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Amid Criticism, Air Board Proposes Outreach Changes

cleared land
FILE - This May 3, 2018, file photo, shows a section of downed trees that sit atop a ridge near homes along the route of the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline in Lindside, W.Va. A Virginia-based legal group is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to end what it says has become an abuse of eminent domain by companies that build natural-gas pipelines. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board met in-person Wednesday amid controversy over its public outreach process.

Late last week, the meeting’s landmark agenda item - deliberation over Mountain Valley Pipeline’s permit application for the Lambert Compressor Station - was postponed following public outcry over the meeting’s location. It was set in Richmond, about 150 miles from the proposed LCS site in Pittsylvania County, with no virtual access.

The water and air boards, both citizen bodies connected to the Department of Environmental Quality, have been criticized before over their outreach.

Glen Besa headed up the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter until recently - now, he addresses air board meetings as a private citizen.

“Public frustration at the way these proceed is unbelievable,” Besa said.

In most permitting processes that go through the board, citizens have one open comment period to participate in. The comment period for LCS ended in March. The only opportunity to make further comment is during the board’s final deliberation on the application, which is now scheduled for September 17.

Newly elected board chair Kajal Kapur proposed some changes to the board’s public outreach process, including holding meetings closer to the affected communities.

But the board, alongside DEQ Director David Paylor and legal counsel from the Office of the Attorney General, determined such changes were outside of their purview and would likely require General Assembly action. Kapur’s suggestions were tabled.

The board did end up expanding from 30 to 60 days the comment period for its public participation guidelines, which come up for discussion every four years. Those guidelines also apply to the water, waste and DEQ citizen boards.

 

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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