What we found truly astonishing about this meeting was the lengths to which Dominion Power continues to sink in its efforts to create the appearance of support for its ill-conceived, dirty fossil fuel pipeline. Some of the tactics used by Dominion are eerily similar to a 6-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, and they're just as unattractive.
After inviting folks who do not live in the affected areas of the proposed ACP, Dominion's uninformed "plants" attended a pre-meeting meal supplied by Dominion. To be allowed to speak, everyone had to stand in line to receive a speaker number. Everyone, that is, except - surprise, surprise! - Dominion supporters. One Dominion supporter even tried and failed to cut into the front of the line. After a commotion, he was summarily sent to the back, grumbling all the way.
When grassroots activists arrived at Stuarts Draft High School at 5 pm, Dominion was already present and had put up its "clean energy" signs. Friends of Augusta and Augusta County Alliance volunteers put up two large "No Pipeline" signs, dwarfing Dominion's yard signs. Dominion reps came out and added a dozen more yard signs. Grassroots activists continued by putting up yard signs -- this time, a set of No Pipeline signs harkening back to the old "Burma Shave" signs.
Again, Dominion reps appeared with more "Clean Energy" signs, placing them so as to block the message of the Burma Shave signs. Volunteer Tom Harvey insisted Dominion move those signs from blocking our message. As both the activists and Dominion countered with signs, Mr. Harvey approached a Dominion employee stating he had 1,000 signs in his vehicle. He suggested he could put them all up or they could call a truce, which the Dominion representative readily agreed to.
After being told we could not have signs at the venue or in the meeting, we arrived to see numerous Dominion Power "Clean Energy" signs. In an effort to appear to have community support, there were two hand-painted signs, in favor of the pipeline, planted on school property. Problem is, Dominion representatives were seen putting those hand-painted signs up! Of course, Nelsonians were quick to add their "No Pipeline" signs.
Having arrived at 6:15 pm to sign up to speak for a 7 pm start time, Free Nelson was surprised to be designated as speaker number 43, and dumbfounded when FERC representatives told us they had to be out of the building by 10 pm. They handed us a form suggesting we submit our comments in writing. We questioned why they would end the meeting at 10 pm when there would be hundreds, we believed, who would want to speak, and would be unhappy if not allowed to do so. They answered by shrugging their shoulders and asking us to move along.
Dominion and FERC tried quite ineptly to stack the deck with speakers. This attempt infuriated those with legitimate concerns about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The first 12 folks to speak were pro-pipeline and many, we believe, were Dominion Power plants. We had a pipefitter from Columbia Gas, a retired Exxon executive, another oil distributor, etc. Also, several of the early speakers lived in Richmond, Albemarle or somewhere other than Nelson.
Saying nothing about the Environmental Impact Study, but using every second of their three minutes, these folks spewed Dominion talking points about jobs and tax revenue, and supporting property rights except if it meant we could have energy independence. All, of course, are points which have been thoroughly debunked.