Recent News Recap
It can be hard to keep up with the flood of (often) dismaying, overwhelming news in our region, country and the world at large. We’ll keep trying to distill some of the key pieces of news as they relate to not only the MVP fight, but the larger tapestry of fossil fuel, environmental justice and social justice fights that we are all impacted by.
The Hill has a great opinion piece this week by Wenonah Hauter that puts the blame for many of our crises squarely back where it belongs: on the greedy fossil fuel corporations standing to profit. As we keep an eye on the U.S. exponential growth of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) exports, we remember one of the favorite industry talking points: more natural gas is needed to keep Americans safe, their homes heated and their business needs accommodated. However, this does not match reality. Hauter lays it out for us: “When it comes to the gas used to heat homes and generate electricity here in the United States, the ‘problem’ recently has been an excess of gas supplies. To unload that product, the United States has become a massive exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG), averaging almost 10 billion cubic feet per day in the first half of this year — a 42 percent increase over the same period in 2020. Domestic supply and consumption of gas, meanwhile, is relatively stable. So, while skyrocketing utility bills will be blamed on a short supply of gas, companies will continue to ship it overseas. This suits the interests of energy companies and Wall Street investors. Indeed, by the end of next year, the United States will likely be the top gas exporter in the world.”
Unbelievably, given the face of evidence of future risk and current climate crisis, it is unclear whether the Biden administration will allow oil drilling in a 23-million acre region of the Arctic called the “National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). E&E News’ Heather Richards goes in depth, finding that ConocoPhillips "Willow" project wants to produce 750 million barrels of oil with clearance from the administration. Consequences are dire: “It would mean pollution in Native communities and a contribution to life-altering climate change in the Arctic, where scientists say warming is occurring at three times the rate of the rest of the globe.” This and other situations like it “embodies a critical question raised by experts for the Biden administration’s climate goals, and the answer has resonance across public lands that hold oil and natural gas: Can the Biden administration limit industry’s right to drill in places where, like Willow, industry already holds federal drilling rights?"
Outside Magazine offers a great rundown of “Everything You Need to Know About the State of the Environment in 2022”, and they don’t skip the bits of good news, either. The Intercept’s Alleen Brown offers an in depth look at how “in a legal fight over public records, press advocates say that Dakota Access pipeline company Energy Transfer engaged in “abusive litigation tactics.” In the midst of the interlocking crises of racism, environmental injustice, attacks on voting rights and the climate crises, philosopher Jason Stanley makes a case in The Guardian in a piece titled “America is now in fascism’s legal phase” that “The history of racism in the US is fertile ground for fascism. Attacks on the courts, education, the right to vote and women’s rights are further steps on the path to toppling democracy.” Grist’s Jena Brooker, in a piece called “Pipelines keep robbing the land long after the bulldozers leave”, details how “a flurry of new research shows the long-term effects of pipelines on crop yields.”
This holiday season’s Occupy Biden efforts to pressure Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop new fossil fuel projects were covered in the Washington Post by Rachel Sawicki. One of the people present at Occupy Biden noted, “‘The Democrats control the Senate, the House and the White House,’ [Echo] Alford said. ‘They have power to enact sweeping changes that could protect our earth and our futures and they have failed to do so at every turn.’”
Wednesday's 'Look West' newsletter, as usual, offers excellent climate and energy coverage. They note that national greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2021 by 6%, and "688 people [died] in 20 different weather and climate disasters, which cost at least a combined $145 billion". We will keep fighting for slashing emissions and for a just, livable future for all.
The Washington Post commented on Virginia’s new Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin, in a piece titled “Opinion: Glenn Youngkin is no moderate on the environment”. The Post noted “last month, Mr. Youngkin announced he would pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an emissions-cutting pact among Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, in defiance of common sense and, perhaps, state law. Then, last Wednesday, the governor-elect nominated Andrew Wheeler, a former Trump Environmental Protection Agency chief and onetime coal lobbyist, to be the state’s secretary of natural resources.” POWHR responded to the news here.
Just to give a window into Wheeler’s assistance and leadership to Donald Trump in destroying environmental protections, the post lists just a few: “His first major act was relaxing standards for handling toxic coal ash, to industry cheers. He gutted a policy designed to transition the country off pollution-spewing coal power plants. He canceled efforts to regulate perchlorate, a chemical that damages babies’ brains, in drinking water. He slow-walked the replacement of lead pipes. He ripped up rules to stop the nation’s least responsible oil and gas drillers from pumping massive amounts of methane into the air. Perhaps his most egregious move was barring the EPA from considering a vast amount of peer-reviewed scientific evidence, hobbling the agency’s ability to make fact-based decisions about the nation’s air and water.” Since Virginia has “a strong climate law in place”, defensive protection of our existing (and in many areas, woefully inadequate) laws in Virginia are wise to prepare for.
Queen Shabazz responded in the Roanoke Times to David Hudgins’ column where he laments that the Board, in his view, did not consider that ‘science’ supported issuing the MVP Southgate Lambert Compressor Station Permit. She notes “Hudgins also ignores the fact that the science is not the only matter that the board must, by law, consider. The board had to determine whether the permit did or did not comply with the Virginia Environmental Justice Act…The sad reality is that Black communities such as this one or ones in Union Hill or Charles City County remain easy targets for the siting of polluting facilities. That is why science alone is not the sole question before the board and that is why the act was a critical element of the board’s analysis.” Southern Environmental Law Center recently detailed how “The Virginia State Corporation Commission rejected plans to construct an unregulated gas pipeline 83 miles from Louisa County to a proposed gas-fired power plant in Charles City County.” Visit Concerned Citizens of Charles City County (C5)’s website to learn more about the resistance to this pipeline.
As the General Assembly 2022 Legislative Sessions start this week in Virginia and West Virginia, we’re inspired by this piece Dan Heyman wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Dan reminds us “a report from West Virginia University found that shifting to clean energy sources would add thousands of jobs more than the state would lose by shifting away from fossil fuels. The air would be cleaner, fewer people would suffer from asthma or cancer and consumers would pay less to heat and light their homes.” We’ll keep this at the front of our minds during the legislative sessions, and recommend the following resources to keep tabs on what bills to support and oppose!
- Appalachian Voices’ General Assembly Info Hub
- Virginia Conservation Network General Assembly Guidebook
- Virginia Organizing’s General Assembly Priorities
- Virginia Interfaith Power and Light’s General Assembly Resources