If we want to avoid becoming the next Houston, Texas of flooding, we have to fight back now.
Already, with every downpour and high tide, many of our streets in Hampton Roads become creeks, our cars flood, and our homes become islands. Whatever we call it – nuisance flooding, sunny-day flooding, tidal flooding – scientists say the situation is linked to climate change and will get worse if we burn more fossil fuels. B
ut Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe doesn’t seem to get the connection. He says he wants to save the Virginia coast, but he also wants to build two massive pipelines for high-polluting fracked gas: the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.
For us in the Hampton Roads area, flooding has become an expensive and even dangerous routine. The cause is no mystery: rising seas from a warming planet washing over sinking land. Gov. McAuliffe talks about climate change and flooding all the time. While in Virginia Beach, he condemned President Trump for pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord. The governor promised that the commonwealth would embark on its own plan to reduce emissions while creating jobs. He definitely talked the talk, warning that by 2050, Virginia would likely have 225 days of flooding a year. That’s two of every three days – year round! A Union of Concerned Scientists’ report echoes that, finding that Chincoteague, Chesapeake and Poquoson, for example, will face chronic flooding by 2035. This is our sorry and soggy future – unless we act quickly to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Governor McAuliffe, while embracing the Paris deal, nevertheless backs two massive fracked-gas pipelines planned for our commonwealth, the 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, and the 300-mile Mountain Valley pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. It’s as he if were saying the world is both flat and round. He can’t call for action on climate while shilling for two gigantic pipelines. This is faulty science and faulty math and it all adds up to hypocrisy.
These pipelines, carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, would be disastrous for our commonwealth. They would run for hundreds of miles through national forests and wetlands, over steep ridges, across mountain streams and springs. They would mar mountain views and ruin for many the peaceful enjoyment of their property. They will cross the James River, near the James River State Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will also cross the Nansemond and Elizabeth Rivers located in the Hampton Roads area. The construction of the Atlantic Coast pipeline would decapitate 38 miles of forested Appalachian ridges in Virginia and West Virginia. Landowners would face the constant threat of explosions. They would also see their property value decline as much as 30 percent, jeopardizing resale, insurance rates and home loans. Dominion can also use eminent domain to seize land from farmers and homeowners who refuse to cave to this calamity.
These pipelines are a colossal disruption not only to our land and water, but also to our climate and human health. If both are built, their greenhouse gas emissions would equal that of 46 coal plants, increasing the frequency and/or severity of already existing health problems and even creating unanticipated health threats in new areas. Greenhouse gas emissions are a recipe for destructive storms and higher seas. Just as mountain residents would lose their land to these pipelines, our land would literally disappear beneath the waves.
We stand in solidarity with mountain landowners facing the loss of their land just as we face the existential loss of our coastal land.
The governor can stop these pipelines and help Virginians avoid a sloshy and chaotic future. In fact, that Union of Concerned Scientists report says that by 2100, nearly 200 communities nationwide, including Virginia Beach, could avoid chronic flooding if we reduce emissions quickly and keep the planet’s warming to about 1.8°C. All the governor has to do is deny the water quality permit. He would be justified in doing so, as the Department of Environmental Quality has yet to see evidence from Dominion that these pipelines won’t ruin drinking water, wetlands, streams and rivers.
With the stakes so high, dozens of Hampton Roads students, faith leaders, landowners and others gathered on September 13th and 14th to protest outside the Governor’s Virginia Beach office of the Department of Environmental Quality. At lunchtime each day, we sang and chanted and prayed for the Governor to do the right thing.
Around the country, particularly along the East Coast, people are fighting pipelines at every turn. We are clamoring for renewable energy and more efficiency. That’s where the jobs, our safety, and our future lie. We can’t survive another 50 years of polluting 20th-century energy. The governor has hinted that he is considering a presidential run in 2020. His decision on these pipelines will determine whether his legacy will be as a climate leader who championed the principles of Paris – or just another pretender. Which will it be, governor? Please, stop these pipelines.