Editor: Busy residents of Northern Virginia won’t even notice the construction of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline striking through the heart of central Virginia, carrying fracked gas from West Virginia through the George Washington National Forest, crossing the Appalachian Trail, the headwaters of the Potomac River and the James River.
But what we won’t notice is very real threat to others. In Buckingham County, southwest of Charlottesville, residents of Union Hill will experience the construction of a gas compressor station, which brings noise, harmful emissions, and the threat of explosions. 85 percent of the residents around this site are African American, descendants of freed people who established the community of Union Hill after the Civil War. Similarly, the pipeline will pass through low-income communities of color in Norfolk and North Carolina. This is what environmental injustice looks like. But the policies supporting the approval of enormous investments in fossil fuel infrastructure pose a threat to all of us.
The ACP is one of several pipelines planned for moving gas from the interior to the coast for export. Exports of liquefied natural gas have recently surged, and the United States is poised to become the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas. While Americans living near the pipeline will bear the brunt of the construction of this particular pipeline, every one of us suffers from the continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. These projects deter and delay the imperative transition to renewable energy that every person paying even the slightest attention to scientific consensus—as well as the recent extreme volatility of weather—can recognize. The impacts range from the devastation of biological diversity and rising sea levels to the increased incidence of asthma and premature deaths related to fossil fuel-related energy. As for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, experts such as former utility executive Thomas Hadwin contend it is unnecessary because demand for gas is not rising and existing pipelines can handle the distribution. So why is it being built? Consider this: Pipeline builders like Dominion Energy are guaranteed 8-15 percent return, ensuring projects will continue to be pushed forward even if they run counter to the common good.
The contradiction looms on a national scale: How can it be that the United States is the only country in the world that opposes the Paris Treaty, a voluntary pact on taking steps toward combatting climate change? The problem is global. No one is immune. Some, however, will bear the impact sooner and greater than others. One of the biggest challenges to confronting climate change is that the crisis feels too enormous, overwhelming, and abstract. It is not, however, abstract to the residents of Buckingham County, who are organizing to preserve their land and water purity. On April 22, 2018, the Sierra Club and 350loudoun.org, a climate change advocacy group, are hosting a visit to Buckingham County to meet with members of the local community to understand the impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Get a grip with the trip.
For more information about the scheduled events, visit 350loudoun.org.