STATEMENT: Air Pollution Control Board Once Again Delays Vote for Buckingham County Air Permit
Citizen-led Board Signals Need for More Information as Dominion Pipeline Controversy Deepens
RICHMOND, VA — Today, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board opened a new comment period on the Minor New Source Review Permit for the disastrous Atlantic Coast Pipeline Compressor Station in Buckingham County, Virginia. If built, the 54,000 horsepower proposed compressor station, which would have been situated within a football field’s length of the homes of the descendents of freedmen in the community of Union Hill, would run 24 hours a day and emit sounds comparable to a jet engine. Facilities like this pollute the air with nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter and are linked to severe respiratory and cardiovascular ailments as well as cancer.
This vote is embroiled in controversy with the Northam Administration. After the Board decided in November to delay its vote for more time to allow citizens to weigh in on new information about this harmful project, Governor Northam removed two members of the board from their positions. These members appeared to take an oppositional stance to this project based on the tough questions they were presenting to Dominion at the hearing. The new appointees have not yet been seated, and one Board member has removed himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest. As such, just four of the seven board members have the opportunity to vote on the permit as of now. It is not yet clear if the new Board members will be seated before the final vote.
Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of CCAN, stated in response:
“We applaud the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board taking the time to fully consider the impacts of this harmful fracked-gas facility and hear the concerns of the people of Virginia. The people of Union Hill and across Buckingham have the right to walk out of their homes and breathe healthy air. The mere fact that Dominion has remained set on this community of freedmen as the ideal location of their compressor station is considered by many people to be the very definition of environmental racism. With all of the facts at hand, we’re confident the Air Board will have no choice but to stand tall in the face of this egregious injustice by rejecting its required permit.
“However, this whole process is tainted by Governor Northam’s apparent attempt to meddle in the regulatory proceedings. The only way the Board can save face at this point is by denying the air permit forthright. The Air Board must answer the moral call to action that the executive branch ignored by denying the permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station.”
Since the day this project was announced, community advocates in Union Hill have sounded the alarm on environmental justice concerns. Scores of concerned citizens have rallied and protested across the state in opposition of these projects. Hundreds turned up in Buckingham County to give public comment against the project. Thousands more sent written comments to the DEQ which requested the agency deny the permits. Yet no matter how many Virginians said this was a bad idea, Dominion continued pushing for this location.
In November, Dominion Energy announced its intention to spend over $5 million on improvements for Buckingham County if the ACP is completed successfully. This package is a cynical and transparent attempt by the company to essentially pay off county leaders in exchange for the health and wellbeing of county residents. The Union Hill community is a rural, low-income, mostly African-American community where residents are less likely to have the resources to pursue legal challenges.
This meeting comes just weeks after the world’s top scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire warning for the world to move away from dangerous fossil fuels at a rapid pace. The meeting also comes after regulators rejected Dominion’s forecast for future energy use. In an Order issued December 7, 2018, the State Corporation Commission (“SCC”) expressed “considerable doubt regarding the accuracy and reasonableness of the Company’s load forecast for use to predict future energy and peak load requirements.” This load forecast has provided the justification for Dominion Energy’s plans to build the highly controversial, $7-billion ACP. Dominion has argued to regulators that the natural gas pipeline is necessary to meet the commonwealth’s growing demand for power. With the SCC’s rejection of Dominion’s “overstated” load forecasts, this justification completely falls apart.