Water Control Board Votes to Reconsider MVP Certification

At their regular meeting on December 12, 2018, The State Water Control Board voted 4-3 to reconsider the 401 certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Please recall that when Northam removed the two members of the Air Control Board who had questioned the air permit for the Union Hill compressor station, he also removed two Water Control Board members who had questioned water permit certification for the pipelines. One of Northam’s new appointments to the Water Board, James Lofton, made the motion to reconsider the MVP certification, and members Dean, Jasinki (also new), and Wayland joined him in voting to reconsider. Voting against reconsideration were Heather Wood, Lou Ann Wallace and Tim Hayes.

Although the MVP’s nationwide permit was revoked months ago, the Department of Environmental Quality took no action to shut down pipeline construction. Just a week ago, Attorney General Mark Herring filed suit against MVP for their repeated environmental violations – hundreds of violations.

Writing in an op-ed in a Virginia Mercury article published earlier in the day, Roberta Kellum, one of the Water Board members Northam removed, wrote of Herring’s suit that “After reading the complaint, there should be no doubt about the validity of the concerns raised by the public about water quality impacts from fracked gas pipeline construction projects and the associated water quality certifications issued by the State Water Control Board. What the complaint doesn’t tell us, however, is how the DEQ allowed so many violations to occur unabated, for months and months, or how major erosion and sediment control structures failed in spite of pre-approved plans.” She adds, “And why, in the face of so many systemic failures in complying with the water quality certification, didn’t DEQ issue a stop work order to ensure that violations were addressed to prevent any degradation of water quality? Having faced a justifiably irate and frustrated public repeatedly as a State Water Control Board member over the past two years, I hope Gov. Northam will finally appreciate the validity of public concerns for the waters of the commonwealth.”

Yes, indeed, it is certainly time for the State Water Control Board to reconsider their certification of the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline. Our thanks to the Board members who voted to do so.

Fourth Circuit Court Throws out ACP’s Forest Service Permit


On December 13, 2018, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a federal approval for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Appalachian Trail.

The case was argued before the Court on September 28, 2018, with the Southern Environmental Law Canter and Appalachian Mountain Advocates representing the plaintiffs.

The Court found that the Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” and noted the agency’s “serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.” The opinion says the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and did not have authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way across the Appalachian Trail.

Read the Court’s opinion here.

See news coverage from Virginia Mercury here.

See news coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.

Be aware: The Richmond Times-Dispatch points out that, “Dominion’s allies in Congress reportedly are considering an amendment to a pending appropriations bill for the Department of Interior that would permit the crossing of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway near Reed’s Gap.”  Additional information hereContact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose any legislative amendment that would give the National Park Service unchecked authority to allow pipeline construction.

Circle of Protection, Sunday December 16


Circle of Protection INDOORS on Sunday December 16, 2018. The folks of Union Hill have voted to have this Sunday’s Circle of Protection at Union Grove Baptist Church vigil INSIDE THE CHURCH.

Join the interfaith vigil with story and song, and church potluck to follow. Note new location at Union Grove Church, 2522 Shelton Store Rd, Buckingham, VA 23921 (very near Union Hill Baptist where previous gatherings have been) and remember to print out those directions in advance of setting out (cell service spotty!). With music from Evelyn Dent and Farm Use Old Time String Band, prayer from John Laury and Pastor Paul Wilson, poetry from Ella Rose and personal story by Kay Ferguson.

This will be the last Circle of Protection for the season.

CSI General Information Workshop – Augusta County


The first general information workshop in Augusta County on the pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI) will be held on Saturday, January 5th, 10am-2pm, at the Stuarts Draft Rescue Squad, 10 Manor Rd., Stuarts Draft VA.

While recent wins are to be celebrated, let’s not let our guard down against ACP. Join friends and neighbors getting organized against destructive and damaging construction practices and gain the tools and training you need to blow the whistle on Dominion.

The event is free, but CSI will be providing a light lunch and the form helps them plan for numbers and dietary restrictions. Please be sure to share the link to this form with anyone you invite to this event.

REGISTER HERE.

Further information or questions: ben@blueridgegeographics.com

In the Court of Public Opinion, Northam Loses

Writing in Blue View on December 8, 2018, two former members of Virginia state environment boards ask Gov Northam to delay the decision on controversial pipeline compressor station in African-American community. Roberta Kellam recently served almost nine years on the Virginia State Water Control Board, and previously was an instructor of Environmental Law and Policy at the University at Buffalo Law School and in private practice in upstate New York. Dr. Vivian E. Thomson, a retired professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia, is the author of three books, including Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation (2017, MIT Press), a first-person view of who wields power—and how—in air pollution policy-making at the state level.

They say, “Gov. Northam has failed the citizens of Virginia with his sudden decision to appoint two new members to the State Air Pollution Control Board just as the board is considering a controversial permit for a natural gas pipeline compressor station in Union Hill, an African-American community in central Virginia,” and call on him “to signal that the board may postpone its decision until early 2019 to give the two new members time to cast an informed vote.” And they ask Northam to pressure Dominion “to propose an alternative site for the compressor station that does not raise challenging issues of environmental justice.”

Kellum and Thomson note that “the problems go deeper in this case than the appointments chaos and skepticism about the proposed permit’s stringency. In effect, the governor, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dominion are saying that an historically African-American community is suitable for this compressor station. The governor seems to be ignoring his own environmental justice commission, which has pleaded for more analysis of the pipeline project’s impacts.”

And from personal experience as board members, they speak of witnessing “from the inside Virginia’s bipartisan ‘climate of capitulation’ to the state’s energy and electric utility interests.”

In an opinion piece in the Roanoke Times on December 10, 2018, Mike Ellerbrock, director of the Center for Economic Education at Virginia Tech, vicariate deacon for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, and appointed member of U.S. EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Governor Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, says bluntly, “When economics and ethics clash, bet on the dollar.”

In dismissing the report of his own Advisory Council on Economic Justice, refusing to meet pipeline opponents or even visit on the pipeline route, while meeting with Dominion’s Tom Farrell, Northam has clearly bet on the dollar.

Ellerbrock points out that, “Throughout ‘America the beautiful,’ poor and minority communities are frequently disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards relative to wealthier white neighborhoods. The differences in demographic and public health data are compelling. Hence, all federal agencies are required to identify and address issues of Environmental Justice (EJ) in their work. The EJ movement aims to protect the safety and health of underrepresented citizens who lack the political capacity to control the quality and destiny of their habitat or workplace. Note how the original draft routes of the pipelines shifted from wealthier to lower income neighborhoods.”

He illuminates the difference between an economic and an ethical approach: “Using strict economic logic, Lawrence Summers, former Harvard president, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and chief economist of the World Bank, advocated that the heaviest polluting industries should migrate to the poorest countries where they would do the least harm to humanity. Let that formula sink in. Conversely, the late John Rawls, eminent Harvard social philosopher across campus and author of ‘A Theory of Justice,’ asserted that the moral measure of a society is how well it treats its weakest members. Secular and religious ethics focus on the dignity of every human life, with liberty and justice for all.”

Rescheduled: Stand wtih Union Hill Concert of Prayer


The Stand with Union Hill Concert of Prayer has been rescheduled to Tuesday, December 18
on the eve of the also rescheduled Air Pollution Control Board Meeting and vote on Union Hill Compressor Station on Wednesday December 19, 2018. This Interfaith Prayer Vigil with story and song welcomes all seeking to protect all our Virginia communities from the threat of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor in Union Hill. Come for all or any part of the vigil you can. From 7:30 pm to midnight. Richmond Hill 2209 E. Grace Street, Richmond, VA