Pipeline fight: Who advocates for the people?

pipeline4Last week, another Augusta County resident and I went to Washington, D.C., with folks from Nelson and Buckingham to attend Interfaith Witness Wednesday, a day of prayer, peaceful demonstrations and songs outside of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  There were folks there from all over the country, from all different age groups and backgrounds.

As president of Friends of Augusta, I found it necessary to attend a day of demonstration outside of FERC, not only because of my strong opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, but also because of how flawed the process of approving pipelines is.  I have attended every open house, Board of Supervisors meeting and scoping meetings that have happened in Augusta and Nelson counties.  I have been disappointed to find out that FERC works closely with the companies it is in charge of regulating and approving pipelines for and that FERC is funded by the General Treasury, which gets its money, in part, from energy companies, like Dominion.  I have been angered that the residents of the counties I love so much didn’t get the chance to speak at the FERC meetings.  I have been confused by the transcripts of the scoping meetings that were released last week.  I have been heartbroken when I realized that the greed and corruption is so widespread and rampant within our government and its agencies and the private companies.

At a March Open House meeting in Nelson, I asked a FERC staffer if they were there to listen to residents and be our voice in this fight. The FERC staffer told me that FERC was there to “advocate for the process,” making it very clear that they do not advocate on behalf of residents or the environment, and that I should contact my elected representatives if I wanted someone to advocate for the people.  The process is flawed and set up to cause confusion, stress and anxiety as residents questions go unanswered.

We are Americans and we expect democracy and for our voices to be heard and respected.  This whole process has shown that FERC does not work!  We the people have to take a stand and demand a better, more transparent process.

Jennifer Lewis is the president and founder of Friends of Augusta, a local pipeline opposition group.

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