New proof: entire Mountain Valley Pipeline project based on known falsehoods

(Note: this blog is based substantially on a filing by the Indian Creek Watershed Association/ICWA to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/FERC on December 21, 2018 – Accession No. 20181221-5334. As this blog was being posted, several more stories broke regarding likely violations of the Clean Water Act by Mountain Valley Pipeline. In a front-page story on January 23, 2019, the Roanoke Times reported a well-documented request by Roanoke attorneys to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for a criminal investigation of MVP. And Roberta Kellam, former member of Virginia’s State Water Control Board – charged with enforcing the federal Clean Water Act in the Commonwealth – revealed potential violations by Department of Environmental Quality staff and very questionable behavior by DEQ Director David Paylor. Kellam wrote articles for the Virginia Mercury in December 2018 and January 2019.)

Before approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had to show that it would do no substantial environmental harm, supposedly demonstrated in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) they issued on June 23, 2017 (Accession No. 20170623-4000). In granting the FEIS, the FERC relied on MVP’s stream scour and erosion analyses and plan containing specific information about pipeline construction at stream crossings along the entire pipeline route.

Yet within months of starting the project, MVP submitted a variance request asking permission to change its plan. In doing so, MVP admitted to the FERC that:

MVP runoff a foot deep on Cahas Mountain Road

The [MVP plan] was a theoretical desktop analysis and did not take site specific constructability issues (elevations, terrain, and workspace) into account. During its subsequent field reviews, [MVP] determined that execution of the mitigation measures, as written, would pose increased environmental or landslide risks or be unsafe or impractical due to terrain or geology.”

In response, FERC’s own expert consultant stated that MVP should be required to “provide a site-specific scenario… for each location [where MVP proposed to change its original plan].”

So it is clear that the FERC-approved FEIS does not protect the environment. Despite MVP’s confession, Paul Friedman (FERC Project Manager) or someone at a higher level overruled the FERC’s own expert consultant by

  1. Rejecting the expert’s directive that MVP do a site-specific analysis of every water body crossing on the route where MVP proposed to change its original plan.
  2. Allowing MVP to produce revised plans with lower environmental standards (June 2018).
  3. Failing to provide state environmental agencies or the public an opportunity to comment on revised plans.
  4. Approving, without opportunity for public comment, a project-wide variance (MVP-006) on September 26, 2018 that allows MVP to violate Best Management Practices without oversight.
  5. Producing this hasty variance approval at EXACTLY the same time that MVP announced a lengthy delay and major cost increase. MVP and its investors – not clean water, landowner rights and protection of public lands – seemed to be the core FERC audience for this action.
  6. Hiding the relevant correspondence from the public, the courts and both federal and state regulators.
  7. Trying to hide the name of the FERC Project Manager in documents that ICWA acquired through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA).

BY KEEPING CORRESPONDENCE SECRET, FERC DENIED INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE INFORMED DECISIONS BY FERC COMMISSIONERS, THE FEDERAL 4TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AND THE VIRGINIA STATE WATER CONTROL BOARD, among others. Surely it would have mattered if decision makers had Read more ›

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RATC leader manages community-oriented enterprise: Outdrz.net

Many RATC members know Chris Means as RATC’s Membership Coordinator or as an early co-organizer of the Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Club. But there is a lot more to his story!

As Chris will soon be completing a long and successful career at Elizabeth Arden here in the Roanoke Valley, he’s already been thinking about the future. He still enjoys his work but admits that,

Undoubtedly I had the most fun in my working life at a skate/T-shirt shop in the booming metropolis of Charleston, West Virginia.  I of course never made much money at this and eventually moved on, but the atmosphere was fun, my co-workers were incredible, and the job was essentially easy as love mingling with the public. I recall this as the ‘good times’ era in my life.  Fast forward 30 years and I find myself entertaining the possibility of doing something similar, but with more thoughtful motivation. 

