How will the state protect communities

Published 6:46 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017


Oct. 28, experts in environmental law, justice and toxicology presided as judges at the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights, Environmental Justice and Fracked Gas. Lois Gibbs, founder/director of Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Adrienne Hollis, of EPA’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, and James Igoe, U. Va. professor, expert in international human rights, heard 58 testifiers give evidence of human rights violations related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline of laws, policies and treaties signed by the U.S. or Virginia to protect its people.

Judges’ findings state both routes unequally target low-income, rural African-Americans, Native Americans and Appalachians to lose their property rights through eminent domain seizures. A compressor station unjustly forces Union Hill’s 85 percent African-American neighborhood to live next to dangerous toxic emissions. Both routes place hazards to major water supplies by river crossings and individual wells that are sole sources of drinking water. They strongly recommend both pipelines be stopped immediately and human rights investigations undertaken.

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Both pipelines have been proven unnecessary and for investor profit only, not utility needs, according to long-serving Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur in her rare dissent in a 2:1 vote taken by commissioners serving one month — that issued certifications for their use.

Oct. 31, after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision, Gov. McAuliffe announced Virginia’s first Advisory Council on Environmental Justice “to avoid disproportionately negative environmental impacts on environmental justice communities.”

What does the state of Virginia plan to do to protect these now imminently endangered communities?

Lakshmi Fjord,

Organizer, Chair, People’s Tribunal