In the wake of the Paris agreements, alternative energy is first on the minds of many environmental activists. As we consider the impacts of fossil fuels on the environment, it’s critical to also recognize the environmental justice implications of our extractive energy industries. Across Virginia, opposition is growing in response to a proposed pipeline project that would carry natural gas across the center of the state. In addition to promoting natural gas drilling, the pipeline project carries a host of environmental and social justice concerns.
Dominion Power, under a subsidiary company, is planning to construct an interstate pipeline for natural gas, dubbed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The pipeline would carry gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, cutting a line across the middle of Virginia. Currently, the company is surveying land along the proposed route. In late October they submitted route changes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, addressing concerns that were brought up with respect to the environmental impact statement on the project. Environmental groups, mobilizing together as the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, have opposed the pipeline given its potential to endanger water resources.
In addition to impacts to the natural environment, the pipeline project carries profound environmental justice implications. The project proposal involves placing a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County near Charlottesville, VA, and community activists have raised concern that this compressor station, in addition to the pipeline itself, will mostly impact elderly African American residents. Friends of Buckingham County, a group opposing the pipeline, has been conducting surveys to better assess the demographics of the affected areas, and determine if historic African American communities in the area will be adversely impacted by the pipeline.
The environmental concerns associated with this pipeline are only a portion of what must be considered in the planning stages of this project. As the company’s survey work moves forward and environmental and EJ groups continue to mobilize against the plant, I will continue to follow this story, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can read about Friends of Buckingham County’s efforts to oppose the pipeline at their website and Facebook page.
By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable