Appalachian Voices calls on Gov. Northam to respect citizen boards and environmental justice

John Laury

John Laury, who lives near the proposed compressor station, speaks before the State Air Pollution Control Board on Nov. 8, 2018. On his t-shirt is a photograph of his wife, Ruby, with the words “We Are All Union Hill.” Photo by Lara Mack

Today it became public knowledge that Governor Northam will replace two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board and at least one member of the State Water Control Board. The decision comes one week after the Air Pollution Control Board voted to delay a final permitting decision on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Buckingham Compressor Station, which would site a 55,000 horsepower industrial facility in the center of a rural, majority African-American community if approved.

Both Samuel Bleicher and Rebecca Rubin, the air board members being replaced, had posed tough questions to DEQ staff and Dominion, the project developer, in a public meeting last week. Roberta Kellum, the water board member who was informed she will be replaced, had made a motion to revoke the certificates for the controversial Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines at a water board meeting earlier this year.

While two air board members and two water board members’ terms officially expired in June, Northam waited until this week to inform them that they will not be reappointed to their posts.

The boards make final decisions on a variety of air and water pollution permits and regulations. They are comprised of seven members apiece, with staggered appointments made by the sitting governor.

woman testifies at air board meeting

Marie Gillespie, a resident of the Union Hill neighborhood near the proposed compressor station, urges the State Air Pollution Control Board to reject the Buckingham Compressor Station on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo by Lara Mack

The timing of the Governor’s decision is an affront to the board, the citizens of the Commonwealth, and conceptions of transparency and good governance. Discussion at last week’s air board meeting made clear that the board had very serious environmental justice concerns about siting a compressor station so close to the African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. But now, with a final vote delayed until December 10, Governor Northam has informed two dedicated public servants who voiced those concerns that they will no longer serve on the board.

Peter Anderson, Appalachian Voices’ Virginia Program Manager:
“Governor Northam has repeatedly promised that the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines would not be built unless they meet the strictest environmental standards. By removing three citizen board members who appeared to be holding the projects to those standards, the governor has undermined his own promise. We are outraged.”

Peter Anderson, Virginia Program Manager,, 434-249-6446
Lara Mack, Virginia Field Coordinator,, 540-246-9720

UPDATE: On Nov. 16, it became public knowledge that a second Water Control Board member, Robert Dunn, was also dismissed. Dunn, who was chair of the water board, had voted in favor of the pipelines.