by Glen Besa
By saying he did not have a position on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines over the months since his election and while a candidate, Governor Northam apparently thought that if he sat tight long enough, the pipelines would be built and the issue and the opposition would fade away. Even with his recent interference with the Air Pollution Control Board, Northam said that his actions had nothing to do with the pending permit critical to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Besides being mum on the pipelines, Governor Northam has all along claimed he has no influence over the permitting decisions.
Where have we heard that before? Actually, we’ve heard it many times. Then-Governor Bob McDonnell said he had no position on uranium mining at the same time he was rigging a study review process that raised serious questions as to where he stood. We heard it from then-Governor Kaine as he was behind the scenes strong arming the Air Board to grant a permit for a Dominion Energy coal plant in Wise County. And we heard it from then-Governor Mark Warner when his Administration was pressuring agencies and citizen boards to approve the King William Reservoir. This last example may be most instructive as Governor Warner never acknowledged his support for the reservoir as he did his best to not leave his finger prints on the approval of a very unpopular project.
Much like with the pipelines, opponents of Newport News’ King William Reservoir were told that it was a done deal; that the 400 acres of wetlands to be sacrificed was as good as gone. But after twenty-two years of opposition and repeated hearings before the State Water Control Board, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Newport News City Council and the Army Corps of Engineers, in the end an adverse federal court ruling finally convinced the city of Newport News to abandon a project that it turned out was never needed in the first place.
Just like today’s pipeline opposition, reservoir opponents never gave up organizing regular protests and bird dogging public officials who tried to hide as citizens confronted them wherever they went. Yes, we irritated most of the political establishment who resented the troublesome environmentalists who would not quit. And just like with the pipelines, we had very few political allies. Yet after twenty-two long years of resistance, we won. In fact, next September 2019, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of that victory.
So Governor Northam, you had better get used to polite citizens awkwardly asking you about the pipelines and noisy protesters dogging you at every turn. The pipeline opposition is not going away because the stakes are too high. We will never forget your ham handed interference with the air board and how you lied about it; how you called for individual permits for stream crossings as a candidate and then ignored that pledge once elected.
You would be wise to meet with pipeline opponents, study their arguments and understand that the facts and history are on our side. You should do your job directing DEQ to enforce water quality laws and shut down these two pipeline projects that can’t be build without violating Virginia water laws. Governor Northam, stopping these two pipelines is the right thing to do, and you should know that the opponents of the pipelines will not quit protesting until these destructive, unneeded projects are abandoned.