Richmond, VA -- A coalition of Virginia community groups, including Food & Water Action, Virginia Justice Democrats, Sustainable Roanoke, Preserve Floyd, Friends of Augusta, Concerned Citizens of Charles City County, Yogaville Environmental Solutions, Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America - Northern Virginia Branch, and ARTivism Virginia is calling for a halt on all oil and gas pipeline construction in the state amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 went into effect on Tuesday night, temporarily closing all schools and places of recreation, and allowing some non-essential businesses to remain open so long as they limit the number of patrons present at one time. In addition, Northam directed public employees to no longer do field work.
Now is the time to cease construction and any permitting processes on the many pipelines snaking their way through Virginia, which have polluted the environment and sickened surrounding communities for years. These pipelines and accompanying compressor stations -- which include Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), MVP Southgate, the Buckingham compressor station, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and Transco -- are fundamentally non-essential because they’re not necessary for addressing the state’s current energy need, and in no way serve the public good in Virginia.
Groups are calling on the governor to order a stop this unnecessary construction, which puts workers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and taking it home to their families, and also strains Virginia’s already-stressed emergency response systems in the event of an accident, given that accidents and violations are constant in the process of pipeline construction.
“Governor Northam must protect workers and all Virginia communities by calling for an immediate stop to construction on fossil fuel projects,” says Jolene Mafnas, Virginia organizer for Food & Water Action. “Healthcare workers, emergency response teams, sanitation workers, and grocery store employees are on the front lines of this crisis, ensuring our communities have what they need to survive in these trying times. To leave fossil fuel workers and public employees on the ground where they risk spreading the pandemic to one another and their families is simply reckless. Governor Northam must honor the hard work being done by so many to prevent the spread of the virus by shutting down unnecessary fossil fuel construction and sending workers home with fair compensation.”
“We stand with Food & Water Action in encouraging Governor Northam to halt all construction on pipelines while the country deals with the current pandemic,” says Jennifer Lewis, founder and president of the group Friends of Augusta. “With new regulations put into place today by Governor Northam ordering all non-essential workers to stay home and non-essential businesses to close for 30 days, we must acknowledge that pipeline construction is not essential as these pipelines are not carrying gas for local use. Construction workers on these already dangerous pipeline projects deserve to be protected as much as possible from the Coronavirus. Construction workers need to be healthy to do their work and make a living. We remain 100% opposed to these pipeline projects but we support the safety and rights of their workers.”
“Concerned Citizens of Charles City County is also encouraging Governor Northam to halt the rush to approve the two proposed merchant fracked gas power plants, NoviEnergy/C4GT and Balico/Chickahominy,” says Wanda Roberts, representing Concerned Citizens for Charles City County. “Chickahominy and C4GT have bullied their way through the permitting process. Charles City County is a rural area that is not in a position to handle the risk associated with the operation of the two power plants, or the risk of building the plants and the pipeline during this pandemic.”