The Bulletin

Air Board pushes decision on Lambert compressor station permit to September following complaints

By: - July 3, 2021 11:27 am

Construction of Mountain Valley Pipeline in May 2021, submitted in a construction report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The State Air Pollution Control Board has deferred consideration of a permit for a controversial compressor station in Pittsylvania County to September following complaints about the scheduling of a midday, midweek meeting in Richmond to consider the issue.

“This provides the board with additional time to ensure a thorough review and full consideration of the information submitted into the public record on this permit application,” said Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor in an agency release. 

The proposed compressor station would be part of an offshoot of the Mountain Valley Pipeline known as the Southgate extension. That pipeline is expected to run about 75 miles from Pittsylvania south into North Carolina. 

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality has twice denied a necessary water permit for the project, citing numerous erosion and sediment issues with the main line of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and doubts about its completion. 

The required air permit for the Pittsylvania compressor station has been hotly contested, with the air board receiving hundreds of comments on the proposal. But despite discussion among the board in April about scheduling consideration of the permit in the evening or on a weekend to increase public accessibility, the deliberations were scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon in Richmond. 

DEQ also said that with the lifting of the COVID-19 emergency, the meeting would be in-person only, and the agency did not have the resources to run a hybrid in-person and virtual meeting

Several groups protested the decision. In one letter, the Pittsylvania County branch of the NAACP urged the air board to either add a virtual component to the meeting or hold it closer to the proposed site of the compressor station. 

“Our members and others from Southern Virginia are facing a 300-mile, 6-hour round trip, and a 1- or 2-night stay in order to attend the meeting. Given the current set-up, we can only speak — and listen — if we make the trip,” the group wrote

DEQ said Friday that Mountain Valley Pipeline had agreed to an extension of the timeline for a decision on the permit, which is outlined in statute. 

Environmental nonprofit Appalachian Voices, which also previously sent a letter to DEQ expressing concerns about the meeting, applauded the decision.

“This doesn’t address the need for hybrid options, but as serious concerns were raised by the public during the comment period, including that environmental justice issues were not properly addressed and community engagement was lacking, additional time for the board to review comments from the public is very welcome,” said field coordinator Jessica Sims.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.