Category Archives: Virginia government

Northam Dodges Air Board Questions

Speaking on November 28, 2018, during his regular appearance on WTOP, Northam dodges three questions on the Air Pollution Control Board.  If, as he says, he takes the environment very seriously, he should allow the Board members who have studied the issues and heard all the presentations to vote on December 10, 2018.

He says he expected the Board to vote in November and did not expect the new appointees to vote on the compressor statement permit – but if that were really true, he would have waited to appoint the new members until after December 10 (instead of five days after the November hearing).

Call him out: 804-786-2211

And Then There Were Four?

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on November 26, 2018, that not only will Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher, the Air Pollution Control Board members Northam removed on November 15 after they questioned the permit for the compressor station,  not be reinstated for the crucial vote at the Board’s December 10 meeting, but Northam will 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.   ( New air board members won’t be seated until after Dec. 10 vote on compressor station for Atlantic Coast Pipeline. )

Northam’s spokesperson continues to maintain that the timing of the dismissals was “not because of anything pending before the air board.” How can Northam possibly think Virginians will believe that? Or is he so committed to doing what Dominion wants that he doesn’t care?

Blue Virginia details the timeline of Northam’s actions in their November 27, 2018 article, Ralph Northam’s Latest Air Pollution Control Board Move Proves He Must Think Virginians Are All Complete Idiots.  The highlights:

  • November 9-10: Two day hearing on the proposed Buckingham compressor station, final vote postponed until December 10 meeting.
  • November 15: Northam removes Sam Bleicher and Rebecca Rubin from the Board.
  • November 16: Northam appoints two new members of the Board.
  • November 17: Sam Bleicher wrote publicly on his Facebook page: “Was Dominion Energy involved in the decision? Decide for yourself.” Bleicher also added, in a comment on that same page, “all indications are that I was removed because I sounded like I might vote against the Dominion Energy permit.”
  • November 21: Rebecca Rubin “discussed her removal from the board,” writing that “the timing of the dismissals was ‘very unfortunate’…coming as they did just prior to such a crucial vote,” and adding that “[b]ringing two new board members on board has interrupted ‘an in-depth review, by an intact board, of the record and two days of hearings.’”
    November 21: Community Idea Stations reported that “One of Governor Ralph Northam’s new appointments for the State Air Pollution Control Board says she was first contacted ‘a few days ago’ about the role” and that it was a “delightful surprise.”  Of the compressor station, she also said “I have not really had the time to study that in great detail.”
    November 26: The RTD reported that the two new members of the Air Pollution Control Board would NOT be sworn in by December 10 and therefore would NOT vote on the compressor station, and that the dismissed members weren’t being reinstated.

Blue Virginia‘s conclusion: “None of this looks normal. None of this sounds normal. None of this smells normal. Because none of this IS normal.”

Call the Governor’s Office today!   804-786-2211.  Go here to email him:  https://www.governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/

Keep Calling (and Sending Email)


Call Governor Northam today at 804-786-2211 and tell him that:

  • You are profoundly disappointed by his unacceptable decision
  • Changing the Air Pollution Control Board membership shortly before a final vote on the Buckingham compressor station is a transparent giveaway to support Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline
  • These personnel changes appear to put corporate interests above the public interest
  • He should reverse his decision and reinstate Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher until after the Board votes on the pending permit
  • Send email to the Governor using the form at https://www.governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/

The new members did not hear the public comment, nor the new information presented by Dominion and DEQ at the hearing. The timing of the governor’s decision is an affront to the Board, the citizens of the Commonwealth, and concepts of good governance. Call the Governor today and tell him that Virginians deserve better!

And while you are at it, call Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (804-786-2078) and Attorney General Mark Herring (804-786-2071). Since each citizen board has an advising attorney from the Attorney General’s office, we ask Mark Herring, our elected Attorney General, to protect the Commonwealth from the interference of the Governor.

Wild Virginia Seeks Public Records on Governor’s Pipeline Maneuvers

News from Wild Virginia on November 21, 2018:

Wild Virginia sent letters to the office of Governor Ralph Northam on November 21, 2018 asking for records related to two vital issues in the State of Virginia’s actions to regulate the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects.

First, we asked for any documents describing a private meeting between Thomas Ferrell, Dominion Energy’s CEO, the Governor, and DEQ Director David Paylor on November 19th. (See article in Blue Virginia),  We believe that while regulatory reviews of ACP are ongoing it is important that our State officials tell us exactly what their relations with the regulated parties are. That’s the principle behind the Freedom of Information Act – that the people know as much as possible about their government and its workings. As stated in the letter to Rita Davis, the Governor’s Counsel, “Governor Northam has repeatedly promised that regulatory processes will be fully transparent and fair.” And while we acknowledged that the Governor may be able shield these records from public view under exemptions in the law, our representatives may waive those exemptions and “[c]oncealment of the information requested in this letter will not be consistent with [the Governor’s] promises.”

Second, we requested records that would reveal the Governor’s process for deciding whether and when to remove members of the Air Pollution Control Board and the State Water Control Board.” The timing of dismissals of two members from each Board, especially the two Air Board members who had expressed concerns about the permit for ACP’s Buckingham compressor station, has raised serious questions as to whether the Governor has sought to influence what are supposed to be independent citizen Boards. All of these members’ terms had expired at the end of June this year and their sudden removals just weeks before the Air Board is to make a final decision on Buckingham air permit, raises serious questions. Was this action taken to influence the outcome of that vote? Can newly-named Air Board members possibly be adequately prepared to judge the complex issues involved by the time the Board meets on December 10? Will this action have a chilling effect on Board members who may question DEQ’s proposals in the future?

