Our governor’s confounding inconsistency

How can a political leader perform so well on one important issue and so poorly on another?

Gov. Northam has performed well as leader of Virginia’s response to the pandemic. He has kept the public informed with fact-based reasons for the strong, positive actions he has taken. In all aspects of this horrific plague, he has clearly sought to serve the public interest.

Contrast his leadership on the pandemic with his lack of leadership during the long struggles over the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Since they were announced in 2014, the rationales for building them have fallen apart: demand for electric power has been flat and will be for years to come; existing pipelines can supply any needed gas at lower cost; the pipelines would create far fewer jobs than claimed; they would cause far more destruction than acknowledged in their environmental assessments; and they would burden captive customers with higher bills, not help them get cheaper energy.

Not only has he failed to actively speak out against the pipelines, Gov. Northam has intervened to favor them. When members of the air pollution control board voiced concerns, he summarily removed them, ensuring the permit would be granted. When his environmental justice council raised questions about the Buckingham compressor station, he disbanded the council. He has allowed the Department of Environmental Quality to provide weak oversight of the MVP.

Gov. Northam was trained as a doctor to faithfully follow the facts, and first of all, to do no harm to the patient. Yet he seems oblivious to the dire consequences of not applying those central ideas to the ACP and MVP.

What will it take for the governor to come off the sidelines and apply all his power — political as well as legal — to stopping these costly, dangerous, unjustified projects? He now has the political alignment in Richmond to do the right thing, as clearly shown by passage of the Clean Economy Act and other forward-looking laws. Rather than supporting corporate profits, he should serve the public by following the principles that guided him as a doctor.



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