Activist group seeks legal intervention in pipeline approval process

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NELSON COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — Days before the public comment period ends for permits designed to protect waterways during pipeline projects, an environmental group is asking the state's attorney general to intervene in the process.

In a letter of complaint, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League urged Mark Herring's office to require the the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issue a water permit for each stream and waterway the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines would cross.

Last week, the DEQ held hearings at various locations to discuss the framework for the special certifications needed to build the pipelines.

But Sharon Ponton — a member of the group who attended four of the five meetings — said more research is needed before any informed conclusion can be reached.

"They're not going to have the data before they make a decision on the water permit," said Ponton. "It's just a little nuts."

The Nelson County landowner referred to stormwater, erosion and sediment control plans required by the DEQ before work can begin. While Dominion has submitted their plan for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the public input period does not end link text">until October.

"They put the cart before the horse," said Ponton. "They should have gotten all of the [...] storm water management plans in before they wrote this draft permit."

The issue worried Ponton enough that she sent a letter to the State Water Control Board, urging them to halt the process. She also complained of the Army Corp of Engineer's involvement in the process.

In a response, the director wrote, "I understand that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) did not communicate well on our decision to utilize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's," but the, "DEQ believes that we do have sufficient information to know what will happen to our stream beds."

In July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) final environmental impact statement found while pipeline construction "would result in some adverse effects," "most, but not all, of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels."

WHSV reached out to Herring's office and the DEQ for a comment. We are awaiting their response.