The following is a guest post by Edwin Santana, Democratic candidate for Congress in VA-01
There’s an issue that’s been burning in my mind recently; something that would be easy enough for me to ignore here in America’s First District. It hasn’t come up at a debate. I haven’t been pressed on it by the media. And though I’ve had it come up when meeting with my future constituents, it rarely comes up before third-rail, kitchen-table issues like healthcare.
Conventional wisdom says that in cases like that, you keep your mouth shut. Don’t dare run the risk of committing an “unforced error,” either by giving your opponent an edge to attack you on, or by irritating the powers that be.
But that’s not who I am. If I see something in government that’s a clear moral failure, I feel obligated to stand up and speak out against it- regardless of the consequences. People don’t want a sycophant representing them; they want someone with the courage of their convictions, to stand up and say: “This is wrong, and I won’t stand for it- I’ll do the right thing, even if it means I go home in November.”
Which is why I wanted to talk, today, about the two pipelines set to crisscross Virginia- the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and the Atlantic Coast pipeline.
I want to state here, unequivocally, that I am wholly and unabashedly against these two pipelines. I echo Virginia State Delegate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, who called them the “injustice of our generation”– the culmination of decades of political maneuvering by the company responsible for pumping more money into Virginia politics than almost all others combined.
If you want to bring me an argument about jobs- great! I want to hear it! But these pipelines create no jobs here in Virginia.
If you want to talk to me about energy independence- preach it! But these pipelines are being built to ship our own energy reserves overseas, by a company that advocates making it illegal to sell renewable power back to the grid.
If you want to talk about declining infrastructure- let’s talk about it! But these pipelines are being built for an only “theoretical” future need, that even the company building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Power, says may not happen until 2035-2040 at the earliest- if at all.
And even if all of those arguments were true, they can’t beat the single biggest problem of them all – eminent domain for corporate gain.
I’ll be frank here: eminent domain is never a great thing. I certainly get it when we use it to build a public high school, an interstate, or to ensure a safe perimeter around a military base- even though I still don’t like its use, I can understand its (rare) employment for the public good. But taking people’s land, some of which has been in their family for over seven generations, simply to satisfy Wall Street and the demands of the biggest donor to Virginia politics? That’s something I will never understand. And if I ever do, I need to get out of politics altogether.
Because if you look at the communities affected by this pipeline directly, you’ll notice a common theme. There aren’t any fancy cars or million dollar homes in Giles County. Union Hill, where a compressor station is proposed to be built, is not only poor, but predominantly and historically black. Which makes sense, in a viciously cynical way. The easiest path to build this pipeline is through the most vulnerable communities in the Commonwealth. They don’t have the money or lawyers to fight back. And with politicians on both sides of the aisle shrugging and going, “Forget it, Jake- it’s Dominion!”, is it any wonder the powers that be picked those communities to foist their pipeline on?
And they expect politicians to just keep their mouths shut, and look the other way- particularly in Congressional districts like mine, that aren’t directly affected. Whistle past the graveyard and pretend this issue doesn’t exist.
But that’s not me. That’s not who I am. And I refuse to sit idly by while this goes on in our Commonwealth.
If you live in Virginia, join me- not just here in the First Congressional District, but across the state. Let your legislators know. Let the candidates running in your district know. Let everyone know that we won’t stand for this moral injustice even a second longer.