In support of a recent decision by the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) yesterday filed a motion to intervene in a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) lawsuit pending in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month the pipeline developer appealed the Board’s decision to deny the air permit for the proposed Lambert Compressor Station, a facility intended to pump natural gas through an extension of the pipeline.
CBF seeks to defend the Air Board decision in court on its own behalf and on behalf of its members and Elizabeth and Anderson Jones, whose family farmland in Chatham, Virginia, lies near the proposed compressor station. Mr. Jones suffers from asthma and his mother died of the disease. They are concerned about the threat of new polluting infrastructure in their community.
In 2019, CBF and partners successfully argued in the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court that a similar pipeline compressor station proposed for the Union Hill community in Buckingham County did not meet environmental justice standards. Subsequently, last Dec. 3 the Air Board rejected the proposed permit for the Lambert Compressor Station, finding that it did not meet standards for environmental justice set out by the court in the earlier Union Hill case and the Virginia Environmental Justice Act, which aims to ensure no community bears more than its share of pollution.
The Lambert site lies within five miles of four communities with strong African American and American Indian roots. Two other pipeline compressor stations are already located in the area. These are considered environmental justice communities, which requires Virginia to determine if emissions from the station will disproportionately harm people living nearby.
The facility’s permit application improperly relied on air modeling data from 46 miles away to determine the likely threat of emissions from the compressor station on communities that lie much closer. While pipeline developers argue that the facility meets National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter, research shows that any level of particulate matter exposure is a threat to human health. In the Union Hill case, the Court took note of this when it held that facilities cannot solely rely on these national air standards because there may still be disproportionate local threats.
The proposed Lambert facility is in the Chesapeake Bay’s airshed. Additional air pollution from the facility would eventually reach surrounding lands and waterways such as the James River, adding pollution to the Bay and its rivers.
CBF Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley issued the following statement.
“MVP’s application failed to meet the legal requirements for environmental justice. The Air Board made the right decision in denying it.
“The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has already established the standards for assessing potential impacts in environmental justice communities in a landmark decision for Union Hill. Now developers of a very similar industrial facility in a similar rural Virginia community are seeking to flout those standards for their own gain. MVP has racked up hundreds of environmental violations and lost multiple court cases.
“We are prepared to defend the health and wellbeing of the Jones family and all communities unfairly shouldering the burden of polluting facilities.”
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