Citizens to hold town hall

Published 3:54 am Wednesday, September 4, 2019

In an ongoing effort to promote unity and raise awareness of a proposed compressor station to be located in Union Hill, community members and their allies are hosting an open forum town hall. According to organizers the event will focus on environmental justice issues and other impacts associated with the fracked-gas infrastructure proposed in Buckingham County and other fossil fuel projects across Virginia.

The fracked-gas compressor station proposed for the Union Hill area of Buckingham County is part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project. The ACP project is approximately 600 miles and is set to span Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties. The proposed Buckingham Compressor Station is 53,783-horsepower and is set to be located on approximately 70 acres of land along Route 56 in the predominately African American community of Union Hill.

The town hall event known as “Our Air, Our Health, Our Future: The Fight to Save Union Hill” is scheduled to take place Saturday from 1-3 p.m., followed by a fish fry and refreshments from 3-4 p.m. on the ancestral land of the Harper family, whose freedmen forebears established the community of Union Hill located at 537 Union Hill Road, Buckingham. Event organizers will post flagging and signs directing participants to the site.

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The community’s yearslong fight to stop the compressor station for the proposed ACP has drawn support from thousands of people around Virginia and beyond, as well as from national leaders such as Rev. William Barber, II, of the Poor People’s Campaign, former Vice President Al Gore, and author and educator Dr. Robert Bullard, considered the “father of environmental justice.”

As previously reported in The Herald in February, Barber and Gore made a public appearance and spoke in support of the community’s fight against the compressor station at an event titled “We are all Union Hill’ held at the Buckingham County Middle School.

Barber in addressing the ACP project encouraged both Democrats and Republicans to turn away from policies relating to education, voting and the environment that would disproportionately affect the poor and people of color.

Barber described the support of the ACP project by politicians as “scandalous.

Barber also spoke about the $5-million proposal from Dominion Energy to Union Hill, which would include constructing a community wellness center, funding for home repairs, ensuring safe water supply, providing grant funding for business opportunities and funding equipment and six full-time emergency responders to be stationed at the Glenmore Satellite station in Buckingham County.

“As the process moves forward, we will continue working to build trust in Union Hill and the surrounding community,” Dominion officials cited in a December statement about the proposal. “We have a profound respect for this community and its history, and we will continue working together to build a better future.”

Barber argued that the state needed to fund those programs for the community rather than Dominion Energy.

He spoke about an idea called Locally Unwanted Land Uses, or LULUs, when companies reportedly place industrial projects in communities that are disproportionately poor.

“If they thought they were going to get away with it in Union Hill, they are out of luck,” Barber said. “This ain’t no LULU. This is holy ground.”

During the February event Gore contended that the proposed pipeline project could have environmental ramifications for Virginia as a whole.

He summarized the project as a “reckless, racist, rip off”: reckless in potential pollutant increase, a rip off in that he argued the profits could not offset the high cost to develop the project, and racist in the decision to place the pipeline and compressor station paths in areas with large populations of people of color.

Gore argued that energy industries such as solar facilities and wind turbine could bring more economic success and reduce the risks for environmental harm.

Saturday’s event will be hosted by Richard Walker, a Harper family member and president of Bridging the Gap, Virginia. Along with Chad Oba, president of Friends of Buckingham; Greg Buppert, senior attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center; Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation with Chesapeake Bay Foundation; and Jonathan Sokolow, attorney and writer.

According to organizers all members of Virginia’s General Assembly have been invited to attend, as well as other elected officials. During the event several Union Hill community members will share their stories of spending the last five years fighting the compressor station, and their vision for Buckingham County’s future.

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