Category Archives: Environmental Justice

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.

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.

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.

We Won’t Back Down


Building community to protect the environment and the people who are most impacted when it is degraded has never been more important. With growing threats to humanity and to the integrity of creation, new partnerships dedicated to environmental justice are essential. The new video, “We Won’t Back Down” is a portrait of the work of the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice (IACJ) to support those resisting the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley fracked gas pipelines.

Environmental Justice Issues in Virginia

Writing in the Washington Post on January 24, 2019, Sam Bleicher, a member and vice-chair of the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board until removed by Northam in November 2018, discusses the January 8 approval by a diminished Air Board of the air pollution permit for the Buckingham Compressor Station.

He says, “the decision sets important, undesirable precedents for environmental justice decisions and for the global ‘business in liquidation’ approach of continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure. To undermine the environmental justice opposition, Dominion committed $5 million for improved health and safety facilities in Union Hill that the community certainly needs — but only if the permit is approved. This deal divided the public opposition. The Dominion commitment presented the Air Board with a Hobson’s choice: The board could protect this disadvantaged minority community from the risks emanating from the compressor station, but only by depriving it of funds that will improve the lives of the residents. The existing statutes and regulations on environmental justice in siting energy facilities do not address the existence or relevance of such compensatory ‘incentives’ (some would say ‘bribes’).”

Bleicher believes that, “the outcome tells major corporations that they can buy their way out of environmental justice embarrassments by spending a tiny fraction of the total project cost to benefit the poor minority residents who are inconveniently located in their way.”

He describes the outdated policy of “bridge technology” (natural gas as the “bridge” from coal to sustainable, emission-free technologies), still egregiously embodied in government policy, including in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rules that guarantee a 14 percent return on capital invested in fossil fuel pipelines, no matter if they are never used. That outdated policy explains why Dominion wants to build a pipeline that makes no sense except to guarantee return to shareholders and management.

Bleicher concludes, “Unless we change the obsolete policies that incentivize construction of unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure, communities like Union Hill remain at risk and electricity monopolies will continue to profit, despite the suffering of affected communities, and the costs of climate change inaction multiply.”

Read the full article here.

Governor Reconstitutes Environmental Justice Council

On January 23, 2019, the Virginia Mercury reported that Governor Northam is reconstituting an advisory council that he simply ignored in 2018. After multiple meetings to hear testimony and study the issues, the Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, originally appointed by former Governor McAuliffe, submitted their report to Northam in May 2018. The Council called for a stay on all further permits for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, and found evidence of of “disproportionate impacts for people of color and for low-income populations due to gas infrastructure expansion.”

Northam maintained the report was merely a draft. The Council, in late August, reiterated that their report and recommendations were final, and formally urged Northam to direct state agencies to suspend water and air quality permits for the ACP and MVP. He continued to ignore them.

Now, according to the Mercury article, “The former members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice were invited to apply to serve on the new body, called the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, in an email from Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler. ‘I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to you and all members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice for your service over the past year. I am pleased to report that the governor has acted on a key recommendation from your report to continue his commitment to environmental justice through the issuance of Executive Order 29 – establishing a new Virginia Council on Environmental Justice,’ Strickler wrote. The new council will ‘build on your work by recommending a long-term framework to guide environmental justice decision-making and ensure environmental justice concerns are integrated across state programs, policies, permits and procedures,’ Strickler said.

All well and good. But will the Governor pay any more attention to the Council this time around, especially if they recommend things he does not want to hear?

Read the full Virginia Mercury article here.