The historic Black community of Union Hill in Virginia feels its well-being and future health are being threatened a by recent approval to build a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County.
According to Grist, a Tuesday vote of 4-0 was cast in favor of what citizens are calling a display of environmental racism, as many fear exhaust permeating from the station would put many at risk of heavy pollution, asthma and other ailments.
Dominion Energy, the company leading the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, refuted this idea and presented data claiming only 39 percent of residents within the area were considered minorities; therefore, the pipeline’s placement could not be race-related, the company says. However, an anthropologist presented data that 83 percent of residents within one mile of the station’s site are minorities.
In an open letter written by Pastor Paul Wilson of Union Hill Grove Baptist Church, landowner Chad Oba and Rev. Lakshmi Fjord, the trio wrote, “The legacy of placing toxic facilities in places where they disproportionately affect poor communities of color is unjust and unacceptable and needs acute examination. It is not right to look the other way while this continues.”
Over 200 individuals signed the letter in solidarity opposition to the pipeline, including notable figures like former Vice President Al Gore and actors Don Cheadle, Danny Glover and Wendell Pierce.
Ahead of the vote, protesters were removed by police, and some were taken out in handcuffs.
As the board members have been speaking ahead of the vote, more in the crowd are speaking out and being removed by police. Most being walked out. I believe this woman was the first taken away in handcuffs. pic.twitter.com/IAaDaz80br— Cam Thompson (@CamThompsonCBS6) January 8, 2019
The pipeline would cover 600 miles of the East Coast, and, according to The Washington Post, Dominion Energy chose Union Hill to hook into an existing gas pipeline already in the rural area.
The company has offered a $5.1 million package aimed toward community improvement projects, but many residents continue to stand firmly against the station, The Post reports.
“The people of Union Hill and Buckingham County have the right to walk out of their homes and breathe healthy air,” Virginia Director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network Harrison Wallace said. “This decision will infringe upon that right for a generation.”
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