Category Archives: Take Action

Stand with Union Hill


All night vigil: Sunday, December 9, 7:30pm – Monday, December 10, 8:30am. Richmond Hill, 2209 E Grace St, Richmond 23223

Join the Union Hill community, people of faith, water and air protectors, and artists on Sunday December 9, 2018, at 7:30 pm, for an all night interfaith vigil prior to the Air Pollution Control Board meeting which will decide the fate of the Union Hill community with a vote on the air permit for the compressor station. At the vigil, leaders from many faith traditions will share prayers, music, meditate, and more around the theme of environmental justice. Come to lift up the community of Union Hill!

After the vigil concludes, the group will head over to the Air Pollution Control Board meeting to show up and support the residents of Union Hill and Buckingham County and to witness the decision. The Board meeting will begin at 10:00 am on Monday, December 10 in the First Floor House Committee Room, Pocahontas Building, 900 E Main St, Richmond 23219.

Northam and the Air Board Explained

Have you been hearing about Governor Northam and the Air Board and the pipeline but can’t quite figure out what’s going on? The Virginia Student Environmental Coalition takes a few minutes to break it down!

The Coalition is also sponsoring a rally in Richmond on Friday December 7 at 4 pm.

Congressional Act to Allow Pipelines to Cross Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway?


Say “NO!”

On December 3, 2018, KPVI6 reported that “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Dominion’s Aaron Ruby emailed the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying that, “Congress is considering a legislative amendment that would explicitly authorize the park service to grant a permit for such a crossing.”

The Park Service has twice issued permits for the ACP to cross the Parkway. After the first permit was issued, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated it in early August as an “arbitrary and capricious” exercise of the agency’s powers. At the same time, the Court also issued a stay of the permit the Forest Service issued for the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail. After the two agencies [minimally] revised their permits, FERC lifted the stay order, but appeals against the reissued permits are pending, and legal briefs to the Court are due at the end of this week.

In vacating the Park Service permit in early August, Judge Gregory did not rule decisively on whether the Park Service has authority to issue the permit under the Blue Ridge Parkway Organic Act, but he said it had failed to show how the project is consistent with the purposes of the parkway and National Park System. For example, the Park Service had conducted a visibility study and found that because the crossing at Reeds Gap near the Wintergreen entrance would be very visible, it would “thus significantly decreasing the park’s scenic value.”

In trying to get Congress to pass a bill (buried in the omnibus spending bill where they surely hoped no one would notice it) giving the Park Service authority to allow construction, Dominion is clearly trying to make an end run around pending Court rulings that might not be in their favor. Austin “DJ” Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, commented, “It’s disappointing but not surprising that Dominion would try to bend the law to its will. It’s already tried to bend the agencies to its will.” And he added, “The fact that Dominion is trying to work around [the law] before it even knows what the court has ruled is really shocking and bold.”

Take action! Contact 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. Contact Senator Shelby and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Kaine’s office says he does not support the measure, so thank Senator Kaine for protecting the land held in common for all of us to enjoy.

Digging a Deeper Hole for Himself


Governor Ralph Northam is digging the hole he’s made himself deeper and deeper.

First, on November 15, 2018, he removed Air Pollution Control Board members Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher after they questioned the permit for the compressor station at the November 8-9 Board meeting, the meeting at which the Board voted to postpone their decision until their December 10 meeting.

Then, on November 16, he announced two new appointments to the Board.

Northam’s office continues to maintain what is clearly unbelievable, saying the timing of the dismissals and new appointments had nothing to do with matters pending for the Air Board, because Rubin’s and Bleicher’s terms expired in June. However, so did those of 235 other appointees, none of whom have been summarily replaced. The hole is a little deeper.

Writing in the Roanoke Times on December 6, Jacob Hileman says, “”If we assume each board and commission member serving beyond his or her term has an equal chance of being removed on any given day by the governor, the odds of the two board members in question being randomly selected are 1 in 27,966.”

Northam made the hole he’d dug a bit deeper when he said in his November 28 appearance on WTOP that he expected the Board to vote in November and did not expect the new appointees to vote on the compressor statement permit. But we all know if that were really true, he could easily have waited to appoint the new members until after December 10 (instead of five days after the November hearing).

Then, on November 26, Northam announced he would not seat the two newly appointed members members until after December 10. Since one of the normally seven-person Board’s members has recused himself, that leaves only four Board members to vote on December 10. Quoted in the Washington Post on November 27, Walton Shepherd of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Washington Post that “The awkward lurch to now yank Northam’s new board members does not right the original wrong.”

