White Savior Complex — or Cynical Ploy?

ACP route through Virginia. Map credit: News & Advance.

I understand the motivations of landowners  opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. If I lived along the pipeline route, I’d be worried about the impact of construction on my drinking water, and I’d be upset that forest-clearing disrupted my pristine views. I appreciate their arguments that, with the rapid advance of solar power, wind power, and battery storage, maybe Virginia doesn’t need another gas pipeline. Reasonable people can disagree. What’s not reasonable is turning the ACP into a racial issue.

In their desperation to thwart pipeline construction, ACP foes have attacked the project on the grounds of “environmental justice.” ACP plans call for building a compressor station in the African-American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County. Raising the specter of noise and air pollution, the pipeline’s enemies have decried the “environmental racism” involved in the ACP’s siting decision. Governor Ralph Northam’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommended that Northam suspend the issuance of permits to ensure that “predominantly poor, indigenous, brown and/or black communities do not bear an unequal burden of environmental pollutants and life-altering disruptions.”

DEQ issued Friday the final permits needed for construction of the 600-mile pipeline project to begin in Virginia, so the issue may be moot. But resentments stirred up by the charges may well linger. And the racism card, once played, likely will be played again in other contexts. Leftist militants have demonstrated that they are willing to use any tool — including the inflaming of racial grievances — to advance their goals.

It is worth asking to what degree the mostly white environmental activists actually speak for the racial minorities whose interests they purport to represent. Derrick Hollie, an African-American writing in the conservative Daily Signal, didn’t see many other African-Americans attending a recent anti-pipeline rally.

It was exclusively white activists with their matching T-shirts and picket signs who were speaking out against the proposed compressor station at a recent hearing, claiming it to be “environmental racism.”

Sometimes, it’s helpful for those with social power to stand up and speak for the disadvantaged—such as when Kim Kardashian used her clout to help free a grandmother with a life prison sentence for a minor drug conviction.

Instead, what I saw in Buckingham County reeked of a so-called “white savior complex.” At one point, I was verbally attacked by a white woman and told that I “should pray for forgiveness.”

As Hollie observes, African-Americans have ample reason to support the pipeline. Many are susceptible to falling into “energy poverty,” which occurs when energy prices rise, as they presumably would with natural gas shortages. Minorities also stand to benefit from access to the construction and pipeline maintenance jobs. And, Hollie could have added, if rural communities along the route succeed in recruiting new industry thanks to more abundant gas supplies, African-Americans have a shot at getting better-paying factory jobs. Pipeline foes have counters to each of those arguments, but that’s not the point. How can it be “environmental racism” if African-Americans are themselves divided on the merits of the project?

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is required to look at environmental justice in its pipeline permitting process. The commission found that minorities along the 600-mile route are not disproportionately impacted. To be sure, when a pipeline passes through three states and 28 cities and counties with mixed racial populations, some minority communities will be impacted. In Virginia, however, the only significant instance appears to be Union Hill. The only way to avoid impacting any minority communities would be to restrict the path to white communities exclusively — thus institutionalizing racism in reverse.

The charge of environmental racism — that ACP deliberately didn’t merely impact African- Americans disproportionately but targeted them — is even more impossible to maintain. The ACP is a linear project that starts in Harrison County, W.Va., ends in Robeson County, N.C., connects with local gas-distribution systems at various points in between, and threads the needle through mountainous terrain, national forests, wildlife preserves, historical resources, cultural resources, and conservation districts — all the while traversing the shortest possible distance. ACP picked the Buckingham County site for its compressor station because it was near the intersection with the Transco Pipeline — not because it was the locale of an African-American community. Due to the reality of highly constricted options in mountainous terrain, ACP also is running the pipeline near the resort community of Wintergreen. Does anyone think ACP was targeting rich white people?

Why not re-route around Union Hill? Because adding another 30 miles or so of pipeline would… impact more people. The idea is to impact fewer property owners, not more. Instead, ACP created a community advisory group to develop a plan to reduce the noise and visual impact on Union Hill. The pipeline company will add sound and visual buffers around the compressor station, and it has agreed to air pollution controls that are tighter than for any other compressor station in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The environmental issues associated with the pipeline are real. The economic issues are real. The racial issue is spurious. By raising it, pipeline foes bring discredit to themselves and the entire concept of “environmental racism.” Derrick Hollie may be generous in attributing the “white savior complex” to the white militants making a racial issue of the pipeline. That would imply their hearts are in the right place. To me, the gambit of white militants crying racism looks more like a cynical ploy by people willing to say and do anything.

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39 responses to “White Savior Complex — or Cynical Ploy?

  1. “Derrick Hollie may be generous in attributing the “white savior complex” to the white militants making a racial issue of the pipeline. That would imply their hearts are in the right place. To me, the gambit of white militants crying racism looks more like a cynical ploy by people willing to say and do anything.”

