I reported a little while ago on Del. Sam Rasoul announcing, at a press conference earlier this afternoon (on, appropriately, an expose about the corrupting power of Dominion Energy), that the Northam administration might dismiss two members of the Air Pollution Control Board, both of whom oppose the compressor station for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Union Hill. Well, now it turns out they actually ARE replacing the members. Crazy! I mean, how is this not naked corruption by Dominion Energy and the other players involved – including the Northam administration – rigging the process to get their way when they don’t have any facts on their side, when they likely would have lost a fair vote of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board on the compressor station? Recall that just a few days ago, the Air Pollution Control Board postponed making a final decision on the permit until its meeting on December 10. At the time, many of us were thinking that this was a ploy to buy time, for Dominion and its allies to pull whatever tricks out of their large bag of dirty tricks. Looks like they’ve done just that.
With that, here’s a blistering statement from Harrison Wallace, Virginia Policy Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:
“We are shocked and incredibly disappointed that the Northam Administration is terminating the terms of Air Board members Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher. This deeply controversial move comes just weeks before a crucial vote on the Buckingham Compressor Station for fracked gas. The people of Union Hill and Buckingham County deserve a fair hearing from the full board. This decision will rob them of that opportunity. 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.”
Also, see below for a statement by a coalition of Virginia enviro groups – Virginia Conservation Network, Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Virginia, Chesapeake Climate Action Network – who say they are “shocked and extremely disappointed” at this move, that this “sends the wrong message. Citizen boards must remain independent from political interference during the decision-making process.” So true.
Statewide Conservation Groups Call on Northam to Reverse Decision to Replace Air Board Members During Pending Permit Decision
RICHMOND – Today, Governor Northam’s Secretary of the Commonwealth informed two Air Pollution Control Board members, Rebecca R. Rubin and Samuel A. Bleicher, that they would be removed from the Board. This comes just weeks before the body is expected to vote on a crucial air permit for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The removal of the members in the midst of debate is unusual, and concerning. The action comes less than a week after both Board members raised environmental justice concerns that pollution from Dominion’s proposed project will cause disproportionate air pollution impacts to the people of Union Hill. Dominion Energy is proposing to build the 55,000 horsepower industrial compressor station in the historic, predominantly African American neighborhood.
The Air Pollution Control Board is comprised of citizen experts tasked with upholding specific environmental statutes related to clean air, including authorizing permits that regulate or protect against air pollution.
The air board is scheduled to continue deliberations and vote on the compressor station permit on Dec. 10. Both Bleicher and Rubin were informed today they would be removed from the Board before that vote.
Governor Northam has repeatedly stressed the need for transparency and independence in the pipeline permitting process. In April 2018, Governor Northam said, “You know I have a lot of faith and confidence in our DEQ, and I need to let them do their work. We need to do this with science we want to do it with the law and we want to do it with transparency.” The removal of these members is in direct contradiction to these essential guiding principles.
In response, leading statewide conservation organizations issued the following joint statement:
“We are shocked and extremely disappointed in Governor Northam’s decision to interrupt the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s deliberation on the proposed Buckingham County compressor station. Removing citizen board members in the midst of contentious debate sends the wrong message. Citizen boards must remain independent from political interference during the decision-making process. We call on the Governor to reverse this decision until the current board has finalized its deliberations on the proposed permit.”
Virginia Conservation Network
Southern Environmental Law Center
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Chesapeake Climate Action Network