Home Dominion Power Massive Police Presence at Pipeline Hearing: Gov. McAuliffe Needs to Be Held...

Massive Police Presence at Pipeline Hearing: Gov. McAuliffe Needs to Be Held Accountable For Treating His Fellow Virginians in This Manner. 

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by Sharon Ponton

I’m a Democrat, been one my entire life.  Have I become disenchanted with the party?  You’re damn right I have — and the State Water Control Board meetings this week are a prime example of why.

I arrived at 7:50 am on Wednesday to see a parking lot full of Henrico County and Virginia State Police vehicles at the Trinity Life Center.  Not a parking lot full of cars of those who were there to speak out against the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline.  Those citizen cars were there, even though the State Water Control Board had been scheduled in the middle of the week when folks directly affected had to go to work, but the multitude of vehicles I saw were Virginia State Police patrol cars and Henrico County police vehicles.

They told us they were there to keep us safe.  Well, what exactly did they need to keep us safe from?  Our neighbors?  Our friends? The people we’ve been meeting with regularly in our communities to fight these damn monstrosities?  I could call by name the majority of those who attended to speak against the pipelines.  Folks I have come to know and admire from Franklin and Giles and Montgomery and Craig and Roanoke Counties.  I surely didn’t need protection from any of them.

I’m certainly not a neo-Nazi, though that was one reason given for all the police – that they didn’t want another Charlottesville.  As much as the powers that be would like to paint me and my friends as left-wing crazies, we’re not that either.  We’re regular folks who have chosen rural Virginia as our home.  We love the country.  We love nature.  We love working the land.  We love knowing and talking to our neighbors. We love clean water and clean air.

I also didn’t need protection from the youth who attended the meetings – members of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, the same students who came up and hugged me when they saw me, some even giving me a kiss on the cheek.  They asked me how I was feeling because they knew I’d been sick for the past month with acute sinusitis and bronchitis.  Were the Virginia State Police really there to protect me from them?

At lunch, I counted no fewer than 30 Virginia State Police officers lurking in the corners of the hallways, standing up along the walkway above the meeting area, or near the entrances to the “rooms” they had reserved for respite, I guess.  I even asked one officer this afternoon, “Why are there so many of you here?”  His reply, “Just in case.”  When I said, “Well, what does that mean,”  his reply was “Just in Case.”

Yesterday, they escorted out a Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) student who had the audacity to speak too long….individuals were allotted 3 minutes each to speak.  She wasn’t quite finished, so she didn’t stop. She tried to complete her statement.  But oh my God, the chair of the State Water Control Board directed the State Police to escort her out—not to her seat, but out of the facility…barred from returning.  Other VSEC students “snapped their fingers” in solidarity with landowners and experts who spoke. They didn’t cheer and cause a ruckus….they just snapped their fingers.  They were told they’d be removed if they continued.  Today, a Virginia State Police officer warned the VSEC students that they would be removed if they kept snapping their fingers.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe needs to be held accountable for treating his fellow citizens of the  Commonwealth in this manner.  These folks were there trying to protect their homes and properties from unwanted, unneeded fracked-gas pipelines.  McAuliffe owes an apology to each and every one of those who attended these meetings.  We will not forget this, Governor McAuliffe, you can be sure of that.  And the next office you’re thinking about? You can be sure that we will share our stories of what happened the past couple days with all those who are willing to listen.

Suffice it to say, the State Water Control Board voted 5-2 to approve the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, though those of us in attendance aren’t really sure what was approved, because Board members changed the language and refused to explain the outcome of their vote….even after being asked to do so.

If the last two days proved anything, it is that the citizens of Virginia don’t really matter. Based on what I saw, it seems that we’ve become a police state in order that Dominion Energy and their pal Governor McAuliffe can get that fracked-gas super highway they’ve been pushing for the past 3½ years.  Elected officials beholden to the green of for-profit, monopoly corporations are apparently more important, than any citizen.  Those of us in attendance at the State Water Control Board meetings received that message loud and clear – along with the message that our behinds would be carted off to jail if we should utter a word in discord with the wishes of the powers that be.

  • Video: Woman removed by police from Mountain Valley Pipeline hearing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8EUPSBcREo

    • RobertColgan

      “Serve and Protect.”
      Not.
      An authoritarian state requires authoritarian—-strong arm tactics—-methods of maintaining its dominance.
      Pretty graphic evidence in this video of how much we moved over the last 20 yrs or so toward a less democratic society.
      An authoritarian state doesn’t soften on its own….it continues to become more authoritarian…..power to create social boundaries grows bolder, not gentler.
      If everyone in that room had stood up and yelled at the police to let her speak…?
      If everyone had vocally let the police–and their gov’t representatives know the citizens deserve to be heard?
      But in an authoritarian state the fear of state reprisal, punitive/economic, eventually cows the populace into acquiescence.
      This is not encouraging at all.

