Virginia Activists Highlight Environmental Injustices in Fracked Gas Plant Permitting Process

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Climate and Energy

Charles City, VA — This morning, impacted residents and environmental justice advocates gathered virtually to highlight the accumulated negligence behind C4GT’s permitting processes and the environmental injustices core to the project. On the heels of a Charles City County Administration vote to reclaim the land the power plant plans to develop, and one week after C4GT’s State Corporation Commission’s Certificate of Public Necessity was due to expire, speakers gathered to urge prompt state action to stop the project.

The C4GT plant is the latest in a string of fossil fuel infrastructure projects to enter rocky ground, from the evaporating financial rationale behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline to the corporate interfighting that left C4GT footing the bill in a recent lawsuit loss to Virginia Natural Gas. Despite the limited financial viability of the project, state agencies and lawmakers have been unwilling to take action against the plant.

Speakers highlighted the environmental injustices core to the project, and called on the Department of Environmental Quality to subject the project to their new environmental justice rules.

“For over twenty years, County officials have been concerned with gaining profits through the C4GT power plant. Local government officials have repeatedly told the residents of Charles City County that this project is a done deal — now they are changing their tune,” said Wanda Roberts with Concerned Citizens of Charles City County. “I represent the Concerned Citizens of Charles City County and on behalf of our hundreds of supporters demand action against the C4GT plant. Change does not happen in a day and it is change that we desperately need in Charles City County.”

“The state’s continued negligence to hold C4GT to utmost scrutiny is an injustice to the residents of Charles City County and indeed the state,” said Food & Water Watch Virginia Organizer Jolene Mafnas. “To allow the C4GT project to continue would be to support the irresponsible and incompetent actions of a corporate polluter rather than to protect the health and safety of constituents in Charles City County. We stand with the citizens of Charles City County in demanding prompt action to review the C4GT plant.”

“Fossil fuel projects are predatory in their siting, across Virginia — C4GT included,” said Mothers Out Front Virginia Organizing Manager Kim Sudderth. “If you are black, brown, indigenous, poor, rural or any of the above, I’ve learned that you will be affected by environmental injustice. If the C4GT plant is built, it will give life to other opportunists to prey upon the residents of Charles City now and in the future. We demand that the C4GT plant be cancelled.”

“This project is smoke and mirrors on a corporate level,” said Richmond Interfaith Climate Justice Council Member Barb Adams. “There is waning support even for the Charles City County administration who has declared this a done deal for so many years. We must keep the light on this project and ask the very hard questions of our state agencies as to why they continue to allow C4GT’s scheme to continue.”

“There is no reason for the state regulatory entities — SCC and DEQ — to continue to dilly dally and play with the C4GT corporation,” said Sierra Club Virginia Outreach Coordinator Lynn Godfrey. “This needs to be squashed.”

New footage taken in March of the hasty construction at the C4GT site last December, which the Department of Environmental Quality states maintained the project’s permits, is available at the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4t6t8txfhg7r8v9/AADrpFTSeXJ4OwbH4Xi0EEGfa?dl=0. Photos and images are available for media use with attribution to Ben Cunningham of Blue Ridge GeoGraphics LLC.

A recording of the event can be found at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VA6FkrUWUeqBbO0AStkdbk4SLgEwctEV/view?usp=sharing.

Contact: Phoebe Galt – [email protected]

Newsom Expands California Drought Emergency, Commits $5.1 Billion to Water Infrastructure and Debt Relief

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Clean Water

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of the drought emergency to 41 of the state’s 58 counties, dedicating $5.1 billion to boost water infrastructure and an additional $1 billion to paying off nearly the entirety of Californian household water debt. Yet, while the governor’s plan includes $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling measures, it does nothing to speed up the process to bring overdrafted water basins into full and sustainable operation. The deadline is currently 2040 for critically overdrafted basins and 2042 for remaining high and medium priority basins.

