LCDC Press Release on Tree-Sit Pipeline Protests, MVP, and ACP
Natural gas is neither safe nor clean. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) present unacceptable risks to water quality, unacceptable contribution to climate change in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, unacceptable threats to social justice in communities affected, unacceptable impact to the forests and wildlife in the Commonwealth, unacceptable risks to human health, and unacceptable use of eminent domain.
To quote Delegate Danica Roem, one of fourteen Virginia legislators who recently held a press conference to condemn construction of the pipelines, “I’m a property rights Democrat and an environmental Democrat, and this is bad for both; We are one Commonwealth…it is our obligation to stand with people in Southwest Virginia. We all represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have to be united.”
Democrats in Loudoun are conscientious stewards of the environment, advocates of rural conservation and defenders of social justice. Many in our membership and leadership are alarmed at the treatment of Theresa "Red" Terry, her daughter Minor and others, who are actively engaged in tree-sit protests on their own property to obstruct tree clearing progress on the MVP and ultimately construction of the pipeline itself. Even more disconcerting, one of the enormous compressor stations on the ACP route is planned for Union Hill, a historic, predominantly African American community that was founded by freed slaves in Buckingham County.
“Water is life. The construction of these pipelines poses a threat to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who live near proposed constructions sites,” said LCDC Chair Alfonso Nevarez, “The Department of Environmental Quality needs to do a stream-by-stream analysis of all water crossing that would be impacted by these proposed pipelines before further work is authorized. I am confident that Virginia’s Democratic elected officials will make prudent decisions that will protect human and property rights for our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth.”
Denial of Access to Water and Food for the tree sitters
On April 18th, referring to "Red" Terry, Senator John Edwards pointed out, "If you're in the prisons of the Commonwealth, you get food and water. She hasn't been convicted of anything, and she's being treated in an inhumane fashion. That's not in the tradition of the United States of America, we should be outraged by that." The LCDC agrees and respects the time-honored American tradition of non-violent protest.
Social Justice in Union Hill, Buckingham County
The one compressor station in Virginia on the ACP route is planned for Buckingham County, less than a mile from Union Hill. This is a community founded by freed slaves and is still predominantly African American. LCDC is very concerned that this community was picked for the compressor station precisely for this reason, as the Northampton compressor station in North Carolina also appears to be. The Northampton compressor station would be located in a county that has a higher African American population, lower median household income and higher poverty level than the state as a whole. It is apparent that smaller compressor stations could have been planned at more points along the pipeline route and that would have prevented toxic emissions from being concentrated in this one community, but that is not the plan that Dominion has for the ACP.
Inappropriate use of Eminent Domain
FERC has issued certificates of public convenience to MVP and ACP, but many Virginians disagree that the pipelines are in the public interest. LCDC is aware of many reasons to be skeptical of FERC's decision. At the time those certificates of public convenience were issued, FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFluer offered this dissenting opinion, "I cannot conclude that either of these projects as proposed is in the public interest, and thus, I respectfully dissent”. Mrs. LaFleur went on to conclude, "Given the environmental impacts and possible superior alternatives, approving these two pipeline projects on this record is not a decision I can support". Senator Tim Kaine called the approval "very suspicious circumstances,” and has requested a rehearing at FERC on these two projects. From Senator Kaine's Letter to Kevin McIntyre at FERC, "The Commission approved the MVP and ACP on a vote of 2-1 when two of the five commissioner slots were vacant. The split decisions were most unusual – 98% of FERC orders in 2016 were unanimous. Given that the Commission now has a full complement of five members, there is a real concern about whether the divided rulings by a partial Commission fairly reflect the FERC position”.
Widespread opposition from environmental organizations
Virtually every environmental organization in the Commonwealth is opposed to these projects. LCDC has been following this issue closely and shares the concerns raised by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Wild Virginia, League of Conservation Voters, Southern Environmental Law Center, National Resources Defense Council, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, The Allegheny Blue-Ridge Alliance.
Unacceptable level of environmental damage
LCDC members have travelled to several areas that would be directly affected by the pipeline construction and are aware of numerous threats to water quality related to karst topography, erosion and runoff. Many of these areas are otherwise pristine and include active fisheries.
Fracking is harmful to human health
At least six percent of the population, 17.6 million Americans, now live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, a number that includes 1.4 million young children and 1.1 million elderly people. Numerous studies have linked toxic chemicals to fracking. The 2018 edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking from Physicians for Social Responsibility states, "Public health problems associated with drilling and fracking include poor birth outcomes, reproductive and respiratory impacts, cancer risks and occupational health and safety problems." Several states have taken measures to ban fracking, including our neighbor to the north, Maryland. While Virginia can't force other states to end the practice, the Commonwealth can choose to opt for renewable energy that does not carry the same consequences for millions of our fellow Americans.
Unacceptable response to climate change, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Numerous studies have concluded that methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. In his Executive Order on Climate Change from May 16th of 2017, Governor Terry McAuliffe stated, "The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it". The LCDC agrees that we have a shared responsibility to confront climate change, but finds that construction of the ACP and MVP are not suitable solutions to the problem and will in fact increase emissions that contribute to anthropogenic climate change.
Additional natural gas infrastructure not needed
The 2016 Synapse Report, prepared for Southern Environmental Law Center, states, "For Virginia and the Carolinas, the anticipated natural gas supply capacity on existing and upgraded infrastructure is sufficient to meet maximum natural gas demand from 2017 through 2030. Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and existing and new industrial facilities in production".
Erosion of public trust in regulatory institutions
The Army Corps of Engineers review of the Dakota Access Pipeline failed to, “adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice”. For this reason, it is inappropriate to have the Army Corps of Engineers do the permitting on ACP and MVP. The relationship between Dominion and Virginia is fraught with conflicts of interest.
These pipelines could very well kill someone.
Natural gas pipelines leak and explode. It's extremely clear that these projects would be constructed within the "incineration zone" of several homes. This is an unacceptable risk to human health and well-being, even if an explosion never occurs. The LCDC rejects the entire notion of sacrifice zones outright and wishes to express the very deep outrage that our members and leadership have with the idea that any Virginian would be forced to choose between living in close proximity to one of these pipelines and selling their home to move elsewhere at a staggering loss to their property value.
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