After an emotionally tumultuous week in Robeson County, NC, Sunday morning brought wonderful news. Duke and Dominion Energy announced that they cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project, a 600-mile natural gas line that would have stretched from West Virginia to Lumberton, NC. Because of a $4 billion dollar increase in cost and delays, these entities reassess the economic viability of the project-- although the cost was initially steep before environmentalists showed opposition. Dominion has made a deal with Berkshire Hathaway, affiliated with Warren Buffet, valued at $9.7 billion for the company's gas transmission and storage assets.
This announcement was a huge victory for Indigenous communities and the environmental movement, but some expert environmental advocates remind us that we still have work to do as a society to protect Mother Earth from extractive industries.
Highlighted in this blog are the voices of some of the dedicated individuals from the Southeastern Indigenous, African American, and other impacted communities throughout North Carolina, Virginia, and beyond, who have worked tirelessly on organizing grassroots initiatives to kill the ACP and similar projects. Experts will also provide insight on possible next steps to sustain this victory, and other environmental threats that need to be addressed in Robeson County and beyond.
Donna Chavis is a fierce advocate, member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina, and a senior fossil fuel campaigner for Friends of the Earth, to which she issued the following statement on Monday:
"Native American, African American, and other affected communities along the route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have prevailed in their David versus Goliath struggle against Duke Energy and Dominion Energy. The ACP is now officially dead, and not a moment too soon. Americans have spoken in the streets, and they have no tolerance for fossil fuel projects that poison the bodies, the land, the air, and the water of Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities. While we celebrate this victory, we must also continue to fight against this toxic industry. Friends of the Earth will be turning its full force to stop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) peaking and storage facility in North Carolina that Piedmont Natural Gas (PNG), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy, is planning to develop in the same vicinity as the proposed ACP. Just like ACP, we will ensure that the PNG/Duke project does not see the light of day. Fossil fuels have no future in North Carolina or the United States."
Donna Chavis (center) marching against ACP. in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mark Williams/Getty Images.
In an interview with Democracy Now, Donna Chavis elaborates on the importance of Indigenous and Black solidarity in stopping these corporations from using marginalized communities as sacrificial lambs for fossil fuel development. Jorden Revels, University of North Carolina at Pembroke student and Lumbee environmental activist emphasizes that: "This is a monumental win for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color), who always end up suffering the brunt of many environmentally racist projects like the proposed ACP. It shows other communities, no matter how small or large, that we can push back against these major fossil fuel monopolies and choose another path. It’s a form of resistance to protect our communities, and our future generations from the detrimental health effects this project would have brought as well as helping mitigate damage caused by the climate crisis we’re currently beginning to face."
East and West Coast Indigenous solidarity on the ACP protest front with Jorden Revels, Raymond Kingfisher, Nathan Phillips, and Jared Jacobs.
Jorden eludes to how these environmentally harmful projects impact health outcomes in the affected communities. As recently as November 2019, the Keystone Pipeline leaked 380,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota. In a blog by One Green Planet covering the Standing Rock uprising, the author writes that since 2000, 970,000 gallons of oil have leaked due to spills, 370,000 of which was unrecoverable by cleanup crews. Therefore, polluting drinking water, violating the Clean Water Act, and neglecting the healthcare and welfare of Indigenous, Black, and rural farming communities.
Alexa Sutton Lawrence, Southeast Regional Director at The Wilderness Society, says: “The long overdue shutdown of the dangerous, unneeded, and disruptive Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a victory for families, landscapes, and communities along its proposed route. This monstrous project had been slated to pass right through some of the region’s most vulnerable communities: the Yesah (Monacan, Occaneechi, Saponi) and Nansemond Indian Nation’s ancestral lands (destroying or disrupting burial sites, artifacts, and the land itself), the historic African-American community founded by freedmen in Union Hill, and the northernmost edge of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (as a refuge for both wildlife and people, it historically served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and as a home place for free people of color) – in addition to crossing the beloved national landmark that is the Appalachian Trail. I’m grateful that the ACP has finally been put to rest, and hope its death serves as an indication that the people of the southeastern United States will not lie down and allow overly aggressive, unnecessary energy projects to proliferate in our region.”
The Dismal Swamp Canal served as an escape route to freedom for enslaved African Americans. Source: Dismal Swamp Canal website.
