Playing dirty: Atlantic Coast Pipeline accused of eluding soil rules

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Soil collected in the George Washington National Forest is being questioned by the United States Forest Service. Photo by Deirdre Skogen Soil collected in the George Washington National Forest is being questioned by the United States Forest Service. Photo by Deirdre Skogen

Soil collecting may be an inherently dirty business, but the United States Forest Service is now calling into question the ways in which soil in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s path has been collected and recorded.

In a November 5 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a supervisor of the Monongahela National Forest, located in Elkins, West Virginia, requested that FERC reject all soil testing data recorded by the ACP in the George Washington National Forest and in Monongahela.

In his 23-page letter, Clyde Thompson of the U.S. Forest Service writes that “information has come to our attention that discredits the results of any soils surveys conducted to date while also showing ACP failed to implement the Forest Service’s protocols for surveys and requirements for qualifications of field personnel.”

The letter includes documentation of extensive e-mail and phone correspondence between the USFS and pipeline contractors that highlights disregard of Forest Service protocol.

According to the letter, the ACP “misrepresented the resume of one field personnel and falsely attributed survey results to qualified field personnel, and misrepresented the Forest Service’s requirements for protocols and qualifications of field personnel to its consultants.”

FERC requires contractors to complete soil and geology surveys as part of the federally mandated Environmental Impact Statement.

“These critical surveys lay the groundwork and provide the on-the-ground information needed to ensure that our environment is protected and impacts of the ACP are adequately considered,” according to a press release from President Ernie Reed of Wild Virginia, a group that heavily opposes the pipeline.

A Dominion media relations manager, Aaron Ruby, says ACP submitted a list of certified experts who will perform new surveys and verify the 138 that were previously collected. Dominion is a company backing the ACP.

“While many of the concerns expressed by Mr. Thompson in his letter are the result of miscommunication or misunderstanding between both parties, Dominion strongly objects to the assertion that our company or our contractors deliberately misrepresented the role of any of the field surveyors involved in our soil survey program,” Ruby wrote in a statement. “This assertion is false. Dominion will provide documentation to demonstrate this in our formal response to the agency.”

Earlier this week, Governor Terry McAuliffe put a gag order on all public information and comments from state agencies which regard to natural gas pipelines, saying everything released to the public must first go through his office.