Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

Editor: On the way into Leesburg last week, I noticed blossoms on cherry trees. So did my husband and a friend who lives in another part of Loudoun. Poor trees! They must be confused. It’s not time to blossom now!  Well, with the strange and record-breaking weather here in Loudoun, and the devastating extreme weather events occurring throughout the U.S and beyond, it’s not hard to see them as signs and signals of climate change.

In case you can’t, the Oct. 8 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5OC by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, makes it unequivocally clear.  It warns that the world has only 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5OC.  The Earth has already warmed 1OC and we have witnessed devastation and suffering worldwide.  The Guardian newspaper reports that warming beyond 1.5OC will significantly worsen the risk of drought, flood, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The IPCC summary for policymakers states that urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the 1.5OC target.  Unconscionably, policy makers in Virginia do not heed the report. If they did, they would oppose the climate change exacerbating Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ACP, and Mountain Valley Pipeline, MVP, that will transport fracked gas.  Building these pipelines will be the equivalent of 46 coal fired power plants. Attorney General Mark Herring and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, plus most members of the VA General Assembly, are silent on the matter. Gov. Ralph Northam and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler have chosen to ignore the Virginia NAACP and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice recommendation to stop work on both the ACP and MVP.

In addition to opposition and resistance by frontline communities in the path of the pipeline plus environmental groups in Virginia, pipelines have not been supported at the federal level.  In an unusual dissent, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, Cheryl LaFleur wrote that the ACP is “not in the public interest…”  Further, in August, FERC issued a stop work order for the ACP while Dominion Power resolved permit problems.  In addition, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated two permits issued in the Jefferson National Forest.  Regrettably, these victories were unjustly short lived.  Nevertheless, there are five legal challenges to the $6.5 billion 600-mile ACP still in court.  And, for the first time, MVP landowners have asked the U.S. Supreme Court “whether Eminent Domain, a power normally invoked by governmental bodies for projects such as highways and power lines, should be awarded to a private company in pursuit of profits.”

An unexpected ally joins pipeline fighters in the person of Ken Cuccinneli II, the former Attorney General.  In a powerful opinion published in the Nov. 2 the Washington Post entitled “Virginia has a pipeline problem,” Mr. Cucinnelli lays out: the impact of the ACP on front-line communities as well as Dominion Power customers’ energy bill; FERC’s rubberstamp behavior approving the overwhelming majority of all pipelines; Dominion Power’s gaming the system; pro-Dominion cronyism in the Virginia General Assembly.  If Republican Ken Cuccinneli, who once targeted UVA Professor Michael Mann to debunk his climate change research, can come out against the pipelines, surely Virginia’s Democratic leadership can, too!  The question for Gov. Northam and Secretary Strickler, why haven’t you?

Natalie Pien, Leesburg

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