Home Dominion Power On His Air Pollution Control Board Scandal, Ralph Northam Apparently Has Never...

On His Air Pollution Control Board Scandal, Ralph Northam Apparently Has Never Heard of Occam’s Razor. Unfortunately for Northam, the Rest of Us Have.

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Back in mid-November, the Northam administration suddenly/summarily decided to dismiss two Virginia Air Pollution Control Board members who were likely “no” votes on a crucial compressor station in historically African-American Union Hill for Dominion Energy’s multi-billion-dollar-boondoggle Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Since then, the Northam administration has struggled to explain its HIGHLY suspicious actions in a way that any sentient, not-terminally-naive human being might possibly believe.

For instance, on November 15, Northam spokesperson Ofirah Yheskel explained it all away as routine: “The terms of two members serving on each of these boards expired at the end of June” and “The governor is exercising his statutory authority to appoint members of his choosing to these board seats.” Except that Yheskel failed to explain several important aspects of these dismissals:

  • Why dismiss these board members and not the other 235 (!) members of Virginia boards and commissions with expired terms? Pure coincidence that the Air Pollution Control Board just HAPPENED to have just come close to voting down the crucial compressor station on a project by the most powerful corporation and political player in Virginia, Dominion Energy? Uh, huh – riiiiiiight! LOL
  • Why dismiss them just weeks before a crucial, almost certainly decisive, vote by the Air Board on said compressor station? Any reason why Northam couldn’t have let the two members serve through that vote, or even have reappointed them to another term? Were they doing a bad job in any way, other than pissing off Dominion and other pipeline cheerleaders, like fossil-fuel-loving LiUNA for instance.
  • Why play crazy, transparently corrupt games like this (“Northam’s administration, however, says it’s planning to go ahead and swear in the new members even if they’re not going to participate in the next meeting”) in order to block the two dismissed members from attempting to show up and demand their right to vote?
  • Why does Ralph Northam keep repeating the same moronic, meaningless pablum over and over and over again — about how this is all supposedly routine, how the new members – who Virginia environmentalists know almost nothing about – are “very qualified individuals” (note: even if true, they know NOTHING about the highly technical, complex compressor station issue); about how the Air Board “chose not to take that vote” (my understanding is that the Air Board was about to vote down the compressor station, prompting an emergency intervention by the governor’s office and others); about how Northam is supposedly all about “the science” (which is, of course, clear that we need to not build any more fossil fuel infrastructure if we hope to head off disastrous man-made climate change) and “the law” (while Northam fails to use his extensive powers under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act); blah blah blah.

In short, the explanations by Northam and Northam’s spokespeople for these Air Board firings are convoluted, laughable and utterly nonsensical. They also completely fail to pass the “Occam’s Razor” test, which is that “We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.” And what IS the simplest hypothesis possible in this case? Very simple: look at whose interests are being threatened here (Dominion Energy, LiUNA, etc.), who has significant power over Northam (Dominion Energy, LiUNA, etc.), and who has every motive to pressure Northam to ram this compressor station project home, whatever it takes.

Over at Virginia Mercury, Robert Zullo – who appears to be liberated, and doing great work, after escaping from the right-wing, pro-fossil-fuel, pro-Dominion editors at the Richmond Times-Dispatch/Republican Times-Disgrace – nails it (bolding added by me for emphasis):

Can Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to yank two members off the State Air Pollution Control Board as it weighs a permit for the compressor station Dominion Energy plans for Buckingham County be seen as anything other than what it appears to be: a clumsy attempt to tip the scale for the influential utility?

In the nearly three weeks since the decision, Northam’s administration has offered nothing in the realm of the remotely plausible that explains the move and its timing.

In fact, he’s sunken deeper into this mess of his own making by preventing his handpicked replacements from voting on the contentious air permit next week, which, curiously, Northam now says was the plan all along.

[…]

Careful politicians like Northam, used to weighing the costs and benefits of an action meticulously, don’t do something like that for no reason.

I agree with that last paragraph 100% – careful politicians like Northam do NOT do crap like this for no reason(s). And what are the reasons in this case? Again, it’s blatantly obvious: Northam is doing the bidding of the two main interests behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project (Dominion Energy and LiUNA), even if it screws over Virginia ratepayers, the community of Union Hill, the people who live along the pipeline route, the environment, the energy future of Virginia, the economic future of Virginia, etc, etc. What’s weird is that Northam can’t run for reelection, so you’d think he might feel a bit free to tell Dominion, LiUNA et al to go pound sand. But nope; apparently the grip of those special interests is simply to great to break free of, even as a governor of Virginia should be looking out for the broader good of the Commonwealth.