Virginia’s governor-elect, Ralph Northam, wasted no time in organizing a transition team. A day after his November 7th victory, Northam announced that Marianne Radcliff, a former state transportation official with rich experience in local government and politics, will lead his transition team.
Over the past two decades, Radcliff has established herself as a prominent lobbyist in the state’s capital. She is currently vice president of the Richmond-based lobbying firm Kemper Consulting. Previously she worked as a lobbyist for Williams Mullen.
DeSmog has found that Radcliff and Kemper Consulting have ties to companies behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a highly controversial project that loomed large in the gubernatorial race. These include links to Dominion – the energy giant and historically dominant corporate player in Virginian politics.
Northam, who early on supported the pipeline but later tried to assume a more careful position – perhaps in order not to alienate potential Democratic voters strongly opposed to the project – will now face renewed pressure from activists to oppose it as governor. The state has yet to issue all permits for the pipeline, including a crucial section 401 water quality certification under the Clean Water Act.
The pipeline question came up again and again during the Virginia gubernatorial campaign, even during a televised debate between Northam and his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie.
Northam said during the debate that he will support the project only if can be done with little environmental damage and with permitting rigor. If elected, he said, “I’ll work with the Virginia DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers to make sure, if the pipelines moves forward, that they are done in an environmentally responsible way and taking into account people’s property rights.”
Yet Radcliff’s appointment may be signaling a nod to proponents of the pipeline. Kemper Consulting has been lobbying in the past few years for Virginia Natural Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the partners behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Radcliff was personally registered to lobby for Virginia Natural Gas in 2015.
Kemper Consulting is also presently lobbying for Williams Companies, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based gas pipeline corporation.
Yet perhaps even more significantly, Radcliff is also longtime lobbyist for Fluor Corporation, a multinational construction and engineering company with extensive operations in the oil and gas industry. In the past several years alone Fluor has been involved in the construction of three natural gas-fired power plants owned by Dominion: Brunswick County Power Station, Bear Garden Power Station, and Greensville County Power Station. Dominion has tied the latter two facilities explicitly to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, arguing that the pipeline will deliver gas to power the new stations.
In its formal application for the Greensville County Power Station, which is currently under construction, Dominion stated that the facility will “have access” to the Atlantic Coast pipeline.
Radcliff also has links to Dominion lobbyist David Hallock. Both are state appointed members of Longwood University’s Board of Visitors. And last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Katherine Bond, a senior policy advisor at Dominion, to serve on the Longwood University’s board.
Hallock previously worked with Radcliff at Kemper Consulting. In 2015, after a stint as US Senator Mark Warner’s Chief of Staff, Hallock opened his own lobbying company, Two Capitols Consulting. He’s been a Dominion lobbyist since then.
As it turns out, both Radcliff and Hallock also share a business interest. Financial disclosures the two have filed with the Virginia Ethics Advisory Council, which are required by their membership on Longwood University’s Board of Visitors, show that both own a business interest in a limited liability corporation called RKHH, LLC, a commercial space in downtown Virginia.
A disclosure filed by Kay Kemper, the president of Kemper Consulting who serves on the board of another state university, reveals an interest in RKHH, LLC as well.
State of Virginia business records for RKHH, LLC indicate the business was registered by Brian Ball, an attorney at Williams Mullen, Radcliff’s former employer.
DeSmog requested comment from Radcliff and Hallock on this story, but did not receive a response. Both were also asked about the nature of their interest in RKHH, LLC. A request for comment from the Northam campaign went unanswered as well.
Rick Webb, coordinator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, a group of activists and organizations that have been opposing the pipeline since 2014, is concerned by Radcliff’s appointment – yet remains hopeful.
“This appointment does raise concerns,” Webb says. “We've been encouraged by the Governor Elect's past statements about the need for transparent and rigorous review of the ACP and MVP pipelines. Thus far, the Virginia DEQ's performance has fallen far short of that standard. So we again call on Mr. Northam to make his expectations clear. Selection of someone with ties to Dominion to lead his transition seems to send the wrong message. Nonetheless we are hopeful.”
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