Interesting discussion a little while ago (see audio below; nice job by Interfaith Power and Light for organizing the call) about Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast (fracked gas) Pipeline, with Rev. Laura Martin, Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (Arlington), Jamshid Bakhtiari (Virginia Field Coordinator at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) – an environmental group with serious cojones, unlike a certain other big Virginia enviro group starting with the letter “L”); Rev. Morris Fleischer, Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (in the path of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline); and Pastor Paul Wilson, Union Hill & Union Grove Baptist Churches (Buckingham County, in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline).
Here are a few highlights from the remarks by Bakhtiari, followed by highlights from the remarks by the religious leaders (in both cases, bolding added by me for emphasis):
- Bakhtiari explained that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline have important climate impacts, because “if constructed… [the pipelines] will release greenhouse gas emissions that would be the equivalent of 46 full-time coal power plants.”
- Bakhtiari talked about the many “mythologies” the fossil fuel industry perpetuates regarding supposedly “clean-burning” natural gas. The problem is, “it is all a lie.” In fact, if you take into account the entire life cycle of the natural gas, “it is just as dirty if not dirtier than coal.”
- Another major negative: “if you create these infrastructure projects, it would further incentive further fossil fuel extraction throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania and even here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
- But wait, it gets worse! The pipelines also infringe upon people’s property rights via the process of eminent domain “for the private gain of the utility companies that are pushing for these two pipelines.”
- Bakhtiari explained that Virginia can push back against these pipelines via Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, “and the precedent for this has been set by Governor Cuomo in 2014 in New York, who stopped the Constitution Pipeline by exercising this part of federal law…If infrastructure projects are found to negatively affect the water integrity of a state, the state agencies and the governor HAVE the jurisdiction to stop these interstate projects.”
- The problem is, the current [Section] 401 process for these pipelines is “a complete sham,” such as “permitting water crossings [for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline] without even receiving a full application from Dominion Power and the Department of Environmental Quality instead of actually studying [river?] crossings has deferred that process to the Army Corps, which is known for a very relaxed and not very stringent permitting process.”
- “The time is running out, the DEQ…is expected to issue permits for both of these pipelines…they’ve done the work to permit them and they just have to make it official…and unless something drastic is done to put pressure on the governor and his Department of Environmental Quality, these permits will be given in October, before even the new governor takes office.”
- For three actions you can take to help stop these pipelines, please click here. Thanks.
- Rev. Rev. Morris Fleischer, Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (in the path of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline) says he’s right in the middle of the “incineration zone” at his 167-year-old church for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
- Rev. Fleischer asked, “if you can put a pipeline right through the middle of a historic district, then why be designated historic in the first place?”
- Rev. Fleischer said there’s a lot of fear, anxiety and anger at “the idea of people taking property by eminent domain,” including folks who live on farms whose ancestors purchases many generations ago.
- Rev. Fleischer talked about “Creation Care” and the importance of environmental protection, as well as “the difference between using and abusing, dominion and domination.”
- Rev. Fleischer noted that the companies have far “deeper pockets” than pipeline opponents have.
- Pastor Paul Wilson, Union Hill & Union Grove Baptist Churches (Buckingham County, in the direct path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline) said he’s been fighting the pipeline for three years, that he’s found that the entire process regarding the pipeline has been “flawed.” He added that this has been a “systematic overreach of big business…deliberately overpowering for the small and local communities.”
- Pastor Wilson says the faith community has been largely considered “irrelevant” by the business interests pushing for the pipelines. He also argued that politicians “have been bought off or…paid for…or compromised” by the pro-pipeline forces, while poor communities are being “destroyed,” “dehumanized” and “destabilized.” Pipeline opponents have even been portrayed as “kooks” or “fanatics” or “alarmists.” “The propaganda of big business is just overpowering.”
- Pastor Wilson said whether it’s the Atlantic Coast Pipeline or coal ash or whatever, the public – not the stock holders – is “left to bear the cost.” This is “all about money” and “power.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of Trump’s top priorities, the goal being to “[make] money off the backs of the common man.”
- Pastor Wilson talked about his historic African-American church – going back to 1869/1870 – being threatened by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. 80%+ of the property owners surrounding the proposed compressor station in Buckingham County are minority, many elderly. Pastor Wilson believes the pipeline project was routed through his area because it was seen as the “path of least resistance.”
- Pastor Wilson concluded that Dominion Energy “acts as though they’re going to get what they want; we’re just sacrificial lambs.”
The Commonwealth’s upcoming gubernatorial election has amplified many important Creation care conversations in Northern Virginia’s faith communities. Among these are the choices raised by two gas infrastructure projects proposed for Virginia: the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines.
Prepare to participate faithfully in upcoming debates and candidate events* by taking some time, now, to listen to our southern neighbors via our friends at Virginia Interfaith Power & Light:
Please join Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions and Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA) to call in on Thursday, August 10th at noon to hear directly from two pastors from Southwest Virginia whose communities lie in the path of proposed gas pipelines.
• Rev. Laura Martin, Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ
• Rev. Rev. Morris Fleischer, Newport-Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church
(in the path of proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline)
• Rev. Paul Wilson, Union Hill & Union Grove Baptist Churches
(Buckingham County, in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline)
An opportunity for conversation and questions will close the call.
* On Monday, August 14th at 6:30 pm, Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge No. 2188
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions invites the community to
“A Dialogue on Virginia’s Energy Future”
with Democratic Candidate, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam