From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):
In a shocking move last week, Governor Ralph Northam abruptly dismissed three independent regulators who had concerns about the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipeline projects for fracked gas. In a move clearly meant to help utility monopoly Dominion Energy, Northam sacked the three officials from their posts on the State Air Pollution Control Board and State Water Control Board.
Incredibly, the Air Board members were about to vote in just a few days on a critical permit – one fraught with racial controversy – that Dominion needs to build the massive ACP pipeline. The Governor then appointed two new and obscure Air Board members who will presumably vote to support Dominion’s permit on December 10 in Richmond. This would then complete the governor’s incredibly heavy-handed, pro-pipeline move: a move that he promised Virginians he would not consider.
At a hearing November 9 to consider a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 55,000-horsepower compressor station in Buckingham County, Air Board members Samuel Bleicher and Rebecca Rubin expressed concerns that the facility may have a disproportionate impact on the majority African-American community of Union Hill. Concerns were also voiced about the greenhouse gas emissions from the proposed project and the underlying need for the pipeline.
The Air Board decided to postpone its vote until December 10 to make a final decision on the permit. But Governor Northam did not wait.
After the proceedings from the November 9 meeting put Dominion Energy’s compressor station permit in doubt, Governor Northam moved to change personnel on the Board before its final vote. He also informed State Water Control Board member Roberta Kellum that she will be removed from her post. Earlier this year, Ms. Kellum made a motion to revoke the water quality certifications for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines (the motion did not pass).
Last week, CCAN Virginia director Harrison Wallace issued the following statement that summarizes the views of many Virginians statewide:
“We are shocked and incredibly disappointed that the Northam Administration is terminating the terms of Air Board members Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher. The people of Union Hill and Buckingham County deserve a fair hearing [on Dominion’s massive compressor station for the ACP]. Governor Northam has now officially taken ownership of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and ownership of this compressor station, a facility which involves strong elements of environmental racism. The governor must understand that with today’s action, the public will now hold him responsible for all the future harm to water, the climate, farmland, and human life that now could come to Virginia.”
PS: If you want to learn about permanent alternatives to destructive pipelines, join us for a townhall event coming to a location near you in December. It’s called “From Pipelines to Progress: Virginia Unites for Jobs, Clean Energy, and Social Justice.” Check it out.
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