    I agree with your last sentence. Yes, their hearts are in the wrong place. This is another iteration of Elizabeth Warren’s attempted theft of the Cherokee Nation to build for herself a false and stolen empire.

    Who do these people think they are? That is part of their problem. They have absolutely no idea who they are. So they steal the identity of others for their own selfish advantage. It is pathetic, and deeply dishonest, as it is desperate and sad.

    • I attended, in person, the last annual meeting of Dominion, and as the queue of speakers lined up I knew that there would be ACP opponents among them. What was not among them? A single face that was something other than Caucasian. None of those speaking to defend the descendants of freed slaves was male. Why didn’t this group of middle-aged white women transport at least one resident of the community with them? I can’t speak to their intention without asking, but I got the feeling that the same crew was capable of showing up at 2:00pm that day to protest something else…as if they’re SJW mercenaries. Now I’ve become cynical.

  2. I don’t see racism but I do see typically entitled Dominion led sloth and arrogance. Buckingham County is 584 sq mi with an average population density of 29 people per sq mi. That puts Buckingham County somewhere between Nevada and Utah in terms of population density. Please don’t tell me that there is no better place for that compressor station than the community of Union Hill.

  3. My understanding (subject to check) is the compressor is there because of the junction with the existing Transco pipeline. I wish somebody would produce a map that shows the existing Transco line, the coming ACP line, the proposed compressor station, and the population. Is this compressor station right on the edge of town or a mile away? How close is the existing Transco line and if that’s been there so long already, what’s the big deal? Just show me a map.

    • If there is a good engineering based reason why the compressor station has to be in Union Hill – the Dominion should state the engineering considerations at hand. So far, all I’ve heard Dominion “say” is basically … this is our plan, we don’t care who likes it and who doesn’t, we’ve bought enough politicians to get whatever we want.

  4. Here’s your map but I agree with DJ – it should not be that hard to zig and zag when necessary rather than just arrogantly run slap over people and existing built environment – of any color.

    Also – Wintergreen has property owners with big dollars to change the route – others, individual landowners may well not.

    • No, a map to a scale that shows those elements and how they relate. It is possible that compressor station is not actually very close to the town under discussion at all. The point is the Transco line is already there! Is it two pipelines rather than one that tips it over the line?

      • Steve says: “It is possible that compressor station is not actually very close to the TOWN under discussion at all.”

        While it is quite understandable, Steve, I think you likely are jumping the gun.

        Using Google, I could find no TOWN at all!!!

        Give it a go yourself, Google Earth “Union Hill” and see what you find. Is what you see a town?

        Best I could gather the compressor will back off an unimproved road though a forest stand of trees somewhere.

  5. here is part 11 of one loquacious ssocial justice warrior:

    “II. Erroneous if not reckless minimization of Union Hill population serves Atlantic’s economic benefit; relevance to 401 water permit issues

    Atlantic, FERC and the VA DEQ have all failed to acknowledge that the proposed Virginia ACP compressor station site is as densely populated as many suburban towns, not sparsely populated as Atlantic claims in its application documents and FERC in its FEIS. Atlantic claims and FERC accepts that the location for proposed CS 2 has the same population as Buckingham’s census averaged – 29.6 people per square mile. Ignoring the statistics on actual community numbers filed by SELC and myself in our DEIS comments, FERC hands Atlantic an enormous economic advantage.

    By claims that Union Hill is “rural,” sparsely populated, Atlantic will save a considerable amount of money on construction costs within the pipeline classification system based on population density (urban-centric, as it gives highest protection to places with buildings of 4 or more stories). Rural density classification allows Atlantic to use thinner walled pipes with greatest distances allowed between shut-off valves. Factual population density of Union Hill would require the use of Class 3 or Class 4 pipes with closer valve distances, and alert VDEQ to the higher levels of risk to greater numbers of people’s water and health from living in close proximity to Virginia’s ACP compressor station. Do the scientists of VDEQ know if rural classifications and their construction materials play any role as contributory causes of the growing number of disastrous fracked gas spills from the Rover in Ohio and West Virginia?

    To counter the total omission of required cultural resource reports and to correct the erasures of Union Hill’s community and population in Atlantic’s original ACP applications, including CS 2, we undertook a door-to-door household study of every residence in a 1 mile radius of the CS site. All of this area is within the community of Union Hill, which extends even further. The study goal was to uncover number of households, persons resident, self-identified race(s), ages, family histories in this community as slaves and Freedmen, and existing health conditions known to be exacerbated by the toxic emissions, VOCs and particulate matter applied for in Atlantic’s VDEQ air permit for Union Hill’s proposed compressor station. Our study data was arrived at by following HIPA protocols and NIH research integrity standards.

