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DEQ hearing is Thursday

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is in the process of holding a public comment period and is set to hold a hearing at Longwood University on Thursday to receive comments on draft water quality certifications “designed to protect water quality” along the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

The planned hearing will be held in Longwood University’s Jarman Auditorium from 6-10 p.m.

Parking is available in several parking lots in the area of Jarman.

According to a DEQ press release, the public comment period to receive written comments on the proposed pipeline is through Aug. 22.

“These hearings and the comment period are very important to helping DEQ meet its goal of protecting water quality,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said in the release. “The pipeline construction is a complicated process, and we look forward to receiving valuable public input as these projects proceed.”

The ACP, being led by Dominion, is a 600-mile natural gas pipeline that would begin in West Virginia and end in North Carolina. The proposed project would span Buckingham County, including the James River and several creeks and streams in the county.

The 42-inch pipeline would also cross parts of Cumberland and Prince Edward. 

Federal regulators say the proposed project “would result in some adverse effects” and most of the anticipated impacts “would be reduced to less-than-significant levels” through implementing recommendations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff.

The FERC’s release of its voluminous Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) recently that ACP and Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. (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.”

The issuance of the FEIS by staff with FERC, the federal regulatory body that approves such projects, serves as a major step in the process Dominion is undertaking to construct the pipeline.

According to the DEQ press release, the documents which DEQ is seeking comments on are referred to as 401 certifications.

“These draft certifications will place conditions on activities in upland areas that are near state waters and that may indirectly affect state water along the pipeline routes. These certifications are in addition to the requirements imposed by the (FERC), by the Commonwealth of Virginia for stormwater, erosion and sediment control, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for wetlands and streams,” DEQ officials said. “The conditions address, among other matters, impacts to public water supplies; engineering and best management practices for steep slopes and slide-prone areas; environmental monitoring and inspections; and development and implementation of plans and procedures for karst mitigation, spill prevention control, water quality monitoring and protection of riparian buffers.”

According to an Aug. 3 press release from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), the organization is recommending to the State Water Control Board and the Virginia DEQ that the 401 Water Certification Process for the proposed ACP be postponed “until all soil and erosion and stormwater management plans have been made public.” 

According to the DEQ release, the agency is developing additional requirements “to ensure that Virginia water quality standards are maintained in all areas affected by the construction of these pipelines.”

“DEQ will require (the 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.”

In January, county supervisors approved a special use permit for a hotly-contested 53,783-horsepower station, slated to be constructed between Shelton Store and Union Hill Roads on Route 56, for the ACP.