Category Archives: Hydraulic Fracturing and Marcellus

Items related to the water-supply, wastewater, groundwater, or stream-impact issues associated with the hydraulic-fracturing, or “fracking,” method of drilling for natural gas; focus primarily is on the Marcellus shale formation that underlies parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Water-quality Certification for Proposed Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipeline Approved by Virginia State Water Control Board on Dec. 12, 2017, But with Delay Pending Additional Studies on Potential Erosion/sediment, Stormwater, and Karst Impacts

Please note: this post concerns developments on Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline since the Virginia State Water Control Board’s public hearing and decision on December 11-12, 2017.  For information on the December 2017 401 certification process for the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.  For information on the 401 certification process prior to December 2017, please see this News Grouper post.  For more information on natural gas developments more generally in Virginia since 2015, please see this News Grouper post.

On December 12, 2017, Virginia’s State Water Control Board (SWCB) voted 4-3 to approve water-quality certification (under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act) for the proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, which would run about 550 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina.  The Board delayed effectiveness of the certification, however, until the applicant conducts, and the Commonwealth approves, additional studies on potential erosion/sediment impacts, stormwater impacts, and impacts on karst topography.

Following are news media items on the certification hearings, vote, and related developments (listed from most recent to oldest).

Atlantic Coast Pipeline wins qualified VA go-ahead, Bay Journal, 12/13/17.

Pipeline opponent reacts to water certification vote, Newsplex Charlottesville, 12/13/17.

Panel grants conditional OK on key pipeline approval, Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 12/12/17.

Virginia board approves Atlantic Coast water permit, but delays effectiveness, Platts, 12/12/17.

State board approves water certification for Dominion’s pipeline, but with a caveat opponents say will buy more time, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/12/17.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets a big OK from the state — along with a big ‘if’, Virginian-Pilot, 12/12/17.

Virginia agency takes unexpected step that could delay gas pipeline project, Washington Post, 12/12/17.

Both sides claim cautious victory on key regulatory hurdle for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, WVTF FM-Roanoke, 12/12/17.

State water board approves conditional certification for Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, WRIC TV-Richmond, 12/12/17.

Both sides see path forward in pipeline decision, WHSV TV-Harrisonburg, 12/12/17.

Virginia panel approves water quality certification for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, WHSV TV-Harrisonburg, 12/12/17.

Water-quality Certification for Proposed Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline Approved by Virginia State Water Control Board on Dec. 7, 2017; Lawsuit Filed Dec. 8

Please note: this post concerns developments on Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline since the Virginia State Water Control Board’s public hearing and decisions in December 2017.  For information on the December 2017 401 certification process for the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.  For information on the 401 certification process prior to December 2017, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.  For more information on natural gas developments more generally in Virginia since 2015, please see this News Grouper post.

On December 7, 2017, Virginia’s State Water Control Board (SWCB) voted 5-2 to approve water-quality certification (under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act) for the proposed Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, which would run about 300 miles from West Virginia to a connection at Chatham, in Pittsylvania County, Va., with the existing Transcontinental, or Transco, pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York.

On December 8, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Sierra Club, and Wild Virginia filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (in Richmond), seeking a review of the actions by the SWCB and alleging that the SWCB acted without adequate information on potential water-quality impacts of the proposed project.

Following are news media items on the certification hearings, vote, lawsuit, and related developments.
State water board sued over decision to allow Mountain Valley Pipeline, Roanoke Times, 12/8/17.
Environmental groups file suit in federal court against gas pipeline, Washington Post, 12/8/17.
Water control board issues certification for Mountain Valley Pipeline, Roanoke Times, 12/7/17.
Meeting in Henrico erupts after Virginia state board issues approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/7/17.
Virginia water board approves Mountain Valley Pipeline, angering opponents, Washington Post, 12/7/17.
Virginia water board certifies proposed natural gas pipeline, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 12/7/17.
State Water Control Board approves Mountain Valley Pipeline, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 12/7/17.

