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By Josh Stanfield of Activate Virginia

“Ralph Northam – Your Support for the Pipeline is Grotesque!”

To the sensitive ear of the Virginia Democrat, perhaps the protestor sounded a bit harsh. Grotesque? Seriously?

Dr. Northam made his position on the proposed pipelines clear at the debate: if the DEQ and Corps of Engineers approve, he’s on board. So if we understand the grotesque as the incongruous, the absurdly or disgustingly distorted, this courageous protestor may be onto something.

A Compromised DEQ

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently reversed its pre-primary statement and – instead of conducting site-specific environmental reviews – will defer to blanket permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. In essence, the projects are being fast-tracked with only cursory analyses of their likely effects.

The DEQ, however, is itself deeply entangled in Dominion’s tentacles. The Director of the DEQ, David Paylor, was paid by Dominion to attend the 2013 PGA Masters Tournament in Georgia – a trip valued at $2,370. Not to mention a $1,200 dinner on Dominion’s dime. The DEQ’s Water Permitting Division Director Melanie Davenport reportedly represented Dominion as an attorney prior to joining the DEQ. And the DEQ has outsourced part of its environmental review of the ACP to a contractor already working for Dominion.

No Help From the Feds

And the federal government? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) currently has only one of five seats filled – it needs three for a quorum. Former Commissioner Colette Honorable recently took a position as partner at Reed Smith, a firm lobbying for Dominion and palpably present at Saturday’s debate. Industry entanglements are, of course, common at FERC.

Trump’s two Republican nominees for FERC, Robert Powelson and Neal Chatterjee, await Senate confirmation. A little over a week ago, Trump nominated another industry ally, Kevin McIntyre, as chairman of FERC – pending confirmation.

No honest appraisal of the DEQ or FERC should therefore expect them to do anything other than rubber stamp the projects. And in doing so, we can’t forget, they’ll be rubber stamping one of the top priorities of the Trump regime: rapid development of unnecessary, dangerous, but obscenely profitable fossil-fuel infrastructure nationwide.

What’s At Stake

Ralph Northam’s position, in attempting to displace all decision-making and responsibility onto compromised regulatory entities, ends up completely in line with the Trump regime if we consider outcome and not simply rhetoric. Given Ralph opposes Trump on pretty much every other matter of policy, why acquiesce on this critical concern? Why maintain erroneously that it’s solely a federal issue?

It’s clear that the Northam camp doesn’t believe anti-pipeline sentiment will translate into the loss of a significant bloc of votes. They, after all, have their internal numbers for which they surely paid a pretty penny. Those independents, those infrequent voters, that sliver of Perriello voters who feel the pipelines are existential threats to them, their communities, their families – this is the bloc that Ralph will alienate.

My argument has been – and continues to be – that to alienate these voters is to reject a potential statewide Democratic coalition. A coalition that will not only elect Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, but will make our Party more credible and formidable in future elections.

After all, who are the Democratic pro-pipeline voters that Northam stands to lose? Who are the mysterious centrists who break for Ralph based on his support for pipelines?

Democratic Cognitive Dissonance

We hear from the loyalist corners of the Party – often in remarkably authoritarian tones – that complaining about the pipelines is tantamount to supporting Ed Gillespie, that criticism of Ralph Northam is a sure sign of a heretic. That opposition to the pipelines must mean you don’t care about women, about the marginalized, about healthcare, about the survival of our republic itself.

This isn’t a new way of arguing, and you’d think recent world-historical events would have us question whether or not this mode of communication is effective at all. But here’s the reality: the Northam campaign has the data, they have a strategy, and they’re acting as if the data suggests they can get away with this position. None of us have as much time (or money) invested in reading the outcome of this race.

So given Northam’s position, any attempt to suggest anti-pipeline activists could cost Democrats the election seems a transparent attempt to simply silence dissent. And in this case, an attempt to also silence Virginians whose health, family, property, and environment are seemingly under siege.

Is the Democratic Party the party of ideas? Of free speech? Of racial justice, environmentalism, consumer protection, and clean government? Opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline reflects a commitment to all of these ideals. Silencing these voices of opposition reveals fascist tendencies not based in sophisticated strategy.

