Northam Declines to Reappoint Shore Representative to Water Board

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By Linda Cicoira
There is no longer a resident of the Eastern Shore on the State Water Control Board.
Gov. Ralph Northam appointed Paula Hill Jasinski, of Richmond, president of Chesapeake Environmental Communications and Green Fin Studio, and James Lofton, of Greene County, assistant chief counsel for airports and environmental law for the Federal Aviation Administration, to the water board Friday.
The governor, a native of the Onancock area, did not reappoint Roberta Kellam, of Franktown, who sought to retain and was eligible to continue serving. She said she was supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Kellam voted “no” on key permits related to the Dominion Coast’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline and supported revoking certifications for the pipelines earlier this year.
She was notified Thursday that Northam would not reappoint her. Kellam, whose appointment expired in May, said it was not typical for appointments to take this long. “My prior two appointments were timely.”
Two members of the Air Pollution Control Board were also not reappointed. Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, whose terms also ended in June, were not put back on that board, which had postponed a vote until next month for the pipeline compressor station.
Kellam said on Facebook “no reason” was given for the change. “I’d rather not say,” she answered when asked about it Saturday. But farther down in her posts she said it was because she voted against Dominion.
“I would like to say how much of an honor it has been to serve the commonwealth for two terms, plus hold-over months, on (the) SWCB, and I thank former Governors (Tim) Kaine and (Terry) McAuliffe for giving me the opportunity to serve,” she posted on Facebook. “I would like to thank the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) leadership, DEQ staff, and my fellow board members for their hard work and friendship. I would also like to thank all members of the public who write letters, attend public hearings, and otherwise let the decision-makers know how a government decision could impact the waters of the commonwealth. Let us never take the water for granted and always strive to protect it for future generations.”
“The governor is exercising his statutory authority to appoint members of his choosing to these board seats,” Northam’s representative said.
Scores of local “friends” voiced their displeasure on Kellam’s Facebook site.
“What a loss for the Shore,” wrote Donna Bozza of Citizens For a Better Eastern Shore (CBES). “Thanks for serving on this Board, Roberta. You gave it your all.”
“Disappointing news for the ES-VA (Eastern Shore of Virginia),” wrote Clarice Bartel MacGarvey, also of Franktown. “Thanks for all you do for the Shore.”
Barry Truitt, of Machipongo, wrote to thank Kellam for her service. “We do need a Shore person on this board.”
Janet Sturgis, a member of the Northampton Planning Commission who attends all the Eastern Shore Groundwater Committee meetings, also voiced her disappointment with the governor’s decision. “The gloves are now off in the fight over protecting and conserving ESVA ground and surface waters.”
Maureen Dooley, a local Democrat, posted, “This is the first time a decision made by the governor is less than forthright. I am correct in writing that he shed the votes that would go against the pipeline. He had stated that he trusted the decision of the advisers. When the decision was not to his liking, he shed the advisers. Am I misreading this? I hope I am.”
Edward S. Brinkley, of Cape Charles, wrote, “They only want industry puppets and shills. Northam was once better than this.”
“It is still shocking to me that he threw me under the bus,” Kellam answered.
“That is a huge disappointment and a loss for the Shore and the SWCB,” wrote Martina Coker, of Cape Charles.
Richard Ayers, of Exmore, wrote, “We were glad to have (had) your voice on the board for those many years. It’s the state’s loss in not reappointing you.”