  • Former Virginia Sierra Club director Glen Besa:

    “Terry McAuliffe and DEQ Dave Paylor’s parting gift to the the oil and gas industry with approval of Mtn Valley Pipeline.”

    “Terry McAuliffe has grand illusions of being president. He thinks his carbon cap and trade program, not even adopted as he walks out the door, will salvage his pathetic environmental record punctuated by two massive carbon belching fracked gas pipelines. Not if I can help it! Even if I have to travel to NH and Iowa. We can’t have any more Presidents cozy with the gas industry if we are going to save the planet. #Dothemath Terry and stop hanging around with your best bud #DominionEnergy’s Tom Farrell.”

    “Direct your anger at #TerryMcAuliffe. He is responsible for this mess.”

    • wizinit

      Deep down, I suspect Macker knows he does not stand a chance of carrying on the Clintons’ legacy, but he feels an obligation to go through the motions, and suffers from his own outsized ambition and hubris that propels him to run in 2020. Once his campaign falters he can fall back on the corporate connections he has spent a lifetime building up, so don’t expect him or his governor-designate to listen to reason on the subject of pipelines.

  • A_Siegel

    Yet another way where Terry McAuliffe is demonstrating that he is far from being a “Climate Champion”. http://bluevirginia.us/2017/11/viewing-terry-mcauliffes-environmental-energy-record-with-clear-eyes

    Btw, we are hearing outraged screams from some of the newly elected ‘progressive’ House of Delegates’ members and also longer serving members. Are there any speaking up as the Water Board rushes through the pipelines?

  • dirich

    In response to A_Siegel, our newly elected HOD member from Blacksburg, Chris Hurst, was the first speaker Wednesday morning. From the beginning of his campaign, he attended local Preserve Montgomery County VA meetings and training sessions, held press conferences about the dangers of the pipeline, and changed his schedule to make sure he could be at the Virginia State Water Control Board meeting. Thanks, Chris! I hope there will be other HOD members, both new and veteran, at the ACP meeting next Monday and Tuesday.

    I already commented at length on yesterday’s Blue Virginia article about the WCB meeting, so I won’t run on again now, but suffice it to say that I was indignant at the police presence at the WCB meeting and the implication that we were so sort of potentially violent radical group when we are just ordinary citizens fearful of what is happening to our land and water. Also, as I said in my comment yesterday, I am a Democrat, but Terry McAuliffe certainly does not reflect what I believe in as a progressive who wants to see Virginia become a leader in the 21st century. He doesn’t deserve to ever hold elected office again, and I, like Glen Besa, will spread the word about this far and wide. So will others who have been treated so shoddily by him and members of his administration. We have looooong memories.

    • A_Siegel

      See comment below where I picked up Hurst’s tweet from yesterday … And, yes, Thanks, Chris.

  • Mike H.

    I hope the Officers also understand that there’s been Law Enforcement types killed by pipeline failures.

  • BlueThroughandThrough

    I’ll put my comments into the text of the original article. Since it isn’t possible to Italicize or underline, I’ll sue brackets to differentiate my comments from the original text.

