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Statewide Conservation Groups Call on Northam to Reverse Decision to Replace Air Board Members During Pending Permit Decision
RICHMOND – Today, Governor Northam’s Secretary of the Commonwealth informed two Air Pollution Control Board members, Rebecca R. Rubin and Samuel A. Bleicher, that they would be removed from the Board. This comes just weeks before the body is expected to vote on a crucial air permit for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The removal of the members in the midst of debate is unusual, and concerning. The action comes less than a week after both Board members raised environmental justice concerns that pollution from Dominion’s proposed project will cause disproportionate air pollution impacts to the people of Union Hill. Dominion Energy is proposing to build the 55,000 horsepower industrial compressor station in the historic, predominantly African American neighborhood.
The Air Pollution Control Board is comprised of citizen experts tasked with upholding specific environmental statutes related to clean air, including authorizing permits that regulate or protect against air pollution.
The air board is scheduled to continue deliberations and vote on the compressor station permit on Dec. 10. Both Bleicher and Rubin were informed today they would be removed from the Board before that vote.
Governor Northam has repeatedly stressed the need for transparency and independence in the pipeline permitting process. In April 2018, Governor Northam said, “You know I have a lot of faith and confidence in our DEQ, and I need to let them do their work. We need to do this with science we want to do it with the law and we want to do it with transparency.” The removal of these members is in direct contradiction to these essential guiding principles.
In response, leading statewide conservation organizations issued the following joint statement:
“We are shocked and extremely disappointed in Governor Northam’s decision to interrupt the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s deliberation on the proposed Buckingham County compressor station. Removing citizen board members in the midst of contentious debate sends the wrong message. Citizen boards must remain independent from political interference during the decision-making process. We call on the Governor to reverse this decision until the current board has finalized its deliberations on the proposed permit.”
Virginia Conservation Network
Southern Environmental Law Center
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Chesapeake Climate Action Network