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2017-09-20 / Letters

Virginia water more important than golf trips

In the Aug. 23 article “Dominion hires firm to assess coal ash ponds,” the assessments are described as a method of getting “accountability.” The article fails to address, however, Dominion’s historical lack of being held accountable by our state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

For example, several tests showed that these coal ash ponds had started leaking last year at the latest, causing high levels of arsenic and other toxins in the surrounding waters. It should not have taken over a year to get the process started for evaluating these coal ash ponds. And, if the DEQ had the public interest in mind, the legislation would not have had to include revoking the DEQ’s ability to grant permits for Dominion to close the ponds until May of next year.

In a separate example, over 20,000 gallons of oil entered public Virginia waters last year due to leaky spill containment vessels at Dominion facilities, an offense with a maximum fine of $1.3 million. The DEQ proposed a mere slap on the wrist of $260,000.

Most importantly, the DEQ is rubber stamping the approval process for Dominion’s looming Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project. Less than four months have been given for review of the pipeline plan, yet for projects smaller than the ACP, a period of eight months to a year is typical. The short public comment period did not provide adequate time to review project documents, some of which were released after the comment period had already begun. Additionally, the DEQ has not analyzed the cumulative impacts to watersheds from waters that could be polluted by the ACP, despite DEQ spokesperson Bill Hayden saying the review is “designed to ensure that Virginia’s water quality is protected.” These are only a few examples of the DEQ racing this pipeline to approval for the profit of Dominion, and the DEQ is doing the same for EQT Midstream, primary owners of the similar Mountain Valley Pipeline.

It is hard to think of a reason that the DEQ, the department charged with protecting Virginia’s water, would have to lavish Dominion with such immunity to compliance with environmental laws. The reason is here: David Paylor, DEQ director, was found to have received thousands of dollars in gifts from Dominion, including a paid trip to the Masters golf tournament, and Dominion makes five- to six-figure donations to influential, politically connected charities and to politicians, like Gov. McAuliffe. Dominion then charges us ratepayers for these donations, over $1 million in recent years, because Dominion customers generally have no choice in where they get their power.

Whether liberal or conservative, climate change acknowledger or denier, every Virginian should agree that this type of influence by big money companies cannot be allowed to continue. A start would be to demand of the DEQ, at the very least, an extension of the review on the two pipelines and ultimately the denial of permitting the projects. Virginia water must be valued over golf trips and campaign donations.

Stacy Lovelace
MIDLOTHIAN

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