Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

Editor: This week marks the one-year anniversary of Virginians for Justice: Progress not Pipelines events held in Richmond and Leesburg. Instead of being ignored and marginalized by Governor Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, communities impacted by two new fracked gas pipeline projects, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, communities visited them at rallies in Richmond and Leesburg.  Here’s an update on a few of the many developments.

Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, MVP, has not stopped, despite violating Virginia’s Water Quality Standards hundreds of times. While AG Herring cited these violations in a civil suit and fines have been imposed, he fell short of issuing a Stop Work Order. Water Quality violations continue because as reported on Oct. 19, 2019,  in the Roanoke Times, “MVP didn’t comply with Virginia law because they can’t comply with Virginia law,” Russell Chisholm, co-chair of the Protect Our Water Heritage Rights coalition, ….” display not only MVP’s unwillingness to make any effort to protect Virginia’s waterways, but also the inadequacy of erosion and sediment controls” approved by state regulators….” https://www.roanoke.com/business/mountain-valley-pipeline-to-pay-million-in-lawsuit-over-environmental/article_ac54be7e-22ce-5932-a6fd-c9d2763e2e8f.html

To date, multiple permits required for the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ACP, have been revoked by permitting agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers or overturned in federal court like the U.S. Forest Service permit allowing the ACP to cross the Appalachian Trail on Federal property. Dominion Power appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Supreme Court cases usually have broad application, not a narrow focus such as this case. The Supreme Court agreement to hear opening arguments this past February certainly does not reflect past practices, but the current composition of the court, instead. Dominion Power is intent on building the huge, high pressure Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would be in service for decades to come. According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the world has less than twelve years to address climate change.

Last year, hundreds of people attended the rallies in Richmond and Leesburg to stop the pipelines.  Last week, nearly 4,000 residents signed petitions, and 78 groups signed on to full-page ad calling on Dominion shareholders to abandon controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Last year, the concept of “Essential Businesses” did not exist. This year due to the Pandemic, all but “essential businesses” were required to close until just recently. Regrettably, Governor Northam declared pipeline construction an essential business, allowing out-of–state workers to engage in accident-prone work, endangering first responders when inevitable accidents occur.  Let Gov. Northam know that building fracked gas pipelines is not essential to Virginians because the gas will not be for use by Virginians.  In addition to Attorney General Mark Herring and other AGs’ appeal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to pause energy infrastructure projects until the threat of the novel coronavirus has eased, ask Virginia Senators Warner and Kaine, as well as Rep. Wexton to make a similar appeal.

Natalie Pien, Leesburg

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