Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor – Final

Author: Shantae Taylor

Date: 2/13/15


In response to:


Response to RTD article on Dominion Pipeline



Letter to the Editor:

It is true that we must acknowledge the past and honor the heritage of those who have come before us. As we look at the environmental havoc invoked on the commonwealth since colonization, we should learn from those mistakes or we shall be doomed to repeat them. The Monacan tribe of Virginia has come out in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which is proposed to inch staggeringly close to ancient above-ground burial mounds, if not on top of them. A 75-ft wide path will clear-cut all life for 550+ miles. Currently 177,000 acres of land in George Washington Natural Forest are reserved for fracking. There are 3 other pipelines proposed in Appalachia, The Mountain Valley Pipeline, The Rover Pipeline, and the Leach Express. Together they will span over 1,000 miles and cost $15 billion. Pipelines have already caused over 10,000 accidents, 373 deaths, 1,422 injuries and over $6 billion in property damages.

According to research done by Dhyani Simonini, a member of the Eastern Lenape nation living in nearby Buckingham county, these burial mounds can be found from as early as the late Woodland period (approximately 900 A.D.). They can be found in high concentration in the Wingina region were monuments for  fifty to one hundred people buried there. A University of Virginia survey conducted in Nelson and surrounding counties, suggests that perhaps prehistoric sites from as early as 8,000 to 1,000 B.C. and as numerous as 62 per square mile can be found in Nelson county alone. Thomas Jefferson had been fascinated by these burial mounds when he watched Native Virginians pay respect to their friends and family buried there. Can you imagine a pipeline being built on or very near Jefferson’s burial site?

Similarly, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to disrupt many cemeteries for enslaved peoples and their descendants. One article has pointed to at least 10 small lots (about 1-7 acres each), half of which can specifically be traced to a deed between 2 former enslaved people. Enslaved peoples were not always offered the same dignified burials as we see in places like Hollywood Cemetery and or respected with massive monuments like those we see  to Confederate generals on Monument Avenue. Instead, they were buried in segregated sites, often unmarked graves with maybe only a rock to designate them as a site of human remains. It is important to note that in 1860, approximately 45% of Nelson County’s population was black and moreover, there are many unmarked cemeteries for enslaved people and their descendants on this land.  Could we imagine a pipeline carrying fracked natural gas disturbing Hollywood Cemetery or Monument Avenue? What makes these sites less worthy of historical recognition? Do we really believe that #blacklivesmatter? Do we recognize and respect indigenous Virginians and the indigenous environmental movement in #idlenomore?

In this moment we must not only worry about the past, but also worry about current and future generations. Reverend James Rose, is from Nelson County and has seen Dominion ask permission to survey on the small plots of his friends and neighbors and has seen how African-American and low-income residents of Nelson county “have been targeted” and  could be disproportionately affected by the pipeline construction.We know that this is just not an issue about ecosystems, this is also an issue about the human life. Eminent Domain proves feudalism continues to exist –  where corporate and state interest collide to destroy communities. It has been the case since the arrival of John Smith. Recent projects, like interstate 95 that destroyed Jackson Ward in Richmond and paved over enslaved people’s burial grounds in Shockoe Bottom and the Trans Columbia pipeline spanning 4,800+ miles in Virginia, serve as monuments to ruined land, life, and liberty.If the Hampton Roads region is second only to coastal Louisiana for vulnerability to climate change, should we sit idly on the sidelines and wait for that same climate chaos to engulf Norfolk and surrounding areas? Should we wait for an oil spill off the coast or pipeline explosion in the mountains? Should we wait for a worsening of the asthma health disparity that disproportionately affects African-American and Native-American children, as we continue down this path of polluting the air with fossil fuels? Can’t we ask for something better?

The Southern Appalachia Mountains that run through Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina are one of the most biologically diverse regions in the temperate world. Nearly 10,000 species are already known to exist here, Some of which reach their highest levels of diversity in the Southern Appalachians. Many species of trees, mosses, millipedes, spiders, moths, beetles, snails and fungi are found here and nowhere else in the world. In the span of only 400 years settlers have deforested 67% of Virginia’s land wiping out any resemblances of pre-colonial wildlife. Protected land makes up only 15% of the commonwealth’s total acreage. National and Federal parks are still subject to timbering and animal grazing. Ever since hurricane Camille in 1969 wiped out the hydroelectric dams we have seen interest in restoring the James River habitat. We must preserve what history and nature we have left. Building new pipelines, transmission towers, or anything through the remaining ‘wild’ proves the lack of stewardship that those in authority have for nature.

Industry wants to intimidate us with threats of power shortages or price hikes. Controlling 70% of electric customers in Virginia, gives Dominion a regulated monopoly status. They are able to command legislation being the largest contributor to both political parties in Virginia. Dominion currently leases 112,800+ acres of land in the ocean and received a $45 million grant for the department of energy to pursue wind power, but delayed wind development indefinitely. Instead of using $15 billion dollars to build pipelines, we could build 4,269 2MW Wind Turbines, which in turn could power 2.1 million households in the state of Virginia, or 80% of the state. 80% of the households in Virginia could run on clean, renewable energy. That will create jobs, and also keep our air cleaner. With wiser spending we can protect our biodiverse region and ensure renewable and clean energy security. Together we can build a greener future for the next generation. It’s time we ask, no demand, better from Dominion.

People are saying NO to the Atlantic Coast pipeline and all pipelines. We, the opposition, grow everyday. We are in your meetings listening and watching. We are in your communities advocating for change, we are in your places of worship connecting these issues to spirituality and most importantly we are in your families seeking to protect each other from climate chaos. Climate change threatens all life as we know it with a possible 100 years to extinction for humans. The pipeline cannot be built and we will not accept fracking in George Washington Forest or anywhere! We can not accept offshore drilling on the coast!

Join the resistance to fight for the conservation of history and land and most importantly, each other and our future generations!

I write in solidarity with all those resisting pipeline, fracking, tars sands,offshore drilling and things to come,

Shantae Taylor

on behalf of Richmond People’s Climate March and JusticeRVA


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