Possibilities

In 2013, Libertarian Robert Sarvis pulled over 6% of the vote – and according to the crosstabs of a CNN exit poll, Sarvis voters preferred McAuliffe as their second choice. As Ben Jacobs reported at the time, “Sarvis seems to have drawn disproportionately from McAuliffe in the southern Shenandoah Valley and the area around Roanoke.”

This year, Cliff Hyra will be the libertarian on the ballot. He’ll also be the only candidate against the proposed pipelines (via opposition to federal eminent domain). Who knows if he’ll have a noticeable effect. But what if the race becomes tight – as today’s Monmouth University poll indicates (as Lowell says, “for what it’s worth”). What would this mean?

What it wouldn’t mean is that anti-pipeline protestors need to shut up and fall in line. It wouldn’t mean Democrats need to acquiesce to the policy preferences of Trump and, in doing so, sacrifice public health, the environment, and segments of our citizenry who’ve been abandoned for far too long.

What it would instead mean is that Ralph Northam needs to join us on the Democratic side of this issue – the side of direct resistance to the Trump agenda. He would demonstrate that regardless of his personal stock in Dominion, or its contributions to his campaigns, he ultimately sides with everyday Virginians and Democratic ideals when our future is on the line.

In the end, Northam’s campaign holds the analytical cards, and Ralph the responsibility inherent in being the candidate. To side with Dominion when confronting victory – that’s easy. But to hold Dominion’s line when the numbers get tight – knowing, as we know, that Dominion sees a win with either Ed or Ralph – that’s a form of political roulette that we should all find disturbing.

Because for Northam to somehow lose based on his pipeline position – that would be the pinnacle of the grotesque.

  • Sharon Ponton

    As one of the organizers of the #DearNortham campaign, thank you Josh Stanfield. Northam, a doctor, should only need look at the public health effects of Pipelines and compressor stations to announce an anti-pipeline stance. Yet, he continues his parroting of McAuliffe’s lies at every opportunity when he claims the state has no role to play in the permitting of these pipelines,

    Perhaps many Dems find those words harsh, but how can any Dem believe those of us who live in frontline communities would simply fall in line and vote for a candidate who would treat us as McAuliffe has for the last 3 years?

    How could any Dem expect us the throw in with a candidate who would allow the devastation of our communities, while claiming he’s an environmentalist, whatever that means?

    Some Dems tout Dominion’s talking point about all those jobs the pipeline will create as their reason to support the pipelines. It’s necessary to understand the vast majority of those jobs won’t go to Virginians, even if every Union in Virginia endorses the pipelines. On the ground we have watched as land surveyors have invaded private property…even surveying jobs have gone to folks from Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma…,not Virginians.

    If Mr. Northam wants our votes, he needs to represent us. If you want us to vote for him, tell him to represent us, not the fossil fuel industry. It is his choice to represent 1,000’s of Virginia families, or not. We are secure in our stance.

    • notjohnsmosby

      If you want Ed Gillespie as governor, then keep on bashing Ralph. It’s a choice of two, pick one.

      • Sharon Ponton

        Actually, I’m not bashing Ralph. Ralph has a choice to protect thousands of Virginia families. It’s his choice, and it’s my vote.

        • notjohnsmosby

          Of course it’s you’re vote. if you’re only voting on allowing a new pipeline, then you would have a valid point. As is, you’re voting for an office that will weigh in on everything in Virginia for four years.

          You guys are just as bad as the Tea Party. Ideology over success, you would rather be right and lose then bargain and win. If you are only concerned about one new pipeline and everything else in state government over the next or four years, including redistricting in 2021, is unimportant, then vote for whichever of the two potential winners is going to solve your one concern in life.

          Hint – neither will solve that one concern. So, either get more concerns, or be unhappy you can’t get your way on your one issue.

          • Sharon said she was having technical difficulties and asked me to post this comment for her:

            Instead of trying to guilt me and those who feel like me, why don’t you help us move Ralph to opposing the pipelines? Good God, the man is a pediatric neurologist and knows the public health effects caused by leaking methane, as well as benzene, formaldehyde etcetera.