A PDF of the certification document prepared by the Va. DEQ is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Water/Pipelines/MVPfinaldraft401cert.pdf.  That document includes 14 areas of special conditions, which are listed below.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Conditions for 401 Water Quality Certification for Proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

1. The Owner shall follow the measures detailed in its June 1, 2017, and June 22, 2017, responses to the Department’s May 19, 2017 and June 15, 2017 Requests for Information. These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification.
2.  Riparian Buffer Requirements
a) Removal of riparian buffers not directly associated with the Project construction activities is prohibited. Disturbance and removal of riparian buffers from Project-related upland land disturbing activities that would occur within 50 feet of any perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral surface waters shall be avoided where possible, and minimized to the maximum extent practicable if 50 feet is not possible.  Removal of riparian buffers not associated with crossings shall not be allowed where stream bank stability under normal flow conditions would be compromised.
b) The construction limit of disturbance (LOD) in upland areas approaching waterbody and wetland crossings shall be reduced from 125 feet to 75 feet and extended 50 feet from each side of the stream or wetland crossing as an additional upland buffer.  For any upland area approaching a waterbody or wetland crossing where this reduced LOD is not possible, a written justification shall be provided to the Department for review and approval prior to initiating land disturbing activity in that area.
c) A 100 foot riparian buffer shall be maintained between any perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral surface waters and all fueling, maintenance, parking and hazardous material storage activities.  These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification.
3. Karst Terrain Requirements
a) The Karst Hazard Assessment (February 2017) shall be revised and submitted to the Department upon completion of field survey activities and final pipeline alignments. The revised Karst Hazard Assessment shall be submitted to the Department for review and approval prior to initiation of land disturbing activities in those areas.
b) The Owner shall follow the measures as detailed in the Karst Mitigation Plan (March 2017). These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification.
c) To further evaluate flow paths for karst features in the vicinity of the project, the Owner shall develop a Karst Dye Tracing Plan to be submitted and approved by the Department. The Karst Dye Tracing Plan shall evaluate dye trace studies to determine hydrological connections and relationships associated with karst features.  The Karst Dye Tracing Plan shall at a minimum, evaluate the features identified in Attachment B of the Department’s June 15, 2017 request letter. These include any such features in the construction right-of-way and all other disturbed areas, including access roads and staging areas, as identified by the Karst Hazard Assessment. Any dye trace studies proposed in the approved Karst Dye Tracing Plan shall be completed prior to initiation of land disturbing activities in karst terrain. The Plan is expressly incorporated herein and shall be an enforceable condition of this Certification.

4. Surface Water Withdrawals
a) Any surface water withdrawals for the purposes of hydrostatic testing shall not violate applicable Water Quality Standards and shall be managed so that no more than 10% of the instantaneous flow rate from the channel is removed; the intake screens shall be designed so that screen openings are not larger than 1 millimeter and the screen face intake velocities are not greater than 0.25 feet per second.
b) Any surface water withdrawals for the purposes of horizontal directional drilling or dust control shall not violate applicable Water Quality Standards and shall be managed so that no more than 10% of the instantaneous flow rate from the channel is removed, the intake screens shall be designed so that screen openings are not larger than 1 millimeter and the screen face intake velocities are not greater than 0.25 feet per second.
c) Daily withdrawals from horizontal directional drilling or dust control activities shall not exceed 10,000 gallons per day from non-tidal waters and 2 million gallons from tidal waters per day. Any daily withdrawals greater than noted above shall comply with the requirements of the Virginia Water Protection Permit Program Regulation.  The Owner shall record and track the daily volumes of water withdrawn for horizontal directional drilling or dust control activities and make such records available during inspection or upon request by the Department.

