Category Archives: Virginia government

Virginia Water Board Urged to Revoke MVP Water Certification

From ABRA Update 219 on February 28, 2019:

Attorneys representing 10 local, state and regional organizations sent a letter on February 28 to the members of the Virginia State Water Control Board, urging the Board to start promptly a process to revoke the water quality certification issued for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). At the same time, the attorneys strongly urge the Board to use enforcement tools available to it to stop work on the pipeline while the revocation process goes forward. The Water Control Board is to meet March 1 at 10 am to discuss how to proceed with considering a possible revocation of the MVP certification, a decision the Board made over two months ago. A live streaming of the Water Board meeting will be available at http://www.facebook.com/vasierraclub.

The attorneys’ letter was written in response to a letter MVP sent to Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor on February 12, and subsequently given to Water Board members, claiming that a “cooperative effort [between MVP and DEQ] on the Project has achieved a high level of environmental protection and overall is in very good order.” The attorneys’ letter takes issue with that view:

The State Water Control Board (Board) has the authority to revoke the water quality certification for upland activities that it issued to Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP). The violations MVP has committed and the damage it has done easily meet and exceed the thresholds defined in Virginia law upon which revocation may be based.

We strongly urge the Board to order the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to schedule and issue notice for a formal hearing by a specific date not to exceed ten days from the date of your decision. The delay that has followed the Board’s order to DEQ to take those steps, issued on December 13, 2018, has already allowed harm to the environment and people to continue unabated for eleven weeks. In addition to proceeding to a revocation hearing for the water quality certification, we ask the Board to take all possible steps to stop work on this project immediately.

Organizations represented by the signers of the letters include six ABRA members: Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club and Wild Virginia, plus Preserve Floyd, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Preserve Bent Mountain, Preserve Craig and POWHR Coalition (Protect Our Water, Heritage Rights).

An Open Letter to Governor Ralph Northam

Dear Governor,

It is unfortunate you were unable to attend the February 19 meeting in Buckingham County, with keynote speakers Rev. William Barber and Al Gore addressing “The Moral Call for Ecological Justice”. The presentations were comprehensive in outlining the many injustices that would be visited on the Union Hill community if Dominion is allowed to build a huge compressor station there. You could have learned a lot had you been there, and we encourage you to take the time to review the video now available online.

At this point in your governorship, you have conveyed the message that you have no real concern about environmental justice or Union Hill. You first dismissed the report of your Advisory Council on Environmental Justice as a draft, and when council leaders made it clear that the report was, in fact, their final report, you simply ignored it. Late in the review process, after a secret meeting with Dominion’s CEO, you abruptly removed two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board who had raised concerns about the potential compressor station’s impacts on area residents. You have allowed the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality to carry out his duties in a way that indicates he supports building the pipeline rather than doing his job in a neutral way. You have shown no concern that the Air Pollution Control Board’s last hearing on the compressor station was a meaningless show leading to a pre-arranged permit approval. In all, your actions regarding the compressor station at Union Hill are a dereliction of your duty to citizens of the Commonwealth.

If you are to fulfill your promise of leading Virginia forward you will need to do much more than apologize for past mistakes or make vague promises to ‘heal’ Virginia. You will need to take concrete action toward dismantling institutional racism. Your position gives you both the authority and the responsibility to lead on this.

The path you have laid out for yourself will be long and difficult. For the sake of all the citizens of Virginia and the country, we hope you persevere and succeed. We will be watching closely.

Sincerely,

Helen Kimble, President
Friends of Nelson County

Where’s the Promised Hearing?

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on February 13, 2019, members of the POWHR Coalition ask, “Where’s the pipeline hearing you promised?”

The State Water Control Board passed a motion on December 13, 2018, requiring a hearing on whether the water quality certificate for the Mountain Valley Pipeline should be revoked. But eight weeks later, no hearing date has been announced and the MVP continues to inflict damage.

“MVP’s ongoing pattern of violations disproves the assertion that formed the basis for certification, that compliance with water quality standards was reasonably assured. Every day that passes without a stop work order from the commonwealth undermines the board’s intention to reconsider the question of reasonable assurance. The Department of Environmental Quality’s refusal to issue stop-work orders where harm continues and imminent threats to water quality now exist betrays the state’s duty to use its full authority to protect our resources.”

The authors call on the Board to:

  • meet as soon as possible
  • vote that DEQ and the attorney general act immediately to stop work and prevent even further damage
  • provide an opportunity for meaningful citizen input. “In this case, participation by citizens is especially necessary to ensure that the interests of the public and the environment are represented. Recent disclosures by a former board member show that DEQ Director David Paylor is hostile to citizens.”

“It is important to stress that the authority for the notice and hearing process lies with the board; DEQ is merely tasked with carrying out the board’s order.”

Read the full article here.

