Home Energy and Environment Tom Perriello: Why I Oppose the Pipelines and Strongly Support Ralph Northam

Tom Perriello: Why I Oppose the Pipelines and Strongly Support Ralph Northam


by Tom Perriello

When I ran for governor of Virginia this spring, I announced my opposition to the building of Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. At the time, I challenged Dominion Power and other stakeholders to present a better strategy to meet our energy needs – one focused on investing in clean technologies that would create sustainable jobs building a renewable infrastructure in Virginia.

I believed then, as I do now, that the billions of dollars being spent on two proposed fracked gas pipelines could be better spent in weatherizing building stock, investing in solar or wind, and decentralizing power production for our farmers and small business owners. This is a nearly $7 billion pro-monopoly bet that creates a 50-year hurdle not just to clean energy but to small business owners who would flourish in Virginia if we allowed distributed energy production. And it furthers a dangerous trend of the government using eminent domain for corporate profits rather than public needs.

I also believe that electing Ralph Northam as Virginia’s next governor is an urgent moral imperative not just for our environment but for the integrity of our democracy in the Commonwealth.

My first question for those fighting these two pipelines is: how would our shared agenda be advanced if Ed Gillespie were elected? I continue to support all legal avenues to block the pipelines, and am working to elect pipeline opponents as lieutenant governor and House of Delegates members, but electing Ed Gillespie will only accelerate these monopolistic boondoggles and skip any state environmental reviews. Gillespie, a career corporate lobbyist and nemesis of both the environment and property rights for the little guy, has gone out of his way to be a full-throated advocate for both pipelines without any additional state reviews. Further, he used the first gubernatorial debate to proactively endorse fracking and offshore drilling, and touts his close relationship with Donald Trump as evidence that he could accelerate projects with the federal government.

Second, Ralph has an excellent environmental record, fighting for clean energy, clean water and a clean Chesapeake Bay. Coming from Hampton Roads, the region second most vulnerable to sea-level rise in America, Ralph is going to continue demanding serious action on climate change. He can build on the new carbon rule announced by Governor McAuliffe and work with progressive Governors to ensure states fill the gaping hole in leadership left by Trump by exiting the Paris climate accord. Ralph fought as a state senator to prepare Virginia’s coastal communities from rising sea levels and devastating storms, and he has long led on restricting offshore drilling. Ralph also cares deeply about cleaning the Chesapeake Bay, an effort that Trump’s proposed budget cuts 93%. Ralph will retain state funding for the cleanup program, ensuring that the Bay remains an ecological treasure and an economic engine for thousands of local jobs. The day after President Trump withdrew from the Paris accord, Ralph said he would have Virginia join the states’ climate alliance.

This is not just any moment. What were once bedrock bipartisan commitments to clean air and clean water protections are under daily assault from the Trump Administration. Led by long-time corporate apologist Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, these rollbacks will only exacerbate the vulnerability of so many Virginians. And it is Governors who will need to stand against these efforts. Ed Gillespie is a mercenary who has carried the polluted water for whichever corporate interest pays him enough, right up to his infamous association with Enron.

Voters must recognize that this election will determine the fate of gerrymandering in Virginia for a generation. The next Governor will not just shape the next four years. He will have sign-off authority on the district and Congressional lines after the next census. Ed Gillespie literally wrote the playbook on how to destroy American democracy, and his lobbying firm wrote the lines to protect his lobbying clients instead of Virginia voters. The radically gerrymandered legislature dominated by increasingly extreme Republicans has become an albatross around the neck of middle class growth in Virginia. From the cost of higher education to the under-investment in infrastructure to costly outdated criminal justice codes, the gerrymandering of our Commonwealth has been a legacy of Gillespie’s disastrous impact on Virginia as his economic plans that brought the country to the verge of a Great Depression in 2008. Gillespie is a wrecking ball to our economy but also to our democracy.

Northam, by contrast, has pledged to veto any partisan maps produced by the Virginia legislature and hand the democratic process back to Virginia voters. We only get this chance once a decade to fix one of the most broken aspects of our democracy. This is the lynchpin for making sure a state as forward leaning as Virginia stops being choked back by a rigged system. Electing Ralph Northam is our best and perhaps only chance to have a champion who can break the stronghold of radical gerrymandering that Gillespie helped to create.

This is the year state leadership matters more than ever, from pushing back on Trump to overseeing the next round of reforms. Ralph knows Richmond. He knows the vulnerability of our coastline. He’s seen how Republicans have rigged the system in their favor. And that is why I’m enthusiastically fighting to make sure he is my next governor.

  • Edward N Virginia

    Thanks Mr Perriello. But the Puritanical Indivisibles and others in our area are so rigid and authoritarian-bullying that we doubt your message will get through. I have been asking them – for months and months – to come up with an effective communications plan to meet and talk with rural communities in the County – forget the District – but they can’t or won’t even do that. I suggested something fun and effective: an Indivisibles table at county fairs in the area. Nope. Couldn’t even do that. While we have some confidence that Mr Northam may win – barely! – but we have little to no confidence that many House districts will change. SAD!

    • Vabluegrass

      What county do you live in?

      • Edward N Virginia

        in a rural area where we can be in albemarle, buckingham, nelson, or fluvanna within 20 minutes

    • notjohnsmosby

      Unfortunately a lot of liberals would rather make a losing point then help win a race.

      • Edward N Virginia

        …. and it is the same lefties who love to make fun of rural people as ‘voting against their own interests’ …. delusional thinking yields even more delusional thinking

    • Mason’s State

      What Indivisible are you in? My experience in CD 10 has been that they are actually pretty content to support Democrats – certainly not super anti-establishment types.

      • Edward N Virginia


  • Joe Mancini

    Clear thinking with a purpose here, and it is welcome.

  • S. Nitka

    How about this simple moral imperative? Ralph Northam should reject Dominion campaign contributions. His continued acceptance of this blood money taints his reputation, his environmental credentials and, frankly, his moral character. Given all the $ he’s getting from environmental groups, standing up for principle won’t hurt his campaign or give more firepower to his challenger. But if it sure will hurt voter turnout if he continues to compromise himself in this manner.

    • notjohnsmosby

      You used electricity to run a device to create this post and more electricity for all of the networking equipment to make the post. Is your reputation tainted by the blood money you pay for electricity?

      • Vabluegrass

        Many of us fighting for renewable energy are being forced to use the fracked gas and coal electricity that our energy companies (Dominion), and our elected officials provide to us. This is one reason this issue is being so fiercely debated in this campaign. I always tell people that attack my use of fossil fuels to drive my car to a protest, or even to type a comment on my computer, that I have no choice because I’m being forced to use it. I use fossil fuel electricity guilt free because I’m fighting hard to move to renewable energy, and I’m fighting for my children’s future quality of life. We are well past the tipping point on climate change. In this fight, all is fair in love and war.

        • notjohnsmosby

          So if we’re past the tipping point on climate change, we’re past the point of stopping it. So, it’s a mitigation effort at this time, and you have to accept that fact that fossil fuels will continue to be used until they are depleted. As long as they are in the ground, they will be extracted and used. Shifting to non-fossil fuels is going to be a very long migration, forced on not just for ecological purposes but by the rising costs of fossil fuels.

          In a couple hundred years, fossil fuels won’t be a problem anymore as they will most likely have been exhausted. But, even if 95% of the world has switched to all-electric and with non-renewables creating the electricity, someone somewhere is still going to use some form of carbon to make electricity, run a building or propel a machine.

  • Vabluegrass

    Northam would almost certainly win the SW vote and ensure a win in the Governor’s race if he would only stand against the MVP and ACP Pipelines! Why in God’s name hasn’t he?

    Senator Creigh Deeds responded to me with the following comment:
    “I just have never known the luxury of being a single issue voter. There are far too many important things at stake, and those who choose the single issue path, who condemn the good, because he’s not perfect, risk everything.”

    Here is my response back which was pulled from impassioned pleas from my friend’s, as well as mine, about the pipelines over the last several years.

    The MVP and ACP pipelines are not about a single issue. The pipelines speak to the corruption and money in politics that so many people are frustrated with. The pipelines speak to chaining us down to fossil fuels for at least another 20 years. The pipelines represent the abuse of eminent domain and the fact that American’s don’t actually have private property rights. The pipelines speak to society valuing greed and money over protecting the environment. The pipelines are not about being privileged to just vote on one issue because they represent everything that’s wrong with our government; big business, greed, and profits over people. The pipeline issue has shown Virginians who is actually important to our elected representatives, and it’s not their constituents or the citizens of Virginia, but for-profit corporations lining the padded wallets and pockets of the wealthy.

