Home Energy and Environment Save our Chincoteague Ponies, Stop the Pipelines

Save our Chincoteague Ponies, Stop the Pipelines


by Glen Besa

The jarring headline in the Washington Post read, Last four Chincoteague ponies battling ‘swamp cancer’ are euthanized.  

So what do two controversial gas pipelines proposed for Virginia have to do with the “swamp cancer” killing the ponies?  Consider this excerpt from another Washington Post article on the same topic:

The disease, sometimes known as swamp cancer, strikes mostly horses and dogs and has long been known in subtropical areas, including Florida. But ­cases are becoming more common in higher latitudes in recent years, with some reported as far north as Minnesota.

“It’s an emerging disease,” said Richard Hansen, a research veterinarian in Oklahoma working on a vaccine and new treatments for pythiosis. “It seems to be moving north with the changing climate.”

Just about everyone in Virginia knows about the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island, and many of you have seen the ponies.  If you have kids, you’ve probably taken your kids to see the ponies at one time or another. In fact, people come from across the country and the world to visit Chincoteague to see the famous ponies, often with kids in tow.  

My wife, Tyla, and I have visited Chincoteague countless times, and when I read the article about the swamp cancer killing the ponies, I felt nauseous.  I’m sure that parents planning a trip to Chincoteague may be having second thoughts, worrying about how to explain to their children that the ponies are sick and dying, in part, because of climate change.   So what are we going to do about it?

Part of the answer is found in the October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warns of dire wide-ranging consequences around the globe if we do not dramatically reduce carbon emissions and in the Fourth National Climate Assessment (Nov 2018) which informed us that even in the United States these consequences are already with us.  

Now we see that those consequences include threats we may not have even imagined like a swamp cancer affecting our beloved Chincoteague ponies.   And the ponies are just another sacrificial canary in the coal mine as climate change and massive new fossil fuel projects ravage people and communities from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to Union Hill, Virginia

Although weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels will take some time (we’ve got until about 2050), there is no good reason we can’t stop increasing our carbon and methane pollution immediately by halting massive new fossil fuel projects like Dominion’s Atlantic Coast and EQT’s Mountain Valley Pipelines.  

Governor Northam just held another press conference touting his support for a noteworthy regional program to address climate changing emissions which would reduce carbon pollution from coal and gas fired power plants in Virginia by 8.4 million tons per year by 2030. But the carbon pollution from these two gas pipelines that Dominion and EQT hope to have operational by 2020, or sooner, would dwarf Northam’s modest carbon reduction plan. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would belch out 30 million tons of carbon per year according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency that permitted the project.  Another report found that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would emit another 40 million tons per year.  

We know why Dominion and EQT are ignoring these climate warnings and doubling down on fossil fuels with new pipelines–GREED, but more perplexing, why is Governor Ralph Northam, proud son of the Eastern Shore-home to the Chincoteague ponies, embracing these two pipeline projects?  Why don’t you ask him? Better yet, have your children ask him because it’s their future that Governor Northam is jeopardizing.

(Photo Courtesy of National Park Service)

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