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Findings from Charlottesville People’s Tribunal on pipelines

pipelineLow-income rural communities – particularly those with significant African-American, Native-American, and Appalachian populations – will bear disproportionately the environmental, health, and economic costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, according to testimony at a People’s Tribunal recently held in Charlottesville.

People impacted by one or both of the projects, scientists, and economic experts cited specific violations of laws and policies intended to protect property rights, clean air, water and agricultural lands, indigenous and former slave heritage communities, and violations of rights to participation in decisions about proximity to environmental risks and hazards.

“We are being made the sacrifice zones for corporate profit,” said Pastor Paul Wilson, the minister of Union Hill Baptist Church built in 1868 by Freedmen on former slave plantation lands. Union Hill in Buckingham County, in central Virginia, is where ACP proposed to build its only “mega-compressor station” for Virginia. The facility would be much larger than industry standard size to allow it to propel 1.5 billion cubit feet per day of volatile fracked gas hundreds of miles in each direction where the ACP would intersect with the four pipelines of the existing Transco pipeline.

At the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Environmental Justice Impacts of Fracked Gas Infrastructure held on October 28,  more than 170 participants heard testimony from 58 witnesses.    The organizers convened this people’s tribunal in Charlottesville because for three years, these violations by the ACP and MVP have been brought to the attention of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, to federal and state elected officials, and local boards of supervisors – without adequate response or remedy.

Based on the relevance of testimony to six principal human rights signed by the U.S. in agreements to protect its people, the environmental justice experts presiding as judges over the Charlottesville tribunal “strongly recommend that the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina and their environmental agencies 1) suspend all actions [to proceed with the ACP and MVP pipelines]; 2) immediately cease and desist eminent domain actions; and 3) thoroughly investigate the environmental, cultural, and health impacts [of the pipelines and infrastructure] with real voice and real vote from the community.”

The judges also strongly recommended that the United Nations Human Rights Council put the United States on trial for crimes against human rights – as the U.S. has recommended for other countries in violation of their agreements.