For many years we have heard how in our unjust capitalist system investment capital bypasses poor, minority neighborhoods. Under-investment means fewer jobs and economic opportunities for African-American workers and small businesses. The goal of much public policy, from government-subsidized urban redevelopment to tax-exempt enterprise zones, is to stimulate more investment in minority neighborhoods.
But when someone proposes an investment, it is not always welcome. Take, for example, the proposal to build the $1.6 billion Chickahominy Power Station in Charles City County, a poor, predominantly African-American county between Richmond and Hampton Roads.
With a capacity of 1,650 megawatts, the natural gas-fired power plant would sell electricity into the PJM wholesale market, in effect exporting electricity to the Mid-Atlantic states. But the facility, we hear from The Virginia Mercury, is an affront to environmental justice. As evidence, the Mercury cites a certain Stephen Metts of the New School in New York, who found the following:
Four census tracts surrounding the proposed Chickahominy Power Station site far exceed state averages for minority and economically disadvantaged populations. In three, minorities make up more than 65 percent of the population, compared to a statewide average of 37 percent, while in two, the percentage of residents living in poverty is between 21 and 26 percent, compared to 12 percent statewide.
Foes of the project have suggested that the proposed plant would have a negative environmental impact on minority communities by withdrawing groundwater and emitting air pollution. It’s not clear from that Mercury article or any other that I could find, however, what precisely that negative impact might be. Continue reading