In a troubling backtrack, the Virginia Water Control Board (VWCB) recently decided to re-examine the state’s previous approval of national permits that allowed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project to move forward.
Today, a broad coalition including voices from the business community, labor, and consumers warned Virginia Governor Ralph Northam that VWCB’s decision to review and challenge the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) permit process and standards set a bad precedent, and could lead to significant delays for a project that is vitally needed to maintain reliable and affordable energy in the Mid-Atlantic.
The Army Corp’s NWP 12 is one of 50 types of general permits designed by the ACOE to regulate certain activities in waters and wetlands that have only minimal adverse impact on the environment. The goal of the Nationwide Permit program is to maintain environmental protections of waterways and wetlands throughout the U.S. while streamlining the regulatory process to reduce delays, which can often be extensive.
According to the ACOE, the NWP process is used to review a variety of activities, such as aids to navigation, utility line crossings, erosion control activities, road crossings, stream and wetland restoration activities, residential developments, mining activities, commercial shellfish aquaculture activities, and agricultural activities.
In April 2017, recognizing that the ACOE’s expertise and the robust NWP 12 standards and permit program will protect Virginia’s waterways and aquatic resources, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) certified NWP 12 as the standard and process that would be used by Virginia for infrastructure and construction projects and other activities.
The Army Corps granted the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project coverage under the NWP 12 program in February. However, in what could be interpreted as caving to pressure from activists that are opposed to both construction of the pipeline and natural gas itself, the VWCB has now decided to revisit DEQ’s choice to utilize the NWP process, a move which could lead to possible further delays and more uncertainty for ACP and other Virginia infrastructure projects.
As the letter to Governor Northam points out, the VWCB review and possible retroactive rescission “will undermine the reliability and certainty of duly issued construction permits in the State, impair private investment in much‐needed infrastructure projects and damage the State of Virginia’s reputation as a good place to do business.”
Oil and natural gas pipelines fuel America’s economy, and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will deliver energy which will improve the lives of many people in Virginia and North Carolina. ACP’s route was proposed only after considering hundreds of potential options and is devised to have the least amount of environmental impact possible.
We join others in this coalition in calling for Governor Northam to stand by Virginians who understand the importance of energy infrastructure, and reject any efforts to rescind already granted permits.