We warned the Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly concerning the dangers of allowing construction of the two recently approved pipelines to begin without further study. We told DEQ of the omissions, distortions and downright fabrications contained in the paperwork submitted by the pipeline companies to the various governmental oversight agencies and ultimately to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We pointed out several examples of how FERC regulations have been subverted or ignored.
DEQ, like the Forestry Department, the Department of the Interior, and ultimately FERC itself dismissed our data based concerns and allowed pipeline construction to begin for both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Tree cutting along both routes began in February.
By February 21st violations to the approved protocols had occurred. By March 9th fifteen violations had been documented. David Paylor, DEQ director, is supposed to monitor the construction process and initiate enforcement action when any infringement occurs. This obviously did not occur since it was the pipeline company itself reporting the violations and self-imposing a three-day (think long weekend) halt to activities. Where is the oversight we were promised? Why hasn’t the tree cutting been brought to a halt and a significant financial penalty imposed for each infraction?
If I did tree cutting on a neighbor’s property, by law I would be charged by the tree and I, unlike the pipeline companies, would not have violated any federal contractual agreement.
The violations all occurred in the buffer zones along creeks and those lining wetlands. These buffer zones were established to prevent erosion and to prevent construction debris runoff from polluting our waterways and wetlands. The trees are down. Now there is to be no protection at the violated sites. And, apparently there has been no significant repercussion for the offending company.
Now it begins. We warned construction of these pipelines would result in potential environmental disaster. We warned politicians the taxpayers of Virginia could possibly get stuck paying for cleanup and remediation. We were told it was under control.