“It’s gratifying to see Governor Newsom addressing the critical water supply issues in our state and providing much-needed water debt relief, but ultimately his drought relief plan mirrors his approach to oil and gas drilling,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “The current Sustainable Groundwater Management Act sets a deadline of 2040 to bring our most overdrafted and stressed water basins into sustainable operation. The people relying on that groundwater need it now, not 19 years from now. And just as obviously, the governor could divert the massive amount of water needed for fracking to help Californians going thirsty if he banned the practice now. We need Gov. Newsom to step up his timeline. Our frontline communities shouldn’t have to wait on his political will.”

The dry vast majority of critically overdrafted water basins are in the Central Valley, one of the poorest regions in the country and home to water-intensive extractive practices like fracking and factory farming. Gov. Newsom has committed to banning new fracking permits by 2024, allowing continued fossil fuel extraction and water usage until that time. He has taken no action to ban factory farms or curb their water intake. 

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]

Colonial Pipeline Shutdown Spotlights Need for Safe, Distributed Clean Energy Networks

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – Since an apparent crippling cyberattack last Friday, the Colonial pipeline – a primary source of petroleum products for the U.S. East Coast – has been shut down. A prolonged shutdown poses a threat to consumer financial security if gasoline prices continue to rise, as well as a grave public safety threat if the volatile, explosive contents of the pipeline somehow become unstable. In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“The ongoing shutdown of the Colonial pipeline is just the latest in a long litany of examples of why we must urgently transition off of highly vulnerable and dangerous fossil fuel networks. Given the centralized nature of major fossil fuel pipelines, a disruption anywhere along the line can adversely impact tens of millions of people, as we are seeing now. And this says nothing of the grave threat posed by the highly flammable, explosive petroleum products flowing through these pipelines. Any deviation from normal operation elevates the inherent risk posed to communities on the front lines of these pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. 

“Wind and solar power networks are by their very nature more distributed, more sensibly scaled, and more resilient than fossil fuel systems. And of course, unlike fossil fuels, clean wind and solar power pose no threat to our climate. This latest pipeline disruption makes it ever more clear: We must break free from dangerous fossil fuel dependance, now.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

After 100 Days, Biden and Congress Must Do More to Address Water Crises in America

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Clean Water

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate is poised to pass the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which would authorize $35 billion in funding over the next five years for drinking water and wastewater systems. The expected passage comes a day after President Biden gave his first address to Congress to outline progress and promote his infrastructure plan including his commitment to eliminate all lead water pipes and deliver clean water to all. The president’s American Jobs Plan would provide $111 billion over eight years to drinking water and wastewater services.

“Our communities cannot afford a compromise on safe water. This Senate legislation authorizes critical programs and higher funding levels, but it simply isn’t enough,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “We need bold and transformative support for water infrastructure through the WATER Act and in the administration’s American Jobs Plan to ensure that we build stronger, more resilient and more accessible water systems. No one should be denied access to safe water.”

Meanwhile, upon Biden’s 100th day in office, he has yet to take action to protect all people in the United States from the threat of losing utility service due to unaffordable bills and water debt. By May 1, two-thirds of the country will not be protected under a local or state water shutoff moratoria, leaving 216 million people vulnerable to possible disconnection. This includes the lapse of a statewide moratorium in New York State, where the state legislature has passed an extension but has yet to send the bill to the Governor for his signature. Only California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State still have comprehensive statewide water shutoff protections in place. 

Ms. Hauter continued: “President Biden must deliver on his promise of providing clean water to every person in the country. Among the many lessons learned during this ongoing pandemic is that universal access to safe water is critical for public health and the functioning of our society. Water is a basic human right, and every person deserves access to safe water regardless of their ability to pay unaffordable utility bills. President Biden must affirm this human right by acting now and ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use their public health authority to institute a nationwide water shutoff moratorium now.”

