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Superb Article in the Virginia Mercury Clearly Shows How Virginia “Regulatory” Authorities Have Facilitated Disastrous Virginia Pipeline Projects


I find this pipelines article by Robert Zullo in the Virginia Mercury both fascinating and disturbing. A few key lines that jumped out at me were as follows. By the way, note that the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), which is funded by corporate/polluter interests and which has a bunch of Republicans and corporate types on its board, specifically did NOT choose to include this excellent, important article (“Virginia’s pipeline projects and the aura of inevitability”) in its morning news clips. So much for “transparency” from VPAP!

  • Trump’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has now given “Dominion Energy permission to begin cutting down trees in Buckingham County to clear the way for a massive compressor station the company wants to build as part of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
  • That approval came “even though the proposed 54,000 horsepower compressor station still lacks an air permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.”
  • Of course, as Zullo’s superb article points out, “that kind of minor detail hasn’t stopped FERC in the past,” with the FERC/Dominion strategy apparently being to “plung[e] ahead with as much work as it can get away with before all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.” In other words, make the pipelines a fait accompli, with an “aura of inevitability” around them, in part to demoralize opponents into giving up.
  • Meanwhile, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been utterly worthless – or worse than worthless – “long ago [giving] in to that aura of inevitability surrounding the ACP and a separate project planned to cross through southwest Virginia: the Mountain Valley Pipeline.”
  • Note that Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline “was championed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe before anyone had seen a single plan sheet depicting how the project could be safely built.”
  • Meanwhile, claims of environmental racism, “including by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice,” have been completely ignored, including by “the  deaf ears of Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and members of the Legislative Black Caucus.”
  • As for Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, he has continues with his absurd line that “largely blames the broken federal approval process for the pipelines and tip-toes around the state’s considerable authority to regulate the projects.”
  • In the end, FERC is an important and powerful entity, but Virginia DOES have a great deal of authority (e.g., under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act) over these pipeline projects. Instead, Virginia’s “regulatory” authorities have gone in the other direction, with DEQ for instance “conduct[ing] an all-out push to convince the State Water Control Board to issue water quality certifications for the projects.”
  • The bottom line, as those who have been following this entire cluster@#!# closely the past year+ know very well, is that ” state regulators…were more interested in looking out for big business than regular people.”

In sum, great article by Robert Zullo of the NON-CORPORATE Virginia Mercury (note: I wonder if Zullo would have been allowed to write something like this at his old employer, the Republican Times-Disgrace…er, Richmond Times-Dispatch), laying out clearly how Virginia’s “regulatory” authorities are in effect completely captured by the very industry they are supposed to be regulating. As is the rest of our state’s “leadership,” using that word loosely. As was Terry McAuliffe, who apparently got all his energy/environmental information from Dominion CEO Tom Farrell, and who by the way should NOT BE the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 under any circumstances.


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