“We’re Rural, Not Stupid” Part 1


    ( – promoted by lowkell)

    Today I begin a series of posts to Blue Virginia sharing letters from Nelsonians which outline their concerns, frustrations and determination to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  We hope from these letters, BV readers, our local, state and federal officials will begin to acknowledge and understand the validity of the arguments being made by residents of rural Nelson County. Our elected officials would allow a for-profit, privately held company, in this case Dominion Power, to encroach upon our lands and our way of life.  Nelsonians may live in a rural area, but are not stupid.  They are well-informed, knowledgeable and will not stop their efforts to shine a light on the issues that affect them.  Governor McAuliffe can hide in a restaurant rather than speak to protesters, some officials can vote against the best interests of their constituents, but Nelsonians are united in their fight.

    The letter below is from Susan McSwain, who worked for Nelson County for many years as our recycling guru.  Under her leadership our recycling program was built and operates today.  She describes herself as “A dismayed, lifelong Democrat who owns 500 acres of forest and pasture, who leases land to a hunt club (Mr. Warner professes to enjoy hunting), who has worked all my life to save this planet for future generations.  NO PIPELINE!!!    NO FRACKING!!!”  Susan’s letter begins with an email she sent to me regarding my resignation as chair of the Nelson Democratic Committee and continues with a letter she sent to Max at Senator Warner’s campaign office in Charlottesville.  

    Sharon, I very much appreciated your reply, but it is alarming to hear that you are stepping down from the chair position due to your increasing level of disillusionment.  The reason I use the word “alarming” is that Robert and I have reached that point as well, and it is very, very depressing.  For the first time in my life, I have started to feel like our country has been sold to the highest bidder, and the bidders continue to get wealthier at the risk of the hard-working poor.  For crying out loud – no other developed nation leaves poor people to fend for themselves with no health care!

    Below is a letter I sent yesterday to the Warner office in Charlottesville.  My letter may go into a “delete” file, but I am not the type of person to roll over and play dead – remaining silent is not an alternative for me.

    Dear Max,  

    Last week, I got a call from the Warner office in Charlottesville, asking if I would help in the Warner campaign for re-election this year.  I was on the call list due to the fact that in past years, my husband and I have helped sponsor Democratic fund-raising events in Nelson County.

    I asked the person on the phone if he could tell me about Mr. Warner’s stand on the proposed Dominion Pipeline.  The person replied that he was only vaguely aware of the pipeline, but that he would find out and get back to me about Mr. Warner’s position on the topic.  I told the caller that before he contacted any more residents in Nelson County, he needed to know about the pipeline, and before I could commit to assisting in the Warner campaign, I needed an answer.  I have not heard back from the person who called.

    The proposed pipeline has become a property rights issue that has united citizens from all political persuasions – Tea Party, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent.  When Mr. Warner was governor, he signed legislation to allow privileges and rights to companies like Dominion that trump the rights of private citizens.  This is not the “American Way.”  Money and corporate greed are increasingly dictating the way our country operates.  The laws need to be changed, and Mr. Warner is in a position to effect the required changes.

    I realize that it is doubtful Mr. Warner has time to read a letter from me.  Since you are working for the re-election campaign, I am hoping that you will find a way to get the message to him.

    This is a hot topic throughout Virginia, and it appears that the citizenry is at odds with the leaders at this point in time.  In fact, it is having an effect on Democratic voters.  Governor McAuliffe’s September 2 announcement of support for the pipeline created a firestorm among Democratic voters in my area that I have never before witnessed.  At least a dozen staunch Democrats who vote in every election have told me that they intend to boycott the polls in November.  They don’t see the point in supporting candidates who can’t be trusted.  While running for office, Mr. McAuliffe was against fracking, but many people feel that he allowed the $150,000 campaign contribution from Dominion to change his mind.  The pipeline is being built for one use – to transport fracked gas from the abused land belonging to our neighbors in West Virginia.

    75% of the people in Nelson who received Dominion’s letters of request to survey their land for the pipeline, denied such permission.  If, as expected, Dominion files with the FERC for the pipeline and it is approved, the company can use eminent domain to take people’s property away from them in the form of a perpetual easement.  Dominion is a private, for-profit company with shareholders and a CEO whose salary is nearly half of the entire annual budget for all of Nelson County.  The people who will pay the price so that the company executives can make million dollar bonuses are not wealthy.  The median annual income for a household in Nelson County is $36,769.

    Independent university studies are now showing that the rush to use fracked gas was initiated without adequate information.  Taking into account the massive environmental harm and the self-reported (and grossly under-reported) methane leaks, fracked gas creates 3 to 4 times the amount of greenhouse gases as coal.  There is nothing “natural” about this at all.  Not only is fracking actually speeding up Climate Change (the very thing it is supposed to reduce!), but our water resources are at risk.  Every single fracking site contaminates nearby water supplies, making water unusable for human consumption, agriculture, forests, and wildlife.  A huge amount of water is also required to test pipelines.  It has even been predicted that if fracking continues at the current pace, potable water could become one of the most expensive commodities in the future.  We cannot drink or breathe methane.

    Please pass this message to Senator Warner.  Let him know that his constituents want to know if he will consider doing the right thing and take a position against both the pipeline and fracking.  Only fools refuse to ever change their mind or learn something new.  A moratorium should be called on fracking due to the long-term harm that this unsustainable practice will wreck on our people, our land, our environment.  Fracked natural gas is NOT safe, effective, or affordable.  The hope that it can be a “bridge” to buy time while renewable energy processes can be developed is a tragic myth.


    Susan McSwain

    Shipman, VA


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