On June 26, 2017, the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) sent a request for Governor Terry McAuliffe and Director Paylor of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to release public records pertaining to the State’s consideration of proposals to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. These records were withheld from the Roanoke Times, with claims of exemption from public release under the State’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
As DPMC noted, in the letter sent from David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory Systems Investigator:
While DPMC recognizes that public bodies may withhold certain records that belong to the people of Virginia, under closely prescribed conditions, we also note that our public servants have the latitude to disclose those records in almost all situations. . . .
Our government should not seek shelter from public view based merely on convenient exemptions in the law. As the FOIA commands, its provisions “shall be liberally construed to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities and afford every opportunity to citizens to witness the operations of government.” Code of Virginia § 2.2-370
DPMC cited examples of the McAuliffe administration’s actions over the last two years in which the State’s promises of transparent processes have been betrayed and the public’s trust tested, stating “only through total transparency and complete honesty can this administration restore confidence in the regulatory processes for these pipelines.”
Most importantly, the Governor must see that DEQ’s attempt to evade its responsibilities to assess impacts from all waterbody crossings in individual Clean Water Act section 401 reviews be reversed. Coverage of these activities under a blanket Water Quality Certification that fails to adequately protect our waters would deprive the public of the opportunity to review and comment on the detailed plans and the threats posed to over one thousand streams and wetlands.
Rick Webb, DPMC Program Coordinator, states “our government officials have the chance to reverse course and begin anew, to allow its citizens their rightful role in seeing that these damaging projects will not harm our environment and our interests.”
State official advises Dominion: Integrity of permitting process for Atlantic Coast Pipeline is ‘non-negotiable,’ Roanoke Times, June 24, 2017
‘A very confused, inaccurate picture is being spread': Why did Virginia DEQ wait seven weeks to correct inaccurate pipeline statement?, Richmond Times Dispatch, June 21, 2017
DEQ acknowledges error, clarifies approach to review of pipelines, Roanoke Times, May 24, 2017
Governor-elect promises ethics reform, transparency, VCU Capital News Service, December 4, 2013.