With many still grieving a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cut through the Appalachian Trail, big news hit last Sunday that Dominion and Duke Energy are canceling the pipeline altogether, with Dominion also selling off its remaining fracked gas holdings.
The shutdown announcement from Dominion and Duke Energy comes after six years of entrenched legal battles, public protest and direct action to disrupt construction, and a price tag that grew to 8 billion dollars. The delay itself seemed to challenge the claim for initiating the project — that Virginia desperately needed this pipeline in order to meet the state’s increasing energy needs. To the contrary, Virginia’s energy needs have plateaued for the next decade.
Why We Need To Do More Than Shut Down Pipelines One By One
An unlikely coalition of groups and interests united to stop the pipeline, and they didn’t quit fighting until they won. But even though this victory is a testament to grassroots activism, the sheer amount of time and the collaboration required to make this happen were enormous. Halting the fossil fuel agenda project by project is a strenuous battle and doesn’t necessarily win systemic change, making it an unsustainable strategy. Duke and Dominion didn’t make their decision out of goodwill — they made it with an eye to their bottom line.
Dominion made the right decision for the wrong reasons. While a thriving clean energy economy does have the potential to bring well-paying jobs and increased investments to Virginia, profit isn’t the driving motivation for humanity’s move toward renewable energy. The transition to renewables is non-negotiable, and it needs to be funded by the companies that have wrecked our environment and exploited both people and resources for centuries — whether they want to make that payout or not. We have to move towards renewable energy because refusing to implement change will result in mass death, ecological crisis, and a hugely diminished quality of life.
Virginia Should Show Leadership For A Green New Deal
Virginia has the capacity to lead nationally in this transition, and the cancellation of the ACP should be an opening to speed ahead with the hard work of greening our state. Recent changes in the state’s legislative makeup made us hopeful for aggressive environmental legislation. But the last session brought disappointment when the pro-industry Virginia Clean Economy Act railroaded the more ambitious Green New Deal, and passed into law with Northam’s signature. The Virginia Clean Economy Act failed to demand more from Virginia’s fossil fuel corporations than what these companies had already agreed to, making it clear the legislation bent to the whims of industry rather than pushing past its comfort zone. The VCEA also set the deadline for a renewable energy transition at 2050, deemed a dangerously inadequate timeline by the world’s leading climate scientists. And it didn’t require any action to stop the fossil fuel infrastructure already underway in Virginia, projects that will ravage public health and clean air and water in the near term.
The package of Green New Deal bills, on the other hand, puts an emphasis on speed and equity rather than allowing corporations to transition leisurely, and gets us to our goals in time to stave off the worst of climate change.
There Are More Fossil Fuel Projects In Virginia To Shut Down ASAP
The anti-pipeline and climate movement knows that the defeat of the ACP is just the first domino to fall in the ongoing battle against fracked gas. Other dangerous projects in Virginia are still moving ahead. The buildout of the Mountain Valley Pipeline still looms, as do two enormous gas plants in Charles City County. Governor Northam’s Water Board just issued a permit to one of these, the Chickahominy Gas Plant, even after surrounding communities expressed overwhelming opposition (the plant would source water from the depleted Potomac Aquifer, which millions of Virginians rely on). And Dominion has said very little about their proposed energy plan, submitted to Virginia utility regulators recently, that counts heavily on fracked gas to meet Virginia’s needs over the next 30 years. Dominion claimed the state may need to build more fracked gas plants, and their decision to sell their own interests doesn’t mean Virginia is safe from dangerous development by other funders.
Now is the time to make bold demands of decision-makers, and to apply the right kinds of pressure so they follow through in order to serve the environmental and public health needs of our communities. We will continue to call on Northam to cancel all fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the state of Virginia. And with a gubernatorial election approaching in 2021, we have a window to put pressure on candidates to commit to strong environmental leadership — and to see that agenda through once they take office.
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