d) Hydrostatic test water shall be released to upland areas through an energy dissipating dewatering device. The energy dissipating dewatering devices will be sized to accommodate the rate and volume of release and be monitored and regulated to prevent erosion and over pumping of the energy dissipating dewatering devices. There shall be no point source discharge of hydrostatic test water to surface waters. The upland discharge of hydrostatic test waters shall be monitored in accordance with the General Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) Permit Regulation for Discharges from Petroleum Contaminated Sites, Groundwater Remediation and Hydrostatic Tests (9 VAC 25-120-10, et seq.). The Owner shall record and track the daily volumes of water withdrawn for hydrostatic testing activities and make such records available during inspection or upon request by the Department.  These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification.
5. The Owner shall implement water quality monitoring in accordance with the Upland Construction Water Quality Monitoring Plan (May 31, 2017, revised June 19, 2017). The Plan is expressly incorporated herein and shall be an enforceable condition of this Certification.
6. The Owner shall follow the measures intended to minimize the potential for impacts as detailed in the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan (submitted with the June 1, 2017 response to the Department and additional information submitted June 22, 2017). The Plan is expressly incorporated herein and shall be an enforceable condition of this Certification.
7. All construction and installation associated with the Project, except as permitted by the Corps, shall be accomplished in such a manner that construction material or waste material shall not be placed into any perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral surface waters or karst features. These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification.
8. The Owner shall follow the measures intended to minimize the potential for impacts as detailed in the General Blasting Plan (February 2017) and the Landslide Mitigation Plan Revision 4 (February 2017). These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be enforceable conditions of this Certification. The Owner shall notify the Department immediately, but no later than 24 hours after discovery, if blasting or landslide activity impacts any perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral surface waters or karst features.

9. The Owner shall follow the measures intended to minimize the potential for impacts as detailed in the Acid Forming Materials Mitigation Plan (May 2017). These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be an enforceable condition of this Certification.
10. The Project, including all relevant records, is subject to inspection at reasonable hours and intervals by the Department or any authorized representative of the Department to determine compliance with this Certification.
11. The Department shall be provided written or electronic notification at least 30 calendar days prior to any planned Construction Spread pre-construction conferences and Worker Environmental Awareness Program (WEAP) training.
12. The Owner shall immediately notify the Department of any modification of this Project and shall demonstrate in a written statement that said modifications will not violate any conditions listed in this Certification. If such demonstration cannot be made, the Owner shall apply for a modification of this Certification. These measures are expressly incorporated herein and shall be an enforceable condition of this Certification.
13. This Certification is subject to revocation for failure to comply with the above conditions and after proper hearing. Any direct or indirect discharge to State waters shall be subject to enforcement review under the State Water Control Law.
14. The terms and conditions of this Certificate shall remain in effect until 180 days after all land disturbing activity associated with the construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of the pipeline, and related access roads and rights-of-way have achieved final stabilization as required by the Erosion and Sediment Control Law (Va. Code § 62.1-44.15:51, et seq.)

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline Projects on October 13, 2017

On October 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved certificates of public convenience and necessity to the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline projects.

The FERC “Notational Orders” granting the certificates are available online (as PDFs) at https://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20171013192035-CP15-554-000.pdf (Atlantic Coast pipeline) and https://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20171013192058-CP16-10-000.pdf (Mountain Valley pipeline) (links functional as of October 19, 2017).

Following are news media items on FERC’s October 13 action (most recent listed first):

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipelines in Rare Split Decision, Natural Gas Intelligence, 10/16/17.

FERC approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, rejecting broader pipeline review, Utility Dive, 10/16/17.

Politicians react to FERC pipeline certifications, Roanoke Times, 10/16/17 [regarding reactions by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates in 2017, Virginia General Assembly members, and others].

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipelines, Bacon’s Rebellion, 10/15/17.

Nelson [County, Va.] residents react to federal approval of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Lynchburg News & Advance, 10/14/17.

FERC’s approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline stirs defiance, determination, Roanoke Times, 10/14/17.

U.S. regulators OK Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley pipelines, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/14/17.

Federal energy panel grants certificates for Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, Roanoke Times, 10/13/17.

Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines gain federal approval, WV Metro News [Charleston, W. Va.], 10/13/17.

For more details on the proposed pipelines and other natural gas developments in Virginia since 2014, please see this Water Central News Grouper post: Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-17 – Summary of Developments and Cumulative List of News Items.

Public Hearings in December 2017 by Virginia State Water Control Board for 401 Certification Process Related to Proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipelines: Dec. 6/7 on Mountain Valley Project; Dec. 11/12 on Atlantic Coast Project

On October 3, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced the public comment period and a series of public hearings on the 401 certification process for water-resources impacts of the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.  “401” refers to the relevant section of the federal Clean Water Act.