            Pipelines are not single issue either. They encompass property rights issues, economic justice, environmental racism (do you think it coincidental 2 of the 3 ACP compressor stations have been sited in communities of color), water quality (the MVP and ACP would effect the water quality of 13 million Birginians), air pollution especially around compressor stations and valve locations, public health, public safety, to name a few of the issues.

            Please feel free to continue to try to guilt us, or you could be a part of the solution and help us move Ralph to opposing pipelines.

          • notjohnsmosby

            I’m not guilty you, just explaining the concept of a choice of 2. Any guilt you feel is self chosen.

            Now, as far as being part of the solution, that’s where you fall short. Knowing that you have a choice of two, you want to modify one of the choices to fit your personal outlook. Your opinion. Your opinion is your own, but many people will disagree with you on it. You presumably had a candidate who fit your personal views better. That candidate lost to the candidate on the ballot. The people have spoken. Environmentalism is important, but not the most important, or at least not a majority weight out of the all of the political positions a candidate has to take.

          • Keith Hubbard

            Best post I have read on this site in months.

      • Casey

        It’s a choice of three. I am disappointed the Libertarian candidate’s opposition to the pipeline seems to be solely based upon eminent domain violating property owner’s rights.

        • notjohnsmosby

          A third party candidate will not win a statewide election. It doesn’t send a message, and if you want to go the way of Jill Stein and Ralph Nader voters, feel free to vote for the libertarian. Or, if you’re a Republican, you can go the way of Pete Snyder voters.

        • The Libertarians’ views on economics, environment, and many other things are appalling. No thanks.

      • Why is it that there can be NO discussion of this issue, without someone trying to use it as an insulting barb to slam other people and accuse them of undermining the candidate that obviously no one should question?

        There was a time where Americans actually read and understood what the people they were electing were about, and they held they accountable for what they did. They were allowed and encouraged to question, speak up, and demand their voice be heard.

        You sir, only seem solely intent on repressing any voice that does not agree with you. And, should somehow Ralph Northam lose this spring, it will be people like yourself who will shoulder a majority of the blame. The Democratic Party needs to start understanding that abusing people who support the party but think we can do better will not win over voters, and will not create a vacuum to shit the blame away from themselves.

        • “should somehow Ralph Northam lose this spring”

          I think you mean “this November.” Let’s just hope Northam wins, and wins big, so that he has some serious “coattails” for downballot candidates.

          As for your argument, I agree that we should be absolutely free to discuss important issues, and even – gasp! – to question our elected officials, candidates, etc. regarding those important issues. It’s called “democracy,” to the extent we still have it (ever had it?) in this country.

          • Oh, yes. This fall. All the seasons seem to run together with all this non-existent climate change. 🙂

        • notjohnsmosby

          You had months/years to debate this stuff. There was a primary. The primary has passed. Alternatives were offered and rejected. Ralph is the candidate.

  • If all the voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who voted for Jill Stein had chosen Hillary Clinton instead, she’d be President today.

    I’m sure all those Stein voters are ecstatic with Trump, just as I suppose Josh will be thrilled with Gillespie. Martyrs always take a perverse joy in their martyrdom. But true progressives understand that getting 95% of what you want in a candidate is better than 0%.

    If you want to influence Ralph on the pipeline, sit down with him in private and see if you can work out a compromise. There are already currently several pipelines criss crossing Virginia and millions of miles of pipelines throughout America. I don’t support one more in Virginia, but Ralph as Governor will have little power to stop them. He may be able to fight what I believe to be an ultimately losing case to sue and stop them. A Pyrrhic victory at best. And if it goes to the courts and we lose, he may well lose what decision-making power he has on rerouting. But you’re not going to convince him to do anything by helping Gillespie win.

    So you’re either gonna get Gillespie (and maybe five new pipelines! and destruction of several mountains! and no safety measures! and no clean power plan! and millions in subsidies for coal companies!) or you’re gonna get Ralph, a solid Democrat who might not be as progressive as you’d like on the environment but will do the right thing on choice, guns, civil rights, voting rights, and yes, even be a far better environmentalist than Gillespie.

