This is a guest blog by Donna Pitt, Coordinator of Preserve Giles County, a POWHR Coalition Group
I know many of you were not able to be at the State Water Control Board hearing on Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification in Radford back in September, and I freely admit that at the time I thought it was all fruitless; all of us there yet again trying to get through to a Board appointed by the politicians who continually let us down in the face of corporate profits. My cynicism was front and center on that day. So rather than reiterate even more perfectly logical and valid reasons why the Board should not grant MVP a 401 water crossing permit, I let loose with a scolding.
I asked them, politely, to consider who they, the Citizen Water Control Board, represented – not the Dept. of Environmental Quality, nor the Governor, but us, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I reminded them that by statute they had the authority to promulgate, approve and deny water regulation permits and to sanction and initiate legal action in the case of water regulation violations.
I reminded them that we – citizens, landowners, environmental scientists and lawyers – provided myriad evidence why the project was flawed to the point of environmental criminal negligence. I reminded them that we knew when the Board raised questions and concerns about the soundness of the project, the DEQ Administration drowned those concerns with regulatory roadblocks and “summarization” of public comments.
I pointed out that in spite of documented, sustained evidence of the project’s inability to control or mitigate erosion and sedimentation of our streams and wetlands, DEQ’s response has been that as long as MVP “cleans it up” in three days’ time, that’s all that can be expected. Those of us on the ground, on our own land, in our own communities, see the damage those three days do to our water, our springs, our special streams and the wildlife they sustain. No amount of “mitigation bank credits” can restore the purity of those waters and wetlands.
I ended my scolding with the request that our Citizen Board refuse to allow DEQ Administration to drown or explain away their questions, concerns and reservations. I reiterated that the Board did not work for DEQ – that DEQ worked for the Board and they should not be allowed to do the Board’s thinking. Nor should the DEQ make the decision to approve or deny this new permit to blast and drill through our water systems a foregone conclusion, as they have tried to do. Reject this permit and let this disastrous project die the death it deserves.
After Friday’s 6-1 decision by the VA Air Pollution Control Board to deny MVP a compression station permit in Pittsylvania County, I am ready to recant my cynicism and shout “Good for You!” and “Thank Goodness some citizens do think for themselves and have the guts to vote for what they believe is right!” The fact that this decision was in the face of arguments from State Agencies and private consultants that no harm would occur makes it even more powerful. And it gives me a bit of hope that the State Water Control Board will take some courage from this decision and do the same to the water permit. One can always hope, can’t we? What’s our mantra? Never Give UP!
Donna Pitt, Preserve Giles County