Governor McAuliffe issues gag order to state agencies on natural gas pipelines

earth-newOn Tuesday, The Roanoke Times reported that the decision to share pipeline comments with the governor’s office before making them public was one outcome of an Oct. 28 meeting in Richmond that included representatives from 13 state agencies involved in the permitting process or mitigation efforts for the proposed pipelines. The Times reported the purpose of coordinating with the Governor’s office was to “ensure that state agencies will speak about the pipeline projects in the same way.”

Many groups across the state are fighting these highly controversial large-diameter high-pressure pipelines due to concerns about property rights, local economies, clean water, safety, air quality and climate change.   Despite this opposition, Governor McAuliffe maintains that the pipelines would bring jobs to VA, a position he has repeated since he stood arm and arm with Dominion CEO Tom Farrell at the initial press conference in September 2014 announcing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“There’s only two possible reasons the Governor would want state agencies to ‘coordinate’ their comments – one is to control those comments and the other is to vet them through his contacts with Dominion,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson.

Many federal and state agencies have responded to Dominion’s filing for permits with feedback that their application is too incomplete to process, including the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

“This is a gag order, pure and simple,” said Ernie Reed of Friends of Nelson. “Many Virginia residents and groups communicate directly with state agencies including the Department of Natural Heritage, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Department of Environmental Quality.  Our governor has a relationship with Dominion and won’t speak with us. This makes clear whose interests he is serving.”

Early last week Friends of Nelson invited the Governor to visit Nelson County to speak to landowners, business owners, and local officials, sending him more than 1200 invitations signed by residents of and visitors to Nelson County.  The Governor has not responded to that invitation.

“The Governor campaigned on government transparency and clean energy,” says Deirdre Skogen, Friends of Nelson’s Networking and Communications Coordinator. “Actions speak louder than words and they tell us differently.“

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