    Why don’t you stop the theatrics, sit down with Ralph, see if you can get him to support solar and wind energy significantly in his budget (which he almost certain will) and net metering, see if he’ll tie it all together and threaten to sue on the pipeline if Republicans don’t compromise on renewables, try to get him to force Dominion to compromise as well by requiring much more significant safety measures than usual, and to reroute the pipeline so it does as little environmental damage as possible?

    You may have other ideas as well. Go for it. If you can’t stop the pipeline, get what you can for it. Bargain. We are not Vermont. Unless and until the Democrats one day get full control over the Governorship and the General Assembly, you have to make the best deal you can get. And half a loaf is better than none.

    I know that’s not your first choice. But YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GET YOUR FIRST CHOICE. So doing your best to damage Ralph Northam’s campaign is a sure fire way to help Ed Gillespie become Governor, followed by gerrymandering so severe that we will lose 2/3 of the Senate and the House of Delegates and ensure that no matter what Governor we elect for the next decade, cruel, vicious right-wing measures become law until the next redistricting in 2031.

    From now until 2031 — 14 long years — Josh, you are advocating Virginia becomes North Carolina/Mississippi/Jeff Sessions-land. Don’t think things can’t get worse here. Look around. Do you want Virginia to become the equivalent of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas?

    Stein voters said Hillary Clinton was so awful that Trump couldn’t be any worse. So they brought us Donald Trump.

    If you are a progressive and you don’t vote for Ralph Northam, I ask you respectfully, never to call yourself a progressive again.

    We don’t have a ranked choice system in Virginia. I would support one, but we don’t have one. Those who let the perfect be the enemy of the good always lead us to the worst.

    Those of us who supported Al Gore are not too happy with the Nader voters either. And something makes me think that President Gore would have been a little better on climate change than Bush/Trump.

    • Josh asked me to post this response:

      “Of course I’m voting for Ralph Northam – I sit on the Central Committee and have been straightforward in my attempt to convince Virginians to join the Democratic Party. But I also believe in confronting – not silencing – dissent, and to me it’s in the best long-term interest of the Party to discuss the pipelines openly and publicly. As a Ralph voter, I hope he’ll jump on this rare opportunity to create a statewide Democratic coalition.”

      • (The reply was posted just as I deleted and reposted mine below to reflect that there were two major proposed pipelines, not one. Sorry about the confusion.)

        I do not believe in silencing dissent either, but I’m confident there is some movement you can get with him on the pipelines. The best way to do this is to talk with him in a small group and make clear you are willing to compromise if he will. But talking about a third-party opponent is the most certain way NOT to succeed in getting Ralph to compromise at all on the pipelines.

        Ask him about Clean Water Act permitting. Talk to him about the route. I do think you’ll get a lot farther with Ralph Northam if you work with him, rather than against him.

        • And thank you for making clear you’re voting for Ralph and are persuading Virginians to join the Democratic Party.

          The things that unite us as Democrats are far larger and greater than those few things on which we disagree.

        • Jon Sokolow

          This condescending tone is really appalling. Just reason with Ralph behind closed doors and he might give you something? Really? People have tried that and he has done nothing, except when he thought he was going to lose to Tom Perriello and he then wrote a letter asking DEQ to do a more rigorous review – which they said they would do until after the primary was over and then they back tracked. Ralph is a politician (like you Mr. Levine) and will do nothing unless he concludes its in his own self interest. I am not one who believes this has anything to do with his principles – its about winning or losing. So now that his wish for a “private” conversation has exploded onto the front page of today’s Washington Post, let’s see whether he finds the courage to do the right thing. What exactly is the “compromise” you would accept – Dominion invests $4.5 billion on an environmentally irresponsible technology instead of $5 billion? 500 people lose their homes through eminent domain instead of 1,000? 800 streams get destroyed instead of 1,000? When they come for your home, Mr. Levine, will you be “satisfied” with a compromise (after a polite private conversation) where you only lose your kid’s bedroom, but not your living room? Or maybe it would be fine to take your front yard – just don’t touch the back yard. You speak from a position of privilege because you don’t perceive that your ass is on the line. Try walking in the shoes of the people in the pipeline path before you pontificate on how everyone needs to shut up and sit down. And before you go pontificating on how I don’t get it – know this. I have donated more time and money to the Democratic Party over the past 30 years than most people I know (including when Ralph ran In 2013). Check VAN. Those days are over, as perhaps will Doctor Northam’s campaign, if he doesn’t get on the Democratic side of this issue. Ask him how much methane a child should be exposed to before it does neurological damage. Ask him what level is safe for his grandkids. Then tell us more about compromise.

