, like numerous organizations across Virginia, has forcefully expressed its concerns about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Actions taken by CBF to date include:
- April 2015: CBF submits comments to FERC on several issues to be considered during the development of the pipeline's EIS. Comments included the recommendation that the EIS require any new pollution to local waterways to be offset pursuant to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
- June 2016: CBF submits a second set of scoping comments to the FERC in response to the release of proposed route changes and other modifications to the proposed pipeline, reemphasizing the need to address the concerns raised in our April 2015 comments.
- April 2017: CBF submits comments to FERC on the Draft EIS released in December 2016. CBF's analysis of the Draft EIS demonstrated that it failed adequately to address the proposed project's significant threats to wetlands, concerns about water quality impacts from sedimentation, and anticipated NOx emissions from the pipeline compressor stations which will ultimately deposit nitrogen to waterways. CBF urges FERC to correct these deficiencies in the final EIS.
- June 2017: CBF and 75 other conservation and advocacy groups signed on to a letter to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and DEQ urging the Commonwealth to conduct an appropriate 401 certification analysis. This Southern Environmental Law Center press release included a statement from CBF.
- August 2017: CBF submits comments to DEQ on its draft section 401 water quality certification.
- October 2017: SELC and CBF submit joint comments to DEQ on Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans for erosion and sediment control/stormwater pollution prevention.
- October 2017: Five conservation groups, including CBF, send a letter to the Virginia State Water Control Board urging it to exercise its authority and refuse certification of the pipeline.
- November 2017: CBF, SELC, and 19 other organizations and individuals file a petition with FERC asking it to reconsider approval of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- December 2017: Virginia's State Water Control Board voted to delay draft water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline until plans for addressing threats from stormwater pollution, erosion, and sediment control are reviewed and approved by the Department of Environmental Quality.
- January 2018: CBF filed an appeal of the Virginia State Water Control Board's water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
March 2018: After Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) construction began in Virginia over the winter with cutting thousands of trees, on March 16 DEQ issued a notice of violation for illegal work along streams and wetlands. ACP asked FERC for permission to extend its tree cutting work by two months, until May 15, jeopardizing sensitive bird species. CBF filed comments with FERC opposing that extension and on March 28 FERC denied the extension.
April 2018: In a positive step, the Virginia State Water Control Board voted to reopen a public comment period on water quality certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. DEQ subsequently announced a public comment period that runs from April 30 to May 30.