MVP Pipeline Damage Mitigation Fund$ Being Applied in Virginia

by Duane Nichols on December 8, 2018

MVP seen on Poor Mountain in Virginia overlooking Spring Hollow Reservoir

First grants awarded from Mountain Valley Pipeline mitigation fund

From an Article by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times, December 6, 2018

The first grants from a $27.5 million mitigation fund established to offset the environmental damage caused by building the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been awarded to seven forest conservation projects in Southwest Virginia.

Before starting work on the natural gas pipeline in February, Mountain Valley struck an agreement with several state agencies to compensate for the forest fragmentation and water pollution expected from clearing land and digging trenches for the massive buried pipe.

The state then passed the company’s payments on to four conservation groups. The largest share, $15 million, went to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which announced this week that it has awarded $3.6 million of that sum to projects in the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Pittsylvania, Roanoke and Rockbridge.

Included in the grants was $1.2 million for a 553-acre nature park on Brush Mountain in Montgomery County and $165,450 for the purchase of several properties adjacent to Explore Park in Roanoke County.

For some of the organizations that received funding, it was the first perk to come from an unwanted project. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, for example, will use $376,500 to acquire 243 acres of land adjacent to the trail in Botetourt County, providing a buffer to Carvins Cove and protecting the viewshed of McAfee Knob.

But a different part of the scenic footpath already bears the mark of pipeline construction. Mountain Valley crews have cut trees on either side of the Appalachian Trail as it follows the ridgeline of Peters Mountain in Giles County, and have plans to bore a tunnel under the trail for the 42-inch diameter steel pipe.

“In the context of Mountain Valley Pipeline, there is no question that MVP will have a lasting impact to the A.T. that could have been avoided,” said Andrew Downs, the conservancy’s regional director for Central and Southwest Virginia. “Therefore we have a heightened responsibility on this landscape to utilize every opportunity to provide lasting protection for the trail.”

The conservancy and the outdoors foundation were not involved in negotiations between state and MVP officials that led to the $27.5 million package of compensatory mitigation payments, which became public in February.

Part of the money was designated to address forest fragmentation, which occurs when something like a pipeline breaks up a sensitive ecosystem — degrading habitat, interfering with the movement of wild animals and encouraging invasive plants and other pests.

In addition to the $15 million to the outdoors foundation, $5 million went to the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. The remaining $7.5 million will be used to address water quality impacts of the pipeline, through grants administered by the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Virginia Environmental Endowment.

Martha Little, deputy director of the outdoors foundation, said the grants announced this week were the first to come from the mitigation fund. Fourteen applicants sought a total of $10 million, she said. A second round of grants will become available next year.

“When selecting grant recipients, our board looked at not only projects that offset the permanent loss of forest cover caused by the pipeline, but also at projects that would yield other benefits to local communities,” outdoors foundation Executive Director Brett Glymph said in an announcement of the awards.

Some of the other benefits include new public access to recreational and educational offerings and protections for wildlife habitat and scenic views. In Roanoke and Bedford counties, the grant money will be used to purchase three vacant parcels making up a total of 34 acres adjacent to Explore Park.

Development will be limited on the properties, which can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Roanoke River Parkway. The Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority already has a 50 percent ownership in the parcels, which will eventually become part of the park’s offerings of hiking, biking, fishing and bird watching.

Other grants announced this week include $915,500 to protect 808 acres of woodlands on Chestnut Ridge in Giles County, $500,000 for 92 acres on Poor Mountain in Roanoke County, $360,000 for open-space easements on George Washington National Forest land in Rockbridge County, and $106,460 for trails in Wayside Park in Pittsylvania County.

Mountain Valley has said its mitigation payment will “fully offset project-related impacts and affirms the shared interests of MVP and Virginia in protecting public resources.”

While some parts of Southwest Virginia will benefit from the company’s money, others are dealing with erosion and sedimentation problems that have come from building a 303-mile pipeline along steep mountain slopes.