  • If all the voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who voted for Jill Stein had chosen Hillary Clinton instead, she’d be President today.

    I’m sure all those Stein voters are ecstatic with Trump, just as I suppose Josh will be thrilled with Gillespie. Martyrs always take a perverse joy in their martyrdom. But true progressives understand that getting 95% of what you want in a candidate is better than 0%.

    If you want to influence Ralph on the pipelines, sit down with him in private and see if you can work out a compromise. There are already currently several pipelines criss crossing Virginia and millions of miles of pipelines throughout America. I don’t support one more in Virginia, but Ralph as Governor will have little power to stop them. He may be able to fight what I believe to be an ultimately losing case to sue and stop them. A Pyrrhic victory at best. And if it goes to the courts and we lose, he may well lose what decision-making power he has on rerouting. But you’re not going to convince him to do anything by helping Gillespie win.

    So you’re either gonna get Gillespie (and maybe five new pipelines! and destruction of several mountains! and no safety measures! and no clean power plan! and millions in subsidies for coal companies!) or you’re gonna get Ralph, a solid Democrat who might not be as progressive as you’d like on the environment but will do the right thing on choice, guns, civil rights, voting rights, and yes, even be a far better environmentalist than Gillespie.

    Why don’t you stop the theatrics, sit down with Ralph, see if you can get him to support solar and wind energy significantly in his budget (which he almost certain will) and net metering, see if he’ll tie it all together and threaten to sue on the pipeline if Republicans don’t compromise on renewables, try to get him to force Dominion to compromise as well by requiring much more significant safety measures than usual, and to reroute the pipelines so they do as little environmental damage as possible?

    You may have other ideas as well. Go for it. If you can’t stop the pipeline, get what you can for it. Bargain. We are not Vermont. Unless and until the Democrats one day get full control over the Governorship and the General Assembly, you have to make the best deal you can get. And half a loaf is better than none.

    I know that’s not your first choice. But YOU’RE NOT GOING TO GET YOUR FIRST CHOICE. So doing your best to damage Ralph Northam’s campaign is a sure fire way to help Ed Gillespie become Governor, followed by gerrymandering so severe that we will lose 2/3 of the Senate and the House of Delegates and ensure that no matter what Governor we elect for the next decade, cruel, vicious right-wing measures become law until the next redistricting in 2031.

    From now until 2031 — 14 long years — Josh, you are advocating Virginia becomes North Carolina/Mississippi/Jeff Sessions-land. Don’t think things can’t get worse here. Look around. Do you want Virginia to become the equivalent of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas?

    Stein voters said Hillary Clinton was so awful that Trump couldn’t be any worse. So they brought us Donald Trump.

    If you are a progressive and you don’t vote for Ralph Northam, I ask you respectfully, never to call yourself a progressive again.

    We don’t have a ranked choice system in Virginia. I would support one, but we don’t have one. Those who let the perfect be the enemy of the good always lead us to the worst.

    Those of us who supported Al Gore are not too happy with the Nader voters either. And something makes me think that President Gore would have been a little better on climate change than Bush/Trump.

    • Respectfully, if the Democratic Party doesn’t learn that you cannot continue to blame others for losses when you embrace an air that borders on abuse by blaming them for missteps the party made on their own accord, and as such pushed people away from a candidate that they didn’t like but would have voted for if it weren’t for the accusations and harassment of “If xxx wins this is *YOUR* fault!”… Then the party and it’s representatives are in fact silencing dissent and refusing to give all voices of the party a seat at the table. It’s the actual example of punishing people for not “falling in line”.

