Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has once again stated that he has no authority regarding proposed natural gas pipelines. In a September 28 broadcast of the “Ask the Governor” radio show on WTOP, a Washington, DC station, McAuliffe said:
“I as governor do not have the right to call down to the [Department of Environmental Quality] and say ‘Well I don’t like this”. . . I cannot deny an air and water permit as governor. I don’t have the authority. It’s done by statute. If you don’t like the regs and they get approved, then you need to talk to the legislature to change the law.” (remarks on pipelines at minute 21.52 in the broadcast)
The Governor and officials in his administration have been repeatedly told that Virginia has the authority and responsibility to evaluate the environmental prudency of a projects like natural gas pipelines and issue a permit under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. That provision of law states, in part:
Any applicant for a Federal license or permit to conduct any activity including, but not limited to, the construction or operation of facilities, which may result in any discharge into the navigable waters, shall provide the licensing or permitting agency a certification from the State in which the discharge originates or will originate, or, if appropriate, from the interstate water pollution control agency having jurisdiction over the navigable waters at the point where the discharge originates or will originate, that any such discharge will comply with the applicable provisions of sections 301, 302, 303, 306, and 307 of this title.
If the State, interstate agency, or Administrator, as the case may be, fails or refuses to act on a request for certification, within a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt of such request, the certification requirements of this subsection shall be waived with respect to such Federal application. No license or permit shall be granted until the certification required by this section has been obtained or has been waived as provided in the preceding sentence. No license or permit shall be granted if certification has been denied by the State, interstate agency, or the Administrator, as the case may be.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition reminded the Governor of these statutory provisions in a September 9 letter. Dominion Resources has also acknowledged this by filing a permit application with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and in related correspondence two weeks ago. How could the Governor think otherwise?