    I believe that if we build the enormous infrastructure required for these pipelines, the powers that be will build more fracked gas power plants to justify them and create more paying customers for the gas. I also fear that they’ll open Virginia’s national forests to fracking, and I wonder who will help us then? Look at how President Trump is opening up federal lands to the highest fossil fuel bidders. The prospect of having a 42″ (huge) gas pipeline running right over the top of a rich section of the Marcellus Shale deposit on federal land will be too great to resist. Are you ok with having the George Washington or the Jefferson National Forest fracked? Currently, the gas intended for both pipelines comes from West Virginia, a state which has literally been fracked to the point of no return on environmental quality. Are you ok with fracking your neighbor? Do you believe in climate change? Are you ok with having mile after mile of our mountain ridges taken off to lay these pipelines? Don’t worry though because the energy companies say they’ll put them back, like that’s a thing mankind can actually do. I haven’t even started talking about safety, but I’ll spare you that long tirade for now.

    I plan to vote for Northam because Gillespie, like Trump, is too horrible for me to imagine. I’ll vote for Northam because I want the VETO power a democratic governor can give us. I’ve fought too many years for women’s rights to do anything else, and I thank Governor McAuliffe for the VETO he has given us there.

    What I will NOT do is try to sway potential voters by campaigning for a man who inexplicably won’t denounce the pipelines. I’m an extremely hard working and experienced “democratic” community organizer. It’s sad to place the word democratic in quotation marks, but I’m left feeling like I don’t belong in the Democratic Party because of this campaign and the 2016 primaries. It’s complicated for me, and once again I’m left feeling defensive amongst many of my true blue friends.

    What I will NOT do is shame my friends because they can’t vote for Northam while they are facing the loss of their properties or living in fear of being killed in an explosion.

    What I will NOT do is blame my friends if Northam loses this election. He knows the issues, and it’s his responsibility to choose which side he’s on. I have to ask a final time, why wouldn’t he reject the pipelines? Somebody, anybody, please explain this to me.

    I’m writing to try and help my true blue democratic friends understand the other side of this issue in regard to the vote. Many simply do not understand that now is the time to put pressure on Ralph Northam. We will never have as much power with him as we have right now. If he does manage to get elected, we’ll get the same platitudes and falsehoods that Governor McAuliffe has been giving us on the pipelines and Dominion Energy for four years. Anybody here thrilled with putting Dominion’s coal ash in our rivers? Why do we even have David Paylor still heading Virginia’s DEQ? Leaving Paylor in place is negligent to the point of incompetency, and that appointment rests squarely on Governor McAuliffe’s shoulders. How many years does the Democratic Party expect us to wait to show the power of our vote?

    Sadly, I’m pretty sure my position on voting would be different if I were in the shoes of those faced with having their land, farms, businesses and dreams being stolen from them, and having what’s left of their land polluted. I am very much in the minority amongst my anti-pipeline friends when it comes to actually voting for Northam, but I do understand why they can’t do it.

    I’m asking you to understand that we’ve fought these pipelines with heart and soul, spent untold amounts of time, and our own hard earned money for at least two years proving our point, only to have it land on deaf ears. We’ve fought the corruption in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) with responsible and scientifically sourced rebuttals over and over again, knowing full well that our input will likely be disregarded. Did you know these entities actually work in concert with one another as well as with Dominion Energy and our elected officials? FERC is funded with fees paid by the corporations they’re supposed to be regulating. The DEQ and FERC use “expert” and positive reports on the pipelines from consultants who are also working and being richly rewarded by the energy companies proposing the pipelines. Does that sound unbiased?

    Climate change cascades into every other issue that there is, war and migration being two pretty big ones. I want renewable energy now, but Northam seems to be on board with tying us to the pipelines. I totally understand why many Virginians can’t vote for someone who is a party to everything I’ve laid out above.

    I’m just asking you to understand that climate change is real and we are well past the point of being able to effectively help our planet and ourselves against the ravages of it. This issue is not about much needed gas for our prosperity. It’s already been proven that we have excessive amounts of gas through 2030. We are taking private property to give it to “for-profit” corporations that plan to sell much of their product overseas. Doesn’t eminent domain require that the taking of private land must be in the best interests of Virginia’s citizens? Why is the democratic party not outraged by this?

