Category Archives: Cultural Resources

Stone Walls Along the Blue Ridge

Photo by Nancy Sorrells

In the December 10, 2017 Staunton News Leader, Nancy Sorrells of Augusta County writes about the threat the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline poses to the historic dry stone walls that traverse both both the east and west face of the Blue Ridge. “The grey and green lichen and moss-covered walls of stone meander through the forest like silent sentinels of history. Long ago, settlers on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Augusta County, and on the eastern slopes in Nelson, lived proud and independent lives on their subsistence farms. These stone walls were an integral part of their daily farming activities,” protecting crops and gardens and enclosing animals.

Although morterless, the walls are remarkably stable, and still stand “horse-high and hog tight,” snaking for miles along Blue Ridge slopes. Late 18th and early 19th century settlers in our part of Virginia’s Blue Ridge came from the Ulster region in the north of Ireland; scholars have suggested that the differing styles of the walls may be attributed to different kin groups.

“The only threat today to these walls is a natural gas pipeline. To date, Dominion will not acknowledge the need to avoid these walls during their construction activities. Should Dominion build its pipeline through these walls, there is no mitigation that can restore what those artisans created centuries ago.

If the destruction of these walls worries you, please write to Julie Langan, Virginia Department of Historic Resources Director, 2801 Kensington Ave., Richmond, VA 23221. Express your concern over the potential loss of these important resources and suggest that the pipeline route be moved to protect the historic stone walls.

People’s Tribunal – A Community at Risk


We commend to our readers the October 20, 2017, edition of Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog, A People’s Tribunal on Environmental Justice Impacts of Fracked Gas, written by Lakshmi Fjord, about the Union Hill community in Buckingham County and the need for the Tribunal on October 28, 2017.

Rural Buckingham County is at the exact center of Virginia, where Dominion provides neither gas service nor electricity to most of the county because it’s unprofitable to do so in such a rural area. But Dominion chose this as the site for the single compressor station in Virginia, secretly purchasing “68 acres of land with a large wetland from descendants of plantation owners at 10 times the market value in the middle of Union Hill, a historic Freedmen community. And now, those heritage lands owned by Freedmen descendants that have tied their generations to this land and place have lost most of their value.”

In addition to illuminating community history, a door-to-door survey of 99 households within a mile of the compressor stations site revealed, among other things, “that the population of Union Hill is five times greater than what Dominion reported to FERC. Union Hill’s actual population qualifies it as a ‘suburban’ neighborhood under the federal government’s pipeline safety standards. This means that Dominion must apply more safety measures on the pipeline in Union Hill, including using thicker pipes and installing shut-off values closer together. But Dominion’s documentation makes no change from its construction plans for rural areas, with thinner pipes and farther distances between the shut-off valves. The higher standards would be especially critical in Buckingham County, which has a 120-year history of earthquakes.”

As a rural area, Union Hill has a higher than average air quality, and state law would therefore perversely allow Dominion to release toxic gases at higher rates from the compressor station, exemplifying the cost-benefits of racism in Buckingham County and Virginia.

The People’s Tribunal on Environmental Justice and Fracked Gas, October 28, 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., City Space, Charlottesville, aims “to document and record in one informative narrative the voices of the people most impacted by these proposed pipelines, the scientific data about pipeline hazards and impacts, and the economics showing the projects are not needed for any public good, making the communities’ forced sacrifices that much more egregious.” Featuring nationally acclaimed community activist Lois Gibbs, environmental attorney and toxicologist Adrienne Hollis, and anthropologist of indigenous and environmental justice James Igoe.

More information on the People’s Tribunal here.

Read the full Front Porch blog post here.

The People’s Tribunal


The People’s Tribunal on human rights, environmental justice, and the impacts of fracked gas infrastructure will be held on Saturday October 28, 2017, 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., at City Space, 100 5th Street NE., Charlottesville, VA.

While many know about the environmental hazards of fracked natural gas pipelines, few people know who is being forced to give up their human rights to clean air, water, and soil for the economic benefit of corporate stockholders. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) routes target rural, poor, African American, Native American, and Appalachian communities from West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina to bear the disproportionate burden of their toxic, polluting fracked natural gas infrastructure.