    Our study teams reached residents in 63 of the 99 households in a 1-mile radius. For this 66% of total households, we found 158 resident persons living between 150 ft. to 1 mile of the 68-acre facility. With just two-thirds canvassed, Union Hill’s population is 500% higher than reported by Atlantic and FERC in public filings. FERC did not address this true population data in their FEIS — although SELC and I had separately filed this data and other relevant Union Hill demographic data in our DEIS comments. We know FERC read both comments because the FEIS responded to our cultural report questions. Additional population data we included in DEIS comments were members of congregations of the two African American churches within 1 mile radius – Union Hill Baptist formed in 1868 (.5 miles from CS 2), and Union Grove Missionary Baptist (1 mile) formed in the 1920s, with combined congregations of over 250 members; the Red Oak Hunt Club (.3 mile from CS facility, 50 members). Thus, bi-weekly and bi-monthly gatherings, along with once-yearly enormous Freedmen family reunions increase the numbers of potentially impacted African American persons from Union Hill’s close proximity to CS 2 far higher still.

    Atlantic applied for a “minor source air permit to VDEQ. Atlantic cited the “higher than normal ambient air quality” of this site for why they should be allowed to emit toxic pollution up to the highest thresholds, particularly of NO2. Do the scientists of VDEQ know the effects on aquifers used for wells, on surface water, rivers and streams, and wetlands of these toxic air emissions and the large projected amounts of fine particulate matter that surely will rain down on surface water and enter aquifers?

    To my VDEQ comment, I attached maps of the 3 roads that closely surround the proposed VA ACP compressor station triangle on all sides. Dots for each household mapped in place tell a stark tale of potential devastating public health impacts with a population not only primarily African American but also at higher than average older ages and also the very young. This has been a place that young African American families who have had to commute long distances to good jobs often leave their youngest in the care of grandparents and great grandparents during the week. These maps reveal how densely clustered are households on every side.

    Even the gas industry recognizes the obvious problems with such a CS location. Best practices for siting even small compressors stations 1/7th the size of ACP’s proposed Union Hill compressor station were mentioned in a study promoted by FERC in its FEIS, conducted by the National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation. “Identified commonalities” in all seven New York State places with small compressor stations were their sites “on large land parcels and set back from the road; natural and constructed buffers were utilized; and compressor station sites were generally in rural areas removed from higher density development.”

    We in Buckingham County ask the VDEQ and Water Control Board’s water pollution scientists and public heath prevention experts to closely examine why Atlantic’s ACP business model, which requires the ACP to intersect at Union Hill with the existing 4-pipeline Transco corridor, should over-ride considerations related to public health, safety, and population density that have guided compressor station siting for decades? Oughtn’t VDEQ follow NEPA guidelines to stop building new toxic emitting infrastructure in minority and poor communities? Instead, Atlantic sites Virginia’s sole very large compressor station in a populous, environmental justice community, facing its facility on a major road that bisects Union Hill.
    Thank you,
    Lakshmi Fjord, Ph.D. ”

    see Jim’s post Pipelines and Environmental Justice posted August 24, 2017

  6. You can bet your bottom dollar that not one gated or upscale community will have the ACP routed through them… Pro-forma is to avoid them. Why not that pro-forma for all built environment? It’s all about the finances of those in the path. Those who have assets have the ability to force Dominion to change path. Those who do not – can’t and that’s what Environmental Justice is really about. The fact is that many rural poor are black in Virginia.

  7. Here in Chesapeake, it goes thru the minority neighborhoods, the ones least able to mount a fight. There were a lot more minorities at the church meeting I saw than whites. I also see the only civic leagues doing things about it are all African American. Maybe in other areas, we do have whites against it, but the voices I heard in front of council starting it all off were 100% minority.

  8. I hate to admit it, but this argument against the pipeline is a total strawman. I challenge anyone to find what any person would consider a town, on a map under this name. Like so many places in rural VA, it’s a sign name at an intersection.

    Is that to say there are no homes there, no one to be affected, of course not. Both of these pipeline have created countless losers, and a pumping station will just add more. But to make it sound like they are putting this in downtown Petersburg is disingenuous.

    Here’s a link to a recent WaPo article that turned me on to this issue:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/the-baptists-and-the-yogis-join-together-to-fight-a-pipeline/2018/08/18/9eb54816-9fe6-11e8-83d2-70203b8d7b44_story.html?utm_term=.f0a9d3f8ab94

    • Well … if there is no community near the compressor station then two things:

      1) I’ve been duped by the main stream media (wouldn’t be the first time)
      2) Dominion is doing what I think they should do … build their nasty compressor station in one of the many, many areas of Buckingham County where nobody lives!

  9. Speaking as a Buckingham local whose property is entered four miles after the Union Hill compressor station and whose business is literally bisected for 1.1 mile:
    Union Hill is not a recognized town. It IS a long recognized community with long existing homes and churches. Steve Haner, if you could see the map you would find that the ACP purchased the site of the former plantation house from the absent descendants of the former white slaveholders. The descendants of the former black slaves who worked the property own property those former slaves were allowed to purchase after the Civil War. While the white descendants received an enormous sum (especially by Buckingham standards) for their heritage land that will be turned into an industrial site, the black descendants and a few others mostly get nothing. They are the ones whose wells are in danger of being damaged, who will have the closest contact with the pollutants, with the noise. Their property has declined in value but they get no reimbursement and they have the greatest risk if a tornado or terrorist or something else hits the junction of the Transco and ACP that will be sited below the compressor station.

