VMRC allowed little time and made little effort to solicit public comments – and then ignored the 174 public comments opposing the project.
RICHMOND, VA. Yesterday, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) approved a wetlands permit for the Virginia Reliability Project, which would dig up 49 miles of a 12-inch diameter pipeline running from Hampton Roads to Central Virginia and replace it with a 24-inch pipeline. The project would quadruple the pipeline’s capacity to channel dangerous, planet-warming methane gas. Within one mile of the pipeline’s route, more than half the population are communities of color and nearly half the population live below the poverty line.
VMRC allowed for just 15 days of public comment, starting the Monday of Thanksgiving week, and did not publicize the opportunity in the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall Public Notices. Nevertheless, 174 comments were filed to oppose the project, constituting 100% of all public comments received. VMRC issued a decision on the permit on the day that the comment period closed, so it is unclear whether commissioners reviewed the comments.
Statement from Charles Brown, Hampton Roads Organizer for Chesapeake Climate Action Network:
“It is beyond absurd that VMRC did less than the bare minimum to notify the public about the opportunity to submit comments – and then did not take into account the fact that 100% of comments were in opposition to the project. What is the point of public comment periods if the public is neither engaged nor listened to?
CCAN has spoken with thousands of people along the route of the proposed pipeline project. Residents of the directly impacted community have been clear that they are fearful of the impact this will have on their health and wellness, or have not been engaged with whatsoever by TC Energy and Columbia Gas. These frontline community members are not being heard.”
Thirteen public schools and one hospital are within 1.5 miles or less of the route, including Hillpoint Elementary in Suffolk, just 300 feet from the pipeline’s path — and well within its “blast zone.” The project would also cut through 4.2 miles of the Great Dismal Swamp, a key protected habitat home to some of the most important wildlife in the mid-Atlantic region.
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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with climate change in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 20 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.