by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-HD2)
For more than five years, thousands of ordinary citizens across the Commonwealth of Virginia have sent a loud and clear message. Virginia does not want – and does not need – two massive new fracked-gas pipelines. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline together represent more than $13 billion in new investment in fossil fuels at a time when the world’s scientists tell us we desperately need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. And, as is too often the case, poor communities and communities of color would be disproportionately impacted by these unwise and unnecessary projects.
Thankfully, the voices of the people of Virginia are now being heard. On January 7, a unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit threw out a permit issued by Virginia state agencies for a massive compressor station that Dominion Energy and its Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) partners wanted to place in the middle of the historic African-American community of Union Hill. I was honored to be one of twenty-eight members of the Virginia General Assembly to have signed a brief urging the court to do just that. This is the eighth permit that the ACP has lost either through court or agency action. The Mountain Valley Pipeline similarly has lost multiple required permits, but construction has continued despite that.
Earlier this week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed a brief urging the United States Supreme Court to let stand another Fourth Circuit decision vacating a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service for the ACP. In his brief, Attorney General Herring noted the overwhelming evidence that there is no demonstrated need for new natural gas infrastructure in Virginia. Indeed, he noted that the ACP “threatens Virginia’s natural resources without clear corresponding benefits.” and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which issued a certificate allowing construction of the pipeline, is required to consider the question of need.
It is now time for the responsible federal and state agencies to take decisive action. With both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines lacking multiple permits that are required by federal law, FERC – which is required by law to consider the question of whether there is a demonstrated need – should revoke the certificates of public convenience and necessity that it previously issued for both pipelines. Virginia state agencies likewise should immediately commence the process of revoking the certifications they issued under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. And Dominion Energy should be told once and for all that it will not be allowed to build a polluting industrial facility in the heart of the historic African-American community of Union Hill.
I stand in solidarity with all those courageous citizens, landowners, social justice advocates and ordinary folk in Virginia and across the country who have fought so long for environmental and social justice on these issues. Virginia – and the planet on which we all live – deserve no less. The time to act is now.