Northam adds powers to protect Virginia’s clean water ahead of pipeline construction

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on Friday that he would add additional powers in an effort to protect the Commonwealth’s clean water.

The announcement comes days after Virginians in different parts of the state rallied against the expanding Atlantic Coast Pipeline that is being laid in the western part of the state.

According to the Officer of the Governor,  SB698 and SB699 establish processes in state law to allow the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a stop work order on all or part of land-disturbing activities associated with natural gas pipeline construction if DEQ determines those activities have caused, or will imminently cause, a substantial adverse impact to water quality.

“I want to thank Senator Creigh Deeds and the Department of Environmental Quality for working together to empower the Commonwealth to halt construction on the pipelines if there is a serious threat to water quality,” said Governor Ralph Northam on the additional powers granted. “From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, and all the rivers and streams in between, our water quality is of paramount importance to our health and our economy and I will protect it as long as I am Governor.”

Northam has been in the middle about the growing expansion of pipelines in Virginia, while his Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, has opposed the use of them.

“He didn’t really say yea or nay; he said he’d rely on the science, and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be supporting them,” said Jessica Sims, a protester of the pipeline, and member of the activist group Virginia Pipeline Registers, in an interview with the Capital News Service.

Sims and others protested last Thursday outside of the Executive Mansion on Capitol Square. Their concern are issues that could be caused by pipelines, and these powers granted to Northam are a way to check the construction of them, if issues do arise.

Northam wanting these additional powers could also be because of concerns that stem from a border state that has had issues with water contamination from pipelines.

West Virginia recently said it will be stopping construction of the Rover Pipeline being built there because of the water contamination caused by its construction.

The companies building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline are Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Co.

Those companies say that the pipeline could bring economic benefits to Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, and also lower energy cost across the states.

“We are pleased the General Assembly agreed to give DEQ the additional authority to protect water quality, and we will use these tools to exercise rigorous enforcement to ensure our water is protected and our natural areas are preserved,” said DEQ Director David Paylor.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the building of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and on Friday issued a notice of violation to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (ACP)  for failing to maintain adequate limits of disturbance during tree felling operations in violation of Virginia’s State Water Control Law.

“DEQ is watching pipeline activities closely and expects full compliance with all conditions. We will not hesitate to initiate enforcement actions like this to make sure the project complies with good environmental standards,” said David K. Paylor, Director in a statement on the notice of violation.

The same day that West Virginia said it would stop construction of the Rover Pipeline was also the same day that the Norfolk City Council voted to let the Atlantic Coast Pipeline run under two Suffolk reservoirs containing most of the city’s water supply, according to the Capitol News Service.

Information from the story was partially provided by a story from Capitol News Service, which is provided below:

Virginians rally against pipeline construction in the Commonwealth