In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested as part of the Birmingham Campaign, an effort to bring national attention to systemic racism in one of America’s most segregated cities. As he sat in a jail cell, King wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which would become a bedrock document of the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking to leaders who, despite good intentions, failed to speak up against injustice, King famously wrote: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
In Virginia, we are now suffering from an “appalling silence” over the environmental racism at the heart of Dominion Energy’s controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. And time is short. The fate of the ACP, a 600-mile, $5.5-billion, fracked-gas pipeline, together with that of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, will be decided at public hearings of the State Water Control Board on December 6-12. The pipelines also are the target of a “Water is Life Rally and Concert” in Richmond on December 2.
The appalling silence over Dominion’s plans comes from many who Dr. King would consider to be “good people.” But the silence has become deafening, particularly with the environmental racism of the linchpin of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Dominion’s proposed compressor station in Union Hill in Buckingham County, Virginia.
There is no excuse for this silence. The story has been told for several years in protest, in song, on film and in print – here, here, here and here – among many other places. The short version is this: Dominion Energy paid $2.5 million to buy a 68-acre parcel from the white descendants of a large tobacco producing slave plantation known as Variety Shade. It bought the land to build a massive 55,000-horsepower compressor station to service the Atlantic Coast Pipeline for 200 miles in each direction. The compressor station would run 24/7, powered by burning gas from the pipeline, and would regularly spew carcinogenic and other harmful compounds while creating noise that has been described by a landowner who lives near a compressor station as equivalent to a “747 taking off.” The population within one mile of the proposed facility – an area commonly referred to in pipeline planning documents as the “incineration zone” in case of an accident – is 85% African American. Many of those residents, as well as unknown others buried in unmarked cemeteries, are descendants of the slaves who worked that plantation and freedmen who acquired some of the land after the Civil War. Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources is considering naming Union Hill as a state Historic District and Preservation Virginia has listed it as a “Most Endangered Historic Place.”
Blue Virginia – Jonathan Sokolow – 11.27.2017
Posted by: Nelson Bailey