Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Barber and Gore in Buckingham

Civil rights activist William Barber II, of the Poor People’s Campaign, and environmental activist Al Gore, along with his daughter Karenna, visited Buckingham on February 19, 2019, for meetings with Union Hill residents and anti-pipeline activists (closed to the press), followed by an evening meeting at Buckingham Middle School, where 700-1000 people heard speakers call for justice and tell their stories.

Over and over, both speakers and the wide press coverage surrounding the day’s events, pointed out Governor Ralph Northam’s failure to protect citizens from Dominion’s corporate interests, his interventions on behalf of Dominion, and his blatant failure to fulfill his recent promises for racial reconciliation by opposing the pipeline project and supporting Union Hill.

Northam’s response (tone deaf as usual) sided again (as usual) with Dominion, ignoring all evidence of environmental devastation and environmental injustice: in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Northam said “it is clear community concerns remain and that Dominion/ACP’s outreach has thus far been lacking. I hope that Dominion/ACP will listen and respond to the concerns of this important historic community and act as a good neighbor.”

The event was livestreamed here on the Repairers of the Breach Facebook page:
 
It was also livestreamed on Vimeo: https://livestream.com/accounts/5188266/events/8566311
 

Press coverage before and after the event included the following:

2-20-19 Washington Post. Al Gore, civil rights leader William Barber call on Northam to seek forgiveness through action. “The little front porch seemed like a pulpit as the Rev. William Barber II outlined a path to redemption for Virginia’s troubled governor, Ralph Northam. ‘What he should do more than resign is he should get the resolve to be serious and take on this project,’ Barber said, looking toward the nearby stand of pine trees where Dominion Energy plans to build a major natural gas pipeline pumping station in the middle of a historic African American community. ‘He could lead the nation. He could lead the South.’ Beside the civil rights leader stood another high-profile activist, former vice president Al Gore, who nodded in agreement. The pair was touring the rural community of Union Hill on Tuesday afternoon to draw attention to the case against the pumping station, which is part of the $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Northam’s shame over a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page could be put to positive use, said Gore, a fellow Democrat. ‘If it resulted in Governor Northam saying, ‘I’ve seen the light, I’m going to change the policy,’ then God intends it for good,’ he said. This is Northam’s place now in the national dialogue. As long as he responds to calls to resign with promises to seek racial reconciliation, pressure will mount for him to act and prove he means it.”

2-20-19 WVTF. Gore Lambasts Dominion’s Plans for Union Hill.  “It was a combination protest, spiritual revival and celebration as about 800 people packed the gym at a middle school in Buckingham County last night to hear from environmental activist Al Gore and political activist William Barber. They had come to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and construction of a massive compressor station in the historic black community called Union Hill. If Al Gore was the evening’s big star, the Reverend William Barber was quite a warm up act. He attacked Dominion – the company planning a massive compressor station in a poor, rural community founded by freed Virginia slaves, and said companies often refer to places like Union Hill as LULUs – short for Local Unwanted Land Use.”

2-20-19 Virginia Mercury. Civil rights leader, former vice president take aim at Northam, Dominion during visit to Buckingham County. “‘It is an outrageous proposal environmentally in terms of environmental injustice; in terms of it being an economic rip-off to the energy ratepayers of Virginia and in terms of global warming, of course,’ Gore said in an interview before the event. Barber took more direct shots at Dominion, asking at one point during a meeting at Union Grove Baptist Church if there were any Dominion employees present. ‘In Hebrew, dominion does not mean destruction,’ Barber said later in the evening. ‘In Hebrew, dominion means responsibility. Dominion is God’s instruction for community and taking care of the land and all that is in it.’ …. ‘I did take note of (Northam’s) statement that he was going to dedicate the rest of his term to racial reconciliation,’ Gore said. ‘This community is a wonderful opportunity for him to give meaning to those words and actually show that he’s intent on doing it even if it makes one his largest financial supporters unhappy. That’s where the rubber meets the road.’ Barber had a similar message for Northam, who was not at the event. ‘The real racism you must prove you’re against is systemic racism,’ Barber said. ‘Gov. Northam, if you want to be a great governor, if you want to help lead the nation, the first thing you got to do is stop by Union Hill.’”