The result is Outdrz.net, Chris’s web-driven effort (also found on Facebook) to combine four goals:

  • Create and sell great quality products through his online shop.
  • Get others addicted to the outdoors by any means possible. Vicariously will work, but my aim is to help others find the medicinal value I’ve stumbled onto out there, and if I’m really lucky, ignite a passion for conservation in a few individuals along the way.
  • Generate enough income to keep this little venture solvent, and who knows, maybe even make a buck or two.
  • Contribute a percentage of all profit funds to groups currently doing vital work out there conservation groups and other nonprofits.

In 2018, Outdrz.net contributed to:

When asked why he started Outdrz.net, Chris said he was retrieving a part of his life that had slowly disappeared over the years. “I’d all but forgotten about walking in the woods,” he noted, even though he was a Boy Scout and grew up in a family of hunters who often wandered in the woods after a big meal to relax. He decided to make some changes.

As I started easing back out into the woods I can’t really label or give a name to the feelings I started to recall and the level of serenity that slowly came over me as I’d just walk along and sort through things mentally.  At this stage I don’t care to give this sensation a name or categorize it. I only care that I never lose the ability to be exposed to it, and I want it always to be available for anyone else who might draw the same experiences from a simple bit of time spent in the outdoors.

Going deeper, Chris shares the philosophy that has led him to early retirement, a new life split between Nova Scotia and Roanoke, and a deep commitment to the outdoors and thoughtful living:

As a species a lot of us humans appear to be in a constant battle to live up to or achieve the levels of suggested success that we’ve been fed and conditioned to understand as “correct.”  Some examples: the $250k house, 2 vehicles, 3 kids and at least 2 household pets.   Get, get, get; more more more and so on and so on.  In my humble opinion I’ve heard it said best as “We will not understand as a people the value of the pristine outdoors until the last fish is gone, there are no more trees to cut down, and the forest animals have diminished, at which time we’ll come to realize that you cannot eat a $100 bill,” although I can’t remember who said this.  

I’m just hugely grateful that the forests, trails, rivers and streams were there for me when it was time for me to revert back to what was once normal, and give a different life style a shot.  The outdoors are always open, they forever have a new and interesting story just waiting in them for me to uncover, and they’ve never left me feeling slighted.  The outdoors are there for me to utilize to my heart’s content. and that is one of the main motivating factors for me attempting this endeavor – to tell whoever will listen about what I’d forgotten about and since rediscovered, what it has done for me, where it resides, and lastly how we as a group can protect it for future generations…

RATC thanks him for his work on the AT and in the community. Check out his website and Facebook page!

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New Triple Crown T-Shirts: “Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Thighs”

The volunteers of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club wish everyone  a joyful holiday season! As part of the celebrations, RATC has added a new t-shirt to its store, honoring our section’s famed Triple Crown – Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. It can be ordered directly from the RATC store using this link and it comes in both red and green.

The back of the t-shirt, designed by RATC board member Chris Means, features the slogan, “Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Thighs”  and photos of Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. The front has the RATC logo, designed by long-time RATC member Zetta Campbell. It features a hiker on McAfee Knob and the year of the RATC’s founding – 1932.

This is a great gift for anyone who has hiked the section or just loves the AT, and earnings go directly to the all-volunteer RATC, which maintains and protects over 120 miles of the AT in southwestern and central Virginia. We are one of 31 maintaining clubs along the AT and must earn all of our own funding.

The store continues to offer regular RATC t-shirts and hats in several designs as well through our partners at Press Press Merch.

For those interested in hiking the section, this RATC website has an entire page devoted to the Triple Crown, with detailed maps and information about camping and other special rules on the section.

For the past 3 years, trained RATC volunteer Ridgerunners have patrolled the Triple Crown section of the AT, which receives over 90,000 visitors every year, based on data from a year-round infrared counter. Under the leadership of Kathryn Herndon-Powell, Dave Youmans and Brian Boggs, the McAfee Knob Task Force completed a successful 2018 season:

  • 38 different volunteers completed 175 patrols (Friday-Monday, April-October)
  • They put in 1,125 volunteer hours and
  • Counted almost 20,000 visitors while
  • Removing 560 gallons of trash and
  • Dismantling 46 Fire Rings

See you on the Trail in 2019!

