Northam receives backlash over dismissal of pollution board members

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by Brandon Jarvis

Governor Ralph Northam removed Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bliecher from the Air Pollution Control Board just weeks before a vote that they expressed concerns about in recent days. The vote on December is to approve a permit for a natural gas compressor station. The project would be a part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, something that has followed Northam since inaugurations, sparking weekly protests outside of the capitol.

The board opted to defer on November 9th saying the motion to defer followed a presentation from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which included an overview of the permit and a response to comments. The Board also heard a presentation from the applicant, Dominion Energy, and they listened to a full day of public comments from meeting attendees.

“The Board indicated they would continue to consider the information already provided by the agency, the public, and the applicant to this point. The Board will resume discussions on the matter at its next meeting on Dec. 10.”

Groups immediately began planning protests as they called for the members to be put back in place on the board.

Virginian Pipeline Resistors say that they are going to show up “in protest of his freshly-announced decision to terminate the terms of Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bliecher of the Air Pollution Control Board.  Governor Northam ended the Air Board members’ terms less than a month before the Air Board is slated to make a final decision on the air permit for Dominion’s Buckingham compressor station, slated for construction in the historic African-American community of Union Hill.  Northam’s decision exposed the depths of corruption in which he is willing to participate to push Dominion’s interests, and Northam is now openly supporting the well-documented environmental racism and injustice involved with the siting of the compressor station.”

The VPR also announced a protest behind the Governors office on Friday at 12 p.m.

“The activists will call for Northam to reverse his decision to terminate Rubin’s and Bliecher’s terms and to reappoint both to the Air Pollution Control Board immediately.”

Northam denied the decision’s relation to the December 10th vote through a spokesperson to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Harrison Wallace, the Virginia Policy Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said that “The activists will call for Northam to reverse his decision to terminate Rubin’s and Bliecher’s terms and to reappoint both to the Air Pollution Control Board immediately.  They will gather at 12:00 pm behind the Governor’s Office to demonstrate with signs, speaking, singing, and chanting.”

“We are shocked and incredibly disappointed that the Northam Administration is terminating the terms of Air Board members Rebecca Rubin and Sam Bleicher. This deeply controversial move comes  just weeks before a crucial vote on the Buckingham Compressor Station for fracked gas. The people of Union Hill and Buckingham County deserve a fair hearing from the full board. This decision will rob them of that opportunity. Governor Northam has now officially taken ownership of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and ownership of this compressor station, a facility which involves strong elements of environmental racism. The governor must understand that with today’s action, the public will now hold him responsible for all the future harm to water, the climate, farmland, and human life that now could come to Virginia.”

This situation has created a lot of tension in the rural area of Buckingham. Locals don’t want the construction to change their way of life, and the environment they live around. Last week the Virginia Mercury covered a woman named Rose that lives near the potential station site. “I sit here in my living room, and I watch the deer and the turkeys and the wildlife walk through my backyard almost every day,” She is scared that she won’t get to do that anymore, if the construction moves forward.

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