    It is likely that a fair quantity of the gas will be transferred directly from the ACP to the Transco at that location since the Transco connects directly with the LNG export facilities at Cove Point and no new uses of gas have been proven to exist. During the course of the project, the horsepower of the compressor station increased multiple times, though.

    These landowners are the immediate neighbors of the infrastructure but it does not go through the property of but a couple folks. They have lived all these years in peace and quiet, hosting family reunions, hunting, raising cattle, etc. Several left for their working lives to find good paying jobs since there are few in the area that has until recently been known more for cutting pulpwood and farming than anything else. They returned for retirement.

    A pair of the nearby landowners purchased property to develop a subdivision. Instead, it is currently being prepared for service as a RV park for pipeline workers and will then provide low cost housing for locals – for far less value than was anticipated. This area is becoming an industrial area and in the future will not qualify for agricultural use.

    Residents have no choice about this transformation and are mostly not compensated for the loss of value of their real estate or the risks they will incur daily. We have been told multiple times that our air is so clean that we can “afford” the pollution and that we need to just trust the company. They say we will be safe even though we get the lowest standard of safety, thinnest pipes, least frequent inspections, farthest apart cut off valves – and it is only monitored using last century technology – not the broadband fiber we were promised at the ACP Open House four years ago.

    The FEIS uses county level population data for the area around the compressor station. The county contains thousands of acres of trees owned by paper companies who grow, harvest and regrow trees. Thus, it is easy for the data to not accurately represent the population density of the immediate area of the compressor station. Fjord conducted a door-to-door survey of residents within 1+ mile of the compressor station. She found it comparatively populated for the area, and far more populated than the county level data revealed. FERC ignored her findings and relied on the county level data – erasing those people who are mostly black.

    No one is trying to say that this is an urban area. However, it contains substantially more people than the reports show. Also, it is largely black – to a greater portion than most other areas.

    If you look at the path of the ACP, you will find that it is routed through comparatively poor areas of Virginia. Many of the landowners are older due to the nature of passing rural land down the generations and the fact that many have to leave the area to earn a decent living. Many who are left are young or old and/or in poor health.

    Buckingham is an especially good “find” for a company seeking to install infrastructure that most do not want. Some years ago the Richmond Times Dispatch realigned its service territory and stopped covering Buckingham. Likewise, the Richmond TV stations do not cover it. Historically, neither Charlottesville nor Lynchburg media have focused on Buckingham. Farmville has a radio station and a twice a week paper, now owned by non-locals. It has been hard to get media attention. Most residents do not have any internet access and that available is slow.

    When this process started, a 35 year Dominion employee was chair of the board of supervisors and a resolution of support was passed before most had a clue a pipeline was coming. Dominion “kindly” supported the county staff and elected officials who have never had to deal with a project like this before, convincing them that opponents are violent, crazy, and worse. When meetings occur, Dominion helps plan and set up for them while the local people are locked outside the county buildings until the appointed hour. Security is heavy at meetings and rules are tight, aimed at keeping non-locals from speaking and at limiting information provided by any speaker. This is all new to the area but comparatively few locals historically are likely to engage in public decision making and few minorities or women are decision makers. Unfortunate remnants of prior generation’s society still exist there to levels urban people would never expect.

    Because the Transco line has been in the area over 50 years and no family or business yet has access to natural gas (nor any expectation that we ever will), we recognize that there is unlikely to be local benefit. I don’t know anyone who has gotten a job from the pipeline. The job locals could have most likely filled was cutting trees. Workers from states away did that job, not locals.

    Bottom line, the ACP passes off the community of Union Hill as insignificant and acceptable collateral damage for its project. It claims no historically significant land or structures will be damaged, ignoring and devaluing that which does exist. The truth is that the pipeline is routed primarily through poorer, older, less populated areas of Virginia. Since Buckingham is predominantly black, putting the compressor station here is targeting an environmental justice community. The purchase of the former plantation house property for the compressor station while direct descendants of former slaves absorb property value loss, health risk, and loss of a feeling of safety on their own property with no compensation, is patently racist.

    Offering to create a community center, a walking trail, etc. around a noisy, polluting industrial facility is hardly just compensation. No one has offered to purchase the affected properties and honestly, most people don’t want to give up and leave – at least not yet.

    The ACP and our government are telling this community that we are not worthy of the same level of safety as a person who lives in an urban area. They have repeatedly told us we can “afford” the pollution. They have refused to answer our questions and offered “processes” that were controlled by ACP to avoid dealing with our safety concerns. Instead, locals were only asked to select the compressor station paint color. Currently, locals are working on our own plans for systematic monitoring, and for emergencies, including evacuation, etc. since none have materialized.

