US Forest Service Reveals Under-Handed ACP Activities

by Duane Nichols on November 9, 2015

Clyde Thompson, US Forest Service

Forest Service accuses Atlantic Coast Pipeline of misrepresentation in soil surveys

From an Article by Michael Martz, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 6, 2015

The U.S. Forest Service has accused the Atlantic Coast Pipeline of misrepresenting the qualifications of contractors hired to conduct soil surveys that are critical to evaluating the safety of extending the proposed natural gas pipeline through national forests in Virginia and West Virginia.

Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline issued a statement Friday that promised a new and expanded soil survey by qualified soil scientists and other professionals, but denied any misrepresentation of who had been involved in the earlier work.

The Forest Service filed a detailed account with federal regulators on Thursday that alleges the pipeline company, led by Richmond-based Dominion Transmission Inc., conducted the surveys in early October before determining the protocols for the work, notifying the Forest Service that they were about to begin, or ensuring that qualified soil scientists would collect the samples.

After the company provided résumés of the survey crew in mid-October, the Forest Service determined that the only person qualified to do the work had not actually been hired or used to collect soil samples, according to a 22-page letter from Forest Service Supervisor Clyde Thompson to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said that “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. This assertion is false.”

Ruby said it would document its position in a formal response to the Forest Service letter.

“Dominion is committed to working with the (Forest Service) to conduct a thorough, comprehensive and robust soil survey program that meets the Forest Service’s standards and allows for a full evaluation of the project’s impact on (Forest Service) lands,” he said in an emailed statement. “Dominion is confident this new program will satisfy the agency’s requirements.”

The Forest Service letter raised concerns about the validity of data submitted on behalf of the pipeline, a $5 billion project that would extend from the shale fields of northern West Virginia to the Atlantic coast of Virginia and North Carolina.

The agency included documentation to show that the pipeline developer “misrepresented the résumé 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, as identified by the person whose résumé was misrepresented.”

Thompson, supervisor for the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, informed the FERC that the Forest Service “cannot use the results of these soils surveys to evaluate project effects on (National Forest Service) lands.”

The letter ignited strong protests from opponents of the pipeline, which would extend through 10 Virginia localities. “To me, this is bigger than just incompetence,” said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance. “This is just deceit.”

The pipeline is proposed through about 30 miles of national forest — the Monongahela in West Virginia and the George Washington in western Virginia. The Forest Service expressed frustration to federal energy regulators earlier this year over what it said was difficulty in getting answers from the pipeline company and submitted more than 300 requests for additional information.

The Forest Service also objected to a proposal to extend the pipeline through the mountain habitat of two threatened species of salamander, which prompted the company to propose last week a route variation through the Monongahela forest and a plan to drill through Shenandoah Mountain between Highland and Augusta counties instead of going over it.

The dispute over the soil surveys has been building since midsummer, according to documents included in the Forest Service letter, which said the agency’s staff had raised concern with pipeline officials in early July over the delay in conducting the surveys and the credentials of the contractor that would conduct them.

The Forest Service had wanted the company to conduct the surveys before filing a formal application for the project, preferably last spring when soils were saturated by rain. The agency contends that pipeline officials promised verbally at a meeting July 7 to provide résumés of the soil scientists who would do the work.

Jennifer P. Adams, special project coordinator for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, sent a message to one pipeline official in late August that said the survey would require “specialized skills and requirements … specific to those who have skills within the Appalachian Region, and it is imperative that a certified professional soil scientist head this survey work.”

The Forest Service met with the pipeline company and its consultants on October 2 to discuss methods for collecting soil samples, but the agency said soil surveys began that day without its consultation and before it received the résumés and qualifications of the people doing the work.

Colin Olness, a construction contractor for Dominion, acknowledged in an email October 16 that the surveys had been done “without proper notification to the appropriate Forest Service contacts of the location, nature and timing of the work,” and apologized for the lapse.

The same day, a Forest Service soil scientist said she had received the résumés of the soil survey crew and that only one, Nan Gray, president of Soil Works Inc., was qualified to conduct the work.

Gray contacted the Forest Service 10 days later and said she had “done no work of any kind” for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. She said she had been contacted by the contractor on October 15 about working as a third-party reviewer of the survey results, but had not been involved in the survey work that already had been performed.

However, the company’s contractor for the survey, Geosyntec, assured Gray that it had not misrepresented her role in the project. “At no point have we identified that you or your company provided input/participation in our project,” said hydrogeologist Kathleen Harrison in an email to Gray on October 27.

The Forest Service said it had identified Gray’s résumé as the only one qualified to do the work, “but since it is now known that Ms. Gray was not among the field personnel, it is clear that no field personnel were qualified.”

“The falsification of the qualifications of field personnel by ACP and/or its consultants is of concern to the Forest Service,” the agency states in its letter to FERC.

Background Video is here. See also:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: