Home Energy and Environment Fracking Dominion’s Plans: Virginia’s Earth Day Heroes 

Fracking Dominion’s Plans: Virginia’s Earth Day Heroes 

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by Peter Volosin, Democratic candidate for Congress in VA-06

Climate justice is one of the civil rights issues of our time, but the majority of us still don’t see it. Thankfully, there are people who do and yesterday, on Earth Day, I met some amazing people standing up for our environment.

In Virginia, we are building two major pipelines known as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. To get these approved Dominion Power argued that the demand for energy will grow by 165% over the next two decades and that the existing infrastructure would not be able to keep up with demand.

They said the answer was to draw on fracked gas and pipe it to our homes. And it was a popular idea among energy companies in our region. A total of 19 pipelines are now proposed for Appalachia. In reality, these pipelines are about facilitating natural gas to ports for sale. It is called the “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” after all. Simply put, these projects cut costs and remove middlemen, so Dominion can turn a greater profit. To say their eminent domain request serves a greater good is a farce.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline cost billions of dollars and force us to commit to fracked gas for the foreseeable future. This in turn creates demand for more drilling and fracking to justify the investment resulting in a never-ending downward spiral of reliance on fracked gas. These two pipelines are just the beginning.

Yesterday, I met some incredible people making a big difference to turn the tide. Each of them, at one point, stood alone. But as Aida Washington at Union Hill told a packed meeting of activists, you must “stand up for what is right, even if you have to stand alone”. I also thought of Red and Minor Terry, who I met earlier in the day, perched high in the trees on their own property. They were bravely standing in protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, defending their land, their water and their rights.

I learned a lot for Red, Minor and the community at Union Hill yesterday and three themes stand out for me:

  • The environmental impact is not fully understood: The ACP and MVP would cross Virginia streams and wetlands at over 1,000 locations. Red was telling me about the effect the clearcutting and herbicides are having on our water. She told me about how crews use the herbicide to stop the forest from re-growing after they’ve cut, but the herbicide runs downhill and into the water supply. Leaking any chemicals into the pristine waters on Bent Mountain puts the safety of the Roanoke Valley’s water supply in jeopardy and places new brewing jobs at risk, and certainly dissuades any new brewers from coming to this area.
  • The social impact is the starkest and least understood: At Union Hill, it was clear that the location of the proposed compressor station (a location on the pipeline that increases the pressure at which the gas is pumped along) is right in the middle of a predominantly rural, African-American community. It will be the only station in Virginia and will be one of the largest in the country. The only similar station for the pipeline in North Carolina is also being placed in a predominantly African-American community.  The ensuing toxic emissions of the station will seriously damage air quality and the quality of life of people living in the area. In fact, the community was told nothing about the proposed station until activists informed them. Today, they are fighting back for their homes.
  • Detractors say that the pipelines will create jobs here in Virginia. That might be so in the building of the pipeline, but the long-term permanent jobs amount to just 39. Meanwhile, the growing brewing industry in Roanoke, and the tourism sector across the Blue Ridge, employs hundreds of permanent jobs, that will be put at risk by these pipelines.

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, Dominion Energy has inflated the future demand for electricity, and considering under capacity on existing pipelines, there are serious questions over whether we need two new mega pipelines in the first place.

The impending impact on our community’s health and well-being, the abuse of eminent domain to benefit a private company, and the clear racial injustices perpetrated in the building of these pipelines tell us quite clearly the cost is too high.

This multi-billion-dollar investment, which includes massive subsidies from the federal government, is taking investment away from renewables. Already, solar energy employs more people than the fossil fuel industry and is the fastest growing source of electricity in the United States. Renewable energy sources are the best way for us to create long-term sustainable jobs, limit our impact on our environment, and bring energy independence to our communities. The alternative is fractured communities and lives, destruction of our natural beauty, and the abuse of government regulation to benefit private corporations.

For these reasons I #StandWithRed, her daughter Minor, and the community of Union Hill.

  • Video: From earlier today…

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

  • Jason Peterson

    I think its a bit disingenuous for someone to claim the moral high-ground in environmental justice and policy debates when their own House Ethics filings show personal holdings and profit from fracking. PDC Energy, which the author owned recently, or perhaps still owns, is one of the worst players in the industry, from emissions releases to waterway contamination. So bad that Scott Pruitt fined them. http://clerk.house.gov/public_disc/financial-pdfs/2017/10018948.pdf https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pruitt-court-action-shows-epa-willing-to-punish-oil-drillers

    • Peter Volosin

      Jason, I can understand your concerns and appreciate you raising this subject. I’m glad to have this chance to clarify the situation.

      My grandfather, John Volosin, bought the stock in my name (but under his custodianship) when I was born in 1986. He passed away in the mid-1990s without having told me about the stock; in fact, I didn’t know about it until 2014, when another relative forwarded the certificate on to me after the death of my step-grandmother. I started by verifying that the stock was valid, so I could divest myself of it. Once I did that, I had it changed into my name (rather than my late grandfather’s custodianship), and began to sell it off; I finished the process of selling it in 2016.

      I never voted as a shareholder, and I haven’t had any stock or stake in the company since. I listed it appropriately on the form you linked to above in compliance with U.S. House ethics rules for running for Congress.

      Hope this clears up your question. You can find out more about my actual environmental policy priorities on my website, VoteVolosin.com.

      Peter

      • Jason Peterson
        • vadem58

          Speaking of disingenuous…Isn’t Jason Peterson a pseudonym for Kurt Schlegel, a staff member for Jennifer Lewis’ campaign? Why not use your real name to attack opponents? Be proud of your words by showing ownership. The reason that I know Jason Peterson is a pseudonym is that you sent me a friend request and I realized that the account was fake. I started asking around until I discovered your identity.

          As for the stock, how can one be responsible for something they don’t know anything about? Mr. Volosin should be commended for divesting because he’d clearly be wealthier by maintaining ownership.

          Also, I live in Roanoke County and Mr. Volosin lives in Roanoke City. The Roanoke Valley IS downstream.
          ~Susan Cloeter, Chair, Roanoke County Democratic Committee

          • Jason Peterson

            That’s me, and I’m a volunteer for several campaigns. I think the Cambridge Analytica story justifies a level of internet anonymity. I might be more likely to believe the story regarding the stock if it wasn’t preceded by an absolutely unbelievable one concerning the filing of petitions on a sidewalk, outside an office, in the snow, or was it in a car?, with a dog?, at precisely noon, that took mere seconds while other candidates filings took 11-12 minutes. Oh, well, hard to explain.. I guess you had to be there!

          • Jason Peterson

            [As for the stock, how can one be responsible for something they don’t
            know anything about? Mr. Volosin should be commended for divesting
            because he’d clearly be wealthier by maintaining ownership.]
            1) The stock trades today in the same range as the time frame in which he claims to have sold it, where would this additional wealth come from? Are there not some things that are not worth owning, no matter how profitable? 2) Ignoring the extraneous family history, he admits he controlled the stock for 2 years before divesting (in preparation for a candidacy?) How many waterways were contaminated in that time? How many lives disrupted? I’m glad he has sold it. I reserve my commendations for more substantial displays.
            By his own admission, Volosin knowing owned stock in one of the worst companies in one of the most destructive sectors of one of the most disastrous industries in the history of mankind. For 2 years.
            No ‘pats on the back’ from me.
            -Kurt

          • benjgc

            Kurt, I wonder what you’d think of the Cleveland Indians stock I received for my Bar Mitzvah in 1999. When I got my 10 shares, they were valued at $8 apiece, but the team bought them back a few years later, at $24 each, so I made $240. I had a lot more idea that I owned that stock than Mr. Volosin did with his; am I responsible for perpetuating racist iconography and awful bullpen management?

            Also, I can tell you from my own experience with stock passed down in someone else’s name that it takes a long time to get custodianship changed. It’s pretty difficult to switch the name on stock ownership, and rightfully so, because you wouldn’t want that to be improperly transferred.

            There are real issues for us to debate so we can focus on helping our district. This smacks of ad hominem smears. Let’s be better.

          • I’m screwed, because my wife and I are both current/former federal employees who have had a lot of money in the TSP’s “C Fund,” which as an S&P 500 tracking fund has all kinds of bad companies and lots of neutral or even good ones – in there. Oh well…I guess I’d better turn in my progressive credentials right now. LOL

          • benjgc

            Precisely. If you’re invested in any kind of index funds, there are a lot of ways you can be invested in companies you loathe.

          • If we REALLY want to go down this road, we also need to disqualify anyone – even Democratic activists – who works for a law firm, PR firm, trade association, company, etc, etc. that doesn’t live up to our standards on any number of issues…

          • benjgc

            Put another way: purity tests don’t work, are reductive, and distract from the actual business at hand.

          • Agreed. Also, people are complex…