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Open Letter to Ralph Northam Urges Him to Attend Meeting Tomorrow with Former VP Al Gore and Rev. William Barber in Buckingham County

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I agree with “Friends of Nelson” (see their open letter, below): Gov. Northam absolutely should attend tomorrow’s meeting in Buckingham County “with keynote speakers Rev. William Barber and Al Gore addressing ‘The Moral Call for Ecological Justice.'” I also agree 100% that Northam “could invite Messrs. Barber and Gore to meet with you…could visit Union Hill and talk honestly with those standing in harm’s way…could demand a fresh and honest permit review.” I’d argue that Northam not only “could” do those things, but SHOULD do those things. Why wouldn’t he? Perhaps this article, which highlights the corrupt role of Virginia’s “donor class” – including Tom Farrell and Dominion Energy, of course – in Virginia politics (e.g., “even a politically wounded Northam is a far more comforting figure to Dominion and other business interests”) – might give a hint? Along with Virginia’s racist past, it’s also long past time for Northam to definitively break with the slimy, “legally corrupt,” revolving-door, big-donor system known as the “Virginia Way,” and to embrace a completely NEW Virginia Way. Will he do that? I’m not holding my breath, but IMHO it’s still worth demanding that he do so.

An Open Letter to Governor Ralph Northam

Dear Governor,

We look forward to seeing you at the February 19 meeting in Buckingham County, with keynote speakers Rev. William Barber and Al Gore addressing “The Moral Call for Ecological Justice.” The purpose of this meeting is to draw attention to the many injustices that would be visited on this vulnerable community if Dominion is allowed to build a huge compressor station there. Attending this meeting could give you an opportunity to make your case that the racism evident in your medical school yearbook was merely the insensitivity of a young man raised in the Jim Crow South.

You have conveyed the message that you have no real concern about environmental justice at Union Hill. You first dismissed the report of your Advisory Council on Environmental Justice as a draft, and when council leaders made it clear that the report was, in fact, their final report, you simply ignored it. Late in the review process, after a secret meeting with Dominion’s CEO, you abruptly removed two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board who had raised concerns about the compressor station’s impacts on area residents. You have allowed Department of Environmental Quality director, David Paylor, to carry out his duties in such a way as to indicate he’s a strong supporter of the ACP. And you have shown no concern that the Air Pollution Control Board’s last hearing on the compressor station was a meaningless show leading to a pre-arranged permit approval.

Because of your actions at Union Hill, you have a lot of baggage to unload. Clearly, simply attending the Buckingham meeting would be only a start, but it could mark a turning point in your reconciliation efforts. If “scheduling conflicts” keep you from attending the Feb. 19 event, you could use it as a springboard for more concrete actions: you could invite Messrs. Barber and Gore to meet with you; you could visit Union Hill and talk honestly with those standing in harm’s way; you could demand a fresh and honest permit review.

The path you have laid out for yourself will be long and difficult. As a self-confessed sinner, you are well-positioned to lead us forward in overcoming the vestiges of America’s original sin. What better place to invest your time than Union Hill?

Sincerely,

Friends of Nelson Board of Directors