In that same Washington Post article, “Greg Buppert, a lawyer with the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Northam’s action could leave the door open for the two removed board members to attend the meeting and vote. State law says that appointees serve until they are replaced, and these replacements haven’t come on board yet, Buppert said. Either way, the outcome does not make the Northam administration look good, he said. ‘I don’t know if this was intentional or just a remarkable stumble on the part of the administration,’ Buppert said. ‘But I think the message that the public heard was that the governor is facilitating a permit for Dominion.'”

But the hole Northam seems still to be digging for himself gets even deeper. On November 30, The Virginia Mercury reported, Governor won’t ‘seat’ new air board members, but still plans to swear them in, precluding participation of former members. According to the article, some argue that “under state law the current members serve until the moment their replacements are sworn in, meaning they could still potentially participate in the meeting barring further action by Northam — an interpretation backed by a 2013 attorney general’s opinion.” Since it would seem members could serve (and vote) until the new members are sworn in, that could have been a graceful out for Northam from his beleaguered position. But no, Dominion certainly doesn’t want the ousted members to vote, so Northam dug his hole deeper by saying he would swear in the new members, but that they would not take their seats on the Board until after the vote.

A Daily Progress editorial on December 5, quotes the Governor’s excuse, emailed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, for not seating the new members (“Given the compressed timeline the governor’s new appointees face, as well as the level of attention trained on their willingness to serve the commonwealth, they will not be seated until after the upcoming meeting of the air board on Dec. 10.”).  The editorial then says,  “The obvious retort: Mr. Northam’s decision created ‘the compressed timelime.’ Mr. Northam’s decision created the unfavorable ‘level of attention’ — which was to some degree trained on the new members, but more accurately trained on the governor himself. …. Surely it would have been better to have left the board intact for a while longer, preserving a breadth and diversity of opinion in deciding an issue that will affect the residents of Buckingham for a long — a very long — time.”

Robert Zullo, writing in The Virginia Mercury on December 5, asks, “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?” He says Northam has “sunken deeper into this mess of his own making by preventing his handpicked replacements from voting on the contentious air permit next week.” And Zullo concludes, “‘It just was,’ is evidently the best answer the administration can muster for why it has now cast a deep shadow of illegitimacy over a vote on an ultra-contentious project already seen as a dubious power grab by an energy giant mainly focused on shareholder profit.”

The Washington Post refers to all this as an “ugly episode.” Many groups and individuals continue to speak out against a governor who seems to have forgotten that he promised to be a different kind of politician, one who would never lie and always operate aboveboard. The editorial board of the Staunton News Leader describes what is really happening: “There just aren’t enough people to make Northam or others in the state government care about them more than they care about Dominion. Dominion’s influence is pervasive, and it’s people like Northam who reliably do their bidding. We can be disappointed, but shouldn’t be surprised.”

How deep a hole, disappointing but not surprising, will Northam dig?

Call Again!


The announcement that newly-appointed Air Board members won’t vote on Dec. 10 is not enough – it’s an attempt to appease the public. Unless Governor Northam reinstates Rubin and Bleicher so they can vote on the Dominion compressor station, the process will always be SUSPECT.

Your voice is needed immediately.  If you have already called, CALL AGAIN!   Contact Governor Northam today and tell him:

  • He must reverse his decision to remove these members of the Air Pollution Control Board.
  • The removals at this time interfere with the work of an independent body of citizen officials who are supposed to be free from political influence.
  • His action seems to be an effort to nullify opposition to Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, as these members expressed concerns about DEQ’s draft permit.
  • These Board members have heard extensive public comments and are best prepared to contribute to a sound decision at the next meeting in December.

Call the Governor 
(804) 786-2211

Email the Governor, c/o his Chief of Staff 
clark.mercer@governor.virginia.gov

Stand with Union Hill Concert of Prayer

The “Stand with Union Hill Concert of Prayer” will be an all night interfaith prayer vigil with music and story on the eve of the December 10, 2018, Air Pollution Control Board Meeting and vote on Union Hill Compressor Station, when the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board may approve or deny the air permit for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Union Hill, Buckingham County.

The all night vigil begins Sunday December 9 at 6 pm, and runs through Monday morning December 10 at 9:30 am; it will be held at Richmond Hill, 2209 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23223-7066.

Faith communities, water and air protectors, artists and environmental organizations will come together for the protection of Union Hill and all our children’s futures to share prayer, story and song.

Musicians, performers, or speakers who want to be part of the program should contact Laney of Earth Folk Collective, Earthfolkcollective@gmail.com; she is doing the music/art programming/scheduling.

For other questions and information contact info@friendsofbuckinghamva.org or see the Facebook Events page.