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State lawmakers target citizen air and water boards

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation argues citizen boards can best protect the state's air and water.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation argues citizen boards can best protect the state's air and water.

Many state agencies make their own policies or recommend changes to the legislature, but when it comes to air and water, two citizen boards have the final say, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation director Peggy Sanner says that’s the way it should be.

“The experts weigh in with their advice, but the environment is something that belongs to Virginians, and in fact the Virginia constitution makes it clear that the environment is for the benefit of all people,” she explains.

So Sanner is urging lawmakers not support bills offered by Senators Stanley and Stewart and Delegates Kilgore and Bloxom to hand the power of approving permits to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. She says this area is too important to be decided by bureaucrats in private.

“The air board and the water board make sure that decisions affecting our environment are not made behind closed doors – agency representatives to industry representatives, but in fact involve the people.”

Sanner notes that board members are usually well qualified experts with no ties to industry, and appointments to four-year terms are staggered so that governors who may represent different parties get a chance to make appointments. Since Democrats have controlled the governor’s office for four of the last five terms, members of the current Water and Air Pollution Control Boards were all appointed by them.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.