    Massive Police Presence at Pipeline Hearing: [Massive?! 30 troopers? At a meeting attended by 600?]
    I’m a Democrat, been one my entire life. Have I become disenchanted with the party? You’re damn right I have — and the State Water Control Board meetings this week are a prime example of why.
    I arrived at 7:50 am on Wednesday to see a parking lot full of Henrico County and Virginia State Police vehicles at the Trinity Life Center. Not a parking lot full of cars of those who were there to speak out against the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. Those citizen cars were there, even though the State Water Control Board had been scheduled in the middle of the week when folks directly affected had to go to work, but the multitude of vehicles I saw were Virginia State Police patrol cars and Henrico County police vehicles.
    [I believe they were aware that pipeline opponents had visited the homes of water board members and placed leaflets in mailboxes which had some pretty weird, and somewhat threatening language: “His Corruption Would Kill.” At previous Water Board meetings, when the pipelines were not on the agenda, opponents spoke out of turn & dropped f-bombs. It’s too bad actions like these raised the “threat level” … with 500-1,000 people expected, what was the right number of law officers to assure everybody was safe?]
    They told us they were there to keep us safe.
    [I think by “us” they meant everyone in attendance, including members of the Water Board and those who supported the pipelines. As I overheard a mother sayig to her child at the store yesterday, It isn’t always about you”]
    Well, what exactly did they need to keep us safe from? Our neighbors? Our friends? The people we’ve been meeting with regularly in our communities to fight these damn monstrosities? I could call by name the majority of those who attended to speak against the pipelines. Folks I have come to know and admire from Franklin and Giles and Montgomery and Craig and Roanoke Counties. I surely didn’t need protection from any of them.
    [I think by “us” they meant everyone in attendance, including members of the Water Board and pipeline proponents]
    I’m certainly not a neo-Nazi, though that was one reason given for all the police – that they didn’t want another Charlottesville. As much as the powers that be would like to paint me and my friends as left-wing crazies, we’re not that either. We’re regular folks who have chosen rural Virginia as our home. We love the country. We love nature. We love working the land. We love knowing and talking to our neighbors. We love clean water and clean air.
    I also didn’t need protection from the youth who attended the meetings – members of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, the same students who came up and hugged me when they saw me, some even giving me a kiss on the cheek. They asked me how I was feeling because they knew I’d been sick for the past month with acute sinusitis and bronchitis. Were the Virginia State Police really there to protect me from them?
    At lunch, I counted no fewer than 30 Virginia State Police officers lurking in the corners of the hallways, [Is it possible they were trying to be unobtrusive? This commentary strains to put a sinister spin on everything!] standing up along the walkway above the meeting area, or near the entrances to the “rooms” they had reserved for respite, I guess.
    I even asked one officer this afternoon, “Why are there so many of you here?” His reply, “Just in case.” When I said, “Well, what does that mean,” his reply was “Just in Case.”
    Yesterday, they escorted out a Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) student who had the audacity to speak too long….individuals were allotted 3 minutes each to speak. She wasn’t quite finished, so she didn’t stop. She tried to complete her statement. [All witnesses were limited to 3 minutes (except General Assembly members and the applicant, who, I believe got 10 minutes.) Most stopped when there time was up. This was in recognition that scores of people wanted to speak. When some didn’t they were asked to wrap it up. Most did. A very few continued to speak and were asked to leave the podium. The person in question, when asked multiple times to take her seat, became belligerent and raised her voice. She was not “trying to finish” she was getting more and more revved up!]
    But oh my God, the chair of the State Water Control Board directed the State Police to escort her out—not to her seat, but out of the facility…barred from returning. Other VSEC students “snapped their fingers” in solidarity with landowners and experts who spoke. They didn’t cheer and cause a ruckus….they just snapped their fingers.
    They were told they’d be removed if they continued. Today, a Virginia State Police officer warned the VSEC students that they would be removed if they kept snapping their fingers.
    [Some audience members jeered those they disagreed with, clapped and shouted approval when they agreed with speakers, shouted questions at the Board Members. Audience members stood, blocking the view of those behind them, and turned their backs when speakers with whom they disagreed spoke. On the second day of the MVP hearing, audience members yelled, and as widely reported in the press, one person shouted “We know where you fucking live!” after the Board voted. Curious that you omitted this from your account.]
    Gov. Terry McAuliffe needs to be held accountable for treating his fellow citizens of the Commonwealth in this manner.
    These folks were there trying to protect their homes and properties from unwanted, unneeded fracked-gas pipelines. McAuliffe owes an apology to each and every one of those who attended these meetings. We will not forget this, Governor McAuliffe, you can be sure of that. And the next office you’re thinking about? You can be sure that we will share our stories of what happened the past couple days with all those who are willing to listen.
    Suffice it to say, the State Water Control Board voted 5-2 to approve the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, though those of us in attendance aren’t really sure what was approved, because Board members changed the language and refused to explain the outcome of their vote….even after being asked to do so. [Asked!? Some audience members shouted questions after the board voted on an amendment which was projected onto the large screen behind the Board. Perhaps they should have paid attention.]
    If the last two days proved anything, it is that the citizens of Virginia don’t really matter. [While they were fewer in number, there were citizens of the Commonwealth who supported the pipeline as well.] Based on what I saw, it seems that we’ve become a police state in order that Dominion Energy and their pal Governor McAuliffe can get that fracked-gas super highway they’ve been pushing for the past 3½ years. Oh, come on! Elected officials beholden to the green of for-profit, monopoly corporations are apparently more important, than any citizen. Those of us in attendance at the State Water Control Board meetings received that message loud and clear – along with the message that our behinds would be carted off to jail if we should utter a word in discord with the wishes of the powers that be. [Many people spoke calmly but passionately of their concerns, some were disruptive, discourteous to other citizens and taxpayers in attendance, some prolonged the proceedings unproductively with their antics, and one was removed. Nobody had his or her behind carted off to jail.]