Photo Project Spotlights Pipeline Impact

By Peter Galuszka

Veteran photographer Karen Kasmauski, who grew up in Norfolk, has a brilliant online project that shows the human and environmental impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

She is a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, a non-profit group that funded her project that centers mostly in rural Nelson and Buckingham Counties that would be dissected by the natural gas pipeline.

She combines spectacular aerial photos with deep close ups of people.

One of her subjects is Ella Rose, a retiree who lives in a small house in Union Hill. She was living a quiet happy life in her natural setting until she got a letter from Dominion Energy stating that they would be routing the ACP about 150-feet from her house.

Union Hill is a touchpoint for pipeline controversy since it is largely African-American community that ACP officials have selected for a compressor station. It is one of similar localities that seem to be targeted with other loud and disruptive equipment along the pipeline route.

I was happy to see Karen’s work since we go back a long way. We were both at The Virginian-Pilot in the late 1970s. After the Iranian crisis and oil price spike, coal became a fuel of choice. Hampton Roads was crammed with coal bulk carriers from Europe and Asia awaiting pier space.

This was back in the day when newspapers could afford large projects. Karen and I were sent to southwest Virginia where we worked for days on a series about the state’s coal industry, including the ravages of strip mining and tragic deaths in deep mines.

We teamed up again with the Desert One rescue fiasco in Iran. Some of the aircraft involved had been based at the Norfolk Naval Air Station. We were assigned to go there and learn what we could.

Since were both Navy brats, we had an idea. We dressed nicely and Karen hid her cameras in a car. The guard at the gate asked where we were going and we said we had a lunch date at the officers club. We were let through.

We made a bee-line for the hangers assigned to helicopters. We got into a “gee-dunk” (Navy for snack bar) and started talking to pilots who were more than happy to show us on a map where the weak points in Iran’s radar air defense system were. Shore patrol and public information officers caught up with us and we were tossed out. “We don’t blame you, one lieutenant commander said. “We blame your editors.”

Karen and I parted ways for several years as my career took me to Richmond, Washington, Chicago and Moscow.

One day in 1987 or 1988, I was attending a daily media briefing at the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Who should I run into? Karen, of course. She was on assignment for National Geographic on a project of global radiation threats and was interested in Chernobyl.

Her career had blossomed and she was a regular contributor to the Geographic. In all, she did more than 24 major stories for the publication.

I hope you admire her Nelson County work as much as I do.