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‘Environmental injustices’ addressed

By Jamie Ruff

Special to The Farmville Herald

A town hall was held in Buckingham County’s Union Hill to discuss, “fracked-gas pipelines, compressors and other environmental injustices in Virginia,” according to event organizers.

Chad Oba

The meeting, held 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, on Union Hill Road, included Chad Oba, president of Friends of Buckingham, who said the proposed pipeline shows “our democracy, our communities and the climate is in great danger.”

Supporters and advocates argue the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline “will be an energy provider, job creator and economic game changer for West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina” – transporting natural gas from West Virginia to communities where it’s urgently needed in Virginia and North Carolina.

But opponents continue to insist that’s not true.

Indeed, Oba said that the powers-that-be are ignoring the concerns of those who will be adversely affected by the project and that they will see their electric bills go up, have land taken and have their health endangered.

“So far our representatives and the environmental regulations that are supposed to protect us, particularly those most vulnerable like the low income African American community of Union Hill, are not working or listening,” she said. “There is an urgent need to resist these injustices when people are not being listened to and their human rights are being abused. Virginia and the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency is assisting and supporting Dominion to build a risky and completely unnecessary pipeline at ratepayers expense.”

Others scheduled to attend the meeting included Greg Buppert, senior attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center, Jon Mueller, vice president of litigation with Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Jonathan Sokolow, an attorney and writer. Richard Walker, a Harper family member and president of Bridging the Gap, Virginia, hosted the gathering.

Titled “Our Air, Our Health, Our Future: The Fight to Save Union Hill,” — the town hall discussion asked the question: What kind of commonwealth are we?

It was an open forum meeting of Union Hill community members and their allies focusing on the environmental justice issues and other impacts associated with fracked-gas infrastructure proposed in Buckingham County and other fossil fuel projects across Virginia.

Several Union Hill community members shared their stories of spending the last five years fighting the compressor station and their vision for Buckingham’s future.

All members of Virginia’s General Assembly were invited to attend as well as other elected officials, organizers said.

The event took place on the ancestral land of the Harper family whose freedmen forebears established the community of Union Hill, which remains predominantly African American, organizers noted.

The community’s yearslong fight to stop a massive fracked-gas compressor station for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline has drawn support from thousands of people around Virginia and nationally, including 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.

“Events such as these provide the evidence to those who may not be aware of how wrong this pipeline is, especially so as we all are facing a climate crisis,” Oba said. “It really impacts everyone. It is a shame that more of our representatives did not attend.”