ABRA Update — Buckingham Compressor Station Comment Period Extended to January 4th

by Duane Nichols on December 27, 2018

Overwhelming support for Union Hill residents who oppose the ACP

Air Board Again Delays a Vote on Compressor Station for Union Hill Area

From the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA), Update #210, December 21, 2018

The Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board voted December 19 to delay its vote on a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s proposed compressor station in Buckingham County until after a new public comment period. The basis of the delay was to permit the public to provide input on new information about the project that had become available since the earlier public comment period ended in September.

The new comment period begins today, December 21 and ends January 4. In a December 21 posting on its website, the Department of Environmental Quality stated:
The public comment period on the documents begins today, Dec. 21, and closes on January 4, 2019.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (Board) approved a new limited written public comment period on specific documents the Board received since the November 8 and 9 meetings on the proposed permit for the Dominion Energy Buckingham Compressor Station.

Per the Board’s instructions, the documents to be considered relate to questions and concerns on demographics and site suitability for the proposed air compressor station.

The Board also clarified that the permit conditions – including the amendments that were discussed and approved at the December 19 meeting – are not subject to this public comment period.

In addition, the Board made clear that any potential future health assessments discussed during the last meeting that relate to this permit will not be considered during this public comment period.

“There has been significant interest in this permit across the state,” said Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director David Paylor. “Through their request for a minimum, or limited, public comment period, the Board has indicated the need to expedite this process. It’s understood that the public is anxious to get clarity about demographics and site suitability in the Board’s subsequent decision. As the Board also has a statutory deadline for this permit, the agency has a legal obligation to resolve this matter as efficiently as possible.”

The date and the location for the next Board meeting has not been set, but will be announced as soon as details are available.

More information, including the public notice, is available on the Commonwealth of Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website at http://townhall.virginia.gov/. Written comments are to be submitted to DEQ by Postal Mail or hand delivery to the Piedmont Regional Office, Re: Buckingham Compressor Station, 4949-A Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060; E-mail: airdivision1@deq.virginia.gov; or Fax: (804)

The specific documents being considered in this limited public comment period are also available on the DEQ website at www.DEQ.Virginia.gov.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Ellis December 31, 2018 at 12:49 pm

The public can weigh in on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station

>>> Letters to the Editor, Washington Post, December 30, 2018

Regarding the Dec. 20 Metro article “Decision on Virginia gas project is delayed”:

Having spent some refreshing, restful days at Yogaville in Buckingham County, Va., I am closely following articles on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station. If the station is built, the beautiful community around Yogaville and neighboring Union Hill will be threatened with air, water and noise pollution and the possibility of dangerous explosions.

Residents and researchers who have done recent, detailed studies report that the area is predominantly African American. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality says that’s untrue, but it appears to be relying on data that it has admitted is not reliable.

The article mentioned that citizens have an opportunity to review this information for themselves on the Virginia DEQ website and submit comments. Readers would benefit from knowing to search for “Buckingham Compressor Station — Air Permit,” and that comments must be submitted by Jan. 4. It is essential that Virginia considers public input — from local residents and from residents across the state — to make a fair, informed decision about the future of this project.

Anna Pruett Ellis, Fairfax, Virginia



Glen Besa January 4, 2019 at 10:57 am

Save our Chincoteague Ponies, Stop the Pipelines

From the Blog Post of Glen Besa, Blue Virginia, January 4, 2019

The jarring headline in the Washington Post read, Last four Chincoteague ponies battling ‘swamp cancer’ are euthanized.

So what do two controversial gas pipelines proposed for Virginia have to do with the “swamp cancer” killing the ponies? Consider this excerpt from another Washington Post article on the same topic:

The disease, sometimes known as swamp cancer, strikes mostly horses and dogs and has long been known in subtropical areas, including Florida. But ­cases are becoming more common in higher latitudes in recent years, with some reported as far north as Minnesota.

“It’s an emerging disease,” said Richard Hansen, a research veterinarian in Oklahoma working on a vaccine and new treatments for pythiosis. “It seems to be moving north with the changing climate.”

Just about everyone in Virginia knows about the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island, and many of you have seen the ponies. If you have kids, you’ve probably taken your kids to see the ponies at one time or another. In fact, people come from across the country and the world to visit Chincoteague to see the famous ponies, often with kids in tow.

My wife, Tyla, and I have visited Chincoteague countless times, and when I read the article about the swamp cancer killing the ponies, I felt nauseous. I’m sure that parents planning a trip to Chincoteague may be having second thoughts, worrying about how to explain to their children that the ponies are sick and dying, in part, because of climate change. So what are we going to do about it?

Part of the answer is found in the October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warns of dire wide-ranging consequences around the globe if we do not dramatically reduce carbon emissions and in the Fourth National Climate Assessment (Nov 2018) which informed us that even in the United States these consequences are already with us.

Now we see that those consequences include threats we may not have even imagined like a swamp cancer affecting our beloved Chincoteague ponies. And the ponies are just another sacrificial canary in the coal mine as climate change and massive new fossil fuel projects ravage people and communities from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to Union Hill, Virginia.