The schedule for the meetings is as follows:

Mountain Valley Pipeline
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, and Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, starting at 9:30 a.m. each day.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline
Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, and Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, starting at 9:30 a.m. each day.

The public hearings will be held at Trinity Family Life Center, 3601 Dill Road in Richmond.  The agenda for the meetings, including detailed background information for the Board on the proposed certification, is available (as a PDF) online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/GetFile.cfm?File=C:\TownHall\docroot\\meeting\103\26648\Agenda_DEQ_26648_v1.pdf.

For more details on developments around the 401 certification process for the proposed pipelines, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

On Virginia Water Radio for 8-7-17: Proposed Gas Pipelines and Water Quality Issues

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of August 7, 2017, is “Natural Gas Pipelines, Water Resources, and the Clean Water Act.”  The 5 min./10 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/08/episode-380-8-7-17-natural-gas.html, gives an overview of the water resources potential affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley gas pipelines, plus an introduction to the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification process, the subject of public comment/public hearings in Virginia from August 7-14, 2017.


Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

Final Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipeline Issued by FERC on July 21, 2017

On July 21, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.  That document is available online at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.aspFERC’s overview of the document is copied below.

Following are links to several news accounts of the release of the Final EIS:
Environmental report on pipeline favorable for developers, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/21/17.
One pipeline through VA clears hurdles; another in PA gets fined for violations, Bay Journal, 7/23/17.
Release of final analysis paves way for decision on proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Nelson County Times, 7/21/17.
Pipeline environmental statement: Most impacts will be ‘reduced to less-than-significant levels’, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/21/17.
Final environmental statement on pipeline released, Waynesboro News Virginian, 7/21/17.

For information on the Final EIS for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (issued in June 2017), please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

For information on natural gas developments in Virginia overall since 2014, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

FERC’s OVERVIEW AND MAIN CONCLUSIONS OF THE FINAL EIS
Accessed at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp on 7/25/17.

FERC Staff Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply Header Project (CP15-554-000, -001; CP15-555-000; and CP15-556-000)
Issued: July 21, 2017

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the projects proposed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) in Docket Nos. CP15-554-000 and CP15-554-001; Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI) in Docket No. CP15-555-000; and Atlantic and Piedmont Natural Gas. Co., Inc. (Piedmont) in Docket No. CP15-556-000.

Atlantic seeks a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate) from the Commission under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) and Parts 157 and 284 of the Commission’s regulations to construct, operate, and maintain 333.4 miles of 42-inch-diameter mainline pipeline; 186.3 miles of 36-inch-diameter mainline pipeline; 83.4 miles of 20-inch-diameter lateral pipeline; 1.4 miles of 16-inch-diameter lateral pipeline; 3 new compressor stations totaling about 130,348 horsepower (hp); 9 meter and regulating (M&R) stations; 11 pig launcher and receiver facilities; and 41 valves in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina as part of its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The purpose of ACP is to deliver up to 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.

DETI seeks a Certificate from the Commission under sections 7(b) and 7(c) of the NGA and Parts 157 and 284 of the Commission’s regulations to construct, operate, and maintain 37.5 miles of 30-inch-diameter pipeline; one M&R station; six valves; and four pig launcher or receiver facilities; and modify four existing compressor stations to provide an additional 69,200 hp in Pennsylvania and West Virginia as part of its proposed Supply Header Project (SHP). DETI is also requesting authorization to abandon in place two existing gathering compressor units at its existing Hastings Compressor Station in Wetzel County, West Virginia. The purpose of SHP is to provide customers access to the Dominion South Point hub in Pennsylvania along with other interconnecting natural gas suppliers, which allows access to multiple gas suppliers and markets to facilitate access to low cost natural gas.

