“The Appalling Silence of Good People”

Writing in Blue Virginia on November 27, 2017, Jonathan Sokolow reminds us that, “In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested as part of the Birmingham Campaign, an effort to bring national attention to systemic racism in one of America’s most segregated cities. As he sat in a jail cell, King wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which 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.’ In Virginia, we are now suffering from an ‘appalling silence’ over the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The appalling silence over Dominion’s plans comes from many who Dr. King would consider to be ‘good people.’ But the silence has become deafening, particularly with the environmental racism of the linchpin of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Dominion’s proposed compressor station in Union Hill in Buckingham County, Virginia.”

Sokolow reviews Dominion’s purchase from the white descendants of what was once a large tobacco producing slave plantation known as Variety Shade to build the compressor station in Buckingham County that would service the ACP for 200 miles in each direction, reminds us of the environmental and health hazards of such compressor stations, and writes that “The population within one mile of the proposed facility – an area commonly referred to in pipeline planning documents as the ‘incineration zone’ in case of an accident – is 85% African American. Many of those residents, as well as unknown others buried in unmarked cemeteries, are descendants of the slaves who worked that plantation and freedmen who acquired some of the land after the Civil War. Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources is considering naming Union Hill as a state Historic District and Preservation Virginia has listed it as a ‘Most Endangered Historic Place.'”

Sokolow tells us that the November 13, 2017, filing to FERC by a number of environmental and community organizations asking for reconsideration of the ACP approval, “offers the most detailed and compelling evidence to date that the Union Hill compressor station and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline overall should be rejected. And it should be rejected not just because construction and operation of another massive fracked-gas pipeline will worsen climate change and cause lasting damage to Virginia’s land and water, but also specifically because of the health and other dangers posed to all people who live in the pipeline’s path — and particularly to communities of color. Virginia’s leaders – including Democrats who presumably do not want to be complicit in an act of environmental racism that affects people’s health – should pay attention to the evidence of the health effects of the proposed compressor station as discussed in the FERC filing.”

After listing numerous examples of environmental racism and injustice along the pipeline route in both Virginia and North Carolina, Sokolow says, “The proposed Union Hill compressor station is just one window into the fact that the entire Atlantic Coast Pipeline project is infected with environmental racism.”

He reminds us that “all people of good will can help break the silence by attending the Water is Life Rally and Concert in Richmond on December 2, by writing or calling their elected representatives or by taking any of the easy actions outlined here.”

Read the full article here.