Jonathan Sokolow’s September 4, 2018, article in Medium, Pipeline Politics: The Appalling Silence of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, discusses the apparent acceptance of the “old plantation tradition” by Governor Northam, his Chief of Staff Clark Mercer, and his Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler.
“But elsewhere in Virginia, plantation politics is alive and well, shining a bright and distasteful light on the pipeline battle over which Matt Strickler and Governor Northam are presiding. And the epicenter is Buckingham County, the geographic heart of the Commonwealth.”
Northam has been completely silent on Union Hill for four years, although he directly addressed Dominion’s plans to build a compressor station for a different project in view of Mt. Vernon, and a week later Dominion moved the compressor station. Mt. Vernon is now safe, Union Hill is not.
Northam has remained silent despite pleas from the Virginia State Chapter of the NAACP, despite the investigation of Union Hill by the U.S. Justice Department, and despite the strong statement of the Governor’s own Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. Sokolow notes that, “You would expect a Democratic governor, elected in 2017 with overwhelming African American support, to respond positively to such recommendations from his own Environmental Justice appointees. You would be wrong.”
Sokolow reminds us, “In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that would become a bedrock document of the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking to leaders who, despite good intentions, failed to speak up against injustice, King famously wrote: ‘We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.'”
Sokolow concludes, “Northam’s silence is more than just embarrassing. His failure to listen to his own appointees is more than just insulting. One might say his silence is appalling.”