2-19-19 US News. Al Gore Meets With Residents Fighting Gas Pipeline Station. “Former Vice President Al Gore urged residents of a historic African-American community in Virginia on Tuesday to continue their fight against a plan to build a natural gas pipeline compressor station in their neighborhood. Gore and social justice advocate the Rev. William Barber II met with residents of Union Hill, a rural community about 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Richmond that was founded by emancipated slaves after the Civil War. The visit by Gore and Barber — part of an environmental justice tour — came weeks after a racial scandal rocked state government when both Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s. Gore told residents that the proposal to build the compressor station in the African-American community is a ‘vivid example of environmental racism.’ ‘This proposed pipeline is a reckless, racist rip-off,’ Gore said. He said Northam should fulfill his promise for racial reconciliation by opposing the pipeline project. ‘This is an ideal opportunity for him to say, “I’ve seen the light,”; Gore said. During a raucous meeting before more than 700 people at Buckingham Middle School, Barber said Dominion Energy — the lead developer of the pipeline — is “practicing sin” by proposing to build the compressor station in Union Hill. ‘I want to say tonight that any governor or legislator, Democrat or Republican … that has chosen Dominion over this community is scandalous,’ Barber said.”

2-19-19 Washington Post. Al Gore meets with residents fighting gas pipeline station. “Former Vice President Al Gore urged residents of a historic African-American community in Virginia on Tuesday to continue their fight against a plan to build a natural gas pipeline compressor station in their neighborhood. Gore and social justice advocate the Rev. William Barber II met with residents of Union Hill, a rural community about 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Richmond that was founded by emancipated slaves after the Civil War. The visit by Gore and Barber — part of an environmental justice tour — came weeks after a racial scandal rocked state government when both Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s. Gore told residents that the proposal to build the compressor station in the African-American community is a ‘vivid example of environmental racism.’ ‘This proposed pipeline is a reckless, racist rip-off,’ Gore said. He said Northam should fulfill his promise for racial reconciliation by opposing the pipeline project. ‘This is an ideal opportunity for him to say, “I’ve seen the light,”‘ Gore said.”

2-19-18 WTVR6. Al Gore warns that Dominion compressor station will bring ‘single largest increase in global warming pollution’   “Former Vice President Al Gore stopped in Central Virginia Tuesday night as part of what he calls an ‘Environmental Justice Tour.’ Gore visited Union Hill in Buckingham County to highlight what he calls the connection between poverty, racism and ecological devastation. Union Hill is a historically black community, and is the proposed site of a controversial compressor station for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Gore says the compressor will be harmful to the environment. ‘This compressor station and this pipeline would be the single largest increase in global warming pollution from the state of Virginia ever,’ Gore said.”

2-19-19 NBC29. Al Gore Among Guest Speakers Opposing Pipeline Construction in Buckingham County. “Rev. Barber II says Governor Ralph Northam should change his views on the pipeline and stop accepting money from Dominion Energy. ‘He could stop this tomorrow, but it would require him to say, “I choose the people of Virginia over a corporation,”‘ Barber said. Gore also stated that if Northam wanted to make up for all of the controversy surrounding the blackface scandal, Buckingham County would be a good place to start. ‘In the aftermath of those pictures – of that picture being shown – the governor said he wants to dedicate his remaining time as governor to racial reconciliation,’ Gore said. ‘Well, here is the premiere place to do that.’”

2-19-19 Daily Progress. Union Hill visit by Gore, Barber seeks to put Northam on spot. “Gov. Ralph Northam can’t escape the spotlight as former Vice President Al Gore and the Rev. William J. Barber II bring a racial and environmental crusade Tuesday to a little community in Buckingham County with a big natural gas pipeline planned at its doorstep. Barber, a national civil rights leader from North Carolina, said Monday that Northam’s challenge is about more than overcoming a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page or his admission that he once blackened his face to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest. It’s about changing public policy in Virginia, he said, beginning with state permits granted for construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a natural gas compressor station in Union Hill, a community founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. ‘The governor has turned his back on this community,’ Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in an interview. ‘If he wants to do a reconciliation tour, he should first go to Union Hill.’ The message is the same from Gore, a Nobel laureate who has made the fight against fossil fuels and climate change the focus of his political work since narrowly losing the presidential election in 2000. ‘It’s such a great opportunity for the governor to really show he means what he says and is re-examining the racial impacts of Virginia’s policies,’ the former vice president said in an interview Monday.”

2-19-19 Bloomberg. Ralph Northam’s Racial Reckoning Could Spell Trouble for Pipe Project. “Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s racial reckoning could spell more trouble for Dominion Energy Inc.’s $7 billion-plus Atlantic Coast gas pipeline, with one of its facilities sited in an historically African American community. While the 600-mile (966-kilometer) project is facing several setbacks, one element, a planned compressor station, is drawing particularly heated backlash for its proposed location in Union Hill, a community west of Richmond that was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. Environmental groups and social activists are hoping to capitalize on the attention generated by the state’s political turmoil to further their efforts to block the project. And now former U.S. Vice President and outspoken fossil fuel critic Al Gore is slated to attend an event on Tuesday meant to draw attention to environmental justice issues surrounding the project. …. No one could be reached at Northam’s office for comment. Dominion didn’t respond to a request for comment.”

