Gore, Barber decry environmental racism in Va.

Associated Press | 2/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Former Vice President Al Gore urged residents of a historic African-American community in Buckingham County on Tuesday to continue their ...
Residents of Buckingham County sing along as a town hall with former vice-president Al Gore and Rev. William Barber begins in Buckingham, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. The town hall is to protest the proposed compressor station in Union Hill for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Steve Helber/Associated Press


Al Gore

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore urged residents of a historic African-American community in Buckingham County on Tuesday to continue their fight against a plan to build a natural gas pipeline compressor station in their community.

Rev. William Barber

Rev. William Barber

Mr. Gore and social justice advocate the Rev. William J. Barber II met with residents of Union Hill, a rural community about 70 miles west of Richmond that was founded by emancipated slaves after the Civil War.

The visit by Mr. Gore and Rev. Barber — part of an environmental justice tour — came weeks after a racial scandal rocked state government when both Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s.

Mr. Gore told residents that the proposal to build the compressor station in the African-American community is a “vivid example of environmental racism.”

“This proposed pipeline is a reckless, racist rip-off,” Mr. Gore said.

He said Gov. Northam should fulfill his promise for racial reconciliation by opposing the pipeline project.

“This is an ideal opportunity for him to say, ‘I’ve seen the light,’ ” Mr. Gore said.

During a raucous meeting before more than 700 people at Buckingham Middle School, Rev. Barber said Dominion Energy, the lead developer of the pipeline, is “practicing sin” by proposing to build the compressor station in Union Hill.

“I want to say tonight that any governor or legislator, Democrat or Republican ... that has chosen Dominion over this community is scandalous,” Rev. Barber said.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run 600 miles and carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.

Opponents are concerned that exhaust from the 54,000-horsepower compressor station would hurt low-income and elderly residents living in Union Hill. Supporters say it will boost development.

Dominion Energy, Virginia’s most powerful corporation, has said it chose Union Hill for the compressor station because the community had enough land for sale and it intersects with an existing pipeline.

With a current price tag of more than $7 billion, the pipeline recently has suffered significant legal setbacks, including a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling throwing out a permit for the pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. Dominion has suspended all project construction and said it plans to appeal the ruling.

Michelle Ford, a 47-year-old trainer and instructor for the state Department of Corrections who has lived in Union Hill her whole life, said she is not happy about the compressor station but she can see some economic benefits from the project, including job opportunities in the rural area.

“Nobody is saying, ‘Yes, we want it, hooray.’ What we’re saying is, ‘If it is going to come, what can Dominion do for the Union Hill community?’ ” Ms. Ford said.