Home Dominion Power Raised Middle Finger from Ralph Northam to Virginia’s Environment

Raised Middle Finger from Ralph Northam to Virginia’s Environment

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This news is disgusting, but sadly not surprising at this point.

Gov. Ralph Northam will reappoint David K. Paylor as director as of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency at the center of the impassioned debate over the state’s handling of a pair of natural-gas pipeline projects.

Northam is expected to make the announcement today at an internal staff event marking the 25th anniversary of the DEQ, according to the governor’s office. 

“David Paylor has served this Commonwealth admirably as the Director of the Virginia DEQ and I am happy to reappoint him,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “Caring for our natural resources and expanding our clean energy economy are among my top priorities as governor and I am confident that David will help execute that agenda.”

First, why am I not pleased with the reappointment of David Paylor? Let’s start with Head DEQ official accepted Dominion gifts, including paid trip to Master’s tourney (“Dominion reported spending $4,492 for Paylor and Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, to attend the Masters. Both men also were at the dinner at O’Tooles. The cost of the dinner was $1,236, Dominion’s gift disclosure said.”). Ah, the “Virginia Way,” ain’t it grand?

The Washington Post editorial page wrote about this as follows:

…on March 23, about 25 protesters, mostly young environmentalists, put on a comic show in front of the downtown headquarters of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. They brought a portable putting green, golf clubs and two golf carts with banners reading “DEQ Shuttle Service courtesy of Dominion.”

The target of the mockery was department director David K. Paylor, a 40-year veteran of the state’s regulatory apparatus that has long been soft on regulating big business. The protests followed reports by WAMU that in 2013 Paylor had accepted $2,300 in travel from Dominion Virginia Power to attend the famed Masters golf tournament in Georgia plus a night out at an Irish pub.

Paylor’s DEQ has also been weak on coal ash disposal; according to the Southern Environmental Law Center, “Twice, we have urged DEQ to make clear to Dominion that the [federal coal combustion residuals rule] does apply to the unlined historic pond, apparently to no effect.”

Let’s continue with this: “Paylor considers himself a longtime steward of the environment…But signing off on the Mountain Valley Pipeline would be a betrayal of that mission and that vision. This pipeline, running 300 miles through West Virginia and southwest Virginia, is incompatible with all that we value: our water, health, property rights and property values, a local economy based on stunning vistas and outdoor recreation, and even a safe climate.”

Let’s also not forget this, from a few days ago, by Paylor’s DEQ:

…while (almost) nobody was looking, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) shamefully, disgracefully “issued erosion, sediment and stormwater approvals for the [M]ountain [V]alley [P]ipeline.” Sad to say, but this is how fossil fuel interests, polluters, and monopoly utilities like Dominion Energy prefer to operate – when the minimum number of people are paying attention and with the minimum amount of transparency on the process.

We could go on and on all day, but the bottom line is that Paylor’s DEQ is super weak when it comes to, ya know, doing its job! So why would Ralph Northam reappoint this guy? One can only conclude that Northam actually believes the b.s. he spewed today, that Paylor supposed “has served this Commonwealth admirably as the Director of the Virginia DEQ” and that “Caring for our natural resources and expanding our clean energy economy are among my top priorities as governor and I am confident that David will help execute that agenda.” And if you buy that one, you might also think that Scott Pruitt is working hard to protect, not trash, the country’s environment…

Now, I’m well aware that Northam doesn’t give a crap about what Virginia environmentalists think. Still, I want this on the public record that I strongly oppose this raised middle finger to Virginia’s environment. Also, for the record, here are a few comments I saw on Facebook by Virginia environmentalists about this reappointment. I’ll add more as I see them.

  • “Very disappointing is an understatement”
  • “Shameful.”
  • “Shameful – and cowardly that he did not announce it ahead of time.”
  • “This is where I might say that the politician that ran on a platform of protecting the environment and concern about rising sea level is showing that to be a load of crap, but I’m not going to go there.”
  • “Meet the new boss. same as the old boss.”

UPDATE: Statements from the VA Sierra Club and CCAN. Not holding my breath for the VA LCV, that’s for damned sure.

Sierra Club: Paylor Reappointment a Disappointment

RICHMOND, Virginia– Today, Gov. Northam announced his reappointment of David Paylor as the Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

In response, Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, released the following statement.

Gov. Northam’s reappointment of David Paylor is disappointing. Virginians, including many of our members and supporters, elected Gov. Northam under the auspices that he would work as an environmental champion. This decision shows the Governor’s willingness to continue business as usual and allow corporate interests to be prioritized above the health of Virginians.

As the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, Paylor has spent over a decade cozying up to corporate polluters. This includes accepting gifts from Dominion Energy like a $2300 trip to the Masters Tournament in April 2013 and countless instances advocating against stronger environmental protections, puppeting polluter’s positions.

With numerous challenges threatening Virginia’s environment, it’s abundantly clear that Virginians would benefit from fresh leadership at DEQ with the spine to stand up to corporate polluters, monopoly utilities and all those who threaten Virginia’s clean air and water.

CCAN Calls On Governor Northam To Replace David Paylor as DEQ Head

RICHMOND, VA — Today, Governor Northam re-appointed David Paylor as director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated:

“Governor Northam has taken several positive steps since taking office to improve environmental protection and advocacy in the state. He has supported joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and has pushed Dominion Energy to invest more in renewable power and efficiency. But today, the Governor has seriously dropped in the ball in re-appointing David Paylor as director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“Any quick Google search of Paylor’s name brings up stories of serious controversy. In 12 years at the DEQ helm, Paylor has consistently sided with polluting industries over environmental advocacy groups. Paylor, above all else, is very, very cozy with the state’s biggest polluter, Dominion Energy. The director has outraged health and environmental leaders by siding with Dominion on the dumping of coal ash in rivers and, most notoriously, the construction of patently harmful pipelines for fracked gas like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. Paylor barely hides his close connection to Dominion. In 2013, he accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from Dominion to the Masters Golf Tournament in Georgia, including a fully paid bar tab.

“Governor Northam, today, missed an important opportunity to take a concrete step forward for the environment by replacing Paylor with someone who truly values the protection of the environment. We call on the Governor to reconsider his decision and replace Paylor as soon as possible.”