Taking turns with each verse, they stood on chairs and recited a poem titled: “McAuliffe Knows.” Activists said that it spotlighted the hypocrisy of the governor, primarily regarding his continued support of several natural gas pipelines proposed to devastate Virginia and the Appalachian region.
Whitney Whiting, author of the poem and community organizer with Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said, “We came here today because the governor continues to tout a ‘New Virginia Economy’ based on more fracking and more gas pipelines. But there is nothing new about an economic system based on extraction and exploitation of land, people, and natural resources. How will fracked gas traveling through Virginia in massive pipelines benefit Appalachia? It won’t. It will benefit Dominion and EQT, not Virginians, or anyone else in the Appalachian region.”
“McAuliffe has supported the proposed pipelines for over a year now despite the uproar from the people,” said Richmond activist Rebecca Keel. “Over and over we’ve brought our concerns to him and expressed our alarm, and he still values the energy companies more than the people who elected him. He has not listened. He has not responded. It is time for him to remember who he works for – the people. We were here today to remind him of that fact.”
The group targeted the governor and the event—a symposium made up largely of representatives from the energy industry, government and academia, to address the “array of energy opportunities in Appalachia.” The governor’s keynote address was timed to occur immediately prior to a panel on “Natural Gas Pipelines,” which included a representative from Dominion Resources.
According to the Appalachian School of Law’s Dan Caldwell, the day-long symposium was designed to “model an atmosphere of rational debate” in order to reach common ground on laws affecting energy production in Appalachia. Tickets for the event were $50 for students and as high as $200 for anyone not a member of a government or nonprofit group.
In addition to the statewide Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, groups participating in today’s act of civil disobedience included representatives from the SEED Coalition and We Are Cove Point.
They said they had accomplished their goal of adding an extra voice to the day’s conversation, and sending the message to Governor McAuliffe and industry representatives that the resistance to natural gas infrastructure in Virginia is stronger than ever.