Category Archives: Environmental Justice

Video: Speakers at Buckingham’s Bridging the Gap Kickoff

On June 8, 2019, Bridging the Gap kicked off a week-long solar installation and environmental health training in Buckingham County. In this video from the kick-off event, Richard Walker, CEO of Bridging the Gap, introduces Basil Gooden, Jon Sokolow and Karen Campblin Jon Sokolow, writer, attorney, activist, fighting the Atlantic Coast & Mountain Valley Pipelines speaks about 3 Amicus Briefs filed June 7, 2019 in support of Southern Environmental Law Center’s filing on May 31 on behalf of the Union Hill Community. Karen Campblin, VA NAACP Environmental Justice Chair speaks about their recent meeting with AG Mark Herring and specifically about the woes of the Southside Connector, another environmental justice disaster.

Bridging the Gap In Virginia has received a grant from Mertz Gilmore Foundation to sponsor a solar installation and environmental health training program in the Union Hill area of Buckingham County, for the benefit of the African-American community, where Union Hill struggles economically and many leave in search of work. Their vision is to provide good jobs for the residents of Union Hill while starting a green workforce development program that mentors formerly incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth in the areas of solar installation, energy audits and conservation (i.e., weatherization, efficiency) and in-door environmental health (i.e., lead testing and encapsulation, mold remediation, and air quality monitoring).

New Broken Ground Podcast


Broken Ground is a podcast by the Southern Environmental Law Center “digging up environmental stories in the south that don’t always get the attention they deserve, and giving voice to the people bringing those stories to light.”

Demand for Power, episode 3 of Broken Ground, is now live, and tells John and Ruby Laurys’ story of stepping up in Buckingham County to defend their farm and neighbors when pipeline developers won’t back down from pursuing a risky, polluting project that’s become obsolete.

Listen here.

Walk with Me

On May, 17, 2019 Virginians and allies from the region walked with Union Hill to demand environmental justice and a stop to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines. They were joined by William Joseph Barber III and Karenna Gore of the Center for Earth Ethics. Returning to the route across the Robert E. Lee Bridge into Richmond traveled by civil rights advocates 51 years ago during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic Poor People’s Campaign march to Washington D.C., hundreds called for an end to environmental racism and new fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens our ability to protect our homes, our water, and our children’s future.

Jessica Sims of Sierra Club Virginia Chapter led the collaboration of dozens of Virginia environmental and grassroots organizations, including the Virginia Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Musical support was provided by the SUN SiNG Collective of ARTivism Virginia.

Featured here is singer, Bj Brown and speakers Queen Shabazz, Genesis Chapman, Karenna Gore, William Barber II, and Marie Gillespie. Other speakers for this event included: Beth Roach, Pastor Paul Wilson, Evelyn Dent, Lakshmi Fjord, Richard Walker, Andrew Tyler, Swami Dayananda, John Laury, Andrea Miller, Travis Williams and Chad Oba. Other ARTivists included All the Saints Theater, Lilly Bechtel, Tom Burkett, Tom Elliott, Kay Ferguson, Gabe Gavin, Jameson Price, Mara Eve Robbins, Graham Smith-White, Laney Sullivan, Siva Stephen Fiske and Joshua Vana.

A Wealth of Options at Our Disposal

Writing in Blue Virginia on May 17, 2019, Delegate Sam Rasoul says, “For more than four years, residents of Southwest and Central Virginia, together with our allies across the Commonwealth, have been fighting to stop two fracked methane gas pipeline – the $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the $4.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline. …. I am often asked what can Virginia do to stop these corporate boondoggles. I have heard some say the pipelines are ‘a done deal’ and that there’s nothing the state can do. Neither is true. We have a wealth of options at our disposal and citizens can play an important role in urging us to take these actions.”

Rasoul suggests:

  • Tell the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Issue a Stop Work Order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline
  • Contact Virginia’s Congressional Delegation to Get Them to Oppose Dominion’s Effort to Force the Courts to Approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline
  • Urge Attorney General Mark Herring to Facilitate a Stop Work Order to halt further damage by construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline
  • Urge Mark Herring to Stop Defending the Lawsuit Challenging Construction of a Massive Compressor Station in the Historic African American Community of Union Hill
  • Urge Governor Northam to Direct the Department of Environmental Quality to Stop Defending the Effort to Destroy Union Hill
  • Contact DEQ Director David Paylor to Issue a Stop Work Order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and to Take Action on Union Hill
  • Legislators Have a Powerful Tool – Our Voice – and We Should Use It
  • Join Anti-Pipeline Activities Like the May 17-18 Rallies in Richmond and Leesburg

Rasoul concludes, “The fight to stop these pipelines is part of a much larger struggle to uplift working and vulnerable families through social & economic justice, while directly confronting our climate crisis. This is a fight that not only can be won but must be won for the sake of our children and generations to come. We need to continue to speak out. We need to set Virginia on the right course.”

