Public comment period on Buckingham compressor permit will go through holidays

Opponents of a proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station in Buckingham County protested at a State Air Pollution Control Board meeting Wednesday. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Dec. 19, 2018)

The Department of Environmental Quality will hold a written public comment period for a controversial compressor station permit until Jan. 4.

The public can share their thoughts on documents that were submitted to the State Air Pollution Control Board after it first delayed a decision on the permit in November.

The permit would allow a compressor station in Union Hill, a historically black community built by freedmen, in Buckingham County. It’s part of Dominion Energy’s 600-mile, multi-state Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“There has been significant interest in this permit across the state,” said David Paylor, director of DEQ. “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.”

But environmental groups think it’s one more move to limit opposition to the project and want to extend the comment period.

“It is significant that the DEQ has limited the comment period to just 14 days during which the Christmas and New Year’s holidays will fall,” wrote David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia. “Only seven of these days are non-holiday weekdays.
“We must ask who the short window for public involvement serves and the only conclusion is Dominion Energy and DEQ Director David Paylor, both of whom have shown they want this permit shoved through as quickly as possible.”

Last month, Northam decided to remove two members of the Air Board whose terms expired more than four months ago. He did the same with the State Water Control Board. Some of the members removed had openly questioned terms of the respective permits they worked on.

“DEQ’s decision to schedule this comment period over Christmas and New Year’s is nothing more than an attempt to silence the vast majority of Virginians who will now be unable to participate,” said Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.

“Virginians, just like Gov. Northam and those at DEQ, should be able to spend this time with their families and friends, not fighting against corporate polluters and government processes that have been bent to those corporations’ will.”