Environmental activists in central Virginia celebrate Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory

Environmental activists in central Virginia celebrate Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory
Photo of the 'March to the Mansion' of protesters against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2016. (Source: Chesapeake Climate Action Network)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was supposed to snake its way from West Virginia through Virginia including Augusta, Nelson, and Buckingham counties.

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have officially called off the controversial and expensive project that was tied up in the courts for years.

This decision marks the end of arguably one of the biggest conservation battles in Virginia over the past few years.

Environmental activists in central Virginia say they not only hoped this victory would come, they worked hard to make certain their voices were heard.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was unnecessary and risky and the community stayed focused on those issues and got that message out there,” Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center Greg Buppert said.

It is a win so big that, for many, it is difficult to fathom.

“The fact that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is finally dead, still feels completely surreal,” Cassady Craighill of Clean Virginia said.

“This is a testament to the dedication of all of our clients who stood up six years ago and said ‘this is a bad idea’ and stayed committed and never backed down over the last six years,” Buppert said.

Buppert says the cards were stacked against environmentalists from the beginning.

“There are, practically speaking, very few examples of pipelines that have stopped been stopped by citizens” he said. “The pipeline building industry has been able to essentially get what it wanted.”

“It’s just nice to beat Dominion because for so long they’ve won so many battles, so to actually have them pull out is very exciting,” Chris Miller, the president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, said.

In the announcement, Dominion and Duke Energy cited ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty threatening economic viability as reasons for cancellation. Miller thinks activism was also a huge proponent behind the death of the project.

“It’s actually a celebration of the fact that people can make a difference,” he said. “We had people sitting in trees, we had people - landowners - going to court, we had activists in small places like Highland county.”

Activists say the 600-mile natural gas line spanning from West Virginia to North Carolina would have had devastating impacts.

“The pipeline route would have impacted protected federal lands, endangered species habitats, steep mountain slopes,” Buppert said.

“It would encourage a greater reliance on fossil fuels, at a time when we should be transitioning to offshore wind and solar and energy efficiency,” Miller said.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have polluted air water and land and worsened the climate crisis,” Craighill said.

The ACP, activists say, also threatened the most vulnerable of communities.

“For starters, the fracked gas project was basically the poster child for environmental injustice. It disproportionately impacted Black, indigenous, and low income communities,” Craighill said.

Those communities included predominantly Black community of Historic Union Hill in Buckingham County and also the Lumbee tribe in southeastern North Carolina which is the largest community of Native Americans east of the Mississippi River.

“They were all in the path, the most destructive path of this pipeline,” Craighill said.

“It was a bad idea six years ago that became even clearer in 2020,” Buppert added.

Those from Union Hill and Lumbee protested for years.

“All that hard work has paid off and proves that these powerful movements can defeat even the most powerful corporations in Virginia,” Craighill said.

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