Opponents of two controversial gas pipelines announced plans to protest Governor Terry McAuliffe with what they are calling the most ambitious and creative environmental protest ever organized in Virginia’s history.
Focused on stopping the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, these historic protests will take place simultaneously on September 12-14 as the McAuliffe Administration contemplates a final decision on whether to approve the pipelines.
The DEQ is completing a much-criticized environmental review of the pipelines, in which the agency is not fully considering the threats to water quality from the pipelines. This review included a public comment period and a series of public hearings in which citizens were required to limit their comments to a narrow portion of water quality impacts. Leaders from a wide range of groups — including Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Virginia Organizing, and 350 Loudoun — announced they will now organize their own “comment period” for three days at each DEQ office. The protests will include rallies, a day of prayer led by clergy, and a sit-in. All of this will happen at DEQ offices in Richmond, Roanoke, Virginia Beach, Harrisonburg, Abingdon, Woodbridge, and Glen Allen.
“Since Governor McAuliffe and the DEQ won’t listen to our voices, we’re going to bring our voices directly to all the DEQ offices,” said Kiquanda Baker, Hampton Roads Organizer of the CCAN Action Fund. “The public comment process was a sham. The agency showed complete disregard for the public’s many concerns. We are protesting in September to defend our rights to the land and water necessary for our survival.”
Activists are asking the Governor to reject the water permits needed by pipeline companies, including Dominion Energy. These harmful pipelines for fracked gas would cause the destruction of entire mountain ridgetops, trample on citizens’ property rights, and harm valuable water resources.
“The DEQ has heard our emotional pleas, angry and sorrowful,” said Russell Chisholm, Vice-Coordinator of Preserve Giles County along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and US Army Veteran of Desert Storm. “Yet our opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline exists on a foundation of scientific studies of karst and hydrogeology. As citizen scientists we have mobilized to protect Virginia’s water with solid, fact-based reasoning that establishes the proposed MVP route as a ‘no-build zone.’ Unless DEQ reaffirms its authority and rejects 401 Water Quality Certification for MVP, its legacy will be that of an agency that ignored such public input and surrendered Virginia’s water to private interests.”
“The proposed pipelines threaten our neighbors’ homeplaces, and would continue to damage our global climate,” says Rev. Dr. Faith Harris, co-chair of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. “Faith communities across the Commonwealth are calling on our Governor to do right by Virginia and reject these pipelines.”
“In Standing Rock, I saw the harm that fracked-gas pipelines can bring to our communities,” said Vanessa Bolin, Native American activist and Founder of the Eyes Wide Open Project. “We know what we’re up against, and we know that we need to fight back in a big way to defeat these pipelines. The DEQ has a duty to protect all Virginians, and the only way to do that is to reject the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.”
In 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the water permits for a similar fracked-gas pipeline known as the Constitution Pipeline, stating that the pipeline developers did not sufficiently demonstrate that the pipeline would comply with New York State water quality standards, a decision that was recently upheld in federal court. Governor McAuliffe has the authority to do the same in Virginia.