By Cynthia Munley
Munley is an organizer of Preserve Salem.
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has recently raised $1.7 million in political cash, threatening a potential second term run as Virginia governor. McAuliffe wants to waltz back onto Virginia’s political landscape after literally mutilating our region with a miles-long pipeline ridge scar that disfigures our once-intact Blue Ridge Mountains. With his double boondoggle “pipelines-for-Virginia” idea, McAuliffe’s Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines (ACP and MVP) imposed heartbreaking damage to our region and communities still fighting to preserve their safety.
Can Virginia withstand any more McAuliffe wheeling-and-dealing? In an April 1, 2020, interview, McAuliffe boasted a scandal-free, pro-business administration. But under McAuliffe, Charlottesville saw a policing failure in the 2017 white nationalist rally and the state gave $1.4 million to a no-show Chinese company. Then, there are McAuliffe’s pipelines.
ACP’s cancellation validates opponents’ argument that these pipelines are unneeded. Dominion immediately endorsed the Clean Economy Act — demonstrating that stopping pipelines frees clean energy investment. Even the Dominion and Duke builders decided that ACP was an expensive dud. McAuliffe flippantly dismissed the ACP failure as needing to pass regulatory review while expressing no regret for the suffering and damage his pipelines caused by granting them eminent domain for private profit. McAuliffe demonstrates that men with power and no empathy can inflict colossal harms without remorse.
Recently defending Virginia pipelines, McAuliffe said, “You can’t have manufacturing jobs without cheap energy.” The cluelessness of this statement demonstrates that McAuliffe is either uninformed that MVP raises gas rates despite plentiful, cheaper existing sources, or he thinks Virginians don’t notice his bait-and-switch pipeline rip-offs. Business does not thrive on increased energy costs for bogus infrastructure. Also, MVP’s 139 granted variances mean the project is significantly altered from the one originally permitted, consuming more land than originally proposed, including around 6,000 acres of prime farmland.
McAuliffe’s pay-to-play schemes with campaign contributors Dominion Energy and MVP are as shameful as the epic damage they inflict. McAuliffe’s deals absolved industry from all damages for a paltry $58 million for ACP and $27.5 million for MVP for water and mountain resources and $2.5 million for MVP damage to historic resources. MVP is a textbook boondoggle: “wasteful or pointless activity that gives the appearance of having value.” This is not governing, but exploitation of the Virginians who elected him. Virginia would do better electing a candidate free from Dominion Energy’s money.
McAuliffe knowingly threw Virginia into a predatory state and federal regulatory system where most advantages were rigged for industry. Landowners and environmentalists were left to fight with a stack of disadvantages including a McAuliffe-Northam Department of Environmental Quality apparently following the lax, anti-regulatory, pro-industry Trump EPA model. Adding insult, after hosting the calamitous MVP over Virginia Appalachia’s unsuitably steep and karst-ridden terrain, Virginia ratepayers are then expected to help pay for MVP — the most expensive per-mile pipeline.
McAuliffe offered up Virginia’s waters as prey for MVP — which routed around citizen rights with state and federal agency complicity. Virginia’s own water quality standards demand clean waters where pollution may not interfere directly or indirectly with Virginians’ rightful use for swimming, boating, fishing or enjoyment of the beauty of these natural places. Our federal rights under the Clean Water and the Endangered Species acts guarantee protection of headwaters as “critical to the health of ... downstream communities.” In our region of springs and pristine waters (including Bent Mountain’s Tier 3 and trout stream upland Roanoke River headwaters), protection has been delayed or ignored by zombie federal agencies.
The sometimes mud-filled Roanoke River and countless streams lawlessly choked with MVP construction sediment deny all these rights and may have made the Roanoke Logperch extinct after an orchestrated regional decades-long comeback.
A 2015 Key-Log Economics study estimated the total cost to an eight-county region in the Virginias at around $8.9 billion, including $119.1 to $130.8 million yearly post-construction loss in land cover, property tax revenues and dampened economic growth. On every front, the MVP harms have grown from these initial estimates. Despite an unrelenting opposition to protect Virginia’s resources, MVP exploited unjust “tolling orders” to prematurely and recklessly permit and construct MVP while the DEQ, through inaction, helped MVP bulldoze Virginians’ rights to property, clean water and natural heritage.
The billions Virginians lose from McAuliffe’s pipelines become the McAuliffe gift that “keeps on giving.” Laws that make America better and Virginia cleaner have been boldly violated. McAuliffe should not be empowered to “play us again” with secret deals and destructive scams that permanently diminish Virginia’s resources. Terry McAuliffe’s big money and big deals are too expensive for Virginia.
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