Crystal Cavalier, founder of 7 Directions Service, and MMIW-NC, says: "I'm excited to see less pipelines that would have destroyed our life, animals, environment. Great work from all involved. We need this momentum to propel us forward in this fight against the MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline)." The MVP is another natural gas line project that will affect parts of West Virginia and Virginia. Residents have filed lawsuits and warn of the negative environmental impact in affected communities.
Raymond Kingfisher singing song to support ACP protest.
Raymond Kingfisher, Water Protector, a Standing Rock Veteran, and member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe showed up to the Supreme Court decision protest in Washington, D.C. on February 24th to support his Lumbee relatives in advocating against the ACP. In light of the news he responds: "Persistence pays off. We need to remain relentless in our pursuit to preserve Mother Earth. Our Future Generations will thank us for standing up during this crucial time in history. We Are One." Kingfisher is also elated about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being closed by a federal judge. The oil is to be drained by August 15th, although it has already leaked three times since 2016. Recent developments have revealed that the Energy Transfer LP company, that owns the pipeline, has no intentions of shutting down operation. They argue that the court has no jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline. This creates a larger discussion about how the 14th amendment has given corporations the ability to operate as individual nations and at the expense of marginalized communities.
Alexis Jones in traditional Eastern Woodland regalia. Photo by Wanderlust Photography.
Alexis Jones, former Miss Lumbee, vocalist, and environmental activist is still taking in the news. She shares: "It gives me hope. It just reassured me to always apply pressure; even when you're doubtful always apply pressure. Slow and steady wins the race, and the grassroots movement is the engine that keeps the train rolling. I’m still processing this victory, but for now my soul is at ease." Alexis also serves as a Youth Organizer with the North Carolina Alliance for Climate Education.
Several individuals share their concerns and skepticism. Charly Lowry, a Lumbee singer and environmental activist offers: "The serpent has been stopped for now- is this for good? You never know. My hope is that this is a permanent "win" for Mother Earth and our human species. We must continue to work vigilantly in this race against the sun to find renewable solutions that make sense even for the most dire communities." Chasity Hunt, Lumbee activist, Standing Rock Veteran, and Water Protector also shares Charly's skepticism: “It is awesome news! For next steps, I would like to know what’s going to happen to the pipe already laid? Will it be taken back up or lay dormant?" Chasity refers to the fact that the ACP project construction already began, and was ten percent complete before being officially cancelled on Sunday.
ACP Protesters met by Capital Hill Police.
Reverend Mac Legerton, Co-Director of Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development, offered this statement in response to the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:
“We assume that Dominion and Duke Energy did not want to take the risk of their request being denied by FERC for a two-year extension for the ACP, and that's why they made the decision to withdraw the ACP at this time. Environmental organizations are not to blame for the failure of the ACP project. The ACP was an unnecessary and irresponsible, economic and environmental boondoggle from the very beginning. Dominion and Duke Energy misinformed and misrepresented the full scope, scale, and impact of the pipeline to federal and state regulators and elected officials, including plans to take the pipeline to South Carolina and potentially export its gas as Senator Burr so aptly described in 2015. For this reason alone, it needed to be halted. The economic vitality and future job growth of North Carolina is in renewable energy, not un-naturally fracked, carbon-based, methane gas that is the #1 cause of global warming and climate disruption. We celebrate this victory of halting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline for all species, not only humanimals, so that our lands, water, air, livelihoods, and climate will be protected from further harm from modern industrial society's addiction to destructive fossil fuels.that are no longer necessary, economical, or responsible." -Rev. Mac Legerton, Robeson County, NC resident, Interim Director, NC Climate Solutions Coalition and Co-Director, Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development
On Thursday, July 2nd, a Motion to Intervene and the Re-Certification of the ACP by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was filed. Also mentioned in this motion were several other projects that are a threat to the environment and well being of Robeson County residents. According to Legerton, the motion includes important data that exposes the minimization of the ACP's full scope and overall harmful impact. The cancellation of the ACP is giving activists a little more flexibility to focus on creating awareness and inciting action against other projects including: a liquefied natural gas plant, wood pellet plant, five meat packing plants, and COVID-19 outbreaks at four nursing homes. Find full copy of the motion with more details attached.
Photo from Mark Wilson/Getty Images.