Governor Reconstitutes Environmental Justice Council

On January 23, 2019, the Virginia Mercury reported that Governor Northam is reconstituting an advisory council that he simply ignored in 2018. After multiple meetings to hear testimony and study the issues, the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, originally appointed by former Governor McAuliffe, submitted their report to Northam in May 2018. The Council called for a stay on all further permits for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, and found evidence of of “disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations due to gas infrastructure expansion.”

Northam maintained the report was merely a draft. The Council, in late August, reiterated that their report and recommendations were final, and formally urged Northam to direct state agencies to suspend water and air quality permits for the ACP and MVP. He continued to ignore them.

Now, according to the Mercury article, “The former members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice were invited to apply to serve on the new body, called the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, in an email from Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler. ‘I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to you and all members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for your service over the past year. I am pleased to report that the governor has acted on a key recommendation from your report to continue his commitment to environmental justice through the issuance of Executive Order 29 – establishing a new Virginia Council on Environmental Justice,’ Strickler wrote. The new council will ‘build on your work by recommending a long-term framework to guide environmental justice decision-making and ensure environmental justice concerns are integrated across state programs, policies, permits and procedures,’ Strickler said.

All well and good. But will the Governor pay any more attention to the Council this time around, especially if they recommend things he does not want to hear?

Read the full Virginia Mercury article here.