Although Congress has approved $1.1 billion in low-income water bill assistance, the funding has not been released yet to aid local households and it falls far short of the more than $8 billion in estimated household arrears. Hundreds of thousands of people face the threat of water shutoff because of water debts accrued during the economic hardship of the pandemic.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

Methane Emissions Rule is Another Half-Measure in Dem’s Tepid Climate Agenda

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Climate and Energy

Washington, D.C. – The Senate is expected to approve a resolution today that would reinstate an Obama-era rule requiring stronger regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas extraction operations. 

In response, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter issued the following statement:

“The Senate’s move to reinstate an Obama-era emissions rule is nothing more than an attempt to address today’s climate crisis with inadequate half-measures from the past. In fact, any action that could be seen as ‘cleaning up’ the image of fossil fuel drilling and fracking might do more harm than good. The science is clear: In order to avoid the worst impacts of deepening climate chaos, we must halt new oil and gas development in its tracks, and transition rapidly to a truly clean, renewable energy future.”

Earlier this week, details of a new United Nations climate report were revealed, indicating higher-then-ever emissions levels in the atmosphere last year, and the dire urgency of the need to drastically reduce emissions immediately to avoid perilous climate conditions.

Meanwhile, as President Biden marks his 100th day in office this week, he has yet to honor his campaign pledge to halt new fracking on federal lands. Although the Biden administration has temporarily paused the leasing of new federal land for fossil fuel drilling and fracking, it has continued to grant permits on land that has already been leased. Ms. Hauter continued:

“President Biden’s campaign pledge was clear and unequivocal: no more fracking on federal lands. Yet for the past 100 days, his administration has been regularly approving permits for new fracking operations. Biden needs to honor his pledge to all Americans and cease the permitting of new fracking now. Additionally, Mr. Biden should use his executive authority to halt the development of oil and gas projects approved by the Trump administration, including the Dakota Access, Line 3 and Mountain Valley pipelines. And he must cancel new fossil fuel infrastructure, including petrochemical plants, and ban the export of fracked oil and gas.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

Gov. Newsom’s Future Fracking Ban is a Half-Measure

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Climate and Energy

Sacramento, CA — Today California Governor Gavin Newsom once more declined to use his executive power to ban fracking, opting instead to direct CALGem to phase out new fracking permits by January 2024 and phase out oil extraction by 2045. These measures fall far short of demands, failing to address more than 242,000 state-regulated wells already in operation. The move underscores Newsom’s efforts to rebuild his reputation as a climate leader after a fracking ban died in the legislature, lacking his support. 

Statement of Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy:

“While it is significant that for the first time Governor Newsom is acknowledging the need to ban fracking and his authority to do it, this announcement is a half measure as it allows continued drilling and fracking for the next two and a half years. It comes after years of pressure and dedicated organizing by thousands of Californians who want a just transition away from fracking now.

“Directing his regulatory agencies to do the work over two and a half years that the governor can do today is more of the dodging we’ve seen from Newsom during his entire tenure. Phasing out oil drilling is absolutely necessary, but 2045 is a long way off. Until then, Newsom leaves Californians on the frontlines to pay for the oil industry’s scars on the landscape and damage to community health. He needs to use the authority the law has given him to stop issuing all new oil and gas permits, ban fracking completely and phase out oil drilling now starting with a 2,500 foot health and safety buffer between wells and sensitive sites. Newsom needs to protect our water supplies as we head into a destructive drought and guard our frontline communities from further harm.”

In 2020, Newsom approved 83 fracking permits for 608 individual fracking events, according to state regulators at CalGEM. This was out of 3,745 total permits for oil and gas wells in 2020. In total Governor Newsom has approved 8,129 drilling permits since taking office. 85 percent of those living within 2,500 feet of an oil well are Hispanic or non-white. 90 percent of California’s fracked land is owned by the state and unaffected by President Biden’s January executive order pausing the issuance of leases on federal land.

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]