by Jon Sokolow
In two recent columns, Delegate Ken Plum noted that climate change warnings are too dire to ignore. He called for an end to coal subsidies, intensive green job development, a carbon tax and more renewable energy. For all of that, Plum should be commended.
Unfortunately, Plum was silent on two massive fracked-gas methane elephants in the room: Dominion Energy’s 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline and EQT Corporation’s 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline. These projects – with an estimated price tag of $11 billion that will be paid for by consumers – were approved by the Trump-controlled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a process so shoddy that federal courts have voided multiple permits. As Senator Tim Kaine has noted, two FERC commissioners concluded that there is no demonstrated public need for either pipeline.
Early pipeline construction activities have devastated the water and land resources of rural communities in Southwest Virginia, which, like the rest of Appalachia, has served as a sacrifice zone for corporate greed for more than a century. A pipeline resistance movement has developed statewide and is growing every day.
Despite all of that, Governor Ralph Northam refuses to stop these pipelines. And too many politicians seem to have a climate change blind spot when it comes to fracked methane.
Plum correctly observes that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently issued a scathing report calling for drastic action to avoid climate disaster. But Plum omits the fact that the IPCC specifically targeted methane, stating that we must reduce methane production by 35% from 2010 levels to avert catastrophe.
The reasons are clear. Methane is far more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide, making it 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The proposed pipelines would spew greenhouse gases equivalent to 46 coal fired plants. In effect, politicians who fail to oppose these pipelines are climate deniers. Those are the inconvenient truths.
Another inconvenient truth: Dominion Energy is by far the largest campaign contributor to politicians in Virginia – including to Ken Plum’s own campaigns.
Virginia should join the 25 states that ban contributions from publicly related utilities. And politicians who profess to care about climate change need to stop feeding from the fossil fuel trough. They need to lose their blind spot when it comes to fracked gas. Our children deserve no less.