(RICHMOND, VA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is raising environmental justice and pollution concerns about a proposed compressor station in Pittsylvania County for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The Lambert Compressor Station, an industrial facility planned to pump gas through the pipeline, would be built in Chatham, Virginia. The location is within five miles of four environmental justice communities with strong African American and American Indian roots.
Nearby residents are already burdened by pollution from the existing Transco Compressor Station and are concerned this project would add to those health risks. That includes Elizabeth and Anderson Jones, whose Chatham farmland has been in the family for 97 years. Mr. Jones suffers from asthma and his mother died of the disease. They are shocked and saddened to see the character of their community threatened by natural gas infrastructure.
CBF and partners previously raised environmental justice concerns for a similar compressor station in Union Hill proposed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This led to a landmark decision in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals finding that Virginia did not fulfill its legal duty to determine whether the Union Hill facility would unfairly threaten the health of nearby residents.
The air permit application for the Lambert facility does not meet the standards set by the Fourth Circuit Court and Virginia law for environmental justice, including the Virginia Environmental Justice Act, which aims to ensure no single community should bear more than its share of pollution. The application also contains multiple technical deficiencies and shortcomings in the air pollution modeling.
CBF, together with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the Virginia Sierra Club, and Elizabeth and Anderson Jones, filed comments on April 9 on the Lambert Compressor Station’s permit with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board is expected to consider this permit in the coming months.
CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley issued the following statement.
“We’re going through a bad case of déjà vu with compressor stations in Virginia. After the failure of the Union Hill proposal, it is unbelievable to see such a similar project ignore environmental justice.
“The Lambert compressor Station would spew out fine particulate matter and other pollutants that cause asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, and premature death. As in Union Hill, the pipeline company wrongly claims this air pollution will not threaten people’s health because the facility meets National Ambient Air Quality Standards. This contradicts the Union Hill Court’s opinion, which held that facilities cannot solely rely on the national standards because there may still be disproportionate local threats to environmental justice communities. There is no level of particulate matter exposure found to be safe for human health.
“The pipeline company submitted a halfhearted environmental justice supplement that falls far short and fails to heed the advice of its own environmental justice consultant. It completely ignores four communities that live just outside an arbitrary one-mile radius set by the company. Environmental justice is not a box to be checked. There are people’s lives at stake.
“The proposed Lambert facility is in the Chesapeake Bay’s airshed, meaning additional air pollution from the facility would eventually also pollute the Bay and its rivers. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is years behind schedule and has already been cited for hundreds of environmental violations. We must do better to get environmental justice right.
“The permit application for the Lambert Compressor Station simply does not meet legal requirements. The Air Board must recognize the existence and rights of environmental justice communities in Chatham and deny the air permit for the Lambert Compressor Station.”
Pittsylvania County NAACP Environmental Climate Justice Chair Elizabeth Jones issued the following statement.
“As a Black woman, when I heard the MVP wanted to take our land to build this fracked gas pipeline, my first thought was ‘here we go again,’ because this is one more example of the disparities and injustices forced upon my community by systemic racism. This is a civil rights matter because polluting corporations like MVP plot and plan for their futures, but don’t care that we have futures, too.
“The MVP makes me frightened for the physical safety of my family, but the farm has been in our family for 98 years so I know this long and ongoing struggle to preserve the property rights of African Americans is nothing new. The threat of this dirty, dangerous project has already caused our property value to depreciate, but we will never let it devalue our identity, culture, and heritage.”
Editor’s note: The Elizabeth Jones quote was used with her permission and first reported by the Sierra Club in this press release.