In response to the Virginia State Water Control Board’s decisions to approve the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines

VAIPL’s Statement in response to the Virginia State Water Control Board’s decisions to approve the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines

On Thursday, December 7, the State Water Control Board voted 5-2 to approve the permit for the fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline. On Tuesday, December 12, the board voted 4-3 to approve the Atlantic Coast Pipeline pending approval of a series of plans and mitigation measures.  Both decisions were made after extensive testimony from landowners and experts on the property rights violations and threats to public health that the pipelines pose. Testimony included hundreds of face-to-face personal statements and thousands of publicly submitted comments.

As people driven by faith to uphold a vision of the intrinsic worth of Creation, shared abundance, neighborly love, and the sanctity of life, we at Virginia Interfaith Power and Light condemn the Water Control Board’s decision as absolutely counter to these values.

In a world guided by private interests, complex systems of power, and shoddy standards of political leadership, it is easy for those in power to further paradigms that are corrupt, false and destructive. It can be easy for the public to accept these aggressively promoted paradigms as logical, or even desirable, especially in the absence of an alternative narrative. It is the role of people of faith to both shine a light on what is corrupt, false and destructive, and lift up an alternative paradigm, handed down through millennia across many different faith and wisdom traditions. This common paradigm is one that honors all life, that holds loving your neighbor paramount, and that envisions abundance, health, and dignity for all members of the human community and the ecosystems on which humans depend. That means, at a minimum, clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and a healthy environment that supports life.

The Virginia State Water Control Board, along with the politicians and powerful private interests that promoted this decision, expect us to believe their false narrative and accept these decisions as inevitable.

This agency expects us to think that it is okay for the government to seize private property for private purposes—to halve our neighbors’ property values, clear-cut their old-growth forests, place them in the direct path of blast zones they will not be able to escape, shove a 42-inch fracked gas pipeline through their fields and streams; to wreck their dreams for their families and their livelihoods. They expect us to ignore our neighbors’ suffering, to turn a blind eye to all that they will lose. In short, they expect us to abandon the divine call to love our neighbors. But we will not do that, because it is a false and wrong thing to expect. We love our neighbors, and we will stand with them, and amplify their voices and stories. A business plan that relies upon the seizure and destruction of our neighbors’ land is unacceptable—Dominion and its corporate partners must find a new business model. And any government that supports these unethical, extreme, and unjust actions is unacceptable as well.

The State Water Control Board, too many of our elected representatives, and the energy and pipeline companies that fund their campaigns hope that we will forget the tremendous amount of money that has been funneled from private interests to politicians leading up to these decisions. They expect us to believe that this massive political influence has nothing to do with the Water Control Board’s decision to not do its job. Nothing to do with the fact that overwhelmingly negative public testimony was ignored. That seizure of private property was trivialized, and is now the subject of multiple lawsuits. They expect us to overlook their blatant corruption. We will not. People of faith have never been afraid to call out corruption and wrongdoing. We will shout it from the rooftops.

We refuse to forfeit our health and safety so that a private company can profit. Humans—and especially human children—cannot thrive without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. These pipelines are crisscrossing hundreds of rivers and streams at a time when there have been well over 4,000 fracked pipelines incidents in the U.S. since 2010, at a rate of almost 1.5 per day. The compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, planned for the Union Hill community of Buckingham County, will clog the air with toxic emissions including methane, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter. Polluted air and water always impede the flourishing of life, and in the case of these pipelines the threats are severe. We cannot accept this harm—as people of faith we are called to uphold and defend life as sacred.

They expect us to simply accept all of this because they believe we lack an alternative paradigm—they are wrong. As people of faith, we are here to say there is an alternative, based on cooperation and mutual respect between neighbors, rather than alienation and grasping acquisition. This alternative is rooted in a great love for all that lives. We humans are ingenious creatures, and when motivated by love we can find solutions that heal rather than harm, create rather than destroy, and which increase health and abundance while addressing our pressing economic needs including affordable energy production and job creation. Solar and wind, decentralized/localized energy production, freestanding microgrids, electrified public transportation, smart urban planning, green infrastructure investment, and biomimetic technologies are just some of these solutions, and they are already available.

We are and will remain committed to a future worthy of the next generation: one that harnesses ecological wisdom and neighborly love for a just and healthy Virginia.