From the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League:
Lovingston, VA—Today citizens in seven states held Hands Across Our Land actions to illustrate their solidarity against the continued devastation of their communities by pipelines, coal ash and fracking. The actions symbolized a growing national movement.
Hands Across Our Land coordinator, Sharon Ponton said, “Grassroots groups have come together as a symbol of solidarity in the fights they are facing against the continued use of fossil fuels. From fracking to fracking waste, coal ash disposition to air pollution, from pipelines and liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities to sea level rise, citizens are being forced to face contamination of their water resources, destruction of their forests, and loss of private property.” Ponton continued, “It is critical our elected officials understand these communities will not stand idly by and become sacrifice zones for a greedy industry which refuses to change its business plan to renewable, clean energy. Every community deserves a healthy, safe environment for their families to live and thrive.”
Today’s demonstrations occurred in many places. In Buckingham County Virginia, residents oppose a 53,000 horsepower compressor station for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Chad Oba, President of Friends of Buckingham, stated, “The impact of those in the evacuation zone of the proposed compressor station is devastating. Our health from the pollutants emitted will be severely compromised. The cultural, historical and peaceful integrity of our rural neighborhoods will be forever lost. Toxic plumes from this mega-compressor station will extend many miles and will exacerbate the impacts of global warming and climate change we experience today.”
In Lusby, Maryland, a new liquid natural gas (LNG) export facility threatens the local community. Communities in Ohio are facing water and land contamination from tailings from fracking wells, as well as earthquakes from radioactive wastewater injection wells. Ponton said that people in the region are being sued and bullied when they refuse to give up their private property for natural gas projects. She said, “Armed guards and police toting automatic weapons protect the industry as it takes private land and contractors clear cut swaths of forest for natural gas infrastructure.” A local West Virginia resident, Leslee McCarty, a member of the Greenbrier Watershed Association said, “A local circuit judge declared he could not see a benefit to local citizens who would get no gas from these 42 inch lines. With two pipelines proposed to cross the Greenbrier River, it is clear that water quality will suffer.” McCarty continued, “Devastating floods which took many lives and millions of dollars in property just ravaged our region. Clearing wide swaths of steep hillsides for hundreds of miles in these mountains would probably not improve the situation in a future flood event.”
In Georgia, Dr. Michael G. Noll, President of Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy in Valdosta said, “The rights of property ownership are fundamental to our democracy, and eminent domain should never be used for corporate gain.” Noll continued, “One must also note that recent studies have shown that pipeline projects cost communities millions of dollars as property values go down and tax revenues decline.”
In North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, the legacy of burning coal for electric generation has created millions of tons of coal ash, stored in coal ash ponds. These unlined ponds are now leaking heavy metals and other toxic pollutants into the ground water of families who live near those sites. While governments and the utilities grapple with a viable solution to clean up the toxic brew, families suffer and are forced to face health risks caused by the contaminants and drink bottled water.
Hands Across Our Land participants issued three demands. Elected officials must:
- Oppose gas and oil projects that hurt our citizens and our economy by using state authority to deny Clean Water Act permits for proposed fracked-gas pipelines.
- Stop reckless coal ash disposal that pollute rivers and drinking water by rejecting utility company plans to dump millions of gallons of coal ash wastewater containing toxic heavy metals into our rivers.
- Reduce climate changing pollution from power plants by implementing strict federal and state clean power rules.
Ponton justified the demands and pointed to practical solutions, saying, “Fracking wells, pipelines, related compressor stations and gas plants, and offshore oil rigs will worsen the climate crisis and create racial, rural, and economic sacrifice zones when affordable clean energy alternatives are available; plans to increase climate pollution from natural gas power plants are counterproductive to the requirement to reduce the effects of climate change; our government should take positive action to protect public health and natural resources, and ensure a quick transition to renewable energy.”