After devastating hurricanes, two days of prayer vigils and protests in Richmond, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Woodbridge, Virginia Beach, Glen Allen and Abingdon culminated on Thursday September 14 with a peaceful sit-in in Richmond. The first-of-its-kind statewide protest connected extreme weather with fossil fuel policies. Protesters showed compassion for storm victims and growing opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline in call for Virginia Governor to reject the pipelines.
RICHMOND, Virginia– On September 14, hundreds citizens across Virginia gathered for the final day of the “People’s Pipeline Protest,” two days of action at all seven of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s controversial Department of Environmental Quality offices. During the protest in Richmond, activists engaged in a peaceful sit-in at the Richmond DEQ office, effectively blocking the office entrance for over an hour, and resulting in 19 arrests.
Those arrested today included landowners, physicians and faith leaders opposed to the pipeline. Governor McAuliffe plans to make a final decision on water permits for the controversial pipelines this autumn. He has the full legal authority, under the Clean Water Act, to stop them based on the massive impact the pipelines would likely have on drinking water and rivers and wetlands across 1000 miles of their proposed pathways. Protesters today asked the Governor to deny the water permits sought by Dominion Energy and other energy companies. The sit-in arrestees were released by Richmond city police after receiving misdemeanor tresspassing charges.
The protests and vigils this week aimed to honor the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma while protesting the pro-fracking and pro-pipelines policies of Governor Terry McAuliffe that make climate change worse. Opponents of two controversial gas pipelines called the events the most ambitious and creative environmental protests ever organized in Virginia’s history.
Harrison Wallace, Virginia Policy Coordinator for CCAN Action Fund, said, “Our human rights to clean air, clean water, and a livable climate are threatened by the dangerous Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines for fracked gas. Today, sat on the frontlines of the Richmond DEQ offer to amplify the pleas of frontline Virginians who are urging Governor McAuliffe to do the right thing.”
Russell Chisholm, Vice-Coordinator of Preserve Giles County along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and US Army Veteran of Desert Storm, said: “Let DEQ Director David Paylor’s legacy be one of protecting Virginia’s water for generations, especially in vulnerable rural areas like Giles County where we rely on springs and wells. The thousands of people served by the Roanoke river depend on McAuliffe and the DEQ to protect their drinking water. It’s time to reject these pipelines once and for all.”
The seven DEQ offices run from NoVA to Virginia Beach and from the Tennessee border to Harrisonburg. Focused on stopping the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, these historic protests took place simultaneously on September 13 and 14 as the nation recovers from massive hurricanes and while McAuliffe contemplates a final decision on whether to approve the destructive fossil fuel pipelines.
Faith leaders, students, and others are asking the Governor to consider the growing harm of hurricanes and accelerating climate change — and to reject the specific water permits needed by pipeline companies, including Dominion Energy. These harmful pipelines for fracked gas would cause the destruction of entire mountain ridgetops, threaten citizens’ property rights, and harm valuable drinking water resources — in addition to exacerbating climate change. The pipelines would trigger new greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to building 46 new coal-fired power plants in Virginia.
April Moore, member of Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, said: “It is moving to me to see many people of different faith traditions demonstrating that the stewardship of our water—on which all life depends—is a sacred duty. We cannot let Dominion Power and other purveyors of dirty fossil fuels rob us of our birthright: clean water for all. Especially when renewable energy sources can provide us with the energy we need now, while also providing an abundance of good jobs.”
Amanda Tandy of 350 Loudoun, said, “These pipelines would harm us all. In addition to the global climate change the pipelines would accelerate, Northern Virginians would be impacted by loss of recreation areas, impacts to the Appalachian Trail, a reduction in water and air quality and our tax dollars going towards any disasters, such as blowouts or leaks, that may occur over the hundreds of miles of these pipelines. Virginians deserve better governance than their executive and his agencies putting the interests of corporate polluters over the interests of the living, taxpaying, voting citizens. New York, West Virginia and Minnesota have pushed back against pipeline construction through their states. Virginia, through its DEQ, needs to do the same.”
Kim Williams, operator of the Norfolk Catholic Worker House, said: “The devastating storms of the past two weeks in Houston and in Florida are a painful reality check. Climate change is now and climate change is here. We need to do everything we can to move immediately off of fossil fuels and to move our energy source to renewables. The climate has changed. Now, the thinking of our Governor and the officials at the DEQ needs to change as well. They need to think beyond the next election cycle. They need to think long-term about what these pipelines would do to cause irrevocable harm to our planet.”
Jason Von Kundra, local Washington County farmer and Virginia Organizing member, said: “These pipelines threaten our our natural resources and health. As farmers, we understand the importance of using the land responsibly. For the sake our next generations, we call on Governor McAuliffe to do the right thing.”
Twenty-five groups endorsed the “People’s Pipeline Protest,” including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, 350 Loudon, Divest RVA, RVA Interfaith Climate Justice League, Preserve Franklin, Norfolk Catholic Workers, Beyond Extreme Energy, Fort Valley Voices for Action, 350 Central Virginia, Indivisible Midlothian, Friends of Buckingham, Yogaville Environmental Solutions, Interfaith Power & Light, Virginia River Healers , 350 Fairfax, Friends of Augusta, Tidewater Pax Christi Community, C-Ville Rising, Preserve Giles County, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Oil Change International, Wild Virginia, Virginia Organizing, Friends of Nelson, and the Interspiritual Empowerment Project.