Letter to the Roanoke Times, 5/20/18: At a hearing on May 8, Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit described a relationship between the Forest Service and MVP that is valid for every government agency with a duty to protect the public from the destruction caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

When Judge Gregory and his fellow judges asked why the Forest Service abruptly abandoned technical findings that MVP’s erosion discharges would be much more severe than the company predicted, lawyers for the government and MVP claimed the change was justified but could point to no agency analysis to support their assertions. An attorney for MVP said the last-minute reversal by the Forest Service was the result of a “robust back and forth” between the government and the company.

Judge Gregory was not convinced. He stated: “I’m missing the robust side of this. This seems like a one-way street. I don’t call that robust. I call it capitulation.”

Judge Gregory saw what citizens have seen for years; that regulatory agencies have abandoned their own experts and caved to pressure from pipeline proponents. Just as this is true of the Forest Service, for both MVP and ACP, it is true of the Virginia DEQ.

DEQ technical experts warned in comments on both pipelines that without “pre-impact characterizations of proposed stream and wetland crossings” these ecosystems may not “be able to maintain [their] original functions.” Such pre-impact assessments have not been done but DEQ has chosen to ignore those warnings without any technical explanations to justify that choice.

The good thing is that Governor Northam and the Virginia State Water Control Board have one last chance to make this right. Going along with what the pipeline companies want even when their proposals are not scientifically proven to fully protect our waters is capitulation. It is unacceptable. It must end now.

Governor Northam: Judge Gregory gets it. Do you?