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State NAACP president muddies group’s stance against Dominion Energy pipeline project

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 12/6/2018, 6 a.m.
The Virginia State NAACP is reaffirming its opposition to Dominion Energy’s $6.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline because it believes a ...

Dominion has offered to make that commitment a condition of receiving the permit, without which it could not continue to build the pipeline.

Dominion Energy spokesman Aaron Ruby denied that the company had written the initial letter that Rev. Chandler signed, even though the NAACP officer’s title is misstated as chairman of the state organization.

Mr. Ruby said the company learned about Rev. Chandler’s view and urged him to share his appreciation of Dominion’s work in a letter to Gov. Northam and to provide the company with a copy, which it began distributing last week at community meetings.

The letter created an uproar inside the NACCP after The Washington Post made it public. Members of the state NAACP executive board expressed concern because they said they knew nothing about the letter and because it appeared to shift the NAACP’s previous position on the project to one of support.

Under the NAACP constitution, the president does not have unilateral authority and needs approval of the executive board to issue a statement that alters the organization’s position. The board is authorized to act outside of the annual convention, where votes on policy are taken.

In a bid to end confusion, the state NAACP issued a new letter to Gov. Northam dated Nov. 30 restating its opposition to the pipeline project that included Rev. Chandler’s name as a signatory.

“To be clear, the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP continues to oppose both the compressor station and the pipeline and urges the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to deny Dominion’s permit application.”

In his own statement, Mr. Ruby stated that Dominion “has a profound respect” for Union Hill. He noted that if the air board approves the permit, “we are going to be neighbors in Union Hill for decades to come, and we believe it is important to treat our neighbors with dignity and respect. That is why we have worked so hard over the last year to build trust, address concerns and invest in a better future for the community,” he stated.

But that has not satisfied the state NAACP board, which in the Nov. 30 letter stated that Dominion’s proposed $5.1 million investment in the Union Hill community does “not relieve Dominion Energy from the other demands previously presented to the state Department of Environmental Quality.”

The letter stated that the state NAACP “expects the review process will begin to seriously take into account the environmental injustices” that some Union Hill residents and the civil rights group have raised.