do so respectfully
Last month, the citizen volunteers on the State Water Control Board considered whether to certify that two large pipeline projects would not violate the commonwealth’s water quality standards.
The proceedings were interrupted and delayed by schoolyard behavior — taunts, bullying, and threats. Cursing, shouting, interrupting, and disruptive and rude behavior are not substitutes for facts and evidence. Anonymous pipeline opponents placed literature in the mailboxes of Water Board members and their neighbors that said things like “his corruption would kill.” They trespassed to hang a banner in the yard of a member’s home. After one vote did not go as some hoped, a young man shouted, “We know where you (expletive) live.”
In neither a career of almost three decades at the Environmental Protection Agency nor a previous term on the Water Board did I ever see a substantial number of hearing attendees become disruptive. Unfortunately, in recent years political attack ads have filled the airwaves and national political figures use social media to disparage their opponents. Virginians can and should hold ourselves to the standards of dignity and thoughtful discourse that have made our commonwealth great.
Some people apparently misunderstand the role of the board, which was not to vote on whether the pipelines are a good idea. I am personally sympathetic to several concerns about the pipelines — the impacts of fracking on groundwater, methane emissions, perpetuating fossil fuel use, the use of eminent domain to acquire right-of-way, and forest fragmentation — but those matters are not under the purview of the Water Board.
The very essence of a functioning democracy and civil society is respect for the rights of others to hold and express their views. One can remain civil while forcefully presenting strongly held opinions and arguments. Those who did so in the case of the pipelines were effective in leading the Water Board to adopt additional safeguards for aquatic resources.