A corporation with plans to build a 42-inch natural gas pipeline through northern Pocahontas County has been cited by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for 13 water pollution violations. The DEP issued Notices of Violations to Dominion Transmission, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, for violations that occurred between October 1, 2012, and February 28, 2014.
The violations occurred along three pipelines in Ohio, Marshall and Doddridge counties in northwestern West Virginia. Six of the violations, impacting 12 waterways, involved the G-150 pipeline, a 60-mile, eight-inch, natural gas liquids pipeline, built by Dominion in the Northern Panhandle two years ago.
As a result of the violations, the DEP issued an “Order for Compliance,” known as a consent order, to Dominion. The consent order requires Dominion to “immediately take all measures to initiate compliance with pertinent rules and laws” and “immediately commence exclusive use of best management practices and sediment and erosion controls.” Dominion is required to submit a plan for corrective actions and a schedule for plan completion. In addition, the company is required to conduct a geotechnical analysis to determine causes of right-of-way failures and submit an inventory of all soil slips that have occurred at its pipeline projects. The DEP assessed a civil fine of $55,470 against the $52 billion corporation.
During a 16-month period, DEP inspectors reported 16 incidents of sediment pollution; one incident of pollution by distinctly visible settleable solids (DVSS); one incident of pollution by DVSS, crude oil and produced water; and one incident of pollution by produced water. The violations impacted a total of 17 streams.
A DEP finding of fact, included with the consent order, reveals that Dominion was not forthcoming with pipeline project and incident information.
In February, the DEP issued three Notices of Violation after Dominion failed to report a pipeline break, which leaked crude oil and produced water into Dry Fork in Doddridge County.
In June 2013, after DEP inspectors had issued nine Notices of Violations to Dominion, DEP officials met with Dominion representatives, who agreed to supply information on soil slips, remediation efforts and project maps.
In October 2013, the DEP submitted a second request to Dominion for the information. In December 2013, the DEP submitted a third request, via certified mail, demanding the information within 20 days.
On January 8, Dominion submitted incomplete soil slip information and an estimated date for remediation of the G-150 pipeline project. The DEP submitted a fourth request for complete soil slip information on January 13. The findings do not indicate a response by Dominion to this final request.
Instead, DEP and Dominion met on May 14 to discuss terms and conditions of a consent order. A teleconference was held on August 11 to finalize the order. Dominion Transmission Vice President Brian Sheppard signed the consent order on October 20.
Dominion Energy Communications Director Jim Norvelle issued the following statement regarding the consent order.
“Dominion works hard to comply with all environmental rules and regulations. In this instance, Dominion did not meet its own expectations where – in certain situations – the restored slopes failed, allowing sediment to enter streams during and after construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline in Marshall County.
“Dominion remains committed to full compliance with all federal, state and local regulations. Dominion has agreed to an administrative consent order with the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water and Waste Management. Dominion has worked with the state to resolve all issues and will implement all requirements of the consent order to ensure we do not encounter the same issues on future projects.”
The consent order is open for public comments until December 17. The order can be downloaded on the DEP Public Information Office website at wvdep.wv.gov/pio. A link to “Settlements, Orders out to public notice” is in the left column of links at the site. Public comments may be directed to email@example.com and should reference Consent Order Number 8078.
In September, Dominion and three corporate partners announced plans to build a $5 billion, 550-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to North Carolina. If approved by federal regulators, the pipeline would be built through northern Pocahontas County and approximately 30 miles of national forest in Pocahontas County and Highland County, Virginia. The pipeline would cross numerous waterways including Shavers Fork, the West Fork of the Greenbrier River and the East Fork of the Greenbrier River – popular trout fishing and tourist destinations.
Dominion’s proposed pipeline project, dubbed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, has generated local concern about environmental damage to the national forest and other areas in the county. As currently planned through Pocahontas and Highland counties, the pipeline would be 42 inches in diameter, compared to the problematic eight-inch G-150 pipeline in the Northern Panhandle – and require a much greater amount of excavation. In addition, the terrain of Pocahontas County is much steeper than the landscape in the Northern Panhandle, increasing the risk of soil slips into waterways.
Beth Little, with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said the consequences of Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction in Pocahontas County could be severe.
“The effect on the water that the pipeline would have is of enormous concern,” she said. “This consent order indicates that Dominion has not been following careful practices. One of the problems is that a lot of the work is done by sub-contractors, and apparently, there’s just a culture in West Virginia of doing as they please.
“If this is the kind of behavior that we can look forward to when they’re going up 2,000 feet over an Allegheny Ridge, and over Shavers Fork and the West and East Forks of the Greenbrier River – say goodbye to the trout,” she said.
Rick Webb, with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, emailed his comment that the consent order in unlikely to change Dominion’s construction practices.
“This enforcement action on the part of WVDEP really provides no incentive for future compliance,” Webb wrote. “It simply reinforces the perspective that pipeline construction companies can get away with almost anything. Dominion’s $55,000 fine is simply the cost of doing business, and it’s certainly much cheaper than if Dominion’s contractors had done the work properly and avoided the damage to begin with. Aside from the fine, the consent order simply gives Dominion more time to do what it was already supposed to do.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently accepting public comments on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Comments can be submitted online at the FERC website at www.ferc.gov, under the “Documents and Filings” link. A brief registration process is required to submit an e-comment. Docket number PF15-6 must be included with Atlantic Coast Pipeline comments.