    I’m left with nothing else to say but the rallying cry of the Water Protectors in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline: Water Is Life. One day, our water, mountains, forests and land will be more precious than gold to every single one of us.

    • Jon Sokolow

      Beautifully said. Every Democratic party leader and supporter who continues to shame voters into staying silent on the pipelines should read your excellent commentary and take it to heart.

  • Vabluegrass

    Unbelievably sad he didn’t win the nomination:


  • Marilyn M. Shifflett

    I love Tom! And electing Ralph Northam is clearly how he views VA’s future, but sadly, far too many of us will lose our futures to these pipelines. I won’t judge him for his thoughts, and I would expect that he’ll respect me for not compromising the future of my community. I can’t vote for anyone who threatens to destroy what I hold dear.

    • notjohnsmosby

      There are pipelines all around you. What have you lost at this point due to those pipelines?

      • Marilyn M. Shifflett

        Not a single foot of pipeline in my community; not an inch. And I lose nothing if they are not built. The proposed route through my county is on 90% steep slopes already severely damaged by Camille in 1969, that took 125 lives. The USGS and the VA Dept of Emergency Mgt. call us high risk for energy pipelines. Is that not enough for you?Dominion cites more than 80% of the route through my county as “a concern for re-vegetation”. In addition, we are in what’s called an orographic lift zone, prone to heavy rains and storms that stall. In the more than 2,200 miles of large diameter pipelines currently in the ground in VA, not a single inch in my county. What do the other pipeline companies know that Dominion is ignoring? Transco and Columbia added lots of extra miles to avoid this terrain. Why does Dominion not care about the lives they are putting at risk? And, more importantly, why does Ralph Northam not care?

        • notjohnsmosby

          Sounds like you should vote for Ed Gillespie then.

          • Marilyn M. Shifflett

            I can assure you I won’t be voting for Ed Gillespie. There are other choices.

          • notjohnsmosby

            If you’re not voting for Northam, then you’re effectively voting for Gillespie. It’s a choice of two, pick one.

          • True Blue

            Agreed. Other choices? Write-ins are waste of votes, third party votes are the same, and not voting at all is un-democratic imho. Some Bernie voters (I voted for him) trusted Bernie until it came time to do what he suggested: vote for Hillary or we’d be devastated by Trump’s wish to wipe out Obama’s legacy and the good that was done in his 8 years. I heeded that call and I also trust Tom to know what’s best for Virginia. Just think of the messes Virginia avoided by having gubernatorial veto power!

          • woodrowfan

            it’s white privilege in action. sure the republicans will proceed to disenfranchise or gerrymander into irrelevance every black voter they can. They’ll change the distribution of electoral votes to make sure the republican get most of Virginia’s votes regardless of who won the popular vote in the state. They’ll gut protection of the Bay, and allow Dominion anything it wants besides. They’ll allow anti-LGBT discrimination, got what healthcare they can, and turn a blind eye to law enforcement abuse of non-whites and immigrants. Finally, they may add Virginia to the list of states asking for the Koch-Brothers supported new Constitutional Convention, which is scarily close to passing. A Constitution written by the Tea Party. What could go wrong?

            But hey, Marilyn’s more concerned with HER issue and she can’t spend her precious vote on anyone who is not exactly perfect on HER issue. Screw everyone else.

          • notjohnsmosby

            Apparently she’s not against pipelines in general, just the ones that run near her plot of land.

            NIMBY to the max I guess.

        • barbaralee12

          Just go ahead and vote for Gillispee.But don’t go out and hold rallies against him.This is how we got the clown in the White House.

  • Philip Whitman

    Hear, hear. I just assume not build the pipelines, yet we’re talking about one issue. I don’t have the luxury of turning my back on everything else I hold dear in order to make a point.

  • Mason’s State

    I think this is a great way to both stand for what you believe in, and also be pragmatic about how you vote. I voted for Tom in the primary and I agree with him on pipelines, but for now, in my opinion, the best strategy is to rally around Northam thru election day. After that I’ll give his office a call expressing my joy that he has (hopefully) won, and saying that I hope he will stop the pipelines. Then we can put pressure on to get him to change.