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Video: Ralph Northam Dodges Question and Three Excellent Followups from WTOP on Air Board Dismissals

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I’ve been critical of WTOP in the past, but this morning on their “Ask the Governor show” they really did what journalists are supposed to do, asking Ralph Northam a tough question and – perhaps even more importantly – following up not once but MULTIPLE times when they didn’t get a serious answer. So…great job by WTOP; see below for the excerpt of the show where they tried valiantly – but failed – to get Northam to answer questions about his Air Pollution Control Board dismissals, just weeks before a crucial vote on Dominion Energy’s fracked-gas-pipeline compressor station in historically African-American Union Hill.

Question #1: “You’ve been criticized recently by environmentalists for your removal of two members of the Air Pollution Control Board just a couple of weeks before a crucial vote on a permit for a compressor for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Some say that the emissions from this compressor could have negative effects on a nearby community, a historic African-American community. The two board members who are now out had raised some questions about the safety of this compressor. We know that their terms had expired, but it’s not unusual for folks to serve beyond expired terms, many others are currently doing so. Why at this point would you replace these members at such a critical time in this in this board’s work as it relates to the Atlantic Coast pipeline?”

Northam Non-Answer #1: Basically, this move was totally routine, nothing to see here, move right along. The terms of the two members expired and he replaced them with “some very qualified individuals” and we should all “give them a chance and let them do their jobs.” Alrighty…

Question #2: “Governor, when you look at the optics of this, and I think that’s – you know, folks who are not privy to the process that you’re going through behind the scenes, they are wondering why is it happening now when there’s a a crucial vote. Why not wait until after the work related to this vote. I mean, there had been quite a bit of work that went into getting to this point. Why not make the switch after the board cast that vote?”

Northam Non-Answer #2: Basically, same non-answer as non-answer #1 – “again, these terms expired back in June” blah blah blah…”they were scheduled to take a vote in November…this process didn’t just pop up overnight; they chose not to take that vote.” WTF?

Question #3: “We get a fair share of emails and calls related to the pipeline projects and some of the individual elements of that that folks have some challenges with and maybe disagreeing with what’s playing out. What is your message to environmentalists, who some of them feel abandoned by you, they say that they supported you during during your campaign and they wonder…where your head is on issues that are important to them?”

Northam Non-Answer #3: “I have a lot of friends in the environmental community…moving toward renewable energy…as far as the pipeline…I would say there’s not a lot of middle road on that issue…and I have tried to take a position of being fair, I’m not trying to play favorites…we need to use science…the law…I have tried to be as fair as I can.” (This is “both sides” blather and also very disingenous)

Question #4: “So your new members to this board, they will not be present when this vote is taken on the compressor issue, which is important for the pipeline. So that leaves the board I believe with four voting members…one person I guess has abstained from from voting, one of the remaining five. Are you comfortable with the board being able to proceed and and and cast a votes with all you know all of the different interests represented?”

Northam Non-Answer #4: “Absolutely…I would just ask people to to let them do their job let them be as objective as they can be…the two new appointees I had no expectations that they would be voting in December.” Uh huh, right!