RICHMOND, Va. — The State Air Pollution Control Board was set to vote Wednesday on the permit for an air compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Board members are delaying making a decision so the public can comment on new information they received since their meetings last month.
A tightly packed room – divided. Demonstrators turned their backs to members of four members of the air board as Department of Environmental Quality officials presented some new details about the permit.
Some of the documents were on the demographics of people living in Buckingham County, where the air compressor station is slated to go, as well as how suitable the site is for a project of this size.
Residents say Buckingham County’s Union Hill is a historic African American community, since freed slaves lived there and their families’ still have the land.
DEQ officials referenced studies by other agencies, like the Department of Historic Resources, which looked into the neighborhood a few years ago to see if it meets criteria to be on a register of historic places. That survey did not find enough historic evidence to put Union Hill on the map.
Mindy Zlotnick lives in Yogaville, about 5 miles away from where the Buckingham Compressor Station is proposed to be constructed. After being in the community on and off for 5 years, she questions the data collected and presented to the board about who lives there.
“But actually when you get down on the ground and the numbers come out and the people come out a lot different,” Zlotnick added.
The draft permit was also amended with new language the board chair Richard Langford says makes the permit “more strict” and “was in response to public comments” they heard the month prior.
The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) spans 600-miles from West Virginia to North Carolina. There are three air compressor stations, one in each state. The one in Virginia is proposed for Buckingham County. Air compressors help manage pressure and flow of natural gas through a pipeline network. Construction on the pipeline has started in West Virginia and North Carolina, according to company officials.
Dominion Energy officials say ACP is expected to bring nearly $400 million in energy cost savings to customers and $28 million dollars in local tax revenue. The company is also giving $5 million to build a new community center and outdoor recreation area for residents of Union Hill.
Northern Virginia Democrat Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District) says the project will have an impact on everyone, not just Buckingham County.
“Regardless of whether you’re from Fairfax or Halifax or Arlington or Abington this affects all of us,” Del. Keam said. “… I believe this natural gas pipeline that they’re planning is a natural disaster for us in waiting. So, I want to make sure that we do everything that can to stop it. If it does have to go through for whatever reason, you do it in the most environmentally sensitive, protected way.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, the board did not end up voting on the air permit. They will be opening up for a written public comment period soon, but a date has not been set yet. Nor has a date for a vote.
Four out of the seven board members were present at the meeting. One of the members, Roy Hoagland, will not be voting because of a conflict of interest. The other two board members, Gail Bush and Kajal Kapur, are new and it is not clear yet if they will be voting the next time they all meet for the permit.
While she’s glad the board is taking their time with this new information, Zlotnick been waiting for a decision for years on this project.
“It’s just frustrating because we’re still waiting,” Zlotnick added. “Anything that affects our air and dumps all this all these pollutants into our air, is not going to be good for us. It’s going to change it’s going to change everything.”
Dominion Energy officials say they are confident the board will approve the permit “after considering all of the facts.”
In a statement, Dominion Energy spokesperson Aaron Ruby said, “We are building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for the good of our economy and the environment, and we are committed to seeing it through to completion.”
This story is still developing. We will continue to update you with the latest on the project.