Read the full article here.

Groups File Federal Appeals Court Brief Challenging ACP

On Friday April 12, 2019, a group of ten religious, social justice, and civil rights organizations filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the Federal Court of Appeals in DC to revoke the key federal permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The ten groups are Center for Earth Ethics (headed by Karenna Gore); Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, Repairers of the Breach (led by Rev. William Barber III); Satchidananda Ashram – Yogaville, Inc.; Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church; Virginia Interfaith Power & Light; Virginia State Conference NAACP; and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. All we reaffirming long-standing opposition to the ACP.

Jonathan Sokolow, writing in Blue Virginia on April 15, 2019, explains that, “The 50-plus-page court filing states that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) violated federal law and ‘ignored significant minority populations that live along the proposed route.’ It argues that the permit issued by FERC should be revoked because FERC ‘did not take a hard look at the health and environmental effects of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’ on ‘environmental justice communities.’ It points in particular to FERC’s failure to consider the disproportionate effect that the pipeline would have on the historic African American community of Union Hill, in Buckingham County, as well as on Native American communities along the proposed route. As the brief points out, Dominion Energy seeks to build three compressor stations to transport fracked methane ‘natural’ gas along a 600-mile route from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina. ‘All three compressor stations would be located in census tracts where the minority population, or the population under the poverty level, is higher than the state average.'”

Martina Cole, writing for NRDC, cites examples of FERC’s flawed analysis:

  • Misguided use of census tract data masks communities of color
  • Failure to assess adverse, disproportionate impacts on communities of color

She notes that FERC’s actions are a model of environmental injustice. “In the first instance, FERC’s gerrymandered analysis led to the erasure of communities of color, which led to it not analyzing the ACP’s unique effect on these communities, which led to its faulty conclusion that the ACP would have no disproportionately high and adverse impacts on African American communities. Then when FERC did acknowledge the existence of a minority environmental justice community, its striking disregard of the clear health risks to the community amounted to the same erroneous conclusion of no impact. In each case, FERC’s flawed analysis helped produce FERC’s faulty approval of the project. This is what environmental injustice looks like.”

Cole finishes by saying, “It is soberingly clear how and why polluting fossil fuel infrastructure is disproportionately placed in communities of color, and FERC’s permissive and inappropriate approach to reviewing these projects facilitates this environmental injustice. The D.C. Circuit can prevent imminent harm to environmental justice communities along the ACP path by vacating FERC’s undue approval of the ACP. Alternatively, the court could remand the case back to FERC for a real analysis that is consistent with the law’s requirements. Such an analysis would not obscure the facts. It would recognize environmental justice communities and the threats they face. It would reveal the disproportionate burden the ACP would have on vulnerable communities. It would thoroughly review project alternatives. It would demonstrate that environmental justice communities matter. As part of a fulsome public interest analysis, a reasoned environmental justice review would further demonstrate what is already known: that the ACP is not needed, is environmentally unjust, would cause permanent environmental damage, and should be rejected.”

Read Jonathan Sololow’s full Blue Virginia column here.

Read Martina Cole’s full NRDC post here.

Read the full Amicus Brief here.

End of the Line: Episode 27, Uncertainty


Listen to the latest End of the Line podcast, Episode 27, Uncertainty. In this episode, pipeline opponents talk about “hope”, how to see uncertainty in an emergent way, and what it takes to keep fighting giants. Original air date: 4/5/19.

Other recent podcasts: Episode 26, Reverend Barber (Hear Reverend William Barber’s full speech at the Moral Call for Ecological Justice in Buckingham County, VA. Original air date: 3/15/19), and Episode 25, Moral Call (Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign of North Carolina, and former Vice President Al Gore, recently visited the community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, VA for the Moral Call for Ecological Justice. Original air date: 3/1/19).