Today in a 6-1 vote the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board denied a permit for a controversial proposed compressor station in Southside Virginia. The Board determined that the facility would impact an environmental justice community, that requirements in the Virginia Environmental Justice Act had not been met, and that the site is not suitable considering legal precedent and Virginia law.
The Lambert Compressor Station is an industrial facility that would pump gas through the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Pittsylvania County. The site lies within five miles of four communities with strong African American and American Indian roots. Given their composition, they are considered environmental justice communities, which requires the Air Board to determine if emissions from the station will disproportionately harm people living nearby.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners previously raised environmental justice concerns about a similar compressor station for the now abandoned Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That station was proposed to be built adjacent to the town of Union Hill in Buckingham County, a largely African American community. This led to a landmark 2020 decision in the U.S. 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 Lambert facility’s permit application does not meet environmental justice requirements set in the Fourth Circuit Court decision and Virginia law. CBF, together with the Virginia Sierra Club, and residents Elizabeth and Anderson Jones, filed comments in April raising concerns about the permit with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic also provided support. At this week’s meeting CBF staff urged the Air Board to deny the permit.
CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley issued the following statement.
“This is a major step forward. In denying this permit, the Air Board recognized the serious concerns with this facility and understood the Fourth Circuit's mandate. We hope this shows that Virginia is prepared to make environmental justice a reality.
“We’re grateful to the Air Board for setting an important precedent. The safety of marginalized and vulnerable communities must continue to be a prominent consideration in these proceedings. This is also an opportunity to prevent a new source of air pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. As the permit goes back to the drawing board, we are ready to work with DEQ to ensure that environmental justice is served.”
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