As part of its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Resources intends to blast away, excavate, and partially remove entire ridgetops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Engineering and policy experts have examined documents submitted by Dominion to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and, using GIS mapping software, found that Dominion would require mountaintops to be “reduced” by 10 to 60 feet along the proposed route of the pipeline.
Dominion has yet to reveal how it intends to dispose of at least 247,000 dump-truck-loads of excess rock and soil—known as “overburden”—that would accumulate from the construction along just these 38 miles of ridgetops.
This is a much smaller scale version of the problem the mining industry faces on mountaintop removal sites, where mines typically reduce mountaintops by several hundred feet. There, the industry has “solved” the problem by filling nearby valleys and streams with the dirt and rock that once was the top of the mountain. While Dominion’s problem is much smaller, it has not yet said how it intends to solve it.
The briefing paper was prepared by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in coordination with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Nelson, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. It cites data from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.
Key findings include:
- Approximately 38 miles of mountains in West Virginia and Virginia will see 10 feet or more of their ridgetops removed in order to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- This figure includes 19 miles in West Virginia and 19 miles in Virginia.
- The majority of these mountains would be flattened by 10 to 20 feet, with some places along the route requiring the removal of 60 feet or more of ridgetop.
- Building the ACP on top of these mountains will result in a tremendous quantity of excess material, known to those familiar with mountaintop removal as “overburden.”
- Dominion would likely need to dispose of 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden, from just these 38 miles alone.
- Standard-size, fully loaded dump trucks would need to take at least 247,000 trips to haul this material away from the construction site.
“It is astounding that FERC has not required Dominion to produce a plan for dealing with the millions of cubic yards of excess spoil that will result from cutting down miles of ridgetop for the pipeline,” said Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “We know from experience with mountaintop removal coal mining that the disposal of this material has devastating impacts on the headwater streams that are the lifeblood our rivers and lakes. FERC and Dominion’s complete failure to address this issue creates a significant risk that the excess material will ultimately end up in our waterways, smothering aquatic life and otherwise degrading water quality. Without an in-depth analysis of exactly how much spoil will be created and how it can be safely disposed of, the states cannot possibly certify that this pipeline project will comply with the Clean Water Act.”
Another day, another problem with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that Dominion either hasn’t addressed yet or hasn’t shared its thoughts on how it will address it.