      As a journalist, you know yourself that when you ask someone a direct question and they avoid answering it clearly, opting to muck their answers with less than a clear response, there’s more to the story that needs to be uncovered. LG Northam has been asked directly by many people about his position on the pipelines, and he’s given answers varying from “I don’t have the power to do anything”, to rehashing the site by site approval that the DEQ dropped the ball on, to my personal favorite when the question of Dominion campaign donations and stock ownership was raised “you need to trust your Democratic politicians”.

      Were you not an elected Delegate representing the party, I would suspect that you would take issue with those responses and push further, and when no further clarification is given deliver the conclusions available based on what answers you were given. I’d also venture a guess that you would have found a sense of offense when Mr. GIllespie was in a position to actually congratulate Northam for having the *same position* as he has in regards to the pipelines. Maybe you would have even felt the need to call Ralph to the carpet for having a position that is more in line with people like Gillespie and the GOP, than it is with the environmental groups that have been trying to get elected officials to be aware of the dangers to the both the health of the land and the health of the people.

      People who are questioning and trying to hold their publicly elected officials responsible for actually representing the desires of the masses are not the enemy of the party here. They’re not people who should be slammed as being “not progressives”, just because they’re pushing for a party that’s more about the people than it is corporate interests (note that Dominion’s CEO is currently selecting the Richmond public schools superintendent, instead of elected officials, which further cements that disconnect).

      Incidentally, all of this natural gas that will be pipelined into my corner of the state, and then put on NG tankers and shipped over seas, isn’t going to do anything to reduce Dominion’s recent rate increases while fuel costs are allegedly at a low (which was stated to validate their exporting of natural gas for foreign profits).

      In short; most folks who don’t want this pipeline and are filled with audible disappointment at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s unwillingness to make a stand for the environment and the communities that are going to be put at risk in the event a pipeline ruptures (which we’ve all seen images of in recent years) will still likely vote for Northam. However, the continued pointing of “This is how you get Gillespie!” (which is just a modification of “If you don’t fall in line, it’s your fault for Trump!” that we heard last year at the state convention), will eventually cost an election due to the apathy it creates. People grow tired of being blamed for bad messaging.

    • Jon Sokolow

      Mark Levine – this is a dishonest smear on Josh Stanfield’s excellent article, which points out exactly why Ralph Northam’s position on the pipelines is grotesque. It is false and undemocratic to say voters must choose between blind obedience to the candidate or voting third party – something very few people are advocating. You are simply trying to stifle dissent, thus proving the main point of this article. Fact: During the primary, Northam promised to meet with local communities, especially in Buckingham, where the proposed compressor station would impact an historically African American community. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/echoes-of-a-dark-past-at-virginias-standing-rock_us_596d21c0e4b010d77673185a . Fact: He has yet to keep that promise. Fact: He made that promise again in Charlottesville again a few weeks ago – never happened. Rather than trying to shuffle the movement behind closed doors and away from the public spotlight – a failing strategy (the pipelines are on the front page of today’s Washington Post), why not have a full and hones public discussion of what Democrats actually are willing to stand for. Then maybe Northam and others will earn the privilege of having voters cast their vote for them. Politicians need to earn votes by taking bold positions that can improve people’s lives, not by shaming people or telling them they have no choice.

  • Alec

    I too have posted my disappointment with Northam over the pipeline issue, and like Josh, have publicly stated my intention to vote for Ralph. Last year I hiked all 2189.1 miles of the Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine, so this is personal for me. My question for those who telling to put aside my personal convictions and just support Ralph is this: What deeply held conviction are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of electing Democrat? Would you throw LGBTQ individuals under the bus? Would voter suppression be okay, as long as the Dem was better than the Republican? How about anti-choice Dems, do we embrace them as well?
    When you’re ready to be thrown under the bus by a Democrat, on a deeply personal issue, then we can talk.

