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Virginia NAACP Troubled by Ralph Northam, Matt Strickler “Refusal to Protect Our Land, Water and Communities”

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by Jon Sokolow

The Virginia State Conference of the NAACP has issued a powerful rebuke to the Northam Administration’s failure to take action to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

In a statement issued late Saturday night, the Virginia conference of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious civil rights organization said it is “gravely concerned over the lack of fair and appropriate response to environmental injustices perpetrated by the approval and construction of these projects.”  The NAACP noted: “It is well documented that the permitting processes are flawed, and yet the projects are being allowed to move forward with reckless abandon to our natural environment and communities.”

The NAACP reiterated its opposition to the building of the pipelines, as well as the ACP compressor station Dominion Energy proposes to build in the historic predominantly African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. The NAACP noted that African Americans are 75% more likely to live in “fence-line” communities like Union Hill that are targeted for such toxic projects: “Union Hill is a predominately African-American community established by Freeman after the Civil War.  The Compressor Station would be located within close proximity to existing homes.”

The powerful NAACP statement was issued in reaction to Secretary of Natural Resources’ Matt Strickler’s response last week, on behalf of himself and Governor Northam, to recommendations made by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice.  In August, the Council issued a strong and comprehensive analysis of the pipelines and called for a complete halt to construction of both pipelines and denial of an air permit for the Union Hill compressor station.  The NAACP was “troubled” by Strickler’s “inadequate one-page response to the ACEJ report and recommendations.” Strickler “did not respond in any detail to the environmental justice concerns documented by the ACEJ.” The NAACP was troubled by this “summary dismissal of the serious, pressing and legitimate issues raised by the Governor’s own Advisory Council.”

The NAACP further stated:

“Thousands of people who live along the route of the MVP and ACP are being negatively impacted daily by construction issues that already have done damage to Virginia’s precious water and natural resources.  Federal court decisions have resulted in multiple permits having been vacated, exposing a rushed and slipshod regulatory process.  More is required of our state leadership and we believe that state and federal law allow Virginia to both revoke the previous certifications granted for these pipelines under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and to deny an air permit for the Buckingham compressor station.”

The NAACP noted that the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board is holding a public hearing on the Union Hill compressor station in Richmond on November 8th and 9th.  “We ask that the Governor direct DEQ to not recommend approval of the permit and that the Air Pollution Control Board deny the permit and request the applicant to conduct a more comprehensive socio-economic analysis of the surrounding community, as well as completing a qualitative risk assessment and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment.”

The movement against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines grows stronger and deeper with every passing day.  With the Governor’s own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice and the Virginia NAACP firmly opposed to these destructive and unjust corporate boondoggles, the question, as always, for Ralph Northam is how long will you continue to ignore the damage you yourself are doing to the fence-line communities whose health and well being are being ruined by your intransigence.  Which side are you on?