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MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE UPDATE: COSTS SKYROCKET WHILE PROJECT ERODES

In 2014, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)/EQT confidently predicted they could build a 300+ mile pipeline through mountains and karst by late 2018 at a cost of less than $3.5 billion. Today they say they can finish by late 2019 at a cost of $4.6 billion.

This update focuses on the situation in Jefferson National Forest (JNF), where construction is still halted due to a federal court decision in July.

Experts in both government and the private sector have repeatedly filed reports showing that MVP’s plans for control of erosion and sedimentation would result in widespread damage and destruction, and these predictions were sadly correct, both inside and outside JNF.

UPDATES (with more details below)

  • Recently released reports from the US Forest Service (FS) show dozens of serious failures in MVP’s erosion and sedimentation controls in JNF. These reports support original FS critiques that led to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals stay on construction. MVP used extremely questionable methods based in part on work done in Florida to design their erosion and control strategies. Details are below under #3 and #4.
  • The FS recently approved an MVP plan for Winter 2018-19 that does not allow any construction or burying of pipe and instead requires MVP to stabilize existing construction and plant seed on denuded areas by October 15. MVP had proposed burying pipe in the ground to prevent erosion! Details are below under #5.

Read more ›

Be a Hero: Volunteer Ridgerunner Training for McAfee Knob Task Force

Have you hiked to McAfee Knob? If so, you probably had company! In fact, about 80,000 to 90,000 people a year hike to the Knob. Most of them have never been there. To help educate hikers on safety and Leave No Trace, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club has established a McAfee Knob Task Force of trained volunteers in concert with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, National Park Service, US Forest Service and Roanoke County Fire and Rescue.

One day of training and practice hike will make you good to go as a volunteer ridgerunners!

WHAT: McAfee Knob Task Force volunteer ridgerunner training

WHEN: Sunday, September 23, 2018

HOW: For details and to sign up, contact Kathryn Herndon-Powell kherndon@appalachiantrail.org or call 540.904. OR join the RATC Meetup group www.meetup.com/Roanoke-Appalachian-Trail-Club and sign up there.

See you on the Trail!

RATC Honored with Landsaver Award

Past RATC president Diana Christopulos accepts Landsaver Award from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy President Bill Hackworth.

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club was honored to receive the 2018 Landsaver award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy in recognition of the club’s work in building, maintaining and protecting over 120 miles of the AT between Va 611 in Bland County and Black Horse Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. BRLC detailed the reasons for the award in its recent newsletter [with minor edits]:

In the backyard of the Blue Ridge runs the nation’s premier, continuous, long-distance footpath: the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly referred to as the “AT.” With a length of 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine that takes thru hikers from 4 to 7 months to complete, who takes care of this mammoth recreational gem?

That’s where groups like the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club step in. The recipient of this year’s Landsaver Award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. the club was founded in 1932. It’s one of 31 similar clubs along the length of the AT, the purpose of which is to maintain, and address threat to the trail. This hard-working club oversees more than 120 miles of the trail between Bland County and Black Horse Gap in Virginia. Some volunteers walk a section assigned to them 4 times a year to monitor vegetation and pain the iconic white blazes. They do a great job, according to many thru-hikers. Jim Beeson, the current presidents of the club, completed the AT in 2016. For him, this area had some of the best parts of the trail in terms of maintenance and views. In fact, it encouraged him to join the club.

Read more ›

Stop Work order? What’s a Stop Work order?

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED AS NEW EVENTS OCCUR. On July 27, 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and other plaintiffs that federal agencies (US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) had not properly examined Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposal before issuing permits for its construction through Jefferson National Forest. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) then issued a Stop Work order but has since allowed Mountain Valley Pipeline to rewrite the Stop Work order TWICE, and encouraged the company to build over 100 miles of the pipeline as fast as possible.

The court ruling directly affects the crest of Peters Mountain, where MVP proposes to bore under the Appalachian Trail, as well as construction areas where the pipeline route would have a significant impact on the AT off and on for about 100 miles.

This blog aims give a little clarity to a very complicated process by giving the names, dates and basics of the situation as it unfolds. LINKS will take you to the original documents.