Atlantic and Piedmont seek a Certificate from the Commission under section 7(c) of the NGA and Part 157 of the Commission’s regulations to lease capacity on Piedmont’s existing pipeline distribution system as part of their Capacity Lease Proposal. The purpose of the Capacity Lease Proposal is to provide service to North Carolina markets using additional transportation capacity on the Piedmont system. Because ACP, SHP, and the Capacity Lease Proposal are interrelated and connected actions, we analyzed them together in a single comprehensive EIS.

The EIS has been prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500–1508), and the FERC’s regulations at 18 CFR 380.

The conclusions and recommendations presented in the EIS are those of the FERC environmental staff. Input from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service (FS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources as cooperating agencies was considered during the development of the conclusions and recommendations in the EIS. The FS may adopt and use the EIS when it considers the issuance of a Special Use Permit to Atlantic for the portion of ACP that crosses the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest, and amendments to Land and Resource Management Plans to allow Atlantic to cross the forests. The cooperating agencies will present their own conclusions and recommendations in their respective permit authorizations and/or Record of Decision for the projects.

The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects, such as impacts on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies and associated aquatic resources; forested vegetation; Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, Roanoke logperch, Madison cave isopod, clubshell mussel, small whorled pogonia, and running buffalo clover; and karst, cave, subterranean habitat and the species associated with these habitats. Implementation of Atlantic and DETI’s respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to staff’s recommendations in the EIS would further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts. Most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. These determinations are based on a review of the information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders. Although many factors were considered in our determinations, the principal reasons are [the following]:
*Atlantic and DETI would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of their facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans;
*all of the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements, and thresholds including U.S. Department of Transportation materials requirements and EPA air emissions standards;
*Atlantic would complete a Construction, Operation, and Maintenance Plan that includes additional measures to minimize impacts on environmental resources on National Forest System lands, and the FS’ Special Use Permit process for Atlantic’s easement over federal lands would provide terms and conditions for construction and operation;
*a high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis;
*environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the projects;
*Atlantic and DETI would implement a steep slope management program and slip avoidance, identification, prevention, and remediation plan to minimize erosion and landslide potential in steep slope areas;
*the horizontal directional drill crossing method would be utilized for most major waterbodies, the majority of other waterbodies would be crossed using dry crossing methods, and Atlantic and DETI would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the USACE and state regulatory agencies;
*the FERC staff would complete the process of complying with the ESA prior to any construction, and the FWS would issue biological opinions that include additional conservation measures, as needed, to assure that ACP and SHP would not jeopardize the continued existence of any species under their jurisdiction and would not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat;
*the FERC staff would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin; and
*environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations and other approvals.

In addition, the FERC staff and cooperating agencies developed site-specific mitigation measures that Atlantic and DETI should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction and operation of their projects. The FERC staff determined that these measures are necessary to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the projects, and in part, are basing conclusions on implementation of these measures. These additional measures are listed as recommended conditions in section 5.2 of the EIS.

Va. Supreme Court on July 13, 2017, Upholds State Law on Surveying for Natural Gas Pipeline Routes Without Landowner Permission

On July 14, 2017, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Commonwealth’s law that allows surveying for potential natural gas pipelines without landowner permission, so long as specified notification procedures are followed.  The ruling was in a case brought by Hazel Palmer, a landowner in Augusta County, whose property is on the path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Ms. Palmer was appealing a ruling by the Augusta County Circuit Court, which also upheld the state law.  The Va. Supreme Court court also ruled that surveying companies must be more specific in their notification to landowners of the date for survey activities than is provided by the wording of “on or after” a certain date.  The case is Hazel F. Palmer v. Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC; the ruling is available online (as a PDF) at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1160630.pdf.

As of July 2017, another lawsuit on the state’s gas pipeline surveying law–asserting that gas pipeline surveying activity without landowner permission is an unconstitutional “taking” of personal property–is on appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (in Richmond).

Sources:
Pipelines: Va. Supreme Court upholds gas survey law on entering private property, but requires specific notice to landowners, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/13/17.
Virginia Supreme Court ruling upholds pipeline surveying law; challenges still possible, Roanoke Times, 7/13/17.
Supreme Court of Virginia hands pipeline foes small victory, but project rolls on, Washington Post, 7/13/17.

For more details on developments about natural gas in Virginia, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.