On February 14, 2019, a meeting was announced for March 1, 2019, to discuss details on when the actual hearing will take place, and the format it will take.  The Water Board meeting to discuss a time and process for the actual hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1021 Koger Center Blvd., Richmond.

SELC Challenges Virginia Air Board Decision

In a press release on February 8, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center announced their challenge of the Air Pollution Control Board on behalf of the Union Hill Community. The press release states:

Today the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its client the Friends of Buckingham, challenged the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s decision to approve Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Buckingham County compressor station.

“The Air Board has refused to address the disproportionate harm that our community will have to bear as a result of the construction of this polluting compressor station,” said John W. Laury of Friends of Buckingham. “The members of our community should not have our health put at risk for a project that wasn’t properly vetted for environmental justice or air quality concerns.”

The Air Board and the Department of Environmental Quality did not meet their obligations under state and federal laws to consider less polluting alternatives and the best available pollution controls for minimizing pollution from the proposed compressor station.

“The backdrop to the board’s decision about the compressor station is the mounting evidence that customers in Virginia do not need the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to meet their energy needs,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “When a project like this pipeline goes forward without a full and transparent evaluation of its public necessity, it unfairly puts communities like Union Hill in harm’s way.”

Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is already stymied because a federal court has vacated or put on hold multiple required permits for failing to comply with applicable law and federal agencies have themselves revoked other permits.

Statement from Union Hill Community

A powerful statement from the Union Hill community of Buckingham County, VA after their press conference on Saturday February 2, 2019, following Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to stay in office.

“For us who live or work in Union Hill, Buckingham, Virginia, the revelations that Gov. Ralph Northam engaged in racist behavior in medical school over thirty years ago are less troubling than his most recent actions, inactions, and silence about environmental racism related to the massive fracked gas compressor station to be built in Union Hill.

“When Gov. Northam removed two of the 5 Air Pollution Control Boards in the middle of a decision about that compressor station air permit after they raised questions of environmental [in]justice for that siting — his actions spoke loudly about his unwillingness to make donor sacrifices for his PAC required to make racial justice a reality in Virginia.

“His support of the actions of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to push through the controversial air permit for Union Hill speaks loudly that he is not committed to racial justice in our state. For, the VDEQ spokesman publicly erased the existence of Union Hill’s African American majority and labeled its history of “no significance.” That history is of former slaves building a freedmen community on plantations lands where they were once enslaved. And, whose present day residents are their descendants threatened by the carcinogenic cocktail of most harmful air emissions of Virginia’s ACP compressor station.

“Tellingly, Gov. Northam not only ignored the unanimous decision by his Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for him to issue a moratorium on the ACP and MVP pipelines until environmental justice reviews were taken, but disbanded that body of citizen experts to create a “new” EJ council with seats for the very corporate polluters whose toxic emissions were the reason for the EJ council formation.

“We ask you to consider the direct lines we see between the actions of a young man and his actions and silence when elected to the most powerful office in Virginia. It is not a matter of Democrat or Republican in state that was the capital of the Confederacy. It is a question of making the hard, ethical choices to do the daily work of restorative justice toward racial justice in Virginia.

“The following spokespersons for Union Hill are willing to speak with reporters today:

“Rev. Pastor Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Grove MIssionary Baptist Church and leader of the movement to stop the environmental injustice of the compressor station
Cell: (804) 356-4288

“Mr. John W. Laury, Union Hill farmer, veteran, Union Grove deacon, and freedman family descendant in Union Hill
Cell: (434) 390-7650

“Mrs. Ruby Laury, Union Hill, Friends of Buckingham steering committee member and Concern for the New Generation member
Cell: (434) 390-4824

“Dr. Lakshmi Fjord, anthropologist, Friends of Buckingham Steering Committee, principal researcher, Union Hill Community Study and History
Cell: (510) 684-1403”

See press coverage in the Daily Progress on February 2, 2019.

Northam’s Silence


Jonathan Sokolow’s column of September 4, 2018, Pipeline Politics: The Appalling Silence of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, is worth rereading at this time.

Sokolow’s column concludes, “Ralph Northam seems to have found the time and motivation to speak out on everything from the view from Mount Vernon to his views on oysters. Meanwhile, two of those closest to Northam, his Chief of Staff Clark Mercer and his Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler, have demonstrated not only tone deafness but little inclination to do anything for the people of Union Hill and many other front-line communities. Thousands of people stand to have their lives, water, land and future devasted for generations to come by these proposed pipelines. All for two massive and unnecessary fracked gas pipelines that together represent more than $10 billion in new investment in fossil fuel in Virginia. These pipelines come at exactly the wrong time. when climate change continues apace and is becoming an existential threat to our entire planet. Also to be harmed by these pipelines: Northam’s beloved Chesapeake Bay, including, by the way, the oysters. Northam’s silence is more than just embarrassing. His failure to listen to his own appointees is more than just insulting. One might say his silence is appalling. It needs to stop now.”