The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Activists play golf outside Department of Environmental Quality headquarters

<p>Michael James-Deramo, chair of the VCU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, sits in a golf cart meant to represent the Masters tournament trip gifted to David Paylor by Dominion in 2013.</p>

Michael James-Deramo, chair of the VCU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, sits in a golf cart meant to represent the Masters tournament trip gifted to David Paylor by Dominion in 2013.

On Wednesday morning, a group of 22 environmental activists wearing colorful and preppy golf attire parked two golf carts outside the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality headquarters in downtown Richmond, set up a green putting matt, grabbed their clubs and got ready to play some golf.

The mock golf tournament was staged by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a reaction to a news story published by WTVR last week revealing that David Paylor, director of the DEQ, accepted gifts from Dominion in 2013, including a paid trip to the Masters golf tournament in Georgia.

One of the golf carts was labeled with a sign that read “DEQ Shuttle Service Courtesy of Dominion,” and had a sign inside indicating a reserved seat for Paylor.

“We’re here to highlight what we see as a relationship between David Paylor and Dominion that seems a little too cozy,” said Drew Gallagher, the Virginia field organizer of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

According to WTVR, data from the Virginia Public Access Project confirmed that Dominion reported spending $4,492 for Paylor and Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, to attend the Masters tournament, as well as $1,236 on a dinner that both men attended.

“We think that the state’s top environmental regulator absolutely cannot be accepting gifts from our state’s top polluter,” Gallagher said.

Six of the demonstrators present on Wednesday morning had been among the 17 young protesters charged for trespassing in the DEQ Richmond office two weeks earlier, after they occupied the lobby of the building along with other members of an organization known as the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

Michael James-Deramo, chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University chapter of the coalition, said that the group planned to continue to push for Paylor’s resignation unless all of their demands were met. These demands include to repeal the permits granting Dominion access to dump coal ash into the James and Potomac rivers, to issue an investigation into Dominion’s illegal dumping into the Quantico Creek last year, and to accept no further gifts from Dominion.

Laura Cross, a UVA student who was at the golf demonstration Wednesday morning, said that Virginia Student Environmental Coalition had met with Paylor last Monday and discussed DEQ’s relationship with Dominion. Paylor said in the meeting that if he could do it again, he would not have accepted the gifts from Dominion, yet reportedly insisted that his actions were legal and did not agree to publicly apologize for them, Cross said.

Bill Hayden, the public affairs director at the DEQ, said that the golf demonstration that took place this morning was a reaction to a situation that the DEQ believed to not be a problem, stating that Dominion’s gifts to Paylor had nothing to do with the permits issued by the DEQ.

“The golf tournament was unrelated to the permits and the DEQ has handled everything concerning those permits exactly as it should be handled,” Hayden said.

Paylor's secretary said that Paylor was not in the office on the morning of the demonstration because he was attending an off-site meeting. 

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Contact reporter Maria Eugenia Fernandez at mariaeugenia.fernandez@richmond.edu

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