“I wish to present my own interpretation under the notion regime of truth. It is not an endeavor for an alternative method but rather an endeavor to find a solution to the problems that a life detached from the values of freedom creates. … To prevent us from falling into a state of silent desperation, we need to remedy the situation. To find a solution, we have to question when and where we have made the enormous mistakes that lead to these aberrations.”
-Abdullah Ocalan, Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization
Recently the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board has given some ink to issue of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “No, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline won’t destroy the earth,” and “Time to move forward with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” are their paternalistic titles. They call the proposed fracked gas pipeline a “simple project,” and compare its construction to that of the Empire State Building, which “took only one year and 45 days to build.”
There’s no need to quarrel point by point with these Op-Eds, because they never address the fundamental issue of whether or not these things are needed. Thusly, their columns and much of Dominion’s own statements about the ACP sound a lot like a cigarette smoker confidently explaining that buying by the carton is a much better deal than buying by the pack.
My own opinions and perspective have been sharpened and made more urgent by a series of interviews I have helped to conduct and prepare for a forthcoming WRIR radio show/podcast, End of the Line, the first episode of which is available now on Soundcloud. My colleagues and I have sat in kitchens and walked around the farms of people who would be directly affected by the proposed ACP as well as the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. Both proposed pipelines threatened their very livelihood, and this is why so many people have been happy to talk to us, despite us having none of the trappings of establishment media. Many times I have embarrassedly told someone that no, I don’t have a card.
The public benefit, the public need for these projects would have to be extremely significant to justify the sacrifices these earnest, humane landowners would face if either of these pipelines are built. The public benefit, the public need would have to be immense to concurrently justify the environmental threat or the loss of property value already happening in the affected counties.
Dominion’s own arguments for the ACP, much like the TD’s, tend to focus on potential economic gains for various parties, but never speak of a need for these projects. So, while there may exist a contorted economic growth argument for two new pieces of fracked gas infrastructure, there is no moral argument for them. These proposed pipelines only make sense in the context of the kind of worldview described so well by Ocalan, that of “a life detached from the values of freedom.” That of a life bound up in greed.
To say that it might create jobs is not justification enough. Even if the ACP and MVP do somehow create thousands of new jobs–and there’s a lot of evidence that it won’t create very many permanent jobs from the recent history of similar pipelines–that does not constitute a public need. Electricity demand is flat in Virginia. Our current infrastructure is good enough to meet household natural gas needs and the needs of existing natural gas-fired power plants. These pipelines are far less than necessary for the well-being of our commonwealth, and more so just wanted by the likes of Dominion and Duke Energy so that their profits might continue to grow at the pace which equity markets demand.
And these pipelines are not as popular as the RTD pieces make them out to be. Another poll conducted more recently at the request of CCAN shows a majority opposing the ACP. Tom Perriello’s rapid polling success in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign also suggests that his prominent stance against the pipeline is popular. Thus, it’s hard to say either way whether these fracked gas pipelines have popular support, and as critical thinkers and writers, we should consider the pipelines on their moral and economic merits, rather than just listing the names of powerful people who want it done, as the RTD piece does.
We as citizens cannot allow Dominion and Duke to set the agenda. The conversation around Virginia’s energy policy ought to be much larger than Yes/No to ACP/MVP. The switch to renewable energy sources ought to be much less incremental and ought nought to be at the convenience of companies that so profit from trafficking fracked natural gas. The editorial writers of the RTD have the platform to broaden this conversation, yet they shamefully choose merely to react to and approve of the agendas of power brokers without much scrutiny. Not only is this a lazy stance, but merely parroting power also condemns their opinion page to further irrelevance. Why subscribe to the RTD when I could get the same opinions from Dominion’s pro-pipeline website?
An Op-Ed actually concerned about Virginia’s environment would point out that the methane released during the fracking process by which this natural gas is obtained is just as harmful to our atmosphere as the carbon released from burning coal. It would also point out that the proposed ACP would be a 42″ pipeline (as opposed to the 20″ pipelines pictured in the RTD’s second piece), and would thus require massively powerful compressor stations. These compressor stations, in addition to destroying the property values of the surrounding area, pose significant public health risks due to their constant emissions from 30,000 horsepower turbines.
If you know of a forceful moral and logical argument about why we need either of these proposed pipelines, please contact me because I have heard no such arguments in support. These need to be arguments good enough to convince a landowner to allow the desecration of their land, good enough to convince a farmer that they should allow their fields to be rendered useless for a pipeline’s right of way. Dominion and Duke will still be rich with or without these pipelines, but we as a people will be morally impoverished if we allow this violation of our fellow Virginians.
May our political conversations be moral conversations. May our economic conversations focus on the growth of equality rather than equity. And if these conversations don’t work, may we shut down and delay this construction as much as we can.