Press Conference: Moral Call For Ecological Justice Buckingham

The Moral Call for Ecological Justice in Buckingham


Tuesday February 19, 2019, 6:00-8:00 pm, Buckingham Middle School, 1184 High School Road, Buckingham, VA 23921.

If unable to attend in person please join in via the links below: 
 
The event will be livestreamed here on the Repairers of the Breach Facebook page:
 
For those who want to watch online but not on Facebook, it will also be livestreamed on this page: https://livestream.com/accounts/5188266/events/8566311
 

Join Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and former Vice President Al Gore for a program on “The Moral Call for Ecological Justice in Buckingham.” The public is invited to this free evening event, where Buckingham residents and other Virginians will share stories of the impacts of environmental injustice, and scientific experts will discuss the health threats and ecological devastation of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline and compressor station. As we celebrate Black History Month, we recognize how poverty, racism and ecological concerns are connected, and that we cannot address just one without addressing the others.

The event is FREE, but please REGISTER HERE so organizers can plan appropriately.

Questions?  Contact info@friendsofbuckinghamva.org

Rev. Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Former Vice President Gore is the founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.

Where’s the Promised Hearing?

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on February 13, 2019, members of the POWHR Coalition ask, “Where’s the pipeline hearing you promised?”

The State Water Control Board passed a motion on December 13, 2018, requiring a hearing on whether the water quality certificate for the Mountain Valley Pipeline should be revoked. But eight weeks later, no hearing date has been announced and the MVP continues to inflict damage.

“MVP’s ongoing pattern of violations disproves the assertion that formed the basis for certification, that compliance with water quality standards was reasonably assured. Every day that passes without a stop work order from the commonwealth undermines the board’s intention to reconsider the question of reasonable assurance. The Department of Environmental Quality’s refusal to issue stop-work orders where harm continues and imminent threats to water quality now exist betrays the state’s duty to use its full authority to protect our resources.”

The authors call on the Board to:

  • meet as soon as possible
  • vote that DEQ and the attorney general act immediately to stop work and prevent even further damage
  • provide an opportunity for meaningful citizen input. “In this case, participation by citizens is especially necessary to ensure that the interests of the public and the environment are represented. Recent disclosures by a former board member show that DEQ Director David Paylor is hostile to citizens.”

“It is important to stress that the authority for the notice and hearing process lies with the board; DEQ is merely tasked with carrying out the board’s order.”

Read the full article here.

On February 14, 2019, a meeting was announced for March 1, 2019, to discuss details on when the actual hearing will take place, and the format it will take.  The Water Board meeting to discuss a time and process for the actual hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 1021 Koger Center Blvd., Richmond.

SELC Challenges Virginia Air Board Decision

In a press release on February 8, 2019, the Southern Environmental Law Center announced their challenge of the Air Pollution Control Board on behalf of the Union Hill Community. The press release states:

Today the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its client the Friends of Buckingham, challenged the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s decision to approve Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline Buckingham County compressor station.

“The Air Board has refused to address the disproportionate harm that our community will have to bear as a result of the construction of this polluting compressor station,” said John W. Laury of Friends of Buckingham. “The members of our community should not have our health put at risk for a project that wasn’t properly vetted for environmental justice or air quality concerns.”

The Air Board and the Department of Environmental Quality did not meet their obligations under state and federal laws to consider less polluting alternatives and the best available pollution controls for minimizing pollution from the proposed compressor station.

“The backdrop to the board’s decision about the compressor station is the mounting evidence that customers in Virginia do not need the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to meet their energy needs,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “When a project like this pipeline goes forward without a full and transparent evaluation of its public necessity, it unfairly puts communities like Union Hill in harm’s way.”

Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is already stymied because a federal court has vacated or put on hold multiple required permits for failing to comply with applicable law and federal agencies have themselves revoked other permits.

Statement from Union Hill Community

A powerful statement from the Union Hill community of Buckingham County, VA after their press conference on Saturday February 2, 2019, following Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s decision to stay in office.

“For us who live or work in Union Hill, Buckingham, Virginia, the revelations that Gov. Ralph Northam engaged in racist behavior in medical school over thirty years ago are less troubling than his most recent actions, inactions, and silence about environmental racism related to the massive fracked gas compressor station to be built in Union Hill.