    Anyone who is affected by this infrastructure has found that the broader community ignores the sacrifices we’re making and belittles our losses and concerns – discredits us. One thing is certain, anyone who understands what is occurring will not ever voluntarily live or work in Buckingham next to this infrastructure. There are too many other options that are healthier and safer. This area will never compete in the future economy. It’s not being given resources for a prosperous future. It’s being sacrificed with conversion to an industrial site. You can argue over what categories this fits into – what justice is lacking. You can belittle our concerns. There’s no denying the community of Union Hill is being permanently turned into an industrial zone and those who live there are not fairly compensated or protected. Those immediately adjacent to the compressor station have the worst situation of all. Among those speaking up are caring people who realize this and seek fairness for all.

    • You put this well. As much as I loathe to blame the “MSM”, it’s obviously convenient or maybe just more understandable to call Union Hill a town. It’s not, but it is a place with people and homes.

      Was the pipeline routed there as a path of least resistance, absolutely. And are places like this not more often than not poor, or neglected, yep. So does it make sense to run this pipeline through there then. Well that’s debatable. If you think it is a necessity for the 21st century, then you are acceptable losses for a greater good. No different than the highways of the 20th century or the trains of the 19th. And if you do not think the pipeline is necessary, it is a travesty. People will be displaced, their land taken, and nothing will be given back. Count me in the latter. Never will Union Hill or the county as a whole attract an industry that needs a 42″ natural gas tap. The same way Amazon isn’t going to locate it’s next HQ somewhere because it has an offramp or old rail spur. Today it is brain power that moves the world. This will just be a industrial blip on the bigger radar, but locally its impact will feel much greater. But Dominion share holders might get a couple more cents in their dividends for a few years until the inevitable move to renewables makes gas the next whale oil.

    • Vaconsumeradvocate, No one is denying the history of African-Americans in Union Hill. No one is denying that the pipeline project will impact their lives (although there may be some disagreement on how significant and lasting that impact is). But none of the information you presented addresses the point of my post, which is that it is unreasonable to single out a single African-American community and cry, “environmental racism,” when plenty of white communities are being impacted to.

      If you want to object to the pipeline and compressor station, document the negative impact. Don’t turn it into a racial issue when you can provide no evidence whatsoever of an intent to discriminate or even of “disproportionate” impact on African-Americans.

  10. When I think of environmental racism, I think of humongous nasty landfills placed in poorer communites. So they are putting up with lots of traffic and dust and pollution, for many years.

    This pipeline is not a normal candidate for claims environmental racism, because there are no signifcant environmental impacts at the pipeline after construction is complete.

    There is a safety risk I assume requiring a certain minimum distance from residences etc. Those guidelines must be enforced fairly without prejudice. The real issue here are the guidelines themselves, do they provide a safe distance from anybody?

    • “there are no signifcant environmental impacts at the pipeline after construction is complete.” As you guess… the guidelines are the issue and yes I agree. Environmental racism is locating nasty industrial processes in places where a poor population does not have the where with all to create a successful protest.

      Officials in DISH, TX commissioned a study of compressor station emissions in its vicinity. Wolf Eagle Consultants performed whole air emissions sampling for VOCs, HAPs as well as Tentatively Identified Compounds (TICs). Chemicals identified as exceeding Texas’s ESLs include:
      benzene, dimethyl disulfide, methyl ethyl disulphide, ethyl-methylethyl disulfide, trimethyl benzene, diethyl benzene, methyl-methylethyl benzene, tettramethyl benzenenaphthalene 1,2,4-trimethyl benzene, m&p xylenes,
      carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide, methyl pyridine, dimethyl pyridine.

      Here is a list from Spectra, the owners, in MA of a proposed pipeline and compressor ..
      “Spectra’s own Air Quality Report shows that the following carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals will be emitted from the proposed Weymouth Compressor Station.”
      • 1,3-Butadiene, Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Benzene, Ethylbenzene,
      Formaldehyde, Naphthalene, Propylene oxide, Toluene, Xylenes.

      So there is a hazard from compressor station emissions. For a resident living near a compressor station, the concern is not simply PM2.5 emissions over the course of a year, which is how they are estimated as being in compliance. The problem posed by estimating tons of contaminants emitted per year is that over the course of a year emissions will vary, often greatly. A PA DEP emissions record over three days show a 6700 average but one evening the actual emission levels were more than 4 times the average. Annualing the emissions data has allowed EPA to consider compressor stations as ‘minor emitters’ and avoid most Clean Air regs.

      Then there are ‘blowdowns’, basically pipeline cleanings. which have different implications than a long-term lower level exposure (i.e. yearly average) to the same contaminants when the compressor is on line. The first 30 to 60 minutes of the blowdown are the most intense, but the entire blowdown may last up to three hours and evidently there is no data on emissions levels created by the ‘blowdown.’

      Evidentlythere is no good data for emission levels during and after a blowdown.