In July, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation against the company, informing it that erosion control measures had failed in the six Southwest Virginia counties the pipeline is crossing.

The matter has been referred to the Virginia Attorney General’s office, and an investigation remains underway. [SEE OUR POST TOMORROW ON THIS VERY TOPIC]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison Wrabel December 12, 2018 at 12:39 am

In Virginia, Ann Mallek expresses regret over county’s acceptance of pipeline mitigation funds

By ALLISON WRABEL, December 10, 2018

One Albemarle supervisor is having second thoughts about the county’s acceptance of $5 million in Atlantic Coast Pipeline mitigation money for a future park.

“It makes me grievously uncomfortable that we are being paid off to be silent and not stand up and protect our neighbors,” board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek said last week.

Earlier this year, $5 million of pipeline mitigation money was allocated to the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to distribute to Albemarle for “infrastructure investments and administrative support at Biscuit Run State Park.”

Virginia entered into a memorandum of agreement with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which includes Dominion Energy, in late 2017 for mitigation of forest fragmentation impacts of the ACP. The controversial agreement allocated $57.85 million to six organizations to be used for forest conservation and water quality protection.

Mallek said she wants to find out if there is a way for Albemarle to direct the $5 million to a county more directly affected by the ACP, as the pipeline will not be coming through Albemarle.

“I think that’s certainly, from the people who have been contacting me, that is really their main concern, that we’re a long, long way from these impacts,” she said.

Once slated for 800 acres of residential development and 400 acres of parkland, the state bought the Biscuit Run property from a developer in 2009 and planned to turn it into a state park. However, funding for the park was never included in the state budget.

In early January, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a 99-year lease between the county and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for the Biscuit Run land at no cost, other than what is needed to maintain the property, for a county park. The county is required to leave 80 percent of the property under forest cover.

Supervisor Rick Randolph said the board needs to consider its relationship with the state.

“We need to think about the implications here because we will have formed an agreement and then now we would be altering that agreement with the governor,” he said.

If the board turned down the money, Supervisor Liz Palmer said the funds likely would go somewhere else, and the board would be making a statement about the ACP, when it had previously decided not to.

“That’s what I’m working through in my mind, is do I want to make this statement on behalf of Albemarle County to turn down this money and then turn around and charge our constituents that $5 million?,” Palmer said.

The goal of the park is to attract residents from the region and not just Albemarle, Randolph said.

“I hate to see us now talking about giving the money back when in point of fact, we didn’t get the money directly from Dominion, we got it through the governor’s office and we got it with the really fair criteria that we qualified for,” he said.

Mallek said that when the board was negotiating with the state regarding the money, it was a “completely different situation.”

“I only raised this because of the atrocities that have happened in the last 12 months,” she said, citing property destruction and eminent domain issues.

While she said she’s happy about the park in general, Mallek said she hopes accepting the money doesn’t “come back to haunt us.”

“This has happened before in other places and other countries, and I don’t want to look back when my grandchildren raise this and say, ‘why did you allow that to happen?’” she said.

On Wednesday, the board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the park’s Master Plan. The plan then needs approval from DCR.



Glen Besa December 16, 2018 at 11:55 pm

The climate is changing too fast to take half-measures

Letters to the Editor, Washington Post, December 14, 2018

The Dec. 12 op-ed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), “States can lead on climate change,” pointed to Mr. Northam’s proposal to “reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030.” According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, this initiative would cut carbon by about 8 million tons per year (MTY) by 2030. However, Mr. Northam is also supporting the construction of two massive fracked-gas pipelines, the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, that, respectively , will lead to the emission of 30 MTY and 40 MTY. That’s an 8 MTY decrease vs. a 70 MTY increase.

For states to lead the way on climate change, they have to reduce carbon pollution, not increase it.

Glen Besa, North Chesterfield, Va.

(The writer is a former director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.)


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