Volunteers are Critical to Pipeline Construction Monitoring and Compliance
Keeping up with pipeline construction is enough to make anyone’s head spin! The 3 major pipelines currently under construction, Atlantic Coast (ACP), Mountain Valley (MVP) and Mountaineer Xpress (MXP), amount to a total of 10,489 acres of earth disturbance. There are only 5 DEP Inspectors covering this onslaught of construction across West Virginia. Divided equally, each of those Inspectors would be responsible for overseeing approximately 2,000 linear acres. That’s enough ground to cover to keep them very busy! Volunteer monitoring efforts provide support to the Inspectors by serving as an extra pair of eyes and reporting potential problems so DEP can prioritize inspections.
The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), Mountain Valley Watch, WV Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, WV Rivers Coalition, and Trout Unlimited (TU) have a unique partnership to train citizens on how to monitor construction and report potential violations. A Pipeline Air Force monitors from above to pinpoint problem areas and volunteers monitor construction on the ground.
Following an aerial flight on ACP in November, we submitted 19 complaints to DEP spanning Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas Counties. Those complaints were for tree clearing without erosion controls in place, erosion control measures that did not match their permit requirements, and failing erosion controls and sediment deposits outside their limit of disturbance. DEP Inspectors were then deployed to investigate those complaints. Several warnings and one violation was issued.
Additional inspection reports and subsequent violations will be posted on the DEP’s document database that we monitor on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the Inspector can’t tell us if a violation was issued at a particular site until the company has received notification. We have a good working relationship with the DEP Inspectors and many of them are grateful to have the extra eyes on the ground and in the air to assist them with oversight of these large pipeline projects.