There’s something magical about standing in a place and realizing that in every direction you look, there are mountains. It’s as if you’re sitting in a natural fortress, or a protected oasis.

Walking on the soil that is slated to be uprooted by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and recognizing that this land could be stripped of that beauty is unimaginable, especially for the communities of western Virginia.

“We chose this area because of its quietness, peacefulness, good clean quality air, and water,” said John Laury, a farmer in Buckingham County, VA. “That’s why we’re here. We have a right to be here and regardless, no company has a right to decide who should be the victim of their financial gains.”

A farmer and rancher, Laury and his wife Ruby have lived in a house they built upon moving back to Laury’s hometown in Buckingham County since 2004. The couple raise cattle for market and now own nearly 20 cows, which have become their source of income during what was meant to be their retirement.

John and Ruby Laury

The Laury’s rural, quiet farmhouse is surrounded by open fields and bales of hay. A metal barn for livestock backs up to the house. Aside from a few brays from their two donkeys, the only sounds are those from bugs and the breeze.

The ACP is proposed to run near their property line. There would also be a compression station located less than one mile from their home. This would not only disturb the Laury’s daily life, but create stress for their cattle.

“The proposed pipeline, if it should happen to come in, the most concern that I have is what happens if there’s a leak,” Ruby Laury said. “In this area, we have wells that we get our water from, the ground wells. The other thing we’ve heard and we’ve seen [is] where compression stations have actually blown up. There’s one that happened not too long ago in Appomattox. That’s a big concern to me. We’re like a ground zero. If anything happens, everything around here is going to be destroyed.”

“They seem to target areas that are predominantly of black Americans, also poor people,” explained Ruby Laury.

“They do it because of the fact we are less likely to speak out, less likely to have resources to fight it,” John Laury said, his speech slow and methodical. “So they make it easier for them to overpower us. It’s a trend.”

Their particular neighborhood is predominantly African-American, and according to the National Register of Historic Places, several areas within Buckingham have been declared historical.

“This particular area, we have a lot of slave burial grounds, natural springs, creeks, and we would rather not see them disturbed. Definitely not polluted,” John Laury said. “We get our water from wells here. We don’t live near a town or city, so we depend on our wells for our drinking water.”

Groundwater pollution can be a side effect of fracking, as it requires the use of local well water to extract natural gas.

Carolyn Reilly

Read MoreRVA Mag | Richmond – Madelyne Ashworth – 08/08/2017

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