In July, Virginia and North Carolina-based organizers Dominion Energy and Duke Energy canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, an underground, natural gas pipeline designed to ship natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina and Virginia.
Duke Energy cited “ongoing delays and increasing cost uncertainty which threaten the economic viability of the project” as reasons for cancellation. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce sees the $8 billion project as a setback to the Commonwealth’s access to reliable energy sources.
Previously, to push the courts toward favor of the pipeline, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to allow regulators to bypass environmental reviews for projects like the pipeline as yet another way to boost the economy.
The ACP also had Supreme Court approval to cross the Appalachian Trail, a decision announced in June.
However, many organizations and individuals around the Blacksburg community who opposed the pipeline came forward to talk about the environmental impact this infrastructure would have had on Central Virginia.
“I have been consistently against the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” said Delegate Chris Hurst. “I covered these pipelines when they were first proposed when I was still in journalism, and they never seemed like the right solution for Virginia from the beginning. We don’t need the natural gas that it claims to be bringing and it certainly is not something we need at the expense of destroying our personal property, state parks, national parks and the Appalachian Trail.”
Hurst represents Virginia’s 12th House of Delegates district encompassing the City of Radford, Giles County and portions of Montgomery County and Pulaski County. Naturally, he saw the impact this pipeline would have on the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech community.
“When you look at the way pipelines have been constructed over the last generation or so, the number of incidents in explosions have exponentially gone up. This is because they’re building these pipelines as fast as they can, as many as they can, trying to get as much of this natural gas out of the ground and generated before it’s no longer a viable energy source,” Hurst said. “There’s an inherent danger in living in close proximity to the pipeline. Many of the folks that I represent live in what’s called the “evaporation zone” where if an explosion were to occur, there wouldn’t be anything left.”
Select government officials aren’t the only ones against the Supreme Court decision and the ACP. Some student-run organizations at Virginia Tech have also spoken up connecting the pipeline issue to a much larger one.
“We believe that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and projects similar to it are unjust by disproportionately impacting Black, Brown, Indigenous and low wealth communities,” said Rachel Spector, representative of Virginia Tech for Climate Justice. “Our organization has connections with BIPOC and low wealth families who have experienced noise, air, and water pollution from the ACP, and a few families who have been forced to sell their homes. Additionally, the direct and indirect environmental impacts will be catastrophic. Science is telling us that we have a rapidly decreasing window of time to address climate change.”
VTCJ was founded to take aggressive action to address the climate emergency. In the past, it has worked with the administration in rewriting the outdated 2009 Climate Action Commitment to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.
Furthermore, the newly founded organization Appalachian Youth Climate Coalition has also spoken out about the issue. They strongly believe that rural Appalachian towns deserve a more profound voice in the modern climate movement.
“We in no way, shape or form support the construction — or idea — of the pipeline,” said Carson Hopkins, founder and co-director of AYCC. “The ACP is a prime example of environmental racism. ACP is planning to place a compressor station in Buckingham County — Union Hill specifically — a Black community in Central Virginia. Not only are compression stations connected to many health problems, but they are at risk of explosion. If construction is finished, this pipeline could send a message to Blacksburg and the greater community that the fight for justice has been lost. In Blacksburg, there is a large resistance against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and we cannot let setbacks in the ACP resistance put a damper on the MVP resistance.”