HERE IS THE BASIC TIMELINE. IT WILL BE UPDATED AS EVENTS UNFOLD.

July 27, 2018  Federal Court withdraws (vacates) permits for the pipeline in Jefferson National Forest

August 3, 2018  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues a Stop Work order for the entire project

Local observers document ongoing construction during this time; at least one landowner is told by MVP representative that Stop Work order does not apply outside of Jefferson National Forest

August 9, 2018  MVP submits a “Stabilization Plan” that allows 45 to 90 miles of construction during the Stop Work Order

August 10, 2018  FERC approves most of the “Stabilization Plan,” with some decisions “Pending”

August 14, 2018  MVP requests that FERC modify the Stop Work order again so they can continue with construction. They offer their own version of “Stop Work” order, which would allow construction of over 100 miles of pipeline plus compressor stations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018  Sierra Club and others file emergency legal challenge to FERC action in federal courts.

Thursday, August 16, 2018 FERC again revises the Stop Work to suit the pipeline company and urges work to be done as fast as possible.

Thursday, August 16, 2018 Market Watch reports that 50% of MVP workers have left the project and that earliest completion date is now 4th quarter of 2019. Natural Gas Intel makes same report.

Local observers continue to document MVP construction and violations

Read more ›

Want to bring your dog on an AT hike? Be prepared!

We love our dogs, and they love us. Should you hike together? If so, what common sense rules and actual regulations need to be kept in mind?

Should you hike with your dog? “Maybe” is the only accurate answer. We love many people who, for a wide variety of reasons, would not be good hiking companions. Same with dogs. The trail is physically challenging for both dogs and people. Hot weather, cold weather, and other factors can increase the challenge. Some dogs who are perfectly well-behaved at home are very territorial around other dogs and strange people. And then there are all the wonderful strange new sights and smells on the trail. I have seen a leashed dog slip the leash to chase a deer on the trail to McAfee Knob. A hiker was recently injured in Southwest Virginia when her dog decided to chase a bear and she intervened when the bear stood its ground.(Unleashed dogs are more likely to aggravate bears than leashed dogs.)

As with friends and family, just because you love to hike does not mean your dog will enjoy it. So start with shorter walks and work your way up, just as you would do with a person.

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MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE DROVE ATVs ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL FOR 19 DAYS

The rules about vehicles on the Appalachian Trail are very clear. You can’t ride a bicycle on it. Nor

can you use a motorized vehicle.

36 CFR 7.100 – Appalachian National Scenic Trail. (a)What activities are prohibited? (1) The use of bicycles, motorcycles or other motor vehicles is prohibited.

The US Forest Service knows this and says so on the website for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest:

The A.T. is marked with white vertical paint blazes, two-inch by six-inch.  It is a foot trail – travel by horse, bicycle, or motorized vehicles is not allowed.

And according to a more specific order for this national forest, “Vehicles, horses, pack animals’ and bicycles” are prohibited on the A.T. unless there is “a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.” We have seen no such permit, nor does any closure order we have seen state that Forest Service personnel are authorized to use motorized vehicles on the A.T.

“Violations of these prohibitions are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C 3559 and 3571).”

Read more ›

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Hiker Happy Hour at Parkway on April 18: drink beer, support Bent Mountain community!

Happy Hiker Hour is moving outdoors to Parkway Brewery in April!

The Bent Mountain community in Roanoke County, concerned about its land and water, is teaming up with Parkway Brewery on April 18, 2018 at 5:30 to enjoy a special brew, with all sales proceeds going to benefit the community in its struggle against Mountain Valley Pipeline. So RATC is moving Hiker Happy Hour outdoors and joining in. This will also be Trivia night at Parkway, so feel free to team up and play.

Parkway’s General Manager has expressed concerns about the impact of the pipeline on the brewery’s water, which is drawn directly out of the Roanoke River by the City of Salem downstream from over 100 crossings of the the river’s tributaries on steep slopes where all the trees are being removed. This will unleash sediment that has been buried for many years.

See you there!

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