“Environmental Justice” May Limit Black Opportunity

Buckingham County, Virginia has the chance to be a part of something that could lower many power bills and economically benefit the community. But, as Project 21 member Derrick Hollie wrote in a Daily Signal commentary, “if paternalistic liberal environmentalists have their way, economic prosperity will pass them by.”

Located in the middle of Virginia, Buckingham County residents have a median household income of just over $36,000 a year. More than 20 percent of its residents live below the poverty line. Racially, it is over 35 percent black.

One of three compressor stations for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – which is designed to move natural gas from West Virginia to consumers in Virginia and North Carolina – has been proposed for Buckingham County. Derrick wrote of the planned pipeline:

They have made an earnest attempt to do right by the people of Buckingham County and the other Americans the pipeline will serve…

Backers of the pipeline say it will save consumers an estimated $377 million annually on their utility bills in addition to creating construction and maintenance jobs.

While noting the proposed compressor station is considered a “minor” source of emissions by state regulators, and the parameters of the draft permit are strict, the project still faces stiff opposition. Environmentalists are using the area’s demographics to play the race card. But these detractors are not necessarily black themselves, as Derrick observed first-hand:

It was exclusively white activists with their matching T-shirts and picket signs who were speaking out against the proposed compressor station at a recent hearing, claiming it to be “environmental racism”…

[W]hat I saw in Buckingham County reeked of a so-called “white savior complex.” At one point, I was verbally attacked by a white woman and told that I “should pray for forgiveness.”

A second (also white) woman’s protestations were so over the top, I ended up looking for a police officer to help.

“Imagine if the scenario had been reversed,” Derrick suggested. He imagined that similar boorish behavior on his part could end with him “going straight to jail.”

When weighing these activists’ social and environmental justice agenda with the prospect of jobs and economic opportunity, Derrick saw no contest. In a depressed area such as Buckingham County, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline can bring economic growth and help end the problem of energy poverty that forces families to choose between necessities including utilities, groceries and transportation.

To read all of Derrick’s commentary, “Another Example of Liberal Paternalism Harming Minorities,” click here.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.