The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-0 to approve an air permit for the 1.5-Bcf/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC natural gas pipeline project that allows the construction of a compressor station in Union Hill, Va., a historically African-American community.
"Today's unanimous approval is a significant step forward for this transformational project and the final state approval needed in Virginia," Karl Neddenien, spokesman for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said in a statement. "We commend the board members and Virginia [Department of Environmental Quality] staff for the months of hard work and careful study they dedicated to reviewing this permit. We also appreciate the thoughtful input provided by members of the public."
The regulators on the Air Pollution Control Board made their decision at a Jan. 8 meeting based on data provided by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and project leader Dominion Energy Inc. The board said the compressor station would comply with the safety and environmental laws of the state.
The board said the Hampton Roads area of coastal Virginia needs natural gas infrastructure to support local utilities and consumers' gas needs. A representative of the Department of Environmental Quality said during the meeting that the Buckingham compressor station would be "the most stringently regulated compressor station in the country," and that these regulations would protect the public's health.
The compressor station is opposed by many local residents and environmental groups, who submitted a letter with over 200 signatures in efforts to get the board to reject the proposal, and tempers flared in the crowd at the board's ruling. Members of the public began to shout and protest, saying the board had not considered the people's needs.
Opponents of the decision are concerned with the health impacts and preserving the community's historic presence. Environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Appalachian Voices and other organizations promised to keep fighting the compressor station in court.
"We stand in solidarity with Union Hill," Peter Anderson, Appalachian Voices Virginia program manager, said in a statement. "This fight is far from over."
The board had delayed making a final decision on Nov. 9, 2018, in order to evaluate the information received from its stakeholders, the Department of Environmental Quality and Dominion, and open a public comment period. The vote resumed on Dec. 10, 2018, which yielded no final decision, instead opened a second comment period and gave the agency more time for deliberation.
The Atlantic Coast pipeline would run from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina to deliver Appalachian gas to mid-Atlantic and Southern markets.