      • Jane, you are making the case that there are health and safety issues associated with a natural gas compressor station. Fine. Reasonable people can agree and disagree.

        Here’s where I take severe exception to your logic: “Environmental racism is locating nasty industrial processes in places where a poor population does not have the where with all to create a successful protest.”

        Do you see what you have done? You have conflated “minorities” with “poor people.”

        In a 600-mile project passing through dozens of communities, there will always be a poor community or a minority community along the route. You have effectively created a criteria that would shut down any pipeline project anywhere anytime. No pipeline of any length would ever be built again.

        As I said in the post, we can have reasonable discussions over health, safety and the environment. I’ve treated many anti-pipeline arguments with respect. But I cannot respect turning the pipeline into an environmental-racism issue.

        • Jim, Two answers to your objections … One I conflated the poor and the minority together as I think this ‘environmental racism’ label applies to both. The same can be said of ‘sorta segregated’ neighborhoods and school assignment lines. I know the word use is not exactly accurate, but poor communities, which can also be minority communities, are targets.

          You also say “In a 600-mile project passing through dozens of communities, there will always be a poor community or a minority community along the route.”

          I agree with VACA … “The truth is that the pipeline is routed primarily through poorer, older, less populated areas of Virginia,” as is most nasty infrastructure, and agree that new pipelines and the rules by which they are created are last century rules to serve last century resources. That assignment of eminent domain use was made in 1938 in the National Gas Act.

          We do not require this pipeline. We do not need additional gas. Where is the community benefit? The value is only to the pipeline owners who have assigned reservations on the pipeline to their captive corporations, which could easily do without the gas.

          • Break down the logic of real estate: the less desirable, more difficult to inhabit a parcel is, the lower its value. This is what causes those with less means to settle there. Dominion did not eyeball the map and ask, “where are all the poor and /or minority communities upon which we may prey?” They looked for a route that disturbed the fewest at the best cost. That’s immutable logic, not racism.

            As for need, I don’t know where you live, but in Hampton Roads or Tidewater or whatever this region is called, the natural gas supply is tapped out. Another logic we face in modern living is the needs of 1.7 million surpassing the preferences of a much smaller number of residents. I’m not ignoring the frustration or ire or despair felt by those affected, but I don’t think any big project gets done without causing pain.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Thank you, Lift, for bringing clarity and common sense back into the discussion.

  11. Jim,

    There are several flaws in your article. The ACP does not take the shortest route. The Transco pipeline traverses Virginia from north to south and offers many potential points of connection.

    There exists land zoned “industrial” adjacent to the Transco pipeline in a county to the south of Buckingham. Instead, Dominion chose to purchase a single parcel from the descendants of the plantation owners in Buckingham. The site is adjacent to the homes of nearly 100 families, many of whom descended from former slaves on that plantation.

    This land was zoned “agricultural” and did not qualify for a special use permit for the compressor station. Dominion claimed the utility exemption in order to gain the special use permit, even though the ACP is not a recognized “utility” in Virginia. This was confirmed when the ACP applied for the air quality permit. The ACP told the DEQ that it was not a utility, which allowed it to be governed by less strict air quality standards.

    The ACP is routed through Reed’s Gap, on the other side of the Blue Ridge from Wintergreen. This specific location allowed the ACP to avoid getting approvals to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail because the pipeline could be bored through the mountain there rather than trenched.

    Dominion is certainly not the only pipeline developer who has routed projects through rural areas. Many energy projects are located in rural areas not only because that is the area traversed by the shortest routes, but also because those are the areas with the lowest real estate costs and likely the least opposition.

    Neither the ACP nor FERC conducted the appropriate cultural, historical, and environmental justice surveys, as required. Both organizations ignored more complete and accurate data regarding these issues that were provided by others. Significant portions of the ACP right-of-way in North Carolina cuts through areas that have disproportionately high populations of Native Americans. Many residents are often swayed by the financial enticements offered by the pipeline company. This puts them at odds with their neighbors who wish to preserve their air, land, water and their traditional way of life.

    I am a bit confused about the outrage when other citizens speak up on behalf of their neighbors who have often been denied a voice. We should all be concerned about a project that is unnecessary for us to have the gas we need that will add billions in costs to utility ratepayers in Virginia. Low income families, which often include a higher percentage of minorities than exist in our overall population, pay a much higher portion of their income for energy costs than do families with average incomes. The ACP will offer them no benefit, nor will it benefit the rest of us.

    I have said many times that I am in favor of energy companies earning a fair return by doing things that benefit their customers. This past weekend the Dominion PR writers produced an Op-Ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that greatly distorted the facts about the pipeline. There has yet to be an objective hearing of the facts about this project and we will pay a heavy price from our pocketbooks and in the unnecessary disruption of our communities as a result of it.

    • Tom, You have raised many good questions regarding the environmental impact and economic necessity of the pipeline. But I can’t come close to agreeing with you here. As I said in my reply to Jane above:

      In a 600-mile project passing through dozens of communities, there will always be a poor community or a minority community along the route. You have effectively created a criteria that would shut down any pipeline project anywhere anytime. No pipeline of any length would ever be built again.

