Environmental Justice, finally:
A panel of federal judges has thrown out the permit for a natural gas pumping station in the historic African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County, saying state regulators failed to consider whether the facility would disproportionately affect a vulnerable population. The ruling is another setback for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a controversial 600-mile, $7.5 billion project being led by Dominion Energy.
Issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the decision faulted Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board for an action that it said was “arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.”
The folks in Union Hill were featured in a recent Friday fracking video, and we should all applaud this decision. Things haven't changed much since the Industrial Revolution began shifting dangerous, noisy, and pollutive facilities into communities of color, and they've gone from one form of bondage to another. Hat-tip to the Southern Environmental Law Center for attempting to change that dynamic:
“Environmental justice is not merely a box to be checked,” the judges wrote, “and the Board’s failure to consider the disproportionate impact on those closest to the Compressor Station resulted in a flawed analysis.”
The judges also ruled that the state failed to consider whether electric turbines would have been cleaner than the proposed gas-fired turbines.
“Our clients felt like Dominion was trying to erase their community out of existence,” said Greg Buppert, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center who worked on the case. “Whether or not a compressor station is in fact suitable for this site, I think, is an open question — and a significant risk for Dominion if they push forward here.”
In what has become a common tactic since the 1970's, when awareness of the "trend" of placing dirty industrial sites in minority communities brought increased protest, Dominion had resorted to bribery and public relations in an effort to make this happen:
Dominion, meanwhile, hired a former state secretary of agriculture whose family is from Union Hill to spread goodwill in the community, offering a $5 million package of incentives including a community center and ambulances. But Dominion also asserted that the population around the proposed site was not heavily African American, using broad census data in its analysis.
The irony of them giving the community ambulances in exchange for polluting their air is simply jaw-dropping.