Although weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels will take some time (we’ve got until about 2050), there is no good reason we can’t stop increasing our carbon pollution immediately by halting massive new fossil fuel projects like Dominion’s Atlantic Coast and EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipelines.

Governor Northam just held another press conference touting his support for a noteworthy regional program to address climate changing emissions which would reduce carbon pollution from coal and gas fired power plants in Virginia by 8.4 million tons per year by 2030. But the carbon pollution from these two gas pipelines that Dominion and EQT hope to have operational by 2020, or sooner, would dwarf Northam’s modest carbon reduction plan. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would belch out 30 million tons of carbon per year according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency that permitted the project. Another report found that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would emit another 40 million tons per year.

We know why Dominion and EQT are ignoring these climate warnings and doubling down on fossil fuels with new pipelines–GREED, but more perplexing, why is Governor Ralph Northam, proud son of the Eastern Shore-home to the Chincoteague ponies, embracing these two pipeline projects? Why don’t you ask him? Better yet, have your children ask him because it’s their future that Governor Northam is jeopardizing.

(Photo Courtesy of National Park Service)



Vivian Thomson January 7, 2019 at 9:38 am

How will air board weigh site ‘suitability’ on major compressor station vote?

From an Essay by Vivian Thomson, Virginia Mercury, January 7, 2019

PHOTO: Opponents of a proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Buckingham County protested outside the General Assembly Building ahead of a State Air Pollution Control Board meeting. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – Dec. 19, 2018)
Is an African-American community in rural Virginia the right place to put a massive compressor station for a natural gas pipeline? This is the question the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board will consider at its meeting Tuesday.

The compressor for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of only three along the 600-mile planned pipeline route from West Virginia to North Carolina. It is opposed by some environmental groups claiming the 54,000 horsepower facility will destroy the bucolic community adjacent to it with 24-hour noise and toxic emissions.

This community, Union Hill, is largely populated by African Americans, including families who trace their roots back to slavery at a nearby former plantation.

Now the air board, which has authority to issue a permit, will consider the suitability of the site for the compressor in its upcoming meeting. Key to the question is what guidelines the board must use in making this decision.

The air board, like the State Water Control Board, is central in the permitting process for pollution-control facilities. These boards are comprised of citizens appointed by the governor and working without pay to promote transparency via public debates and votes and to broaden the base of regulatory decision making.

The boards actually predate the state’s Department of Environmental Quality — the water board dating to 1946 and the air board to 1966. DEQ was formed in in 1993 by combining the staff agencies that had been serving the air and water boards, as well as the Waste Management Board, another citizen authority.

Some functions of these boards are routinely delegated to DEQ. However, when a permit is before the air board, it is the board’s statutory responsibility to consider, among other factors, “the suitability of the activity to the area in which it is located.”

But what has “site suitability” meant in practice in air board decisions? Historical and legal records do not offer many concrete examples, but they indicate that the board has struggled for decades to interpret the idea of suitability.

In 1979, the air board denied on very broad grounds of site unsuitability a permit to a Dano Resource Recovery, Inc. industrial facility in King George County that would have handled the District of Columbia’s sewage sludge.

Contemporaneous news reports said permit denial rested on the fact that the site was zoned for agricultural use and that there would be objectionable odors. It does not appear that this decision was tested in court.

Then in 1981, the air board approved a controversial permit for a quarry, despite public objections on the grounds of unsuitability. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article describes a Virginia assistant attorney general as saying that the board might be able to deny a permit even if the applicant complied with air and zoning regulations if the board felt that “other factors make the activity undesirable.”

But he noted the lack of legal precedent and the need for the board to clarify its intentions.

To that end, the board asked its staff to prepare regulations that would clarify the “non-technical” criteria the board must consider with respect to site suitability. A 1987 board statement on suitability, not regulations, seems to have been the sole outcome of these discussions. The board announced that it would limit its consideration of site suitability to “air quality and health.”

In 2008, when I was on the air board, two fellow board members suggested that the 1987 board statement should be revised, to clarify the board’s powers to determine site suitability (or unsuitability) as separate and distinct from those of local zoning authorities. The worry was that the board might illegally cede its authority to local officials. The board members’ ideas were rebuffed by senior officials in the administration of then-Gov. Tim Kaine, including DEQ managers.

Given Virginia’s long and continuing history of racism, it’s hard to argue with the contention that a longstanding agricultural, African-American community is simply the wrong place for this industrial facility. The lack of a clear set of legal or policy precedents on site suitability complicates the board’s task. But the special use permit for the compressor station was challenged on grounds that it is inconsistent with local land use.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has argued that the fact that a special use permit was issued by Buckingham County for the facility “does not relieve the board of its duty … to independently consider relevant facts and circumstances.”

I return to a suggestion I made in an earlier article: Gov. Northam should pressure Dominion Energy, the lead partner in the pipeline consortium, to find another site for the compressor station. Alternatively, he should work with the General Assembly to that end.

This column first appeared in its original form on The Blue View.



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