Citizens Launch Three-Day Picket Line Outside of Gov. McAuliffe’s Richmond Offices, Chanting ‘Yes, You Can Stop the Pipelines!’
Military veterans, students, faith activists and landowners join growing confrontation over fossil fuels
RICHMOND, Va.—Fifty Virginians opposed to proposed fracked-gas pipelines launched a three-day picket line outside of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Richmond offices this morning, calling on the Governor to take action to protect the state’s precious clean water resources from harm.
Over three days of picketing, citizens will highlight three ways Governor McAuliffe’s administration must stop denying—and start using—its executive authority and political leadership to protect Virginians from three urgent fossil fuel threats: pipelines, toxic coal ash, and rising sea levels driven by global warming.
The first day of picketing kicked off this morning with a press conference on the Capitol Grounds featuring Virginians from Giles County to Buckingham County who are being directly affected by the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“We need Governor McAuliffe on the side of the citizens to keep our water clean,” said Don Jones, who stood next to his 86-year-old father George Jones, a Korean War veteran whose 10th-generation Virginia family farm would be bisected by the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Giles County. “We need water to survive, the gas we don’t, and Governor McAuliffe has the power to help us.”
In recent interviews, Governor McAuliffe has repeatedly called the pipelines a “federal issue” and inaccurately dismissed the state’s direct authority to approve or deny the 401 Water Quality Certificate each project needs under the Clean Water Act.
Legal experts today released a fact sheet outlining the case for state intervention. Picketers carried a blown up replica of a letter from New York State to prove the point. It shows the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo in April denied a 401 water quality permit for a proposed 124-mile fracked-gas pipeline in New York.
“For many months, Governor McAuliffe has denied that he has authority to protect Virginians from the damages these pipelines would cause if built,” said David Sligh, Regulatory Systems Investigator with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition. “The law clearly contradicts his assertions, a fact that may explain why the Governor’s office and top environmental officials refuse to respond to the detailed information we’ve sent them or answer the specific questions we’ve asked regarding this issue.”
“How many communities must be destroyed before Governor McAuliffe and our political leaders decide enough is enough?,” asked Pastor Paul Wilson, minister to the Union Hill and Union Grove Missionary Baptist Churches, who will join the picket line on Wednesday. His churches are within a half-mile of Dominion’s proposed 53,000-horsepower compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “The 200 people I serve stand to lose their health, property values, and quality of life, while Dominion stands to profit. It’s not too late for Governor McAuliffe to get on the right side of history and to tell Dominion ‘no,’” added Wilson.
People are converging on Richmond this week from every region of the state—from southwest Virginia to Nelson County to Northern Virginia to Norfolk. Each day citizens will parade past the Governor’s mansion with signs like, “Yes, You Can, Protect Our Water” and chants like “Fracked-gas pipelines flood our coastlines,” before forming a picket line on the sidewalk in front of the Governor’s offices in the Patrick Henry Building.
Tomorrow, Dan Marrow, a father from Dumfries, plans to bring a bottle of contaminated water from his family’s drinking well, and ask the Governor to sample it. The “Dominion Water” will list on the bottle the concentrations of toxins found in his family’s well, which is a short distance from a coal ash waste pond operated by Dominion Virginia Power.
On Tuesday—“Day 2” of the picket—citizens will tell Governor McAuliffe, “Yes, you can protect our water from coal ash,” by requiring Dominion to move the toxic waste away from rivers to modern, lined landfills, just as the Carolinas and Georgia are requiring utilities to do. Dominion is currently seeking sign off to bury its coal ash in place—a “pollute in place” plan that could contaminate rivers and drinking water sources for decades to come.
On Wednesday—“Day 3” of the picket—coastal Hampton Roads residents will come to Richmond to demand that Governor McAuliffe champion 100% clean energy and state-based adaptation solutions to protect their homes from growing flooding.
“Governor McAuliffe has shown a stunning lack of political courage when it comes to climate change—and my generation will pay the price,” said Izzy Pezzulo, a junior at the University of Richmond and member of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition. “We’re at the point where half-measures are unacceptable. Climate leadership means keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and that means saying ‘no’ to pipelines.”
An alarming new report shows that investments in new fossil fuels, including new fracking wells and pipelines, must stop now in order to avoid catastrophic climate impacts — like the permanent flooding of Virginia’s coastal communities and military bases.
Polling released in September indicates that Virginia voters largely back the demands of the picket. Seventy-one percent of those polled believe Governor McAuliffe should follow the approach of other southern states on coal ash disposal. Additionally, only 28% of Virginia voters said they support Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to build fracked-gas pipelines, with 55% opposed.
- Fact sheet – How Gov. McAuliffe can protect Virginia water resources from fracked-gas pipelines: http://chesapeakeclimate.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/McAuliffe-Gas-Pipeline-Authority-Fact-Sheet-Oct-2016.pdf
- Fact sheet – How Gov. McAuliffe can act now to protect Virginians from pipelines, coal ash and rising sea levels: http://chesapeakeclimate.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/McAuliffe-Yes-You-Can-Fact-Sheet-Oct-2016.pdf
- Roanoke Times op-ed from today, “McAuliffe’s ‘not my problem’ approach to gas pipelines rewards Dominion while harming innocent citizens”: http://www.roanoke.com/opinion/commentary/mcwhorter-and-tidwell-mcauliffe-s-not-my-problem-approach-to/article_53128fbb-5394-5b22-b79a-de9ca1814b95.html
- Photos from Day 1 of the picket will be available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chesapeakeclimate/albums/72157671307045803