    • No one is telling you to put aside your personal convictions. I’m suggesting that you can get some of what you want — 50%? 30%? Even 10% is better than nothing — by working with Ralph to see if you can get any movement as a compromise. Have you tried that?

      For the record, as someone who has supported marriage equality since the 1990’s, I was willing to accept civil unions (separate but equal) as a step forward at the time. Not a permanent step, mind you. I was always fighting for marriage equality. But yes, I took it as a step forward. Even Thurgood Marshall won civil rights step by step, rather than insisting on everything or nothing.

      Most progress is made incrementally. I would never ask you to give up your ultimate goals. (What are they? Ban all pipelines in the USA? Remove millions of miles of pipelines? Lofty goals, to be sure. But I would never ask you to give them up.) But people who demand everything or nothing almost always get nothing.

      Think of it as a political strategy, rather than an attack on your convictions.

      • “I’m suggesting that you can get some of what you want — 50%? 30%? Even 10% is better than nothing — by working with Ralph to see if you can get any movement as a compromise. Have you tried that?”

        Not sure how the average citizen is supposed to work with a state’s Lt. Governor on an issue they care about. Isn’t that what elected officials — like yourself for instance 😉 — are for? So…if you don’t mind me asking, have YOU tried “working with Ralph to see if you can get any movement as a compromise?”

        • Yes. In private. And I’ll leave it there.

          I’ve also pushed Terry McAuliffe — mostly in private but occasionally in public (see my recent letter on William Morva) — about a few things. I did it the way I felt it would be most effective, and usually that was in private. I did persuade him to take my views on some things. And sometimes I didn’t. And on at least a couple of issues, I admit, I’m still kind of peeved he didn’t see it my way. But I’m not condemning or threatening him. McAullife has acted the way I would have at least 90% of the time. That’s pretty good in my book.

          And while I agree an elected official’s voice is greater than most citizens (I chose to run for office for a reason!), I do think the average citizen underestimates his or her effectiveness. As a former grass-roots citizen activist, I made significant progress on two issues (marriage equality and domestic-violence law) without holding elected office.

          Northam is very publicly accessible, and, I think, susceptible to some compromise on this issue. Maybe we could demand rigorous Section 401 Clear Water Act permitting or some renewable energy portfolios or careful rerouting to avoid the most environmental damage. And it will take more than my voice.

          I would suggest citizens pull Northam aside at one of his events and ask him one on one (or a small group on one) for some of these lesser (but still useful) measures.

          Make your case, but be realistic. Have a conversation rather than a list of demands. Virginia already has a number of pipelines. How do the proposed new pipelines compare with the old ones? Can you show how the new ones are worse? Or how the older pipelines in Virginia are unsafe or have done environmental damage? Are our pipelines the same as the one that exploded in West Virginia? How precisely do they damage the mountainside? Can it be mitigated? Would rerouting help? Can you specify under the law exactly what Northam has power to do? Ask him, since he’s unlikely to sue (and it’s probably Mark Herring’s decision anyway), to at least wait until the New York case is resolved?

          Can you give him detailed examples of problems, along with specific solutions on how to fix them? Have activists tried to sit down with Northam and make a detailed, logical argument, understanding that you won’t get everything you want but might get some movement?

          I hope so, but I don’t know. No one has yet told me they have asked to meet him and talk to him frankly about the full parameters of his pipeline views. Is there any leeway? Please find out. My impression is there is, but it will take a lot more than me to determine it. And I fully admit I’m not a pipeline expert.

          My point is a larger one. Some people just don’t understand that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. But I’ll tell activists this: you have a much better chance to influence Northam on pipelines while he’s Governor if you work to elect him than if you work to defeat him. You won’t get everything you want, but you might get some movement. Approach him as a friend with whom you disagree, rather than a “grotesque” enemy.

          And, if he doesn’t satisfy you (and let’s be candid: it’s virtually certain you won’t get everything you want), then in four years, you can work to make your case again in the Democratic primaries and try to get a nominee even more dedicated to your vision.

