Virginia Spent $50K on DEQ Meeting Security and We Don’t Know Why.

We will try to break this story down for you in order to illuminate how content farming erodes our understanding of fossil fuel infrastructure issues. This is an AP story cut and pasted into several news sites on March 23, 2018:

Records: State police spent nearly $50K on pipeline hearings

  • Note the use of a stock image supplied by the energy company. Massive, highly pressurized methane pipelines are, after all, just harmless tubes jutting up from patches of wildflowers across open fields.
  • Pay attention to how “opponents” are lumped together with “protesters” without ever describing any actual protest that took place or detailing the hundreds of people who attempted to present their reasoned objections to these projects in an entirely lawful and peaceful way. Many of the Virginia citizens who attended those meetings drove hundreds of miles to exercise their right to participate in a public meeting. The “other issues” of hundreds of stream crossings and very real threats to private and public water sources were ignored and attendees were met by a massive police and private security presence.
  • Consider the following statement: “The companies developing the pipelines say they can be built in a way that protects the environment.” Both Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline have spokespersons. These people have names. They speak for the pipelines. If they have claimed that construction of the projects will protect the environment, then surely those quotes can be found using some sort of search tool. If, however, “the companies developing the pipelines” have actually submitted environmental impact statements describing the damage they will do and the mitigation plans for that damage, then why not publish that information instead of bland, unattributed, and misleading lorem ipsum?
  • The public records request that led to this story is commendable. So where are the documents? What kind of equipment did Virginia State Police spend $34,588 on and why was it necessary? To keep “protestors” from exceeding their three minute comment time? Because $34,588 would buy a lot of construction monitoring equipment and maybe, possibly, keep actual lawbreaking from happening.
  • People within the evacuation zones of these pipelines probably consume an unhealthy amount of media coverage of the threats and the failed regulatory process. Outside of the sacrifice zones the story is too often summarized and digested as “Noble Job Creator vs. Environmental Protester.” This approach ignores the real fears, intimidation tactics, and hostility that communities along the routes are subjected to by these corporations and the state. Now that tensions are starting to boil over it is important to remember that for those of us who have worked together to protect our communities this heavy-handed security response isn’t just wasteful. It is irresponsible and casts dissenting citizens as more threatening than the powerful corporate interests we organize against.

Read Virginia DEQ Erosion and Sedimentation Control Plans for MVP

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R. Chisholm

Volunteer organizer and pipeline monitor for POWHR and Preserve Giles County. Coffee wrangler.