Water Protection for Pipelines

In Virginia, construction of natural gas pipelines is regulated through a variety of environmental programs.  This page is an overview of the programs; please visit the other pages for more details.

Background

Due to the size and scope of proposed natural gas pipeline projects in Virginia, DEQ has developed additional requirements to ensure that Virginia water quality standards are maintained in all areas affected by the construction of these pipelines. 

DEQ has required Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to provide detailed plans to assess whether construction activities in adjacent areas will adversely affect water quality during construction and to ensure that water quality is maintained into the future. This additional certification goes well beyond other regulatory requirements and will protect water quality across the range of pipeline activities, not just temporary construction impacts to streams and wetlands. 

The types of additional information developers were required to provide relate to environmental concerns such as karst geologic features, steep slopes, public water supplies and areas prone to rockslides. Visit the ACP and MVP pages or Pipeline Documents for copies of the Request for Information (RFI) and the final certification. 

DEQ evaluated information received from the developer, from the public and through the environmental impact assessment to develop the certification conditions to protect water quality. DEQ also held public hearings on the draft certifications.  Three public hearings for Atlantic Coast Pipeline and two for Mountain Valley Pipeline were held (see below for links to transcripts).

In December 2017 DEQ prepared a report and recommendations on the certification conditions for the State Water Control Board’s consideration. For 2018 actions by the Board, visit Pipeline Updates.

Summary

Five regulatory and review tools provide comprehensive oversight and thorough technical evaluation to ensure that Virginia’s water quality is protected throughout the construction process. 

  1. Environmental impact review. DEQ, along with Virginia’s other natural resource agencies, submitted numerous comments and recommendations on the draft environmental impact statements published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for these pipelines. For example, Virginia identified specific concerns in a number of stream segments crossing watersheds. Virginia recommended additional pre- and post-construction water quality monitoring, heightened erosion and sedimentation control practices, and/or pre-impact characterization of proposed stream and wetland crossings.
  2. Stormwater, erosion and sediment control. DEQ required each pipeline developer to submit detailed, project-specific erosion and sedimentation control and stormwater plans for every foot of land disturbance related to pipeline construction, including access roads and construction lay-down areas. These plans must comply with Virginia’s stormwater and erosion and sediment control regulations that are designed to protect water quality during and after construction. These plans were reviewed by certified professionals (either DEQ staff or third-party engineers) and were posted for public review in October 2017. The cost of this work is paid by the developers and is estimated to be approximately $2.2 million.
  3. Federal wetlands and stream regulation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is the federal regulatory partner in permitting dredge and fill activities in wetlands and streams. The Corps’ Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 requires that water quality is protected during the construction of pipelines in wetlands and streams. The Corps evaluated each wetland and stream crossing to see if construction is consistent with the conditions of NWP 12. Because the Corps’ permit only covers construction activities that cross a wetland or stream, DEQ has addressed other water quality impacts through its water certification authority. The conditions provided in NWP 12 are comprehensive and include: coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on threatened and endangered species; requirements to restore the pre-construction conditions at stream crossings using materials that mimic the natural stream bed; mitigation for all permanent loss over 1/10 acre and/or 300 linear feet of waters; a recommendation discouraging directional drilling in karst topography; a recommendation to use Virginia native species for revegetation; and extensive guidance and requirements for countersinking pipes.
  4. Virginia water quality certification. DEQ has required water quality certification conditions for all potentially impacted water resources related to activities that may affect water quality outside the temporary construction impacts to stream and wetland crossings. These will provide reasonable assurance that water quality standards are maintained in Virginia’s streams. DEQ held five public hearings on the draft conditions in 2017.
  5. Water quality monitoring. DEQ is conducting its own water quality monitoring to evaluate water quality conditions at a number of locations. Real-time water monitoring stations have been installed at 13 crossings along the proposed routes for both projects and sampling results are being published.

Featured Topics

Lawsuit Against MVP (December 2018)

MVP Notice of Violation (July 2018)

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Review and Regulation of Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines 

Slides and presentation to the State Water Control Board July 19, 2017 

Note: There is a pause at minute 15:45

More Information

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Hotline:  804-698-4003

For problems with accessing information, please contact:
Ann Regn
804-698-4000

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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