FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2020
CONTACT: Wanda Roberts and La’Veesha Rollins, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles City County Residents Demand the State Reject Proposed VNG Gas Pipeline SCC held final public hearing on pipeline project June 8
CHARLES CITY COUNTY, VA — During VNG’s “Header Improvement Project” (or HIP)’s final public hearing this week, residents of Charles City again asked the state SCC to stop this project. Supporters of Concerned Citizens of Charles City County (C5) have been working since June of 2019 to stop the construction of two fracked gas plants in their community. The HIP would supply gas to the smaller of the two merchant plants, C4GT, and we assume at some point supply fracked gas to the proposed Chickahominy Power Plant. If approved, the HIP will add three new gas pipelines and three new or expanded gas compressor stations, from Northern Virginia, through the middle of the state, and ending in Hampton Roads. The project threatens the health and drinking water of much of the state.
For Charles City residents, participation in the SCC process has been challenging. Wanda Roberts, a leader in C5, says “The majority of Charles City County residents do not have internet access and therefore were unable to attend the virtual hearing. The vast majority of the residents did not know there was an SCC hearing that would impact their lives. The procedure had many flaws. To testify I phoned in and was placed on hold. Every 15 minutes I was kicked out and had to call back in only to be placed in order of the call in. The residents of Charles City County were shut out of the permitting process on all levels for over 5 years and they continue to be shut out of the process.” Many Charles City County residents lack internet access--American Community Survey data shows the site of the proposed plant at 57% internet subscriptions by household, compared to a Virginia mean of 78%. Hundreds of citizens, legislators, and community groups have expressed concerns about holding public hearings during a public health crisis, especially when impacted communities lack access to broadband and cell service.
C5 asks that the SCC follows the recommendations of their staff. The SCC staff did not recommend the VNG HIP application be approved. They argued that the financial risk to Virginia ratepayers was too high. Also, Virginia Natural Gas, the applicant behind the HIP, is pushing for a decision on the pipeline expansion project despite the fact that they haven’t completed the required environmental impact and environmental justice reviews. DEQ staff did not recommend the VNG HIP application be approved. C5 strongly believes that these studies should be done first, before the SCC decision is issued.
C5 supporters have organized their community, which has been outspoken in the public comment process so far. They took their case to the SCC with well over a thousand comments posted in opposition to the project. La'Veesha Allen Rollins, a C5 leader, stated: “Charles City County is a place with beautiful farmlands and rural landscapes that many people retreat to, and we would like to continue to provide organic food and spaces of retreat for people. We pride ourselves on being a natural gemstone for Virginia and these pipelines would disrupt that. I ask that you please allow us the opportunity to grow with our land instead of being used as a sacrificial city and always being stunted from promising economic growth.” Cynthia Robinson, a C5 leader, argues that residents of Charles City County adamantly oppose this gas plant. “We already have a landfill that we didn’t want...and now this. Enough is enough, we don’t want to be known as a dumping ground. Keep Charles City beautiful and don’t pollute our air and water.”