At today’s Environment Virginia Symposium in Lexington, Va., Governor Ralph Northam announced Executive Order VI, requiring a comprehensive review by the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality of the agency’s permitting, monitoring, and enforcement activities. Further background is below.
Statement from Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager with Appalachian Voices:
“Governor Northam’s announcement today calls for vital improvements at DEQ for protecting Virginia communities and the commonwealth’s natural resources — but it remains to be seen whether any real changes will occur. DEQ has a history of aligning with industry over the public interest, and that was no more clear than in the agency’s industry-friendly handling of the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline permits in 2017.
“While we welcome the changes the governor has outlined, we are skeptical that today’s announcement signals the kind of transformative change the agency so desperately needs, given its history and the retention of top leadership there. Nonetheless, we hope DEQ seizes this opportunity to revamp its operations and prioritize the public interest over the interests of the companies it regulates.”
Under Executive Order VI, DEQ and the Secretary of Natural Resources must review and identify gaps in permitting, monitoring, and enforcement across its air, water, and solid waste programs. This includes identification of any regulations, guidance, authorities, or resources DEQ needs in order to better serve its mission. The review must also evaluate whether new regulations or guidance at the federal level threaten DEQ’s ability to protect public health and the environment in Virginia.
Importantly, Executive Order VI further requires that DEQ and the Secretary report on ways to improve communication with the public and the regulated community “and provide more opportunities for proactive education, especially among underserved and lower income populations.”
Cat McCue, Communications Director, 434-293-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org