A people’s tribunal creates a public forum to present evidence for and information about issues critical to a just and civil society, especially when local, state, and federal governments are not responsive to public concerns. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking call on member nations to:

“Undertake independent and effective investigation into all cases of environmentally polluting activities and their impacts on the rights of affected communities; bring those responsible to account; and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.”

Experts in the fields of environmental and medical science, environmental justice, Virginia Slave and Freedmen, Native American and Appalachian history, and fracked gas economics will preside as Judges to hear first-person impacts and expert testimonies. Judges’ findings and recommendations will be sent to these human rights committees and will form the basis around which local groups can organize.

Who is at risk?

  • Union Hill in Buckingham, Virginia is an 85% African American community built by Freedmen. White descendants of former plantation owners sold their land to the ACP LLC where the only Virginia megacompressor station is to be built, within 150 ft. of households in this populous minority community. Compressor stations pose documented health and safety risks with their release of highly toxic gas emissions, air-borne particulates, and continuous noise pollution.
  • The area in West VA where the MVP & ACP jumbo pipelines begin will be replete with (more) compressor stations, metering stations, extraction plants, cryogenic plants, and soon, cracker plants and more fracking than ever. West Virginians are the source colony, yet they get little attention or help.
  • Across the U.S., new pipelines leak, break, and explode more often than even those 40 years old, causing permanent well-water, stream and river contamination, and destruction of property and its value, a nightmare for those unlucky to live in their path. Landowners along the ACP and MVP are coerced by threats of eminent domain to give up their property rights and live with these risks. Several Native American communities are directly impacted and all proposed routes were once Native American lands.

For more information, including the list of sponsoring organizations, see the People’s Tribunal flyer here.

The Tribunal Registration Form is here.

The Tribunal Testimony Sign-Up Form is here.

Video: Historic Union Hill Community Threatened by ACP

Historic Union Hill Community Threatened by Atlantic Coast Pipeline from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

In early September 2017, activists kayaked the James River along the planned route of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The pipeline route goes from West Virginia to North Carolina with plans to connect it to the Transco line, also in Union Hill, where the two will intersect and connect to export facilities.

Dominion plans to build a large compressor station for the pipeline in Union Hill, a historic Black community founded by descendants of freed slaves in unincorporated Buckingham County near the Cumberland State Forest, west of Richmond. Local residents see the pipeline company’s disregard for their community as part of an established history of environmental racism in Virginia.

Video production & reporting contributed by Sammy DiDonato

Art in Your Arsenal


Join Wild Virginia and eco-Artist Amelia L. Williams on Saturday October 21, 2017, 9:30-11:30 a.m., to see the front lines of the #NoACP struggle and learn about/contribute to a 3-piece art installation built as a protest tactic and to publicize the landscapes threatened by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Eco-artist Amelia L. Williams will take you on a walking tour of her two pieces of soundscape art and you will get a glimpse of the landowner’s “orange flag” signal-to-noise piece that is in progress. The triad of pieces are in different terrains and the walk will be designed to accommodate walkers of varying abilities. We will begin with the easy walking path and move on to a downhill trek through meadow and then a quick bushwhack to a trail in the woods.

Click here to register!

You may contribute — if you wish — to the “instrument table” piece, so bring something that can be inserted into a rattle or that can be clapped or banged to make a sound. Here are some ideas: kernels of Ponca corn, metal objects that are locally made, or represent water protection, wooden implements to use for striking together, glass bottles or jars with labels removed to fill with water (preferably bring a cork – artist will also have some corks available), old metal pieces from wind chimes, etc. – be creative.

DHR Believes ACP Will Adversely Affect South Rockfish and Warminster Historic Districts

In a letter to Dominion dated September 11, 2017, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) says the Atlantic Coast Pipeline “will adversely affect” the South Rockfish Rural Historic District and the Warminster Rural Historic District. The pipeline corridor will cross both districts, removing stands of mature trees. DHR states that because both Historic Districts derive much of their historic significance from their rural setting and feeling, “the construction of the pipeline through the resource’s boundary and in a manner that will be visible from contributing resources within the historic district, DHR considers the diminishment to these characteristics to be adverse.”

Read the full DHR letter here.