Full disclosure in regard to both issues we’ve addressed is necessary and we hope the Governor will live up to the ideals of open and honest government he has espoused. Stay tuned for news of his response to our requests.

Read the FOIA’s here

FOIA Request, Records Related to Meeting Between Governor Northam, Dominion Energy, and State Agencies

FOIA Request, Records Related to Dismissal and Appointment of Members of the Air Pollution Control Board and the State Water Control Board

No Answers from Northam


Why won’t Governor Northam answer our questions? Who does he really answer to: Dominion Energy or the people of Virginia? He has secret meetings with Dominion CEO, Tom Farrell and won’t answer our simple question: how can the new Air Board members vote without having heard any public comment?

Our voices must be heard. Show up in Richmond for the next Air Board meeting on December 10th.

Holding Northam’s Feet to the Fire

What do a former Air Pollution Control Board member, journalist Jonathan Sokolow, the editorial board of the Daily Progress, and the Marcellus Drilling News have in common? They all recognize that Governor Northam interfered with the regulatory process when he conducted his Thursday Night Massacre.

Vivian Thomson is a retired University of Virginia professor of environmental science and politics and a former member of the State Air Pollution Control Board. She is the author of Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation.  Writing in the Virginia Mercury on November 19, 2018 (A governor meddles with the air board as it weighs a Dominion Energy permit and a former member gets déjà vu), she says, “Sadly, Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision last week to replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board, even as the board considers a crucial permit that would allow a compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, is far from an anomaly.” She goes on to describe the multiple times between 2006-2010, during her second term on the Board, when then-Governor Kaine and the General Assembly undermined both the Air and the Water Control Boards. Each time, the courts upheld Board decisions. Speaking of the newly appointed replacement Air Board members, she says they, “will find it difficult to get up to speed quickly with the complicated technical, legal, ethical and policy issues involved. Based on my experience, they will be fed information supportive of DEQ’s and Gov. Northam’s position and pressured to approve DEQ’s proposal. The board members face the possibility that the governor and the General Assembly will override whatever they decide. But, ultimately, the board members must exercise their broad discretion in a reasoned, lawful manner that protects the board’s short- and long-term integrity and credibility. They should remember that the air board is supposed to exercise its independent judgment, and that, when we did so between 2006 and 2010, courts supported our decisions.”

Writing in Medium on November 20, 2018 (I Can’t Breathe: Ralph Northam Takes Off the Mask and Reveals He Works for Dominion Energy), Jonathan Sokolow discusses Northam’s “brazen power play” on November 15 when he fired two members of the Air Pollution Control Board “precisely because it appeared likely that Dominion, which has given lavishly to Northam and to most politicians in Virginia in both parties, was about to be denied the permit it so desperately seeks for the only compressor station in Virginia to service the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” Sokolow describes how, at the November 9 Air Board hearing, “at least three of the six board members — and perhaps a fourth — saw through the web of lies they were being told by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, led by its longtime Director, David Paylor. Multiple board members made it clear that they knew they were being misled by DEQ and that they intended to assert the authority granted to them by the legislature to right this wrong.” And he says that before the Board broke for lunch, “David Paylor had been visibly upset as he witnessed first one, then another, then a third board member politely but firmly challenge DEQ.” It is unknown what Paylor did during the lunch break, but when the Board returned from lunch, “one of the board members read from her tablet a motion to defer the permit decision until December 10. The board then adjourned and abruptly left the room. It was like the oxygen had been sucked right out of that room. Union Hill had been about to win. Now the board was gone. It was hard to understand what had just happened. It was hard to breathe. Six days later, the mask came off. Northam fired Bleicher and Rubin. …. The next day, Northam named two new members to replace Bleicher and Rubin. And if they vote on December 10 as Dominion hopes they will vote, the compressor station will be approved and the fate of Union Hill will be sealed. All because Ralph Northam rigged the vote.”

The Daily Progress editorial on November 20, 2018 (Air board appointments shock, surprise) says “Mr. Northam has just gotten rid of two State Air Pollution Control Board members less than a week after they voiced concerns over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station planned for Buckingham County. You’d have to twist yourself into a pretzel trying to come up with a position on this decision other than the obvious one: Gov. Northam deliberately removed the two people most likely to object to approval of the compressor station. The decision and its timing are just too conspicuous to be coincidental — although the governor says there is no connection. If you believe that the governor never intended to eliminate dissent, then you’d also have to conclude that he was clueless…. Right before a major decision is typically not a good moment to upend a group’s membership, all other things being equal. To opponents of the replacement maneuver, however, that aspect of timing is only part of the issue. More critical is the implication that the governor deliberately dumped compressor critics — and perhaps even replaced them with people more likely to smooth the facility’s path. We seriously doubt that Gov. Northam was clueless about how this maneuver would be perceived.”

Finally, even the pro-fracking and pro-pipeline Marcellus Drilling News, recognized Northam’s strong-arm tactics, writing on November 19 that he “canned two board members who voted to delay a vote on an ACP compressor station,” and concluding, “The timing of their replacement sends an unmistakable signal to the board: You WILL approve this compressor station, or else.”

Hold Northam’s feet to the fire – flood Northam’s phone lines and inbox with your objections to his obvious efforts to reward Dominion at the expense of Union Hill and the rest of Virginia:
Phone – Governor’s office: 804-786-2211
Email – https://www.governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/