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.