“When Gov. Northam removed two of the 5 Air Pollution Control Boards in the middle of a decision about that compressor station air permit after they raised questions of environmental [in]justice for that siting — his actions spoke loudly about his unwillingness to make donor sacrifices for his PAC required to make racial justice a reality in Virginia.

“His support of the actions of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to push through the controversial air permit for Union Hill speaks loudly that he is not committed to racial justice in our state. For, the VDEQ spokesman publicly erased the existence of Union Hill’s African American majority and labeled its history of “no significance.” That history is of former slaves building a freedmen community on plantations lands where they were once enslaved. And, whose present day residents are their descendants threatened by the carcinogenic cocktail of most harmful air emissions of Virginia’s ACP compressor station.

“Tellingly, Gov. Northam not only ignored the unanimous decision by his Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for him to issue a moratorium on the ACP and MVP pipelines until environmental justice reviews were taken, but disbanded that body of citizen experts to create a “new” EJ council with seats for the very corporate polluters whose toxic emissions were the reason for the EJ council formation.

“We ask you to consider the direct lines we see between the actions of a young man and his actions and silence when elected to the most powerful office in Virginia. It is not a matter of Democrat or Republican in state that was the capital of the Confederacy. It is a question of making the hard, ethical choices to do the daily work of restorative justice toward racial justice in Virginia.

“The following spokespersons for Union Hill are willing to speak with reporters today:

“Rev. Pastor Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Grove MIssionary Baptist Church and leader of the movement to stop the environmental injustice of the compressor station
Cell: (804) 356-4288

“Mr. John W. Laury, Union Hill farmer, veteran, Union Grove deacon, and freedman family descendant in Union Hill
Cell: (434) 390-7650

“Mrs. Ruby Laury, Union Hill, Friends of Buckingham steering committee member and Concern for the New Generation member
Cell: (434) 390-4824

“Dr. Lakshmi Fjord, anthropologist, Friends of Buckingham Steering Committee, principal researcher, Union Hill Community Study and History
Cell: (510) 684-1403”

See press coverage in the Daily Progress on February 2, 2019.

Congressional Act to Allow Pipelines to Cross Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway?


Say “NO!”

On December 3, 2018, KPVI6 reported that “Legislation is pending in Congress that would give the National Park Service clear authority to allow construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline beneath the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, both potentially critical obstacles under litigation pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Dominion Energy, lead partner in the $7 billion project, confirmed the legislative proposal, which first surfaced in a blog post from an Alabama group that suggested aid for the 600-mile natural gas pipeline is ‘tucked into the omnibus spending bill’ being negotiated by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Dominion’s Aaron Ruby emailed the Richmond Times-Dispatch, saying that, “Congress is considering a legislative amendment that would explicitly authorize the park service to grant a permit for such a crossing.”

The Park Service has twice issued permits for the ACP to cross the Parkway. After the first permit was issued, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated it in early August as an “arbitrary and capricious” exercise of the agency’s powers. At the same time, the Court also issued a stay of the permit the Forest Service issued for the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail. After the two agencies [minimally] revised their permits, FERC lifted the stay order, but appeals against the reissued permits are pending, and legal briefs to the Court are due at the end of this week.

In vacating the Park Service permit in early August, Judge Gregory did not rule decisively on whether the Park Service has authority to issue the permit under the Blue Ridge Parkway Organic Act, but he said it had failed to show how the project is consistent with the purposes of the parkway and National Park System. For example, the Park Service had conducted a visibility study and found that because the crossing at Reeds Gap near the Wintergreen entrance would be very visible, it would “thus significantly decreasing the park’s scenic value.”

In trying to get Congress to pass a bill (buried in the omnibus spending bill where they surely hoped no one would notice it) giving the Park Service authority to allow construction, Dominion is clearly trying to make an end run around pending Court rulings that might not be in their favor. Austin “DJ” Gerken, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, commented, “It’s disappointing but not surprising that Dominion would try to bend the law to its will. It’s already tried to bend the agencies to its will.” And he added, “The fact that Dominion is trying to work around [the law] before it even knows what the court has ruled is really shocking and bold.”

Take action! Contact your Senators and Representatives to urge them to oppose any legislative amendment that would give the National Park Service unchecked authority to allow pipeline construction. Contact Senator Shelby and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Kaine’s office says he does not support the measure, so thank Senator Kaine for protecting the land held in common for all of us to enjoy.