See below for comments from Virginia environmental groups regarding the latest move by the state “Department of Environmental Quality” (in air quotes because it’s really the Department of Doing Dominion Energy’s Bidding) to – as Wild Virginia puts it – ensure that the Union Hill fracked-gas compressor station “permit [is] shoved through as quickly as possible.” Appalling, but not surprising, as usual…
First, here’s the VA Sierra Club:
Northam Administration Schedules Controversial Comment Period Over Christmas
Governor’s Actions Make Clear He’s for Pipelines, Not People
Today, on the Friday before Christmas, the Department of Environmental Quality opened a comment period on specific documents newly submitted to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (Board) on the Buckingham County Compressor station. The comment period will last only 14 days, four of which are Virginia state government holidays, ending on January 4. This follows the Board’s request for the comment period during their meeting on December 19.
Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of controversial moves by the Northam administration to clear the path for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline projects, including removing two members of the Board who raised questions about the health and environmental justice implications of the compressor station.
In response, Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, released the following statement:
“DEQ’s decision to schedule this comment period over Christmas and New Year’s is nothing more than an attempt to silence the vast majority of Virginians who will now be unable to participate. Buckingham County communities, including Union Hill, have already been through the ringer as this compressor station threatens their community, homes and health, and this extremely brief comment period adds further tension to an already stressful situation.
“Virginians, just like Gov. Northam and those at DEQ, should be able to spend this time with their families and friends, not fighting against corporate polluters and government processes that have been bent to those corporations’ will. DEQ should extend the length of this comment period further into the new year in order to allow for adequate public engagement.”
And here’s Wild Virginia:
The Virginia DEQ has today published a notice for the comment period mandated by the Air Pollution Control Board at its meeting on Wednesday. The Board’s order was intended to allow citizens to provide further information and respond to new documents related to the Buckingham compressor station permit.
It is significant that the DEQ has limited the comment period to just 14 days during which the Christmas and New Year’s holidays will fall. Only 7 of these days are non-holiday weekdays. Also, notable is the fact that this notice was issued only 48 hours after the Board issued its instruction.
We must ask who the short window for public involvement serves and the only conclusion is Dominion Energy and DEQ Director David Paylor, both of whom have shown they want this permit shoved through as quickly as possible.
We contrast this behavior by DEQ with that exhibited when it was ordered by the State Water Control Board to hold a new public comment period over ACP and MVP water quality certifications. Despite the fact that the timeliness of Board action was of utmost importance at that time, due to the destruction from MVP which had already begun construction, DEQ dragged its feet. After the April 12, 2018 Board meeting, it took DEQ 18 days to issue a public notice.
Once again, DEQ has shown that its leaders don’t really want the public to play its proper role in the regulatory process. DEQ can move very quickly when that haste benefits pipeline companies but action is painfully slow when the wider public interest is at stake.
We assume the Air Board members intended the public comment period to be sufficient to gather well-considered and well-supported comments – not to have a comment period designed to make it as difficult as possible for the public. DEQ must extend the period to at least 30 days, a bare minimum for a reasonable process. Fairness demands it.