          That’s how politics works. You get the best you can get. No one is asking anyone to stop pushing Northam on the pipeline. I pushed Obama all while he was President, generally expressing my disappointments as “sorrow” rather than an attack. It’s all public in my radio shows. I even had an “Obama Intervention” when I felt he made some bad mistakes in 2010-11. But I still worked hard to re-elect him in 2012. Obama also gave me about 90% of what I wanted in a President, but I didn’t hesitate to challenge him on the other 10%.

          Of course, unlike Northam, I didn’t have easy access to Obama. So I had to make all my concerns public.

          • “Maybe we could demand rigorous Section 401 Clear Water Act permitting”

            Uhhhhh…you DO know that many of us have been urging this very thing for months now, right? Where’s it gotten us? Nowhere, as far as I can tell…

          • Alec

            Let’s also be clear, if Sharon, Josh, Lowell and I were all “get in line” and put the pipeline issue aside, the issue would still be there. This is not a case of us hurting Ralph, this is a case Ralph hurting Ralph. Regardless of what we do on this page, the “No Pipeline” movement will continue.
            The truly practical move to get Ralph elected, is to understand how his narrow-minded, backward stance on the Pipelines can hurt him in the election, rather than telling us to simply suck it up and shut up.

          • In short, supporting the fracked gas pipelines is both bad policy AND bad politics.

          • Sharon Ponton

            So very true! The DEQ lied or at least misled all of us regarding the 401 certification process when it abdicated its responsibility to the Army Corp nationwide Blanket permitting process. They have now set up 5 public hearings for their own “certification” process with 2 of those hearings held in communities not even touched by the pipeline routes. Additionally, that process doesn’t include the “E&S” portion of construction….even though erosion and sedimentation could have tremendous adverse effects on water quality. Again I remind everyone, the water quality of 13 millions Virginians is at risk.

      • Alec

        Mark, your citation of civil unions is not a fair comparison to this issue, because civil union was the PRO-LGBT position, as you have stated, it was progress. Nothing about Ralph’s position is progress, it is regressive to more environmental destruction, and more fracking.

      • I’d note that if you look at the scientific reports, read what the scientists (e.g., Michael Mann and many others) have to say, we don’t have time for “incremental progress” when it comes to climate change. Instead, we need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure RIGHT NOW, not because that’s an ideological position but because the science/physics/etc. makes it clear we simply have to. Fortunately, the economics are such that energy efficiency, and increasingly wind and solar, are cheaper than fossil fuels anyway. So…no brainer for Dominion to switch those several billion dollars from environmentally destructive fracked gas pipelines to energy efficiency, solar and wind. Oh, and for those who argue that the temporary pipeline construction jobs are important for labor (e.g., LiUNA), how about we allot a big chunk of those wind, solar and energy efficiency jobs to LiUNA, etc?

      • Sharon Ponton

        Incremental process, when considering global warming, is not enough. It’s great that Ralph talks about all his environmental cred, but if he truly believes in the comments he’s posted on his website and that folks quote about him all the time, he needs to take a stand now against these pipelines.

        For those of you telling us to “work with Ralph, meet with Ralph.” Don’t you think we’ve done that? We wouldn’t be standing here today saying we won’t vote for him, if we hadn’t met with him, talked to he and his campaign. We tried to talk to Terry McAuliffe for three years and he ignored and belittled us.

        I will give Ralph credit for meeting with us, but it has not changed the fact that he still spouts all the same McAuliffe talking points. Dominion and EQT will destroy millions upon millions of mature trees when they clear cut for the easements for these pipelines, they will build on over 100 miles of slopes greater than 30%, they will blast and lower miles and miles of mountain ridges by 20 to 60 feet. Are those sound environmental processes?.

  • Jerel C. Wilmore

    It seems like the real problem is that the pipeline protesters don’t understand how elections work. By targeting Northam and not Gillespie they will end up with Gillespie and something infinhjitely worse that what they could get from Ralph. I can still remember when George Allen basically shut DEQ down for four years. But you can’t explain any of this to them because then you are “crushing their dissent.”

  • Keith Hubbard

    Northam’s position on the pipeline is the very reason this ‘Yellow Dog’ won’t support him in November.

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