‘That’s part of our responsibility’: Faith leaders lead march in protest of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — Communities continue to resist the 600-mile long Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project going through parts of the Commonwealth. This comes as the lead partner on the project, Dominion Energy, plans to appeal a hold on the pipeline’s construction later this month to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Two hundred people marched across the Robert E. Lee Bridge in Richmond Friday, led by faith leaders, protesting the project. 

“That’s part of our responsibility,” Pastor Paul Wilson of Union Hill Missionary Baptist Church said.

That responsibility, according to Pastor Wilson, is to tell Virginians about what’s happening in Union Hill, a historically black community in the pipeline’s path. 

The State Air Pollution Control Board unanimously signed off on a permit for an air compressor in Buckingham County for the project back in January. The pipeline spans 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina. There are three air compressor stations, one in each state. Air compressors help manage pressure and flow of natural gas through a pipeline network.

The process to get the permit approved has been controversial. Gov. Ralph Northam replaced a few members of the board before a crucial vote. Using his rights as Governor, Northam replaced two air board members in the middle of the permit hearings. Their terms had expired in June. 

Residents of Union Hill are still concerned about the project’s potential impacts on land that’s been in their families for generations. 

“[We need] assurances that our water supplies is not going to be affected because everyone in our community, we’re on well water,” Pastor Wilson said. 

There are two project permits that are being challenged in court for the pipeline, so construction has temporarily been put on hold, according to an ACP spokesperson.

Dominion Energy officials say ACP is expected to bring nearly $400 million in energy cost savings to customers and $28 million in local tax revenue. The company is also giving $5 million to build a new community center and outdoor recreation area for residents of Union Hill. 

ACP spokesperson Karl Neddenien says the company “values the communities in which we do business in,” and assures the investment in the project will be worthwhile for customers.

“We intend to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline because it is needed, the energy it brings, the lower costs of energy, the cleaner energy,” Neddenien explained. 

The project is a year behind schedule on construction. Originally, Neddenien says the estimated cost for the pipeline was $4.5 billion, which has gone up to more than $7 billion. Following the appeals in court, Neddenien says they hope the construction starts up again before the end of the year, with the intention of the pipeline being completed in 2021. 

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