  12. AND I guess my point is actually that … No pipeline of any length need ever be built again, especially if we electrify all those end uses like heating.

    We have gas and the pipeline to bring it to us for now, but the Shale revolution is a sham. Here’s why …
    • the fracking industry has been a money losing proposition for the past decade. It is based on borrowed money at cheap rates and Wall Street hype.
    • maximum production of a shale wells is reached in three years, a fact that questions the size of the estimated gas reserves. The EIA predictions would mean producing more than three times the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) mean estimate of recoverable resources.
    • methane’s contribution to climate change while the gas is in our atmosphere is 85 times more destructive for the climate than CO2 emissions. Shutting down gas would bring us the most immediate effects on climate change because gas dissapates in 10- 15 years not the 100’s of CO2

    Finally, let’s demand we develop those other resource choices. In Arizona, an all Republican board of regulators, sent their utility back to the drawing boards to examine a storage alternative for meeting peak demand instead of building 2 massive gas plants.”

    • “No pipeline of any length need ever be built again, especially if we electrify all those end uses like heating.”

      Fine. Make that argument. People will listen to you — they may not agree in the final analysis, but they’ll listen.

      The environmental-racism argument might appeal to the liberal base, but you won’t win any friends among Republicans and conservatives who are really tired of hearing racism, racism, racism everywhere they turn.

      • I had precisely the same reaction from the beginning, too. This is a country of laws. Laws rule here, not grievances going back centuries. The fact these sellers inherited this property that once was a plantation with slaves has absolutely nothing to do with how the law and their property right are determined. For other citizens now to claim money from those people or the public today for cause where 600,000 died to fix centuries ago, I find deeply offensive. If they were we successful we all would have a lawless, and deeply racist society, with everyone subject to mob rule.

  13. To Jim,

    I guess I did not properly communicate my point. I agreed that many energy projects (pipelines, transmission lines, power plants, etc.) are built in rural areas for a variety of reasons.

    My point was that before a project is approved it should be proved that it:

    1. Is Necessary

    This was not independently evaluated at either the federal or state level for the ACP. Considerable evidence exists that we have much more pipeline capacity than we need to meet our needs (in most places) and we cannot produce enough gas to fill all of the pipelines being built. And if we did produce that much we don’t have the domestic needs to use it all.

    2. Serves the public interest

    This also was not independently evaluated in the case of the ACP. Any objective reading of the facts will show that the project will cost Virginians billions more than available alternatives.

    3. Follows the law and regulatory requirements.

    Both the law and regulations require that numerous issues, including environmental justice concerns and zoning requirements, must be investigated and properly evaluated according to existing regulations and applicable law. In many instances, such as zoning for the compressor station, water quality permits, public convenience and necessity, environmental justice, etc., the regulatory requirements and the establishing law were not followed.

    My point is that the rule of law was not followed. The issue of environmental justice was not properly considered; nor was the required information accurately collected and reported. Information provided from reliable sources was ignored.

    The harm done to these communities and to the land, air, and waters of Virginia is supposed to be properly assessed and given the full protection provided by law. The net harm is supposed to be balanced against the benefits of the project. When the project costs the public money and existing resources can meet the need, the harm caused by the project is not offset, according to the process established by the National Environmental Policy Act.

    The rule of law was not followed in approving the ACP or the MVP, or many other projects. Power and money prevailed. This should be of concern to conservatives, libertarians, liberals, and those that choose to wear no label. If one group cheers a project that serves their interest, they have endorsed a crooked process that can be turned against them when another group wields that weighty sword.

    If we accept lies that achieve the desired end, and cut down the laws intended to protect us all, what is left to protect us against the demagogue or dictator who wishes to exert his will?

    • Tom –

      Cite those statutory environmental justice laws. And tell us how those statutory environmental justice laws were violated, by whom and against whom.

      • Reed,

        My point is that the required data was not accurately compiled and no independent evaluation was conducted by the regulator, yet the conclusion was that there was “no impact” on disproportionately minority populations.

        Imagine that a building was approved that did not provide accurate information required for the building permit and that inspectors did not determine if it conformed to code. Would you consider that the building project conformed to the law and regulations as the public expects?

        • “there was “no impact” on disproportionately minority populations.”

          What does this have to do with this matter?

          • Environmental justice issues are one of many areas of potential impacts that are supposed to be evaluated when authorizing new energy projects. Like so many other issues related to this project, inaccurate information was provided to FERC by the ACP, misrepresenting the actual effects on communities along the right-of-way.

            The gross misrepresentation of the facts of the matter by the ACP was accepted by FERC without independent verification, leading to a conclusion of no impact. This prevents any consideration of remediation or search for alternatives.

