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Activists Want Regulators to Consider Environmental and Racial Justice Implications of the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Kurt Holtz

State officials are about to make a key decision that could have environmental ramifications for generations to come. But, the decision could also have racial justice implications.

In the next few weeks, the State Water Control Board will vote on whether to grant certification to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry fracked natural gas 300 miles from northern West Virginia to Southside Virginia. Environmentalists are raising concerns about water quality, but social justice advocates are also speaking out.

Kidest Gebre at Virginia Interfaith Power and Light says the proposal would perpetuate patterns of environmental racism.

"The Southgate compressor station, the Lambert compressor station, is sited near a community that's an African American community as well as there's an African American family living right next to the proposed compressor station," Gebre says. "So that makes it an environmental racism and an environmental injustice concern."

Harry Godfrey at Virginia Advanced Energy Economy says it's important to ask questions about how views about race influence decisions about infrastructure.

"Where were right-of-ways established 10, 20, 50 or 100 years ago? And if you had a society that said these communities are not as important as those communities you can get into these scenarios where we bake in infrastructure decisions that can lead to inequitable outcomes," says Godfrey.

Members of the Water Control Board will be hearing from advocates for and against the pipeline as they approach a final decision later this year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.