            This pattern was repeated throughout the process and such conclusions of “no impact” based on faulty information was touted by the ACP through press releases that basically said “See, we told you so.” A proper regulatory process that included independent evaluation and an adjudicatory process, including the cross examination of witnesses under oath, would have created a better chance for the truth about this project to be heard.

            Currently, the applicant can say (or ignore) whatever they want and there is no recourse to uncover the lie or extract factual information.

            When truth does not serve the purpose, we are too willing today to bend the law and regulations to get the desired result.

  14. Jim, One final piece that I read and agree with in Seeking Alphs today

    … “2018 will mark the most aggressive pipeline expansion in our country’s history, This unprecedented pipeline build-out will boost Appalachia’s gas takeaway capacity nearly 40% … We’ve never built pipelines this fast… ever.”
    “Pipeline operators don’t just lock in supply — they also lock in demand. That’s why it should come as no surprise that, along with 2018’s surge in pipeline capacity and production to fill those pipelines, we’re also seeing huge growth in new gas demand hitting the market.”

    Remember thius is a demand made up of those pipeline reservations, some of which are just affiliates and can be canceled … and here is the kicker for negative issues with new pipelines … “By far, the biggest source of new gas demand will come from the more than 150% increase in U.S. LNG export capacity next year.

    As owner of the world’s largest and cheapest gas reserves, America will become the world’s leading LNG exporter by the mid-2020s. This will transform U.S. natural gas from a domestic to an international commodity.”

    Fine … but let them find a way to get the gas to market without destroying public lands and endangeing waters, and don’t csll on eminent domain to create a route.

  15. Jim, One final piece that I read and agree with in Seeking Alphs today

    … “2018 will mark the most aggressive pipeline expansion in our country’s history, This unprecedented pipeline build-out will boost Appalachia’s gas takeaway capacity nearly 40% … We’ve never built pipelines this fast… ever.”
    “Pipeline operators don’t just lock in supply — they also lock in demand. That’s why it should come as no surprise that, along with 2018’s surge in pipeline capacity and production to fill those pipelines, we’re also seeing huge growth in new gas demand hitting the market.” Remember this demand is made up of those pipeline reservations and some are from affiliates that can easily be canceled.

    And here is the kicker for negative issues with this new pipeline. … “By far, the biggest source of new gas demand will come from the more than 150% increase in U.S. LNG export capacity next year. As owner of the world’s largest and cheapest gas reserves, America will become the world’s leading LNG exporter by the mid-2020s. This will transform U.S. natural gas from a domestic to an international commodity.”

    Fine … let them find a way to get the gas to market without destroying public lands and endangering waters, and don’t call on eminent domain to create the route.

  16. Jim, One final piece that I read and agree with in Seeking Alphs today

    … “2018 will mark the most aggressive pipeline expansion in our country’s history, This unprecedented pipeline build-out will boost Appalachia’s gas takeaway capacity nearly 40% … We’ve never built pipelines this fast… ever.”
    “Pipeline operators don’t just lock in supply — they also lock in demand. That’s why it should come as no surprise that, along with 2018’s surge in pipeline capacity and production to fill those pipelines, we’re also seeing huge growth in new gas demand hitting the market.” Remember this demand is made up of those pipeline reservations and some are from affiliates that can easily be canceled.

    And here is the kicker for negative issues with this new pipeline … “By far, the biggest source of new gas demand will come from the more than 150% increase in U.S. LNG export capacity next year. As owner of the world’s largest and cheapest gas reserves, America will become the world’s leading LNG exporter by the mid-2020s. This will transform U.S. natural gas from a domestic to an international commodity.”

    Fine … let them find a way to get the gas to market without destroying public lands and endangering waters, and don’t call on eminent domain to create the route.

    • “Fine … let them find a way to get the gas to market without destroying public lands and endangering waters, and don’t call on eminent domain to create a route.

      You have a much stronger argument here than with the environmental racism thing. Once someone throwing around charges of racism on the basis of “disproportionate impact” (which arguably doesn’t even exist in this case), a lot of people just roll their eyeballs and tune out.

  17. Gas pipelines and LNG facilities that are used for exports are governed by a separate portion of the Natural Gas Act. Congress has prohibited that projects for export cannot use eminent domain. Because we are drastically overbuilding pipeline capacity and domestic uses of gas are stable or declining, much of the new pipeline capacity will be used to transport gas for export, but these projects have been allowed to seize private property for private gain.

    The Natural Gas Act requires the federal regulator to perform an evaluation of whether a project is “necessary” and serves the “public convenience.” For nearly 20 years, FERC has been ignoring their own guidelines for evaluating projects and has approved projects that result in far more capacity than we need to meet our domestic needs. Many of the pipelines end up being paid for by customers of utilities that are captive subsidiaries of the pipeline owners. Those customers end up paying far higher prices than they would for existing alternatives. But shareholders gain from the ratepayers’ pain. This defies the premise of basic capitalism (an appropriate reward for assumed risk – the risk is transferred to others) and modern regulation (fair rates for a fair return).

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